Tag Archives: a little quaker love story

A little Quaker love story, Revisited (Part 6)

I intend this to be the true final installment in my story of how Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard met in 1825 and married in 1826 without her parents’ consent, but you just never can tell. I keep finding things!

In my last entry, I attempted to riddle out the school Sarah was attending in Cincinnati when she met Samuel. I had to concluded that it was probably one or the other of two schools, but unfortunately I couldn’t make a clear decision between them. No matter…

I included a transcription of an interesting letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah, discussing her schooling, from 23 Nov. 1825. It seems that sometime between Nov. 23 and Dec. 11, when he wrote his daughter another, very differently toned letter, Horton had probably caught wind of Sarah’s blooming relationship with Samuel. The Dec. 11, 1825, letter gives general news, mentions little about school, and offers the following parental admonishments:

Mother says…[for me to tell Sarah] ‘to keep to meetings, to be careful of the company she keeps and not throw herself away.’ This is the earnest solicitude of thy tenderly affectionate parents. It is the Counsel of the giver of every good and perfect gift. If thou art attentive thereto the blessings of everlasting preservation will be afforded and no good thing will be withheld from thee. We are anxiously expecting a letter from thee. Micajah [Williams] is here and in good health, says he rec’d a letter from [his wife] Hannah telling that you were well and that thou wast pleased with the School, all of which is very satisfactory… I intreat [sic] thee my dear Child, write frequently, and freely withhold nothing from us which would be interesting to us or interesting or desirable or useful or relieving to thy self…

Given that Micajah Williams knew Samuel, Sarah, and Sarah’s father (see Part 4, Aug. 14, 2011) — and that Horton mentions Micajah has paid him a visit — it makes me wonder if he (Williams) was the one to tip off Sarah’s parents. In any event, it does sound like they heard about it.

To me, Horton’s letter sounds like the 1825 equivalent of: Watch out for boys [or in this case, men]. Don’t forget about church [especially since your new beau is not of our same religion]. You like your new school; remember how we sent you to school to get an education, not to meet boys [er, men]. And, of course, the classic: Is there something you want to tell us? [We already know, so spill it.]

I don’t know exactly whether Sarah ‘fessed up herself. I can only really go by the correspondence that I actually have.

I know that at some point Samuel asked for Horton’s permission to marry Sarah (see Part 1, Aug. 9, 2011) — which, although what I have is an undated draft, could not have been written very long after Horton’s Dec. 11th letter, because Samuel and Sarah did get married on Feb. 13, 1826 — apparently “without the consent of her much loved parents” (according to Samuel’s Feb. 13, 1826, letter to his new father-in-law Horton, informing him of his and Sarah’s marriage; see Part 3, Aug. 11, 2011).

At the time that I wrote Part 3, I had not yet finished processing the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection of manuscripts (from which all of these letters originated), so I did not know exactly how Sarah’s father reacted but speculated about how he seemed to have taken the news (see Part 3B, Aug. 13, 2011).

Since then, however, I came across a letter from Horton to Sarah and Samuel, dated 21 Feb. 1826, that I had not yet found when I wrote Parts 1-4. This letter, addressed to “My dear children” includes the following [brackets mine]:

I have just time to acknowledge the receipt of Samuel’s letter of the 13th instant  [the one informing Horton of the marriage] and say we shall always be glad to hear of your welfare and to see you as often as we can and wish you to come and see us whenever you can conveniently but considering the distance [between Columbus and Cincinnati] and Samuel’s engagements [as canal engineer, which involved frequent travel] we do not wish to press you to come sooner nor oftener than you reasonably can. I think it probable that in a month or six weeks I shall come to Cincinnati and possibly may bring some one or more of my family to see you, but do not expect it with too much certainty, as we may be disappointed. I wish you to let us hear from [you] as often as one at least in two weeks or at most every month. Give my love to Micajah [Williams] and Joseph Gest and their wives and all inquiring friends, not forgetting Judge Bates and the whole Corps of Engineers. I should be glad to hear how the engraver is getting on with respect to my map, how you are progressing with the Canal, when you expect to let out more to contractors, how much, &c…

Is it just me, or does that come across a little cold? We’d love to see you, IF we have time, and if all our schedules are not too busy. We might come in six weeks, but don’t get your hopes up. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Then again, he also obviously (as we can tell from the document) did not gush with excitement and congratulations either.

I suppose it probably was a shock. He sent his 18-year-old daughter away to college, apparently only just in September (or so it sounded from the Nov. 23 letter; see Part 5, Dec. 13, 2011), and in a matter of just a few short months (literally could not have been more than 5 months!), she has gotten married, and to a much older man her father disapproves of, no less, and won’t be coming back home! Really, when you put it that way, it sounds like Horton took the news pretty well!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tangent of history. I know I’ve enjoyed piecing it together (or at least trying to!). And what fun is a sleuthing out a story if you don’t share it?

