The Challenges of Writing One Family’s Early History
by Harriet Hyman Alonso
The following essay is a revised version of the original, unpublished piece I wrote about Fanny Lloyd Garrison, the mother of the great antislavery leader, William Lloyd Garrison. Before I decided to focus my research on the Garrison family, I got caught up in researching Fanny’s life. In the end, this chapter was revised and cut down to only thirteen pages of my book, Growing Up Abolitionist: The Story of the Garrison Children (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), largely because Fanny died long before her son married and had children of his own. This much longer, experimental essay reflects both Fanny’s story and my challenges as a historian trying to uncover the details of her life. In it, I relate my own thoughts and questions about Fanny and the research process as a whole. The writing is full of “ifs,” “maybes,” “possiblys,” and inserted questions, all things historians are taught to avoid. In the end, it is more of a dialogue between the historian and the sources—a reflection of the process of research, analysis of documents, and the attempt to “get into the heads” of people long gone.
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Newburyport, May, 1994: I decide to end a long, hard winter semester at my college in central Massachusetts by taking a trip to Newburyport to try to “feel” what it might have been like for Fanny Garrison when she lived there in the first part of the 1800s. It’s a beautiful spring day with temperatures in the seventies, the sun feeling warm and embracing, and I am excited about visiting Fanny’s adult hometown and seeing where she gave birth to William Lloyd, her son who grew up to be the leading abolitionist in the United States. I zip along Routes 2 and 495, going from one mill town (Fitchburg, where I teach) through several others, including Haverhill, Lowell, and Lawrence and then, within an hour, to the coast. I arrive at Newburyport’s tourist district, parking before nine a.m., and begin strolling the streets in search of Fanny.
My plan doesn’t work. No matter where I go, I can’t find her. Newburyport is only what I see—a gentrified, apparently wealthy, bedroom-type of suburb for Boston. I look at old houses and churches and eventually locate the house on School Street behind the First Presbyterian Church where Fanny lived, but it’s just another renovated building with a small plaque on the side claiming its fame as the birthplace of William Lloyd Garrison. A thirty-something yuppie comes out of the building, crosses the street, and opens the door of his white Jeep Cherokee. I ask him about the building. Is it very old inside? Does it feel historical? Can he tell me if there is any remaining proof of the Garrison family’s presence? No, he says, he doesn’t even know who William Lloyd Garrison was—except for what the plaque has told him. The building is completely renovated, of course, (Fanny lived there in abject poverty.) and there are four very nice apartments inside. We say goodbye, and he dashes off.
Author’s photo of renovated house and First Presbyterian Church.
Author’s photo of renovated house. Garrison Lived Here plaque is on the left side wall of house.
I continue my search, grossly disappointed in what I find. No Garrison papers in the local library. No Garrison books in the bookstores. No Garrison tee shirts. Just a statue in a small park in front of the Garrison Inn, which looks like an old factory or store that has been remodeled, but is actually a hotel which boldly advertizes its alcoholic drinks, the same drinks which soaked up Fanny’s seafaring husband, Abijah’s salary, caused the dissolution of her marriage, destroyed the health of her older son, James, and turned her (and later William Lloyd) into adamant temperance supporters. This new old Newburyport just doesn’t speak to me, and I return to my car and head off for a lazy rest on Plum Island beach.
And there I find her.
Plum Island looks to me like a cross between Fire Island and Breezey Point, both near my home in Brooklyn, New York. It is a narrow strip of land, like our barrier beaches, with a pretty sandy shoreline. The local road which follows the water’s edge is crowded with small and medium-size beach houses, one on top of the other. On this day, the Atlantic is calm, the breezes very light. I sit on the nearly deserted sand, thinking about Fanny, knowing that in the early 1800s, one could not reach this soothing place by driving for a mere ten minutes. (Soothing in May, I think, but probably extremely hectic in July.) In fact, I wonder if she ever visited it.
But as I sit there feeling tired and sleepy, I imagine other women, of an earlier time, in many oceanside towns, watching the sea for ships bringing home their menfolk. I envision the wealthier ones on their rooftop widows’ walks, others on beaches or at piers . . . waiting. It all seems so romantic through my twentieth-century eyes. And then it hits me. Fanny might have waited and watched, perhaps in the early years of her marriage, with a heart pounding with love and anticipation, but by 1806 or ’07, she would probably have felt nothing but anxiety and trepidation. Abijah’s homecomings then were most likely a combination of hoped-for relief from poverty and loneliness and dreaded foresight of violent arguments and certain verbal (and possible physical) abuse, for with each homecoming and then a prolonged period of unemployment, Abijah drank more and his and Fanny’s life together turned uglier and uglier.
By this time, I am on the road again, driving by the old mansions on Newburyport’s High Street, just a few blocks from Fanny’s poor abode, imagining her pain when she compared this wealth to her own squalor. I think of her son, Lloyd, (as William Lloyd was called) remembering the times he carried a pail to the door “of a certain mansion on State Street” to collect leftovers for dinner. I think about the family legend that claims that after one particularly violent fight, Fanny threw Abijah’s friends out, precipitating his own leaving. And I think how difficult it must have been for Fanny, a single mother of three young children, in Newburyport . . . alone and poor . . . but at least literate and possibly with some skills as a midwife. As I cross the bridge which takes me away from the town, I am almost in tears. My historian’s imagination and my dreamer’s empathy have led me to Fanny, but once I’ve found her, I can’t stand the sorrow I’ve created.
I can, however, tell her tale, one that has been told by other voices (e.g. her grandsons, Wendell Phillips and Francis Jackson Garrison, and by several of Lloyd’s biographers) but always from a distance and never by attempting to hear and use her voice, to read her heart, or to question or probe her situation. Fanny has always played the role of William Lloyd Garrison’s (THE FAMOUS ABOLITIONIST’s) mother. But what about Fanny herself? What does her life tell us of what it might have been like to be a poor single mother in the early 1800s? What does it show about dysfunctional families? About alcoholism? About poverty before the welfare state? About abandonment, childhood disease, and death? Or, more positively, about persistence, courage, hope, and ingenuity? This, then, is Fanny’s story.
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While working on their father’s biography, a combination of historical research and oral history, Wendell and Frank Garrison thoroughly researched the Garrison side of their family tree. Thanks to their efforts, Fanny and Abijah’s early years come to light. Through careful genealogical work, the Garrison sons traced their paternal grandparents’ roots back to England and Ireland. Abijah’s father, Joseph Garrison, and his mother, Mary Palmer, were settlers of the Jemseg River area of New Brunswick, Canada near St. John. Mary’s family, the Palmers, was brought there in a mid-eighteenth century migration from Essex County, Massachusetts; Joseph, who had some French Huguenot ancestors, may actually have been there earlier. The records are vague. What is certain, however, is that on August 14, 1764, Joseph’s thirtieth birthday, he and Mary were wed. The two had nine children: Hannah, Elizabeth, Joseph, Daniel, Abijah (born on June 18, 1773), Sarah, Nathan, Silas, and William. It seems amazing to us today how high many eighteenth and nineteenth-century families spaced their babies about two years apart. For Mary and Joseph, the years included 1765, 1767, 1769, 1771, 1773, 1776, 1778, 1780, and 1783.
Apparently, sometime in the late 1790s, son Abijah, who had become a seaman, found himself on Deer Island, New Brunswick, and as Wendell and Frank paint it: “Here, at a religious meeting, his eye fell upon a strikingly beautiful young woman, dressed in a blue habit.” He approached her; she rebuffed him; he sent her a beautiful letter (in an amazingly sophisticated style and elegant handwriting considering his station in life); she replied, and in some undocumentable year at the end of the century, the courtship began. And for me, the story really takes shape.
Frances Maria Lloyd (or Fanny, as she was known) was the daughter of Irish immigrants. Andrew Lloyd, her father, came from Kinsdale, County Munster, Ireland, and her mother, Mary (or Catherine) Lawless, from Limerick, but of Irish and English parentage. Married on March 30, 1771, they had Fanny in 1776. Unlike Abijah’s family, the Garrison sons’ genealogical notes on Fanny’s siblings are unclear. She may have had as many as ten brothers and sisters: Catherine, Ellenore, William, Nancy, Edward, Charles, John, Plato, David, and Charlotte, but there are no dates supplied for any of them. In later life, Lloyd and family contacted some distant relatives, but the exact details were fuzzy in people’s minds, and no written records appeared.
There were, however, some personal recollections of Fanny’s and Abijah’s early youth, their looks, and personalities which filtered through their son, Lloyd’s, memory and then emerged in an 1846 English periodical. Taking the description with the grain of salt of memory and nostalgia, I try to envision her—“a tall, majestic figure, singularly graceful in deportment and carriage; her features were fine, and expressive of a high intellectual character; and her hair so luxuriant and rich that, when she unbound it, like that of Godiva of old, it fell around her like a veil.” Abijah, too, was attractive. Although Lloyd had no real recollection of him, he remembered being told that his father was tall, with light hair and fair skin, and had “a fine physical development, a sanguine temperament, a bald head, and a reddish beard, with a very noticeable (sic) scar on his face, a birth-mark.” Apparently, the birthmark ran “from ear to ear and under the chin, like a muffler” and was “sometimes as red as blood.”
And so we have two people placed through memory in a most romantic situation. He, struck by her pleasing physical appearance, appears to have pursued her in a somewhat traditional manner. She, in a less traditional way, responded to this exciting, independent seaman, and in December, 1798, the two wed, and began their life together in some town on the Jemseg River in New Brunswick. They may even have had a daughter, Mary Ann, who died in infancy, but neither the Garrison sons nor numbers of historians ever found a written record of her existence. What is certain, however, is that in 1801, the young couple settled in St. John, where, on July 10, Fanny gave birth to a son, James Holley. Probably in 1803, she also had a second daughter, Caroline Eliza by name, but, again, the family records are unclear as to the date.
For several years, the marriage of Fanny and Abijah seemed happy. Apparently, again as remembered by Lloyd and other family members, they were both even-tempered, congenial people. Abijah was “very genial and social in his manners, kind and affectionate in his disposition, and ever ready to assist the suffering and needy.” Fanny had an “angelic nature within; she was one of those who inspire at once love and reverence.” Together, they seemed able to face the difficult life of New Brunswick, with its frigid winters and primitive conditions. Abijah rose in his chosen work, going from ship’s pilot to sailing master as he made innumerable voyages along the East Coast to the West Indies, probably as part of the codfish and lumber trades. (It does not appear that he was involved in the slave trade. At least, none of the family letters or archival materials indicate this.) Being a seaman, however, guaranteed long periods of separation between the two young people, periods which certainly seemed to make Abijah’s heart long for his family. In 1804, with Fanny and the children settled near her family in Granville, Nova Scotia, he wrote to her from Nicholas Harbor, “about 14 Leagues Eastward of Halifax (Nova Scotia): I know of nothing in this life that wou’d [aug]ment my happiness more than to be at Home with my Family and Free’d from a Tempestuous Sky and Enraged Ocean. . .”
But Abijah, the loving and responsible family man, was most concerned about the best way to support his growing family. How could he make enough money to keep a roof over their heads, firewood in the hearth, food in their stomachs? He was also worried about something else, and that was the effect the Napoleonic Wars were having on his ability to be a good provider. The disruptions in trade which the war between England and France caused and the lack of prosperity had resulted in many people migrating from Canada to the United States. Abijah considered this option as he wanted to resettle in a place where he would be “less expos’d to the Ravages of war and stagnation of business, which is severely felt in Nova Scotia. . . last winter was attended with distress among a great number of Poor people in this Place. The scarcity of bread and all kind of vegetables was too well known in this Part of Nova Scotia, the Great Drouth Last summer Cut off all the farmers Expectations and the People in general Experienc’d the want of hay Equal to that of Bread.” Although he, himself, was doing okay, he was worried about the future. Consequently, in the spring of 1805, he decided that his best route was to return to the home of his St. John Puritan ancestors, namely Essex County, Massachusetts. As he wrote to his parents that April, “the barreness of these Eastern Climates rather Obliges me to seek the welfare of my family in a more hospitable Climate.”
Soon after, the small Garrison family left Nova Scotia for Newburyport, and what a different world they found! I can just imagine Fanny’s excitement as their ship entered the harbor. After all, whereas Abijah had traveled to distant places, Fanny had only experienced the rather frontierlike towns of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where her childhood had been spent learning domestic skills and performing simple farm tasks such as tending her parents’ goats. Newburyport was something else altogether. Located at the mouth of the Merrimack River, it was a prosperous and booming town. In fact, by the 1750s, it touted the reputation of being New England’s greatest shipping center. By the time the Garrisons arrived, the shipping industry had launched several hundred vessels, largely brigantines, schooners, and sloops. Most of the ships took part in the West Indies trade, carrying sugar, molasses, coffee, and cocoa to New England and fish and lumber out. Unfortunately, much of the molasses was turned into rum in northern distilleries, so that by 1810, liquor had become the U.S.’s third most important industrial product. This factor would soon play havoc on Fanny and Abijah’s lives.
In the meantime, the couple settled in, renting a few rooms from David and Martha Farnham. David was a sea captain, also often away from home, so Martha and Fanny bonded quite quickly. The Farnham’s house was a gray, two-storey wooden structure, just a few steps from the rear of the First Presbyterian Church, which faced out on Federal Street. Just a few short blocks down the slope, Federal Street ended by the wharves. There Fanny could daily witness the active sea trade. She could look out at the serene water, protected from the open ocean by Plum Island, while trying to ignore the growing number of taverns and flophouses which serviced the sailors. If she preferred, she could cross Federal Street and walk a few blocks west to the bustling market area and business district. With a Newburyport population of 7,500 by 1807, she was assured the company of others, even if not in direct, close conversation. There was another route Fanny could walk to easily from her home, and that was uphill on Federal Street to High Street, the location of many federalist-style mansions. This was where investors, industrialists, and merchants who had raked in big profits over the years from 1756 to 1807 settled. There they lived in a way that few other Newburyport folks could afford—utilizing others’ abilities to make their own lives comfortable. High Street, perhaps at first a fanciful street to dream about, later became a bleak reminder to Fanny of her own lost dreams. But I’ve gotten a bit ahead of myself.
The first year in Newburyport passed rather peacefully for the Garrisons. On December 10 or 12, 1805, Fanny, who had conceived a child just before leaving Canada, gave birth at home to her second son. He was named “William Lloyd,” after one of Fanny’s brothers, but he came to be called, “Lloyd,” Fanny’s family name. Fanny’s pregnancy had proved to be uneventful, her life in Newburyport pleasant. With three children and an often absent husband, she had plenty to do. The core of her life, however, revolved around the First Baptist Church, founded in Newburyport in the spring of 1805.
It is at this point that I must backtrack a bit. When I think about the life of a seaman’s wife, I think about the degree of independence allotted her in a time when most families in the United States worked together to sustain themselves, either through farmwork or small businesses. (The term used for this lifestyle is “domestic economy,” and it meant that each family member had to pull their weight in a family business or on a farm in order for the unit to survive and possibly prosper.) Fanny and other nautical wives, however, spent large chunks of time on their own. While most husbands supplied their wives with money for provisions, it was the wife’s responsibility to ration her funds and perhaps to even supplement them if she ran out. This situation created an avenue for independent thought and action which other women at the time did not experience. It may even be that some women might have been attracted to seafaring men because their lifestyle could offer this element of independence. In the late eighteenth century, when Fanny wed Abijah, there was strong pressure on young women to marry. There were few ways for a woman to survive on her own, and the societal norm dictated marriage and childbirth as God’s plan for them. However, there was an element of choice involved. By the time Fanny married Abijah, it had become fashionable for young people to express some choice of a companionable mate.
