From slaveowners to liberators: the Packard family and slavery

Prof. Farnsworth describes how Fry is his uncle, branching off an ugly and filthy branch in the Futurama episode “All the President’s Heads” (S8, e10). This is how I could feel about my ancestors who participated in enslaving other human beings, but I do not feel that way in the slightest.

Recently on Twitter, I said that  Zachariah Packard, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand uncle was the “only connection to slavery I have found so far other than Theophilus Packard, husband of famed E.P.W. Packard, seeming to support slavery,” responding to a tweet linking to my article on this blog about how Zachariah was a slaveowner. This was fact was also clear from the 1771 Massachusetts tax inventory, which was only recently made available. However, what I said is only partially accurate, as I had forgotten, that not only was Zachariah a slaveowner but so were his sons Nathan and Nathaniel, his daughter Abigail, and his wife Abigail, due to the stipulations outlined in his last will and testament, along with other parts of his probate like his inventory! These enslaved peoples (named “America Pierce,” “Peter,” and “Ann”) went from person to person, then disappeared from the record as none are listed in Nathaniel’s will in 1794, except for a 1790 census for Bridgewater listing an “America Pierce” and a “Peter Pierce.”

However, Zachariah was not the only one involved. For one, Captain Samuel Packard (my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle) sailed a ship to the coast of the African continent in 1797, “looking for Black Africans to enslave…contrary to Rhode Island law,” forced to sign a pledge he would leave the slave trade behind, which he seems to have honored. Secondly, Charles Chilion Packard, my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, of Charleston, South Carolina (but born in Plainfield) “had the ten slaves from the estate of his wife’s deceased first husband” in 1820. Indirectly, the Packards that lived in New England, specifically in Massachusetts, were involved in that the region depended on a “trading system that serviced the wealthier slave-based economy of the West Indies,” which constituted an interconnected trade network.

At the same time, there were those who were directly opposed to slavery, like my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, William Packard, organizing “a petition asking the United States Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade in DC.” He also not only attended “several abolition meetings in Northampton through the 1830s and 1840s, likely starting the Cummington abolitionist society. His strong sentiments for abolitionism were shared by his uncle,  Rev. Theophilus Packard (my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle). This Theophilus, was “vice president of the antislavery society in Massachusetts, in the 1830s” and would be a dedicated anti-slavery crusader for years and years. This differed from his son, Theophilus (my great-great-great-great grand uncle) and his wife, E.P.W. (Elizabeth Parsons Ware) Packard (my great-great-great-great aunt in-law), who seemed to scowl at her sentiments that slavery was a sin. She also compared marriage to slavery, a comparison many made at the time despite the fact it was deeply problematic and carried with it horrible connotations. You could also say that William Henry Packard (my great-great-great grandfather), who fought in Louisiana during the Civil War (along with a host of other Packard ancestors), was effectively on the side against slavery, along with another distant ancestor, my great-great-great grandfather Lawrence Weber (not a Packard), who fought in a gunboat to stop Confederate blockade runners. [1]

There were other Packards I found, including one Reverend E. N. Packard (whose full name is Edward Newman Packard and lived in Dorchester, MA), who is my great-great-great uncle, and Adelpus Spring Packard (my great-great-great-great uncle), a professor of Bowdoin College, both in opposition to slavery rather than in favor. After all, there were two Packards in Topeka, Kansas (Cyrus and Sarah Burrows) who sheltered “runaway slaves” time and time again.

Until next time, as this post opens up a lot of avenues for further exploration on this blog, without a doubt!

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.

The story of Packardsville, MA

Newspaper clipping from the Brandon Times in Brandon Wisconsin on page 2 of the paper’s January 4, 1883 edition that mentions Packardsville, MA. This same article was also printed in the National Tribune of Washington, D.C. on December 28, 1882, along with other newspapers in Kansas, Wilmington, DE, and Lancaster, PA

In the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), run by the USGS, there are a number of places with “Packard” in the name. One of those is Packardsville, Massachusetts, still listed on a Wikipedia page of “list of villages in Massachusetts” but not citing any sources. The GNIS entry on this place says it is “0.8 mi SE of Knights Corner and 3.2 mi SSE of Pelham; Town of Pelham.” [1] There is evidence certain Packards lived there. There was some talk about this on the message boards of Ancestry, with some mentioning the existence of the town of Packardsville, with one user, named Debbe, writing that “the documentation shows Samuel Packard born 1794, Packardsville, Mass. died 1826 at Enfield, Mass. was in the war of 1812.” Another user on a related forum writes that they are “looking for any information on Theodore L. Gold” whom they state “resided in Packardville, MA or Palmer, MA during late 1800’s.” Apart from this, other users note that: Freelove Packard, who married Cyrus Clark Miner of Leyden, Massachusetts, lived in Packardsville, that two people (George Myron Gamwell and Charlotte Adelia Hanks) married there. This raises the question of whether the defunct Packardsville Cemetery in Enfield, Massachusetts is connected? As such, there needs to be some further investigation.

