Tag Archives: Keene

Why Did William Bassett Leave Keene?

William Bassett 1779-1833

Keene New Hampshire

Current day picture of Keene NH United Church of Christ

In 1826,  William Bassett and his wife Elizabeth Stone Bassett and their five daughters packed up a wagon in Keene, New Hampshire, and headed out for the new settlement of Keene, Ohio. It had been two centuries since the first William Bassett arrived in North America. Both pioneering families–the Bassetts and the Stones had spread throughout Massachusetts and into neighboring states by the 1800s.

Stagecoach moving west

A Stagecoach going West. Photo by the author.

My 3rd-great-grandfather, William Bassett, who was in a sense a pioneer when he settled in Ohio, actually came along SIX generations after the real pioneer William Bassett,–a member of the Plymouth Colony who arrived in 1621. (Why he wasn’t stepping ashore at Plymouth Rock in 1620 is another story for another day.) Ironically, I have far more information about the men on either side of this William than I do on William himself.

What persuaded William to move his family to Ohio? Was it a worthwhile move?

Click here to see the journey. (At least the start and end, since I’m not sure what roads and boats were available to them.)

Keene New Hampshire

Keene New Hampshire

New Hampshire land disputes. Photo from Wiki Commons

Keene NH lies in the southwest of New Hampshire, in an area that was once disputed territory, with first Massachusetts and then both Vemont and New York claiming it.

Samuel Bassett, who had been born in Norton Massachusetts, lived in Keene ,New Hampshire when he enlisted in the colonial army in 1775. He married William’s mother, Martha Belding in Swanzey, a smaller town just slightly south of Keene, and William was born in Keene in 1779.

During the period between 1750 and 1790, WIlliam’s family in Keene had been subject to constant fighting about overlapping claims of three states. At first Vermont was considered part of the colony of New Hampshire. The New York claims to territory west of the Connecticut River spurred the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen, to protect those settlers in what were known as New Hampshire grants.

Once New York was discouraged from poaching land in the New Hampshire grants, Vermont and New Hampshire fought over territory, and the people of Keene wished to stay with New Hampshire.

New Hampshire  officially became a state in 1788, with the line between Vermont and New Hampshire designated as the path of the Connecticut River.  Congress admitted Vermont in 1791 with the proviso that they should give up claims to New Hampshire East of the Connecticut River.

Keene New Hampshire in 1800s

The War of 1812 was demoralizing to the people due to disagreements about support of the war. Morality campaigns began to encourage those who had begun to ignore church. The town fathers felt it necessary to appoint tythingmen to insure that people paid to support the churches and remembered to attend churche on Sunday. William’s father Samuel, was appointed one of the first tythingmen in 1814.

Keene, New Hampshire in 1826 was a thriving community, growing fast, with many schools, churches, a new hotel, businesses of all sorts. It had recovered from the Revolutionary War and even held theatrical performances.  The most promising new mode of transportation was by steamboat on river and canal systems, and a company formed to finance locks along the Connecticut River.  One of the committee was a Belding (related to William’s mother.)

But despite all these signs of a healthy community, religion continued to divide people, which may have triggered the exodus of so many citizens for Ohio.

A group split off from the town-supported Congregational Church, forming a Unitarian Church. The town continued to tax everyone to support the church, despite protests from those who no longer attended. (Separation of church and state, anyone?)

Ohio in the 1820s

By the time that William and Elizabeth and their girls traveled to Ohio, it was no longer a territory–it was a state. (I am saying five girls, because although some people say there is a sixth, the evidence is scanty.  Based on the 1810 census, there might have also been a boy who died in childhood.)

The enterprising New Hampshirite who founded Keene, Ohio ( in Coshocton County) in 1824, was betting on the future of the new western state. The Erie Canal was being constructed through Coshocton County between the middle of the 1820s and 1830–and there were great expectations of the wealth this new transportation corridor would bring. When the community was founded, Holmes County had not been split form Coshocton, and boosters of Keene thought it would make a dandy site for a county seat. However, when Holmes County was split off, that no longer was an option.

Although it was adventurous to leave one’s native New England, it was comfortable to be traveling with numerous families who came from the same town. There are several Bassett families that show up in the history of Coshocton County, including an indication that William’s brother Nathan may have moved at the same time as William. Some others may have been relatives.

Within a very short time of their arrival, William’s daughter Mary Bassett had established her own school. It was short lived, since she was 16 when she arrived in Ohio and married at 19, when she moved to Holmes County. In short order the new immigrants to Ohio built churches and the Keene Academy. Among the churches was the Keene Presbyterian Church where several members of the family are buried.

The Family in Ohio

Within three years of their arrival in Keene, Ohio, William’s wife Elizabeth died and the three oldest daughters–Eliza (Emerson), Martha (Smith) and Mary (Platt,2nd- Morgan) were married. Eliza wound up living with a son in Kansas; Martha moved to Iowa and the next daughter, Sarah, never married. Sarah lived with her sister Lura, who had married a Stone (perhaps a relative of her mother) in Killbuck Ohio, and moved to West Virginia before moving back to Guernsey County. Mary, as we have seen, moved to Killbuck in Holmes County.

William himself died in 1833, just seven years after the big move from New Hampshire. Hardly long enough to establish himself in his new state, although his move was one more step in the westward movement of the family.

William and Elizabeth lie side by side in the Keene Old Presbyterian cemetery.

William Bassetts' Wife

Elizabeth Stone Bassett gravestone in Keene, Ohio, Photo by Todd James Dean

William Bassett

Gravestone of William Bassett in Keene, Ohio. Photo by Todd James Dean at Find a Grave.com

 

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher, the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, the daughter of
  • Hattie Stout Morgan, the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, the daughter of
  • William Bassett.

This has been a weekly post in the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Project started by Amy Johnson Crow at “No Story too Small.” Check out her weekly recap showing the list of participants for some ripping good stories.

Research Notes

  • History of Coshocton County: Its Past and Present 1740-1841 Compiled by N. N. Hill, Jr. (Available on line from Google Books.)
  • Birth, marriage and death dates come from original records found at Ancestry.com
  • Gravestones and burial information from FindaGrave.com
  • Information from family stories from Vera Stout Anderson and Harriette Anderson Kaser and family Bibles.
  • History of Keene, New Hampshire, 1874-1904 by Frank H. Whitcomb (1904)

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.