Tag Archives: silver

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.



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

Wassail and Shrub

I’m making two traditional drinks for the holidays this year:  wassail for a gathering and shrub for gifts. Both drinks go way back, how far no one really knows. Wassail was both a drink and an activity, first referenced in the cider-producing parts of England where harvest revelers would dance about sprinkling the trees with a particularly potent vintage so that the next year’s harvest would be abundant: Robert Herrick wrote Wassaile the trees that they may beare / You many a plum and many a peare/For more or lesse fruits they will bring / As you do give them Wassailing in the seventeenth century. At some point, Wassail and Wassailing also came to refer to a more general custom of a drink/drinking to one’s health (the Middle English waes hael roughly translates to “be hale” or “be well”), and more specifically to Christmas cheer and well-wishing:  wassailing seems to merge with caroling to create a custom of extending celebratory hospitality to one’s friends and neighbors during the holiday season. The great revival (or creation?) of Christmas traditions in the Victorian era brought forth not only trees but also wassailing; the “traditional” Here We Come a-Wassailing carol that we are all so familiar with actually dates from the mid-nineteenth century.

wassail bowl V and A

Christmas Spirits

An English wassail bowl from the later seventeenth century, Victoria & Albert Museum, and a “Merry Christmas” image from the major illustrator of Dickens’ works, Hablot Knight Brown (also know as “Phiz”). Father Christmas holds the wassail cup among other Christmas traditions of “merrie olde England”:  plum pudding, roast beef, mistletoe. I’m not sure why so many spirits (“bogies” and the snapdragon) are in the picture, nor do I know what “twelfth cake” is–yet!) British Museum, c. 1860.

It was a bit difficult to narrow down the variant recipes for the wassail drink; they seem to fall into spiced ale, spiced cider, and spiced wine categories with rum even appearing in a few.  The most traditional recipes feature stewed and mottled apples and/or eggs to create a thick  frothiness that makes the drink resemble “lambswool”, its early designation. I’m not going that route, as I find that texture (and eggs in general) rather repellant. I think I’m going to go for a simple wine and fruit juice recipe from the Williamsburg Cookbook.  And sadly, I do not have one of those multi-handled wassail bowls like the one from the V & A above; a simple punchbowl will have to do.

Shrub is probably even more ancient than wassail drinks; it derives from the necessity of preserving fruit long after the harvest over. Fruit is combined first with sugar and then with vinegar to create a syrup that can last indefinitely and mix with anything.  My hunch is that shrub was one of those things discovered (or rediscovered) by Europeans as a result of their encounters during and after the Crusades, as its name derives from the Arabic sharab (syrup; drink) and sugar was introduced into the European diet (and consciousness!) at that time too. Refrigeration did away with shrub, but I think it is currently experiencing a revival: there are several commercial manufacturers, including Tait Farm, from which I bought my first bottle.  But it’s easy enough to make, and there are 2 major processes:  hot and cold.  Using heat, you macerate whatever fruit you prefer (berries are best), add sugar and a bit of water, and boil up a syrup.  Once it has cooled, you add vinegar–whatever kind you like (I generally use apple cider or some type of flavored vinegar rather than white).  Leave it for a while, then strain, and then you have a fermented concoction which you can add to seltzer, lemonade, or alcohol (gin,vodka, and rum all work well with shrub). Without heat, the fruit and sugar combine to create a syrup-like mixture anyway, which you then add to the cider. Shrub is both tart and sweet, and you can keep it in the refrigerator for quite a while. A very pleasant way to drink your vinegar!


Shrub Bottle Ticket Elizabeth Morley V and A

Shrub Bottle Ticket Enameled Copper 1770 V and A

Tait Farm shrubs, and two shrub bottle tickets from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London: the silver ticket was made by Elizabeth Morley in London around 1794-95, and the enameled copper ticket dates from 1770.

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