THE HALLS OF HALL’S CORNER

(Part 3 of the Bassetts and Spragues)

Thomas Prince deeded the Samuel Sprague farm of 40 acres to Christopher Wadsworth, the son of Deacon John (I) Wadsworth in 1713. Christopher left this farm to his son Christopher in 1748 at the time of his death. The heirs of the second Christopher settled his estate mostly through the efforts of his son Prince Wadsworth in the 1770s. After this the 40-acre parcel was deeded off in several smaller pieces, which Captain Joshua Hall reassembled over several years. He and his son Joshua, Jr. also sold off some portions of the property. One part, on Harden Hill, was sold to Benjamin Prior in 1822, and was later (1920) acquired by the Sisters of St. Margaret. The Society of St. Margaret is an Episcopal Religious Order devoted to helping poor and indigent children, women and the elderly. They have recently made their Duxbury facility the Mother House for the region.

During Joshua’s ownership, pre 1800, there was no Washington Street and no Hall’s Corner. In fact several deeds around 1800 to 1810 referred to the “new” street as “the road leading to Harvey Soule’s store.” It was only after Captain Joshua Hall’s son Captain Daniel built a magnificent tavern and inn at the corner that people started referring to the area as Hall’s Corner.

Captain Daniel was an officer in the Revolutionary War, first as an ensign, then lieutenant and captain. He served nobly, delivering supplies to Washington’s Army at Boston. He later resigned his commission and became a “Coaster,” essentially doing the same thing.

In building his Hall’s Tavern (also used as an inn) he spared no expense. He bought wood in Maine and seasoned it down by the shore at the end of his property. He built the new building on the same foundation as what had been his father’s house. During his maritime career, in addition to being a master mariner, he was also a “joiner” so he had experience working with wood in building ships on the North River in Marshfield. The inn had hand-crafted cornices and wainscoting with inlaid mahogany in the parlor and living room. The inn was built around 1810 and Captain Daniel gave up his life on the sea to live with his wife, Ruth Josselyn, and raise their 10 children in their new house.

One interesting bit of trivia is that Ruth Josselyn Hall’s daughter Ruth became Ruth Hall Josselyn.

The Captain died in 1847, and his heirs rented the inn to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shirley for several years. The house was so exquisite that it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Cecil E. Fraser, a Harvard professor who was a colonial house enthusiast, for $4500 in 1930. The tavern was flaked (disassembled and numbered) and trucked (35 truckloads) to Cambridge at a cost of $18,850. The house stands today as a private residence at 20 Gray Gardens West in Cambridge. Clarence W. Brazer, another colonial house enthusiast, who reconstructed the house, later married Mrs. Fraser. Talk about loving a colonial house! After the building was removed Clara Redmond and Hazel Mount successfully ran Clara’s Restaurant on the site and it later became the Exxon and now Vercollone’s Gulf station.

Captain Daniel and Ruth’s youngest child (of the 10) George, was a master mariner before he became keeper of the Gurnet Life Saving Station. One of George’s sons was Captain Parker Hall. If Captain Parker’s grandfather had a Corner named after him, they should at least name a street or building after Captain Parker Hall. Captain Parker’s maritime exploits are well documented. He was a man of unusual stature and strength. Often referred to as the “Lone Skipper.” Among the several ships that he sailed alone was a 136-ton schooner, with just a cat on board. Captain Parker was a “Coaster,” moving cargo up and down the northeast seacoast. He would often load and unload cargo, hoist and haul in sails, haul in the anchor and steer the ship – by himself.

On one voyage, early in his career, he hired two Portuguese sailors on a trip to Long Island. After docking he went into town to get paid for the shipment and told the two sailors he’d pay them when he got back. The two sailors knew he would have money on his return, so they jumped the Captain. Captain Parker fought off one of them, reached in his pocket for his revolver and shot the other one. When the man he shot died, they tried The Captain for murder. Among the many witnesses who testified for Captain Parker, one said “If Captain Hall shot these men there was no other way to save his own life.” Captain Hall was acquitted – “justifiable homicide.” I think this was when the Captain decided he did not need a crew.

Captain Parker was at one time sitting in the Gurnet Light House when three men in a small sailboat capsized and were clinging to the boat off High Pines Ledge. He, at the risk of his own life and using his enormous strength, picked up a small dory, carried it overland more than a mile, launched it and rowed out to save the three men.

Captain Parker was required to deliver a load of lumber up the Charles River with seven bridges to go under. While practically every sailing vessel got towed upriver, he sailed, alone, all the way up and maneuvered into the dock without a hitch.

The Captain did make an attempt at marriage. He renamed his vessel (sometimes considered to be bad luck) in honor of his new wife. While anchored in Plymouth Bay he was called away and told his wife to stay on the ship and when the bay froze she could walk ashore. The bay did not freeze, and she left shortly after that. Captain Hall renamed the boat. End of story.