In 1788, the southern district of Packardsville was annexed by Pelham. By the early 19th century, Packardsville had developed into a “craft village.” [2] By the 1830s, a man with the last name of Packard and Thurston were making carriages within the village, a business that continued into the 1840s, generating thousands of dollars, until the firm left and moved to Belchertown. By the 1860s, there was apparently a congregational Church in the village. By 1874, Packardsville was still within the town of Pelham with one church, while sitting nearby the Jabish River and adjacent to Belchertown. It was, at the time, manufacturing village. Eleven years later, there were two villages listed as “Packardsville” in Massachusetts, one in Pelham and another in Pittsfield. By 1906, Packardsville was still as village within Pelham. A later survey ten years later said that Cadwell Creek goes through Packardsville. And, in 1932, any further burials in the Packardsville Cemetery by the Packardsville Church in Enfield, MA was prohibited. In the years that followed, before WWII, the Quabin Reservoir was constructed which flooded part of Packardsville, including a Baptist Church which was founded in 1831 (with the church building constructed in 1835). Undoubtedly this led to displacement of some individuals within the village, itself.

But how did it get its name? Well, page 11 of Carlene Riccelli’s “Place-Names of Pelham, Massachusetts Above and Below* Water” has the answer to that, noting that there was even a Packardsville Road that led into the town:

Named for Joel Packard sho[wed up] in the year 1840 [and] built a wagon manufacturing shop with a Mr. Thruston at the south end of town. Since that time the hamlet was call ed Packardsville .

Otherwise, there really wasn’t much else I could find about Packardsville, even from the Pelham Historical Society as of yet. If you have any stories about this village, hamlet, or whatever you want to call it, I’d love to hear them.


[1] They cite a source for this information: U.S. Geological Survey. Geographic Names Phase I data compilation (1976-1981). 31-Dec-1981. Primarily from U.S. Geological Survey 1:24,000-scale topographic maps (or 1:25K, Puerto Rico 1:20K) and from U.S. Board on Geographic Names files. In some instances, from 1:62,500 scale or 1:250,000 scale maps. There was also a Packardsville, Missouri as well, apparently.

[2] Massachusetts Historical Commission, “MHC Reconnaissance Survey Town Report PELHAM,” October 1982, pp 1, 2, 5, 8, 9;  Elias Nason, A Gazetteer of the State of Massachusetts (B. B. Russell, 1874), p 402; Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor, Census of Massachusetts: 1885, Volume 1, Part 1 (Wright & Potter Print. Company, state printers, 1887), p 24, 32, 35; Public Documents of Massachusetts: Being the Annual Reports of Various Public Officers and Institutions …, Volume 11 (State Printers, 1906), p 231; Charles Henry Pierce and Henry Jennings Dean, Surface Waters of Massachusetts, Issues 413-415 (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1916), p 318. There was also a mention of a merchant, Jacob Gould, in Packardsville, likely in the 19th century.

Tommy Adkins, Bob Mills, and the wonders of genealogy

Genealogy chart in Tommy Adkins’ letter to Bob Mills

On October 17, 1979, ten months after the estate of Tom Packard had been closed, Tommy L. Adkins (of 4825 Roscommon Drive in Lansing, Michigan) wrote Bob Mills, asking for help in gathering the history of his family, using a  genealogy pedigree chart. Following this form letter, he notes that “after your  grandmother [Mable Hattie Packard?] past the family just sort of lost track of your grandmothers side of the family,” asking for any assistance, noting he has “records, documents and such on the packard side going back as far as 1636 to Samuel Packard.” He further claimed he had “verified many times over this info every step of the way” and also has the “names of a good many of the brothers & sisters, aunts and uncles etc.” That may be a bit optimistic, because looking back at the claims now, a number of them are clearly faulty.

On October 21st, Bob wrote Tommy Adkins a letter of response, saying that he was  thrilled because “Mabel [sic, should be Mable] Hattie Packard and the Landstroms were household words in my father and grandfather’s  houses.” He further noted that while  he  never met Mable, that his family, and himself, “made several trips to Shelburne Falls and Heath, and exchanged visits with Charlie Packard, John Packard, and Margaret Packard during my youth.” He also added that Tommy’s interest in family history was interesting, since he added information “from a  family chart I made up in 1970 which hangs on our wall at home.”

This is the family chart Bob created

He then hilariously, before accounting  the children of Cyrus Winfield Packard with Dora Mills and Clementina Cheney, calls him “the  prolific old goat that started much of the recent family history with three  wives producing 12  children.” After that, he notes that his grandfather, RBM I (“Uncle Rob”)  “managed hotels in Cincinnati and elsewhere,” dying in 1950, with his wife Hattie E. Mills dying in 1949, also in Cincinnati, with his grandparents  and parents buried in a family plot in Spring Grove Cemetery.

He goes on in his letter by noting that Uncle Rob and Hattie “adopted my father and changed his name to Mills when he was very young,” and that they had a “child of their own, Stanley Sterling Mills, born in 1901 who died in 1934 in some bizarre manner.” He then outlines his own two children, those of his sister Helen, and those  of his sister  Carol. He ends by saying that he is “fascinated with your chart going back to Samuel Packard in 1636,”  adding that he believes “migrated from Hingham, England,” asking  “since my records are very sketchy, could you send me a copy of your history? I would appreciate it very much.” That is how family histories were conducted then and are done much differently now, without a doubt.

The letter ends by him noting his role as a professor of psychology and criminal justice  at the University of Cincinnati, “where I direct our graduate program in criminal justice,” noting that he would be glad to give more details if Tommy would like.

