52 Ancestors: #24 Mary Bassett Platt Morgan and the Magazine

Mary Bassett Platt Morgan 1810-1890

Mary had been married to Jesse for only three years, and he was out galvanting around the country, riding on trains and steamboats, while she was left behind to take care of his two daughters from his first marriage, plus the baby Harriett (Hattie).

Now he had the gumption to tell her that she could not subscribe to her favorite (and only) magazine?? The nerve of that man! It was bad enough to be stuck in this small town without being cut off from a source of information about the larger world.

Mary Bassett was born in Keene New Hampshire, and when she was sixteen, her family traveled by horse and wagon to Ohio.  I always felt connected to Mary Bassett, because I knew from my mother and grandmother that she was a bookworm like me. It might have been hard for a young woman to leave behind the friends and familiar surroundings of New Hampshire, but I understood that as long as she had something to read, she would be all right.

She brought with her on that wagon a wooden chest –plain, but with beautifully mitered corners.  My Grandmother Vera Stout Anderson-Mary’s grand-daughter–let me look through the chest.  I loved going through the old clothes that my grandmother told me belonged to her mother and other ancestors. Some very old publications , including a home-bound set of Godey’s Lady’s Book lay in that chest. I told my grandmother that the only thing I wanted to inherit from her was that chest and its contents. And it sits in my entryway today.

 

Mary Bassett's chest

Mary Bassett’s chest traveled from New Hamshire to Keene Ohio on a wagon, and 140 years later from Ohio to Arizona on a moving van.

In 1826, the Bassetts joined a group of people from Keene New Hampshire who flocked to the new town of Keene, Ohio in Coshocton County. The people started several churches and the Keene Academy, a private school.

Mary was a teacher, apparently running her own school according to a mention in the History of Coschocton County. Mary grew up loving knowledge and admiring women who could take care of themselves, which would explain why as an adult, she loved Godey’s Lady’s Book.  When she was nineteen, she married a man, Ashiel Platt, who must have pleased her family very much, as he came from a religious family and had a good head for business. They had only one child, who died in infancy.

The couple moved to Holmes County, Ohio, but Ashiel Platt had land in Illinois as well as Ohio, and later in life, Mary discovered she was a substantial land owner. Unfortunately, Mr. Platt died when they had been married less than six years–around 1834.

Mary stayed in Killbuck, Ohio and eventually met her second husband, widower Jesse Morgan, whom she married in September, 1840 when she was thirty years old and he was twenty-five.  He brought  to the marriage two daughters.  My mother said that his two sons stayed with relatives of his. Hattie and Jesse had one daughter together, Harriet (Hattie) Morgan born in August, 1842.  So in short order, Mary went from being alone to being the mother of three girls, and much of the time she was doing all the parenting.

Jesse started out as a school teacher, but took to the road, trading horses, and eventually I promise I will share with you the letters he sent Mary from the road. I wish I had pictures of a lot of my ancestors, but particularly Jesse. He must have been quite the charmer.  Next week, my brother has a story about Jesse that I think you’ll find intriguing. But for now, let’s just say that Jesse was not as successful at business as Mr. Platt.  Jesse’s income never seemed to meet his high hopes.

Mary took care of the children, and read the Bible and Godey’s Lady’s Book. Mary clipped some fashion plates from the magazine, which she probably used as a guide to make her own up-to-date clothing.

Mary Bassett's Godey's

Godey’s February 1843 fashion plate.

 

Explanation of the Plates (January 1843 Lady’s Godey’s Magazine, page 60).

Fig. 1–Dress of Thibet merino with six tucks, the tucks braided. Down the front a large braided fold, confined on the under side.

Fig. 2–Dress of gros de Brazil, with seven narrow flounces–each flounce edged with a bias fold.

Fig. 3–Dress of embroidered white tarietane muslin.

Fig. 4–Open dress of Altapacca poplin, timmed with lage silk cord.

Fig. 5–Dress of Turkish satin, laid in pleats or folds down the front–the folds caught at intervals with satin knots or clasps.  Neck and sleeves trimmed with deep rich lace, set on nearly plain, showing the pattern of the lace distinctly Head dress of broad satin ribbon, and flowers.

This fashion plate comes on the heels of a controversy. Mrs. Hale, the founder (with her husband) and editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, had hired an artist to adapt the fashion plates that came from France so that they reflected a more healthy female figure with less constriction of the waist.  Some people apparently objected that this made the pictures meaningless as examples of French fashion. Her editorial in the January issue includes a letter from Harriet Beecher Stowe in support of the new editorial policy. Beecher Stowe says:

Only persuade our young ladies they can look pretty and be comfortable and healthy besides, and comfort and health may then become a matter of some little attention with them.

But Godey’s definitely was not all about fashion. It was mostly about uplifting literature, poetry, and even musical compositions. Edgar Alan Poe wrote for Godey’s several times. Unfortunately, not in 1843, the issues that I have. Mrs. Hale supported the Temperance movement, healthy living and later even women’s suffrage. Godey’s was a far cry from the women’s magazines of today–“Lose 10 pounds overnight.” “What celebrity is sleeping with her brother-in-law?” “Ten steps to more kissable lips.”

