THE KEEPSAKE – 200-YEAR-OLD TREASURES

The things people keep!! What makes a keepsake, anyhow?

In preparing to move last December, I went through my family history boxes. I stopped to take a look in the pockets of a worn, brown leather billfold. I am not sure who it belonged to, but I discovered that it held treasures. Perhaps the billfold was the property of Harriet Morgan Stout, or her daughter, my grandmother Vera Stout Anderson. But the keepsake inside definitely has ties to Harriet (Hattie) Stout’s mother, Mary Bassett (1810-1890).

Mary Bassett, Student
Keepsake #1: Mary Bassett School Report

The First Keepsake

Mary Bassett, my great-great grandmother later became Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, but all her life, she treasured this tiny “report card.” If you read what I wrote about Mary’s life, you will see that she was a life-long learner and avid reader, so the fact that a good report survived is not a surprise.

As near as I can decipher, the paper says:

This certifies that Mary Bassett’s ___________attention and good behaviour merits the approbation of her

Instructress.

August 6th 1820

What Does This Scrap of Paper Mean?

The date on this looks to me like August 6, 1820, which makes the one inch by two inch torn and wrinkled paper TWO HUNDRED YEARS OLD. Mary would have been ten years old in 1820, and her family still lived in Keene, New Hampshire. Six years later, the family would move to Keene, Ohio.

I am fascinated by the fact that the edge of blue is printed around this tiny piece of paper, leading me to assume that this was a prepared “form” that the teacher filled out. The beautiful handwriting seems even more impressive when you consider how small this note is–approximately one inch high and two inches wide. At the time of the note, girls would likely have been taught by an woman who held classes in her own home–known in Colonial times as a Dame School. However, public schools and private academies also thrived in New England in the early 19th century.

Why did the Instructress not sign her name? Or give us a place? Could it have been Mary’s mother, Elizabeth Stone Bassett?

Catharine Fiske established a Young Ladies Seminary in Mary’s home town of Keene, New Hampshire in 1814. Could she be our Instructress? No, although her seminary illustrates the interest in women’s education in Keene, hers was a high school. A good history of the the schools of Keene is on line, but unfortunately it does not differentiate male and female schools or grammar from high schools. If you have more information about where Hattie might have attended school, I would welcome it.

An article in the History of Education Quarterly points out that the 1850 census, which designated both men’s and women’s literacy, showed New England citizens at almost 100% literacy. (Abstract on line at JStor.com)That contrasts with earlier evidence that only men were literate. Based on the ages of people surveyed, the author assumes that the shift to female literacy began about 1820.

I welcome your help with that one word that I am missing in my transcription. (Or is it two words?)

A Keepsake From Mary’s First Husband

Keepsake #2: A bill of lading for the business of Mary’s husband, Mr. Platt.

Mary, as I wrote in earlier posts about her life, made unfortunate choices in husbands. She married when she was 21 years old, in 1831. Her first husband, Asahel Platt, ran a dry goods business in Killbuck Ohio, but died just two years after the marriage, leaving Mary to fend for herself. (The second, my family’s most fascinating scoundrel, Jesse Morgan ran away in the Gold Rush and left Mary to raise their and his children.)

One would assume that such a business would have generated quite a bit of paper work, but this little card seems to be the only thing surviving, other than the list of possessions in his probate papers which first tipped me off to the fact that Mr. Platt was a store keeper.

This small card shows that he was in some sort of business in June 1831, several months before he married Mary.

The handwriting is quite clear, and my transcription follows:

We have agreed to transport Mr. A. Platt’s goods from New York to Massilon (sic) Ohio care Mr. Hogan J Harris at one dollar seventy nine cents per 100# all round.

New York, 18 June 1831

R. Putnam

agent H. E. L_____

The opposite side of the card is printed in [very faded] red ink on the brown card:

———————

WESTERN TRANSPORTATION

Oho, Troy & Erie Line.

PROPRIETORS

Gidings, Baldwin & Cox, Cleveland, Ohio

S. Thompson & Company…..,

Townsend & Cod,….. [These last two bracketed with Buffalo N. Y. on the left]

G. P. Griffith & Co.,….. Troy

Apply to

HILL, FISH & ABBE, Foot of Chestnut St., Philadelphia

RUFUS PUTNAM, 22 South Street, New York

—————————–

What Does This Keepsake Mean?

