Blood, sweat, and tears of the Irish: The story of Mary, Ellen, and Bridget

1860 census document that lists the three Irish servants in the Packard household

Last week I wrote about John H. Packard, beginning with a letter by a Union soldier and ending with a discussion of how he was a renowed surgeon, at a time that the use of “pathological anatomy remained remote from most areas of practical medicine” and the reform of the medical field had not happened yet (it would occur after the Civil War). He had a personal estate worth $5,000. That has an inflated worth, according to Measuring Worth, of about $161,400 today, putting him in the top 10% (or even higher) today, if we use calculations from CNN Money. Like anyone in a respected profession such as his, he got there by standing on the backs of others. What he did would have been impossible without the labor of others. This is made clear in the 1860 census for Philadelphia’s Eighth Ward, which lists, as I noted in that article, three Irish servants. [1] They are Mary Hassan, a 47-year-old woman, Ellen McBride, a 25-year-old woman, and Bridget Welsh, a 22-year-old woman. They are called “domestics.” As people’s historian Howard Zinn wrote in A People’s History of the United States, they came at a time that immigrants from Ireland were “fleeing starvation there when the potato crop failed,” coming to the United States, packed into “old sailing ships.”

Before getting into the specific histories of Mary, Ellen, and Bridget, I’d like to give some historical context beyond what Zinn has pointed out. Immigrant  women who came from Europe often became domestic servants, sometimes in a state of debt peonage, especially Irish women because they often spoke English. They were paid with low wages, with many families hiring them, with the weathiest hiring ten or more at a time, with these servants cleaning houses, caring for children, cooking meals, and other tasks deemed “domestic.” Many would begin a 4-7 year labor term, and if they fled they would be tracked down, or could even be sexually assaulted. As historian Andrew Turban points out, [2] before 1920, the majority of the servants in Boston, Philly, and New York City was comprised of Irish women, who were replaced by Black women from the South beginning in 1920, when the Great Migration picked up. Unmarried Irish women especially served as a “crucial economic lifeline for family members who remained in Ireland.” One travel writer, writing in 1864, observed that “vast numbers of Irish girls had found employment as servants in families.” [3]

These Irish women were among the “hundreds of thousands of indentured servants” who traveled to North America from the 1600s to the 1800s, one of the many waves of migration to the content. While labor from enslaved African laborers took the place of indentured servants in West Indian colonies controlled by the British by the 19th century, indentured servitude was still an important institution in the Atlantic World itself. [4] Some have even argued that without domestic servants it would have “been impossible to run a 19th century urban home” while the Library of Congress notes that many Irish women became domestic workers or servants, while Irish men labored in coal mines or built canals (like John Mills, maybe?) and railroads. In terms of Philly itself, in 1857, three years before the 1860 census which listed Mary, Ellen, and Bridget, Irish immigrants were integrated into the city itself and became “proof of the American promise that hard work, skill, and persistence could ultimately lead to remarkable achievement.” In Philly, many of these servants lived in overcrowded rowhouses, with the words servant and Irish becoming synonymous almost, and were often demeaned by the wealthy families they worked for.

Even so, as should be clearly stated, indentured servitude was NOT the same as enslavement, which some members of the Packard family were involved in, as I’ve noted in past posts on this blog. Originally, indentured servitude came out of a “need for cheap labor” but landowners soon turned to enslaved Africans as the cost of indentured servants increased. As the Institute of Black World describes it, that while they are both forms of chattel bondage, “indentured servants expected to be in bondage for a set number of years, and then freed.” As others pointed out, indentured servitude was not lifelong or hereditary like enslavement of Black people, with White servants having legal rights and were not considered property. As such, there were not “White slaves” as Liam Hogan rightly argues on the topic. It is a myth that some have bought into to benefit their ideological aims, especially reactionary groups in the United States, and others who should know better. Furthermore, as Rebecca Gatz points out, many domestic servants in Philly in 1800 were “immigrants who were sold into servitude on their arrival” in order to pay for their passage, although many became  servants “usually for a term of four years.” These servants were a “permanent feature of middle class families in 19th century America,” often single Irish women, who had a “favorable bargaining position,” as noted by historian Laura D. Kelley. Some were able to get concessions like the ability to practice their Catholic faith and since room and board were provided, these servants often sent money back to their families in Ireland, and maintained their “own financial security with remarkable success,” gaining wages, having safe living conditions, and food to eat. Even so, they were still exploited by those they worked for, in terms of their labor and skills, although they received higher wages, along with other benefits, than those who worked in factories at the time. In Pennsylvania, in 1860, female servants received montly wages of $7.88, coming to a total of $94.56 per year, with servants in New York and New Jersey paid slightly more per month, $8.33 and $9.55 respectfully. [5] This compared to laborers who had a wage of $5.88 an hour or machinists who had a wage of $9.48 an hour the same year. According to Measuring Worth, the amount earned by servants in one year ($94.56) would have an inflated worth of $3,053.01 and a relative income worth of $22,929.23, at the low end, and $43,527.76 at the high end.

