“Sister of the Packard men”: The unusual story of Alaska Packard Davidson

Portrait picture of Alaska, presumably in 1922, via Wikimedia, which posted this public domain image

Recently, in going through some documents made searchable and digitized by the Library of Congress, I came across one Alaska Packard Davidson, who is described on her Wikipedia page as “an American law enforcement officer who is best known for being the first female special agent in the FBI.” At age 54, she joined the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) in October 11, 1922 as a special investigator, with a starting salary of $7 a day, which went up to $11 a day when traveling, first working at the New York office (where she went for training), then at the Washington office. [1] Although the BOI, the FBI’s precursor, wanted to hire women for cases related to combating intersex sex trafficking, she was considered “refined” so she wasn’t put on such cases, meaning the BOI considered her of “limited use” in prosecuting such crimes, partially due to her limited schooling. [2] Instead, she was involved in a case against an agent who sold classified DOJ information to criminals, for example. [3] After the resignation of her former boss, William J. Burns, who was caught up in the Teapot Dome Scandal, she was forced out by J. Edgar Hoover, who had become the Bureau’s acting director in 1924. He asked her to resign after the special agent leading the Washington field office, E.R. Bohner, said he had “no particular work for a woman agent.” She resigned on June 10 of the same year, even though there was no indication her work was unsatisificatory. Before that point, she still was able to transmit information to the BOI on the Fourth International Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a women’s peace activist group, in May 1924, under the name of A.P.  Davidson, informing the agency, including Hoover, about their activities, because they claimed that Jane Addams was committing “treason” (a lie). [4] Following her, and with the resignation of other agents in the 1920s (Jessie B. Duckstein and Lenore Houston), the BOI, then FBI, had no female agents for 43 years, between 1929 and 1972! There is more to her life than her brief stint in the BOI, crossing some ethical boundaries by spying on WILPF by telling the BOI about its activities. Despite this, the agency still celebrates (also see here) her, despite the problematic history, as I just described, and role of Hoover in her ouster from the BOI.

Here’s what we do know. Alaska “Al”, likely named after the then-territory of the same name, was born in Ohio, on March 1, 1868 to Warren Packard and Mary Elizabeth,  with her two brothers, James Ward and William Doud, who both founded the Packard auto company. She was first listed in the 1870 census as a 2-year-old girl, with James and William in the house, as was her 1-year-old sister Carlotta, and the household headed by Warren, a hardware merchant, and his wife, Mary. [5] In 1880, she was living with her parents, siblings (William, James, and Carlotta) in Chautauqua, New York. Why she was there has not been determined at this time. She had another sister, named Cornelia Olive.

Via “Ohio Marriages, 1800-1958”, database, FamilySearch, 25 March 2020, Alaska Packard in entry for Ephraim B. McCrum, 1893, Marriage Record Vol. 10: 1890-1895, Trumbell County, Ohio page 348, image number 214 of 638. This was also confirmed by a 1897 newspaper clipping which called her “Mrs. E. B. McCrum.”

Al had been in public school for three years and did not have a college, or university education. Cindee Mines notes on the Trumbell County Historical Society (TCHS) website that she grew up as the daughter of a wealthy territory, living in a huge mansion “on High Street at Mahoning Avenue in the mid 1870’s,” and that while there is no evidence she had any higher education, she was a “well-known equestrian, winning awards at county fairs in her teenage years,” even put in charge of the “New York and Ohio plant” for Packard Electric in 1890. Beyond that, she married two times. In 1893, she married a man named Ephraim Banks McCrum Jr.,  a close friend of her father, in Trumbell County, Ohio, as shown above. She had a daughter named Esther in 1894. [6] In 1900, the federal census showed her as married and with one child, while also confirming she had been married for seven years. [7] By then, however, she had, according to the aforementioned TCHS biography, had divorced Ephraim, with Esther living in a Columbus hospital known as the “Institution for Feeble-Minded Youth”. The same census showed her living with her widowed mother, Mary, brothers W.D. and William, and sisters, Carlotta and Cornelia. Esther sadly died in 1902 at the age of 8, of pneumonia, although TCHS said it was tuberculosis. [8]

At some point before 1910, she married a man named James B. Davidson, who was well-known to the Packard family. She is shown in the 1910 census as his wife, living in O’Hara Township, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, with two boarders: a 32-year-old man named Fred Osterley and an 18-year-old woman named Jessie Osterley. [9] A land record the previous year noted Al and James Ward Packard owning a tract of land named Lakewood in Chautauqua, New York. [10] The THCS biography says she purchased over 100 acres in Accotink, Virginia, which is near Mount Vernon, an unincorporated area in Fairfax County, living there with horses and a dog.