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THE WADSWORTHS AND HALL’S CORNER

If the Spragues owned most of the land around what was to be Hall’s Corner in 1710, the Wadsworths did them one better during the mid to late 18th century. Christopher Wadsworth, the progenitor of the Wadsworths in Duxbury, arrived in Plymouth in 1632. Some historians believe he arrived aboard the Lyon, although that has never been proved. Of the 123 passengers aboard the ship, the names of only 30 are known and Christopher’s name was not one of them.  As far as I know, he’s not listed on any other ship’s passenger list either.

He was a successful, respected and well-known man in Duxbury. He purchased a almost two hundred acres of property for himself and his family. He purchased the Jonathan Brewster Grant from Doctor John Starr, the second of two “Doctor Johns” who owned that property (the area of Indian Trail and Wadsworth Road. See Duxbury Clipper article entitled “Duxbury’s Early Settlers: Brewster,” dated June 2, 2010). He also purchased land from Job Cole (Bayridge Lane. See Duxbury Clipper article entitled “Duxbury’s Early Settlers: Job Cole,” dated April 4, 2010). Christopher deeded both of these parcels to his son Deacon John I (John I had a son John, also a deacon, so he’ll be John II).

In 1637 Christopher received a confirmation of his grant of two lots of 40 acres, one of which was just east of his Job Cole Grant. This was a strangely worded document in which east seemed to be west, and west seemed to be east. Christopher’s sons Joseph and Samuel were given land near “Bay Farm.” Samuel later moved to Milton and become successful. A large portion of the Bassett Grant was acquired by members of the family. Ruth (Bassett) Sprague acquired the entire grant of her father William Bassett. She divided the 80 acres between her two sons William and Samuel. William Sprague drowned in a boating accident and his wife Grace (Wadsworth) Sprague (Deacon John I’s daughter) inherited the northerly 40 acres. The southerly 40 acres went from Samuel to Thomas Prince and then to Christopher Wadsworth Deacon John I’s son in 1713.

Before his untimely death, William Sprague and his wife, Grace, had mortgaged their 40 acre farm to Moses Soule. Two of Grace’s brothers John II and Isaac bought parts of this 40 acre parcel, quite possibly reducing Grace’s debt to Moses Soule. She held on to the northwesterly end of the property between the 1637 “Hi-Way” and the Meeting House road. Seneca and Dewsbury (Soule) Wadsworth owned much of the Standish Grant on Standish Shore, while other members of the family owned parts of the Brewster Grant and property on the Crescent Street side of the Nook. All in all, the Wadsworths owned more land collectively than any other family in south Duxbury during this period.

Deacon John Wadsworth II had a son John who became a self-educated doctor. Dr. John Wadsworth built a house in 1763 for his daughter Mercy who married Joshua Cushman. That house exists today, still in the same configuration as in 1763, and is the Stewart Family Trust House on Bayridge Lane.

Deacon John II’s grandson Peleg (II or Jr.) was a brigadier general who served honorably in the Revolutionary War. He was captured by the British in 1781 and imprisoned in Castine, Maine. On June 18, 1871 he escaped from the prison and returned to his home in Duxbury. After the war he settled in Portland, Maine and was the maternal grandfather of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “America’s Poet,” who was quite proud of his Duxbury roots.

Another fascinating Wadsworth story was that of Captain Alexander Wadsworth who, in 1853 in the ship Seth Sprague was bound for Calcutta, India. Captain Alexander’s wife, Louise, and nine-year-old son were aboard. His wife was near the end of her pregnancy. Unfortunately they hit a calm area and were without wind for six weeks in the Bay of Bengal. Louise gave birth to a son and after a difficult delivery she lived only 10 more days. The captain, wishing to bury his wife in Duxbury, had the ship’s carpenter build a water-tight casket. To protect his wife’s body from the tropic heat, she was put in the casket, and it was filled with French brandy. Captain Wadsworth called upon the ship’s “handy-man” to nourish the newborn baby. He used a pulverized hardtack and twisted it in a wet cloth. The baby survived and when they finally reached Calcutta they engaged a wet-nurse and brought a half dozen goats aboard for the return trip. The Captain’s wife was buried in Mayflower Cemetery. The baby, Alexander Seaborn Wadsworth (always known as Seaborn) lived a long and fruitful life and became a captain in the U.S. Revenue Service, the forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Next: The Halls of Hall’s Corner.

 

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THE BASSETTS, SPRAGUES AND HALL’S CORNER

If there had been a corner in 1710 where Hall’s Corner is today, it might well have been called Sprague’s Corner. At that time the Sprague family owned most of the surrounding area, probably as much as 120 acres. But, there was no Washington Street and no Bay Road, just a bend in the road. The present Chestnut and Standish streets were one road, “the 1627 Hi-Way,” leading from Plymouth to the “Nook” (Standish Shore).

