Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Woman Who Lived in My House

I knew that a woman named “Mrs. Rose” lived in my house in the middle of the nineteenth century, but nothing more about her: when I saw the name on the 1851 map that I featured on my last post my curiosity was piqued. So I took advantage of a free snow day yesterday and searched for some biographical details, which were not too difficult to find. I have a general disdain for genealogical work, but Mrs. Rose was so well-connected that at least an outline of her life came together pretty easily.

She was Harriet Paine Rose, born in 1779 to parents from two prominent Massachusetts families: the Paines of Worcester and the Ornes of Salem. Imagine being of her generation: she was born in the midst of the Revolutionary War and died on the eve of the Civil War, in 1860, right here in Salem (though not right here in my house, but that of her daughter’s, down Chestnut Street at #14).  Her father, William Paine, had come to Salem from Worcester to study medicine with the renown physician Dr. Edward Holyoke and presumably met Lois Orne, the youngest daughter of wealthy Salem merchant Timothy Orne, at some social occasion. There are two charming portraits of Harriet’s mother and aunt by Joseph Badger in the Worcester Museum of Art, and I can’t resist showing them here.

House Harriet's Mother

House Rebecca Orne Worcester Art

Lois Orne (Harriet’s mother), at 21 months and Rebecca Orne (Harriet’s aunt) at age nine by Joseph Badger, 1757, Collection of the Worcester Museum of Art.

Lois and William were married in Salem in 1773, with Miss Orne’s dowry receiving considerable attention: an extravagant silver tea service made by Paul Revere, his largest private commission. This was a service that “attested alike to the solidarity of her fortune and lustre of her descent”. Quite ironic, as a year after their wedding the Paines decamped to Britain, as William was a Loyalist!  There he completed his medical education and was successively appointed an apothecary and surgeon to the British army. The family was stationed first at Newport, Rhode Island (where Harriet was born in 1779) and later at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they remained, as exiles, after the Revolutionary War.

Paine Silver

Paul Revere’s “Paine Service”, Collection of the Worcester Museum of Art.

Family drew them back, apparently, first to Salem in 1787 and then to Worcester, where they took up residence at “The Oaks”, the Paine family estate, now (again, rather ironically) owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution. I don’t know how the Paines were received at that time, but Dr. Paine eventually became a naturalized citizen in 1812. So Harriet spent her adolescence and teenage years in Worcester, but that’s about all I know: I’m not sure if or where she went to school, or when or how she met her eventual husband, Joseph Warner Rose, whom she married in 1802.

cousins-timothy-orne-house-266-essex

Timothy_Paine_house-Worcester

The Ancestral Homes of Harriet’s Grandparents:  The Timothy Orne House in Salem, Frank Cousins photograph, c. 1890 (the house is still standing on Essex Street, though much changed), and the Timothy Paine House in Worcester (“The Oaks”).

I really do wonder how Harriet met her husband because he was quite exotic:  Joseph Warner Rose was an Englishman who, at that point, had never been to England:  he was the son and heir of the owner of a large sugar plantation owner in Antigua, where he had been born. The Rose plantation, called “The Valley”, was located six miles outside of St. Johns, in an area which is still called “The Roses Estates”. By 1803 the newlyweds were on the island, and Harriet was in an altogether different world than her native New England:  a world of sun and heat and bright colors and slavery. I have no idea how she felt about this; I don’t think I could find out, unless there is some diary somewhere. What I do know about her life on Antigua over the next 15 years or so is revealed by parish records of births and deaths: Harriet bore nine children, seven of which died in infancy. Perhaps because of these successive tragedies and their impact on his wife, Mr. Rose brought Harriet back to Massachusetts with their two surviving daughters and remained there himself for a while. There are references to health problems (blindness?) on his part, which drove him to London for treatment, and then back to the island, to settle his affairs. While there, he died unexpectedly, and Harriet was left a widow in her early forties. She never returned to Antigua, and I have no idea what happened to the Rose Plantation or its inhabitants other than the fact that slavery was abolished throughout the British Caribbean in 1834.

Antigua 1623

William Clark, “Digging or Rather Hoeing the Cane Holes in Antigua”, from Ten Views in the Island of Antigua, aquatint (London, 1823).