The idea that Fanny might have valued the idea of being independent can be supported by her religious background and the unusual action she took as a young woman to choose her own religious sect. Fanny’s parents, so the family story goes, were staunch Episcopalians, so much so that they could not tolerate anyone from another group, especially Baptists. One day, a group of young members of Fanny’s congregation decided to entertain themselves by going to hear an itinerant Baptist preacher sermonize. All but one returned home to scoff, and that one was Fanny. Apparently, as Lloyd later put it, “her soul was deeply touched by the meek and holy spirit of the preacher,” and she cried during the entire sermon. Much to her parents’ chagrin, she announced her intentions of joining the Baptist church. What followed was something that modern readers can readily identify with. Fanny (still in her teens) and her parents had a confrontation. They threatened to throw her out of the house if she persisted in getting baptized; she pleaded her case but could not bring them to her side. Determined that her duty to God was more important than obedience to her parents, she joined up with the Baptists, and her parents disowned her. Fortunately, a sympathetic uncle took her in, and she remained in his home for several years. Fanny’s devotion to her religion was of utmost importance in her life, and she sought out the church community for social contact and emotional support. As with other women of her times, including Martha Farnham, Fanny was also attracted by the Baptists’ acceptance of women as itinerant preachers, decision makers, and local organizers. In fact, Fanny’s bond with Martha resulted from this common religious bond as well as from their landlady-tenant relationship and their husbands’ long absences at sea. In fact, the two conducted weekly prayer meetings in Martha’s home.
Throughout 1806, Abijah continued to be an optimistic and caring husband. His and Fanny’s marriage had achieved a comfortable rhythm consisting of times together interspersed with times apart. Abijah’s ties to the Canadian community remained clear as well, and as he wrote to his brother, Joseph, on April 3, he had received many offers to ship out to New Brunswick and would have had he been aware that his brother was there. However, he preferred the Virginia routes as they were much more profitable. He told Joseph to come to Newburyport as there were “more than fifty ways you might find Employment and always have the Cash as soon as the work is done.” Later that year, from further out at sea at Point Petre, Guadeloupe, he wrote to Fanny of being sick at sea, probably from bad food—and he spoke of how much he missed her: “it seems seven years to me since I saw you last. I cou’d with pleasure this moment give all I shall Earn this voyage to be present with you and my Children. . . May God bless you [and] Preserve you in health is the Prayer of your affectionate Husband.”
Abijah’s optimism in his ability to earn a decent wage was soon crushed by forces too big for him to conquer. The effects of war and foreign diplomacy which had forced him out of Canada found him once again in Newburyport. At first, 1807 proved to be the best year yet for town businesses. In that year alone, smaller sized vessels made ninety-three voyages to the West Indies. Thirteen large ships took products to Europe. On the average, the town’s merchants were exporting goods from the West Indies through Newburyport to Europe worth as much as $1,500,000 annually. As a result, wages were up, and the merchants were extremely happy. The wealthiest of these, William Bartlet, had increased his personal wealth five times since 1793 to just over half a million dollars in 1807, an incredible fortune in those days.
But in December, the economy collapsed when the U.S. congress passed the Embargo Act. Designed to keep the United States from becoming entangled in European wars (especially between France and England), the act virtually banned U.S. vessels from leaving port. Two supplementary acts in January and March, 1808, actually prohibited the export of any U.S. product and the re-exportation of any foreign goods by land or sea. These acts have to rank among the most ill-conceived of any administration, and Thomas Jefferson certainly did not win any popularity contests once the laws went into effect. For all the shipping ports along the U.S. East coast, the acts were disastrous. Within a year, export trade dropped by eighty percent and import trade by more than fifty percent. For Newburyport alone, this meant that by the end of the year, all but fourteen of the town’s ships were lying idle at home—and the trickle-down effect fell in torrents. The merchants, who for years had kept overstocked warehouses, found themselves with products they could not move. Therefore, they had no need to purchase the lumber, fish, or other items from local producers. They were also low on cash and, therefore, went in search of money others owed them and then cut back on labor. The suppliers, with no one to buy their produce for export, also laid off people. As the Newburyport Herald reported that July, “Our wharves have now the stillness of the grave . . . Nothing flourishes on them but vegetation.”
Obviously, the Embargo Act was doomed to fail, and it did. In 1809, congress replaced it with the Non-Intercourse Act which allowed trade with everyone but England and France. Since these nations were the export/importers’ biggest customers, nothing improved. Once again, in 1810, congress offered another bone. This time, trade with France and England could proceed as long as neither attacked U.S. shipping. This also failed as Napoleon’s government falsified reports to the U.S. about England, who then, out of anger and spite at President James Madison’s gullibility, escalated its practice of impressing U.S. seamen into its navy and taking U.S. produce off ships. This all eventually led to the June 1, 1812, U.S. declaration of war against England. At first, the New England and Middle Atlantic states opposed the war and attempted trade. But in 1814 and 1815, the British government established a naval blockade along the entire U.S. eastern seaboard and into the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, all shipping ceased. It was not until 1815, after the end of both the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars that things started to improve.
For Newburyport, the period continued to encourage decline. Besides the U.S. government’s activities, several local factors aided in the town’s demise. The year 1811 proved especially discouraging as a fire destroyed two hundred and fifty stores and houses in the business district just blocks from Fanny’s home. In later years, Lloyd remembered watching the fire from the protection of Fanny’s arms. In addition, the opening of the Middlesex Canal resulted in Boston’s usurpation of Newburyport’s by now meager trade. New Hampshire timber previously used for building ships somehow bypassed the town and ended up in the state’s capital. As a result of all these factors, Newburyport truly suffered. People started to move out so that by 1820, the population was down to 6,852, a drop of over seven hundred fifty people. Property values declined by almost fifty percent between 1807 and 1815, and owners stopped painting and repairing their property. There were so many empty houses that rents declined drastically, but many places still remained vacant. As a result, the townspeople became very despondent.
For the marriage of Fanny and Abijah Garrison, the Embargo Acts rang a death knell. Within seven months of the initial 1807 act, their lives together had begun to unravel. Most obvious, of course, was the fact that Abijah could not go off to sea. There is no evidence that he could find any other work either. For escape, comfort, and probably the companionship of other idle seamen, he turned more and more to drink. There is no way to know if and how much alcohol Abijah usually consumed. Since New England was a main producer of rum, alcohol was easily obtainable at a very low cost. Newburyport itself had numerous distilleries producing rum, domestic whiskey, and beer. In fact, by 1830, the average U.S. inhabitant consumed 5.2 gallons of absolute alcohol a year!
Like other average people, Abijah’s life included a certain amount of alcohol consumption. As one of his relatives later wrote to Frank and Wendell Garrison, “It was the fashion of the day to use alcoholic spirit in all places of honor and trust. We had it at all our ordinations, weddings, births, and funerals, and the decanter was brought on the table to greet our friends with when they came, and was not forgotten when they left; and if they could stand the test and not reel, they were called sober men.” It is also doubtlessly true that Abijah must have shared drinks with other men, and maybe women, during his times away from home, but, apparently, he became more of a nonstop drinker once he was unemployed and could find nothing to do with himself.
Abijah’s drunkenness and idleness were not the only things Fanny had to contend with. When the embargo began, she was in the early months of her fifth pregnancy. Lloyd, her youngest child, had just turned two; Caroline was four, and James, six. A few weeks before Maria Elizabeth was born in July, Caroline digested some poisonous flowers she had discovered in her neighbor’s yard and died. The combined factors—poverty, a husband turned alcoholic, a child’s death, pregnancy, and a birth—would put great stress on any woman’s life. Fanny sought her own outlet as Abijah did his—and they were incompatible, for as much as Abijah drank, so did Fanny become more ensconced in her church. There is no way of telling whether Abijah’s drinking and Fanny’s religious commitment had conflicted before, for from all indication, they seemed to have a stable marriage. Perhaps Abijah’s absences were what made the match work. In any case, it ceased working during that dreadful year, and not long after Maria Elizabeth’s birth, Abijah walked out of Fanny’s life forever. Neither she nor their children ever heard from him again.
The circumstances around Abijah’s leaving and historians’ willingness to accept the unsubstantiated family version leave me with questions. In fact, since there is no concrete record of Abijah’s drinking, it is possible that excessive use of alcohol became the public cover for other, perhaps more serious, problems. According to the family legend, one evening, some sea-captain friends came over to drink with Abijah. Fanny, with all the indignation of an angry Baptist and temperance wife, threw the men out, closed the door in their faces, and broke the bottles of liquor. Soon after this, Abijah left. So, what exactly, I wonder, was the real relationship between Fanny and Abijah? I wonder particularly about violence. Could this have been the problem even more so than alcohol, or were the two so intertwined that they could not ever be separated? The Garrison sons and various biographers have been content to leave the couple at odds with each other except for one major blowup. They have portrayed Fanny as a bastion of Baptist prohibitionist virtue, expelling the lost alcoholic from her life. She comes out sounding rigid and overly zealous, inhumane and self-righteous. Abijah appears as a tortured man who had simply reached the end of his rope.
I expect that the idea of painting a picture of a dysfunctional family with possible abusive episodes might have been too painful for Lloyd or his children to write. Lloyd may even have expelled them from his memory, or at least kept them hidden. After all, he was only three years old when his father abandoned him. However, it seems that at some point, Fanny became a victim of the disintegration of their relationship just as much as Abijah suposedly did. For one thing, being a single parent in 1808 was not easy, especially for a woman, and I somehow question whether Fanny would have chosen this path lightly. Social services were close to nonexistent and judgment great. To be unsuccessful as a wife was tantamount to being a failure at life. Although Abijah might have carried the stigma of the drunk, Fanny was the woman who failed at marriage. Later, she would become the woman who failed at motherhood as well. Would it not have been preferable for her to try to mend Abijah’s ways and to reorient his life away from the sea? In throwing his friends out, but not him, was she not saying that she did not want her marriage to end? Fanny was not the one to leave. Abijah was, even if the decision came torturously to him, and Fanny’s life became enormously difficult after that.
There is also the nagging issue of abuse. It is likely that Fanny’s blowup at Abijah’s friends was not the first, but rather the last of many violent episodes for the couple. It is also likely that, at the very least, their small home was racked with yelling; it may also have resulted in some scenes of physical violence. Proof? I have about as much as anyone else who has investigated the couple’s life. What adds to my suspicion, however, is the strong aversion to violence that Fanny and Abijah’s son, William Lloyd, expressed and acted upon in his adult years, when he stood firmly against anyone (and I mean ANYONE AT ALL) using corporal punishment on his children, or when I think about his gentle attitude towards animals, or even his organizing the New England Non-Resistant Society as a political group against violence. Did he come to this position because of what he witnessed at home? Was he, or James, or their sisters abused or frightened by the terrible rows they heard? No one knows. Whatever happened, the result was that Fanny, at the age of thirty-two, found herself alone with three young children to support, no employment, and no prospects. Abijah found himself free of all responsibilities and, unburdened, able to create a new life.
What serious options did Fanny have? In the early nineteenth century, virtually none. Martha Farnham proved herself a good friend by assuring Fanny that she would never be homeless. Fanny was not the type of person to take charity and tried hard to find work to support herself and her children. At times, she took up, what Lloyd called, “nursing.” She would stay for as long as a month at a time in a role similar, I think, to a combination of today’s domestic worker and home care attendant. At those times, Martha Farnham (whom the children referred to as “Aunt Farnham”), took care of the three youngsters. When no nursing assignments were available, Fanny took to making molasses candy, sending James and Lloyd out to sell it on holidays or at festivals. In more desparate moments, Lloyd was sent to a specific mansion on State Street to pick up meal leftovers saved specifically for Fanny. From her letters, it is easy to see that Fanny was very literate and had a good command of the Bible, of political events of the time, and of nautical terms. Her obvious intelligence and skill with language only increase the degree of tragedy when one considers that women were not welcome as clerks or secretaries or teachers or in any of a number of businesses housed in Newburyport.
In the end, however, Fanny had to make use of the help offered to the “dependent poor” of the town. As early as 1793, Massachusetts had instituted a comprehensive poor law, requiring each town “to relieve and support all poor and indigent persons, lawfully settled thereof.” With the Embargo Act severely affecting the local community, Newburyport took specific steps to meet this obligation. Temporary soup kitchens were established, and as the situation worsened, townspeople agreed to donate supplies which needy people could receive by applying at the overseer’s weekly or semi-weekly meetings. If needed, a poor person or family could receive firewood, housing in town-held buildings, or rent for private dwellings. In some cases, people opted for working for the town in exchange for support.
Fanny’s case was a bit unique for the town, as she was the only abandoned wife and female head of household who approached them. The overseer’s minutes of April 1812 indicate that four years after Abijah left, Fanny finally had to ask for the town’s help. She had decided that she would leave the two youngest children in Newburyport and take James with her to Lynn where she felt she could find work for herself and an apprenticeship for him. She asked the overseers for money for the children’s board, but not for them to place them for her. They granted her $1.25 per week for both Lloyd and Elizabeth, the former taking up residence with the Baptist deacon, Ezekial Bartlett, and his family and the latter remaining with Martha Farnham.
The decision to split up her family must have been torturous for Fanny. Her children and her church were her only joys in life, and from this point on she would never be close to either of them again. Her lifestyle became more transient, her relationships less long lasting or stable, and her physical state less healthy. Yet, she tried in every way possible to remain involved in her children’s lives and to maintain her church contacts. The letters she wrote and the journal she kept for the next year and a half tell a lot about this part of her struggle. The pieces of the puzzle are so scattered, however, that it might be easiest to comprehend by taking one section at a time—first, Fanny’s choice of Lynn; then, James’s and her experiences there, and finally, Lloyd and Elizabeth’s time in Newburyport.
Fanny’s choice of Lynn, Massachusetts, was very logical. First of all, Lynn was only thirty miles from Newburyport, although, as things turned out, roads were rough and travel too expensive for frequent visits. From the town records, it appears that Fanny left for Lynn some time after April, 1812, but her own still extant written record does not pick up until two years later. Assuming that she did take James there in the spring of that year, and considering that he would have been eleven years old that July 10, it is easy to see that Fanny wanted to apprentice James to a shoemaker so that he would have room and board and, by the age of eighteen or nineteen, a livelihood.
At a time when the seaport towns were languishing, Lynn was flourishing as a shoe center. The town had developed from a haven of small shops which by 1800 were producing on average one pair of shoes for every five people in the U.S. to a manufacturing center of larger shops which employed hundreds of workers, many of them women who took piecework home. The women stitched together the shoe “uppers” and returned them to the central shops which then farmed work out to male workers who attached the soles. Although independent artisans were no longer a part of the process in the 1820s, they were still vital in 1813 when James entered the field.
One of the master craftsmen in Lynn at that time was Chris Robinson, who agreed to take James on, probably because, like Fanny, he was a member of the Baptist Church and as such, had been contacted by Fanny’s church leaders to do a good deed. Robinson had a shop attached to the back of his house that measured about ten feet. (Ten years later, he had accumulated enough capital to erect a wooden factory on one side of the town common.) No evidence remains of James’s time there, except for his brief mention that Robinson was a “teetotaler” and was training him to be a “cordwainer.” Within a year, however, for some unknown reason, he had moved on to the shop of Samuel Mansfield—and here is where the documentation of his troubles began, for James was almost destined to turn out worse than his father, becoming addicted to alcohol and taking off for what turned out to be an arduous and heart-wrenching life at sea.