Meanwhile, Jesse’s letters to Mary gave some hints that all was not well with the family financially. And in November, 1845, he wrote a chatty letter from Illinois, near the Mississippi River, to update her on his travels. Apparently he had been away from home for two months and he did not have much encouraging to say. But she must have been stunned to read this:

It is my wish that you do not take the Ladies Book out of the office after Dec. No. comes.

In other words, “Cancel your subscription. We can’t afford the $3.00 per annum rate.”

Mary must have been despondent. But she was a virtuous woman and an obedient wife. So she cancelled the subscription.

How do I know it meant so much to her? Because she kept the 1843 issues of her Godey’s (the year after her child, Harriet was born) packed away with other precious items in the chest that accompanied her from New Hampshire.  She added book-binding to her considerable other skills, and hand sewed the copies together, cover the front with the January 1843 cover and the back with the December 1843 cover.

 

She tucked the whole thing away in the chest that held her most precious treasures, and there it has stayed for 170 years.

Mary lived on to survive Jesse and claim the lands that she inherited from Mr. Platt.  She supported her self and her daughter on the income from her properties until Harriet married Dr. William Stout in 1872. Then she lived alone in Killbuck until her death in August 1890, enjoying her three grandchildren, and probably never tempted to marry again.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher, is the
  • daughter of Harriette Anderson Kaser who is the
  • daughter of Vera Stout Anderson, who is the
  • daughter of Harriett Morgan Stout, who is the
  • daughter of Mary Bassett Platt Morgan.

This has been another post that is part of the #52 Ancestors initiative. To see more participants go to the website that started it all: No Story Too Small.

Notes:

  • History of Coshocton County, Ohio: Its Past and Present, 1740-1881 By Albert Adams Graham (1881) (Available on line at Google Books.)
  • Information from family stories from Vera Stout Anderson and Harriette Anderson Kaser and family Bibles.
  • Photo copies of Jesse Morgan’s letters in the author’s possession.
  • Photographs  and artifacts shown belong to the author.

 

5 thoughts on “52 Ancestors: #24 Mary Bassett Platt Morgan and the Magazine

  1. Bro

    Is there any date or other marks on the chest anywhere? It’s a great piece of family history. I remember being told Mary would make wistful remarks about memories of Bassett Hill in Keene, N.H.
    We have some later Godey’s from the CIvil War era, from the family. Maybe Mary renewed the subsciption. Not sure exactly what the “out of the office” comment by Jesse meant. Wasn’t Mary Postmistress for Oxford/Killbuck? Don’t mean to question your feminist interpretation, of course. We have the official state certificate verifying Jesse’s moral fitness to teach in Ohio schools. Perhaps he taught breifly at Mary’s Academy, but the Call of the West was too much for him to resist. (We latter-day rascals can understand this impulse, of course.) Any idea what happened to the children from his earlier marriage? I think they are never mentioned in the extant letters to Mary. There’s a monument in the Killbuck cemetery for Mary, including the names of Platt and thier daughter who died as an infant. I must make sure it is good repair next time I visit.

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      I have looked in vain for some mark on the chest. So curious about who made it.
      What are the dates on the later Godey’s. After Jesse’s death, I gather, since you said Civil War? It is possible they could have been Hattie’s, too.
      Putting together Jesse’s “Out of the office” with the subscription instructions on the Godey’s, I have to believe it meant subscribing to the magazine from their (Godey’s) Office.
      Would love to have a digital photo of that fitness certificate. Can you send one when you get home?
      I have not been able to find his children, but the entire Morgan family has been difficult because it is such a common name. There are even Jesse Morgans married to Marys (and Marthas–but that’s another story) all over the place. Mother said that Hattie Morgan (Stout) and Jessie’s older daughter looked very much alike and Jessie’s daughter Malvina (who mother called Lavinia) visited Hattie Morgan long after she moved away from Killbuck. I believe Malvina (prob. 1835-1902) married a Grimes, but have not verified that. The other’ daughter’s name was Louisa (probably born 1834). One son was named Charles, but I have not been able to verify another son.

      Reply
  2. Kerry Dexter


    Twitter:
    an interesting story — you’ll not be surprised that in reminds me of some of the songs on Wilderness Plots, the album, and stories in Wilderness Plots, the book — because of her love of reading and her being a teacher, I am thinking especially of the one about an African American woman who cleaned up at the school house and then sat in the back of the classroom during lessons absorbing all she could to take home and teach to her own children. I wonder if Mary knew a woman like that?

    Reply
  3. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

    I had many teachers in my family, Kerry, and I’m sure that story would resonate with them. Being in Ohio in the middle of Amish country, the closest parallel came from my mother’s story. She was a high school teacher. Amish kids were supposed to leave public school when they finished 8th grade or turned 16, whichever came first. So she knew many kids who would purposefully fail until they turned 16, so that they could stay in school.

    Reply

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