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

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

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

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

This executed on November 2, 1772 with his death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

“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.

Who was Abigail Congdon Packard?

I recently found that someone shared yet another photo from RISD of a Packard ancestor. As it turns out, Abigail Congdon, shown above, is related to Captain Samuel Packard whom I have written about before on this blog!: “Captain Samuel Packard…was married to a woman named Abigail Congdon and had a daughter with her which had the same name (Abigail)” while also quoting a Rhode Island Historical Society History which noted that “on December 13, 1789, Captain Packard had married Abigail Congdon…in 1798, Abgail (Congdon) Packard inherited a portion of the Congdon homestead farm on Boston Neck.” I also noted that records held by Family Search show that “Captain Packard and Abigail’s daughter died in 1860” and that “Abigail, Captain Packard’s wife, died in 1854.”

But who was Abigail? Well, the description by Susan Holloway Scott on Instagram is:

This woman’s dress is more bronze that true flaming-cheetos-orange, but hey, it’s the 1790s. Her portrait is by James Earl, younger brother to fellow-artist Ralph Earl. Arguably the more talented of the two, James unfortunately died of yellow fever at only age 35. Mrs. Packard is wearing a wonderfully complicated cap, and extra ruffled trim that runs from her shoulders down the sides of her dress. “Portrait of Abigail Congdon Packard” by James Earl, c1795,

One post which reprinted this painting (and the RISD description) noted that Abigail “wears a fashionable silk gown and a fine linen cap and fichu, matching him in both style and status.” It was further noted that only a few years later, “she inherited a portion of her father’s estate in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, where the family built a house and later expanded their land holdings,” adding that she later “helped establish the Providence Female Charitable Society, an organization aiding indigent women and children.” But there is much more! She is in the newsletter of the United Empire Loyalists’ of Association of Canada (UELAC), raising the question of whether she was a supporter of the British Crown.

Other than a Flickr user who guessed that Abigail was a “Rhode Island local who would have lived at and after the time of the revolutionary war,” it is worth noting her Find A Grave entry, which describes her as 93 years old, but says nothing more! The latter should definitely be improved and added upon by Packard researchers. The National Portrait Gallery’s Catalog of American Portraits describes the painting of her as “oil on canvas” and by a man named James Earl. The  latter was a Massachusetts native, who was then painting in Charleston, South Carolina, after painting in London from 1787 to 1794. Early himself was sympathetic to the British Crown as he “established a niche in London by painting Americans who had expatriated because of their Loyalist politics.” This implies that Samuel Packard, the husband of Abigail, was a loyalist,  as was Abigail herself. However, an article about Samuel in Rhode Island History (Vol. 1, No. 1, Jan 1942), a publication of the Rhode Island Historical Society, disputes this, showing how these Packards were in the wealthy elite of Providence, Rhode Island. This article notes that Samuel was the son of Nathaniel Packard, with his father owning land bordering varied streets in Providence, that Samuel was a “mariner, ship master, ship–owner, and merchant,” owning 39 ships, and that he was “an ardent admirer of George Washington,” even involved in secret work for him. By 1797, the article notes, Samuel,. his wife Abigail, and their family lived in a three-story-high mansion in Providence. The following year, Abigail inherited some of the ” Congdon homestead farm on Boston Neck” of which Samuel purchased the remainder of in the early 1800s, Later on Samuel would own land in Cranston, Rhode Island and even in Illinois, with his homes in Providence in North Kingston furnished with “fine furniture, china, and silver.”

The fact there was a house there at all is substantiated by pages 39 and 40 of  the 1914 Report of the Committee on marking historical sites in Rhode Island, published by the Rhode Island Historical Society. The same society currently holds a letter from Samuel Packard in Havana on April 5, 1797, and scattered other records on Packards. I can’t find his land in Illinois as of yet.

Thanks to the USGS’s Geographical Information Names System (GNIS), I was able to find an entry for the John Congdon Plot, which is also called the “Congton-Packard Cemetery” according to the citation they provided. [1] This plot, according to GNIS, is located on Boston Neck Road in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  Looking on Google Maps at the coordinates they provided, you find that its near something called the Casey Farm, which currently raises “organically grown produce for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program” and has a nearby cemetery nearby. [2] But I have asked them about this.