By 1920, she was living in Mount Vernon, Fairfax, Virginia, with James and a 16-year-old servant, from Maryland, named James Cot. [11]  In 1925 she joined a petition to the New York Supreme Court for an appraisal transfer tax. Then came the letters between herself and Carrie Chapman Catt in 1927. On May 26, Carrie told her about a story from Harriet Taylor Upton about a story, assuming it was a man who came to her with a list of suffragettes compiled by the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), thanks to information from Ms. Mary Kilberth (a leading anti-suffragist) and Robert Eichelberger, the husband of famed suffragist Bessie R. Lucas Eichelberger. She says the list is from the Secret Service, but I think she means the BOI. She then said that she was writing an open letter to the D.A.R., because the first individual was part of it, saying that this material is fodder to anti-suffragists. She then added:

In view of the fact that you no longer are connected with the Department [The Bureau of Investigation], I think you might allow me to make this statement. In the event the government should make inquiry, which it is not likely to do, as to who this person was and I was driven in a corner, I might have to give your name. I do not think you would need to apologize and I believe that your name would not be asked for. I would certainly not give it unless I was driven to it and, indeed, I would agree not to give it until I had again consulted you, letting you know what the condition is under which the pressure has been made.

On May 30, Al responded, saying that she would be fine to use her name, forgetting most of the women on “Miss Kilbreth’s list” and said that Kilberth accused Catt “accused you of something…in connection with your South American trip and she couldn’t say enough against Mrs. Upton.” The final letter in this file is Carrie’s reply on June 25. She first apologizes for not acknowledging the letter more promptly, and said two people will be sent to her, stated her intention to write about this incident, and concluded by saying “it is a pity that the anti-suffragists are such poor sports that they cannot overcome their disapproval of us.” What I take from this whole exchange is that Al was a suffragist, which really isn’t much of a surprise, and that the BOI had compiled a list of suffragists, for who knows what end.

But that’s not the whole story. In a May 27, 1927 letter to Harriet Taylor Upton, she says the D.A.R. is lifting up an anti-suffragist member, and even noted that she pushed for more women to be appointed within the government, including Al herself. She proceeded to give a brief description of her, which gives details about her life:

When I went to Washington in the Republican [Party] Headquarters, I tried not to get places for anybody in government. I did a great deal towards the appointment of women to key positions, but not regular government positions. I made one exception and that was the daughter of a citizen of Warren whom I had known for years. She is the sister of the Packard men who made the Packard machine. She had married rather unfortunately and was living in a little town down in Virginia. She had experience in office work, is splendid at managing people and I asked Harry Daughterty, the Attorney General, if he could find a place for her. She expected just a small place of a thousand dollars or so, and would drive back and forth from her plantation, which is  a part of the Washington estate. We were surprised to have him appoint her to the Secret Service Commission [BOI?] and she worked under [William J.] Burns, the great secret service man. She got $2300.00 a year salary and she did a corking [splendid] job. It was just the kind of a job she could do. They finally took in another woman who proved to be a discredit to women and to the department and everything else. Now in the beginning when Mrs. Davidson began her work in this department, she would come to me asking about the loyalty of this person and that person and in the course of the time she was there, I learned that Miss Kilbreth of the Patriot was stuffing the Attorney General’s office with all of the lies possible. Now one day Mrs. Davidson came in with a list of names and among them were our people. I have forgotten now just who was on the list, but it was our own folks and they were just about as much traitors to the government as we are now. I therefore told Mrs. Davidson that that whole thing was just made up, and she said she had about concluded that this was true for she has always been devoted to me, and Miss Kilbreth told her awful things about me. She thought if things were no truer about other people than they were about me, there was nothing to it. I had forgotten that I ever reported this to you. I had forgotten that she threw the list in the waste basket. Of course I did not write that it was a woman who gave me the information, because I did not want anyone to know then that the secret service through personal friendship were consulting me. And you must have taken it that it was a man because all people employed were men…I do not know whether Mrs. Davidson would have any objection to your using her name or saying that it was a woman from the Attorney General’s office or not. If you want me to I can write to her, or if you want to you can write direct to her, telling her what you want it for. She is out of the thing entirely now and never will get back because Mr. Daugherty is no longer there and because I am no longer there. Her address is Mrs. James Davidson, Acotink, Va.