Following this is the response from Tommy, which reveals much about him and his life. The letter, mostly in blue pen ink on hole-punched paper, is undated, but I would say it would have to be written in either late October 1979 or early November 1979. Of course, Tommy was, as he notes in his letter,  delighted to hear fro Bob, adding that they are “cousins through my wife Janet Elizabeth (Hall) Adkins,  who by the way sends her regards  and best wishes.” He  then gladly remarked that it was a  pleasure to be “finally contacted [by] someone in the family who wants to  know the families[‘] history.” He then buffs out the Packards  by declaring it “one of the oldest families in this country,” saying members served in King Philips’ War in 1675-6,  adding that “I feel we all need  to know where we come from so that we can better understand who we are,” which is often a motto for genealogists!

He prefaces his list of family information  by  saying that Bob should bar with him including with his handwriting because “the only time I actually have to keep up with my correspondence is late in  the  evening.” He then lists the generations, which can be visualized as follows, showing 10 generations: RBM  III-RBM II-Cyrus W.-William H.-Barnabas III-Barnabas II-Barnabas I-John-Zaccheus-Samuel. He adds to this that “there were  three Barnabas’s in a row each of the last  two [were] the son of the former.” After that, he was apparently tired, as he  says “that’s about all the energy left in me” as he switches to pencil for some reason (maybe because its easier than writing in pen? He notes that  Harold Packard died one year after Tom Packard which was “a great shame,” and that he has “a great amount of history  on  other members of the family not in our direct  line” which he would send if he had  time.

He closes his letter by talking about himself and his wife Janet  or “Jan.” He notes he is an auditor for HEW, saying that he and Jan moved to Lansing, Michigan from Massachusetts in June of that year Additionally they have three children, he notes, who are as  follows: Thomas A. Adkins (born Feb 17, 1967 in the Panama Canal Zone), Heathe  Jo  Adkins (born June 29, 1970 at Walter Reed), and Sarah Christen Adkins (born September 11, 1971 in Shirley, Massachusetts). The letter ends by  saying he became interested in genealogy three years before (in 1976) and has, since then, “some remarkable  success, [and] also  some setbacks,” while also asking for the birthdays and places of birth of Bob’s children, as it likely seemed like a fair trad to him, perhaps.

What happened to Tommy Adkins?  I don’t know, as I could only find, with  a quick search a person of the same name in Georgia, but not one in Michigan. Searches for the others have been, at this time, unsuccessful, even when looking at who lives at that current address at the present time.

That’s all. Until next time!

Sources used  for this post

Genealogy-letter pedigree form letter and short letter on back from Tommy Adkins to Bob Mills, October 17, 1979

Typescript letter of Bob Mills to Tommy Adkins, October 21, 1979, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Handwritten letter of Tommy Adkins  to Bob Mills, likely late October 1979 or early November 1979, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Settling the estate of Tom Packard: letters from 1976 to 1979

On May 24, 1976, Doris F. Alden, an attorney from Rogers, Reppucci, Alden, Turner & Burgess, sent a letter to Bob Mills about the estate of Tom Packard. Apart from enclosing a legal notice about  the selling of the land “beyond  the cemetery,” the  West Hills Cemetery, to help “met demands for estate taxes.” The letter went onto say that the sale of the remainder of the old farm, “including the remains of the sugar house and acreage having little or no frontage on the highway is pending.”

Three  days later, on May 27, Bob thanked Doris for the letter, as it summarized the “estate of my late uncle, Thomas Packard,” hoping to continue to be informed on the estate’s progress. He also added that he may be passing through Springfield on a vacation that summer and if so he would contact her in order to “meet with you briefly at  that time.”

The following month, on June 7th, Doris sent another legal letter, this one with a citation to sell the other parts of Tom’s estate she had mentioned in her original letter  to Bob. She also added that Tom, during his lifetime sold various parcels, but that this sale will “include the largest portion of such back acreage which, under the zoning by-laws of the Town of Plainfield, does not meet current building requirements.” After ending this legalistic letter by saying that he will receive additional notices as time went on, she wrote in script,  “thank you for your letter,” clearly glad Bob had posed that he go to vacation in Springfield.

Later that month, on June 14th, Doris wrote Bob once again, whom she had talked with, especially regarding his “possible interest in the property,” even enclosing a photograph of  the house itself and describing what was within it. The photo of the house she refers to is at the beginning of this post. She sells the area as a great ski country and a “delightful place for retirement.” The letter is ended by her saying that it would “please me, as well as the  community, to keep a member of the Packard family on  West Hill, as that area is called” and that she is looking forward to meeting  him.

Notes by Bob about Tom Packard’s estate

The next month, on July 27th, Doris wrote Bob once again, talking about further division of Tom Packard’s estate, even attaching a new citation of selling more of the state, saying she will keep him informed. She added, in script, at the bottom of the letter, that “the 5 and 10 acre parcels referred to in my last  letter are still available.”

Then there was a gap of time, which even  surprised Bob. He wrote, in the next letter on October 2, 1977, that since the last exchange of letters and a call in July 1976, there had been “no word of progress on the Thomas Packard estate.” He further noted that while he was considering a trip to Massachusetts, it “did not prove  possible because of other commitments.” With that, h asked if it would be possible to obtain a progress report, noting that “my sister, Carol Mills Sieck, and I were discussing this matter last night, and realized that a good deal of time had elapsed since our last report on the  status  of the estate.”