Screenshot of the cemetery (on the left) with a close-up of the cemetery (shown on the right) taken from the Google Earth photograph of the area.

Despite this hurdle, I was able to find records within the Rhode Island Cemetery Database, run by that state’s historical society, which shows five Packards buried there, all with marble stones:

  1. Abby Packard (1802-1860)
  2. Abigail Packard (c. 1761-1854)
  3. John C. Packard (c. 1794-1827), has a carving of an urn/willow
  4. Capt. Samuel Packard (c. 1761-1820), has a carving of an urn/willow
  5. Samuel Packard, Jr. (c. 1804-1823)

Abigail is the one this article has been focused on and Samuel is her husband. Interestingly, there is also a Nathaniel Packard buried elsewhere in Rhode Island who is likely the father of Samuel. Other than this, the information on Samuel and Abigail is relatively sketchy, with a Find A Grave user, Carrie Anne Perez, reposting an death notice for an infant son of this couple in February 1799:

Otherwise, one can find the photographs of the gravestones, by Stan Arnold, of both Samuel and Abigail on their respective Find A Grave pages, but reposted here:

I did also find a mention of Capt. Samuel Packard in an August 1888 edition of Book Notes about a journey from Providence to Alexandria, Virginia in 1788, noting that “in August 1786, Mr. Olney Winsor, son of Mr. Samuel Windsor, long pastor of the first Baptist Church of Providence, made a voyage on the sloop Susan whereof Capt. Samuel Packard was master,” adding they later went ashore in Alexandria, stopping at a mansion and even visiting George Washington. [3] I did also find that Capt. Packard worked for the Providence Insurance Company in the early 19th century, insuring cargo such as boxes of sugar in places such as Havana. There were a number of other mentions in including in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1794 and The Washingtonian in 1811 (about the capture of Bostonian on the high seas). One book by RISD provided a bit more context about their lives:

Captain…Samuel Packard of Providence…[had] success as a ship’s captain, merchant, and shopowner…indicated [in the painting of him] by the sailing vessel in the portrait’s background and the spyglass in his hand. He married Abigail Congdon (ca. 1761-1854), a descendant of one of Rhode Island’s earliest English settlers and owner of considerable property

I don’t want to rehash the records I looked at my post on Capt. Packard in March of last year, so I’m probably going to stop here for now. I will add that he may have signed, when he was caught for illegally trading in slaves off the African coast, a pledge to leave the slave trade forever and that his house was at a time on Westminster Street in Providence and that he was in Newport when the artist who painted his portrait was there, while he also remembered Washington fondly.  But, it was clear that Capt. Packard was a powerful personage in Providence.

From the early censuses of Rhode Island on Samuel Packard, we find that in 1790 he had no enslaved peoples, two women living in the household (presumably one whom was his daughter and another whom was his wife Abigail) and himself:

Pages 188 of the 1790 census for Providence, with page 172 providing the heading used here. Sorry for the distortion of the picture.

By 1800, there were three people under 10 years of age (one of which was male, two of which were female), one woman who was between ages 16 and 26, and another between age 26 and 45 (undoubtedly Samuel’s wife, Abigail), along with three other people in the household. No enslaved people were living in the household.

Page 197 of the 1800 census for Providence plus the top part coming from another census in order to define the terms below.

By 1810, Capt. Packard was living in the West District of Providence with one son between ages 10 and 16, another between ages 10 and 26, two daughters under age 10, one between age 10 and 16, another “free person,”  no enslaved peoples, and two woman over age 45. While it is obvious that one of the woman over age 45 is his wife, it is not known whom the other person is…

Transcribed from page 69 of the 1810 census for Providence as pasting it with the above categorization made reading the original text impossible.

For 1820, the census must have been taken after he died, as he is not mentioned in this census from what I could find.

But what about the earlier censuses? Well, we also know that he was mentioned in the 1777 Rhode Island Military Census and likely some other census documents, although searching census records he is only mentioned in 1777. For more information, on Rhode Island censuses, please see here. He is not found on the Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932 on Ancestry from a search I did, even when just focusing on Providence.