This note is dated months before Mr. Platt’s marriage to Mary, so I have no evidence of where he was conducting business. Later he had a store in Killbuck, Ohio where she spent the rest of her life He was married in Coshocton in 1831, but so far I have no evidence of where he was doing business that year.

Massillon was a stop on the Ohio Canal. The goods probably would have gone by boat across northern New York to Lake Erie, and then down the Erie/Ohio canal system to Massillon.

[Note: 3/9/2021: Thanks to my son Mike Badertscher’s eagle-eyed Internet search, we have some very interesting articles from the Cleveland Herald for 1830 and 1831 regarding the Ohio, Erie and Troy company. If you are as fascinated as I am by the short period of fast expansion in means of transportation, be sure to poke around this site a bit.

Reading this makes me wonder if perhaps Mary’s husband was not a rather adventurous soul, throwing his lot in with this brand new form of moving goods. Perhaps he was a middle man for the goods rather than a retailer?

Another interesting angle on this information. Remember that Mary’s parents moved to Keene Ohio with a group of settlers transferring from Keene New Hampshire. What was the draw to that area in 1827? The building of the Ohio canal!]

Note: The R. Putnam signing the note, must be the Rufus Putnam of New York listed on the printed side of the card. However, he would not have been the same Rufus Putnam as the Revolutionary War General who led veterans to settle Marietta, Ohio, as that Rufus Putnam lived out his years in Ohio and died several years before this transaction.

Of course what interests me most are the motivations of my great-great-grandmother, Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, as she tucked away each keepsake. I can understand saving the little note of praise from a loved teacher. But why keep this business record from her first husband, dated before they were even married? It is questions like these that make me wish I were a novelist instead of an historical researcher.

Notes on Research

Sklar, Kathryn Kish. “The Schooling of Girls and Changing Community Values in Massachusetts Towns, 1750-1820.” History of Education Quarterly 33, no. 4 (1993): 511-42. Accessed February 28, 2021. doi:10.2307/369611.

“Schools”, a chapter by Laurence O. Thompson in A History of Keene, New Hampshire, The Keene History Committee (1968), Keene, New Hampshire.

NOTE: I have a message pending to the Ohio History Connection to see if they can enlighten us on the company or the transportation routes mentioned in this post. If I get more information, I will certainly update.

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apple crumb pie

Caramel Apple Pie with Pecan Crumb Crust

As a new bride, I was reluctant to start making pies because my mother made such great pies. When I worked up the courage, I started with the American classic, Apple Pie. After all, at my Grandma’s house, the rule seemed to be that it was okay to have more than one kind of pie for dessert, as long as one of them was apple. When I baked my apple pie, I relied on my American classic cook book, Joy of Cooking.

For a long time, apple pie was about the only pie I made. I finally braved the wilds of other types of pies, and am still experimenting with new twists on old favorites. This caramel apple pie with pecan crumb topping melds the original Joy of Cooking apple pie recipe, with a technique I saw mentioned in a Facebook pie baking group. Then I borrowed the crumb topping recipe from another vintage cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens, and gave it a different twist.

The first challenge with the seemingly simple apple pie is deciding which of hundreds of kinds of apples to use. Most older cookbooks recommend Granny Smith, however, people are gravitating toward sweeter apples, and I found that Honeycrisp makes a very good pie. Just be sure to adjust your sugar depending on how sweet the apple is. Here’s a chart to help you decide.

I first saw this chart at my local Sprouts Farmer’s Market grocery store. It is a helpful guide. to sweetness in apples.

Here is my cobbled together recipe–for two smaller pies so you have one to eat and one to share. I hope you like it.

apple crumb pie
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Caramel Apple Pie with Pecan Crumb Topping

New twist on America's favorite: Apple Pie. Recipe for two pies–one to share.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword apple, pie, vintage
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 11 hours 25 minutes
Servings 12 slices
Author Vera Marie Badertscher

Equipment

  • 2 Disposable pie pans
  • Food processor

Ingredients

  • 8-10 Apples Peeled, cored and sliced. See Notes
  • Pie Dough for two shells
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 3 tbsp Corn starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp Penzey's Apple Pie Spice See Notes

Crumb Topping

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 2/3 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans

Instructions

  • Mix brown sugar, salt, corn starch and spices. Pour over Apples and place them in refrigerator over night.
  • The next day, heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • When ready to bake, strain off liquid and boil until reduced to thin syrup. Let cool slightly before adding back and mixing with apples.
  • Line two 8" pie pans with dough, and heap half of the apples in each.
  • To make Topping, mix sugar, flour and butter, and pulse a few times in food processors, just until there are no large clumps. Add pecans and three to four times more to incorporate pecans.
  • Scatter topping on apples in pans. Apples should barely show.
  • Put pie pans on cookie sheet and insert in 400 degree oven. Bake 45-50 minutes, until topping begins to brown. Check after 30 minutes and cover edge if it is browning too fast.
  • Serve pie with ice cream or whipped cream.