William Bassett had arrived in Plymouth in 1621 aboard the Fortune and had been granted over 80 acres in the 1627 Plymouth 2nd Division. At the time his family included his wife, Elizabeth, and two children: William, Jr. and Elizabeth, Jr. He eventually had six children. He actually received the grant in 1640, but it is evident that the family had already settled on this property. William Bassett was a blacksmith and “armorer,” and must have been a successful one. He was rated one of the highest on the tax list. He was one of the original land owners of Bridgewater in 1656. He also amassed a large library, a sign of success in those days.

William deeded off property in Marshfield to two of his three sons, and left his property in Bridgewater to his son William, Jr. upon his and his wife’s death. More significantly, he deeded his 80-acre Duxbury grant to his neighbor Francis Sprague’s son John, who had married his youngest daughter Ruth.

Ruth Bassett is the key to the ownership of all of the Sprague property in this area. Originally thought to be Ruth Bassett Sprague Thomas Prince Sylvester, erroneously so, by our usually reliable historian Henry A. Fish, and regrettably by yours truly. As a result of more thorough research we found (with the help of Carolyn Ravenscroft of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society) that Ruth married John Sprague who was killed in the King Philip’s War in March of 1676. She had seven children John, Jr., William, Ruth, Eliza, Desire, Samuel and Dorcas, all born as Spragues. The Ruth who married Prince and Sylvester was Ruth Turner.

After John Senior’s death, Ruth Sprague married a man with the surname Thomas from Marshfield. She died as Ruth Thomas probably in 1699, but, not before deeding the Bassett property to sons William and Samuel. Francis Sprague, Ruth’s first father-in-law, had already deeded his Duxbury property (just south of the Bassett grant) to Ruth’s eldest son and his grandson, John, Jr. This deed may have gone through Ruth’s husband John, Sr. and then to John, Jr. All of this led to much confusion on the part of several historians, as these three brothers were Spragues, but they were also Bassetts through their mother. The three Sprague brothers, John, Jr., William and Samuel (Ruth’s sons) owned the entire Sprague and Bassett grants by 1700.

 As a surveyor, I thought it was significant that they all ended up with about 40 acres. John, Jr. getting the entire Francis Grant of 40 acres, and Ruth having inherited 80 acres and dividing it between her two other sons. Because of this Ruth Bassett- John Sprague marriage some people had even considered the Bassett Grant to have been a Sprague Grant – not so.

Francis Sprague, John’s father, was an inn keeper and tavern owner. Not too much is known about Francis, but he probably was married twice. At the time of the 1627 Plymouth 2nd Division there were three people living in the household, Francis and two daughters, Anna and Mercy. Mercy married William Tubbs in 1655. In 1668 William Tubbs was granted a divorce from Mercy, as it seems she had not been around for some years and was living in Rhode Island. There was some question about the legality of that divorce.

Francis’ son, John Sprague, Sr. (Ruth’s husband), was born 13 to 18 years after Mercy, which is why it is believed Francis married a second time. During that period most couples tried to have a child every two years, a span greater than that often indicated the first wife’s death and a second marriage.

Both Francis Sprague and his son John Sprague, Sr. had entanglements with the law. Francis was brought before the court more than once regarding improper serving of alcohol at his tavern. John Sprague, Sr. appeared before the court with Ruth Bassett for fornication before they were married. There were other offenses attributed to John Sprague, Sr. but there was another John Sprague in Duxbury about the same time that was part of the Sprague family that lived on the southerly side of what is now Harrison Street. One of the incidents involved a horse in someone’s living room – my money is on Francis’ son.

In November of 1712 Ruth’s son William Sprague drowned when the whale boat he was on upended. Prior to his death, William, described as a weaver, deeded to Moses Soule a portion of his 40 acres, reserving a part for himself and his wife. William’s wife was Grace Wadsworth and she became the guardian of their four minor children Ruth, Zerviah, Jethroe and Terah. Grace may have been a sister to Christopher and Isaac Wadsworth, who were later to become the owners of William Sprague’s 40 acres. This is the family that Peleg Wadsworth was later a member of, he being Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s grandfather. Wadsworth Lane is on this property. More about the Wadsworths later.

As for the 40 acres of Samuel Sprague, Ruth’s other son, it was deeded to Thomas Prince and then to Christopher Wadsworth. The Wadsworth family owned a large part of these two properties for a considerable time. John Sprague, Jr. sold the southerly 40 acres (the Francis Sprague Grant) to Israel Sylvester in January of 1702 – 3. There were four Israel Sylvesters; this Israel was the second of the four, he married Ruth (Turner Prince) the widow of Thomas Prince (most likely the source of the Ruth Bassett, etc., etc. dilemma). Zachariah Sylvester was to later (1774) own the Francis Sprague farm, which passed into the Sampson and Winsor families.