With that, this article concludes.For another day!


[1] The citation they provided was: “McAleer, Althea H., Beatrix Hoffius, Deby Jecoy Nunes. Graveyards of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. n.p.: The Author (McAleer), 1992.”

[2] It is implied this is the same cemetery, as they say on their website that “Tour the farmyard and cemetery, where six generations of Caseys are buried.” I sent them a message on February 27th, saying “Good morning. I was wondering if the John Congdon Plot (,P3_TITLE:1902089,John%20Congdon%20Plot) is on your Casey Farm property, as some of ancestors, Samuel Packard and his wife Abigail are there. I may visit sometime in the future not only because of that genealogical connection but due to my love of history and archives. I look forward to hearing from you.” While I await their response, I did read in the Rhode Island Cemetery Database that: “On the west side of Boston Neck Road (Rte. 1A), north of Casey Farm. It is adjacent to cemetery NK065, separated from it by a stone wall. Graveyard is clear of brush, cared for, unfenced. Entrance is by permission from property owner at 2265 Boston Neck Road, just north of the Casey Farm. Visited by Arnold 25 April 1880, his #53, “On land of the late Samuel C. Cottrell a distance south of his lare residence is an ancient burial yard of the Congdon family, wall in poor condition” Recorded by Althea McAleer, Beatrix Hoffius, and Deby Nunes for a 1992 book on North Kingstown cemeteries,” also noting the owner is Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, with a website that re-directs you to Historic New England that owns the Casey Farm.

[3] He is also mentioned briefly on pages 122 and 123 of Art & Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650-1830, in relation to the fact that he was sitting in an armchair.

An addendum unfinished: Bob’s “sentimental journey to Massachusetts”

Bob Mills’s caption: This was Uncle Tom Packard’s home in Plainfield on Maple Street. It is a shingled shack on a deserted gravel road in the country. The barn has been converted to a modernistic solar home by a young couple. West Hill Cemetery is adjoining.

Editor’s note: This  is an essay, titled “Addenum” at the end of Bob’s original version of his family history booklet, seemingly written in a tone that it was meant to be read by his siblings (Helen and Carol), along with other relatives perhaps, The Packard/Mills Family History, which was sent to relatives in December 1979 as a Christmas present. However, this essay was likely written in July or August 1980. This text, in this post was assembled by this editor almost 38 years after Bob went there, as an interest coincidence. The text is printed below, with only additions of the photos he mentions. My family history trip is recounted  at the end of this post.

In July, 1980 I made a sentimental journey to Massachusetts to visit the grave-sites described in this book, and to learn more about the family. In the Berkshires, I visited West Cummington, Cummington, and Plainfield. I did not visit Shelburne Falls, or Heath. South of Boston, I visited Hingham, drove along Hingham Bay, and visited West Bridgewater and Bridgewater. I will report these adventures in the order in which they occurred. The Berkshires are extremely beautiful, and I had lunch in Pittsfield, a busy town which hosts the Tanglewood Musical Festival nearby. However, all the little towns in which the Packards have lived are nothing more than wide spots in the road. Everybody is friendly, and almost anyone I  asked knew about the Packard family in astonishing detail. Considering the exotic nature of my purpose, I was quite dependent upon asking directions to the obscure little cemeteries scattered around on the hillsides, and got good information from passerby and general stores.

Having found a few recent Packard graves at a roadside cemetery in West Cummington, I drove a few miles further to a general store which marked the center of Cummington. Incidentally, West Cummington boasts the Berkshire Snow Basin, which is ski tow alongside the main highway. It looks about 1000′ feet through wooded slopes. Anyway, a pleasant lady gave me some rather complex instructions to the Dawes Cemetery, and to ask for a Rev. McEwen. Apparently, almost nothing in New England has proper signs, so that one proceeds carefully searching for local landmarks described by residents.  I found Rev. McEwen cutting the grass, and he allowed as he didn’t know the cemetery well enough to point out Packard markers, but there was an old lady next door to the cemetery, etc. Again, I found this several times, there is usually an elderly woman living next to the cemetery who knows the place, and is a kind of guide and carekeeper. There was one row of Packards. Families are usually planned in rows, with plots running either East or West, or North and South. Often later residents are uniformly buried in a given direction, with the early gravesites running at 90 degrees contrary to the rest of the cemetery. It turned out that William Henry Packard and Rachel Bartlett Tilson, and some of their children, are buried here, a fact which had not been discovered by Tommy Adkins, who had compiled much of the family history. Since this couple’s third child was Cyrus Winfield Packard (our grandfather), much more information was added to the family history.