With that, let me move back to Mary, Ellen, and Bridget. We know, from the federal census, that they were living, in 1860, in the Eighth Ward of Philly. According to The Library Company of Philadelphia’s Philadelphia on Stone project, the Eighth Ward, after the consolidation of Philly in 1854, was “between Schuylkill River and Seventh, Spruce, and Chestnut streets.” Using a map from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Map Collection, in 1865, we find a map of the whole ward. Its amazing, I’d say. While the Philly Department of Records has a map of the city’s wards in 1854, it is an inaccessible image which is small and cannot be examined in detail, sadly.

Sadly, the map is blurry, so zooming in did not help and neither did some other maps of the ward (including this one) unfortunate to say.

They were, from my research, living in a building on 1924 Spruce Street, where John H. Packard lived until the early 1900s. [6] While those records point to residence there in the later 19th century, it appears he lived there before, because the Daily Evening Bulletin posted a message in April 1864 where he listed his office as 1225 Spruce Street as a Medical Examiner. [7] This is supported by papers with similar notices the same year. While I know that the “Packard Residence” of one John H. Packard in Chestnut Hill is not him, as that is in the wrong part of Philly, I did find an image of the dwelling as it looked in 1896, according to The Athenaeum of Philadelphia:

Using the PhilGeoHistory Maps Viewer I was able to find more about where they were living. This resource showed me that the house was near a paper factory, down the street from a lumber yard and church,  and over 17 blocks (eastward) from what I believe is the hospital. Packard himself was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, as an appeal in June 1871 indicates, where he, and others, advocated for money to build a new hospital near the university.

The black dot indicates where the house was located

Now that we know where they lived, what about the lives of Mary, Ellen, and Bridget specifically? Unlike in England where there was a servant hierarchy, these three women were domestic servants who helped around the house. Taking the assumption that all three women stayed in Philly before and after 1850, that eliminates many false drops I uncovered in searches through digitized records on FamilySearch. [8]

With Mary, it was tough as the name “Mary Hassen” is a somewhat common, leading to issues like having two Mary Hassens in Philly’s Seventh Ward in 1870. [9] One is living on the north side of Lombard Street, [10] and the other on the south side of Naudain Street. [11] Of these two individuals, both are equally likely. Lombard Street is only a mile away (or seven blocks southward, after traveling one block westward) from 1924 Spruce Street. Naudain Street is less than half-a-mile away, which translates to only eight blocks southward, after traveling one block westward. Whichever one of those is the Mary who was a servant of the Packard family in 1860, is clear she stayed in the same area of Philly. The 1880 census makes this clear, listing a person who is mostly likely her. [12] Operating with that assumption, in this census, she is noted as “keeping house,” referring to “domestic” work within a household, with another family, possibly meaning that she is still a servant. She would be living at 1224 Haines Street, which was over 23 miles north from the Spruce Street residence where she had lived in 1860, joined by various boarders from Ireland: 35-year-old James Brown, 50-year-old J. McIntyre, 50-year-old Ellen McIntyre (wife of J.), and 40-year-old Andrew Lacy (and his two children, 38-year-old James and 8-year-old Mary), to name a few. A 48-year-old woman named Ellen Hassett was the head of the household, living there along with her two daughters (Mary and Sarah), and three sons (George, John, and Charles). There is also a death record of a “Mary Hasson” in 1900 but I think it would be too presumptive to say that it is her.

While it is hard to extrapolate details of Mary Hassen’s life from the federal census documents, it is more possible to do so for Ellen McBride. In 1870 she was still living in the Eighth Ward of Philly. She was a domestic servant for the family headed by 57-year-old man named Alfred Stillé, a Doctor of Medicine whose real estate was worth $45,000 and personal estate worth $55,000. In the same household were three other domestic servants from Ireland: 45-year-old man named James Cole, 50-year-old woman named Sarah Cole (wife of James), and a 30-year-old woman named Rose McBride. [13] Considering that Rose has the same surname as Ellen, it is possible that Rose is her sister. The same page of the census lists families led by stockbrokers (John W. Freed), Doctors of Medicine (Addinell Hewson), a presumed widow (Mary V. Vertz), and another doctor (John Ross) as their neighbors. Also in the household was Alfred’s 55-year-old wife, Caroline C., and their 20-year-old son, Louis, a student of medicine. If you add his real estate and personal estate together, it would come to a total of $100,000, which is an inflated worth of over $2.1 million, as of today, according to Measuring Worth! [14] As such, he would, using a Forbes calculator in October 2019, be in the top 6.67% in today’s standards.