But, I have gotten a bit ahead of myself again, a sometimes problem in telling this tale. This is necessary, however, in order to explain the way James’s story came to light. In the late 1830s, James, by then a worn out and very ill sailor, was rescued from the navy by his brother and then brought to live with the Garrisons in Boston. There, Lloyd convinced him to give up drinking, and in the few years remaining to him, to write his “Confessions,” an obvious temperance tract. This source, however melodramatic and perhaps exaggerated or misremembered, is the only document which attests to James’s experience. So, like so many other sources used in this story, we must accept James’s rendition of his life while at the same time harboring some reservations.
With this in mind, let’s turn back to 1813-14, when James was only about twelve or thirteen years old and apprenticing for Samuel Mansfield in Lynn, for it was here where he first became acquainted with the evils of addiction through a drink called “black strap,” a combination of New England rum sweetened with molasses. At the time, it was common for working men to have rest breaks during which they had a drink or two. James claimed that he had never tasted liquor before, having been taught by his mother to hate the stuff, “but was persuaded by my fellow apprentices and likewise my master, to drink a little as it would not hurt me. I took a drink, it was sweet, and from that fatal hour I became a drunkard.”
Apparently, as soon as Fanny became aware of her young son’s drinking, she sent for him. There is no way of knowing, however, how much time had passed between the advent of his drinking and her knowledge of it. They lived in separate places, and she, as I will soon illustrate, was working incredibly hard. James was nervous about seeing her as he must have been flooded with emotions—fear, shame, guilt, perhaps defiance—and certainly with thoughts of his father whom he was old enough to remember quite well. Fanny, on her part, must have been agonizing and torn apart about him. He remembered, however, that she greeted him kindly, “and pointed out in a affectionate and kind manner the path I was persueing (sic), what the consequences would be to my health, my reputation in this world,” and then in a more serious tone, “the many sufferings it would cause her, and the eternal damnation of my soul in the world to come.” He promised to “do better,” but never did.
Instead, at his very young age, he took to going on drinking sprees, gambling, and running around with both girls his own age and with young women. Drinking, according to his memory, usually led to fighting and often to his loss of a job—a pattern repeated over and over again throughout his life. Yet, at that time, the people surrounding him (except Fanny) thought he was cute and that he would outgrow his troublemaking because he was otherwise very smart.
Fanny, meanwhile, did not reveal anything about James’s behavior to her friends and children back in Newburyport. Instead, she sent his love from time to time, and at least once, on August 2, 1814, reported that he was doing quite well, making “13 pair of Shoes a week,” and being “a Good Boy and a great Comfort to me.” His behavior, however, was most likely one of the reasons why she disliked Lynn so much. Another was her great sense of loneliness. Even though James was nearby, he was really on his own, and she missed her other two children dreadfully. She wrote constantly to Martha Farnham and to Lloyd, expressing concern for the children’s well-being, trying to have some input into their care, and laying out her hopeful plans for being reunited with them. To Lloyd, for example, she wrote, “I hope the time will come when your Mother shall have you under her own Care and protect your infant years as well as her feeble efforts will admit.”
However, there were often long periods of time when she received no word in return. At one point, she wrote, presumably to Martha Farnham, to please write and let her know “whether my Children are dead or alive for I do think that you might write by the post Office as I would willingly pay the postage.” The war and the poor economy effectively stopped Fanny from returning to Newburyport, and she had to content herself with simply sending a few gifts and some loving advice. In addition, she rarely earned enough money to send any for her children’s support, which must have annoyed Martha and contributed to her lack of communication.
Another reason for Fanny’s disliking Lynn was her very difficult work life. She had a string of nursing/domestic assignments, none of which gave her much pleasure. She was often “tired from Slavish work,” and in vague language, “tired with vain interogations and altercations on Caprice and folly-O.” (Was Fanny being reprimanded for James’s poor behavior? Was she somehow acting improperly herself?) In 1814, she wrote to a Baptist “sister” in Newburyport (probably Martha Farnham) about the “tyrany” of a Mrs. Gardner, who saw Fanny “as dirt hardly fit for her to walk on.” After three months, Fanny walked out on her, telling her off within the confines of her private letter to a friend, a letter that rings of self-righteousness. She drew a comparison between “a true bred Lady and a Country ignorant Bred Lady who aspired after Dignity and sunk in impertinince (sic) and ostentation” and complained that “for all she was Dr. G. Wife . . . I would not set her with the Dogs of my father’s flock.” Later in the year, Fanny found another position, but there was no money, just, it seemed, room and board. In between jobs, Fanny lived a hand-to-mouth existence, and by May, 1814, she was bemoaning the fact that she had to pass jobs up because “health will not permit.” Her health problems would become more serious as time passed.
Finally, Fanny missed her church, her most important material and emotional support system. The letters still in existence attest to the fact that she constantly inquired about her community and expressed her great sense of loss in being away from it. From Lynn, she wrote to one “sister,” how circumstances had forced her to seek spiritual comfort because, in her own words, “I am call in my youth to leave my earthly friends them that was dear to me by the tender ties of nature—cast on the protecting hand of a Divine providence in a Strange place.” How she longed to be with her “Dear Christian Friends”—Brother Lane, Sister Robinson, the Abbotts, the Peaks, and all the “dear Brothers and sisters in the Church.” This tie to Newburyport would eventually lessen, and Fanny’s references to religion would become more abstract and inner-directed. She began this a bit in Lynn when she referred to her “unworthiness,” and her need to learn “Submission by adversity.” Such self-deprecation, a common enough sentiment within the Baptist faith at that time, became more frequent and intense as her life became more difficult.
While Fanny and James were meeting their own personal trials in Lynn, little Lloyd and Elizabeth were quite safe in Newburyport. Although separated from their mother and older brother, they were still in familiar surroundings and were apparently well taken care of. Elizabeth, who aged from four years to seven, lived with Martha Farnham most of the time, except when Martha had a baby in August, 1814, and Elizabeth spent some time with a Mrs. Baldwin. It is easy to imagine that Martha became more of a mother-figure to her and Fanny just a shadow, a faint memory.
Lloyd, who aged from seven to ten, was equally fortunate, considering the circumstances. Ezekial and Salome Bartlett and their two daughters appeared to treat him kindly, and he lived only a few blocks away from Elizabeth and Martha Farnham. As devout Baptists, the Bartletts saw to it that Lloyd attended church, and even for three months, the Grammar School on the Mall. Lloyd had had a sporadic education before this at the primary school opposite the Farnhams’, but at the time, he did not show much promise as a scholar. According to his sons, he had trouble mastering the alphabet, although he did finally learn to spell, read, and write. One of his problems, it seems, was that he was left-handed, and his teacher forced him to use his right hand, making studying awkward and time consuming. With such a short period of formal education, it is amazing that Lloyd grew up to be such a prolific writer. Certainly, his early childhood years did not seem to indicate that he would become a well-known journalist/lecturer/publisher.
Lloyd’s education was not cut short by any malicious intent on the part of the Bartletts. Rather, Ezekial needed his help in earning his keep and income for the entire household. Most children of the time worked either in their own family settings or for neighbors, so this was not an unusual expectation. The good deacon earned his living by sawing wood, sharpening saws, making lasts, and even selling apples from his own small stand. Young Lloyd became his helper, a job unsuitable at that time for either of Ezekial’s daughters. However, in spite of some hard work, there were good times for the boy as well. He remembered that when Fanny was poor, sometimes other boys taunted him when he went begging for food, but once in the Bartlett home, he had friends with whom he played marbles, “bat-the-ball” and flew kites. He enjoyed swimming and boating in the summer and ice skating and having snowball fights in the winter. He also liked singing, at first with Fanny and “Aunt Farnham” at home and then later with the choir of the Baptist Church. At times, Lloyd dreamed about going to sea, but never did, especially after his first bout of seasickness. It was also Lloyd’s pleasure at this time to have pet cats, a passion which lasted throughout his lifetime. The animals offered him affection, and he happily responded to them. He told his sons how one cat woke him one evening by bringing her latest litter of kittens into his bed. “My eyes moistened when I realized what she had done, and we all slept in one bed that night.” Lloyd loved his Newburyport life even though he had become, in effect, an orphan, a foster child, and somewhat abandoned.
Fanny, as I have noted, missed her children dreadfully, and tried to plan for at least Lloyd’s reunion with her. By February, 1815, she wrote to Martha that she would gladly return to Newburyport if she thought she could earn a living there. She felt “weary of wandering” and, as for her son, “Poor Lloyd, how I want to see him.” Unable to work this out, in desperation, Fanny brought Lloyd to Lynn sometime in mid-1815. Her plan was the same as the one for James— an apprenticeship to a shoemaker to prepare him for a stable and, hopefully, economically secure adulthood. Lloyd spent a short time (there seems to be no record of how short) in the service of Gamaliel W. Oliver, a Quaker who had a workshop adjoining his house. Unlike James, however, Lloyd showed little aptness for the craft. He was still only nine years old, a small child, and not strong enough to sustain the work. Although he tried, and did succeed in making some shoes, his body ached and his fingers and knees grew sore from pounding shoe soles on a heavy lapstone. Despite the fact that the Olivers were kind to him, Lloyd was unhappy. Not only was he doing work which any child would feel miserable about, but he still was not living with his mother. Instead, he was separated from everything that was familiar and comfortable to him, stuck in a full-time work life with no friends and no time to play, and he was extremely homesick.
Meanwhile, Fanny was so preoccupied with her own difficult time finding work and with James’s drinking, fighting, and generally acting out, that she paid little attention to Lloyd’s misery. When the opportunity arose to move on to Baltimore, she took it, apparently without considering the impact on her younger son. Packing her own and her two sons’ belongings, she looked forward to starting a new life. At first, her optimism was high, as she had been invited to join the successful shoe manufacturer, Paul Newhall’s, venture in opening a new, larger factory in the South. It is not clear why Fanny was invited to participate in this move. In his “Confessions,” James mentions that she went along to do “nurseing.” Wendell and Frank Garrison’s version claims that Fanny was known and loved by “all” of the skilled workmen and their families involved in the relocation, and that she accepted the “invitation” to go along. Although this part of Fanny’s story is sometimes vague and hard to piece together, I must assume that somewhere along the line she had met and made a good impression on the Newhalls, as once in Baltimore, she and Lloyd stayed with the family for a while, Lloyd doing odd jobs. Additionally, James was taken on as an apprentice—in spite of the bad reputation he had gained in Lynn. The Garrison sons also wrote that Fanny had a great impact on the imported Massachusetts factory workers who came to listen to her espouse moral and religious views. According to them, “They called her ‘Mother,’ and sixty years afterwards the last survivor of them spoke of her in terms of enthusiastic and grateful remembrance.” I must admit to feeling totally puzzled by this episode.
In any case, this hopeful, new course did little but take Fanny further away from Newburyport and her daughter, a voyage, by the way, from which she would never return. Her description of the journey aboard the brig, Edward, was a surprise to read, as it was full of nautical language, giving in detail the state of the wind and the sea, noting the behavior of other passengers, and reflecting her own inner turmoil about this new phase in her life.
According to Fanny, she, James, and Lloyd set sail from Salem, Massachusetts, on October 9. It was a cool day with a westerly blowing up a “brisk gale.” On board were approximately thirty passengers, most who became seasick by the second day, including Lloyd. For those who could eat, there was plenty of “fine” codfish caught directly from the waters of the Atlantic. After two days of clear weather, the brig encountered “fresh breezes” and then rain, “heavy gales and a high sea running.” The crew “handed the main top sails, took two reefs in the fore top sail,” and eventually “had to reef all the sails.” Even though the rain let up quickly, for three days, the passengers were tossed about by high winds and rough seas. Finally, on October 14, the skies cleared and the seas calmed. Once again, food came fresh from the sea, this time as the crew caught two porpoises. In general, the voyage seemed uneventful.
However, on either October 15 or 16 (depending on which archival source one reads—Fanny’s original or Wendell’s edited version of it), Fanny had a scare. A British brig (or sloop, again, depending on the source), the Cheshire, appeared on the horizon. Even though the War of 1812 had been settled, the issue of impressing men into service had not. As the ship neared the Edward, Fanny panicked. What if the British crew began kidnapping their men and boys? What if they found out that James was “British born,” a native of Canada and not the U.S.? (Actually, Fanny was unaware that citizenship made no difference. The British were notorious for conscripting U.S. citizens as sailors, claiming they were British even when they were not.) Her fear escalated as the Cheshire fired off two guns and forced the Edward to come around and allow the British sailors to board. Fanny noted that three of the women passengers began shivering and crying and everyone looked “as if their grandfather had made his appearing.” In the end, the sailors simply asked “the silly question of whether the captain was aboard” and left soon after. No wonder, though, that the next day, she remained in her cabin with a “violent headache.”
After two more days at sea with gale force winds and some rain, on October 19, the ship entered the Chesapeake Bay. Within thirty-six hours, all was over, and, on a beautiful, breezy day, Fanny, James, and Lloyd found themselves in Baltimore, Maryland. After thirteen days at sea, Fanny’s initial good cheer had turned sour. She had a bad cold and felt “very much fatigued in body and gloomy in mind.” Her first impression of Baltimore was that it was “like a place of Confusion.” After all, it was a major city for its time, much larger than any place Fanny had been before. In fact, by 1815, approximately eight hundred new residents arrived in Baltimore every month, the large majority coming from the North. Construction boomed, business flourished, and, as a result, the cost of living increased. In that year, rents and food prices doubled.
What would Fanny do in such an expanding and expensive city? Her sons were with her; yet she had no real home for them. To Martha Farnham, she wrote that she felt herself “a wanderer,” her heart really still residing with Martha and her other church friends. “Although Stormy Billows roll between us,” she wrote, “yet we are inseparably joind (sic) in heart.” Further, she added, “The Children of God no doubt has at this time assembled for divine Worship—how my heart is with them, dear M.”
Fanny also longed to see her daughter, Elizabeth, whom she had not seen since 1812. She must have feared that the eight-year-old would not even know her. After all, for much of her young life, Martha had, in effect, mothered her. Fanny’s separation from Elizabeth caused her great sadness, and she felt “a great desire” to see her and hold her. “When will the time come that her wandering Mother will be restored in tranquility of mind to her peaceful dwellings, my dear Martha,” she moaned. It is difficult to reconcile such sorrowful thoughts with the Garrison sons’ version of Fanny’s optimism. This Baltimore gamble had obviously been made because of economic desperation and concern over James’s behavior. Yet, once she actually reached her destination, Fanny, herself, did not seem to feel so optimistic. As she wrote to Martha, “my mind is sunk I see nothing before me but troubles and severe trials.” And that is exactly what she received.
Whatever arrangement Fanny relied on with the Newhalls, the plan did not work out. For the first few months, things appeared to be steady, and she had the wherewithal to find a church, by the next September having established a female prayer meeting every Saturday afternoon, the first such group in Baltimore. She carried with her a letter of introduction from Pastor John Peak of the Newburyport church. Dated September 5, 1815, it asserted that Fanny was a “regular member of the Baptist Church of Newbury and Newburyport, in good standing and as such She is hereby recommended to the fellowship and ocasional communion of any sister Church of the same Faith and Order.” Fanny also took to doing some preaching on her own, for in the wake of the Second Great Awakening, itinerant women preachers were not that uncommon. Every Sunday, she traveled thirteen miles, most times on foot, to preach; yet, still she felt lonely and alone, writing to Martha that she had “no Christian friend” (meaning Baptist) to walk the streets with her and felt “alone like the Pelican in the Wilderness.” Her position with the Newhalls ended as their shoe factory venture met upon hard times, and, once again, she searched for work. In April, 1816, her pastor found her a child care position with his friend, John Richards. After a few months, she had to move on again, this time ending up two and a half miles outside the city attending to a pregnant woman soon to give birth. From there began her pattern of alternating between home nursing care and needing a nurse herself (which she rarely had).