Note: This post was written in advance, on Dec. 17, 2011.

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Bibliography

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection 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 Sarah Howard and Samuel Forrer, contact the Dayton Metro Library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.

A little Quaker love story, Revisited (Part 5)

I’m on the trail of Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard again. As I was first delving into their story, I wondered what Sarah was even doing in Cincinnati (where she met Samuel in 1825), when her family lived near Columbus.

I discovered that Sarah was apparently attending school there [see Part 4, Aug. 14, 2011]. , and the two seem to have met through a mutual friend, Micajah T. Williams. Forrer, a canal engineer for the Miami and Erie Canal (the construction of which had begun in that year), knew Williams by his association with the canal (Williams was one of the canal commissioners for the Miami and Erie canal). Sarah apparently spent some time with the M. T. Williams family (possibly even stayed with them while she was in Cincinnati), because Williams knew her father (both were Quakers who at one time attended the same monthly meeting, unclear whether there was another connection). She may have also been staying with Joseph Gest, by whose care her father’s 1825 letters were sent.

Both Williams and Gest lived near one another. According to Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati Directory, Williams lived on Fifth between Walnut and Vine; Gest lived on Walnut between Fourth and Fifth. [See a Google Map of that area.]

Based on the apparently frequent involvement of these men in Sarah’s life during that time period, I supposed that her school was probably nearby (and as I said, that perhaps she might have been boarding with one family or the other).

As this is really a matter of intellectual curiosity only, I decided I must be content to come up with an “educated guess” about where Sarah was attending school, since I could not find any reference to the school by name in either of Horton’s two letters to his daughter from the Fall of 1825, which seems to have been when Sarah enrolled there (wherever “there” was).

A letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah, from November 23, 1825 (from the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection), gives much insight into what Sarah was meant to be studying, if not where:

…Thou may remember that our friend Joseph Gest mentioned a probability of there being an opportunity of thy attending a course of Lectures on Chymistry [sic] and I should think well of thy doing so if it will not break in too much on thy other studies, which I think perhaps it would not. I wish thee to be particular in endeavouring to learn the art of painting or shading maps in as neat a manner as thou canst without spending too much time and learn what thou canst conveniently about making or mixing such colours as are not to be bought in Boxes as we shall probably want to paint or shade a considerable number of maps neatly if we can find [sale?] for them.

The calculation we were making that 30 dollars would answer to leave with thee at present included the cost of thy Cloak but as I bought and paid for the cloth to make it, and left thee thirty dollars, besides though wilt not be so short by ten dollars as we calculated and want thee to get what thou needs and not be too sparing of money but continued to be and appear respectable. If thou needs any advice with regard to Books or other things thou art not furnished with or with respect to learning or hearing Lectures or any other subject Joseph Gest or Micajah [Williams] or other friends will advise thee. Joseph will aid or befriend thee very Cheerfully and so no doubt will other friends. Thou may by inquiry perhaps understand nearly how long it would require to learn the French Language or the Lattin [sic] or both, if it should be desirable and advisable. Possibly we might spare thee longer than we had contemplated but as this is uncertain I wish thee to acquire what useful knowledge thou canst in three months or till spring. I now think of thy staying 6 months or until some time in the 5th month if I can but this is uncertain. I intend however that some of us shall write [over?] in two weeks and expect thee to write twice a month or oftener if necessary or thou thinks proper. And if thou should be sick don’t by any means suffer of want of a Phisitian [sic] but have one sent for and I will cheerfully pay the cost when I come.

And I hope my dear Daughter that thou wilt let nothing but sickness prevent thy regular attendance of meetings on first and week days with friends and walk worthy of the profession we make in the world. Neither shun nor be ashamed of the Cross. Often be retired in Spiritual devotion waiting upon, and asking counsel of thy Heavenly Father, so shalt thou ‘Secure to thy self that blessing which maketh truly rich and where unto no sorrow is added.’…

This letter was written 186 years ago, but still I can see familiar sentiments as today’s parent writing to a child away at school: here are my thoughts on your curriculum; try not to over-extend yourself with your course load; I’ve sent you some clothes money; if you get sick, please do see a doctor, and I’ll pay for it.

At first, I thought it curious that Horton was so insistent that Sarah acquire the skills of painting or shading, for maps. Then I remembered that Horton was a surveyor for the federal land office in central Ohio at that time. He probably drew a lot of maps. And he probably figured it would be handy if one of his children became adept at shading them in for him. (Little did he know that his daughter would soon be falling in love with a canal engineer and would never be moving back into her father’s home.)

