Tag Archives: Mary Bassett Platt


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


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:



Oho, Troy & Erie Line.


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.

Seeking Security with Asahel Platt

Asahel Platt circa 1790-1833

Mary Bassett must have felt lost and alone.  When she was 16, her family had made the difficult move from New Hampshire to Ohio. And just three years later, in 1829, her mother, Elizabeth Stone Bassett died in Keene, Ohio.

Mary’s sisters Eliza (Emerson) and Martha (Smith) and Lura (Laura) (Stone) got married soon after, and Mary followed suit.  Only sister Sarah never married.

Two Distinguished Families

Asahel Platt came from a Connecticut family, almost matching the Bassetts in historic importance.  Both Asahel and Mary had grandfathers who fought in the American Revolution. Mary’s ancestor William Bassett was a Pilgrim sailing on the Fortune in 1621. Asahel’s ancestor Richard Platt , an early settler of Milford, had emigrated from Ware in Hertfordshire, England,  a hot-bed of Puritanism about 1638 according to Families of Early Milford, Connecticut by Susan Emma Woodruff Abbott. (Google Books).

Mary conducted a small school for a short time on a farm in Coshocton County, Ohio, and I have not figured out how she met Asahel Platt. Since I am descended from Mary’s second husband, and their daughter Harriett was the informal family historian, family information about Asahel was sparse. Thanks to researching sideways through his siblings, I have pieced together some information.

The Platt Family of Milford

The Platt family came from Milford Connecticut in New Haven County. Asahel and three of his siblings were baptized on October 4, 1790 at the First Congregational Church. In total, he had 5 sisters and three brothers.  His parents were Isaac Platt (son of Isaac Platt) and Amy Eehls Platt.

Although it would be unusual for a man to marry for the first time so late in life, I have not found a record of an earlier marriage before Mary.  When his father, Isaac Platt, wrote his will in 1817, he left property to other sons, but cash to be paid to Asahel (spelled Asel in the will).  That makes me assume that at the age of approximately 27, Asahel had already left Connecticut to seek his fortune further west.

There is a tax list index that includes A. Platt in Washington County, Ohio in 1810 but I have not sought to confirm that is “our” A. Platt and if so, what more information it might give.

At any rate, somehow, Mary Bassett, just 19, met the 39-year-old Asahel Platt in Ohio, and they married and settled in Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio. Asahel must have signified stability in Mary’s so-far unsettling life. Twenty years age difference meant he was almost as old as her father.

Life Comes Undone

But Mary was not yet to have a settled life. According to my mother, Mary and Asahel had an baby who died in infancy. Then in October 1833, just four years after their marriage, Asahel died.  He must have been ailing for some time, because I have a letter to him from one of his brothers that was written in September 1833 asking about his health and complaining that he has not heard from him since the past June. The letter hints at concerns about his spiritual health as well.(You can see the entire letter in a post below this one.)

In a double blow, Mary’s father also died in 1833. Now she was an orphaned, 23-year-old-widow. Fortunately, Asahel owned land and goods and had some cash, so she was not destitute, but the will specifically sets aside enough to sustain the widow for ONE YEAR.

What I Learned From Asahel Platt’s Probate Papers

When I chanced upon the legal papers regarding the settlement of Asahel’s estate I was in for some surprises.

First, our family records spell his name Ashel, no doubt because that is what is on his tombstone in the Killbuck cemetery, but that is not the official spelling. (Not that anyone in the 19th century cared about spelling.)

Second, he had no will. Only forty-three years old, death caught him unprepared.

Third, I was reminded that women had no legal standing when I noticed that a receipt for funds for Mary Morgan (late widow of Asahel Platt) did not sign her own name. Instead, this intelligent woman who was to become a competent businesswoman, had to sit back and watch her new husband, Jesse Morgan sign for her.

Jesse Morgan

Jesse signs receipt from her first husband’s probate for Mary Morgan, 1846

Fourth, looking at the somewhat puzzling inventory of his belongings–ribbons? merino shawls?a white “vail”, five pairs of men’s gloves 8 pocket knives, 10 razor straps and posts and on and on for several pages, I wondered what he was doing with all that stuff.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

Then a light bulb went on in my head–he was a merchant. He must have owned a general store in Killbuck. I can’t help wondering if in those early years before he married he was a traveling peddler. His brother’s letter to him in 1833 hints at a restless spirit.

Asahel’s  will leaves Mary quite well fixed, with three pages of furniture and other items set aside for the widow. The settlement of the estate dragged on from Asahel’s death in November 1933 until September 1946 until the will was settled.  I began to think I was re-reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. (The dark satire on law and the courts follows a case called Jarndyce vs Jarndyce that drags on into infinity.) By the time probate closed, Mary had been married to her second husband for six years, and faced a new set of problems.

Asahel Platt

This pillar in the Killbuck Cemetery matches the stone of Mary Bassett Platt Morgan.

Ashel Platt Killbuck cemetery by Debe Clark

Note the variant spelling of his first name in this closeup of his tombstone. Photo from Find a grave, by Debe Clark.

How I am Related

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

Notes on Research

Letters from Alanson Platt to Asahel Platt (1833) and Mary Platt Morgan (1853). Copies of letters our family has kept. In the 1853 letter regarding some legal issues, Alanson lists all of the Platt siblings and where they were living at that time.  He even included the married names of the women in the family. Thank you Alanson. And thank you Mary Morgan and Hattie Stout and Vera Stout for keeping these letters in the family for future researchers.

Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920, Vol. 071 Town of Milford,  First Congregational  Church, Ancestry.com Several pages refer to Platt family members.

Indiana Genealogy: Articles Appearing in the Indianapolis, Ind. Sunday. Specific listing of William Bassett (Pilgrim) and descendants cites D. A. R. Magazine Vol. 60 No. 6, 1926-12542.

Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Holmes County, Asahel Platt Probate Records 1833-1846.

Find a Grave, Ashel Platt.  Photos of tombstone are by Debe Clark, used with permission from Find a Grave.