Carrie then goes onto say that she might sever her membership with the D.A.R. I would like to know if the D.A.R. was filled with suffragists at the time, or if Carrie was boasting. After all, Susan B. Anthony, Emily Parmely Collins, Carrie Chase Davis, and Alice Paul were recorded as members of the D.A.R. Al also showed good judgment by throwing away the list of suffragists in the waste basket. Someone needs to make a film or animation of this. It would be great! There are other Packards mentioned in the papers, like a “Mrs. Packard” in Springfield, Massachusetts who is the vice-chairman for a “Mrs. Ben Hooper.” [14] Also, considering that Carrie was, at the time, in a relationship with Mary “Molly” Garrett Hay, after her second husband, George Catt died in 1905, is it possible she was attracted to Al? Is that why she said that Al “married rather unfortunately”? I mean, I don’t think we can rule that out, although this could also be a stretch too far, as she may have been saying that Al’s marriage with James was an unhealthy one. In any case, Al was still married to James at the time, so such a relationship would have been unlikely. Even so, it appears that Carrie recommended Al for the job, at least if this letter is to be believed.

Al Packard as a teen, via the Classic Cars Journal

Three years later, in 1930, Al was widowed and still living in Mount Vernon, at a house worth about $4,000. [15] And yes, she lived alone, had a radio and no occupation listed, which is not a shock for someone 62 years old. Although she was alone, we don’t know whether she had close friends or family members which kept her company, although it is possible. She was described as widowed because James had died in May 1929. According to the TCHS biography, she continued living on the farm until her death.

She died four years later, on July 16, 1934, in Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of 66 of various causes. [16] She lived on in many realms. She was mentioned in the episode “Waxing Gibbous” of the eighth season of Archer, a mature animation, which was described by The A.V. Club as an obscure reference, and praised by Vulture. In chapter two of Gloria H. Giroux’s Crucifixion Thorn: Volume Two of the Arizona Trilogy, a character is inspired by Al, while others chattered on Twitter about renaming the FBI building after her,  As some of her ancestors put it, she lived an “unusual life.” She definitely did, without a doubt! There are many avenues and chances to branch out with this article, for someone who is my sixth cousin three times removed, to other topics and I hope you all enjoyed this post.


Notes

[1] Theoharis, Athan G. (1999). The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 321–322. ISBN 9780897749916; Mullenbach, Cheryl (2016). Women in Blue: 16 Brave Officers, Forensics Experts, Police Chiefs, and More. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613734254; Vines, Lynn. “The First Female Agents,” The Investigator, p 77-78

[2] Delgado, Miguel A. (February 4, 2017). “Alaska Packard, la primera agente del FBI despedida por ser mujer”. El Español (in Spanish). Retrieved January 16, 2021; Theoharis, Athan G. (1999). The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 321–322. ISBN 9780897749916.

[3] Mullenbach, Cheryl (2016). Women in Blue: 16 Brave Officers, Forensics Experts, Police Chiefs, and More. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613734254. Her testimony before a House select committee in that case in May 1924 is shown on pages 2492 to 2495 of [Investigation of Hon. Henry Daughtery Formerly Attorney General of the United States] Hearings Before the Select Committee on the Investigation of the Attorney General, United States Congress, Senate Sixty-Eighth Congress First Session Persuant to S. Res 157 Directing a Committee to Investigate the Failure of the Attorney General to Prosecute or Defend Certain Criminal and Civil Actions Wherein the Government is Interested: May 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, and 22, 1924 [Part 9] (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1924).