They were living at a house numbered 920, possibly on Spruce Street. I say Spruce Street because Stillé’s obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1900 says that he died at 3900 Spruce Street. The same obituary calls him a “venerable professor of theory and practice of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania” and says that his wife was Katherine A. Blakiston, who he married in 1899, meaning that Katherine was his second wife. The obituary claims that Caroline, who is listed in the census was “insane” even when he remained devoted to her, and that she died six weeks before he married Katherine, with obtiary claiming that “only death released him from the burden he had borne for years.” The obituary goes on to call him “one of the most honored names in the role of America’s medical and scientific leaders.” Philadelphia newspapers also noted that he published a book on medical law in 1860, was on the Sanitary Commission in the city in 1862, and did medical lectures at the Philadelphia Hospital in 1866. [15] Clearly, he was a prominent fellow in Philly. The fact that he had servants, like Ellen, means that he could only do what he did because of the labor of others. This is an important fact to point out, because biographies of him from the American Medical Association, in William Osler’s American Medical Biographies, or University of Pennsylvania do not mention it. These biographies, however, do say that his wife, Caroline Christiana Barnett, had mental illness and was in an asylum for FIFTY YEARS! Writing a post on her is a subject for another day. Anyway, it is sad that we know more about Stillé than the servants in his household, like Ellen McBride. There are five Ellen McBrides in Philadelphia in 1880, but I don’t believe that any of them are the same as the Ellen I have described in this article. We do know, however, that Rose remained a domestic servant, as she is listed in that role in the 1880 census in a household headed by Richard Zeckwer, a German-born music teacher, with him, his family, and others at 154 Pine Street, but Ellen is not with her. [16] Zeckwer was a prominent man in the city’s coeity, as he started the Philadelphia Music Academy with three other musicians in 1870 and was director of this same academy from 1876 to 1917, which was located on Spruce Street. The mystery deepens and I’m not sure where to look next in order to piece together her life a little more. If you wish to continue the search, go here. I would welcome your discoveries on that front. There are other Rose McBrides I found in my searches, but I can’t sure if any of them are her.

We finally get to Bridget Welsh. She likely immigrated in 1857 as person of that name is listed on Philly passenger lists for that year. [17] Discarding the tavern keeper with her name in Philly in 1880, she would have been the servant in the household of Annie E. Massey in Philly the same year. [18] This record shows her as living in a three-person household, with the only person other than Annie in the house being Annie’s sister, a 75-year-old widowed woman named Letita Cresson. All three of them lived at an abode at 50 Arch Street, which is about two miles away from 1924 Spruce Street, as shown in a Google Maps calculation of the distance between both locations. We find her again in 1900, living in the 27th Ward of Philly, still as a servant, and in a family headed by Emile Camille Geyelin, a French-born hydraulics engineer, who is married to Estella Antoinette, adopted daughter of J. Richter Jones. [19] In the household are three other servants: a 61-year-old Irish woman named Lizzie Walsh, a 40-year-old French woman named Louisa Maire, and a 50-year-old English woman named Emma Fellows. It is not known if Elizabeth “Lizzie” Walsh is related to Bridget or that it is a coincidence that both have the same last name. An image of the census is shown below.

They were living on 4227 Chestnut Street, with this street described as a “major historic street” in Philly by Wikipedia as it runs east-west from the waterfront on the Delaware River, through he center of the city, through West Philly, and then crosses the Schuylkill River, and onward from there. This was, reportedly, not far from the Fairmount Waterworks where “one of his turbines was installed.” Although I couldn’t find anything on Annie E. Massey, I did find that her sister died in 1888, and that Geyelin was an acclaimed engineer who installed water turbines in many cities to improve their water systems, while his great-grandson was Philip Laussat Geyelin, editor of the Washington Post. Like with Stillé, not one of the biographies, whether in Fire Engineering, his obituary in 1900, Volume 18 of Engineers and Engineering, or letters by descendants, ever mentioned that Irish servants in the household he led. This is not a surprise, to be honest, and it makes articles like this one all the more important, to uncover realities which are not acknowledged.

This article has shown that three men (John H. Packard, Alfred Stillé, Emile Camille Geyelin) and two women (Ellen Hassett and Annie E. Massey) in Philly benefited from the labor of Irish women who were deemed “domestics.” Again, what they did in their lives would have not been possible without the work of these women. And that should be acknowledged. Of course, my research here is likely only scratching the surface. With that, I’d like to hear your suggestions about what resources and records I should look at next, as I’d like to expand this story into something broader.


[1]  “United States Census, 1860“, database with images, FamilySearch, 11 November 2020, John H Packard, 1860; page 6, household ID 27, NARA M653, affiliate film number 1158, GS film number 805158, digital folder number 005171158, image number 10, indexing project batch number N01813-6, record number 218.

[2] Andrew Urban (August 2009), “Irish Domestic Servants, ‘Biddy’ and Rebellion in the American Home, 1850–1900,” Gender & History, 21(2):  264; accessed January 3, 2021.

[3] Thomas Low Nichols. Forty Years of American Life (London,1864), 71; quoted on “The Irish Girl and the American Letter: Irish immigrants in 19th Century America” page.

[4] Reuters Staff, “Fact check: First slaves in North American colonies were not “100 white children from Ireland”,” Reuters, June 17, 2020, accessed January 3, 2021; Michael Guasco, “Indentured Servitude,” Oxford Bibliographies, December 11, 2015, accessed January 3, 2021.

[5] Edward Young, “Special report on immigration…in the year 1869-’70 /,” Government Publication Office, 1871, p. 216.