Armed with the clues from the above letter (the other 1825 letter does not give any clues about education but hints at her parents’ knowledge of her “extracurricular” activities – more on that later) and an idea of the geographic neighborhood where Sarah seemed to spend most of her time, I set out to find out if there was a school she might have attended in that area.

In 1825, Sarah was 18 years old, so I figured I was probably looking for some kind of “college” level school. Also, given the time period, I guessed that she was probably attending some sort of “female” school.

In her article “The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840,” Jane Sherzer wrote (pp. 1-2):

The term, ‘higher education for women,’ in those early years…was higher in the sense of giving young women an education much beyond the common branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It differed from the colleges for men mainly in the substitution of French for Greek, and in the addition of music and art to the curriculum. The first institutions for the higher education of women were necessarily private, for, although the states had established colleges and universities for their boys, they had ignored the education of the girls and excluded them from all their schools.

Therefore, I searched the Cincinnati city directories for girls’ academies. In Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati Directory, only one girls’ school was listed: the Cincinnati Female Academy of Dr. John Locke. According to Ford & Ford, the academy had been established in 1823 and “was a school of high class and became very popular” (p. 174). As of 1826, the school was located on Walnut Street between Third and Fourth (so, nearby Sarah’s primary neighborhood), but I was not able to find any specific reference to where it was located from 1823-1826 (although I would imagine probably in the same area).

I thought Locke’s school must be a shoe-in for my “educated guess” until I read through Sherzer’s article, which mentions at least two other schools that allowed females during that time period.

One was the Cincinnati Lancaster Seminary, though I have ruled it out because it seems to have been affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. I can’t imagine Horton Howard sending his daughter to a Presbyterian school when they were Quaker — so Quaker in fact that he could not officially condone her marriage to a non-Quaker [see Part 2, Aug. 10, 2011].

The other was Pickett’s Boarding School (or Cincinnati Female College), which, although Sherzer says the school started in 1823 and was “especially popular” (p. 10), is not listed in the 1825 directory, though it does show up in Robinson & Fairbank’s 1829 Cincinnati Directory. No address is given for the school, though the Pickett brothers’ address is Sycamore, between Fourth and Fifth — so again, right around the same area.

I hoped perhaps the curriculum might help rule out one or the other — Locke’s or Picketts’ schools — but unfortunately, none of the curricular lists are explicit enough. Both of course had the typical female curriculum involving art, but it sounds like Sarah had options such as chemistry or Latin. In the sources I found, only Locke’s school explicitly mentions the availability of chemistry (Sherzer, p. 9); and only Picketts’ specifically mentions having Latin (Sherzer, p. 10; Ford & Ford, p. 174). In Locke’s school’s advertisement from 1825, a list of instructors and their disciplines is given, but that list includes neither chemistry nor Latin; of course, for that matter, it does not explicitly mention any sort of paper-based art form either, which seems odd.

And so, after all of that, I suppose I’ve still not quite solved the mystery of which school Sarah attended. However, I did sate my curiosity, by tracking down a couple of reasonably plausible possibilities: Locke’s “Cincinnati Female Academy” or the Picketts’ “Cincinnati Female College.”

In the end, what matters to Sarah’s story is not so much which school she attended or even necessarily why she was there (is it just me or does it sound like Dad wanted her trained up so she could help him with his map-making?) or even why she was in Cincinnati as opposed to somewhere else (what, didn’t they have any decent girls’ schools in Columbus?)… Those things (and consequently this entire post) are mainly just “matter of interest” details.

What matters is the fact that she was there…in that place…at that time…and that’s where she met Samuel Forrer, whom she married without her parents’ consent a few months later, and who would be her husband for 48 years.

We have, in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection, one other letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah during that time frame — Dec. 11, 1825 — and its tone is much different. It would seem that Sarah’s parents had probably caught wind of her developing feelings towards Forrer by that point. I’ll share more of that later.

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Bibliography

Ford, Henry A., and Kate B. Ford. History of Cincinnati, Ohio. Cleveland: Williams & Co., 1881. Available online at Archive.org; or, find in a library.

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402.

Hall, Harvey. The Cincinnati Directory for 1825. Cincinnati: Samuel J. Browne, 1825. Available online from Cincinnati Public Library; or, find in a library.

Robinson & Fairbank. The Cincinnati Directory for the Year 1829. [Cincinnati?]: Whetstone & Buxton, 1829. Available online from Cincinnati Public Library; or, find in a library.

Sherzer, Jane. “The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840,” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 25 (1916): 1-22. Available online from the Ohio Historical Society.

For more information on Sarah Howard and Samuel Forrer, contact the Dayton Metro Library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.