[4] Davidson, A.P. “Re – Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom: Report of Fourth International Congress,” File 237, May 7, 1924, within “Jane Addams Part 1 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, Pages 2-9; Davidson, A.P. “Re – Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom: Report of Fourth International Congress,” File 4237, May 5, 1924, within “Jane Addams Part 3 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, Pages 18-25; Davidson, A.P. “Re – Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom: Report of Fourth International Congress,” May 5, 1924, within “Jane Addams Part 3 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, Pages 26-39; Davidson, A.P. “Re – Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom: Report of Fourth International Congress,” May 5, 1924, within “Jane Addams Part 3 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, Pages 40-46, continued in “Jane Addams Part 4 of 4,” FBI, The Vault, pages 1-6. Parts of her report may also be on pages 1-29 of “Jane Addams Part 2 of 4.” Her reports didn’t matter, as Meredith Dovan wrote, on page 18 of her thesis, “FBI Investigations into the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left” that “Hoover fired both women [Alaska and Jessie B. Duckstein] during a round of cuts after he became acting director of the FBI in May 1924.”

[5] “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch, James W Packard in household of Warren Packard, Ohio, United States; citing p. 21, family 5, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,771; “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, 13 November 2020, Alaska Packard in household of Warren Packard, Chautauqua, New York, United States; citing enumeration district ED 39, sheet 30B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,815.

[6] “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003“, database with images, FamilySearch, 1 January 2021), Alacha Packard in entry for Esther McCrum, Birth registers 1883-1896 vol 3., page 184, image 183 of 289.

[7] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch, William Packard in household of Mary Packard, Warren Township Warren city Ward 1, Trumbull, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 120, sheet 13A, family 297, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,325.

[8] “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch, 14 December 2020, Alaska P. Mc Crum in entry for Esther Mc Crum, 20 Apr 1902; citing Death, Columbus, Franklin, Ohio, United States, source ID v 3 p 240, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 2,026,910.

[9] “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 16 January 2021, Alaska Davidson in household of James B Davidson, O’Hara Township, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 185, sheet 10A, family 212, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1296; FHL microfilm 1,375,309.

[10] “United States, New York Land Records, 1630-1975“, database with images, FamilySearch, 27 December 2020, Alaska P Davidson in entry for James Ward Packard, 1910, Grantees 1902-1910 vol A-Z, image 564 of 811, page 592. The liber is noted as 388 and the page as 477, but this volume appears to not be digitized as of yet.

[11] “United States Census, 1920“, database with images, FamilySearch,  accessed 4 January 2021, Alaska Davidson in household of J B Davidson, Mount Vernon, Fairfax, Virginia, United States, citing enumeration district (ED) ED 36, sheet 7B, family 130, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1886; FHL microfilm 1,821,886.

[12] Catt, Carrie Chapman. Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: General Correspondence, Circa 1890 to 1947; Davidson, Alaska P. – 1947, 1890. Manuscript/Mixed Material, pages 1-3, Letters on May 26, 1927, May 30, 1927, and June 25, 1927.

[13] Catt, Carrie Chapman. Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: General Correspondence, Circa 1890 to 1947; Upton, Harriet Taylor. – 1947, 1890. Manuscript/Mixed Material, pages 3-4.

[14] Catt, Carrie Chapman. Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: General Correspondence, Circa 1890 to 1947; Hooper, Mrs. Ben; 1927 to 1929. – 1929, 1927. Manuscript/Mixed Material, pages 18, 21, and 24.

[15] “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 16 January 2021, Alaska P Davidson, Mount Vemon, Fairfax, Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 18, sheet 18B, line 53, family 404, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2442; FHL microfilm 2,342,176.

[16] “Virginia, Death Certificates, 1912-1987,” database with images, FamilySearch, 16 August 2019), Alaska Packard Davidson, 16 Jul 1934; from “Virginia, Marriage Records, 1700-1850,” database and images, Ancestry, 2012; citing Alexandria, , Virginia, United States, entry #15826, Virginia Department of Health, Richmond.

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.


Notes

[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.

Was John H. Packard really one of the best surgeons in West Philly?

