March is National Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, I would like to highlight two of my great-grandmother’s from my family tree who lived during the 18th century. These women really stand out of the crowd for me, each a with a story of her own, each showing the kind of character I hope I am able to emulate in some way in my own life. The setting for the lives of these two ladies is rural Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. They each raised large families and lived on a farm – tended animals such as cows and chickens, worked large fields of farm land and all the other types of homesteading duties required to live off of the land.
Abigail Ober Larcom (1744-1815)
Abigail Ober married Jonathan Larcom in 1763 in Beverly, Massachusetts. She is my 5th great-grandmother. Abigail and Jonathan had eight children. They were married only fifteen years before Jonathan was lost at sea during the Revolutionary War. If there was ever a story of strength and courage, it is this one. To have been left a widow to raise such a large family on her own, must have been very hard. Two of her children were only little babies at the time. Because of his untimely death, Abigail and the children had to toil early on the farm for a livelihood. She died at the age of 71 which was quite a few years before the birth of her grand-daughter, Lucy Larcom, the poetess and author. Lucy wrote about Abigail in her book, A New England Girlhood:
She was an earnest Christian woman, of keen intelligence and unusual spiritual perception. She was supposed by her neighbors to have the gift of “second sight”; and some remarkable stories are told of her knowledge of distant events while they were occurring, or just before they took place. Her dignity of presence and character must have been noticeable.
A relative of mine, who as a very little child, was taken by her mother to visit my grandmother, told me that she had always remembered the aged woman’s solemnity of voice and bearing, and her mother’s deferential attitude towards her; and she was so profoundly impressed by it all at the time, that when they had left the house, and were on their homeward path through the woods, she looked up into her mother’s face and asked in a whisper, “Mother, was that God?”
I am ever so thankful for my cousin Lucy Larcom’s memoirs and enlightening entries such as this one. These two short paragraphs about my 5th great-grandmother means so much to me. I am sure that she “knew” that the tragic death of her husband lost at sea was in fact truth; however, I can still envision her hoping to see him come home on every ship arrival. To know that she endured thirty-six years without him, raising her family during a difficult era and never remarrying, shows some tremendous dignity. The fact that she relied heavily on her religion and family and friends for support, and that they in-turn gave her the strength she needed to live a purposeful life is inspiring, to say the least.
Elisabeth “Betsey” Haskell Larcom (1778-1864)
Betsey Larcom is Abigail Ober’s daughter-in-law and my 4th great-grandmother. She married David Larcom in 1802. Betsey and David also had eight children. From what I have read they were very much in love, and perfectly suited for one another. Betsey was Lucy Larcom’s aunt, one of her favorites, I believe.
“Farther down the road, where the cousins were all grown up men and women, Aunt Betsey’s cordial, old-fashioned hospitality sometimes detained us a day or two. We watched the milking, and fed the chickens, and fared gloriously. Aunt Betsey could not have done more to entertain us, had we been the President’s children.
I have always cherished the memory of a certain pair of large-browed spectacles that she wore, and of the green calash, held by a ribbon bridle, that sheltered her head, when she walked up form the shore to see us as she often did. They announced to us the approach of inexhaustible kindliness and good cheer. We took in a home-feeling with the words, ‘Aunt Betsey’ then and always.
Betsey Larcom lived a good, long life, full of happiness. Her husband, David, died after almost thirty-eight years of marriage. After his death, Betsey’s son David and his new wife Molly moved in to her large home. Betsey moved upstairs, and David and his wife, with her children Abby and Mary, lived downstairs (four more children were born here later, including my 2nd great-grandfather, Henry Joseph Larcom). Mary wrote a book years later describing her youth in Beverly Farms, and in it some information about Betsey. She wrote about her beautiful garden and all the different plants and herbs that she grew. Betsey used to hang her herbs to the rafters in the old attic to dry, so she could make her own “simples”. Mary said that Betsey was her “tutelar divinity” and she came to love her dearly. There is nothing more commendable than living an ernest life and being lovingly remembered for it.