When you’re working with history, you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle, many times far fewer than you’d like, and so you use your brain and you do some guesswork and speculation to hopefully help you connect the dots, get from A to B, explain whatever it is you’re trying to explain. But always keep your eyes open for hard evidence that will eventually tell you that you’re barking up the wrong tree.
During this investigation, lacking for any other documentary evidence (as yet), I wandered down what turned out to be a false trail myself for a while.
I mentioned in Part 2 that Horton Howard and his family were “disowned” in 1829 for joining the Hicksites. But what did that mean? Well, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but suffice it to say that the Ohio Quakers found themselves divided in 1828, and when the dust settled, the more conservative members stayed with the “Orthodox” Quakers, and the more liberal members joined the Hicksite faction (named for Elias Hicks, whose ideas they agreed with). [If you are really interested, you can read more about it at the “Ohio YM (Hicksite)” entry on Quakerpedia. Yes, there is a Quakerpedia.]
So I was beginning to piece things together in my head: Hmm, so I know that there are later letters from Horton Howard to Sarah and Samuel addressed to “dear children” and they seem generally pleasant, so if he failed to give his blessing to their marriage, he obviously didn’t “disown” them himself or stay mad forever. And now, here I have this bit of information stating that he sided with the liberals during this religious schism in 1828, so I suppose that probably means he was one of the more, well, liberal Quakers himself. So could it stand to reason that perhaps he just went ahead and gave his “permission” for Samuel and Sarah to get married with a “devil may care” attitude towards what the rest of the congregation might think? But then again, he was one of their leaders, so that probably wouldn’t have looked very good, and maybe he was concerned about keeping up appearances, even if privately he didn’t care who she married?
You can see how my brain might have been starting to implode, with all these “what ifs” swirling around and seemingly no way to confirm any them.
(Here’s where I shake my fist on behalf of historians everywhere and encourage each and every one of you out there to write down more about your lives—and keep it safe, and in print—so that future generations will know the whos, whats, whens, whys, and hows of…well, more of your life than if you write down nothing. Now, back to our regularly scheduled 19th century tale…)
Just as I was about to resign myself to perhaps never knowing whether Horton Howard gave his blessing to Samuel and Sarah to be married, but knowing that whatever he said, they definitely did get married….I found this:
Why yes, that is a letter from Samuel Forrer to his new father-in-law Horton Howard, dated February 13, 1826, a little less than week after Samuel and Sarah were married on February 8. Apparently, they were married in Cincinnati—even all the biographical sketches I found claimed they were married in Delaware, Ohio, since that’s where her family was…
But here are the words, straight from Samuel’s own mouth…er, pen:
Smith’s Tavern, Feby. 13, 1826
H. Howard Esqr.
With feelings of gratitude and pleasure on account of my peculiar good fortune I hasten to inform you that your daughter Sarah is now my wife— All that is now wanting to make my situation all that I can wish it is that yourself and family will excuse the step I have induced your daughter to take in opposition to the rules of your society and without the consent of her much loved parents, and that you will permit me to address you by the endearing name of Father in any future correspondence— This would relieve my dear Sarah from all doubts of your feelings, in regard to our union— We were married on Wednesday evening feby. 8 by the Revd. William Burke, at his dwelling house, and passed the evening at our good friends Mr. M. T. Williams, where we had the pleasure of the company of a most agreeable little party of our friends, all of whom seemed to congratulate us with much pleasantness and sincerity of feeling— Joseph Gest, who had not been made acquainted with the situation of affairs until about the time we were to be married at first doubted whether he ought to pay us a visit or not on the evening we had our little party at Mr. Williams— He however did come and I was much rejoiced to find him as cordial in his congratula- [page 2] tions as we could wish—by his and Mr. Gest’s particular request we passed the next evening with a party of friends at his house. On Friday morning Mr. Joseph Evans call’d and gave us a warm invitation to spend an evening at his home but we had determined t leave the city that day and consequently declined his and several other kind invitations to parties— I mention these little circumstances to show that the mutual friends of Sarah and myself, in this city, approve of the course we have taken— Sarah and myself approve of it I am sure— And that her much esteemed parents brothers and sisters will also approve of it (aside from the common objections under similar circumstances) is now the only wish of both of us— I have not yet fixed on a place of residence for any length of time; but it is my intention to locate myself for some time at some point on the Miami canal where I can spend the most time at home with the least possible injury to the public service— At present we are boarding at a genteel country tavern two miles from Cincinnati on the Hamilton road— The house is owned by Oliver Martin a friend of Joseph Ridgeway’s son. Mr. Williams will also probably bring his family here, in which case we shall both make it a summer residence— Sarah and myself will expect a letter from you very soon— Do indulge us and believe me[,] yours with much esteem—
(Our mutual love to the family)
[Written on the side:] Direct your letter to Cincinnati.
So there you have it, folks: “without the consent of her much loved parents.” Mystery solved—that one, anyway. Apparently, dad said no, and they big fat did it anyway. Although it seems to have worked out all right in the end. Like I said, Horton Howard clearly wasn’t so angry that he cut off contact with them or anything. (He sent them several letters afterwards addressed to “dear children” and signed “your affectionate father.”) Heck, maybe he wasn’t really angry at all, but for the “official” record had to deny the request. Very interesting stuff, religion and politics.
But hey, let’s not forget our final point of interest: There’s that name again—M. T. Williams. (Remember, he’s the man whose home Sarah was staying in when Samuel met her?) And for that matter, now that I have this second letter, who are all those other guys? Samuel sure seems to think that the fact that he knows these people and the fact that they approve of his marriage to Sarah ought to win him some brownie points with his new father-in-law. Like, “Look, Dad—er, I mean, ‘Sir’—these guys think I’m good enough for your daughter, so you should too.” So who were they?
I think I may save that for Part 4. And I promise, Part 4 will be the final installment of this particular adventure.
The material discussed here is from the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), which can be found 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.