Warning: This article has a graphic description of medical injury. I know its brief, but I would rather put this notice here than not, just to let people know before they read this article in its entireity.  [1]

Recently, I was going through documents recently transcribed by Library of Congress volunteers. On one of the pages, a soldier writes to William Oland Bourns, a reformer, poet, editor, and clergyman who edited a periodical titled The Soldier’s Friend. He had a contest from 1865-1866, as noted by LOC, where soldiers and sailors of the Union Army who lost their “right arms by disability or amputation” during the war in the past five years were “invited to submit samples of their penmanship using their left hands.” Anyway, the soldier writes, on one of the pages of his August 1865 letter that he was, in late July 1862, taken by a steamer from Richmond to a West Philadelphia hospital where a man named John H. Packard cared for him. [2]

He called Packard “one of the best surgeons there,” with five pieces of his bone sawed out (yikes!), along with shattered bones removed. He was not discharged from the hospital until February 1863, at which time “Dr. Packard was very proud of the operation [and] he had my photograph taken showing the arm.” Its not every day where a surgeon takes a photograph of the patient they did surgery on. The soldier’s name is later revealed to be Martin V.B. Keller and he lived in Lancester County, Pennsylvania.

Now what about this Packard fellow? I found a man of the same description in the as listed as living in the eighth ward of Philadelphia. The 1870 census lists him as 30-year-old man living there with his wife Elizabeth, and children: 11-year-old Bessie, 10-year-old Charles, eight-year-old Frederick, five-year-old John, and one-year-old Francis. [3] The 1860 census is more substantial, [4] showing the same children and wife, but also three Irish servants 47-year-old Mary Hassan, 25-year-old Ellen McBride, and 22-year-old Bridget Welsh. More than this, it lists him as a physician!

The same is the case with a 1880 census, which calls him a physician too. [5] More than that, this record, on FamilySearch, linked to the page of a man named John Hooker Packard, who would be our man! Here is a screenshot of his profile:

Going through this profile, I found an 1850 census which shows that he is the son of Frederick Adolpus Packard, a president of something, the name of which I can’t make out, and Elizabeth Dwight Hooker. [6] They are living in the Spruce Ward of Philly at the time and he is listed as a doctor! Beyond this, we know from various passport applications he made in the late 1890s and early 1900s that he was born in August 15, 1832 in Pennsylvania, as he asserted over and over. [7] In those documents, he often called himself a physician. While in  1901, he calls himself a “private citizen” in the passport application, in another the following he called himself a physician. He would die of heart disease in May 1907 in Atlantic City, Atlantic County, New Jersey.

But that’s not all. According to FamilySearch, John Hooker Packard is my “4th cousin five times removed.” What does that mean? Well, his father, Frederick Adolphus Packard, was the son of Reverend Asa Packard. Asa, was, in turn, the son of Jacob Packard. Jacob, was the son of Solomon, and Solomon was the son of Zaccheus and Sarah, who I’ve written about on this blog before. This may be a bit confusing, as it was to me, so perhaps a chart of the connections would help a little more:

Before I finished doing research, I decided to do a general search for his name… and what came up? A 1863 book he wrote titled A Manual Of Minor Surgery (later adopted by the U.S. Army), which the Amazon description called a “scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint…[which is] culturally important.” Dr. Michael Echols  & Dr. Doug Arbittier called him one of the “most prominent American surgeons of the last part of the 19th Century and a pioneer of modern American surgery,” noting that he served as “acting assistant surgeon in two Union Army hospitals during the Civil War,” with the latter proving Martin V.B. Keller’s account as accurate. I was amazed to see an article in Anesthesiology journal in November 2001 on him by Ray J. Defalque, M.D.; Bernard Panning, M.D.; Amos J. Wright, M.L.S. In the article, they called him “an eminent Philadelphia surgeon” and how he switched from using chloroform to ether in 1864, contributing to use of anesthesia, while calling him “a pioneer of modern American surgery.” Even so, they noted that in 1896, a finger of his became infected during one of his surgeries, leading him to develop septicemia, causing him to retire, and he “died from cardiorenal failure in Atlantic City in 1907.” What I loved most of all about the article was not the content, but the fact that we got a photograph of him!