The very same year that her husband died, Harriet’s eldest daughter, also named Harriet, married John Clarke Lee of Salem, an aspiring businessman from the same interconnected social circle in which all of her cousins seemed to dwell. This union would produce ten surviving children and the Lees would build the grand Greek Revival at 14 Chestnut Street which would later become the home of the renown Salem artist Frank Benson. The senior Harriet, my Mrs. Rose, remained in Worcester until the death of her father in the 1830s (Lois had died a decade before) and then moved to the city of her maternal ancestors, and my house. The 1850 census lists her in residence, aged 70, with one Jane McCracken, 29, from Ireland, whom I assume was a servant: 10 years later she died at the Lee house just down the street.

In the last few years of the nineteenth century, several of Harriet’s direct and more distant descendants wrote genealogical histories which reference her, and even attempt brief characterizations. Her niece’s account, A Sketch of the Children of Dr. William Paine, 1774-1869, emphasizes her virtue (in her pew at St. Peter’s she prayed every Sunday for the President and all others in authority) as well as her great beauty, an attribute that is also noted in the slightly-more detached Pickering Genealogy by Harrison Ellery. Ellery also notes that Mrs. Rose was “the last person in Salem to wear a turban” and includes a heliotype image of a portrait miniature (below) in the possession of her grandson which is, he assures us, a very unsatisfactory likeness, and is said to give one no idea of her beauty.

Harriet Paine Rose


Salem 1851

In the process of deciding which rare books we want to put up for “adoption” (conservation) at the Salem Athenaeum, our collections committee was looking at an 1851 map of Salem the other day. It was folded up in a special binder, and had probably not seen the light of day for quite some time. Unfolded and spread out on a table, it was striking: the reddish pink outlines encircling a vibrant city of little square buildings (with homeowners’ names) and several bodies of water that no longer exist. Salem was even more coastal than it is now! Surrounding this terrain are beautiful lithographs of the city’s most notable buildings, including the long-lost railroad depot. Away from the city center, in the north, south and west, there was open land now occupied by buildings, but downtown was just as “developed” as it is now, maybe more so (lots of wharves). The outline of my own house (on the second image below) looks like the original 1827 structure, without the sequential additions that would be added on later in the century. And I finally know where the Salem powderhouse stood! I couldn’t find much on Henry McIntyre, the civil engineer surveyed the city for this map–does anyone know more? There’s another copy of this map here, but it’s not nearly as nice as this one.

Railway map 002

Railway map 001

Railway map 006

Railway map 010

Railway map 003

Railway map 009

Railway map 013

Railway map 015


From Car Barn to Condos

There is a lot of new construction going on in Salem at the moment, but fortunately there are some adaptive reuse projects in the works as well. I don’t have high hopes for the former, but it’s always interesting to see industrial or institutional buildings transformed into something altogether different:  generally, but not exclusively housing. My husband is working on an interesting project right now: the transformation of the “car barn” of the former Lynn & Boston Electric Railway Company into six residential units–two townhouses and four flats–with some parking inside the building, which seems appropriate, if not convenient. I’ve admired this building for a while: like many buildings of its era (1887) it reminds me that “aesthetic” and “utilitarian” need not necessarily be contradictory terms.

Car Barn 8

Car Barn 9

Car Barn 11

Webster Street MAcris

I know it doesn’t look like much with that big dumpster parked out in front, and it was difficult to take pictures of its sides as it fills its lot entirely, but the window frames are lovely, and plentiful–which is evident in the interior shots below. Obviously one of the big bay doors was filled in at some point; I couldn’t find a picture earlier than what appears to be the 1970s (from MACRIS).

Car Barn

Car Barn 2

Car Barn 5

Car Barn 3

The Lynn & Boston Electric Railway Company serviced a network of “broomstick trains” running all over the North Shore, housed in “barns” like this one when they were not in service. After the Lynn & Boston was absorbed into the Boston & Northern Street Railway Company its network became even larger, encompassing both the local and the regional. The railway maps from a century ago reveal just how linked communities were in the past, before the other cars came in.

Car Barn Map BPL

Boston & Northern  1911 Trolley map

Broomstick Train

Boston Public Library.


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