A little Quaker love story, Part 4 (Final Installment)

The last point of interest in regards to the whole Samuel Forrer/Sarah Howard marriage situation was to explore the all the instances of name-dropping that Samuel felt was warranted in his letter to Horton Howard, Feb. 13, 1826, in which he announced, “Hey, I we got married anyway even though you told us not to, but all these other people seem to think it was a fine idea.”

The people whose approval Samuel mentioned were: M. T. Williams, Joseph Gest, and Joseph Evans. He mentioned in the letter: Rev. William Burke, Oliver Martin, and Joseph Ridgeway.

Let’s address the names in the letter one by one, shall we?

I’m going to skip M. T. Williams for now. I find his connection the most interesting, so I want to save him for last.

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First, there’s Joseph Gest. He is listed in Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati city directory as a merchant and city surveyor. There is some interesting (but uncited) information about Gest on the Cincinnati Views web site, stating that he was the city engineer from 1819-1844.

More importantly, he was a fellow Quaker. I found his family listed in Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy, Volume 5 (p. 907), in the Cincinnati Monthly Meeting, and to be sure it was the same family, I checked some later census records. Furthermore, there is a letter in the very collection I’m working with that is addressed to “Joseph Gest, mercht., for Sarah Howard,” at Cincinnati; the letter is from Horton Howard, from Waynesville, to his daughter, dated 11th month [Nov.] 23, 1825.

Another letter from Horton to his daughter Sarah, dated 11th of 12th month (Dec.) 1825 is also addressed to her by way of Joseph Gest. In this letter, Horton also writes: “Tell Joseph Gest I should be pleased to receive a line from him as I consider him one of thy guardians or parents in my absence…”

Gest lived on Walnut between Fourth and Fifth. (I noticed that most of these individuals lived between Race and Walnut, and Fourth and Fifth. I’m not too familiar with Cincinnati real estate history, but if I had to guess, I’d bet that used to be a pretty ritzy residential area.)

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Joseph Evans was a bit more difficult for me to investigate. The 1825 directory lists him as a merchant who lived on Fourth between Vine and Race. There are several entries for men named Joseph Evans (being not such a unique name as “Joseph Gest”) in Hinshaw’s Quaker records, though there was a Quaker man named Joseph Evans in Cincinnati at the time. I expect that may have been the same one, but I can’t be sure.

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Basically, the same goes for Oliver Martin as Joseph Evans. There is an Oliver Martin who was a Quaker and living in Cincinnati in the right time frame, but I can’t be positive they are the same person. The only Oliver Martin in the 1825 directory was a merchant who lived on W. Market, between Elm and Plum, so a little further away than the others; his store was at the corner of Main and Second. Then again, the Oliver Martin from Samuel’s letter was the owner of “a genteel country tavern two miles from Cincinnati on the Hamilton road,” so may not have lived within the city limits at all and thus might not have been the same Oliver Martin from the directory.

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Whoever this Oliver Martin was, he was “a friend of Joseph Ridgeway’s son,” according to Samuel. There is no Joseph Ridgeway listed in the 1825 Cincinnati directory. There are several “Joseph Ridgeway”s and “Joseph Ridgway”s listed in the Hinshaw Quaker records.

From what I have been able to surmise, Joseph Ridgway Jr. was an Ohio politician who seems to have had something to do with the Ohio canal system – which Samuel Forrer was also affiliated, so that explains how Samuel would have known him. For instance, see the Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio, Volume 26 [year 1827], Issue 1, pg. 251. The Journal mentions that Ridgway was under the supervision of principal canal engineer David Bates, who happened to be Samuel Forrer’s supervisor as well.

And clearly, Horton Howard knew Ridgway as well, as he writes in another part of the Dec. 11, 1825, letter to Sarah from Columbus: “I make my home [at] J. Ridgway’s, who wishes to be remembered to thee…”

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Before I get to M. T. Williams, I want to say just a word or two about Rev. William Burke. I suppose Samuel includes his name simply as a matter of information, since he was the minister who married them. According to Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati city directory, Burke was a Methodist minister, and the fact that they were married by a minister is the official reason that Sarah gets into trouble with the Monthly Meeting folks. Burke lived on Vine Street between Fourth and Fifth, according to the directory. (I include this only as a matter of interest, since Samuel’s letter states that he and Sarah were married at the minister’s home.)

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And finally, without further adieu, who was M. T. Williams? We already know that he was the man at whose home Samuel first met Sarah. But Samuel seems to almost harp on him. I met Sarah at M. T. Williams’ house. M. T. Williams is my good friend. M. T. Williams threw us a wedding reception. Why all the fuss?

Well, as it happened, M. T. Williams was kind of a big deal. I had little trouble figuring out how Samuel Forrer knew him.