Next: The Wadsworths and Halls and Hall’s Corner

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EARLY SETTLERS – JOHN WASHBURN Part 3

 

As Edwin Loomis Davenport married into an acting family (the Vinings), so too did his daughter May. William Seymour and May Davenport were married in January of 1882. William’s parents were James and Eliza Seymour, performers of the highest standing, who played at Boston’s Howard Athenaeum in 1852 and 1853. The Athenaeum was later to become known as the “Old Howard” burlesque theater.

An aside here, my maternal grandfather had his plumbing shop next door to the theater, not the best environment for the young Healy boys to be around during their formative years as apprentices.

William’s parents played in a stock company in New Orleans where young William first appeared on stage, at the age of three, in his mother’s arms. He appeared on stage at the age of 5 with John Wilkes Booth, the young tragedian who assassinated President Lincoln in 1865. After William’s father’s death in 1864, Mrs. Seymour and her son took a steamship to New York, where young William became a call boy at Edwin Booth’s (John Wilkes’ brother) new theater. Here, at the age of 14, he enacted the role of the queen in “Hamlet” for 100 nights, in accordance with the custom of Shakespeare’s day of having young boys play female characters. In 1871 he became the call boy at the Globe Theater in Boston. In 1874, before he was 21, he was made stage manager by the tragedian, Lawrence Barrett, with whom he toured as manager and actor. In 1875, William was acting and directing the stage at the Union Square Theater in New York, then the leading stock theater in the United States.

After working in San Francisco, William came East again as stage manager for Lawrence Barrett. It was then he became stage manager at the famous Boston Museum (Theater) at a salary of $50 a week instead of the $100 a week he had been getting. He took the cut in pay because of the enhanced prestige and the varied experience the museum engagement would give him. He often said his nine years at the museum were the happiest years of his life. It was here in 1882 he met and married the juvenile lady of the company, May Davenport.

Although he worked intermittently as stage manager at other theaters and for a few leading actors, he was primarily stage manager for eight years beginning in 1889 at the Tremont Theater in Boston. He returned to the Boston Museum for one night, June 1, 1903, to deliver the farewell address at the performance of “Mrs. Dane’s Defense,” after which that playhouse was closed forever.

For many years after that, he passed much of his time at his Duxbury home, Clamavi Towers, which he adored. He never lost interest in theatrical matters and from time to time contributed interesting articles to Boston papers on the early days of the Boston stage.  As to the origin of the name Clamavi Towers, “Mrs. Seymour once said when asked “Why the Towers,” responded “well because there are none, I guess.” Clamavi could be “clam ’ave I” in a Soho accent, or some form of “claim” in Latin – just guessing.

William died two months shy of his 78th birthday, so he was connected with the theater for 75 years. The Boston Globe obituary stated, “Mr. Seymour was throughout his long career one of the most beloved members of his profession.”

May Seymour had a brief career in acting, mostly at the Boston Museum, prior to her marriage. She gave up her career to raise her five children and make a home for William. She could be seen in her Basket Phaeton riding around Duxbury doing her shopping and tending to family matters.

May and William’s oldest child was Edward Loomis Davenport Seymour, probably the only Davenport/Seymour not involved in the theater. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from Cornell University in 1909. A successful horticulturist, who wrote articles and was garden editor of “The American Home Magazine,” Edward was founder and president of the Long Island Horticultural Society for 12 years. In 1954 he developed a new variety of giant dahlia, which was named after him, “The Ned Seymour.”

May and William’s second child, Fanny Lydia Davenport Seymour, also an actress, married into another stage family when she wed Richard M. Field. I’ll cover what is known of the Field children later.

May and William’s third child was daughter May Seymour, an actress, who married William S. Eckert. She became curator of the theater and music collection for the Museum of the City of New York and was still there at age 78. Their daughter Anne Eckert, who used the name Anne Seymour, acted in over 120 movies, and radio and TV shows. She probably was most famous for playing Mary Marlin in a popular soap opera for 11 years. Born in 1909 she died unmarried in 1988 after completing a small part in “Field of Dreams.” May and William Eckert also had a son, William, who made a career in advertising.