[6] “1924-26 Spruce Philadelphia, PA 19103,” Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., Accessed January 3, 2021. This is also asserted on Redfin. The listing describes the house as “a remarkable and rare Italian Renaissance Mansion housing 12 residential apartments in the heart of the Rittenhouse neighborhood,” saying it was “built in the late 1800’s at a time when fashionable architects were employed by prominent residents making their mark on the city of Philadelphia. An early elevator residence, this magnificent building has been home to prominent Philadelphia families such as Dr. John Hooker Packard, one of the most prominent American surgeons of the late 19th century.” His residence there is asserted by the Journal of Sociologic Medicine, Vol. 2, p. 419 for 1889, page 1455 Boyd’s Philadelphia Combined City and Business Directory in 1895, Page 183 of the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s report on historic places in Philly calls it the “Earl. P. Putnam House.” His obituary transcribed on Find A Grave says he died at 1926 Spruce Street.

[7] “Have You Protected Your Family For Life?,” Daily Evening Bulletin, April 6, 1864, Philadelphia, Page 4, Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive, accessed January 3, 2021. Also see notices in the April 9, 1864 paper, April 14, 1864 paper, April 12, 1864 paper, April 16, 1864 paper, April 19, 1864 paper, April 26, 1864 paper, and April 28, 1864 paper.

[8] For instance, there is a “Mary Hassin” in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Northern Liberties Ward 2,  and another “Mary Hassen” in Moyamensing Township, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.

[9] Specifically, a 50-year-old Mary Hassan and a 55-year-old Mary Hassan.

[10] “United States Census, 1870“, database with images, FamilySearch, 4 January 2021, Mary Hassen, 1870; line 12, NARA M593, GS Film Number 000552919, Digital Folder Number 004278862, image 514, indexing project (batch) number N01638-5, record number 20160.

[11] “United States Census, 1870“, database with images, FamilySearch, 4 January 2021), Mary Hassen, 1870; line 32, NARA M593, GS Film Number 000552919, Digital Folder Number 004278862, image 494, indexing project (batch) number N01638-5, record number 19380.

[12] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch,: 13 November 2020), Mary Hassen, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; citing enumeration district ED 121, sheet 94B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,170. Ellen Hasset and her family is mentioned on the previous page.

[14] “United States Census, 1870“, database with images, FamilySearch, Ellen McBride in entry for Alfred Stille, 1870; line 16, household 964, NARA M593, GS Film Number 000552892, Digital Folder Number 004278816, image 366, indexing project (batch) number N01635-8, record number 14485.

[14] There are other measurements, but I believe this one is the most accurate to use here in this article.

[15] “The Army Medical Department Bill,” The Press, Philadelphia, January 20, 1862, Page 2, accessed January 4, 2021; “New Law Books,” The Press, Philadelphia, October 13, 1860, Page 3, accessed January 4, 2021; “Our Medical Schools,” Daily Evening Bulletin, Philadelphia, February 6, 1866, Page 1, accessed January 4, 2021.

[16] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, 13 November 2020, Rose Mc Bride in household of Richard Zeckwer, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, British Colonial America; citing enumeration district ED 133, sheet 264C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,170.

[17] “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists Index, 1800-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch, Bridget Welsh, 1857; citing ship Saranak, NARA microfilm publication M360 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 419,569. There’s also a person of that name which came to New York City in 1856, but I threw that one out of contention with the assumption that she stayed in Philly.

[18] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, 13 November 2020), Bridget Welsh in household of Annie E. Massey, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, British Colonial America; citing enumeration district ED 162, sheet 94B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,171.

[19] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch, 4 January 2021), Bridget Walsh in household of Emile Geyelin, Philadelphia city Ward 27, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 669, sheet 3B, family 75, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,469.

The first in a line of Packards: the story of Elizabeth

Building off the last post in this blog, where I pledged to write about more female ancestors, countering past gender imbalances, I’d like to focus on Elizabeth, the wife of Samuel Packard, who came over with a child, likely Mary, in 1638 from Hingham, a town in Norfolk County, England, to Hingham, a settlement in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Many aspects of her life are an utter mystery. Her surname, long speculated to be Stream, is unknown, and is often given second billing, when it comes to efforts by Packard descendants to remember the past, elevating Samuel Packard above her, even by those than communicated with my grandfather, Bob Mills, or those that communicated with me in the past. The same is the case in contemporary records during the time her husband, Samuel, was alive, already implying was a second-class citizen. But, who was she, and why does she matter?

As I’ve written in the past, Elizabeth seems to have met Samuel when he moved to Norfolk County, which was north of Suffolk County, where he was born, reportedly in the Red House Farm. I am, to be clear, indirectly descended from both people. Apart from that, she had, at least nine children with Samuel, along with five grandchildren. [1] I tied to break this down into a listing so its much easier for you (and me) to understand those mentioned in Samuel’s will:

  1. Elizabeth X, wife of Samuel
  2. Samuel, son of Samuel and Elizabeth, eldest son
  3. Zaccheus, son of Samuel and Elizabeth
  4. John, son of Samuel and Elizabeth
  5. Nathaniel, son of Samuel and Elizabeth
  6. Mary, daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth, wife of Richard Phillips
  7. Hannah, daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Randall
  8. Jaell, daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth, wife of John Smith
  9. Deborah, daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Washburn
  10. Grandchild Israel Augur, son of ???
  11. Grandchild Caleb Philips, son of Richard? Phillips
  12. Grandchild Israel Packard, son of Zaccheus
  13. Grandchild Samuel Packard, son of Samuel
  14. Grandchild Daniel Packard, son of Samuel

