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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“A transcript of my own individuality”: Elizabeth speaks in her own words

A colorized photograph of Elizabeth from one her books, I believe from this book.

Continuing from where we left off in the last article of this series, in 1864, Elizabeth (often called E.P.W. Packard) wrote a book telling her personal experience inside the Jacksonsville State Hospital titled The exposure on board the Atlantic & Pacific car of emancipation for the slaves of old Columbia, engineered by the lightning express; or, Christianity & Calvinism compared. With an appeal to the government to emancipate the slaves of the marriage union. Volume I. Ed. by a slave, now imprisoned in Jacksonville insane asylum, making the powerful claim she was enslaved by her marriage to Theophilus. I can’t thank Stephany enough for sharing the excerpts from Jeffrey L. Geller and Maxine Harris’s Women in the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls: 1840-1945. Originally I planned to reprint extracts of her book, but since its so long, its perhaps better to summarize it, to the best of my ability, in this post.

In the Dedication to this 1864 book, which is to her children, she first lays out some important genealogical information on her children:

  1. Theophilus Packard, Jr., her first child, born on Mar 17, 1842
  2. Issac Ware Packard, her second child, born Jun 24, 1844
  3. Samuel Packard, her third child, born Nov 2, 1847
  4. Elizabeth Ware Packard, her fourth child, born May 10, 1850
  5. George Hastings Packard, her fifth child, born Jul 18, 1853
  6. Arthur Dwight Packard, her sixth child, born Dec 18, 1858

As the dedication goes on, she ties in her Christian imagery, but also argues that she has been “deserted by my father, cast off by my husband, uncared for by my brothers” but says that these six children have stood by her, saying that their ” tender, loving hearts have writhed in secret agony over your mother’s sorrows.” She especially thanks her son Theophilus, who, despite the fact he was “threatened with disinheritance from our family and home,” whom visited her four times in prison, and the one secret visit of her son Isaac. She also notes that her cousin, Angeline S. Field, of Granville,  Ill., visited her “once, and has written me once,” a possible further connection to explore on this blog in the future.

When we get to the book’s Preface, the importance of the book it clear. Not only does she “assume the entire responsibility of the statements and opinions it contains” but it is, as noted in the title of this post, “a transcript of my own individuality upon paper.” She further says that while she is called “crazy, or insane” is because those who call her that cannot “see the reasonableness of the positions and opinions I assume to advocate and defend,” and further says they have a lack of “Christian charity.” She goes onto say that she has endured “a long and wearisome persecution and false imprisonment of three years for conscience sake,” and that truth is her only “weapon…defense…[and] refuge” to make her argument. She further points out that her ” benevolent regard for the insane party tempts me to give them some occasion for believing me insane by giving utterance to what, to them, will be insane opinions.” She ends by saying that she will pack her “thoughts into the form of cannon balls to shoot Calvinism with…by giving my reasons for my opinions” and says that the book, is effectively, “God’s work.”

Then, we get to the Introduction (written in October 1862), which is a bit different from the preface. She argues that book will be 12 distinct parts, and she wants to get to her children, to her family, to go home, saying she is presenting this book at the suggestion of Dr. Andrew McFarland (a Universalist and Spiritualist) of the asylum. She adds that she has had to confront the asylum’s trustees for falsely imprisoning her for  three years, condemns the “treacherous sister” of her husband, Sybil, the cousin of her husband, Sophia Porter Smith (calling her a “Calvin sycophant or parasite”), and her father, Rev. Samuel Ware (“defender of total depravity”) while she praises the wife of her brother (Samuel) named Mary and her brother Austin Ware, whom she calls kind, but halting. Connected to this is the Birth of the Book section where she justifies the necessity for publishing this book. She also admits that Dr. McFarland did not keep his promise to lend her money to publish my book, but instead tried to prevent its publication! Yikes!

After that is the My Passport section, which is a sort of preface to her statement to the Trustees of the Jacksonville Insane Asylum, at their September meeting in 1862, through the kindness of Dr. McFarland. She notes how she pleaded her case to the trustees, with the support of Dr. McFarland, and the correspondence with Mrs. Maria Chapman, also confined in the same asylum “on the charge of insanity, based on her embracing Swedenborgian views, while her friends remain Presbyterians” but is in a different ward, so the letters between they are carried by Dr. Tenny the mail-carrier. In the Statement Before the Trustees, she argues that Christianity and Calvinism are antagonistic to each other, saying that Calvinism is treasonous,and making further religious arguments saying that Jesus and Calvin’s ideas are in conflict. But then she makes her stronger arguments: her imprisonment and the attempt to chain her thoughts is “a crime against the constitution of this free government, and also a crime against civilization and human progress,” that the law through which she is imprisoned, “is a Calvinistic law” and immoral, that the Calvinistic law of marriage “enslaves the wife” and only cured by emancipation, and that Calvinism is inherently wrong in and of itself. She finally makes the request that the trustees give her paper to write her thoughts down in print,that her husband is effectively abusing her and should be taken from his “position in society, his family, and from all his constitutional rights as an American citizen, and imprison[ed]…in this Insane Asylum, for life, or until I can remove his children out of the reach of his influence”!