James William Davenport Seymour, fourth child of May and William, graduated from Harvard in 1917. He was in the First World War and wrote about the American Field Service while in France. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government. He worked in publicity and for the alumni of Harvard for a few years and then for Joseph P. Kennedy (Harvard ’09) as an aide in Hollywood and later when he became ambassador to Great Britain. James was a screen writer after the First World War with 44 movies and plays to his credit. He was described, later in life, by an L.A. Times reporter, as slim, erect and “natty” in an impeccable suit. He was the co-writer of “42nd Street.” He was married twice, in 1930 to Josephine Paine and in 1935 to Jocelyn Lee, a dancer and actress. Jocelyn was a Hollywood “Spit-fire.” She was known as the most beautiful girl in the Ziegfeld Follies. Newspapers called her “The Red-headed Fury.” James was her third husband. Her first marriage lasted about a year and a half, and even after the divorce she harassed her ex-husband to the point where he had to leave town. There were stories of her breaking doors, smashing windows, restraining orders, throwing silverware (including knives), court appearances – need I go on! After her divorce in 1924, she had a daughter in 1926 and a son in 1928 and later married (in 1930) Luther Reed, believed to be the father of those children. Luther could not believe the stories Jocelyn’s first husband related in court. He wanted to learn for himself, and he did. After moving into a fashionable and expensive apartment, Jocelyn woke the neighbors with the crash of china being thrown. Luther said that once in a San Francisco hotel, his wife hurled glasses and dishes, scratched his face and then the inkstand hit him. Then on a gambling trip to Mexico she virtually exploded and his forehead was gashed by a flying ashtray. The marriage lasted three months. Again, trouble persisted for some time after the divorce. When James Seymour and Jocelyn were rumored to be getting married Luther Reed was wishing Jim “all kinds of good luck.” James, a true gentleman and diplomat, sat down with Jocelyn and they had a conversation Jocelyn announced that she was going to retire from the screen and try “being just a housewife.” To end the suspense, they were married in 1935, Jocelyn’s children used their step-father’s Seymour name, Jim died in 1976, Jocelyn in 1980 well known as Jocelyn Seymour.

 

For those of you who have been following my “obsession” with “Mildred Pierce” and “Ma” Pierce, James may be the Duxbury connection to James M. Cain, author of Mildred Pierce. Both James Seymour and James Cain were in the First World War; writing about their military units, from Paris to northeast France near Verdun. They both scrounged around for paper, ink and type; and both at the same time, near the end of the war. Cain was on the South Shore from mid August to mid November of 1938. His play “7-11” finished in late August and he chose to stay another two and a half months. Cain was a devoted opera fan. Here was a family that had a world-famous opera star in it. The same family had many actors and actresses who were appearing in Hollywood where Cain and his wife were living under the “Hollywood” sign. More significantly, James Cain and James W.D. Seymour were working as screenwriters for the same studio, Universal, in late 1938 and early 1939, the sametime that James Cain started “Mildred Pierce.” According to Ray Hoopes’ biography of Cain, he always ate lunch with other screenwriters in the studio cafeteria. Circumstantial but compelling!

Back to the Seymours. May and William’s youngest son, John Davenport Seymour, was an actor in 19 movies, broadway plays and other performances. He has appeared with his wife, Abby Lewis, on occasion. Abby was his third wife, and he had a son and a daughter by his second wife Frances E. Simpson.

Richard M. Field and Fanny Lydia Davenport Seymour inherited the Seymour house on Washington Street. They had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married L.L. McGrath and later married a man named Eramo. Richard and Fanny’s second daughter, Joan did some acting in Duxbury in the theater on Bay Farm in the 1950s after working in New York. She married Charles William Newbury, Jr. She also worked at the Williams School in Groton, Conn. as a successor to our Bob Hale. Barbara, the third daughter of Richard and Fanny, married Dr. John Hines Kennedy, and she inherited Clamavi Towers. Marian (Maryan), the fourth daughter married Frederick H. Rein, Jr., who was from a St. Louis family that promoted tourism and industry. I understand that Maryan now lives in Wilmington, NC. These daughters had 12 children amongst them at the time of the death of their parents in the 1960s. It is due to the Seymours (particularly May Eckert) and the Fields that Fanny Davenport’s and the Seymour’s papers are preserved at Princeton University.

I welcome any information about the Seymour and Field families that you may have.

 

 

                                                                                                  Lamont R. “Monty” Healy

                                                                                                              monty15@msn.com

                                                                     blog: DuxburysPilgrimsAndTheirLand.com

 

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Duxbury’s early settlers: John Washburn Part 2

After George P. (Partridge) Richardson (1875) re-acquired most of the Partridge Farm it fell to Parker C. Richardson. The waterfront portion of the property was left by Dura Wadsworth to his two sons Henry Wadsworth (surveyor) and Gamaliel Wadsworth. Gamaliel sold to George P. Richardson in 1864, then later the property fell to Parker C. Richardson. He sold to Fanny Davenport MacDowell in 1893.

THE DAVENPORTS

Many people and families in Duxbury have attained success in all types of endeavors. The Duxbury family that has been most successful in the entertainment industry is the Davenports, Seymours and Fields. In spite of their national and international success, they still found time to perform in Duxbury for their own enjoyment and to help worthwhile causes.