I then went over a gravel road which was quite hilly, strewn with rocks and ferns. This is Packard Road, the original connection between Cummington and Plainfield, about five miles apart. Plainfield is basically an intersection with a few old houses and a few rundown businesses. Everything else is widely scattered and one-family farms marked by stone walls and trees which are beginning to reclaim the whole place. So-called Maple Street, my own guidepost, is not a street at all, but an unpaved dirt road between rural mailboxes and farms. Without a lot of persistence and the extremely solicitous assistance of neighbors who seemed to know everything about Tom Packard and the West Hill Cemetery, I would have missed the place entirely. So far as I could tell, the local population is either retired gentleman farmers or young couples who work in the cities, with occasional vegetable gardens in the side yards. By Midwestern standards, the soil looks terrible for farming.

I finally found Tom Packard’s farm, which is now owned by a young couple whose Italian name escapes me. They weren’t home, so after snooping around I went next door to an ultra-modern solar-type house which it turns out had been constructed from Tom Packard’s former barn. There an extremely pleasant woman, whose name I never learned,  told me of the subdivision of the farm by Atty. Doris Alden from Springfield, and directed me to the West Hill Cemetery next door. Incidentally, Tom Packard’s house is little more than a tar shingle shack without central heating, and was constructed in 1946 after the old home much further up the hill had burned to the ground. The main product of the farm  appears to be maple syrup.

West Hill Cemetery must have originally been a family-owned cemetery, since it seems to contain virtually nothing but Packard names. It was tended throughout Tom  Packard’s life by him personally, and a $30,000 bequest was used to maintain the cemetery, which appeared to be well-kept. Uncle Tom is buried here, and he was 73 at the time of his death in 1975. Bert’s father, Cyrus Winfield Packard, was buried here with Clementina Cheney, his 3rd wife. Also there is a marker for Joseph Winfield Packard, who was said to be killed while “working on the railroad” in 1910. The grave of Bert’s younger sister, Mabel Hattie Packard Whitley Landstrom, is also here, as shown in the photo.

Reposted from Find A Grave, where I uploaded Bob’s photo.

While I was photographing these stones, a battered van drove up, disgorging a middle-aged woman, a somewhat larger man with a huge beer belly, and rather impassive son. I was never introduced to the men, but she turned out to be Mabel Landstrom‘s daughter, Frances M. Rae, who lives in Shelburne Falls nearby. She was rather surprised to discover who I was (Does that make her my cousin?), and regaled me with tales about Uncle Rob, who seems to be the reigning success figure in the family. She was bitter about not getting part of “Uncle Rob’s” estate, and also bitter about not getting a bigger share of “Tom’s” estate. She was bitter about Douglas Packard getting 20%, claiming he was adopted, and not entitled to such a large share. She also noted that she had been married twice, “but never again”. In the midst of this harangue, which was carried out in front of her beer-bellied boyfriend, who offered me a beer from a case in the van, a 4th figure suddenly emerged from the van, almost knocking me down in the process. He was introduced as her mentally retarded son, almost 30 years of age, and after shaking hands, he retired again to the van.

I excused myself from this scene, and sped on to Boston. The next day I went to Hingham, seeking information about Samuel and Elizabeth Stream Packard, the original settlers. Hingham is a rather exclusive little town, with large houses set back from the street, and it proved impossible to locate anything easily there in the general rush through Hingham to get to the beaches beyond Hingham Bay. I drove to the beaches and Hull, and had a delightful lunch on top of an abandoned artillery form which had a splendid view of the whole bay. Afterward, I took the Interstate down to West Bridgewater, and searched through three graveyards in this busy little community without success, except that I found a clutch of Haywards in a very old pioneer cemetery. However, driving five miles into Bridgewater, which is a really charming  old community, I found the old cemetery in the heart of town which contained most of  the original Packards. The oldest was the gravestone of Judith Willis Packard, married to the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Packard, whose name was John Packard. She was born in 1681, and died in 1761 at the age of 90. Most fascinating was Deliverance Packard, whose second marriage was to Capt. Abiel Packard after her first husband, Capt. Joseph Washburn, died. However, she was buried with her first husband! I noted three marriages between the Washburns and the Packards in those early days, as well as a possible marriage between Abigail Hayward, as the second wife of Jonathan Packard. Abigail died in 1760. The Bridgewater Cemetery is well-tended, and is a fascinating treasure trove of the old families of Massachusetts.