In his will on October 29, 1684, Elizabeth received some money from her husband and much, much more. This included gobs and jobs of land, including:

  • his farm in the town of Bridgewater (36 acres), along with lands and meadows connected to the farm
  • share of meadow called Bullshole for life
  • all his goods and cattle
  • 40 pounds for life
  • 20 acres of land lying in Bridgewater between lands owned by James Keith and Joseph Hayward near Satuckett Pond
  • all money and chattle shall be divided equally among his children and grandchildren after she dies
  • a feather bed, which shall be given to his grandchild Deliverance Augur after her death
  • one of the joint executors of his estate along with her son Samuel

That’s a sizable amount!

After Samuel died, she married a man, likely in late 1684 or perhaps in early 1685, by the name of John Washburn, a long-time Bridgewater resident. He would die sometime after October 30, 1686, outlining the following in his will [2]:

to my Wife Elizabeth Washbourne one Bed one Boulster one Pillow two pair of sheets one Blanket one Coverlet two chests Six bushels of Indian Corne one bushell of Barley. ffarther with Respect to money which was my wives part whereof I have already laid out for her we are agreed that I should Returne to her two pounds and ten shillings which I have already done.

Of course, she is not mentioned at all in his inventory. [3]

Over ten years after Samuel’s death, on October 27, 1694, Elizabeth sold land given to her by Samuel: a 20-acre tract called “Satuckett Pond” or “Sehucket Pond,” selling the  the land to “an Indian” living in Bridgewater named Sam James for five pounds. [4] This agreement would be signed by Samuel’s son of the same name, Samuel Packard, Jr., along with two others, while identifying her as “Elizabeth Washburn Widow of the Town of Bridgewater”:

Most importantly, in this agreement she explicitly noted herself as married to Samuel, calling him her “first husband”:

“…by these presents convent with the said Sam James his heirs & assigners I…at the lime of making over and passing away said Land unto the said Sam James stood truley & lawfully peired and processed with the same & every part and parcel thereof of a good lure, lawfully & absolute Estate of Inheritance, by virtual of my first Husband, vis: Samuel Packard his will, and therefor, I have full power to Bargain, Sell, Grant, alienate, and pass away the piece onto said Sam James.

It goes on from there in legalise, basically saying she has the right to give Sam James the land. This transcription may not be completely correct, so I’d recommend you read the full page below, as I could have made errors:

Many years later, in April 1702, Elizabeth, still a “widow,” would sign a document about John Washburn’s heirs, receiving some rights. I came to the conclusion this is her as she is called “Elizabeth Solo” (widow):

“Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986,” images, FamilySearch, Bristol, Deeds 1699-1709 vol 3-5, image 304 of 806, page 83, county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

That is the last record we have of her. What I have posed here goes far beyond what I wrote in the past. Further recommendations for how I can find more about Elizabeth are appreciated, as I’m planning to focus on later Packard ancestors in the future.


[1] Last Will and Testament of Samuell Packer, Oct. 29, 1684, Plymouth Colony Records, Wills Vol. 3, Part 2, Plymouth Registry of Deeds, Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, Plymouth, p. 96-98, images 585586 of 616.

[2] “Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, 1633-1967,” images, FamilySearch, Probate records 1686-1702 and 1849-1867 vol 1-1F, image 49 of 490, pages 84-85; State Archives, Boston.

[3] “Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, 1633-1967,” images, FamilySearch, Probate records 1686-1702 and 1849-1867 vol 1-1F, image 50 of 490, pages 86; State Archives, Boston.

[4] “Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986,” images, FamilySearch, Plymouth, Deeds 1712-1714 vol 10, images 183-184 of 651, page 333, 334-5; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

Places with ‘Packard’ in the name across the U.S.

Packard Road in Plainfield, MA. Photo taken by Bob Mills. As he described it in July or August 1980, Packard Road connects “Cummington to Plainfield over steep hills. It is mostly a gravel road with lots of ferns, rocks, and trees, but nothing else but a few random farmhouses. Only Plainfield has a few restored old homes – the area is rather poverty-stricken.”

In my searching, I discovered a number of places across the U.S., which have Packard in the name, apart from the image above and Packard Cemetery.

Let’s start with Packard Rocks, Rhode Island. We know, as stated in Rhode Island History (Jan. 1942 edition, p 22) that the 500-acre farm that Captain Samuel Packard, the person who tried to illegally capture African to serve as his slaves, bought in 1800s, “extended from Packard’s Rocks in the Narragansett Bay to the Fish Pond at the Head of Narrow River.” This isn’t much of a surprise since this Samuel Packard was buried in Rhode Island like his wife Abigail. Other books confirm the location of Packard’s Rocks, sometimes called Packard Rocks, although none told the history of the place.  [1] Even the GNIS entry lists nothing on the origin of the name! But, based on what was stated earlier, it was likely given its name because it was once part of a farm owned by Samuel Packard. While I couldn’t find land records using an official government site, and an unofficial one, for Rhode Island, I did find its location, and a map showing a Packard Road in the region in 1900, highlighting the road with a yellow square:

This is document 99999924, a plat recorded on January 1, 1900 if the North Kingston Town Clerk website is accurate on this date.