Meanwhile, Fanny had great worries over both James and Lloyd. James, especially, got into immediate trouble. At the age of fourteen, he was once again proving himself an alcoholic. According to his memoirs, he never took a break from drinking, but rather carried on with the sailors on board the Edward, finding their lifestyle most attractive. Unlike Lloyd, he was never seasick and enjoyed the experience no end. However, once he reached Baltimore, he followed his mother’s orders and began working for Paul Newhall. All day he made shoes; all night he drank. At first he stayed with his usual taste for rum, but within a short time, he discovered whiskey. It was cheaper, costing only twelve and a half cents a quart, and, to him, tasted better. He and a friend happily alternated between work and drink until, one night, dead drunk and unable to walk without stumbling, he awoke Newhall. The next day, his boss gave him a lecture and a warning to abandon alcohol. Tensions rose and before they knew it, James and Newhall were punching each other. In the ensuing chaos, Newhall’s wife, who had run into the room to see what was going on, either got knocked down or fell, (James was not sure which) and while Newhall knelt to help her up, James ran off.
At this point, Fanny was watching James’s conduct carefully. She noted in a letter to Martha Farnham, that “The idea of having a child conduct badly is a great trial.” She reported that James had left Newhall once, then returned, then left again. He appeared “very unsteady,” and “half the time” she had no idea where he was. She must have been relieved when he showed up at the Richards’ house, where she was working, to ask her for help. He might have felt guilt ridden or ashamed, but he knew she would take his side—which she did. Apparently, according to James, Fanny could not tolerate anyone chastising her children but herself (a characteristic Lloyd would adopt), and no one knows to this day what passed between her and Newhall. The end result, however, was that James was dismissed from Newhall’s apprenticeship and placed in John Richards’s store as an underclerk.
At first, this new placement worked well for James. He considered it a step up, especially since the store was known as “one of the first establishments in Baltimore.” He gave up hard liquor, but, unfortunately, he developed a taste for “a glass of wine at table it being fashionable after dinner.” This, he later claimed, laid the foundation for his ruin. However, he continued to work so well that two of Richards’s older, more experienced clerks, ready to move out on their own, invited him to come along as their clerk. The new store was sixty miles from Baltimore, in “Frederick Town,” and James, supplied with money and clothes from Richards and “her blessing and her mite” from Fanny, departed for his supposedly respectable life.
Within a short time, he was hitting the bottle again. Instead of one glass of wine with dinner, he had two. Then, unsatisfied with that, he and Elias Stockdale, a newfound friend and clerk in a neighboring bookstore, took to drinking together in a local tavern. There James discovered brandy punch, a liquor much stronger than any he had tasted before. His new employers were aware of his problem and spoke to him about it, but James had already set himself on a collision course. The Steiners (the family of one of his employers in whose home he was staying) had enrolled James in the Frederick Academy, a Presbyterian school where, along with other clerks in the town, he studied math and bookkeeping. A number of the wealthy young boys in town also attended the school, and what evolved was a classic “town and gown” conflict. There were constant confrontations between individual boys of each group, but during one particular altercation between James and “the biggest bully,” James found himself alone, none of the clerks being willing to back him up.
So, armed with pistols and a dozen large knives, James later claimed that he rounded up about two hundred town boys (after treating some to refreshments at the tavern) and headed off. A bit inebriated, he lost his head and shot off some rounds, wounding a few of the wealthy students. The police came and dispersed the crowd. As he arrived home, Steiner told James that the next day he was to be returned to Baltimore. At his final breakfast, Steiner’s sister insisted he get on his knees and beg for forgiveness. He remembered vividly: “I felt all the blood of my mother rush through my veins at such an insulting question. ‘Me’ said I, ‘me humble my self before your miserable brother? It is as much as I will kneel to my creator, let alone to one I hold in such disgust as I do him and you!'” His boss rose in anger, and a fight ensued. When it looked like William Steiner, another sibling, was about to club James over the head with a cowskin, he yelled out that his mother would prosecute him. The next day, he moved on.
But I cannot move on just yet because James’s references to Fanny are so interesting. Even if we consider that these memoirs were written by a repentant alcoholic whose recollections might be exaggerated or faulty, they are still revealing. Fanny was still the one person James could rely upon. No matter what he did, she would make it all better. While she worried endlessly about him, she apparently always welcomed and protected him. After all, her children were the only people in the world she could love or be loved by, it seemed. But James wrote something else that once again opens up questions about Fanny’s real position in Baltimore—lonely, isolated woman versus vibrant, active, independent woman: “I actually believe he [Steiner] stood in awe of my mother, as he had read some of her letters to me and knew by her writings she was no common woman, and he also knew in what estimation she was held by some of [the] most richest and influential families in Maryland.”
None of Fanny’s letters or journal entries indicates that she had an active social life; yet it seems that she did. There is even one undated letter that points to the possibility that Fanny might even have had a love interest, one she wrote to late at night as to hide from “so many Jealousy eyes” and whose visits she apparently longed for. But there are no details to prove anything, and all I am left with are my historian’s suspicions. If, however, what James claims here and what Fanny’s one or two letters hint at have even the slightest elements of truth, the bulk of Fanny’s own letters from the same period are tainted by extreme self-deprecation. This will become especially evident a bit further on when I look closely at the religious content of her letters. I keep asking myself how two versions of the same life could come out so differently.
In any case, the first person James sought out once he returned to Baltimore was his mother, who was most surprised to see him. He concocted a story for her and said that he wanted to go back into shoemaking. She suggested he return to Lynn, paid for his passage to Salem, bought him clothes, and “gave me the only 14 dollers (sic) she had in the world, while her other children were all most suffering for the same.” He then left, promising he would do better. “I shall never forget that parting,” he wrote. “It seemed my heart would burst, but I could not shed a tear.” James left, and Fanny did not hear from him again for quite some time, saying on August 29, 1817, that she had no idea if he was “dead or alive.”
When this all happened is a bit iffy. We know that Fanny was working for the Richards family in April, 1816. All of James’s travails occurred while she was there. By September, she was attending the woman in confinement just outside the city. This leaves only a few months for James to have left the Newhalls, worked at Richards’s, and then gone off to Frederick Town. Since it is not clear exactly when Fanny left the Richardses, I am not sure that is where James found her upon his return to Baltimore. Walter Merrill, the editor of James’s “Confessions” and one of the most respected authorities on William Lloyd Garrison’s life, tried to track down the date that James sailed for Salem on the schooner, Rolla. By carefully following James’s description of the voyage, and checking the existing records for ships’ schedules, he came up with the only possible date of January 5, 1816. Since this is clearly impossible after looking at Fanny’s letters for 1816, it throws James’s entire narrative off kilter. How could he have left Baltimore before Fanny arrived at the Richardses and only three months after the family’s arrival in Maryland? Merrill checked the records for several years and could find only one date that fit. Perhaps James was on another ship that sailed under the radar, so to speak. In the end, all this is to say that since James did not include many dates in his memoirs and since there are just a few letters of Fanny’s left, there is a certain amount of guess work here.
Now, back to Lloyd, who was having his own difficulties adjusting to life in Baltimore. Only ten years old at the time, Lloyd was more homesick than ever for Newburyport. In Baltimore, he did small odd jobs for the Newhalls, but it is not clear from Fanny’s letters if he accompanied her to the Richardses or stayed behind. If he stayed behind, he certainly would have felt some sense of abandonment. In that case, his life with the Bartletts would have seemed utopian. There he had a sense of stability—and his friends and pets. If he did move on with Fanny, which I doubt because he was still working for the Newhalls, he might have felt even less secure, being in yet another strange home where his mother was at the beck and call of her employer. It is no wonder that he wanted to go “home” to the one place he considered “home”—Newburyport.
Fanny, of course, had her hands full with James, and it is easy to imagine her worry about Lloyd. If she could not play an active parental role in his upbringing, might he not end up like James? Even though Fanny did not speak of James’s addiction in letters to friends, she was obviously acutely aware of it. After living with one alcoholic, it is doubtful that she, the good temperance Baptist she was, would have missed—or denied—the signs. She may, however, not have wanted to speak about it to others who, at the time, would see it once again as a sign of her failure as a mother. What Fanny faced was the stereotypical bad son/good son dilemma, and the next step she took was obviously meant to preserve the goodness of that second son, the one who, “altho’ he is mine” was “a fine boy” who walked the same long walk as she did every Sunday to attend the Baptist meeting.
So, even though it broke her heart, Fanny contacted Ezekial Bartlett and made arrangements to send Lloyd home for a year, so she thought. The boy was ecstatic, hoping to return to school and to regain his former life. For Fanny, more financial responsibility was heaped upon her as she needed to again send money to both the Bartletts and the Farnhams, money she rarely had. But more profoundly, Fanny’s life continued on its downward spiral. She moved from job to job; seemed endlessly depressed, often wishing for death and the release from her earthly misery, and experienced deterioration in her health, caused either by tuberculosis or, possibly, lung cancer.
Fanny’s first position after leaving the Richardses was the pleasant place outside Baltimore where she cared for the new mother, a position I have referred to before. She wrote happily to Martha Farnham about Harmony Hall, as the estate was called. The position provided an idyllic break for her. A long road lined with “fifty-six Lombardi poplars” on the left and “the same cedars on the right” ran a quarter mile from the gate to the house. Each tree was “cut to be the exact model as each other.” Fanny felt as if she now had “a faint idea of Paradise” except for the large number of locusts around. As the nurse, (and being white, I suppose) Fanny felt like a lady. There were plenty of “servants” around who waited upon her. (She never used the word, “slave.”) Feeling healthy, well-fed, and pampered, she gained weight, reaching 162 pounds, quite a change for her. Hopefully, she told Martha, she would be able to send some things for Elizabeth and Lloyd within a month.
Approximately seven months later, the next existing letter shows, Fanny had intermittent work. Sometimes she “nursed” for two merchants’ wives; other times she passed up jobs because she felt somewhat ill. She identified her ailment as rheumatism, but she also complained of a shortness of breath, “attendant on palpitation of the heart.” I have no idea where she stayed when she was unemployed as she made no reference to it, but I do know that her own insecure situation caused her to postpone any dreams she had of bringing Lloyd, and even Elizabeth, to join her. As she wrote to Lloyd in August, 1817, she was worried about even attempting to bring him down because there had been great flooding in Baltimore which had resulted in widespread yellow fever.
Furthermore, Fanny’s hopes in having Lloyd placed as an apprentice in John Richards’ shop had not panned out. Richards seemed skittish about taking on another Garrison boy. Since Lloyd was doing well in Newburyport, especially in school, Fanny decided to allow him to remain there for another year. He might be able to stay even longer, she insinuated, if “Uncle Bartlett” came across a good situation for him there. Fanny also indicated that she rejoiced in the fact that Lloyd was not becoming another James. “Your good behavior,” she wrote, “will more than compensate for all my trouble; only let me hear that you are steady and go not in the way of bad company, and my heart will be lifted up to God for you, that you may be kept from the snares and temptation of this evil world.” As for James, she had no word from him, but she appreciated Lloyd and Elizabeth’s efforts of “trying to arouse” her mind from its “dejected reverie.”
For more than a year, there is no record of what happened to Fanny—no diaries, no letters, no expansive memories from either James or Lloyd. She just seems to have evaporated into a maze of endless jobs, moves, and declining health. She resurfaces briefly in September, 1818, and then fades away again for another seven months. However, it is possible to piece together a few of the things that happened to her and her children during that time. From James’s memoirs, it seems that Fanny was staying at the home of John I. Donaldson, a Baltimore lawyer. There is no indication of what her role was there, but while at this house, who should show up but James, now seventeen years old and a hopeless alcoholic. Since Fanny had last seen him, James had done quite a bit of traveling—and drinking—and fighting. He had returned to shoemaking in Lynn, but could not hold a job. He lost his first because he drank away his salary and could not pay his board; the second he left because he needed to skip town after getting into a fight. He and a friend ran to Providence, Rhode Island, begging for food and sleeping in barns along the way, and then took a sloop to New York, having his friend’s contact there advance their four dollars passage while the Captain held their shoemaking tools as collateral. For a while, he worked in a shoe making shop in Greenwich Village, but, as usual, he could not hold onto his pay or his tools. Instead, it all went to drink. In between drinking and fighting, James wended his way back to Baltimore where he convinced a stranger to tell Fanny he was there. Of course, she sent for him, glad he was alive, hoping beyond all hope that he had straightened out. Of course, she was disappointed.
Apparently, Fanny had found herself another good situation. Donaldson was a man with servants, and Fanny did not seem to fall into that category. James rang the bell and asked for his mother—and as soon as she saw him, she burst into tears, sinking onto the sofa in shock. He had no idea what to do. He wanted to run, but found himself “chained to the spot speachless (sic).” Fanny beckoned to him, but for a long time she was sobbing too hard to speak. Finally, she looked him over and said, “Wicked, wretched boy, where have you come from, and are those all the clothes you got? . . . Where are you going, and what do you intend to do? I can not keep you here.” Then, according to James, she began crying again. After assuring her that he had a place to spend the night, which he did not, and that he would return the next day, James left. The following day, she gave him “handsome apparal,” and money to buy a new hat, new shoe making tools, and to pay for board.
James left with all his usual good intentions. For a while he took a job that lasted “some time” and boarded with Paul Newhall, his old master who had fallen on hard times. Because he did not get along with Newhall’s wife, he left and took up quarters with another family, the Earps. At this home, “though they were members of the Methodist Church, they used ardent spirets.” Again, James took up all his old ways, quitting his job, selling his tools, and getting into debt with his landlady. Apparently, Fanny went about her own business and paid little attention to James, for he claimed she knew nothing about his behavior until a Mr. Pratt (formerly of Lynn) informed her of it and tried to talk James into visiting her. He refused, claiming that instead, he would “inlist as a Drummer in the army, thus adding thorns to my mothers pillow.” Was James feeling guilt or was he blaming his mother for all his problems? After all, he could not take his anger out on his absent father, the one whose life path he was so closely following. (Actually, throughout his “Confessions,” James blamed other people for his own failings. He was always led to drink or fight or run away or whatever because another man gave him a drink or threw the first punch.)
Finally, a guilt-ridden James sought out his mother. “I crawled into her presence,” he wrote, “like one who had commited murder.” Fanny took him into a private room and fell on her knees in prayer to God to save him. Before long, both mother and son were in tears until Fanny rose and had another long talk with him. She ordered James to return the next day, which he did, and he informed her then that he wished to go to sea. Displeased with his decision, and probably seeing Abijah in his face, she nonetheless helped him get ready, even to the point of making contact with Joseph Mudge, a Lynn seaman of some experience who happened to be in Baltimore, arranging with him to take James along on his schooner. At their last meeting, Fanny took James’s hand, and kissing him, gave him her blessing. They never saw each other again.
Once he was at sea, James found a letter which Fanny had placed in his trunk. It was addressed to “J. H. Garrison from his affectionate mother, Farewell” and read, in part, “Oh James I have tried hard to make you a decent citizen, but you will aim for nothing but vagrantcy (sic). Had you conducted as you ought you might have been a member of society . . . But, James for my sake—and if not for Gods sake, leave off that despicable character of a lier (sic), as nothing will sink you in any decent persons opinion like that . . . The sentence of death is out against you, for the Scripture posively (sic) expresses, the soul that sineth shall die . . . Should I be called hence to be no more, ere you return, shed a tear upon the grave of her who bore you into this world and nourished you in your infant years, and in death if I have my senses I will breath an ardent prayer for your immortal soul . . . May the gentle winds of heaven waft you in safty to your destined port.” She had, it seems, given up on him.