Some of Bob’s other photos in July 1980:

Dividing town line between Cummington and Plainfield

Presumably Maple Street, or another wooded street.

Bob’s caption: 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.

West Cummington, Mass. A ski tow (Berkshire Snow Basin) is located here. The mountains and streams are beautiful, but the soil, rocks, and growing conditions seem very marginal for farming.

West Cummington

Gravestones of Barnabas I and Mary his wife in West Hill Cemetery. As Bob writes, the cemetery was tended by Tom Packard “until his death in 1975, and actually on his property, now sold and subdivided.”

Packard gravestones in West Hill Cemetery

Dawes Cemetery, Cummington. “A row of Packards” as Bob described it. It is not like Bridgewater’s First Cemetery where “most of the early Packards are buried” as Bob wrote in his book

Dawes Cemetery, Cummington. Wm. Henry Packard (father of Cyrus Winfield Packard) died on Aug 21, 1898, at the age of 74 years. His wife, Rachel, nee Tilson, died Jan. 30, 1881, at age 56. This marriage produced 10 children.

My August 2017 family history tour

Plainfield Town Hall, photo  taken in August 2017. Originally posted in my “From Samuel to Cyrus: A fresh look at the History of the Packard Family” post.

This expands on what I wrote in my ““Introduction” to my Packard family history“, while also drawing from “Chapter IX: Barnabas, Mary, and Plainfield.” [1] These are my reflections almost a year after this trip occurred.

In August 2017, like Bob, me, my dad, and my mom went on a family history trip across Massachusetts. I will tell this story in the order in which it occurred. Unlike him, since he was driving from Cincinnati, we started in the eastern part of the state, after staying in Cape Cod for a few days, hitting Hingham first. While there, I talked to the archivist of the Hingham Historical Society Michael Achille, which Bob, according  to his above story, did not get to do at the time. While he was not able to find anything about the Packards in their database, except for some tangential connections, he was very nice, friendly, and was about my age, going to graduate school which was a bit of an inspiration for me to pursue the same path. We also walked around one of the worst parks in the world, World’s End. The scenery was nice, but there were passenger jetliners flying above almost all the time. Despite this, I did take a few pictures which I used to represent Bear’s Cove, where the first settlers of Hingham landed. The town of Hingham was relatively well-off, with many small shops and was bustling, filled with history. It would be different from what was to come.

Mapping places visited in Hingham. 1.3 miles  between the two locations.

From Hingham, we went to Bridgewater. The town itself was a little-run down and not as well-off as Hingham. While there, we didn’t visit the historical society but we went to the First Cemetery and took some photos. Looking around, we counted how many Packard graves there were in this cemetery, which sat behind a Unitarian church. Some gravestones were sinking into the ground more than others. Others were leaned up against a fence. No person who would tend the grave was there. The gravesite sits near the corner of two streets. However, it was, if I remember correctly, protected by a sort of stone wall around it. Oh, I almost forgot. Later on that day we ate in a restaurant and I told the waitress what I was doing in Bridgewater and she said she knew a friend whose last name was Packard! So the Packards are everywhere!

