The Packard family reunion in 1888: what was it all about?

Courtesy of Genealogy Bank

On August 10, 1888, as indicated in the article quoted above, the city of Brockton was packed with Packards, hustling and bustling for the  250th anniversary of Samuel Packard coming to the shores of America. Then “America” (not called that at the time of course) was only the burgeoning English colony of Massachusetts Bay with the rest of the land populated with millions of indigenous peoples. Among those listed, Cyrus was not among them, a good number of which seem to reside in Massachusetts. Some of these individuals are likely in my lineage but it would require more digging to determine which ones.

The article itself notes that De Witt Clinton Packard, the Brockton City Clerk, held the opening speech, with the article claiming that Samuel Packard was a “brave old pilgrim who left his pleasant home in Wymondham, England,” and the staying power of Packard in the “old colony” (Massachusetts). Furthermore, B. Winslow Packard was said to be the “historian of the Packard family” who claimed that Samuel Packard’s 11 of 12 children married and had huge families. Interestingly, Bradford Kingman who would later write a history of Bridgewater, was seemingly a descendant of Samuel Packard. The article then summarized the supposed history of Samuel Packard’s coming to the “New World” and out-pouring of his family in Massachusetts. The article ended by saying that

The family tree [from Samuel Packard onward] was planted, spread out its branches in every direction, until now lineal descendants of this family are found in nearly every state and territory in the union.

While the claims they make about family history are questionable looking at them now, since genealogical practices were not as great as they currently are with not as many primary sources available to those researching their families, it is still worth recounting this gathering. A publication about it was also put out by the Packard Memorial Association titled “Celebration of the 250th anniversary of the landing of Samuel Packard in this country.” [1] The book describes how in 1887 there were meetings of Packard family members in preparation for the big gathering the next year, the creation of the Packard Memorial Association, along with a “Committee of Arrangements,” “Literary Committee,” and “Reception Committee.” It was also noted that the August 1888 meeting recounted by the Boston Herald was in the Exhibition Building at the Agricultural Fair Grounds, with varied meats, corn fritters, mashed potatoes, fruits, and desserts served at the gathering. It is worth also quoting from the opening address of the gathering by B. Winslow Packard:

…that brave old pilgrim [Samuel Packard] who left his pleasant home in Wymondham in England, and…braved the dangers of the seas to find asylum in the new world…plain Samuel Packard, inkeeper, farmer, and constable, is ancestor enough. His descendants…have made the name [Packard] respected in several communities where they have cast their lot…this study of family history is an elevating pursuit. To find no reverence for the past, with all its precious and inspiring memories and lessons, is to ignore one of the great sources of influence and power

Silas S. Packard’s address, after that of the mayor of Brockton was notable in that it  garnered laughs from the crowd, which is not surprising because it does give me a bit of a chuckle to be honest:

…if you detect me firing into the ground you will understand that I don’t dare aim too  high for feat that I might hit a Packard…I am glad to know that Brockton was once owned by the Packards. It was over a hundred years ago…when the town lots were not quite as valuable. When they began to be valuable…the Packards sold out. That is a Packard way…If I wanted to borrow money I don’t think I would go to a Packard.

And then before the hymn was sung the President of the Association said “If you are all Packards you can all sing” which was met with laughter. After summarizing, again, the Packard family history, there is a rhyming poem that brings together the Packard family history as they saw it at the time (which I found in my family history) is at best partially accurate):

In sixteen hundred thirty-eight,

In Massachusetts Bay was cast

The anchor of the “Diligent,”

All the ocean’s dangers passed

One hundred thirty-three ’tis said.

Upon this vessel came,

Besides the crew and captain brave–

John Martin was his name

April the twenty-sixth they sailed

From Gravesend harbor wide;

And until August tenth they braved

The perils of the tide

 

Then Samuel, with his wife and child

Set foot upon the shore

To help to clear the wilderness,

And did return no more.

Ere long he sought a settlement

And home in Old Bridgewater,

And there he found, besides a home

A husband for his daughter–

For Thomas sought Elizabeth,

And she wed consented,

And as an Alger lived for years

Both happy and contented.

 

The second child, in Hingham born,

Was for father named,

And as ensign he held rank

Is by records claimed.

He married of the Lothrop stock

A maiden of his choice

And had six children born of her

To make his heart rejoice.

They had all families but one–

Elizabeth by name–

And none, as far as I learn

Ere put their birth to shame.

 

The third son, Zaccheus, too we find

In Hingham woods was born,

And  doubtless with his father wrought

In raising Indian corn

At any rate, he with him lived

And came to the man’s estate,

And the child of the neighbor John

He made his lifetime’s mate.

He sought for Sarah Howard’s hand,

And got both hand and heart

And with them got a share of land–

‘Tis said a goodly part.

Nine children blessed their married state,

And all grew up to see

A goodly share of Packards flock

Round the ancestral tree,

Eight sons, and daughters only one

To change the Packard name,

The name of Edson that she chose

Is not unknown to fame.

 

The fourth child, Thomas, lived and died

Near his father’s home

Had one son Joseph, for his cheer

Who never far did roam;

Not but he had the enterprise

And means to emigrate

For when his father made his will

He left him his estate.