Lloyd, in the meantime, was again having his own problems. Sometime between August 29, 1817, and September 20, 1818, he had been apprenticed to Moses Short, a cabinetmaker in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Apparently, the Shorts were quite kind to the now pubescent young man, but he was unhappy there. Besides disliking the work, he was, once again, homesick. After six weeks, he decided on his own that he was leaving, and climbing out of his bedroom window with his possessions tied in a large bandana, he struck out for Newburyport, a distance of about twelve or so miles. To help speed himself along, he jumped on the back of the daily stagecoach until it came to a stop. Then he would walk along until the coach passed him again and jump on it once again. He repeated this action several times, much to the amusement of the passengers.
It did not take the Shorts very long to realize their charge had disappeared. Figuring that he was heading for Newburyport, Moses Short, taking back roads he knew well, caught up with him. Lloyd told him how homesick he was, and Short, to save face, offered him a deal. If Lloyd would return with him and resign in the proper manner, he would release the boy from his contract. So done, Lloyd returned to the Bartletts. Fanny was not pleased with this turn of events as she would once again have to provide for his support. Since Lloyd did not want to be a shopkeeper or a cabinetmaker, she tried to find him a place as a carpenter. Of course, any effort to place him in Baltimore would have been futile. Lloyd was then, and would forever after, be a homebody, so Fanny must have been seeking such an opportunity in Newburyport. Lloyd had always been a good boy, as she, I think unfortunately, let James know. As she wrote to him, “Lloyd says unless he has capital when he is out of his time, he will not be able to commence business: but if he has a trade, he can go to work and help maintain his Mother.” This would be Fanny’s due—a son to support her and release her from her own personal hell.
As it happened, soon after this letter, Ephraim W. Allen, editor and publisher of the Newburyport Herald, a semi-weekly newspaper, announced that he was looking for a male apprentice to learn the printing trade. Ezekial Bartlett probably put Lloyd forward as a candidate, for he began the usual seven year term on October 18, 1818, just six weeks shy of his thirteenth birthday (although to him, it was his fourteenth, since he believed himself to be born in 1804. His sons discovered the error many years later.) Fanny was greatly relieved when she learned that he had finally found work he liked and would stick with. But just six months later, she was so ill that she felt conflicted about it, so ill, in fact, that she had been unable to work since the fall, even though she had tried at one job which she had had to leave. Her symptoms included fever, severe headaches (one which lasted ten days), blisters on her forehead, and a persistent cough which caused her to expectorate bile. But even more traumatic was the pain in her side and breast. The doctor “bled” her, which, she claimed, helped, but he ordered her to stay in bed a few days. Fanny was frightened by her illness and afraid she would die. John Donaldson had taken her in again when she could not work, but she was most concerned about the money she owed Martha Farnham and Ezekial Bartlett for her children’s keep.
As a result, Fanny found herself torn between wanting Lloyd to come to her in Baltimore or leaving him with Ephraim Allen, who had communicated to her how well he was doing. On the one hand, she wrote to her son, “My health has been such that I could not nurse all winter I took this place and I have left it very sick my dear you may come or stay with Mr. Allen he writes very well about you, but Says if you leave him he must be Compensated for the expense he has been at for you I do not know what it is but as I hope all things is for the best . . .” Come, do not come, which did Fanny really want? Probably both, I think. Although she claimed to have “many Sympathizing Friends” in Baltimore, Fanny obviously felt very alone and oh, so sick; yet, her son was happy, and he always hated to be away from his security blanket—Newburyport. By the end of the letter, she had decided that he should come and take up an apprenticeship in a shop. She then instructed him who to contact to help him reach Baltimore.
All but one of Lloyd’s responses to any of Fanny’s letters have long since disappeared, so we can only wonder what he said. In this case, he obviously told her he wanted to stay in Newburyport, although he sympathized with her and tried to suggest medicines he saw advertized in the newspapers, in this case Balsam of Quito. Fanny’s letters, meanwhile, had become more rambling and less grammatically literate. She responded with what could be termed, “understanding,” although her words seemed to be covering a deep sense of hurt: “All things considered, I think you have acted wisely in staying and learning your trade. Your dear Sister must have felt the loss of your company, and your prospect here was not the best, although you might have had a chance of doing well. You was to have nothing here but your board. I was to have found you all your clothes, mending and washing, &c.” Next, Fanny seemed to fluctuate between a bit of anger, meaning to cause him to feel guilt, and her own sense of fear that he might still end up like James: “and if my life should not be prolonged (perhaps I shall not live) you will be among your dear N.P. [Newburyport] Was you here, if such a thing should take place, you might be led astray by bad company . . .”
Poor Lloyd! What must he have been feeling! He might have wondered why Fanny did not just turn around and return to Massachusetts. He probably had no real comprehension of just how ill she had become. The progression of letters left behind (which he had obviously kept), however, trace her last few years of constant sickness and sense of doom, mixed with persistent efforts to work and to be involved in whatever way she could manage in her children’s lives. Her back and forth emotions about Lloyd’s position also persisted. In October, for example, she complained that he was writing to her less frequently, the most recent gap lasting four months. This was “a mystery” to her that she could not “unraval.” “How painful to a Mothers feelings—my love for you is still the same—and at this important moment I write as one perhaps that may not be privileged to address you again.”
Perhaps Lloyd could not bring himself to write for fear that she would once more pressure him to join her. Perhaps she had succeeded in making him feel guilty for putting his own happiness above her own. He may have felt angry at her, but not angry enough to destroy her letters and totally dismiss her from his life. He was only fourteen years old. He was one year into an apprenticeship he liked, one that promised him a future. He obviously still heard from James, as Fanny indicated that she only knew about James through Lloyd, and he might have known something of James’s own trials. Whatever he was feeling, he chose to distance himself from Fanny at this time, but he still wanted to know she was there. Perhaps, he even at times reread her letters, feeling, I imagine, as many conflicting emotions about her as she felt about him. In the above case, Lloyd apparently answered her, their letters crossing in the mails, and she then apologized for accusing him of neglect, chalking it up to her mother’s love and worry and asking him if he had an address for James.
Meanwhile, that same letter which indicated Fanny’s anguish about not hearing from Lloyd also expressed her relief that he had not actually come to Baltimore, for the city was again experiencing a fierce yellow fever epidemic, and Fanny felt blessed that Lloyd had escaped it. She described how “Precious youths” were “Snatched away in a few hours” and how she had heard “Screams of the Surving (sic) relatives . . . rend the skies in Midnight hours” while “the City Burried hundreds in the night.” The clerk who took Lloyd’s intended shop position had died the week before. She too was personally very affected by it. With scores of others, she fasted and prayed that she would not be afflicted and that the scourge would subside. All around her, she saw, “the youth the aged and midle (sic) aged . . . cut down in a few hours raving like wild creatures no sense of this world or any other until they appear before the judgment.” In a panic, Fanny fled Baltimore, “with the rest of the Multidue (sic),” then took up nursing a “Mrs. Dorsey, Timothy Pickering’s daughter.” Fanny was with her eleven days before the fever killed her. Sorrowfully, she returned to the city.
Fanny also kept up a spotty correspondence with Martha Farnham, counting on Lloyd to provide her with the latest news on Elizabeth. She was probably embarrassed and ashamed of her inability to send Martha steady payment. But in November, she finally wrote, telling her friend about her situation. For eighteen months, she said, she had begun “to feel that time and sickness has Battered and decayd this Mortal Tabernacle.” Except for one month, she had been unable to work since the previous March. But she still intended to pay Martha, indicating that she had regretfully given up nursing and taken a new position, but one which did not pay half as much. My guess is that Fanny had had to turn to some kind of domestic work. She obviously was trying to do everything she could to show Martha that she appreciated her, for she wrote, “my Conduct may appear so but my heart feels differently, I love you Martha and ever Shall—I repeat again that it is impossible for me to forget your kindness.”
Fanny was bothered by something else at this time, a church episode which had begun sometime in Newburyport and which continued to be an agony for her. What happened, as in so much of Fanny’s life, is not absolutely clear. The problem evolved from some kind of confrontation between Fanny and one Robert Robinson who had been admitted to the Newburyport Baptist Church in 1810. Apparently, Fanny felt that Robinson had in some way either insulted her or acted badly towards her. The first evidence of her annoyance emerged in an 1816 letter from Fanny to the church. A full year later, Robinson reciprocated with a complaint against her, and Pastor John Peak was asked to go to Lynn and investigate. (By this time, Fanny was in Baltimore.) In January, 1818, the church upheld Robinson’s charge and expelled Fanny from membership until she could satisfy the church that she had made amends.
For Fanny, who relied upon the church in an almost desperate way for moral and religious support, the censure was almost unbearable. As she wrote to Lloyd in May, 1819, “that affair of Brother Robinson has given me my death.” By November of that year, the episode was still unresolved, and, as Fanny wrote Martha Farnham, the dispute between the two parishioners would “never” end. She would have to wait to submit her case “to a higher power than man,” a day Fanny looked forward to immensely since, as far as her relationship to her beloved congregation in Newburyport, “the Enemy [had] sowed some bitter weeds.” Apparently Fanny was wrong, as on May 25, 1821, she was restored to the “full fellows list.” Years later, Wendell asked his father about the incident, but Lloyd could not remember it. Wendell searched the church records, but uncovered no details.
One possible explanation is that Robert Robinson, if related to Chris Robinson of Lynn, had complained about Fanny’s lack of control over James. Another is that Fanny might have owed Robinson some money, for she was guilt ridden about her inability to gain financial independence and to take care of herself and her children. She did not comprehend, as most women did not, that the society was not designed to accommodate her needs. Had she been a man, her life might have been much different, but she was not. Another possibility arises, however, when I look at Fanny’s letter to Lloyd written in February, probably 1823. In it, she told her son that even though the church had “restor’d” her, she had chosen not to return, “for I found it was a Crime for me to look over the Ledge . . .” Could Fanny, in her women’s discussion groups, have crossed the line of what was appropriate for her gender? Could it be possible that she, like Anne Hutchinson in Puritan New England, was banished for reinterpreting the Scriptures through a woman’s lens?
As 1819 drew to a close, Fanny turned her thoughts from Lloyd to Elizabeth, now eleven years old. Although she had not seen her since 1812, she felt as close to her daughter as if she had been with her every day of her life. (Actually, in a letter to Lloyd, Fanny claimed she had not seen Elizabeth for five years. I count seven, unless Fanny had made a trip to Newburyport before she left Lynn for Baltimore. Since there is no written record of this, I am unsure of the exact length of time that had passed between visits. The important point is that for an eleven year old girl, five to seven years is half or more of her life.) For Elizabeth, Fanny was most likely a phantom, probably more like an absent fairy godmother in a children’s story than a real woman with insurmountable problems. She may also have felt a great sense of abandonment, having seen not only Fanny, but also James and sometimes even Lloyd, disappear from her life. Even more than before, from Elizabeth’s perspective, Martha Farnham was the likely mother figure, while Fanny, the absent one, existed only through occasional gifts, letters, or stories from Lloyd.
Elizabeth, however, was not of an age to make decisions for herself, and unlike her two brothers, she appeared to be more passive— to be, in other words, socialized into the traditional female role. Fanny, her mother, had had absolutely no success in convincing her sons that learning a trade in Baltimore was a good thing. However, by this time, she needed to have one of her children with her. She was ill much of the time and suffered the same loneliness and homesickness that Lloyd had. She felt she could not return to Newburyport because she saw no way of earning a living there. She must also have felt hurt and despair over her banishment from her church. Elizabeth was her own flesh and blood and her last hope of being able to recapture some semblance of family life. Now that her youngest child had reached an age where she could be useful, rather than totally dependent, Fanny could see her way clear to reuniting with her. Elizabeth could help with household duties and, perhaps, if Fanny recovered her health, begin her own apprenticeship in service to an economically well-off family.
Fanny began her mental preparation for Elizabeth’s and her reunion by imagining that her daughter needed her. Throughout the years of their separation, she had kept a steady, although distant, watch over her, commenting on any cold or ailment she heard Elizabeth had suffered. But in November, 1819, she wrote to Lloyd that she felt “uneasy” about his sister, as she had the “most wretched dreams about her and alas I am afraid all is not well.” However, she was unable to act upon her fears at this time as she herself became ill again. In January, 1820, Fanny wrote Martha Farnham that she had been so ill that no one around her thought she would survive. She experienced “dropsy in the Chest” and had bled “Copious.” Fortunately, she had recovered enough “to set up all day,” but she could not leave her room. Fanny had always accepted death as a part of life, and told Martha how she believed that “all people die a bit every day.” It was important, therefore, to pay attention to prayer and the care of one’s “immortal Soul.” But even more than concern for the other world, Fanny fretted over her children: James was her “poor prodigal James, may Lord have Mercy on his immortal Soul;” Lloyd and Elizabeth, her “dear Children” who perhaps would come to be with her in her illness. In any case, Fanny gave up all hope of ever seeing “my Dear M [Martha] on this Earthly Ball.”
Nearly four months later, in May, Fanny was still seriously ill, so ill in fact, that she could not even gather up enough energy to keep up with her correspondence. She paid closest attention to her link with Lloyd, letting letters from Martha go unanswered while trying to keep up some contact with Ephraim Allen, Lloyd’s “master.” Fearing death, and feeling herself “standing on the confines of the grave,” Fanny shed many a tear over the fate of her children, for she still perceived herself as their only mother and sole caretaker. To Lloyd, she reported that “the idea of leaving you and your dear Sister Unprotected in this Unfriendly World” caused her “heart to ache.” Fanny was caught in the struggle between life and death and may have been having delirious episodes. At one point, she reported that she had given up all her loved ones, and her mind was filled “with heavenly peace,” but then the physical world reclaimed her and she suffered the worst “Violent Spasm from the lungs” that she had ever experienced. She claimed malpractice on the part of her doctor, who “had made me Bandage my legs to Compress them to keep them from Swelling and by so doing threw the water more Violent on the Chest and Lungs.”
For two more weeks, Fanny remained in bed, a “blister” on her breast to help relieve the pain and spasms. Still, she coughed up blood “and Matter,” enough, in fact, to wet two large handkerchiefs. Her feet and legs were still bandaged, and she was virtually helpless. At this point, for the first time in the written record, Fanny referred to slavery, a fact which I find astounding since slavery was such a major part of the Baltimore experience, and Fanny was a northerner, an outsider. In 1820, in fact, slaveholders made up twenty-five percent of the Baltimore population. Fanny commented to Lloyd that she was being well taken care of by both black and white women, but that one specific “Coloured” woman was “so kind no one can tell how kind She is.” But “Henny” was a slave, “a Slave to Man yet a free Born soul by the grace of God.” She instructed Lloyd to take note, and if he should never see his mother again, he should remember Henny, “for your poor mothers sake.”
This is it—just one reference to slavery. I have no idea what Lloyd’s own experience with slavery had been like during his stay in Baltimore. What does seem evident, however, is that something “clicked” for him and laid the groundwork for his future deep and abiding hatred for the slave system. I like to think that Fanny’s own sense of compassion and justice played a part in it, but this is mere speculation.
Fanny’s declining health and long, suffering, idle days gave her plenty of time to ruminate over her children. Over and over again, she envisioned their return to her. For a while, she unrealistically played with the idea of leaving Baltimore and returning to Newburyport. If they would not come to her, she would go to them. This was just a pipe dream. She could barely get out of bed. Then she fantasized over Lloyd bringing Elizabeth for a visit, after which they would both return north so that they would not be separated in case of her death. Most of all, Fanny worried that, because she had not received a letter for a long time, Elizabeth had forgotten her. And then there was always James. Fanny had received a letter from him during her illness. He was “Miserable,” she reported to Lloyd. Having hired himself out to a cruel sea pilot in Savannah, Georgia, he had been beaten so badly that the police had intervened. James was bedridden for six weeks, after which he was beaten again and then had run away. He had no clothes, money, or food and had resorted to begging. Once in Charleston, South Carolina, he joined the crew of a schooner bound for New York, and that was the last Fanny had heard of him.