Four days  later, on October 6, Doris wrote that a short report on Tom Packard’s estate was prepared not only for him but for all “heirs or their legal representatives.” This report noted that sale of a small parcel of real estate which was owned by Tom was pending since August 1977, with delay in a progress report hoping that “the sale would take place so that amended estate tax returns may be completed. The rest of the report noted that taxes were filed, with moving toward closing the estate soon, saying that once the “remaining parcel of land is sold, a final accounting will be prepared with a request that distribution of all assets in the estate be allowed.”

Three was again another gap. On July 20, 1978, Doris wrote Bob again about the estate, enclosing a new decree, which closed the estate, allowing, if there is no appeal within thirty days of July 12, then the estate’s funds will be distributed. The end was finally in sight, although  Bob did not, clearly, seem interested in purchasing Tom’s land or the property on which he lived as he had previously.

On August 25, there was another letter from Doris to Bob, which is a bit wrinkled. The letter itself enclosed a check  of $5,610.69 as his share of Tom Packard’s estate. The phrase, in this letter was  likely underlined by Bob: “all taxes, estate, inheritance and income, will have been paid for all funds received by you.”

The final letter, from Doris on January 25, 1979, was for one final check which represented a final payment from Tom Packard’s state, the amount of $117.54. The estate was finally closed.

We do not know from here what happened to Doris (although she could be the woman of the same name whom died in 2000), but we know that Bob died on May 2, 1981 from a brain tumor. But where one story ends, another can begin, another can be discovered, new stories unearthed.

Description of sources of this post

Probate Court citation for Thomas T. Packard of Plainfield, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, May 21, 1976, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records. This also notes that the citation will be printed in a Northampton newspaper, Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Typescript letter of Doris F. Alden to Bob Mills, May 24, 1976, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Bob Mills to Doris F. Alden, May 27, 1976, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Probate Court citation for Thomas T. Packard of Plainfield, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, June 16, 1976, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records. This also notes that the citation will be printed in a Northampton newspaper, Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Typescript letter of Doris F. Alden to Bob Mills, June 7, 1976, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Doris F. Alden to Bob Mills, June 14, 1976, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Probate Court citation for Thomas T. Packard of Plainfield, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, July 20, 1976, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records. This also notes that the citation will be printed in a Northampton newspaper, Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Typescript letter of Doris F. Alden to Bob Mills, July 27, 1976, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Bob Mills to Doris F. Alden, October 2, 1977, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Doris F. Alden to Bob Mills, October 6, 1977, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records. Includes a “status report” of the estate of Tom Packard.

Typescript letter of Doris F. Alden to Bob Mills, July 20, 1978, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Doris F. Alden to Bob Mills, August 25, 1978, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records. Letter is unfortunately crinkled, unless other letters.

Typescript letter of Doris F. Alden to Bob Mills, January 25, 1979, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records. Letter is unfortunately crinkled, unless other letters.

Bob Mills’s quest to learn more about his family lineage

As I was going through some papers  yesterday, I came across letters between my grandfather, Bob Mills and his uncle Theodore “Tom” Packard in 1970. Unfortunately, the letters I have are incomplete so I cannot tell the full story, but I’ll do the best I can.

On September 6th, 1970, Tom Packard, living on Summit Street in Plainfield, MA wrote Bob  Mills with familiarity, glad that Bob had written him as he had misplaced Bob’s letter. He said he remembered Bob’s father, Robert “Bert” Byron Mills II, whom had come to visit Tom’s father, Cyrus W. Packard at the farm. He even recalled that Bert and another one of his friends drove the first “Interstate” car he had ever seen and remembered that Bert had “lost some fingers  in an ensilage cutter.” Tom even mentioned Bert’s foster father, Robert “Uncle Rob” Byron Mills I, whom was in Heath with Charles Packard before he died, even coming to Plainfield to stay with Tom and his family. It was here that Bob would get a photo of Charles, Bob, Hattie, and others together, along with photos of John and Margaret Bibby, although the latter two were not within future family history Bob would write, The Packard-Mills Family History.

Likely the photo of John, Charles, and RBM II that Bob referred to.

Colorized photo of Margaret Bibby, the wife of John Mills, courtesy of my sister blog, Milling ’round Ireland. This could be one of the photos Tom sent to Bob.

Photograph of John Mills, courtesy of my sister blog, Milling ’round Ireland. This could be one of the photos Tom sent to Bob.

Photograph of RBM I and Stanley, courtesy of my sister blog, Milling ’round Ireland. This could be one of the photos Tom sent to Bob.

There are varied other pictures of RBM and Hattie, so I’m not sure exactly to which ones Tom is referring to, but he clearly was more than willing to share information.