Some searches online find his writings in the digital collection of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the Library of Congress, SNAC, and Harvard Library. Onward! I’m planning to write another post in the future which explores the lives of the three Irish servants, but this article is just a starting point before I get to that article. The answer to the question at the beginning of this article is “possibly,” although I’m not sure anyone ever said he was the “best.”


Notes

[1] This is a content warning rather than a trigger warnings, which apply to “sexual violence, oppressive language, gunshots, and representations of self-harm,” along with other topics.

[2] Bourne, Wm. Oland. Wm. Oland Bourne Papers: Left-hand Penmanship contest; Soldier and sailor contributions; Series I $1,000 in prizes, awarded in; Entries 211-220. 1866. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/resource/mss13375.00404/?q=packard&sp=26

[3] “United States Census, 1870″, database with images, FamilySearch, 19 March 2020, John H Packard, 1870; line number 38, NARA M593, GS film number 000552920, digital folder number 004278863, image number 312, indexing project batch number N0163-6, record number 12037. Children are shown on next page.

[4]  “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.

[5] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, 13 November 2020, John H. Packard, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, British Colonial America; citing enumeration district ED 129, sheet 206C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,170.

[6] “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch, 24 December 2020, John Packard in household of Fredrick Packard, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing family 746, line 47, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 444781.

[7] “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch, 16 March 2018), John H Packard, 1893; citing Passport Application, Pennsylvania, United States, record number 2675, Passport Applications, 1795-1905., 408, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch, 16 March 2018), John H Packard, 1897; citing Passport Application, Pennsylvania, United States, record number 5934, Passport Applications, 1795-1905., 491, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch, 16 March 2018), John H Packard, 1901; citing Passport Application, Pennsylvania, United States, source certificate #45202, Passport Applications, 1795-1905., Roll 583, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); “United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch, : 16 March 2018), John H Packard, 1902; citing Passport Application, Pennsylvania, United States, source certificate #56681, Passport Applications, 1795-1905., Roll 600, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

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.


Notes

[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.

More than Zachariah Packard’s property: the story of America, Peter, and Ann

Back in May, I wrote about how my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, Zachariah Packard was a slaveowner in Massachusetts in the 1770s. In this article, I aim to tell the story of the three enslaved people, Ann, America, and Peter listed in his last will and testament building upon what I have written on this post in the past. While it is hard to trace enslaved people before 1870, I do my best to tell their stories to the best extent possible.

In 1771, Zachariah (whose name was also spelled Zechariah) had one dwelling house, 5 acres of pasture for 6 cows, “6 tilled acres, 4 acres of upland mowed land, 3.8. acres of fresh meadow, while producing 71 bushels of grain, 2 tons of hay from his upland mowed land, and 8 tons of hay from his fresh meadow land.” He also had “1 horse, 4 oxen, 6 goats & sheep, and 3 swine, along with one servant “for life”” (an enslaved person), “with his real estate worth 14 pounds, and owned “18.8. acres compared to Barnabas’s 18.” While the record does not outline who this enslaved person was, his inventory, outlined the same year gives more detail: it notes that he bequeathed a “servant boy” named Peter to his sons Nathaniel and Nathan, a “servant boy” named America to his daughter Abigail, and a “servant maid” named Ann to his wife Abigail, only to be set free after she died. [1] Here is what he says, exactly in his will about them, just to be clear:

I give and bequeath to my wife Abigail the improvement of my servant maid Ann (who is a servant for life) during the life of my said wife…I give and bequeath to my sons…Nathaniel and Nathan my servant boy named Peter (who is a servant for life)…I give and bequeath to my said daughter Abigail my servant boy named America, who is a servant for life…my will is that my said servant maid Ann (after the decease of my said wife) should be set at liberty with regard to service, and that my heirs, executors & administrators should not exercise any authority over her or control her in any way whatsoever, she having proved herself a very faithful servant & merited her freedom

This executed on November 2, 1772 with his death.

His inventory, on December 17, 1772, we find is how his son, Nathan, valued Peter as the highest (over 33 pounds), America as second-highest (33 pounds), and Ann as the lowest (9 pounds). [2] You could say that this “proves” that Ann was the oldest, Peter was second oldest, and America was the youngest.