Micajah Terrell Williams was Cincinnati’s representative to the Ohio House of Representatives in the mid-1820s and was even Speaker of the Ohio House in 1824-25. He was one of the principal promoters of building a canal system in Ohio and when the project was finally undertaken, he was very involved with it and was appointed one of the seven Canal Commissioners in 1825. Later that year, the Canal Commissioners hired for the canal project a principal engineer and two resident engineers. One of the resident engineers was Samuel Forrer.

But how did M. T. Williams know the Howard family? After all, Sarah was staying at his home, apparently—which, by the way, was on Fifth Street between Walnut and Vine, in 1825.

I found useful clues in the following sources:

As it turned out, Micajah Williams was of Quaker descent. His family came from North Carolina—which perked my ears at first, since Horton Howard was originally from North Carolina. However, a check of Hinshaw’s Quaker Encyclopedia again showed that their families lived nowhere near each other (as in, opposite ends of the state).

But I did find that Micajah T. Williams was married in the Plainfield Monthly Meeting to Hannah Jones in 1818. Plainfield struck a chord—the Howards had belonged to that meeting at one time—during the same time frame, in fact (1815-1820). Coincidentally—well, if you consider the alphabet a coincidence—the Howard records and the Jones marriage were listed on the exact same page in Hinshaw: Volume 4, page 338. That could possibly explain how they knew each other; they had ties to the same Quaker congregation.

However it came about, clearly Horton Howard and M. T. Williams knew each other somehow, because I’m sure Horton wouldn’t let his daughter board with just anyone. And why was she staying with him anyway?

Horton’s Dec. 11, 1825, letter to Sarah, sheds even more light on these relationships. Horton writes: “Micajah is here and in good health, says he rec’d a letter from Hannah telling that you were well and that thou wast pleased with the School all of which is very satisfactory…” Evidently, Sarah was attending a school in Cincinnati and she needed a place to live while there. (I wonder what school it was? Ah, another mystery!)

Horton writes later on in the same letter: “I am doing all I can to aid the Canal Commissioners and the Commissioner of the Canal fund or rather to procure the enlargement of their powers, with I think a good prospect of success…” So it looks like Horton had some affiliation with the canal project himself. I wonder what it was? Still more mysteries.

Have I said before that the study of history is a sort of never-ending journey? One thing just leads to another and another…

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Let’s recap, shall we? Samuel Forrer met Sarah Howard about 1825 while she was staying in Cincinnati with Micajah T. Williams and family, apparently while attending school. Samuel wrote to Sarah’s father, Horton Howard, asking for his blessing, although not expecting to receive it since the Howards were Quakers and Samuel was not. Horton Howard apparently did disapprove of the match, although we don’t seem to have the letter detailing his exact response. However, Samuel and Sarah wed anyway on February 8, 1826, in Cincinnati. Samuel then wrote to his new father-in-law, telling him what they had done, but noting the approval of several of their mutual influential friends (most if not all of whom appear to have been Quaker), in hopes that Horton would eventually look favorably on the union. It appears that Horton eventually came around, since there are several later letters from Horton to Samuel and Sarah, addressing “my dear children” and signed “your affectionate father.”

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Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading about my little exploration and investigation surrounding the marriage of Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard.

I’m sure this won’t be the last you hear from me on the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection. I think I’m only about 1/3 of the way through it so far. However, I do hope not to need 5 parts the next time I want to mention it!

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.

A little Quaker love story, Part 3B

A lot can happen in 14 years. For instance, in the 14 years between 1793 and 1807, the following happened: the Treaty of Greenville (1795) opened Ohio up for more settlement; the city of Dayton, Ohio, was founded (1796); George Washington died (1799); the Library of Congress was founded (1800); Ohio became a state (1803); Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase (1803), doubling the size of the United States’ territory; and Lewis and Clark set out on their famous adventure (1804).

Why did I choose the arbitrary-sounding dates of 1793 and 1807? Because those are the years in which Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard were born, respectively. He was 14 years older than her, and at the time of their marriage, he was 33, and she was 18. And actually: they were married in February, and Sarah had only just turned 18 the previous December.

I know I promised previously that Part 4 would be the final installment, and so as to keep that promise, I am cleverly deeming this “Part 3B,” and still reserving “Part 4” for a discussion of the men mentioned in Samuel’s second letter, as intended.

I noticed the age disparity sometime after writing Part 3 and decided that it really deserved a discussion.

I wonder how a father might view the situation, if a 33-year-old man wanted to marry his 18-year-old daughter. Today a dad might object purely on creepiness factor. (The would-be groom was probably already starting to think about shaving the year his prospective bride had been born.) However, that is looking at it with twenty-first century eyes and cultural norms.