As his letter goes on, he says that his father, Cyrus, married three times, first to Nellie Mason who “died in childbirth in 1789 [sic, should be 1889] of german measles,” noting that with Dora Mills he had various children, which included: John Henry (born Oct 15, 1882, died Oct 28, 1950), Margaret Alice (born Jan. 27, 1884) whom was still living by Sept 1970 and had married Kenneth Brown of Melrose, Massachusetts on September 2, 1913, having 1 daughter and 2 sons, with Kenneth  dying on April 7, 1947, and Joseph Winfield (born June 17, 1885) whom was said to be “killed on railroad in Nebraska Mar. 9 1910” and was buried in Sioux City, Nebraska (a place that does not exist!). Other children of Dora and  Cyrus were, he recounted, Charles Edward (born May 6, 1887 and died on Nov 4, 1960) whom married Bertha Churchill in 1919 and lived at a farm in Heath, where he and her were buried, and Marian Estelle (born Feb. 13, 1889, died June 13, 1965) whom married Edward Dean on March 23, 1908 with both living in Bridgeport, Connecticut until his death in 1954, after which she married John Nocker and was buried in West Hill cemetery. He goes onto name a number of other children of Dora and Cyrus: Robert Byron (born Jan. 9, 1891) whom was “adopted by Uncle Robert Mills” and married Miriam Hirst on June 5, 1921, correctly noting he had Bob as his son but incorrectly said Stanley was his son (he was actually the son of Rob and Hattie), and Mable Hattie (born July 19, 1892) who married Giles Whitley (whom died in 1920) and had 2 sons and 2 daughters, later marrying Joseph Landstrom (whom died in May 1962)  with whom she had five daughters, dying on December 1, 1961. He also notes that Charles married a second time after Bertha’s death to Pearl Gleason in Heath, a woman whom died on  Feb 1, 1956, and they had one  son named Douglas E. whom lived in Shelburne Falls and they  had 2 daughters, one of whom was married. For Margaret, he noted that she, at the time of the letter’s writing, living with her son at 2113 Pepper Street in Burbank, California. Apart from noting that  Mable Hattie, John, and Marian are buried in West Hill Cemetery, he notes there  is a “stone for Joseph who was buried in Nebraska.”

In the last part of his letter, he  talks about the  five children Cyrus, his father, had with Clementina Cheney. These are: Olive Martha (Oct. 23, 1896-Jan. 20, 1969), Herbert Miles (Oct 6, 1898-Aug. 30,  1966), Rachel May (Apr 13, 1900-Sept.22,1933), himself on May 2, 1902, and Harold Cyrus (Aug 24, 1907).  The letter  ends with him noting that his father died  on April 2, 1924, his brother on June 27, 1923, saying he would be willing to provide  further information, giving a quick sketch of the line of descent which can be visualized as: Cyrus-William Henry-Barnabas  III-Barnabas II-Barnabas I-John-Zaccheus-Samuel, then saying that the Packards are “supposed to be from the Norman Family in France of Picard” and came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. After hoping Bob would visit and write in the meantime, he ends,after his signature, by saying “I can supply adresses [sic] of other branches of the  Packard Family if you wish.”

On September 17th, Bob wrote back Tom with delight, saying that “both I and everyone in the family were delighted to re-establish contact with the Packards,” with information Tom  provided  used  to construct a chart of family history and fills in a lot of gaps,  although he hoped any errors could be corrected.

This is the family chart Bob created

Bob’s biggest question was the early life of his father, Robert “Bert” Mills (originally Packard) with his birth father, Cyrus, and mother, Dora, saying he only had vague recollections. He said that his father was apparently named after Dora’s sister, Robert, and says he has “a picture of Dora and Cyrus Winfield Packard, as well as two pictures of the farm at Plainfield and these are in a family album.” I don’t think pictures of that farm in Plainfield and am not sure if the photos of Dora and Cyrus he references have fully survived to the present. After this he highlights how his father died on April 11, 1956 in his sleep as a victim of a stroke, had been a Fire Chief of Cheviot for almost 30 years (1926-1956?), with his mother as Miriam Esther Hirst (born on June 4, 1899), further noting that the “Hirst family were early settlers in the U.S. from England, and this family goes way back in English history.” He even says that his aunt, Marjorie Hirst (Frame) was inspired by his family chart on the Packards, then setting about “trying to  reconstruct a similar history of  the Hirst family.”

Bob continues in his letter by talking about his mother and other matters. On his mother, he notes that she died on June 18, 1961, dying from an illness of years which was “complicated by diabetes and  cancer,” noting that she, like RBM II, Hattie, and Stanley  were all buried in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery. Interestingly, he notes that Stanlet, the “only natural son of Uncle Rob and Hattie, did in 1934 at the age of 33 years from causes which have never been clear to anybody,” suspecting the death from drugs, and that he never married at all.  He goes onto note the three children of his parents, including himself, who was born on June 5, 1924, marrying Florence Louise “F.L.” Schaefer (born August 17, 1926), meeting at Antioch College, with F.L.’s family coming from Nutley, New Jersey. He also notes his own two children of his own, which he was proud of, but I will not name them at this time as both are currently living. After this, he outlines the two other children of his mother and father, his siblings. One  is Helen Eileen Mills (born August 5, 1929) who married Alex Efthim (born November 29 1916), the latter being a “large  Albanian family from St. Louis,” with Alex being a professor of Social Work  at Detroit’s Wayne State University, with them having one child. He then goes to list his sister, Carol Ruth Mills (born August 19, 1930), noting that she married Paul Edward Sieck in 1951, whom he describes as the “Vice-President of a local manufacturing concern,” and have four children, two of which were adopted.

He ends his letter by writing that he and his sister Carol had been discussing possibly visiting Plainfield within the next year, possibly while skiing at nearby Berkshires. He then asks to tell more about Douglas Packard and his respective family in Shelburne Falls, along with Tom’s brother, Harold Cyrus. The letter ends with “Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness.”