Hingham Historical Society to Bridgewater’s First Cemetery, 18.4 miles away from each other

Moving on from Bridgewater, we went to Western Massachusetts, where Cummington and Plainfield resided. Before going into Plainfield, I went into a local post office in Cummington, where I asked a postal worker to help us find the Dawes Cemetery. I don’t think I asked for the Dawes Cemetery exactly, but maybe for a local landmark, but regardless she gave directions to the cemetery. It is at the top of a hill, where people zoom along in their cars since its some type of thoroughfare. There’s only a few nearby houses. There’s a nearby creamery nearby called Grace Hill Dairy, which sits at, as I looked up later, on 47 Potash Hill Road. This may help those who read this find it in the future. While there, we took some pictures, and my mom drove the car through a path going through the cemetery, something Bob seems to have done as well. We did not meet any overseer of the cemetery or anything, but it seemed somewhat well-tended, much more than the cemetery in Bridgewater! There was a marker across the street where someone was buried, but I’m not exactly recalling who it was exactly.

Cummington locations visited are mapped above. The Kingman Tavern Museum will be talked about later in this story, for obvious reasons as you’ll see later

After visiting that cemetery, we went back down the road and stopped at the Old Creamery Grocery which has a big cow on top if my memory serves me right. They had some local music act playing a guitar. It seemed like a bit of a community meeting area. We ate our packed lunch there at some picnic tables they had set up and then moved on to another cemetery: West Hill Cemetery. Like Dawes, this cemetery has a sign, and even though it has less Packards than Dawes (20  in West Hill, 33 or 34 in Dawes). While there, we put some flowers in front of graves of Packards and looked at the Packards as a whole. There were a few houses around, but its generally wooded there, with not much activity around.

Locations in Plainfield visited. The Plainfield Historical Society does not have a fixed location, but this is about where I met Matthew Stowell

With that, Plainfield was the next stop. I was set for a meeting with the archivist Matthew Stowell of the Plainfield Historical Society. He was not a permanent resident of the area, working and living somewhere else during the year and was a teacher. I won’t go into his political affiliation here, but he was very friendly, as he met us on the street, walking his dog, before my appointment was set to occur. His house was a bit of a mess inside because of renovations. His dog kept trying to lick me, as dogs always go to those who dislike them the most! Anyway, he had some local history books such as Only One Cummington (vol 1 and 2), and Vital Records of Cummington. He also had a genealogy of someone related to the Packards which had been recently given to the Plainfield Historical Society. I looked through that and found many photographs, pictures, and other documents I hadn’t seen previously! After talking to him, we walked around a bit more of Plainfield. The town almost seemed deserted. There seemed to be no visible industry in Plainfield. There are historic houses, sure, but its basically a one street town, at a crossroads, literally. They were debating medical marijuana in the town hall from what I could see.

Courtesy of the Town of Cummington

Mr. Stowell recommended that we visit Cummington to find out more. We went into Cummington and lo and behold, a place called the Kingman Tavern Museum was open, which is run by the Cummington Historical Society. People were dressed in period costumes of the 19th century, I believe. One local girl, whose ancestors were a wealthy family known as Tillsons (Rachel Bartlett Tillson, the wife of William Henry Packard, was part of this family) if I remember correctly, was a tour guide inside the museum, dressed in clothing that  women would have worn at the time, showing visitors around. Everything inside could be photographed. My phone wasn’t working that well at the time, but I still got to take photographs. Most amazing of all was a room in the tavern called the “Packard room.” I was so overjoyed by this as I wasn’t expecting it whatsoever. Later on, an older man who seemed to know Tom Packard showed me to their family files,which were in a building across the street, one of which, of course, they had on the Packards. I took some photographs and notes, but felt a bit shortchanged. We had to go onto another destination and I had to say goodbye. Still, it was worth it.

It was then that the family history tour ended. After staying at a friend’s house for the night, we went into a bit of Western New York, visiting Olana and other sites along the Hudson River. We then took Interstate 90 back home, back into Maryland.

While this family history trip was great, after doing much research since then, I know so much more than I knew then. Sometime in the future I’d like to go back and visit Hingham, Plainfield, and Cummington once again. Until next time!


[1] In the first post I added a family story: “as the story goes, he [Bob] entered a store in Plainfield, and friendly town residents asked him why he was there. He said he was researching family genealogy of the Packard family. One person responded saying “I’m a Packard, he’s a Packard, she’s a Packard, we’re all Packards here.” Another one of his cousins had a similar experience but slightly different in Pittsfield, asking about the Packards at a local library and they had a whole section dedicated to the family.”