Tom Lowe on becoming a father

As you may have deduced from my last few posts, I am currently processing a collection of manuscripts from the Lowe Family, mainly the papers of Dayton lawyer and Civil War-time “Peace Democrat” [*cough*Copperhead*cough*] Thomas O. Lowe, as well as his father John W. Lowe of Xenia, and of course miscellaneous (an archivist’s favorite word) items from various other family members.

While the significance of the collection lies in its ties to the Mexican War, Civil War, and the Copperheads, there is plenty of other interesting reading having nothing really to do with any of that.

For instance, today I was perusing Thomas O. Lowe’s “Miscellany” Notebook [there’s that favorite word again!], dated 1857-1864, and I found what essentially amounts to a journal entry that 20-year-old Tom wrote two days after his first child (later named Abbie) was born [from pages 31-32 of the notebook]. For your reading pleasure, I am including the entry here:

Born, on Thursday, Oct. 7th, 1858 at 11 o’clock a.m. a daughter to Martha and Thomas O. Lowe.

It is a sweet little babe, weighting about 9 ¼ lbs., dark eyes and hair. The old nurse Mrs. George pronounces it a “beautiful baby” and its grandmothers Harshman and Lowe delight to point out its peculiar points of beauty. Its finely shaped head, nose and mouth all are duly noticed and pointed out to its admiring by [verdant?] parents. We receive all they say as gospel truth and already find ourselves thinking of the pleasure which we will derive from the nurture of a little being so highly favored by matrons.

The advent of the little stranger was at the time rather unexpected. It was here upon us before we knew it. Immediately after the it had come choking, struggling and squalling into the world, I telegraphed Father atXenia and by 4 o’clk P.M. he and mother were here to greet it with their blessing.

Henry Stoddard was the next person to whom I communicated the interesting information. He was a little incredulous at first but finally believed me and started off on a run to tell John Winters and More at the Bank. After he had told them he continued his travels telling I suppose every one he met. Shortly afterwards I went into the Court House where Judge Haynes was naturalizing a great many Irish and Dutch and upon old man Stoddard’s suggesting that I had a daughter the Judge declared the [illegible] to a [vote?] and ordered the Clerk to issue me the proper papers!

It is a very queer thing indeed to feel that I am a Father—especially as mother tells me how short the time seems since she held me just such a little one as this in her arms and reminds me that before I have spent what I think to be one half my life I may be a grandfather. My great grandfather felt doubtless just as I do when his first born was placed in his arms and my grandchild will feel probably the same emotions when he first becomes a parent. Thus it goes. Human nature is ever the same and all parents in all ages have felt and will feel the same emotions at the interesting moment of which I write.

I have no desire to analyse [sic] critically my feelings just now. The subject is as old as the earth and originality or even peculiarity of thought upon it is almost impossible.

I love the little one already – I feel anxiety for its future – I appreciate the fact that it is an immortal being, “fresh from the hand of God” and feel a hope that it may grow up to be a blessing to us and to all who may come within its influence—and that it may finally be adopted into the family of the Children of God.

These are the wishes of every parents’ heart—the subject contains nothing more.

No. 105 Main St.DaytonO. Oct. 9th, 1858.

I just thought this entry was really interesting and worth sharing. Now, I’m not a parent myself, but I imagine that Mr. Lowe is probably right in his assessment that of how all first-time parents have felt throughout the ages!

I also think it’s interesting that he does not refer to the baby by name or even as “her”. He repeatedly refers to his daughter as “it”. I expect that is because in “the olden days” the infant mortality rate was much higher than it is now, and people tried to avoid getting attached to their babies (or even name them) right off the bat. That could explain the note of surprise in his “voice” as he writes “I love the little one already” – something I think many of us today would find an odd statement for the father of a 2-day-old baby.

I am sorry to report, however, that the baby girl, whom they eventually named Abbie, did not “grow up to be a blessing to us” as Tom hoped. Little Abbie died on October 25, 1860 and was buried in Woodland Cemetery, Dayton. (I do not know the cause of death; there aren’t any letters or items from around that date to make for an easy search. And, our vital records do not go back that far; the earliest birth records are from 1867 — which makes me wonder, what “proper papers” did Tom get at the courthouse?)

After Abbie, three more children were born to Thomas and Martha (Harshman) Lowe: John (1861-1917), Jeannetta (1863-1869), and Nora (1869-1958).

The material discussed here can be found in the Lowe Collection (MS-009), which is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402. For more information on the collection, contact the library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.


One response to “Tom Lowe on becoming a father

  1. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Thomas O. Lowe | Glancing Backwards

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