On September 27th, Tom Packard sent a response to Bob. He doesn’t have much to say about the death of Dora, saying she “did before my day” and only knows family lore, recommending that Bob write to Margaret Packard (Brown) in Burbank, California since sh was “about 11 years old when her mother died [and] she had a good memory of those matters.” He adds, about Dora, that she married his father,Cyrus, in Glens Falls, New York, and that she “did here of consumption on Feb. 5, 1895.” His letter goes onto note that there  are various areas in the Berkshires Hills for skiiing, and adds that he owns the old farm (which “burned out in 1946”) which was owned by his father, along with adjoining land. As he describes it, “the old plave [sic] still had many pleasant memories, and all the brothers and sisters always enjoyed getting  back for a visit.”

He concludes his letter by hoping to see Bob and his family the coming winter, and thinks they should write to Margaret. He also enclosed a photo of his father “taken a few months before he died,” which he notes was from a brain tumor, and that he “was  in much pain for a few weeks before he sank into a merciful comer [coma?]” while his mother “died of heart  trouble the year before.”

The image on the far right is from the one that Tom sent, with the others I found from other records. The full image is reprinted in The Packard Mills Family History.

Photograph of Cyrus Packard in the Packard-Mills Family History

There are many questions from this exchange of letters? Did Carol and Bob visit Plainfield and meet with Tom? That is never known,  as the next letters pick up in 1976. Further discussion of some of this topics will resume on my sister blog, Milling ’round Ireland, while others will be on this blog. Until next time!

Sources of information for this post:

Typescript letter of Tom T. Packard to Bob Mills, Sept, 6, 1970, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Bob Mills to Tom T. Packard, Sept.  17, 1970, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

Typescript letter of Tom T. Packard to Bob Mills, Sept. 27, 1970, within Family Records folder and black binder for family records.

“E.P.W. Packard was a badass”: The story of this well-known reformer

Recently, I was pursuing Twitter and searching for the word “Packard,” coming upon, in the process, some tweets from Jessica Lowell Mason, a feminist, writer (specifically of her blog My Wicked Life With Nuns), gardener, and much more about E.P.W. Packard, also known as Elizabeth Packard or Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, a well-known reformer, two of which are shown above. In response to one of her tweets I noted that I was glad that E.P.W. Packard, a woman whom “lived simply, not with much flourish,” was my ancestor:

And I proceeded to, of course, share my articles on the subject, the last of which is the origin of the phrase used in the title of this article:

Compounding Jessica Mason’s tweets, a woman whom I will call “K.M.” as to not mention her real name, told me earlier this year that she found my “great website, Packed with Packards, and wanted to drop you a line as I am currently researching Mrs Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard,” saying she was “at a very early stage in my research, but hoping eventually to reach out to direct descendants of Mrs Packard, in the hope that they might be able to share some insight into their ancestor, family stories etc,” adding that she is “looking specifically at the years of 1859-69 in Mrs Packard’s life, but interested in personal details before and after that too.” I was flattered by this, telling her that I was glad she found my wonderful website and that it is “always good to see people researching the Packards,” noting my previous posts, and hoping it helps. K.M. respondedby thanking me for “an informative reply,” believing that the “actual court files of the trial” and that “the insane asylum records are now closed for legal reasons” while they would “keep trying to contact some descendants.” This conversation closed by me saying that it “would be unfortunate if the actual court files of the trial were long ago destroyed in a fire or that the insane asylum records are now closed for legal reasons” and adding that “my blog remains open to submissions and soon Packard’s Progress will be as well, as soon as it’s up and running.”

This brings us to the main question this article aims to answer: what was the story of E.P.W. Packard (called Elizabeth in the rest of this article) anyhow? She was a well-educated woman, born to the name of Elizabeth Parsons Ware, whom married a minister, Theophilus Packard, on May 21, 1839, at the insistence of her parents, but soon found herself at odds with the religious teachings of her husband. This led to her commitment, by Theophilus, to the Jacksonville State Hospital, for “moral insanity,” a place where she “gradually won over most of the staff at the hospital and was even given a set of keys because of the duties she assumed there,” writing constantly. Soon enough, her oldest son convinced Theophilus to have her released, but her daughter, Elizabeth (shown to be the case as noted as her child in the 1860 census) had to take charge of “housework and child care at the age of 11.” Theophilus literally kept Elizabeth under lock and key, leading to the infamous Packard v. Packard trial where her lawyers, Stephen Moore and John Orr, called “witnesses from the neighborhood that knew the Packards but were not members of Theophilus’ church” and the verdict reached by the court on January 18, 1864, in seven minutes, that “we, the undersigned, Jurors in the case of Mrs. Elizabeth P.W. Packard, alleged to be insane, having heard the evidence…are satisfied that [she] is sane.”

A colorized photo of Elizabeth from her famed book, Marital Power.