With that, we get to the Correspondence with Mrs. [Maria] Chapman. In response to her statement, Chapman tells her that she is anxious to know of the success of her pleading of case, saying that Elizabeth has “been so brave in fighting your own battles” but hopes it “will not be in vain.” In reply on Sept 8, Elizabeth, after making a religious argument, notes that she talked as fast as she could, but she spent 50 minutes making her case, with the trustees willing to do what she asked, and says that she prefers to “stand self-reliant and alone, depending upon my own intrinsic character, capacities, qualifications and deserts” for her own support. However, she does say that none of the trustees believe her to “be an insane person,” arguing that the “tide has turned.” Sadly, Elizabeth did not publish the reply by Maria, perhaps because it was personal in some way, although she did say that Elizabeth should have “spiritual freedom.” In another letter to Maria on Sept 12, Elizabeth noted the visit of her husband to the asylum, and in a way admitted her intelligence, although he still felt she was “insane,” which she followed by calling him “not a man…but only a personified demon”! Some in the hospital, like Mrs. Grapes (superintendent of the sewing room), Ms. Mary Segal (the chambermaid of Dr. McFarland), and Ms. Haslet (a Manteno gentleman) seemed to agree with her assessment! She then goes on in her religious argument. Following this is yet another letter to Maria, undated, saying that she has lost confidence in her husband and father as her spiritual guides. She also notes how her father placed in the Worchester Asylum at age 18 to cure her of a “derangement which followed a severe brain fever, the result of malign medical treatment” as she puts it, remaining there for five weeks. She also says that she sees the trustees as her friends, that don’t want to keep her imprisoned any longer. It is there that the letters end, with a P.S. note on the last letter, signed E.P.W.P. (Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard).

With that, we get to the next part of her book, titled Seeing Eye to Eye. In this section, she tells what can be considered a religious fable, basically saying that those of different religious sects within Christianity are working together, while arguing that practical Christians are alike, “not the creeds or sects.” Following this is another section titled Analogy: Between the Rebellion in Our Family and In Our Country. She compares the marital division between her and her husband as analogous to the Civil War itself, writing about the “insolent, intolerent spirit of the South,” and how she is not the one who should repent, but rather it should be her husband! She further argues that she has “suffered the most…having never retaliated an injury in my life,” adding that the North “Are the greatest sufferers in the spiritual plane” because they are, in her viewpoint, “keenly alive to justice and humanity, and love of country and kindred,” saying that the South are “hardened their sensibility by injustice and inhumanity so long.” She goes on to make further comparisons between the Civil War and marital strife with her husband, basically saying that the latter is analogous to the South! There’s so much in this section, I really can’t summarize all 33 points, but each one is powerful in their own way.

After this is a chapter titled Transmigration of Souls. She starts to go into some spiritual beliefs (“souls do inhabit different bodies, at different periods of their existence, as really as vegetable and animal life exist in different forms or bodies”), says that everyone can be “traced” and makes generally religious arguments, and talks about “twenty-one years of her spirit martyrdom” she has suffered under marriage to the “great red dragon” which could be either the devil or her husband (or a combination of both). Its really hard to tell!

One of the books more interesting letters is a letter she sent Dorothea Dix, in the Letter to Miss Dix section, for which she never got a reply. She wrote to Dix, on Mar 4, 1860, that “insane asylums must be destroyed, to be constructed anew on a righteous basis,” due to their cruelty and inhumane nature, along with her typical Christian religious arguments. What follows this is a sub-section titled “Defense of Miss Dix” which seems to be a defense, but also seems to say Dix is helping maintain the “present system of Insane Asylums”? This section is a bit confusing to say the least, and she seems to go with idea that Jews “persecuted Christ” (an anti-Semetic belief) when the historical record shows the opposite: that Christians persecuted Jews for centuries!

There are many other parts of her book, like chapters such as Not A Prison, A Record of IncidentsQuestions for Dr. McFarland’s Consideration, A Dream, With its Interpretation, December 1860, A Dream, Without An Interpretation, September, 1862, A Defense, A Note of Explanation, and The Great Trial of Mr.s Elizabeth Elizabeth P.W. Packard (full report by her attorney Stephen R. Moore). She also wrote a number of other books, including one in 1866 (also see here) with a possible update in 1860, 1868, 1871, 1873 (also see here and here), 1878-1879, and 1886. I think what has been mentioned is sufficient enough to explain Elizabeth’s thoughts and her convictions, although the full book itself gives a complete account. And with that, I’m going to end this post. See you next crime!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

“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.