Edward Loomis Davenport (1816-1877) was a famed stage performer from a long line of actors in Great Britain. He married Fanny Vining, an actress who was a descendant of Jack Johnson, an 18th century Irish stage actor. From this union came five daughters and two sons, all of whom were active in the entertainment industry. The couple’s eldest daughter, Fanny Davenport, became famous on the stage throughout the country from the 1870s until the late 1800s. A little insight into Fanny’s sense of humor is in a poem found in her scrapbook:

“What wine?” the waiter cried-

“Here’s sherry, Chablis and champagne!”

-said Hall aside, “The man must be insane”

“shall he of me make sport?”

“My name is Daven – PORT”

Fanny first married Edwin F. Price (1879) and later married W. Melbourne MacDowell. She and W. Melbourne built Melbourne Hall on Washington Street across from her sister May Davenport Seymour’s house, Clamavi Towers. May’s house is now 148 Washington Street where James B. and Mary E. Lampert currently live. Melbourne Hall was built shortly after 1893 as Fanny’s summer retreat and was a magnificent structure. Sadly, she only lived there for three years before her untimely death in 1898 at age 48. Stories abound of the local gentry trying to get a glimpse of her while bathing or in her sailboat, Fanny D.  Parts of the original structure have been removed, but some of it remains and it is the home of Jacqueline B. Hutchinson.

W. Melbourne MacDowell was at one time commodore of the Duxbury Yacht Club and a successful sailor, winning several racing events. We know little of his relationship with Fanny, but after her death, he led a checkered life. He married, at least twice more, Fanny having been his second wife. His third wife had him arrested and sued for divorce, claiming cruelty on the honeymoon, abuse, drunkenness, philandering, etc. She won the divorce and the decree “forbade the actor (W. Melbourne) from marrying again during the lifetime of the plaintiff,” but she “is permitted to remarry.” This happened in 1900, and in 1904, breaking the divorce agreement, he married again, this time a young stage-struck girl named Bertha Woodin. W. Melburne had a long career in both silent movies (17 years) and on stage, although many of his appearances were met with less than rave reviews. To me, that makes him a bad actor both on and off stage.

Fanny’s sister Lillian, the next in line, acted under the stage name Lillian Vining (her mother’s maiden name). She married Frost Thorn, Jr. who drowned in a boating accident in 1876, leaving Lillian with a daughter, Marcellite, and a son, Frost Thorn, III. Even though Junior’s parents were wealthy, they seemed not to be supportive of Lillian and their grandchildren. Accusations of Mr. Thorn being pressured into the marriage caused Lillian’s father to publicly, in a Boston paper, defend his daughter. In any event, after Lillian died, her sister Fanny adopted the two children in 1888, when Marcellite was 14 and Frost was 13. Since Fanny lived until 1898 they would have reached adulthood in her care.

Of the Davenports, Blanche may have been the most famous to the rest of the world. She appeared in operas throughout Europe, primarily in France and Italy. Her stage name was Bianca La Blanche. A theater in Milan was named after her, and an opera was written for her. She was compared to the great Sarah Bernhardt and many people thought they were rivals, but Bernhardt never took singing roles and Blanche never took anything else. She sang Marguerite in Faust 1,600 times. Mignon and Carmen were two of her favorite roles. She ended her career in 1895 when she was about 42 to care for her ailing mother, an example of the dutiful daughter that she was. Blanche died in 1921, at the age of 68. She never married and had no children.

May Davenport, of Clamavi Towers, also an actress, lived most of her life in Duxbury married to William Seymour an actor and theatrical manager. This was another merger of two acting families. William’s mother and father were successful actors. I’ll cover the Seymour-Field family in Part 3. William and May are buried in Mayflower Cemetery, and their gravestone has the inscription, “married Jan. 8, 1882 and never parted.”

The youngest Davenport sister, Florence, was an actress as well. She married Harold Tears (Tiers) and they had a daughter Florence “Pinky” who was also an actress.

Edgar Davenport, the first of Edward and Fanny Davenport’s two sons, worked for the Edison Phonograph Co. producing elocution records.

Last, but by no means least, Edward and Fanny’s youngest son, Harold “Harry” was an actor in, or director or producer of 159 plays and movies. He most famously played the doctor in “Gone With The Wind.” Some of his other screen credits were “The Life of Emile Zola,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “You Can’t Take It With You,” “Kings Row,” “The Ox-Bow Incident,” “Meet Me In St. Louis” and many others. Although mostly remembered as a character actor, Harry played several leading man roles as well. Harry’s daughter by his first marriage, Dorothy, also an actress, married silent film idol Wallace Reid, Jr. Mr. Reid was a popular and beloved man, but after an accident, he became addicted to morphine and alcohol and died at the age of 31. One of their children, Wallace, Jr. was active in movie animation.