As for Elizabeth, Fanny believed that her daughter would come to her in July, and in June, she asked Lloyd to make arrangements for her to travel with the sister of Joseph Lane, her fare to be paid upon her arrival at John and Aaron Levering Merchants. But Elizabeth seemed reluctant to come. Lloyd, her self-proclaimed protector, must have been the one to express his sister’s feelings, for Fanny wrote to him that she understood her daughter’s “reluctance” to come, and she could “understand how she doesn’t want to leave dear brother and friends,” but “who is dearer to a Child than a Mother.” In a change of mind, Fanny stressed that she wanted to see Elizabeth “placed in with some kind person” in case she herself should die. After all, Lloyd could not support her. She tried to reassure him that Elizabeth would be better off with her. “I know that you will feel the pangs of Separation,” she wrote, “but I confide in your good sense and understanding that you will believe all things is for the best—and your parting although painful will be aleviated with this happy Idea that your sister Comes to her dear Mother and that you are left with those that has known you from your infancy.” Unwilling to be as bending as she had been with her sons, Fanny instructed Lloyd to tell Elizabeth to bring all her clothes, schoolbooks, and her paintings, as they “might help her to be placed.” Yet, she still waivered in her strictness, closing with a wish for him to be persuasive and assertive, assuring him that she was on the mend, having walked outside several times.
To Elizabeth, she added a short letter saying how sorry she was to hear that her daughter did not want to join her. She appealed to her young sense of guilt, fear, and duty, reminding her that as a mother, she had always done her “duty” and that she had always loved her dearly. If Elizabeth was afraid that she would arrive in Baltimore only to find out that her mother had already died, she need not fear, for she would find “dear friends” to assist her. (At this juncture, my heart really went out to this now twelve year old. What a frightening prospect—to arrive in a strange city only to end up alone and an orphan to boot! No wonder Lloyd tried to intervene.) Fanny, however, seemed unable to really comprehend the enormity of the fear her daughter might be experiencing. She closed all possible means of escape by telling Elizabeth that, although she was well aware of her attachment to Martha and her children, “your dear Aunt F. cannot keep you and I wish to relieve her of that burden before I die.” She assured her that she would find a good place for her with people who would allow her to go to school. Fanny must have been extremely irate and heartbroken when July arrived, but Elizabeth did not.
Now, in all fairness to Fanny, we really need to look at an alternate interpretation of this last scenario. There is in existence an undated letter from Fanny to Martha Farnham which, if written during this time, adds new understanding to Fanny’s actions. Apparently, Martha had communicated to Fanny her own sense that Fanny was ungrateful to her, that she took Martha’s generosity for granted. Martha appeared to desire words of appreciation. . . and money. Fanny’s reply was full of humble assertions that Martha was wrong. “God knows my heart towards you my dear Martha,” she wrote, “had I money at hand I should . . . amply repay you for all your kindness but should I be spared and health granted to me you will . . . truly find that I am not that ungrateful ungenerous being that I appear to be to you at this juncture of time O Martha how you have wrung my heart with that reflection.” Fanny assured her old friend that she would “try my dear Martha to remove the burden from you and take my child and place [her] somewhere here so that I shall be able [to] repay you for all your kindness to her.” Fanny then claimed that the only reason she wanted Elizabeth to stay in Newburyport was because the schooling was cheaper there.
This letter certainly casts a different light on the situation. Although unsigned, undated, and with no use of the child’s name, the handwriting is most definitely Fanny’s, and the sentiments appear to fit this particular time, place, and situation. The letter, if accepted as part of this scenario, indicates that Martha Farnham may not have been the loving, mother-substitute that Fanny imagined her to be, and that Fanny had not voluntarily deviated from her previously supportive and compassionate stand on her children’s behalf. Martha, it would appear, had never considered Elizabeth as one of her own children even though she had cared for her far more years than Fanny had. Elizabeth was her boarder, a ward of the city and/or church, a foster child. Martha may or may not have been loving; she may or may not have been “motherly.” Neither Lloyd nor Elizabeth indicated that she was cruel, but apparently she did distance herself enough so that she could desire her own release from being responsible for Fanny’s child. Of course, there is also no way to know if Martha’s own situation had changed so that she could no longer take care of someone else’s child. In any case, Fanny was pushed, out of both concern and guilt, to retrieve her daughter, no matter what the personal cost to either of them.
Sometime between the missed July voyage and early September, Elizabeth unexpectedly arrived. She had made the trip alone, making it appear that Martha was eager to get rid of her. Fanny had no idea she was on her way until a carriage arrived from the ship, carrying her daughter “in a raging fever, scarce sensible that she had a parent’s protection.” Fanny nursed her for fifteen days, reporting to Lloyd that she never lifted her head, “and puked incessantly for 23 days—9 days she puked on board of the vessel, and 14 after her arrival.” Apparently, she had taken ill as soon as she left Boston. Fanny feared that her child had yellow fever for she was racked by “alarming spasms.” She never left her side “night or day,” and “had just given up on her when she recovered.”
Once Elizabeth became part of Fanny’s Baltimore life, the flow of letters between herself and her connections to Newburyport slackened. Since Lloyd was the main keeper of this correspondence, we can judge by the fewer extant letters that her declining health, with its persistent violent coughs, chest pains, and spitting up of blood, prevented her from even writing to him at the rate she had previously. So bad was her health that in April of 1821, she reported to Lloyd that “some ladies” had become interested in her case and had taken her under their wing in order to prevent her being sent to the poor-house. A Methodist widow took Fanny in while Elizabeth was placed “with a very worthy woman” to learn domestic work. It is doubtful that she was able to continue with her schooling. Fanny told Lloyd that she was grateful for all the kindness “other denominations” offered her, for while she was still a Baptist, her break with the Newburyport church led her to believe (and angrily so) that the Baltimore Baptists would also refuse to help her. Although separated from her daughter, Fanny saw her regularly, Elizabeth adding affectionate P.S.’s and short notes to the letters.
For the rest of 1821 through 1823, it is not possible to trace Fanny’s story with absolute accuracy. Firstly, only a few letters survived the years. Secondly, the dating seems inaccurate, as if during Fanny’s long illness, she lost track of time. Letters dated 1821 and 1822 reflect incidents that most likely took place the following year. Thirdly, as Elizabeth wrote Lloyd, she and Fanny fretted over the twenty-five cents he, as the receiver, would have to pay for each letter, a huge sum for a lowly apprentice. Consequently, letters were less frequent and continuity not always clear.
Throughout the rest of 1821, it appears, Fanny continued to fluctuate in her health. For a while, she stayed with a Quaker family six miles from Baltimore. They tended to her needs while she was too ill to get out of bed. After two years of illness, she wrote to an old friend, using the nautical images which had filled her life with Abijah. She related how at first her prospects had looked “very pleasing . . . there was nothing to disturb or ruffle the Calm which seem’d to spread oer the sea of life,” but now, she had “to exert all [her] efforts and skill to be prevent being Shipwrecked on the Shoals of despair.” If it were not for her faith in God, she would be lost.
Elizabeth could be some help to her, but her own service prohibited her from being with Fanny as much as either of them would have liked. In 1822, Fanny again asked Lloyd to come and see her. It had been six years since they had been together. In March, she was feeling a bit better and could sit up part of the day. The blood spitting had stopped even though she had experienced “six blisters in succession.” Would he come? Apparently, he avoided the issue, for in July, 1822, she wrote again, telling her son that she was “emaciated” after having been confined to her bed for ten “long” months. At present, she could not even dress or undress herself without help and had become totally dependent on “the charity of friends.” This deeply humiliated her. She had tried so hard over the years to remain self-sufficient. In this letter, she referred to her “mortified pride” and her sunken spirits.
Lloyd, however, begged off, claiming he could not leave Newburyport because of his apprenticeship. This may very well have been true, or it could have been exaggerated because of other fears a seventeen year old might have felt. Would his mother be less than satisfied with a visit and insist he stay with her? Would he become ill himself from the various fevers and poxes Fanny told him plagued the area? Or would he suffer from seasickness? Would the visit be too emotionally difficult for him, with his mother so desperately ill and his sister so alone? Was he just plain angry with Fanny for taking Elizabeth away from him? If he could just manage to stay in Newburyport and postpone going to Baltimore, maybe the bad stuff would disappear, and a healthy mother and sister could rejoin him in Massachusetts instead of the reverse in Baltimore.
After all, things were going well for Lloyd, and he was very happy. He loved the printing trade and had done so well that Ephraim Allen had made him the office foreman. In his spare time, he took to reading novels and poetry, studying the works of Byron, Pope, and Scott. He became enthralled with politics and, Newburyport being a Federalist stronghold, he tried to learn everything he could about the Party, believing himself to be a budding Federalist. He also tried his hand at writing and adopting the pseudonym, “An Old Bachelor,” he submitted letters to the Newburyport Herald, the earliest centering around the topic of marriage, of all things!
In May, 1822, for example, “An Old Bachelor” submitted a very anti-marriage letter, one which makes me wonder just what his childhood was like and just how much he blamed Fanny for his father’s abandonment. After all, an absent father, one Lloyd could barely remember, would be much easier to romanticize than a mother who obviously had enormous physical and emotional needs. In this letter to the editor, his first published work, Lloyd expressed his determination to remain single. Why? “My answer is, because I see none of the ‘raptures,’ ‘exstacies,’ ‘joys,’ ‘happiness,’ ‘bliss,’ &c, &c, as is often represented, existing with married persons;—but, on the contrary, ‘broils,’ ‘distrust,’ ‘anger,’ ‘strife,’ and ‘confusion!’—And to be chained to a brawling and contentious woman, would be far worse than to be condemned to the Gallies for life: the roaring of a battery would be much more musical and harmonious than a scolding wife.” Was this a humorous tone, an angry one, or a heartbroken lament? Who can tell, for just three days later, his tone shifted to a more compassionate one in favor of the female viewpoint. Or did it? In this letter, An Old Bachelor started out saying how his “Aunt Betty” had reacted with fury to his letter, claiming that men were “worse . . . than the vilest of ‘beasts’—more venomous than ‘spiders or rattlesnakes’—fit only to dwell with the ‘swine’ &c.” He, however, in a most humorous vein, reported his fear of his aunt, who had cornered him, “with both arms wide expanded in the air, features distorted, and mouth wide open, vociferating vengeance against my poor carcase if ever she caught me again making such ‘frightful misrepresentations’ of her sex. . .”
What did Fanny think of her son’s writing, I wonder? I, myself, was impressed by his literacy and venture to say that Deacon Ezekial Bartlett paid Lloyd’s education more mind than letters or diaries tell us. Fanny was more practically minded than her son, however. Without actually sending her a writing sample, Lloyd told her of his actions. She was her usual supportive self even though she could not understand why he kept his identity a secret. As she wrote him in July, “If Mr. Allen approves of it why you have nothing to fear; but I hope you consulted him on the publication of them. I am pleased myself with the idea, provided that nothing wrong should result from it.” She then requested copies of his writing, so she could judge for herself whether Lloyd was “an old Bachelor, or whether you are AOB, as A may stand for an, and O for oaf and B for blockhead.” I tend to think Lloyd never sent the articles, knowing Fanny would feel he was her version of AOB. He may also have feared hurting her feelings.
Besides being a happy apprentice, at this time, as I alluded to earlier, Lloyd also expressed a desire to find his father, or to discover, at least, if he were alive. Fanny feared the prospect of seeing Abijah greatly. However, she did extend a helping hand, suggesting Lloyd write his aunt Rebecca, but also warning him to keep her own location a secret. “For should your father be alive,” she wrote, “he might come on here.” This small thought gives me much to ponder. After thirteen or fourteen years of separation, what could Fanny have been thinking? Was she afraid that Abijah would want to reconcile, only to find her wasted from illness? Was she afraid he would be abusive towards her, blaming her for James’s disappearance and for the break up of the family? Was she afraid of her own emotions? In all the years of letters, Fanny never mentioned Abijah. She never blamed him, cursed him, or mourned him. Rather, she seemed to accept her lot, taking on the language of self-blame and denigration.
Fanny’s evaluation of herself, whether as worthless or unworthy of God’s love, was always stated in religious terms. Too often, she felt, she found herself thinking about material rather than spiritual cares. At one point, most likely in her early period in Baltimore, when she was “surrounded by the gaity and confusion and turmoil” of the city, she longed for “the Calm pleasures of retirement and the Company of my dear Christian Friends,” but instead, she was “distracted” and devoted little time “to pious reading and devotional Exercises.” As a result, she felt that her heart was “deceitful . . . and desparately wicked.” She (and the “gracious benefactor and Redeemer” she was writing to), were put into “a critical and dangerous” world, one full of “temptation” to the vain. Although Fanny seemed never to have fallen under the spell of material wealth and corporal pleasures, she felt “unworthy,” as she wrote her New England pastor and desperately needed to hear him preach “the blessed Gospel again” in her “own land.”
Fanny constantly desired to feel “more faith” than she did and never seemed able to live up to her own standards. Her illness did not help; it merely added to her lack of self-esteem. Often she referred to herself as “stupid” and “a woman of Sorrowful spirit,” with a heart that was “a sink of sin” and a body that was a “tabernacle of Clay . . . Sinking into mother Earth while lingering Disease prey upon the Vital Energy.” She felt that she had failed in some sense as a Christian, that her spirit was “Lukewarm” and diminished as her health weakened. She was “vain” and a “hypocrite” with a “proud, stubborn Heart,” perhaps a woman who fought too hard for independence and who rebelled too much against dependency. She refused to resign to “the divine Will,” even though God had “Threwed” her path “with Thorns.”
Yet, sprinkled among the expressions of self-hatred (and one could question if Fanny’s self-image fits today’s definition of the battered woman’s syndrome), Fanny could not completely suppress her optimism, even if her happiness could only rest in God’s hands and only be achieved at death. Despite her hardships, she wrote to Martha Farham about her love for Jesus and her belief that God would show her “what I am put into the furnace for,” for still, her “mercies” were “more abundant than my trials.” Fanny hoped for a peaceful rest “in a Quiet haven there to tie at anchor in the bosom of my God.” She felt that God watched over her, she “a Wandering imperfect Creature” and that one day he would come and help her to “enter the gates of the new Jerusalem.”
Fanny’s trials were not yet over, however, and September, 1822, would surely put her to the test, for on the seventh of the month, Elizabeth became gravely ill, and Fanny had a “presentment” that she would die. Within two weeks, her fears had come true; Elizabeth had fallen victim to yellow fever. In December, when Fanny wrote of her distress to Lloyd, her mental state was evident in the number of left out words (now in brackets) in her letter. She described the events as such:
Previous to the Saturday before she was taken sick, she appeared perfectly well, but her mind had been seriously exercised for a week before that she should not live. Two nights before she was taken sick, she came into [my room] about 2 o’clock at night, and said: ‘Mother, let me come in your bed.’ She trembled very much, and appeared to be in a great agitation. I told [her] she must not give way to nervous feelings, and insisted she should go back into her own bed; but I could not persuade her to. She slept with me the remainder of the night and in the morning I asked her what was the matter. She observed with a smile that she supposed she had dreamt something that alarmed her, but could [not] remember. At length she broke into [a] flood [of tears] and said: I shall never see Lloyd in this world; for she observed that these words awoke her that night: ‘Are you prepared to die?’ and that she heard footsteps go round her bed. Still I tho’t it was one of her nervous frames she had got in. This was a Friday night, and on Sunday morning she arose as well as usual. Heard no complaint untill after breakfast she observed that she had [an] ache and her throught felt sore, but she said she was going to meeting. I did not want [her] to, but her head did not ache bad. She got dressed to go, and [I] perceived that she looked pale. I insisted upon it that she should not go. Accordingly, she took her things off and lay down to go to sleep. All the time I felt very uneasy about her; gave magnesia too but I could not get the better of my fears. I sent for a physician immediately, and he pronounced it the bilious fever. This was 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Fanny’s telling ends here, and I can vividly feel her pain, understanding that she could not bring herself to relate the rest. I can imagine her despair and her self-recriminations, for it was her doing that had brought Elizabeth to Baltimore, her self-perceived failure as a mother for being unable to protect and provide for her. Of all the low points in Fanny’s life, this must have been the worst. To add to her misery, she could not understand why Lloyd had not come to her side as soon as he received word of his sister’s death. Fanny eventually rationalized his behavior for him, claiming she was glad he had “altered” his mind, for he, too, might have fallen victim to the fever.