Notes

If you have very sweet apples, you can cut back on the sugar used.  If your apples are not juicy, you may want to add some water or bottled apple juice when you are boiling  down the juice.
Of course, I recommend my Perfect Pie Crust, however, feel free to use whatever pie shell you prefer. The topping is the star in this pie.
I specified Penzey’s Apple Pie Spice in the recipe, but if you don’t have any, you can substitute 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon; 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp cardamon (if you have it on hand). The Penzey’s mix is  very nice and I have found that I use it in a lot of ways besides apple pie–other fruit pies, cinnamon/sugar toast, baked puddings, etc.
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Benjamin Merrill and the Battle You Never Heard Of.

Benjamin Merrill

1731-1771

When I first heard the Battle of Alamance, I thought of France and WWI.  Alamance Creek actually runs through North Carolina. In the book, Captain Merrill and the Merrill Family of North Carolina , I learned about an important  Revolutionary War battle that preceded the battle of Concord and Lexington (April, 1775) by four years. Boston, site of the Boston Massacre in 1771, is thought to be the fuse that lit the fire under colonists to finally break from the British. But the same sort of harassment occurred in North Carolina around the same time, and concluded with an actual battle that later dropped from history books.

Why have we forgotten the Battle of Alamance the site of the first American blood spilled in the War of Independence? In the aftermath of the American Revolution, people numbered that battle among the important events in winning freedom. After the Civil War, Northerners tended to erase the South from history books, and their participation in the Civil War ( with a few exceptions like the Battle of New Orleans) disappeared. Not only did the winners write the history of the Civil War—they went farther back and rewrote the history of the Revolution as well. Today, the story is told differently, and I will meld the two versions as I tell the story.

BENJAMIN MERRIL, FARMER, SOLDIER

Benjamin Merrill was born in New Jersey. We share common 8 times great-grandparents—Richard and Penelope Stout. His mother, Penelope Stout (Jr.),  married into the French Huguenot Merrill family. According to a book called A Merrill Memorial, Penelope’s son Benjamin moved to North Carolina to an area called “Jersey Settlement” because a group of people from New Jersey, including his brother William, moved there. The move would have occurred about 1750, because his second son Andrew’s birth is recorded in North Carolina.

Benjamin was a farmer and a gun maker. He became the deacon of the Jersey Settlement Baptist Church, and a Captain in the militia.

Living in western North Carolina meant he was a frontiersman and fought battles with indigenous people still populating the area. The Jersey Settlement had more in common with neighboring Tennessee than with Eastern North Carolina with its elite plantation owners and businessmen. The local government operated on wild west principles—Sheriffs and Judges representing the English Crown, running rough-shod over the rights of the farmers.

According to a DAR application, Benjamin had a son named John born in 1750 in New Jersey. According to some sources, he married in 1753, which would have been after he moved to North Carolina, but I have not researched further to try to locate documentation. (John later lived in Georgia and in Monroe County, Mississippi.) According to most other sources, Benjamin had a total of 7 sons, including: John, Andrew (b. 1757 in North Carolina and continued to live there), Charles (b. 1761, later lived in S. Carolina), Elijah/Eli (b. circa 1763), William, (b. circa 1763), Jonathan (b. 1765), Samuel/Azariah (b. ?) and two daughters: Penelope (b. 1759), Nancy/Anna (b. 1760) .Some accounts list Samuel as the oldest son. In fact the information about his children is sketchy, and I have not rigorously  researched them. A tax record in 1757 also lists a Negro girl, Phyllis.

Apparently, Benjamin Merrill, tended toward independent thought early on. In 1756, he defied an order for “going out against a man who committed misdemeanors.” However, in 1759, he was among militia sent out on an alarm to aid a man attacked by Indians.