But would it have been considered odd in the 1820s? I’m not going to answer, because I don’t know. I couldn’t find any good statistics on the matter from the time period at hand, although the CDC has an interesting document – “Marriages: Trends and Characteristics” – but it only covers 1867-1967. This document states at one point: “Men marry later in life than women” (p. 13), which seems like an almost obvious “duh,” but I suppose bears actually stating explicitly if you are going to bother writing up an analysis of statistics on the subject.

J. William Frost writes in The Quaker Family in Colonial America (1973) that “the average age for Quaker women [to be married] was 22.8 and for men 26.5; the median age for women was 20.5 and for men 24” (p. 151). He states this in contrast to “the popular stereotype of colonial women marrying in their teens, bearing a dozen children, and then dying young” (p. 151). But again, as I said in Part 2 when I mentioned Frost before, you can only extrapolate so much from Frost to the Forrer/Howard situation, since he was writing about the colonial era, of which 1826 is not a part. Furthermore, though Sarah was a Quaker, Samuel was not.

Another angle to consider is the possibility that an early 19th century father – or perhaps any father, for that matter – might actually be pleased that an older gentleman with an already well-established, steady career was interested in marrying his daughter. By the time Samuel Forrer met Sarah, he already had several apparently successful years of civil engineering experience under his belt, enough so that he was chosen as one of the three top engineers on the new Ohio canals project in 1825. So by the time he was asking for her hand in marriage, he had a good state-paid job on a project that would keep him employed for the next few years at least until the canals were finished. (And, although they did not know it at the time, Forrer was involved with the canals for much of the rest of his life, into the early 1870s.)

I’m not sure I will ever know how Horton Howard felt about the fact that his daughter’s suitor was 14 years her senior, all non-Quaker-ness aside. (Again, I really wish I could read whatever letter Horton wrote back to Samuel. And perhaps someday I will. Maybe it’s out there somewhere.)

But part of the reason that I bring all of this up is point out something about primary sources (e.g., letters, diaries, oral history interviews). Primary sources constitute first-hand information. Is that better than second-hand information? (Remember the telephone game in kindergarten?) Sure, it probably is. But is it always 100% accurate? Not necessarily. You have to remember to watch out for fallacies in the information from, well, just being human. There can be errors of memory (reconstructing things over time), perception (“I thought I saw…”), or estimation (fish tales, anyone? and some people, like me, are just genuinely bad at estimating sizes).

You could be reading a primary source and the author gives a reason that he or she thinks something might be true; their perception of “why” something happened or why someone else did something. But how do you know they are correct? There are a lot of factors that go into the degree to which you can trust their assessment but the bottom line is: you don’t, really.

When I wrote Part 2, I focused on whether or not Horton Howard would disapprove of Samuel Forrer marrying his daughter Sarah simply on the basis of Samuel’s not being a Quaker. Why did I do that? Well, it does seem to be the most obvious reason for Horton’s disapproval. But I didn’t know much of anything about Quakers before I got into this, so how did I even know that might be an issue?

Oh yeah, because Samuel said so:

I am aware sir that the rules of the Society of Friends imperiously requires parents to guard against the intrusions of strangers; and that, consequently I must not expect that you will give consent to our union…

But what I do not have, as I have said all along, is the letter that Horton wrote back, stating not only his answer but (hopefully) his reasoning. And that would be the most trustworthy source for Horton’s reason: a letter written by him, stating, “I disapprove, and here’s why.” Do I imagine that the objection was probably for the exact reason that Samuel expected? Sure, it probably was. But could it have been for a different reason—like the age difference. Which, come to think of it, did Horton even know Samuel’s exact age? They seem to have had at least a few mutual friends—which I will get to in Part 4—so I suppose it is logical to assume that someone could have given him at least an approximation of the man’s age if he had asked for it.

Back to the idea of factors weighing into whether or not you trust the writer’s assessment. Let’s not forget Samuel’s beloved Sarah. We might assume that Samuel knew Sarah well, and one would think that Sarah probably knew her father well. Perhaps Samuel assumed that Horton would disapprove on religious grounds because Sarah has told him so.

Can’t you just imagine them? Samuel’s just floated the idea of marriage, and at first Sarah’s all giddy, but then she gets somber and informs him, “My father will never consent to it, since you’re not a Quaker, but we have to at least ask him.” Now I have this image of her perched over his shoulder as he scribbled down that draft. Perhaps her suggestions even resulted in some of the strikethroughs? See, now I’m drifting into the realm of total, unfounded, imaginative speculation.

I get lost in it, I really do. I can imagine how long it has taken you readers to sift through the details of these last several posts. And hopefully they do not come off as completely scatter-brained. But even as long as they may take to read, I’ve spent quite a lot more time reading and researching and stewing on the matter myself, and then I had to try to unwind the web of thoughts into some kind of halfway-intelligent narrative.