 

The fifth child, John, in Weymouth born

In sixteen fifty-five,

Had also but a single son;

But many are alive

Who trace their origin to him

And Judith, his good wife–

Of Willis stock a good descent

You may just bet your life

They make up sterling value up

What they in numbers lack

And proudest of ancestry

Of any looking back.

 

The sixth child, born of Weymouth, too

Married, ’tis said, the daughter

Of one John Kingman, who soon came

To live in old Bridgewater

This was good blood, you will agree,

The Packard-Kingman kind–

Perhaps a better in our race

We could not easily find.

Nathaniel had a family

Of thirteen girls and boys–

Enough most surely to fill up

The measure of home joys.

A goodly race from them have sprung

Of noble men and true.

And women — well, I’ll only say,

As good as I e’er knew;

Accomplished, fair and full of grace

And goodness, I am sure,

I see not why their memories

Should not be made secure.

 

The seventh child of Samuel

Was born in the old “West”

And went to Weymouth for her spouse;

Quite likely she thought best

The Phillips family, we find,

Had early settled there,

And Mary went with willing heart

Their earthly lot to share

Her children five made good, we see,

The promise of their youth,

And many of their race now walk

The ways of right and truth.

 

The eighth child, Hannah, married well,

And of a goodly kind

And her descendants, numerous now–

The Randall race we find;

Four boys, three girls, her children seven,

Have served their time and age,

And left of thoughts and words and deeds

A noble heritage!

 

The ninth child, Israel, in his youth

Was to his county given,

And All the ties of home and friends

Were in its service riven.

He lives as one trooper brave

On History’s gathering page,

Revered his name by all our race,

By patriot and sage.

 

The tenth child, Jael, wife of Smith–

I’m glad to find ’twas John,

For now I can problem solve

Just where the Smiths hitch on.

He was not John Smith, you know,

That Pocahontas saved,

Nor that John Smith we all may know

Who wasn’t so well behaved;

But it was Taunton John of old,

A man of high degree,

Esteemed by all for wealth and worth,

And should be praised by me–

But most of all because he chose

A Packard for his wife

Perhaps he’d not better got

If he’d sought all his life.

 

The eleventh child, fair Deborah,

Born on the homestead old,

Married a Washburn of repute

And virtues manifold.

Six children made their household glad,

Who children had each one,

And looking on their history,

We may well say, “Well done!”

 

The twelfth child, and last we find

Of Samuel’s children dear,

Deliverance named, a Washburn wed,

And found had a home of cheer,

Made glad by seven boys and girls,

Not all whom were married,

But grew to man and womanhood

And for some reason tarried.

 

Now Samuel, our great ancestor,

Deserves a notice brief,

Because of those of whom I’ve sung

He father was, and chief.

He must have been a man of worth,

Though not a man of wealth;

He left his children all, no doubt,

Good counsel and good health.

He office held in office and state,

And doubtless used them well;

A breach of faith and trust reposed

No record lives to tell.

He died a Christian, full of years,

And buried was with care;

Few annals lived to tell the tale

Of when, or how, or where.

 

A monument he well deserves,

His mem’ry to enshrine,

And his descendants far and near

To rear one could combine.

Upon his tablets let it bear

A record of his race,

And tell how many here to-day

Are gathered in this place

To celebrate his coming here,

In sixteen thirty-eight–

Two hundred fifty years ago–

Why should we longer wait?

The place he lived is well defined

The landmarks are not lost,

And I doubt not we can secure

A site at moderate cost.

And, too, her name who came with him,

The mother of our race,

Should stand to share his noble fame

When we his name shall trace;

For ’tis the mothers of our land,

As well as fathers brave,

That give the impress to the child

That grows our land to save.

That honored be our ancestors,

Of any clime and age,

And may the Pilgrim’s freedom be

Our lasting heritage!

The rest of the publication then goes back and forth about Packard family history, some saying that “it is a Packard history to honor the kindred,” and religious sayings. Later on all the names of the Packards who attended the gathering are listed. [2] Later the Packard Memorial Association resolved that:

…we cherish an affectionate regard and veneration for our ancestor, Samuel Packard…there should be a family gathering at or near the old homestead in West Bridgewater, Mass.

And they have their own seal:

The Packard Memorial Association seems to be onto something based on the maps provided by ancestry on their page about the Packard family name. According to internet searches, the book itself seems to be by (or compiled by) Bradford Kingman and the association seems to have ONLY produced this book, which some have been interested in recent years. The story continues.


Notes

[1] See pages 3-5, 6, 9-12, 15, 17,21, 25-33, 38, 43, 56-69 of the book itself.

[2] Perhaps a Wellcome T. Packard, in Canada, is one who is within the established lineage I talk about in my family history.

3 thoughts on “The Packard family reunion in 1888: what was it all about?

  1. Pingback: The “Hingham Community Band” and Samuel Packard | Packed with Packards!

  2. Pingback: Mrs. Nethiah Thayer’s “Packard Poem” | Packed with Packards!

  3. Pingback: The first in a line of Packards: the story of Elizabeth | Packed with Packards!

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