I looked through the land evidences too (since the probate and town records cannot be accessed unless you are at a Family History Library), but since the indexes are spotty, I couldn’t find anything without going through the whole book.

With that, we move onto the next one: a historical Packard post office. It fulfilled this role in 1892, 1901, and 1902, according to the GNIS. Further information is not known at this time. The final place I’ll focus on is Packard, Michigan. It is presently a populated community place, and has some scattered mentions in books. But nothing notes its origin, unfortunately. But, we can say it had that name by at least 1901 as a railroad station was there. There is a lot of false drops in the search results, so it is hard to search for completely accurately.

That’s all for this week. Until next week!


[1] Roger B. Williams, Bedrock Geology of the Wickford Quadrangle, Rhode Island, U.S. Department of the Interior Geological Survey Bulletin 1158-C (Government Printing Office: Washington, 1964), p 24; William Richard Keefer and Max Lorain Troyer, Geology of the Shotgun Butte Area, Fremont County, Wyoming, p C-11; George Emerson Moore, Bedrock Geology of the Coventry Center Quadrangle, Rhode Island, Issue 1158, p C-11, T. Nelson Dale, “A Contribution to the Geology of Rhode Island,” The American Journal of Science, Vol. 157 (1884): 283; Newport Natural History Society, “List of Minerals and Rocks Occurring in the Vicinity of Newport,” Proceedings of the Newport Natural History Society, Issues 1-5, p 30.

The Nebraskan Man of Mystery: The Story of Joseph Winfield Packard

Close up of an 1897 map of Nebraska on the website of Hall County, Nebraska

On the morning of Sunday, March 13, 1910, three boys from South Sioux City, Nebraska, who were on a duck hunt, found a horrifying sight near Coburn Junction. [1] A man, said to be 27 years old, was lying beside a train track, his body mangled with a deep gash in his forehead, a broken hip, and numerous contusions and bruises across his body. He had been dead for several hours. On his person was five dollars of change, a “quart bottle of whiskey” (a fifth of a gallon or about 26 ounces), a raffle ticket, and a receipt belonging to a saloon (Duggan and Heffernan) in nearby Hubbard, Nebraska. He also had a letter on him, dated at West Cummington, Massachusetts, on an inside coat pocket addressed to “B.F. Packard” (likely an error) and signed “father.” He was, as local papers reported, killed instantly by a passing freight train that morning by accident and was dragged by the train, furthering his injuries. These same papers said he was suspected of robbery at the Duggan and Heffernan saloon on Saturday night, not an uncommon occurrence for the saloon (which had been robbed and burglarized in 1902, 1904, and 1906). [2] They also supposed that he walked down the Omaha railroad northeast toward the Coburn Junction, on his way to Sioux City, Iowa, across the Missouri River, but was overtaken by a train. His body was held “awaiting some word from his relatives.” This man was named Joseph Winfield Packard.

Joseph was the third child of Cyrus Winfield Packard (1852-1924) and Dorothy “Dora” Ann Mills (1849-1895). He was born on June 17, 1885 in the small town of Plainfield, Massachusetts. [3] His fellow siblings included 3 brothers, John Henry (1882-1950), and Charles Edward (1887-1960), Robert (1891-1956) [adopted in 1895 by the Mills family], and 3 sisters, Margaret (1884-1976), Marion Estelle (1889-1965), and Mabel Hattie (1892-1961).

Little is known about his life, how he got out to Nebraska, what his occupation was, or where he lived. He may have been a boarder with the locally-known Streeter family in Cummington, Massachusetts in 1900 due the fact that it correctly lists his father’s birth place (Massachusetts) and mother’s birthplace (New York), while saying he was born in May 1885. [4] However, since census record lists a “Joseph M Packard” rather than a “Joseph W Packard,” it cannot be confirmed that they are the same person.

Further complicating matters is his gravestone in Plainfield’s West Hill Cemetery, which his father Cyrus once oversaw. It correctly notes his dates of birth and death (1885-1910). However, it also states that he was “buried at Sioux City Nebraska” even though no such place exists! On his Find A Grave page, a family bible entry, sent to me by second cousin once removed, is attached, stating that his death date was March 10th even though it was actually March 13th. This raises the question of who provided this faulty information, which went into the family bible, and who provided the incorrect burial place which was carved into the stone.