One record on April 23, 1774 puts that all into question, outlining payments from Zachariah’s estate. [3] It lists an amount of 25 pounds, 5 shillings given to “America Peirce,” saying he was “hired”? owned? by the “said Zachariah Packard.”

This raises a number of questions. Who was “Peirce” (or Pierce)? And, what happened after 1774? What was the fate of America, Peter, and Ann?

We know that on March 4, 1774, Nathaniel Packard, Nathan Packard, Edward Poivers?, James Howard, Nathaniel Perkins, Benjamin Cantril?,  and Josiah Williams petitioned the court to appoint a guardian for Zachariah’s wife, Abigail. [4] They argued she was “insane or superannuated,” saying it made her incapable of improving the small estate bequeathed to her by Zachariah. The judge, Daniel Cushing, and several selectmen of Bridgewater (Shepard Frisk, Ephraim Carey, and Simeon Cary) agreed with this sentiment, and a guardian was appointed. It seems that Nathaniel became her guardian, although his 1794 will does not mention any enslaved people, as I noted in my previous post because slavery was phased out in Massachusetts after 1781, resulting in Peter, Ann, and America vanishing from the records, from what I could tell at the time. As the Museum of African American History puts it on their online timeline, slavery was abolished in Massachusetts in 1783.

We know, also, as I noted there, that there is an “America Pierce” and “Peter Pierce” living in Bridgewater, Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1790, who could be the same as as those mentioned in this article. [5]

But, looking at the entries for America Peirce and Ann Freeman, this is thrown into question, as is this record which seems to prove the marriage. I was unable to find any records here, although we know that those whom were freed after 1783, like America, Peter, and Ann had a tough time, as they paid taxes and were treated equally by the legal system, but they couldn’t serve on juries, attend public schools (by tradition and custom), and had a harder time finding work than they did as enslaved people. As such, domestic service was often seen as viable, along with “common labor” and those professions associated with the sea, although fear of being kidnapped or forced to return to slavery elsewhere in the U.S. was a bar “to working on the waterfront or at sea.” As the Massachusetts Historical Society added, “freed slaves in Massachusetts continued in an inferior social position, legally free but with fewer civil rights than whites.” Even so, finding records for them is hard to do.

So, I throw it out to all of you. What places should I look next for records to complete this story? Because the list of records by FamilySearch is clearly inadequate.

Update:

Matthew Stowell has made some great comments on here, inspiring me to do some more research onto this going forward! A wonderful series to say the least!


Notes

[1] Will of Zachariah Packard, Apr. 17, 1771, Probate Records 1771-1778 vol. 21-23, Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, 1663-1967, p. 200-201, images 130-131 of 627. Courtesy of FamilySearch.

[2] Inventory of Zachariah Packard, December 17, 1772, Probate Records 1771-1778 vol. 21-23, Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, p. 622, image 298 of 697. Courtesy of FamilySearch.

[3] Payments from Zachariah Packard’s estate to subscribers, Probate Records 1771-1778 vol. 21-23, Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, p. 623, image 299 of 627. Courtesy of FamilySearch.

[4] Petition for guardian for Abigail Packard and Response, Probate Records 1771-1778 vol. 21-23, Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, p. 603, image 289 of 627. Courtesy of FamilySearch.

[5] “United States Census, 1790,” database with images, FamilySearch, America Pierce, Bridgewater, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States; citing p. 75, NARA microfilm publication M637, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 4; FHL microfilm 568,144. Note how they are NOT considered White here.

This means she did not die in 1758 as her Find A Grave entry, cited in the previous footnote, asserts. He gives his grandchildren, the children of his son Elijah, named Abigail, Benjamin, Elijah, and Mary four shillings a piece. John Washburn, Josiah Edson, Jr., and William Hooper are witnesses. They note in a letter in Nov. 1772 that Nathaniel is executor of the estate, with further accounts. His estate is not settled until June 6, 1774 as noted by other documents.

Inventory of Zachariah Packard, Dec. 17, 1772, Probate Records 1771-1778 vol. 21-23, Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, 1663-1967, p. 621-622, image 298 of 627. Courtesy of Family Search.