As promise, the next will be Part 4, the final installment, in which we explore the men named in Samuel’s second letter, the letter that says, “Oh, by the way, we got married last week even after disapproved of it, but all these people think it was a good idea” with a silent “so you should, too.”

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.

A little Quaker love story, Part 3

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:

Letter from Samuel Forrer to Horton Howard, Feb. 13, 1826, Page 1 of 2

Letter from Samuel Forrer to Horton Howard, Feb. 13, 1826, Page 1 of 2

Letter from Samuel Forrer to Horton Howard, Feb. 13, 1826, Page 2 of 2

Letter from Samuel Forrer to Horton Howard, Feb. 13, 1826, Page 2 of 2

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.

Dear sir,

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—

Saml. Forrer

(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.

A little Quaker love story, Part 2

When we left Part 1, Samuel Forrer had written a letter to his beloved Sarah’s father Horton Howard, asking permission to marry her and hoping that, if he objected, it would be “only on the ground that I am not a member of your society.” And by “society,” he meant the Society of Friends, or Quakers. This piqued my interest, so I decided to do a bit of searching into the marrying customs of Quakers.

The most useful resource that I found on the subject was The Quaker Family in Colonial America: A Portrait of the Society of Friends by J. William Frost (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973). Granted, I wasn’t interested in the colonial period, but the 1820s; however, Frost’s work was the most comprehensive scholarly book I could readily get my hands on—and after all, this was just an intellectual curiosity—and I figured that the colonial period would be close enough for general background on Quakers customs. I did a little investigating into Frost himself, finding that he was a well-credentialed Quaker scholar and historian, and was later a professor at Swarthmore College, a Quaker college in Pennsylvania (which incidentally has his Papers).

Frost’s book was very helpful, in particular Chapter 8 “Choosing a Wife.” I learned the following helpful bits of information from it:

  • “The Quakers, who had no sacraments, agreed to register the event of a marriage ceremony with the government, but they insisted that since God alone could join people in holy wedlock the meeting should participate in all formalities” (p. 150). (The “meeting,” by the way, is the basic organizational unit of Quakers, like a congregation.) Quakers married each other; they were not married “by” someone. This was part of the objection to marrying outside of the Society “since a marriage involving a non-Friend entailed being wed by a cleric” (p. 158).
  • “Parents had the right to consent to the marriage of a son or daughter no matter what their ages… If…the parents allowed or did not actively oppose a marriage out of unity, Friends might discipline them and the newlyweds” (p. 155). A “marriage out of unity” was a marriage someone who was not a Quaker.
  • “The records of monthly meetings in America illustrate the great amount of time devoted to the problem of improper marriage. Throughout the colonial period marriage out of unity was the most frequent offense for which Quakers were disowned” (p. 159). Furthermore, Frost further states that by 1765, about 75% of Quaker marriages were “exogamous” (p. 159). From the sound of it, “marrying out” was rather common, at least in the colonial era. And I’m guessing that trend didn’t suddenly reverse itself as time went on.
  • Anyone who was disowned for an offense, including “marriage out of unity” or “marriage contrary to discipline” (being married by a cleric), “who appeared to be sorry and was willing to confess his sin could in time gain readmission. … The admission of guilt was not…for marrying a particular person but for violating a tenet of the Society” (p. 160).
  • And finally: “While there were no direct challenges to the endogamous pattern of marriage in meetings, both the frequency of marriage out of unity and the occasional comments show that some Quakers questioned this tenet” (p. 160).

A search for members of the Horton Howard family in the Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy by W. W. Hinshaw (Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1936+) yielded some interesting results and examples of the above. With a little help from this Glossary of Quaker Terms on Ancestry/RootsWeb, I was better able to understand the meanings of the abbreviations used in Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia.

I found the following entry in Hinshaw, Volume 4, page 1166, from the records of the Alum Creek Monthly Meeting:

  • HOWARD. 1827, 5, 3 [May 3, 1827]. Sarah Forrer (form Howard) con mcd.

What did that mean? I already knew that Sarah Howard did marry Samuel Forrer on February 8, 1826. The Glossary of Quaker Terms helped me understand. It meant that Sarah (Howard) Forrer had “condemned” her own misbehavior, that misbehavior being “marriage contrary to discipline.” (They were married by a reverend.) [Incidentally, Sarah’s sister Mary was “disowned” the following year later for the same offense, a record on the same page indicated.] I found it a little strange that there was no mention of a “marriage out of unity” since Samuel Forrer himself stated that he was not a member of the Society of Friends. Perhaps he joined? However, Samuel Forrer is mentioned nowhere in Hinshaw’s compendium. Interesting.