Harry’s second marriage was to Phyllis Rankin, who was a sister-in-law of Lionel Barrymore. They had four children Arthur, Ned, Ann (Fanny) and Kate, all of whom were actors and actresses. His son Arthur used Rankin as a stage name and in turn, Arthur’s son Arthur Rankin, Jr. was the founder of Rankin/Bass animation studio, which produced the movies “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Frosty the Snowman,” later to become perennial TV favorites.

Ned worked in the film industry in a behind-the-scenes capacity. He was a WWII veteran who served in the Philippines. He survived the war and died in Los Angeles, Calif., near his children.

Harry’s daughter from his second marriage, Kate, married Richard Summers, but by the time their son was born (1931) they were divorced. Their son, “Dirk” Drew Davenport Wayne Summers, was an actor, writer, producer or director in 43 movies. Dirk bore a striking resemblance to Van Johnson, June Allyson’s favorite on-screen partner. For those too young to remember, June was a big movie star in the 40s and 50s. This resemblance to Van Johnson, somebody June idolized, must have caused an instantaneous attraction when they met on a movie set. June was 31 and Dirk was 17! They were companions from 1962 until 1975. Dirk was named legal guardian of June’s two children, Dick Powell, Jr. and Pamela Powell, when June was suffering from alcoholism. The children were from June’s marriage to Dick Powell (he of The Thin Man fame). Dirk’s most recognized works, as a writer, were “Kojak,” “Ironside,” and “Mod-Squad.” He became an ordained minister in 1969.                                                                                                              

Blog: DuxburysPilgrimsAndTheirLand.com                                                                   LRH 9/18/2011

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Duxbury’s early settlers: John Washburn

Pictured is the dwelling of the Rev. Ralph Partridge, George Partridge (Ralph’s brother or cousin) and the Honorable George Partridge (George’s great grandson) Currently owned by Stephen and Lisa Fitzgibbons.

John Washburn, a tailor, arrived in Plymouth in 1632. He was taxed in 1633, but not in 1634. In January of 1635 he purchased a house and land from Edward Bumpas. From this chain of events we can surmise that John returned to England in late 1633 and made arrangements for passage for his family and returned to Plymouth in late 1634. His wife, Margery, arrived in Plymouth with her two sons, John, Jr. and Philip in the spring of 1635. John Washburn did not appear on the list of colonists in 1627, and one wonders how he would qualify to share in the 1627 Plymouth Land Division, in which each family received 20 acres for every man, woman and child. There are some inferences that he may have traded the land he purchased from Bumpas for a lot more to his liking. In any event on April 5, 1641 it was ordered that “John Washburn might have forty acres in Duxburrow, if it be there to be had.” John Washburn, Sr. died soon after May of 1670.

In 1642 and again in 1643 a committee was appointed to “set the ancient bounds betwixt the lands of Mr. Thomas Besbeech and John Washburn.” John Washburn had purchased 20 acres of land and buildings from William Latham and he had also purchased land from Edward Bumpas that had once been granted to William Palmer, “which lote he (Palmer) gave up to ye company.” Latham sold 20 acres of land and house to the Rev. Ralph Partridge on Dec. 26, 1639. Identifying which parcel goes where is difficult at best. What we do know is, John Washburn left his homestead farm to his son Philip in 1666. Philip deeded the 40 acres with a house and orchard to Thomas Lasall in 1684 and Mr. Lasall deeded the property to John Partridge, George Partridge’s son within two months. John Washburn and his son John, Jr. were among the fifty-four proprietors of Bridgewater in 1645.  Although John and John, Jr. owned property in Bridgewater its quite possible only John, Jr. moved there right away. John, Sr. shows up in Duxbury records in 1658 but he died in 1670 in Bridgewater. By 1685 with the deed to John Partridge the entire Partridge Farm was either in the hands of George Partridge’s family or the heirs of the Rev. Ralph Partridge, specifically Ralph Thacher.   

The Rev. Ralph Partridge, a respected and honorable man, sometimes used property and later purchased it. I found an instance where two owners did exactly that. William Bassett and Francis Sprague deeded to Mr. Partridge “land now enclosed by the said Mr. Partridge.” That land seems to be closer to what is now Hall’s corner.

By 1658, at the time of his death, Mr. Partridge had accumulated some land in Palmer’s Grant, and Latham’s Grant, and it was now referred to as Partridge Farm. Although greatly reduced in area, a magnificent house still stands where the Partridges and their relatives lived for a long time. The property is currently owned by Stephen and Lisa Fitzgibbons.

The Rev. Ralph Partridge was the much revered first minister of Duxbury’s First Parish Church. He served the town well for over 20 years and compared to some who followed, he could be described as the best of the best. In addition to his preaching and church activities, he was often called upon to tutor the young men in town in the hope they would move on to Harvard. 