THE REGULATORS

Farmers in North Carolina, frustrated by corruption and excessive taxes and fees, formed an organization called The Regulators. This was in April 1767. They objected to local enforcement of English law rather than to the King’s rule. The same ambivalence shows up in documents about colonists in the north during this period. They wanted to be good British citizens. But they wanted fair treatment. They shied away from the idea of breaking with England.

An example of the abuse they suffered: By law a marriage license cost $1, but local officials charged $15. (Note, accounts I read said dollars, but I assume it was actually English pounds.) At first the Regulators tried by peaceful petition and argument to get more equitable treatment.

‘FIRE AND BE DAMNED“

However, making no headway, the Regulators turned to refusal to pay taxes, disruption of court proceedings, threats against officials, and vandalism. The ranking King’s officer, Governor Tryon, finally called together the militia to march against the Regulators after giving warning to the dissidents. Their reply–”Fire and be damned.”

JMay 14, 1771, Tryon’s 1000 militiamen were heading toward the Alamance Creek, about five miles away, where a ragtag, ill-armed and poorly-organized group of about 2000 dissidents assembled. A man representing the Regulators approached Tryon to talk, but as he turned away, the Governor shot him in the back.

Apparently some of the militia were sympathetic with the Regulators, because when the Governor ordered them to fire, some hesitated. He commanded the troops, “Fire on them, or fire on me.”

Tryon’s militia easily won the May 16 Battle of Alamance (also called the Battle of the Regulators). The King’s militia lost nine soldiers and had 61 wounded. The losses on the Regulator’s side is unknown.

The victorious Governor issued a proclamation that those who would swear allegiance and pay their taxes would be forgiven, except Captain Merrill and five others. The Governor declared them outlaws who would be hanged, drawn and quartered. Tryon took 15 prisoners, including Benjamin Merrill, who was not actually present on May 16. All but 6 escaped execution.

CAPTAIN MERRILL’S ROLE IN THE BATTLE

About May 12, Captain Merrill was heading toward Alamance with his company of 300-400 men, when he encountered General H. Waddell, who commanded a component of the King’s forces. Merrill took the General’s men prisoner and General Waddell fled to Salisbury.

Merrill and his men proceeded toward Alamance, but when they were within a day’s march, they heard the battle and a scout informed them of the Governor’s victory. Merrill released his troops and returned to his home in Ronan County. The Governor’s men arrested Merrill in short order, and took him to Tryon’s camp on June 6, 1771. The captors put Merrill in chains and dragged him through the countryside to Hillsborough where on June 19, 1771, a judge proclaimed the official sentence.

(Warning: The following contains explicit language that can be quite unsettling.)

The Judge’s sentence concluded:

“I must now close my afflicting Duty, by pronouncing upon you the awful sentence of the law; which is that you, Benjamin Merrill, be carried to the place whence you came, you be drawn from thence to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive, that your bowels be taken out and burnt before your face, that your head be cut off, your Body divided in Four Quarters and this be it his Majesty’s Disposal and the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

When allowed final remarks on the gallows, Merrill asked for mercy for his widow and ten children and that they be allowed to keep some of his property. The Governor later signed an order fulfilling that wish. Then Merrill, professing some doubts about having rebelled against the King, and professing his own faith in God, went to his death singing a Psalm.

THOUGHTS ON ALAMANCE

It is interesting to note that Merrill’s final statement refers to ten children, but the Governor’s order refers to eight children, and a later document refers to nine children.

As for the Regulators, one account I read speculated that had Merrill reached Alamance in time, the result could have been much different. That writer believed that Merrill was a better military leader than any of the men involved at Alamance. He certainly seemed to have no trouble subduing the branch of the King’s militia led by Waddell.

Although the Battle of Alamance did not prove to be the beginning of the Revolution, coming five years before the Revolution started in earnest in Massachusetts, it certainly illustrates the long simmering resentment of English government in the colonies. The Regulators were using the same arguments later used in Philadelphia by the crafters of the Declaration of Independence. And their struggle had tangible results in North Carolina. Of the 47 sections of the state constitution that was adopted in 1776, ¼ of them—thirteen sections— were reforms sought by the Regulators.

While I have written extensively about my New England ancestors in the American Revolution, this July 4th, I want to turn my attention to the North Carolinians who were the first to fight the British in actual battle, and to my relative, Benjamin Merrill, who became a martyr for the cause five years before the Declaration of Independence.

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