Lloyd was all Fanny had now. Her husband had abandoned her; her three daughters were dead; James was somewhere at sea, and she sometimes wondered if he might also be dead. Lloyd, however, was very much alive and doing well in his apprenticeship. He was her only link to happiness and family. She knew of his success through letters from both him and Ephraim Allen even though Lloyd continued his practice of never sending her copies of his published pieces. He was now writing AOB letters about topics other than marriage, expressing his opinions about U.S./Latin American affairs, about slavery (at that time agreeing with the idea of colonizing freed people to Africa), about domestic issues, and about Massachusetts politics. In the spring of 1823, Caleb Cushing, an editor at the paper, uncovered Lloyd’s secret nom de plume and encouraged him to write and to read more. Things could not be going better for him, and he continued to avoid planning a Baltimore trip.
In March, however, Fanny wrote again how much she wanted to see him at least one more time before she died. It wasn’t new for her to refer to dying, but Fanny’s tone seemed more resigned, as if she had lost her desire to fight for life. Lloyd must have responded that he could not leave New England because in December, Ephraim Allen had relocated to Mobile, Alabama, for the winter, leaving him in charge of the office. If he left now, he could endanger his position. This was the last thing Fanny wanted. She had only one child whose life was going well. If she caused him to lose the possibility of a decent future, how could she possibly live with herself? But, perhaps Allen would consent to a brief stay, especially since Fanny needed Lloyd to take care of some business for her, business we will never know the nature of. Fanny tried to reassure Lloyd. “I should not wish you to Stay by any means in B [Baltimore]—it would be a matter of grief to me to have you to deviate from the path of rectitude and duty for Certainly it would be treating Mr. A very ill for you to betray your trust and I should be a Wretch to assist you to do so,” she wrote.
Ephraim Allen returned to Newburyport in May after five months of being away from the Herald. Upon his return, Lloyd approached him about visiting his mother, but apparently his master was reluctant to let him go. Finally, sensing the urgency of his mother’s situation, he appealed to Fanny to correspond with Allen on his behalf. His request to her is the only existing letter from him to her, and it is surprisingly affectionate, considering his long separation from Fanny and his recent hurt over his sister’s death. Yet, it is hauntingly formal and distant. He must have felt quite mature by this time, thinking himself to be eighteen, and, therefore, an adult. Take, for instance, his opening sentence: “There is something peculiarly gratifying in corresponding frequently with our distant friends, and hearing of their welfare and happiness;—but how much more so is it when we have the invaluable privilege of communicating with one who loveth, not only as a friend, but as an affectionate parent—a tender, affectionate mother!”
By the second paragraph, Lloyd warmed up a little. “Your letter was alike a source of pleasure and pain,” pleasure because she spoke so caringly to him, but pain because of her declining health. Lloyd claimed he wanted to see her but that Allen kept putting obstacles in his path, first insisting that he could not release him while the paper was going through an expansion, then that he find his own replacement, then suggesting he take care of Fanny’s needs through the mail. “He knows not the anxious throbbings of a mother’s breast to see her affectionate son—nor the bowels of love with which she watches and protects him from evil,” he wrote, suggesting once again that Fanny herself request that he be allowed to visit and closing, “Adieu! dear mother, and O may Heaven grant that I shall clasp you again to my throbbing breast.”
It is impossible to know how Fanny reacted to this letter with its mixture of pompous teenage expostulation and painful expressions of grief. She obviously followed through on his suggestion, writing directions on how he could find her once he arrived in Baltimore. She also responded to a letter sent her from Ephraim Allen explaining her desperate need to see her son. Fanny must, however, have felt a little abashed by her son’s writing style, for she could not help but give him a bit of a tongue-lashing about it and his probable use of it in his published pieces. “Next your turning Author,” she wrote, “you have no doubt read—and heard the fate of such Characters that they generally starve to death in some garret or place that no one inhabits—so you may see what fortune and luck belongs to you if you are of their Class of people—.” As for his delving into political issues, Fanny felt his time would be better spent if he studied the Bible, “but my dear L lose not the favour of God—have an eye single to his Glory and you will not lose your reward.”
On July 5, after seven long years, mother and son were finally united. Lloyd was astounded by the change in Fanny, telling Ephraim Allen, “I found her in tears—but, o God, so altered, so emaciated, that I should never have recognized her, had I not known that there were none else in the room. Instead of the tall, robust woman, blooming in health, whom I saw last, she is now bent up by ‘fell disease,’ pined away to almost a skeleton, and unable to walk. She is under the necessity of being bolstered up in bed, being incompetent to lie down, as it would immediately choke her.” Lloyd stayed with Fanny for two or three weeks. Soon after he left, she was operated on for a cancerous tumor on her shoulder. Never able to rally, she steadily drifted toward death, which took her on September 3. She was buried in the cemetery of the First Baptist Society in Baltimore. Lloyd offered to repay the good church people who took care of the final arrangements, but it is likely that they did not comply with his request for an accounting of the costs nor did they ever claim the small amount of money Fanny had kept in a bank which Lloyd received notice of years later.
Lloyd marked his mother’s passing with a brief (and incorrect) notice which appeared in the Newburyport Herald, the Eastport Sentinel, and the St. John Star. It said simply, “DIED. In Baltimore, 3rd inst., after a long and distressing illness, which she bore with Christian fortitude and resignation, Mrs. Frances Maria Garrison, relict of the late Captain Abijah G., formerly of this town, aged 45.” Rather than identify his mother as a single, abandoned woman, he listed his father as deceased.
Fanny’s story does not really end with her death, for there are three other considerations: Abijah, James, and Lloyd. As far as historians and the Garrison children have told it, the only one of the Garrison branch of the family to live to old age was Lloyd. However, there remains a question about Abijah’s fate. As an adult researching his father’s history, Wendell Garrison found out some interesting information. On a trip to St. John, New Brunswick, in 1873, a cousin, Joanne Palmer, shared a letter she had received from Abijah in 1814. It proved he was in Lundy, Canada, in the parish of Waterborough. Later rumors included that he had returned to the sea, taken up teaching, and/or begun a new family. Even more compelling, however, and, understandably, absent from the sons’ laudatory biography, is the fact that one William Augustus Garrison, a music teacher in St. John, claimed to be Lloyd’s half-brother. As Wendell wrote to his sister, Fanny, “The story is a long one, and it is enough to say here that he was a son of Abijah by his second cousin Nancy Palmer, and that he was born in Dec. 1809, just five years after Father, to whom he bears a striking resemblance.” Lloyd had met William A. in 1840 and 1845, but thought him to be “a sort of cousin, & never dreamed of the nearer relationship.” Several months after Wendell’s visit, William A. wrote how the purpose of the visit, that of discovering family history, convinced him to reveal his parentage, a story not even his wife had known. He felt humiliated for not coming forward earlier with the tale of his “unfortunate mother.” After his confession, he attempted to restore contact with Lloyd, but his letters went unanswered. What became of Abijah is unknown.
James’s fate, however, is easily traceable. For years he shifted around, his life always following the same pattern: a job at sea, drinking, fights or cruel treatment at the hand of some sadistic sea captain, jail and then guilt.—the same thing over and over again. From time to time, he would probably write to Lloyd or visa versa, but there seems to have been no continuous contact until the fall of 1839, when Lloyd actually came to James’s rescue. Learning that his brother had become disabled, due to what Lloyd described as “a fistulous abscess, of a cancerous nature, situated at the base of the back bone, and badly affecting the spine,” he appealed to Commodore John Downes of the U.S. Navy to allow his brother a leave so that he could recover his health at Lloyd’s Cambridgeport home. After three months and no results, Lloyd began a process of appeals until in April, 1840, he had successfully achieved James’s discharge. During this time, James remained in the care of Lloyd and his wife, Helen, both who showed him warmth and compassion.
Both Lloyd and Helen, however, were diehard temperance advocates, and Lloyd was quite religious, even though he was not a regular churchgoer. As such, they expected James not only to abstain from alcohol but also to repent for his so-called sins. Lloyd’s feeling was that “without repentance there can be no reconciliation; and unless we are reconciled to God, how can we be happy?” James tried to live the good life, even writing his memoirs which were eventually published in 1954 as Behold Me Once More: The Confessions of James Holley Garrison, Brother of William Lloyd Garrison. The memoirs read like the temperance tract they are, but they are also a good case for nonviolence as James’s life was riddled with brutality.
The Garrisons did the best they could to make James’s last few years comfortable. Helen’s father, George Benson, took him into his care at his rural home in Brooklyn, Connecticut, where James enjoyed himself by taking up a bit of gardening. But his thoughts always turned to the sea. Finally, in the spring of 1842, James developed an abscess near his lungs. His fate followed his mother’s, and on October 14, with his brother by his side, James died. He was only forty-one years old.
As for Lloyd, in the few years following Fanny’s death, he graduated from his apprenticeship at the Herald and attempted to establish his own Newburyport paper, the Free Press, in the process discovering the young poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. The venture was not profitable, and Lloyd moved on, first to Boston to edit the National Philanthropist (and there meeting the great abolitionist, Benjamin Lundy), and then, in 1828, to Bennington, Vermont, to edit the Journal of the Times. For Lloyd, just twenty-four years of age, his future as the great abolitionist leader, really began when in 1829, Lundy convinced him to take on the coeditorship of his newspaper, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, an abolitionist publication in which Lloyd, as the adult William Lloyd Garrison, expressed his belief in the immediate emancipation of all slaves. Ironically, the journal was published in Baltimore, the city he avoided like the plague in his youth, but where he stayed for about a year before returning to Boston and establishing the Liberator in 1831.
Lloyd grew into a man of tremendous insight, compassion, and political awareness. He embraced many reforms of his day, the most telling being abolitionism, feminism, temperance, and nonviolence—all, I believe, which can be traced to the traumas he experienced as a child. Temperance is easy to understand. Alcohol had destroyed his childhood, had ripped his parents apart, and then stolen his brother. Nonviolence also seems obvious. His home was torn apart by the violence exhibited between his parents; whether physically or psychologically practiced, his father and mother—and perhaps he, himself—had experienced violence first hand. In his adult life, Lloyd never allowed anyone to use violence towards his children, and he and Helen never seemed to even raise their voices at each other.
Feminism is less obvious, but Lloyd must have, in a very real way, understood that Fanny’s struggles might not have been as serious had there been any equality for women. All through his adult years, he respected strong, independent abolitionist women who, like his mother, spoke their minds. He wanted equality for these women, and he especially wanted it for his own daughter, whom he and Helen named, Frances Helen (or Fanny). Furthermore, both the early temperance and woman’s rights movements addressed the need for easier divorce laws for women married to alcoholics, a cause Lloyd could easily embrace.
Lloyd’s devotion to abolitionism is the most difficult to trace. Clearly, he must have witnessed slavery in Baltimore. Fanny did, and spoke kindly of the woman who tended her so warmly. I think that Lloyd understood slavery in a way he never acknowledged, and this, too, can be traced back to Fanny, who, in many ways, was enslaved by poverty. She took menial jobs, was often treated badly, and had no options. As he wrote to a friend, Harriet Minot, in 1833, “It is the lowness of their estate, in the estimation of the world, which exalts them in my eyes. It is the distance which separates them from the blessings and privileges of society, which brings them so closely to my affections.” This quotation could very well reflect upon Fanny’s life as well as that of the slaves. What surprises me is that Lloyd never as an adult took up the cause of industrial slavery in the Massacusetts mills. He settled on racial slavery and devoted his life to that cause and to the end of racism altogether. For me, Lloyd’s choice of political activism and humanitarian reform evolved directly from the experiences of his boyhood.
Lloyd loved his mother, of this I have no doubt, and as the years passed, he romanticized her image until it grew to mythic proportions. When he was courting Helen Eliza Benson, for example, he wrote her a letter in which he mourned for Fanny, crying out in the most maudlin tones about her incomparable regard and care for him. He also included, for Helen’s love-struck eyes, a rather sentimental poem about his mother:
She was the masterpiece of womankind—
In shape and height majestically fine;
Her cheeks the lily and the rose combined;
Her lips—more opulently red than wine,
Her raven locks hung tastefully entwined;
Her aspect fair as Nature could design:
And then her eyes! so eloquently bright!
An eagle would recoil before their light.
Lloyd’s children grew up knowing of “Grandmother Garrison,” and when the planchette board and séances became the rage, she often paid them visits. James’s depiction of Fanny in his memoirs added to the romantic image. This is not to say that the sons’ memories were false; in fact, the essence of the images was probably very real—just a bit tempered and exaggerated by time.
When Lloyd himself died in 1879, at the age of seventy-four, his obituaries displayed the saintly martyr his mother had become to the family (for it was the children who wrote the press releases). In each article, Fanny was touted as a strong, intelligent woman whose life was ruined by the evils of alcohol. Abijah was “intelligent,” even “a genious,” but “a drunkard.” Fanny was “remarkable, one of nature’s heroines,” a true daughter of God who either (depending on the publication) was abandoned by Abijah or who threw him out. In either case, even though she was forced into poverty, she proved a loving, tender mother.
It is a testament to Fanny’s life that Lloyd did not forget her. Even in the Victorian era, when motherhood was romanticized, he could have pushed her from his memory if she had really hurt him. Instead, he appeared to mourn her, perhaps not her real self, but some semblance of her. Not only that, but he proved himself to be her son for he framed his life around her experience. James could remember his father, and became his father’s son. For this, he truly suffered. Lloyd could only remember his mother, and became his mother’s son, and, for this, he truly benefitted.
* * * * * * * * *
Over three years. That’s how long I worked on Fanny’s story. Granted, that is not the only thing I did, but for three years, bits and pieces of her life came to my attention and, most importantly, I spent untold hours thinking about her. I can’t say why I was so emotionally drawn to her tale, except that it was a surprisingly dramatic beginning to the Garrisons’ family history. Otherwise, she and I have absolutely nothing in common, except that we both love her son—that is to say, she loved her child and I, a historical figure.
Fanny’s story touched me so deeply that I couldn’t stand the idea of telling it in a cold, objective historian’s voice. In fact, I went through various stages of imagining how it could be done. First I envisioned simply a retelling with a new slant. Then I jumped all the way to a novelization. That seemed too extreme, too anti-historian. So I turned towards trying to tell it in the first-person. I played with this idea the longest, but rejected it after reading Julia Blackburn’s Daisy Bates in the Desert. Blackburn wrote her story of an Irish/English woman’s life among the aborigines of Australia in three parts. In the first and last sections, she wrote in her own voice about her search and discoveries. In the second section, she took on Bates’s voice, using the first person (“I”) to reconstruct the saga. For me, this technique didn’t work. In fact, I found it quite disturbing. I couldn’t adjust to the author becoming her subject. There needed to be two distinct voices: the historian’s and the subject’s. (I had this same reaction to the sections in Eunice Lipton’s, Alias Olympia, in which the author takes on her subject’s voice.) This is when I decided to experiment with the form, to see if I could tell the story, sticking largely to Fanny’s perspective, but trying to give my own reaction to her. Her participation needed to come through the letters and journal she left behind and also through the remembrances of those around her, namely her sons, James and Lloyd.