Rev. Partridge died in 1658, lamented by friends, family, parish and colony leaders. There were many tributes showing the respect he commanded throughout New England. He was buried in the graveyard by the first meeting house. Although there is no headstone, there is a cobblestoned area about the size of a grave. It was uncovered in the late 1800s and is probably the final resting place of Duxbury’s first minister.

When the Rev. Ralph died he had accumulated over 150 acres in different areas of town. The bulk of his property was left to his daughter, Elizabeth, his only daughter to come to New England. Elizabeth deeded some of the property to George Partridge, possibly her uncle, but at least a cousin. The Partridges who later owned the farm and the Stearns and Richardsons were descendents of George Partridge. Elizabeth’s descendents were Kemps and Thachers. Ralph Thacher, Elizabeth’s son, inherited the Partridge Farm, but he left to preach in Chilmark, on  Martha’s Vineyard and it went into the George Partridge side of the family.

The Partridge Farm was divided into several smaller parcels owned by different owners, but the largest tract was owned by George Partridge and he operated the farm successfully. The property passed through his family for several generations. George Partridge’s great-grandson, sometimes referred to as the Honorable George Partridge (1740-1828) inherited the farm and was probably Duxbury’s most famous Revolutionary patriot. When the Duxbury selectmen received a letter from Boston in 1773 seeking support from the cities and towns in their ongoing dispute with the British authorities, they appointed a committee to respond. The written response most likely fell to George Partridge, the most highly educated member of the committee. Probably written in the parlor of the Partridge Farm house, the letter was so highly regarded by the Patriot leaders that they included George in the councils of the colonies. For the next 10 to 15 years George dedicated his life to the service of his country.

George served with Col. Cotton in the Plymouth Company as Captain of the Duxbury Minutemen in 1773. He marched with that company to fight the British under Captain Balfour in Marshfield. That episode resulted in no bloodshed when the British escaped by sea. He was a representative to the General Court in Boston in 1774. He often traveled to Philadelphia and New York as a delegate to Congress under the old Confederation and later to the Continental Congress. He was a great admirer of George Washington and was present when George Washington gave up his commission. It’s quite possible that he was responsible for renaming Washington Street, where it had been previously called Commercial Street and Main Street.

After the Revolution, George returned to Duxbury, served in the legislature and was sheriff of Plymouth County, a full-time job. He still found time to be active in town affairs. He was actively involved in church business, his many business interests, the farm, and his sheriff’s work. Sometime in the 1790s, Rebecca Frazar, sister of his friend Samuel Frazar, came to the Partridge Farm to work for George. She was much more than a housekeeper, actually a secretary and in a very real sense a business associate. She was the social equal of all who came to the house, a highly unusual situation for that era. Many times her name appeared on legal documents in her own bold signature, Rebecca Frazar, Jr.

George Partridge’s house was where the best minds of Duxbury gathered whether for good conversation or more serious matters. A meeting at his house in 1821 was described in a letter that Sarah Bradford Ripley, wife of the Rev. Ezra Ripley of Waltham and daughter of Capt. Gamaliel Bradford, wrote to her brother Daniel. “Last week father and I took a trip to Duxbury. We spent the day going the rounds and took tea at Mr. Partridge’s. In his small parlor was collected more good sence and soul than would save all Waltham, to wit- Mr. Partridge, Dr. Allyn, Mr. Frazar, Uncle Gershom, and father.”

When George Partridge was 83 in 1823 he wrote his will, leaving $10,000 to the town for support of the minister of the First Parish Church; $9,000 to Rebecca Frazar and one half the dwelling house so long as she shall continue to live in it and make it her home; the dwelling house in which he now lives to Zadock Bradford; $2,000 to Harvard University; $10,000 to several individuals in trust for the establishment of a school or academy in the town of Duxbury (a legacy that, to this day, still benefits the town); and finally “my homestead farm on which I now live and all my other Real Estate to my kinsman George P. Richardson.” The bequest to Rebecca was most likely discussed between her and George Partridge, for soon after his death she bought a house and opened a private school in the home’s ell.

The Honorable George Partridge died on July 7, 1828; Benjamin Kent presided at the funeral service and gave a sermon that has been often quoted. To me, truly the end of a great man and patriot.

Next: the Davenports and Seymours.

                                   Lamont “Monty” Healy       e-mail: monty15@msn.com

                                   8/26/2011                                Blog: DuxburysPilgrimsAndTheirLand.com

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Duxbury Settlers Introduction

Articles written about the Duxbury Settlers

that appeared in the Duxbury Clipper

Introduction11.9.09

Prence12.9.09

Collier1.20.10

MPierce2.17.10

Cole4.28.10

Brewster6.2.10

Howland7.21.10

Palmer9.15-22.10

Browne12.8-15.10

MPiercepart2.3.2.11

Sampson6.29.7.6.11

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