Also interesting and a bit mysterious was the entry just below Mary (Howard) Little’s disownment:

  • HOWARD. 1829, 1, 1 [January 1, 1829]. Horton &w, Hannah, &dt, Ann, dis jH.

In 1829, Horton and the rest of his family were disowned by the Alum Creek Monthly Meeting, for the apparent sin of “jH,” whatever that meant. I did have a hunch what “jH” might mean, based on the time frame and some other things I had read about Quakers, and as it turned out, I was right. Although Hinshaw failed to define the abbreviation “jH” in the front of Volume 4, a later supplement (online here) verified the answer: “joined Hicksites.”

More to come in Part 3.

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.

A little Quaker love story, Part 1

My high school Latin teacher, an elderly Catholic nun who was usually slightly disgruntled anyway, always used to get exasperated with us for not having enough “intellectual curiosity.” She’d hint at something we ought to look up—but not “assign” us to do so—and then act all surprised the next day when we hadn’t looked it up. What did she really expect from a bunch of 16-year-olds who had friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, sports, extracurriculars, 6 or 7 other classes, and a bunch of other regular “assigned” homework to do (including nightly Latin assignments)?

This isn’t a story about my high school Latin teacher, though. It’s about a civil engineer who fell in love with a young Quaker woman at Cincinnati in the mid-1820s.

However, I think Sr. D would be pleased to know that somewhere along the past 12 years, I have definitely developed a considerable amount of “intellectual curiosity.” Maybe it’s partially because as an archivist I spend such a significant portion of my day surrounded by, for lack of a better simple term, “cool old stuff.”

And sometimes, I come across “cool old stuff” that gets my intellectual curiosity sense going, and I just know that (a) I’ve just got to look into it further, and now that I have a blog (b) I’m going to share that journey with others.

Now is one of those occasions.

A few weeks ago, while processing the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) – something you may hear me talk about frequently over the next several months, as it is quite large – I came across the following letter (well, draft of a letter, really). The final version of the letter was sent from Samuel Forrer, a civil engineer at Cincinnati who was involved with the construction of Ohio’s canal system, to Horton Howard, a Quaker leader in the Delaware/Columbus area.

Letter from Samuel Forrer to Horton Howard, ca1825-1826

Letter from Samuel Forrer to Horton Howard, ca1825-1826

The letter from Samuel Forrer to Horton Howard, undated but probably written in late 1825 or early 1826, reads as follows:

Dear sir,

Your late visit to Cincinnati and the consequent accidental circumstance of leaving your amiable daughter Sarah Howard, at my friend with the family of my good friend M. T. Williams has given me an opportunity of forming and cultivating an acquaintance I have long since ardently desired. The result of this acquaintance has fully satisfied a conviction on my part that Sarah was a determination on my part to make Sarah a tender of my affections; which I did and am now happy to say that I have received from her an acknowledgement that she reciprocates them— In short we are morally engaged to be married, with the condition on the part of Sarah that you her much loved parents do not forbid it unconditionally— I am aware sir that the rules of the Society of Friends imperiously requires parents to guard against the intrusions of strangers; and that, consequently I must not expect that you will give consent to our union— But may I not hope that your acquaintance with my character will warrant me has given you an impression not unfavorable to my character that you will object only on the ground that I am not a member of your society? Pardon the interrogatory but my happiness here depends so much on my union with Sarah that I am constrained to make it, and for the accompany it with a request that you will have the goodness to consult with Sarah’s kind mother and affectionate brothers and sisters, for all of whom she has [discovers?] the most ardent feelings of affectionate regard, and immediately communicate your advice to my beloved Sarah.

So many things about this letter jumped out at me that I was compelled to look into it further.

The most striking thought I had was, So apparently Quakers do not like their children to marry non-Quakers? And Samuel Forrer states right here that he is a non-Quaker, while I know that Sarah Howard was one… And I’m going to go ahead and spoil things for you right here and tell you that, yes, they do get married. But what did her father say initially? Did he give permission, or did they disobey him? There are several other letters from Horton Howard to the Forrers in the collection, so if he was mad, he obviously wasn’t that mad, because they seem to have remained on good terms. I also wondered about these Quaker marriage rules in general.

Another thing that jumped out at me: Who was this M. T. Williams? This seemed like a reasonably researchable question. After all, how many men by that name could there have been in Cincinnati in 1826? Actually, I would hit the jackpot on answering the M. T. Williams question. I also wondered what Sarah was doing in Cincinnati with the Williams family, when her family lived near Columbus. I never did find an explicit answer to this, per se, but I have developed a speculation. And at first, I thought the mention of M. T. Williams was just a bit of good, honest storytelling. But as I learned more, I think there was another reason for the name-drop…

I think I’ll leave it at this for Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2.

The Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) discussed here 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.