I also wanted to relate Fanny’s story rather than William Lloyd Garrison’s mother’s story. This meant that he must be only a child, not an adult. He was “Lloyd,” not “Garrison.” Without his being center stage, the piece became about a struggling, single, abandoned woman. She could have been any one of thousands any place in the world. Of course, her story had its unique points, but all in all, had she not been “Garrison’s” mother, no one really would have cared what had happened to her. Even now, few people know about the great abolitionist’s roots nor the importance of his childhood experience to the formation of his character.
Except for the ability to hold in my hand and to read Fanny’s original letters, there is little other tangible evidence that she even existed—no photos or daguerreotype, no paintings or sketches, no clothing, jewelry—nothing but a small piece of embroidery I came across in a file marked “Ephemeral” in the Garrison Family papers at Harvard University. This one item told me so much about Fanny’s life and gave my heart an emotional wrench.
For some years, I was very involved in creating and studying about embroidery. In fact, I am certified to teach canvas embroidery by the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, a fact that never ceases to shock and amaze friends and colleagues. While studying the colonial era (up through about 1830 or so), I came to understand the role embroidered pieces played in status. The most popular pieces of the day were samplers. Generally, each consisted of a bordered scene with a poem or saying, a rendition of the alphabet, the embroiderer’s name and date of completion. The lettering was done in cross stitch, the flowers, birds, houses, people, or whatever, done in crewel embroidery stitches.
For many young women, stitching samplers was part of their education. They learned the alphabet, philosophy, religion, art, and other esoteric things. (There was a backlash over this after the War of Independence, and in many schools, embroidery was discarded in favor of more academic subjects.) Embroidery was also important in the marriage market. Suitors could judge the wealth and social standing by the embroidered pieces hanging on parlor walls. Imported silk and linen used in a delicately-stitched sampler said much more than a crudely stitched piece in thick wool done on homespun. For women, the same competition held true. The class system, as odd as it sounds, incorporated this most folksy art in its structure.
Now, what does this all have to do with Fanny? Well—one gray, winter, New England day, as I sorted through that Garrison family “ephemeral” file in order to break the tedium of reading letter after letter, (The letters were not always tedious, but they were on this particular day.) I came across that only nonwritten evidence I have that Fanny actually walked this earth. It was a piece of crewel embroidery, inscribed in pen on the bottom, “a Present from Mrs. Garrison, Newburyport” and then in pencil, perhaps added as an afterthought, “jan. 1810.” Just the fact that this part of the work was handwritten and not stitched told me worlds about Fanny. Let me continue the description, however. The piece itself consisted of two sheets of paper held together by large and crude stitches in the shape of a vine with leaves, big flowers, and a bird on the ground. The yarn was fairly coarse and came in three shades of green, a small amount of yellow-green, and two shades of rose.
Fanny Lloyd Garrison’s embroidery, January 1810. Houghton Library. Harvard University.
I held the piece in my hand for some time, turning it over to look at the knots and crossed threads on the back, a sure sign of an unskilled and unsophisticated stitcher. I touched the coarse fiber and ran my fingers across the paper, and as a sister embroiderer, I felt the care and attention that went into the work. This piece of embroidery gave me a real sense of Fanny’s poverty. Who but the very poor would embroider on paper? (Except in recent times, when it became fashionable and expensive.) Who would not even have a scrap of fabric to use? But it also told me of Fanny’s dignity. Perhaps to show gratitude to the family on State Street who gave her food, to a church member who helped her out, or to an acquaintance who showed compassion, Fanny gave something back—and that something was a piece of herself. Any piece of embroidery takes time and care, and while being created, the stitcher often thinks about its purpose and its recipient. Embroidery is a personal statement. The stitcher expects the person who receives it to appreciate the time and skill it took, and I seriously doubt that any embroiderer would give a piece of her work to another person if she did not feel at least some pride in it herself. That little piece of work made me feel tremendously sad, because, of course, Fanny knew it reflected her poverty as well as her gratitude. But it was all she had to give, and I hope it and others like it were warmly appreciated.
In many ways, I feel as if I have joined the ranks of those long dead who mourned Fanny’s “passing.” Today, she seems to have been far too young to die when she did. When I first met Fanny (in a historical sense, of course), I was forty-six years old, one year younger than she was at her death. Now I am older than she ever had the chance to be. Her life was so difficult that she appeared aged, even through her letters. But she was spunky, and maybe that is why I like her so much.
. Wendell Phillips Garrison and Francis Jackson Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879, The Story of His Life Told by His Children, 4 vol. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1894), v. I, p. 27.
. Ibid., v.I, pp. 26-27.
. Several excellent biographies exist about Garrison’s life, including Henry Mayer’s All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery (New York: St. Martins Press, 1998), Walter Merrill, Against Wind and Tide: A Biography of Wm. Lloyd Garrison (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963) and James Brewer Stewart, William Lloyd Garrison and the Challenge of Emancipation (Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1992).
. Garrison, Wendell and Francis, v. I, p. 13.
. File folder (ff) 658, bMSAm 1906, Garrison Family Papers: Houghton Library of Harvard University. (Henceforth cited as GF:HHU.)
. People’s Journal, September 12, 1846, p. 141, as cited in Garrison, Wendell and Francis, v. I, pp. 14-15.
. William Lloyd Garrison (WLG) as quoted in ibid., v. I, p. 13.
. Ibid., v. I, p. 12.
. WLG as cited in ibid., v. I, p. 13.
. WLG as quoted in People’s Journal, 1846, and cited in ibid., v. I, pp. 14-15.
. Abijah Garrison (AG) to Fanny Lloyd Garrison (FLG), April 24, 1804, as cited in ibid., v. I, p. 16.
. AG to his parents, April 4, 1805, as cited in ibid, v. I, p. 17.
. All subsequent information on Newburyport in this chapter was gleaned from Benjamin W. Labaree, Patriots and Partisans: The Merchants of Newburyport, 1764-1815 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), and Stephan Thernstrom, Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a Nineteenth Century City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964).
. For more information on alcohol and temperance, see Robert L. Hampel, Temperance and Prohibition in Massachusetts, 1813-1852 (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982).
. The town records say December 12, but the family claims the 10th.
. People’s Journal, 1846, as cited in Garrison, Wendell and Francis, v. I, p. 15.
. AG to Joseph Garrison, April 3, 1806, ff 558, GF:HHU.
. AG to FLG, November 12, 1806, ff 557, GF:HHU.
. Newburyport Herald, May 13 and July 15, 1808, as cited in Labaree, p. 154.
. Cited in Garrison, Wendell and Francis, v. I, p. 25.
. For more on help for the poor, see Susan Grigg, The Dependent Poor of Newburyport: Studies in Social History, 1800-1830 (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1984).
. Ibid., p. 1.
. See ibid., p. 53 for another interpretation; also Overseer’s Minutes, 66, Newburyport Library as cited in John L. Thomas, The Liberator (Boston, 1963), pp. 20-22 as cited in ibid., p. 53.
. James Holley Garrison, Behold Me Once More: The Confessions of James Holley Garrison, Brother of William Lloyd Garrison, ed. by Walter McIntosh Merrill (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1954), p. 7. The original manuscript of this work is housed in the James Miller McKim Papers in the New York Public Library. While I have looked through the original, I have chosen to cite Walter Merrill’s edited version for ease and clarity.
. Ibid., p. 7.
. Ibid., p. 8.
. FLG to WLG, August 2, 1814, AC. 74-6, b 1, ff 1, The Frances Maria Garrison Papers of the Eunice McIntosh Merrill Collection of William Lloyd Garrison Family Papers: Wichita State University Library Special Collections. (Henceforth cited as GF:WSU.)
. FLG to “My Dear Sister,” September 11, 1814, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 11, GF:WSU.
. FLG journal, no date (n.d.), ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to “Sister,” April 5, 1814, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 10, GF:WSU.
. Ibid; and FLG to “My Dear Sister,” September 11, 1814, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 11, GF:WSU.
. Ibid., April 5, 1814, GF:WSU.
. Garrison, Wendell and Francis, v. I, p. 28.
. WLG to Fanny Garrison Villard (FGV), August 14, 1857, ff 823, bMSAm 1321, Fanny Garrison Villard Papers: Houghton Library of Harvard University. (Henceforth cited as FGV:HHU.)
. Garrison, Wendell and Francis, v. I, p. 30.
. FLG to Martha Farnham (MF), February 28, 1815, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. Garrison, James, p. 11.
. Garrison, Wendell and Francis, v. I, p. 31.
. Ibid., v. I, p. 32.
. All references to Fanny’s journey based on Fanny’s edited journal in Wendell’s hand, October, 1815, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. Ibid., October 9, 1815.
. Ibid., October 10, 1815.
. Ibid., October 11, 1815.
. Ibid., October 16 and another sheet dated October 15, 1815.
. Ibid., October 17 (or 16), 1815. There appears to be a dating discrepancy between Fanny’s dates and Wendell’s editing.
. FLG to MF, October 22, 1815, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 12, GF:WSU.
. Information on Baltimore culled from Gary Lawson Browne, Baltimore in the Nation, 1789-1861 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1980.)
. FLG to MF, October 22, 1815, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 12, GF:WSU.
. John Peak, September 5, 1815, ff 184, #1, GF:HHU.
. FLG to MF, n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 18, GF:WSU.
. FLG to MF, April 18, 1816, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. Garrison, James, p. 14.
. Ibid., p. 16.
. Ibid., p. 17.
. Ibid., p. 18.
. FLG to “Dear Friend,” n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 15, GF:WSU.
. Garrison, James, p. 18.
. FLG to WLG, August 19, 1817, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to MF, April 18, 1816, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to MF, September 7, 1816, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to MF (probably), April 30, 1817, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, August 29, 1817, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to Maria Elizabeth Garrison, added to ibid.
. Garrison, James, p. 26.
. Ibid., p. 29.
. Ibid., pp. 29-30.
. Ibid., p. 31.
. FLG to James Holley Garrison, September 20, 1818, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, April 7, 1819, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 2, GF:WSU.
. FLG to WLG, May 5, 1819, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, October 5, 1819, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 3, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, November 30, 1819, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 4, GF:WSU.
. FLG to WLG, October 5, 1819, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 3, GF:WSU.
. FLG to MF, November 25, 1819, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 13, GF:WSU.
. FLG to WLG, May 4, 1819, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to MF, November 25, 1819, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 13, GF:WSU.
. Wendell Phillips Garrison, notes, n.d., ff 184, #1, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, February 24, 1822 (or 1823), Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 8, GF:WSU.
. FLG to WLG, June 13, 1820, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, November 30, 1819, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 4, GF:WSU.
. FLG to MF, January 17, 1820, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 13, GF:WSU.
. FLG to WLG, May 12, 1820, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 6, GF:WSU.
. FLG to WLG, June 13, 1820, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 7, GF:WSU.
. FLG to “M.E.,” added to ibid.
. FLG to MF, n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 16, GF:WSU.
. FLG to WLG, September 20, 1820 (probably), ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, April 7, 1821, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to “Respected Friend,” n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 19, GF:WSU.
. FLG to WLG, March 24, 1822 (?), ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, July 1, 1822 (?), ff 655, GF:HHU.
. Newburyport Herald, May 21, 1822, as cited in Wendell and Francis Garrison, v. I, p. 43 as cited in Walter M. Merrill, ed., The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison, Volume I: I Will Be Heard, (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971), p. 6. (Henceforth cited as Letters, v. I.)
. Newburyport Herald, May 24, 1822, as cited in Letters, v. I, p. 7.
. FLG to WLG, July 1, 1822 (?), ff. 655, GH:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, December 30, 1821 (?), ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to unknown, n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 25, GF:WSU.
. FLG to “B&S”, n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 20, GF:WSU.
. FLG diary fragment (probably), August 10 and 11, no year, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 26, GF:WSU.
. FLG to “My Dear J,” n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 22, GF:WSU.
. FLG to MF, n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 14, GF:WSU.
.FLG to unknown, n.d., Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 24, GF:WSU.
. FLG, diary, n.d., ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, December 4, 1822, ff 655, GF:HHU.
. FLG to WLG, March 24, 1823 (?), Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 8, GF:WSU.
. WLG to FLG, May 26, 1823, William Lloyd Garrison Papers: Boston Public Library as cited in Letters, v. I, pp. 10-13.
. FLG to WLG, June 3, 1823, Ac. 74-6, b 1, ff 9, GF:WSU.
. WLG to Ephraim Allen, July 7, 1823, as cited in Garrison, Wendell and Francis, v. I, pp. 52-53.
. Ibid., v. I, p. 53.
 AG to Joanna Palmer, July 27, 1814, bMSAm1906, f. 559, GF:HHU, also AG to Cousin, July 27, 1814, b. 1, f. 7a, GF:SC.
 WPG to FGV, August 1, 1873, bMSAm1321, f. 814, FGV:HHU.
 William A. Garrison to WPG, July 13, 1874, bMSAm1906, f. 196, GF:HHU.
. WLG to the Secretary of the Navy, James K. Paulding, December 14, 1839 as cited in Garrison, James, p. 101.
. A message from WLG to James Garrison in Helen Benson Garrison (HBG) to James Holley Garrison, May, 1840 (probably), ff 566, GF:HHU.
 WLG to Harriet Minot, April 9, 1833, Letters I:218-220.
. WLG to HBG, June 21, 1834, ff 44, GF:HHU.
. Uncited article, n.d.; New York Times, May 25, 1879; New York Independent, June 12, 1879, all in Scrapbooks, ff 688-689, GF:HHU.
. See Julia Blackburn, Daisy Bates in the Desert (New York: Pantheon, 1994).
. Eunice Lipton, Alias Olympia: A Woman’s Search for Manet’s Notorious Model and Her Own Desire (New York: Penguin Books, 1992).
. Piece of embroidery, January, 1810, ff 689, “Ephemeral,” GF:HHU.
I’m supposed to be working on my own stuff, but couldn’t stop reading. Congratulations on the site and thanks for the introduction to Fanny.
I could not stop reading your ‘life’ of Fanny. It is a compelling and absorbing narrative.
You mention that WLG learned of her savings account years later. Could you send me the reference to when he learned of it? She had an account at the Baltimore Savings Bank, the records for which I salvaged several years ago and are now at the Maryland State Archives. How do you think she supported herself during her years in Baltimore? As a domestic servant? Ed Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired.
What a wonderful tribute! I could not stop reading Fanny’s Story, and will follow up with “Growing Up Abolitionist.” I live around the corner from where the Garrisons lived on School Street, and all these stories will stay with me. Newburyporters will be acknowledging William Lloyd in mid-May (just part of a ceremony in the park opposite the Garrison house). We should also be celebrating his mother.
Thank you, Elizabeth. I loved learning about the Garrisons and telling their stories.
Absolutely fascinating. Has this ever been produced in print? If not, could it be? And, would you be open to an email exchange with someone working on a new interpretative sign project? Hear, hear! to the comment by Elizabeth Harris, who is a friend.
Thanks for the wonderful comment. This piece was not published as is. I gave parts of it as a talk. and there is part of Fanny’s Story as Chapter 1 in my book, Growing Up Abolitionist. The longer article about Fanny is the one you’ve read. I wrote it so long ago, I doubt if it is now publishable. You can contact me at my email address: email@example.com to tell me about your project. Am looking forward to it.