01 December 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - One Litchfield Couple

Mt. Hope Cemetery, in the West End of Scituate, Massachusetts, is my favorite cemetery, and someday I hope to have my ashes buried there, beneath the soft pines. I have lots of ancestors and other relatives buried there, from parents and brother to GGGG grandparents, two of whom I discuss here. I just love how by researching a little bit a few scant letters carved into a piece of stone two hundred years ago can open up a window into your own past. My GGGG grandparents, James and Elizabeth (Litchfield) Litchfield are buried in the oldest part of the cemetery, towards the back.




In memory of
Mr. James Litchfield,
who died
Oct. 10, 1786:
aged 48 years.







In memory of
Mrs. Elizabeth.
wife of
Mr. James Litchfield:
who died
Dec. 29, 1835:
aged 91 years.


About the Stones
Despite the 49 years difference in their ages at death, these stones appear to have been carved by the same carver. They are the same size and have the exact same willow and urn decoration at the top of the stone, s well as exact side borders. And this stone carver was punctuation-happy! Not only is he rather free with commas, but he loved him a good colon! He uses capitals and italics in exactly the same way, so we are sure it's the same fellow.

About the Urn and Willow
This is motif that was most commonly depicted in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when classicism was at it's height, and death was thought of in a more secular way, as opposed to the old deaths heads and cherubs used earlier. The willow and urn was popular for quite a long period, so precise dating by gravestone symbols is not possible. It is unlikely that James' gravestone was erected at the time of his death, though, because that was quite early for the urn and willow, even in Boston, and Scituate is a good 30 miles away. It took some time for the designs to spread out into surrounding communities. It is more likely that at Elizabeth's death, someone had both stones carved and erected.

About the Litchfields
There were billions of them, mostly congregated in the area near this cemetery. I haven't even begun to delve deeply into mine, but they are the ones who cause the most pedigree collapse in my tree. Elizabeth, wife of James Litchfield, was also a Litchfield: they were second cousins. Then, their daughter Hannah Litchfield, married Capt. Daniel Litchfield in 1806 and here we have the explanation of any odd traits in our family tree! We have the Litchfield hump, the Litchfield twitch, the Litchfield flinch... just kidding! The Litchfield wandering eye, the Litchfield stutter...

My aunt, Abbie Herberta (Barnes) Thompson, recently loaned me a most precious book. She had it bound herself, in 1981, from five incredibly detailed, accurate and useful pamphlets on the Litchfields written by Wilford Jacob Litchfield from 1901-1906. I promised my poor Auntie that I would index this tome and got started on it before going for certification, then I put it aside, but I must take it up again, because it's an incredible volume. Anyway, in it can be found transcriptions of all sorts of supporting documentation such as wills, deeds, warnings out, vital records, correspondence, diaries and more! It's a treasure trove. I just want to give a few tidbits here about my gggg grandparents.







About Joseph

He was born in Scituate 10 February 1738. He was sometimes called Joseph Brine or Joseph Jr. to distinguish him from his cousin Joseph, born 1734. The brine part I'm not sure about, but suspect either he spent time at sea or drank too much! . Not a lot is known about his first wife, Anna Gordon who he married in 1760. They probably had two daughters, Susanna and Anna, but the author had only just learned of them, and I'd like to study that a bit.

James served in the Revolution and on town government (Highway Surveyor 1771, Hog Reeve 1773 and 1776) and in the Litchfield pamplets [p. 376] is described by a descendant as being: "a man of temperate and industrious habits, of mild and retiring disposition, but much beloved. He was a farmer and a carpenter... It appears that he did not take an active part in local affairs, the care of a large family occupying his attention and strength until his untimely death." Regarding his death, the pamplet also states on p. 377, "It was upon this property that James was building a new house when overtaken by his fatal sickness." Oh, sickness? Really? Because later we find this tidbit of a footnote: "It is a common saying that his early death was caused by an illness resulting from an injury to his head made by his brother, Lothrop Litchfield, while the latter was in an intoxicated condition. James was engaged in building his new house at the time of the alleged assault." I love this author because he clearly tells us it is just gossip, but hmmmmmmm. Maybe it should have been Lothrop Brine!

Finally, we find that "At his grave there was placed in 1897, through the efforts of a great-grandaughter, Mrs. Mandana (Clapp) Morris of North Scituate, a bronze marker of the Sons of the American Revolution. All descendants of James Litchfield are entitled to join a society like the S.A.R." Mandana happened to live next door to my GG grandparents, Israel Merritt Barnes and his wife (Olive Litchfield) Barnes, who named one of their daughters Mandana after their neighbor and Olive's cousin.

About Elizabeth
Elizabeth was James' second wife. Elizabeth was baptized at Scituate on 4 November 1744, and she and James were married on 7 January 1770. On page 380 we read: "She is described by her grand-daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Litchfield (Merritt) Merritt (born 1812, died in 1905), as a woman of sedateness and hospitality, and very highly patriotic. When the tea was thrown overboard in Boston harbor, it is said that Mrs. Litchfield threw her tea-pot against a stone-wall, breaking it, thus manifesting her displeasure at the levying of the hated tea-tax. After the death of her husband, leaving a large family and unfinished home on her hands, she had a part of the structure made habitable and there she brought up her family in an industrious and frugal manner. Lawrence, her eldest son, lived in the same house, and cared for his mother in her declining days. It is said that she was a remarkable woman for her time."

Of course this warrants much more research, but I think I'd need a lifetime to corroborate everything in the Litchfield pamplets. You can find it digitized now, at http://ia311318.us.archive.org/3/items/litchfieldfamily11sout/litchfieldfamily11sout.pdf

As a matter of amusement, look at this, available only in India! And you get a 61 Rupee discount:


The Litchfield Family In America

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1 comment:

Fitzidi said...

Love the concept of "pedigree collapse" -- I am going to incorporate this into more geneology conversations in passing. Great post!