But there is much more of her life than that, more than her final probate will show or what a front-page article in Volume 14 of Packard’s Progress would reveal. [1] The latter has a clipping of newspaper article by Daniel Lombardo, Jones Library Curator, which is worth quoting here:

In March of 1866 Elizabeth Packard walked into the offices of the Hampshire and Franklin Express in Amherst and announced the publication of her new book. The astonishing story told in the book [titled Martial Power Exemplified in Mrs. Packard’s Trial] spread quickly: Mrs. Packard had been declared insane for her religious views and placed in an asylum by her husband…Mrs. Packard’s book was a bombshell aimed at her respected husband, a Sunderland minister, and the entire male-dominated judicial system. Theophilus Packard [her husband,] attended both Amherst Academy and Amherst College, graduating in 1823. In 1839 Packared married Elizabeth Ware of South Deerfield, and they lived in Shelburne, where he was a preacher. It was after the family moved to Manteno, Ill. that the marriage broke down and became the subject of newspaper articles from Chicago to Boston. Theophilus was an immovable Calvinist, believing in a man’s total depravity and that God had foreordained some to be saved and some to be damned. Elizabeth came to believe that humans have free will and are accountable to God for their actions. She also thought slavery was a national sin. Her husband considered these views “the vagaries of a crazed brain.” Early on the morning of June 18, 1860, [when] Elizabeth…prepared to take a bath…she hastily tried to dress…[and] the group [of two physicians and a sheriff] smashed through a window and entered the room…[and in a] “state of almost entire nudity”…the physician declared her insane. Thus complying with the 1850 Illinois laws, Theophilus…committed [her]…to the Jacksonville Insane Asylum [actually it was Jacksonville State Hospital]. Elizabeth Packard was taken from her six children [Isaac, Samuel, Elizabeth, George, Arthur, and ?] and kept in the asylum for three years. While there she wrote a 700-page allegory about her situation….[after she was released] her husband…imprisoned her in their home…[and she was] allowed to see no one, [with] the windows screwed from the outside and the doors were kept locked. Rev. Packard’s next plan was to return to Massachusetts where he could have his wife place in the Northampton Lunatic Asylum. Just two days before they were to leave Illinois, [her] friends…delivered…a suit [to the court] asking for her release under the Habeas Corpus Act…On Jan. 18…the jury found Elizabeth Packard sane, [with] cheers…[in] every part of the courtroom…[as] women waved their handkerchiefs…[while] Theophilus…had “left the state”…[taking] the children to his sister’s [undoubtedly Sybil] house in South Deerfield [with] a number of people there [believing]…his story of flight from an “insane” wife…a great groundswell of support for Elizabeth developed as major newspapers picked up the story. She moved to her brother Austin Ware’s house in South Deerfield and published more books and pamphlets. She then successfully petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to make it virtually impossible for a husband to commit a healthy wife to an asylum. She later helped change laws in Illinois, Iowa, and Maine

There is more apart from other possible sources to explore for learning more information, as I told K.M., including one saying that she was admitted to the Jacksonville State Hospital on June 19, 1860 and that she was discharged on June 18, 1863, with her “next of kin” listed as her abusive husband, Theophilus. [1] There are a number of webpages on legal sites about the Packard v. Packard case, noting that: “Elizabeth Packard was declared sane and her liberty was restored” and recommending a number of separate readings for more information, most of which are Elizabeth’s books! What she experienced in the courtroom must have been frightening as she did read “an essay which she had written for a Bible class” aloud, while “Mr. and Mrs. Blessing, Methodist neighbors of the Packards, testified in turn as to Mrs. Packard’s sanity,” as did Sarah Haslett, seemingly a housekeeper for the Packards or nearby, and “Dr. Duncanson, who was both a physician and theologian. He testified that he had conversed with Mrs. Packard for three hours, and he disagreed with Dr. Brown’s understanding of Mrs. Packard’s thoughts concerning her relationship to the Holy Ghost.” I say frightening because there were those whom testified against Elizabeth like “Dr. Christopher Knott, who had spoken with Elizabeth prior to her commitment to Illinois State…Dr. J. W. Brown [whom] had been falsely introduced to Elizabeth as a sewing machine salesman several weeks before, and had surreptitiously interviewed her during what she thought was a sales pitch…Abijah Dole, the husband of Reverend Packard’s sister, Sybil…Sybil Dole [herself] also testified against Elizabeth…Sarah Rumsey, a young woman who had briefly served as a mother’s helper for the Packards.” There was also “a certificate concerning Elizabeth’s discharge from the Illinois State Hospital, issued by superintendent Dr. Andrew McFarland” which was read, saying that “Elizabeth Packard was discharged because she could not be cured.” Even with all of that, the jury still “reached its verdict in seven minutes” stating that Elizabeth was a sane woman, but the issue of “whether, had Mrs. Packard been found insane, Mr. Packard had the right to confine her at home rather than in an asylum” was not addressed. This led to, as one website put it, the fact that both of them remained married but were “estranged for the remainder of their lives” with Elizabeth lobbying and advocating “on behalf of the rights of women and those alleged to be insane,” being “instrumental in changing the commitment laws in four states and in passing a married women’s property law in Illinois.”

This image shows Issac and Rebecca Blessing relatively nearby, along with a Sarah Rumsey. The source is “United States Census, 1860“, database with images, FamilySearch, NARA M653, film #192, GS film # 803192, digital folder #005165763, image #00339. I found Dr. Duncanson and he is in a nearby town. I did find a C.W. Knott nearby, but he is a merchant, not a doctor. Additionally, there are eight Sarah Hasletts in Illinois and I’m not sure which one is her.  There were 9 J.W. Browns in Illinois, so I’m not sure which is the right one here. I was also unable to find Abijah Dole, the husband of Reverend Packard’s sister, Sybil, or Sybil Dole.