We know from local newspaper reports that Joseph was buried in a cemetery in Dakota City on March 19, 1910. Unfortunately searches on the page for Dakota City Cemetery, the only cemetery listed for this town on Find A Grave, have been fruitless. Joseph’s remains were taken there by coroner B.F Sawyer. The county paid the funeral expenses as his father, Cyrus, said he was a “poor man” but he would like to know “the particulars of his son[’]s death.” This charge may have had some validity. The 1910 U.S. Federal census, enumerated about a month after Joseph’s death, showed Cyrus as a farmer who mortgaged a farm in Plainfield, married to his third wife, Clementina Cheney, and having five children in the household (Olive, Herbert, Rachel, Thomas, and Harold), none of whom had any occupation listing. [5]

Despite the lingering mystery of many of the particulars of Joseph’s life beyond his birth and death, there is something we can say for certain: Joseph lived in a small town environment, with Hubbard numbering in the hundreds of people, tied into the train system to nearby towns like South Sioux City and Dakota City, which are four miles apart, both to the Northeast of the town itself. [6] When authorities attempted to bring law and order to the Dakota County, ordering the closing of “remaining gambling houses,” there is no doubt that they were thinking of places like Hubbard, which had at least one saloon. These areas, within Dakota County, were also highly influenced by the railroad and agriculture, the latter due to the fact that the county was “originally vegetated with oak prairie savannas” and lies within confluence of the major rivers draining from Minnesota (Missouri, Minnesota, Mississippi, and St. Croix). [7]

The horrific death of Joseph was not unusual for those times. During the 19th century, railroads in the U.S. were “comparatively dangerous” to workers and their passengers, especially for freight trains. [8] In 1910, Joseph was one of the 314 people killed in railroad-related deaths and over 12,000 were injured, which was even a decrease from previous years.

In the end, while there are many remaining questions about Joseph’s life, there is no question that he was, to put it mildly, the Nebraskan Man of Mystery.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally slated to be published in an upcoming issue of Packard’s Progress, led by Dale Cook and pushed by others, which I submitted for consideration back in January of this year. I felt that it was wrong to let this article linger without further publication, so it seemed right to publish it at this time.


[1] “Mangled Body of Man Found Near Coburn Junction,” Norfolk Weekly News-Journal, Mar 18, 1910, p 8, Death of Joseph W. Packard, Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times, 16 Mar 1910, p. 1; “The body of a man…,” Dakota County Herald, Mar 18, 1910, p 5; “Joseph Packard, the man who…,” Dakota County Herald, Mar 25, 1910, p 5; “B F Sawyer took the remains…,” Dakota County Herald, Mar 25, 1910, p 5; “Surviving Nebraska Railroad Stations,”; M.M. Warner, Warner’s History of Dakota County, Nebraska: From the Days of the Pioneers and First Settlers to the Present Time, with Biograpical Sketches, and Anecdotes of Ye Olden Times, (Dakota City, Neb.: Lyons Mirror Job Office, 1893), p 97. A 1915 railroad map assists in locating where Coburn Junction was at the time. Coburn Junction is near South Sioux City, Nebraska and is “five miles due west of Dakota City…there is neither a settlement nor post office at this point” as M.M. Warner put it in 1893.

[2] “Hold Up [at] Hubbard Saloon,” Omaha Daily Bee, Dec 24, 1902, p 1; “Nels Anderson Disappeared,” The Lincoln Star, Dec. 15, 1902, p 3; “Notorious Robber is Convicted of Murder,” Lincoln Journal Star, Feb. 22, 1904, p 7; “U S Senator Norris Brown on County Option,” Dakota County Herald, Oct 14, 1910, p 4; “Former Negro Politician Dies in Insane Hospital,” Lincoln Journal Star, Nov 5, 1907, p 1; F.B. Tipton, “Anti-Saloon Legislation,” Nebraska State Journal, Jan 4, 1907, p 8; “A Question of Point of View,” Beatrice Daily Express, Apr 2, 1903, p 1; “Law and Order League,” Lincoln Journal Star, Apr 20, 1904, p 5; “Changes in the Mulct Law,” Omaha Daily Bee, Oct 18, 1903, p 6; “The Duggan and Heffernan saloon…,” Dakota County Herald, Apr 23, 1909, p 4; “The Dugan and Heffernan saloon…,” Dakota County Herald, Nov 30, 1906, p 4. The saloon was part of the local community, like other saloons in the area, leading to debates as to whether saloons should lawfully exist in the county. This was manifested by one writer in 1903 saying saloons “serve the devil,” F.B Tipton calling for limits on Saloons in Jan 1907, Norris Brown writing in October 1910 that “the county government polices and protects the saloons,” and a Law and Order League established in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1904, calling for “the union of all temperance people, the proper enforcement of the laws and the abolition of the saloon.”

[3] “Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch, Packard, 17 Jun 1885, Windsor, Berkshire, Massachusetts; citing reference ID #90, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1,428,207. His Family Search page, which I have contributed to, like other ancestral pages, is a work in progress like all good family history. It is used for rough information on his fellow siblings, the accuracy of which I can vouch for.

[4] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 4 January 2019, Joseph M Packard in household of Edward B Streeter, Cummington Town, Hampshire, Massachusetts, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 618, sheet 2A, family 31, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,653.

[5] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch, Cyrus W Packard, Plainfield, Hampshire, Massachusetts, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 712, sheet 1A, family 20, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 594; FHL microfilm 1,374,607.

[6] Charlene Jenson, “Hubbard,” Virtual Nebraska, 2005; Lori Steenhoven, “South Sioux City,” Virtual Nebraska, 2005; Shirley Sides, “Dakota City,” Virtual Nebraska, 2005; “Trains,” Sioux City History, accessed Jan 4, 2019.

[7] “A Premier County,” Dakota County Historical Society, accessed Jan 4, 2019; “Hastings Downtown District Added to National Register of Historic Places,” History Nebraska, Jan 3, 2019.

[8] Charles W. McDonald, “100 Years of Safer Railroads,” Aug 1993, p 14; March Aldrich, “History of Workplace Safety in the United States, 1880-1970,” accessed Jan 4, 2019.

The UK’s National Archives are ‘packed with Packards’

Back in May 2018, I covered records of the Packard name in the UK’s National Archives. It shows that the earliest mention of the name as “Packard” was in 1367. It also indicates that Packards were concentrated in, with dates of residence indicated by the records in parentheses:

Map is courtesy of familypedia. Used myenglandtravel as a guide to names of counties so they could be labeled correctly

This is worth pointing out as it shows where the Packards are concentrated, in the eastern part of England, specifically the counties of Suffolk (most common), Norfolk, and Essex,  all of which consist an area known as “East Anglia”:

This fits with where Samuel Packard and his family were born, although records of them in Suffolk is a bit thin, unfortunately,  including claims of the “Red House”  he was apparently born in. In fact, in one of my  earliest articles, I covered an article saying that Samuel was baptized September 17, 1612 in Stonham Aspal, Suffolk, England, and part of existing family legend, even promoted by the Stonham Apsal Village. There  is evidence that Samuel’s father, George, was born and lived in Suffolk as well. [1] This was also covered by Dale Cook in his page on the “Samuel Packard family” while another genealogist, Margaret Odrowaz Sypniewski, wrote that on her page, titled “The Packard Family” (which has been archived here):

They [the Packards] Came from Stonham Aspal, Suffolk County, England; to Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts on the Diligent. The Diligent sailed from Ipswich, England; in June, and arrived in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts on August 10, 1638…The surname Packard is French. It means the descendant of Bacard (combat, strong).(Source: New Dictionary of American Family Names by Elsdon C. Smith. New York: Gramercy Publishing Company, 1988). The name Packard appears in English records as early as the beginning of the fourteenth century. The name was well established in East Anglia long before Samuel’s birth…in early Norman records I found Ralph, Engeram, Richard, Peter, Geoffrey, and Walter Picard in Normandy from 1180-1196. Then we find a Robert Pichard in England circa 1198; and a John Pikert circa 1274. How and if these early Picards/Pikerts relate to later generations is not known. However, I found my own lineage in the parish records for Woolpit, Suffolk County, England…How these two Georges relate, to each other, is unsure, but most current scholars place the second George as father to Samuel Packard who immigrated to Massachusetts. Since they also note them as the elder and younger Earls Stonham, and the fact that they married only one year apart, tells us that Ann Garrard was NOT his first wife. In 1080, Suffolk was a county predominantly of villages and freeman, rather than manors and feudal vassals. Its population was fairly evenly distributed. None of the seven principal towns, which included Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds, and Dunwich, had over 3000 residents.

While this does seem to generally fit with what  I have said here, what about the claim that Picard was French and turned into Packard?  I already have argued on here that it is wrong to call Samuel Packard a Huguenot. After all, with some saying that the name “Pykarde” is  a deviation from Packard or Packarde, there are over 60 results for the surname from 1200 to 1699 in the records of the National Archives of the UK. The same name “Picard” appears multiple times in the same records:

13th  century

14th century:

Not known:

  • various dates: “Feoffment by Gervase le Cordewaner, citizen of London, to John, the prior, and the canons, of Holy Trinity, London, of 16s. quit rent which Henry de Birchangre, tanner, used to pay him for the whole tenement he held of him in the suburb of London, without Crepelgate, in the parish of St. Giles, in ‘Everardeswellestrat’ within the bar, between land of Geoffrey Chipere and of Reginald Hopheldere, which land was formerly Henry Myttehere’s; consideration, 11 marks in gersum. Witnesses: Nicholas Bat, then mayor, John de Norhamton, Richard Picard, sheriffs, Stephen Bukerel, alderman of the ward, Lawrence de Frowyk, Nicholas son of Joceus, aldermen, Philip, rector of the church of St. Giles, and others (named). London.”
  • various dates: “conveyed property in 1250 to John Picard (to settle on the heirs of his daughter’s marriage to Felicia’s son)”
  • undated: “Grantor: PICARD, John and Basilia, his wife Grantee HUREL, Alexander, citizen of Chester Grant of lands in Newbold, Chester, paying 4d p.a. to Philip, clerk” (a second time)

There are other records that can be looked at later on this topic. When they say “norman records” I don’t know what they are referring to specifically. I have found no record in the National Archives records of “a Robert Pichard in England circa 1198” or a “John Pikert circa 1274.”Even so, their assessment that “how and if these early Picards/Pikerts relate to later generations is not known” is accurate. There is even a Packard Avenue in Ipswich. To solve these issues, there will need to be more in-person research at the Suffolk Records Office or elsewhere. Until next time!


[1] Others on genealogy pages, (with Robert Glen Packard citing various sources), connectedbloodlines, WMGS Members’ Genealogy, and Scott White, made similar arguments.