I also found Andrew McFarland in the 1860 census for Jacksonville Precinct, Morgan County, Illinois

With that, there are also those whom summarize her effect on asylum legislation, some arguing that “the American asylum reform would not have been the same without Packard’s influence and personal account reflections. Packard’s attribution to this field of American psychiatry is very critical because of her experience,” another which said that described her as a “Nineteenth-Century Crusader for the Rights of Mental Patients.” Further articles looked at her case through a legalistic perspective and summarized her horrid experience in the hospital, basically an asylum. One recent article I found noted that Elizabeth was among a group of women “placed in mental institutions for behaving in ways male society did not agree,” arguing that she “fought for women’s rights during the admission process,” adding that she “was a teacher in Jacksonville, Illinois, and the mother of six children when her husband committed her to the state hospital…until her death she fought for married women’s rights by lobbying in the state legislature and writing books about these rights and her personal fight,” adding that “Many of the women admitted to mental asylums [across the U.S.] were admitted for reasons similar to Mrs. Packard.” One article in The Atlantic went into more depth, noting that Elizabeth was “expected to be gentle, caring, and obedient, the ideal Victorian woman” but she started “disagreeing with the radical religious beliefs of her husband, Theophilus Packard, a strict Calvinist pastor,” even saying in the middle of her husband’s sermon that she “was going to the Methodist church across the street,” which was to “the more conservative members of Reverend Packard’s church…literal evidence of insanity.” As such, the article goes onto note that “after separating from her husband, Packard founded the Anti-Insane Asylum Society and campaigned for divorced women to retain custody of their children. She also went on to author a number of books” while saying that “not every story ended as happily as Packard’s” as some ended much worse.

Elizabeth’s story has been prominent enough to be featured in varied books, like Mohammed Abouelleil Rashed‘s recently-published Madness and the demand for recognition: A philosophical inquiry into identity and mental health activism (see page 5), Evaluation for Civil Commitment by Debra Pinals and Douglas Mossman (see pages 7 and 8), Steve Mintz’s The Prime of Life (see pages 147 and the rest of the chapter), Police, prison, and punishment: major historical interpretations by Kermit L. Hall (see pages 834 and 835), a small mention in Psychiatric Nursing: Contemporary Practice, edited by Mary Ann Boyd (see page 28), American Women Activists’ Writings: An Anthology, 1637-2001 by Kathryn Cullen-DuPont (see pages 100-110 which reprints excerpts from her book, Martial Power Exemplified: Mrs. Packard’s Trial), and a chapter within The Writing on the Wall: Women’s Autobiography and the Asylum by Mary Elene Wood.  [2] One book even talked of the conflict between Elizabeth and Dorothea Dix, saying that “Packard collected signatures on behalf of her mailbox bill [to reform asylums, which she drafted with prominent women’s rights attorney Belva Ann Lockwood” while Dix “quietly sought to block the measure behind the scenes” with the asylum directors thanking Dix for “your labors to prevent mischief.” [2]

In the years to come, the Packard Laws would live on, and her legacy would continue to this day. In a post to come next week, I will focus specifically on Elizabeth’s words describing her imprisonment, to show her side of the story.


[1] I suggested that she could contact Kankakee County and see if they have county court records of the Packard v. Packard case, which was on trial in January 1864, or that she could ask for records of E.P.W. Packard’s time at Jacksonville State Hospital, like those associated with the “DIRECTORY OF JACKSONVILLE STATE HOSPITAL PATIENTS 1854 – 1870.” I also suggested that she contact the Illinois State Archives about their records within varied collections like “Jacksonville Mental Health and Developmental Center: Commitment Papers, circa 1851-1943“,  “Jacksonville Mental Health and Developmental Center: Register of Patients, November 3, 1851-July 19, 1897” and “Jacksonville Mental Health and Developmental Center: Case Records, 1854-1870; 1872-1873; 1875-1907,” which was originally talked about here. Additionally I said she could contact the Illinois State Legislature research unit about E.P.W. Packard or look at the books written on her (Elizabeth Packard: A Noble Fight and The Private War of Mrs. Packard), along with a play (Mrs. Packard), although can’t guarantee their genealogical accuracy.

[2] Other mentions include a chapter within Susan J. Hubert’s Questions of Power: The Politics of Women’s Madness Narratives, mentions within Elizabeth Abbott’s A History of Marriage: From Same Sex Unions to Private Vows and Common Law, the Surprising Diversity of a Tradition, mentions within Benjamin Reiss‘s Theaters of Madness: Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American Culture, mentions within Stephen Pimpare’s A People’s History of Poverty in America, mentions within Thomas Cooley’s The Ivory Leg in the Ebony Cabinet: Madness, Race, and Gender in Victorian America, and Jill Norgren’s Rebels at the Bar: The Fascinating, Forgotten Stories of America’s First Women Lawyers, to name the most prominent books. The information in the latter sentence, beginning with “one book even talked” comes from page 339 of Thomas J. Brown’s Dorothea Dix: New England Reformer. Also see page 340 where it is noted that forces allied with Packard were ultimately successful and that Dix lost in the battle against the reforms. Also see the following articles: “Mrs. Packard on Dependency,” “Elizabeth Packard’s Life Dramatized in Mrs. Packard,” “Daring to Disagree, and Sent to an Asylum.” Apparently there is someone who is an “Elizabeth Parsons Ware professor,” although I’m not sure what that means.