Drusilla Chandler and The Young Lady’s Companion Part 2

Our cyberstalk of Drusilla Chandler, b.1838, continues.

The Young Ladys Companion #1I decided to track Drusilla through time.  Perhaps she has living descendants who might be interested in her book?  In the Census of 1870, Drusilla, 32, now lives in Lovell, Maine roughly 90 miles north of Fryeburg,  with her husband and a young son, Frank.  Two doors down lives Drusilla’s older sister Eliza, 41, with two daughters and with the Chandler matriarch, Hannah, 67.  But Eliza is without her husband who has gone ahead to Wisconsin with her brothers.  Living nearby is the widow of her fourth-eldest brother.

In the Census of 1880, Drusilla is still living in Lovell with her husband and three sons.  Her mother lives with them now because her sister has died and the daughters are living with relatives in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Hanna Chandler will die in 1880, after the census is complete.

Records of the Census of 1890 do not exist.  They were destroyed in a fire.

In 1900, Drusilla, now 62, is a widow and her eldest son has become the head of the household in Lovell.  All three of her children are living, with one unmarried son still in the household.  In 1910, Drusilla, 72, is shown now as the head of the household, living with her widowed daughter-in-law.  Two of Drusilla’s three sons are deceased.  The daughter-in-law has no children.  By 1920, Drusilla is living by herself in Lovell in a house she owns free-and-clear, remarkable for a woman now in her eighties.

Still alive in the Census of 1930, Drusilla appears to have left her home in Lovell and moved in with her youngest son and his wife, an insurance accountant living in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Drusilla Richardson Chandler Walker died in 1935 at the age of 97.  No date was included on the digital copy of the obituary that I found.  Interestingly, Find-a-Grave.com shows an empty space for her next to her husband in Fryeburg, Maine.  But it appears that the family did not transport her remains back home from Connecticut.

One odd thing about Drusilla is that she appears to have had no grandchildren.  One son died before he married.  Her eldest son was married for twelve years and her youngest for at least thirty years.  Yet neither had any children.  One can only speculate on the reasons.  This is the complete opposite of her own generation and those which came before.  Those families typically numbered 7 – 10 children apiece.

The John Chandler family disappears from Maine in Drusilla’s generation.  Four of her brothers married women from Massachusetts and then migrated to Wisconsin where one of them dies.  Two continue on to Iowa, settling in New Hampton and Red Oak – just 135 miles from Harper’s hometown.  By 1863, only the youngest brother is still living in Maine.  Perhaps the plan was for the youngest brother to inherit the farm.  But he enlists in the army in March 1865 and dies of disease five months later while serving in Mississippi.

Her father dies in 1868 afterwhich, there are no males from this family in Maine, while two generations of widows and orphans live in Lovell.

It is difficult to know how to feel about Drusilla’s life based on this limited knowledge.  She outlived all of her siblings by nearly thirty years.  She was a widow for forty years after thirty years of marriage and appears to have lived in the same home for over sixty years.  During her lifetime, Drusilla goes from a middle-class farming family in the 1850s, a girl being tutored or attending finishing school, preparing to become a proper middle-class housewife in Maine; to depending on the labor of her sole surviving descendent, an accountant son in Connecticut who must take in borders and who does not send her remains to rest with her husband.

Is this an American success story?  Did her life meet the expectations of the teenager who studied from the book I now hold in my hands?  I don’t know.  Coming from lineages which go back only three generations to immigrants, it was impressed on me early in my life that my generation was expected to exceed the success of the preceding ones.  I don’t see that progress in Drusilla’s life story as far as I can understand it.  But at least one of her brothers seems to prosper in Oregon, Wisconsin, as a hotelier and land owner, while two others settle in Iowa.

But perhaps I’m wrong.  She seems to have lived comfortably following the death of her husband in the 1890s and owned the house she lived most of her adult life.  This suggests a degree of wealth that might have moved her into the upper end of the middle class.   Her older brothers appear to have been successful in Wisconsin and in Iowa, but the family had to disperse until only the daughters were left behind: Eliza to be widowed in her thirties and die in her forties, and Drusilla to live out her days with her sons and their wives.  Did the girls stay in contact with their brothers?

Is that just the way it was in those days and Drusilla did meet the expectations of her teen-aged years.?  Maybe I’m looking at it from twenty-first century mores.  What do you think?  At the end of her life, was Drusilla content?

Drusilla Chandler and The Young Lady’s Companion Part 1

The Young Ladys Companion #1This week, I diverge from purely military history to an interesting topic that I discovered while doing research for the next book in the Harper’s War Stories series.  I am going to report on a person who played almost no role in the Civil War as far as I now, but with whom I became fascinated during the course of research for Harper’s Rescue.

Who was Drusilla Chandler?  She was a new bride in 1860 who, I believe, lived a life typical of women in the merchant class of the time.  I suspect that she may become a meme for a character in a later novel.

This past September, I was deeply engaged in research.  I knew that in the next volume, young Katie Malloy would be subject to schooling in the art of being a courtesan.  How well she’ll take to being back at school at the age of sixteen, I’ve yet to learn.  But I needed a source for the lessons that Eleanor and the other ladies at Lafitte’s Hideout would attempt to teach the perky Miss Katie.

I had the great good fortune one day to be participating in a chat group at the website: Civil War Talk  when I noticed a thread entitled: The Lady’s Companion.  The originator of the thread expressed the intent to post passages from a book by that name onto the chat page.  The book was published several times between 1850 and 1860 and it appears to be a guidebook for training girls of the middle class about behavior expected of proper ladies of the era.  So, of course I had to see this book.  Checking at ABEBOOKS, I was able to find an 1854 printing at Phylis Tholin Books in Evanston, Illinois.  When it arrived I was surprised to find the original owner had signed the front overleaf with her hometown but not the date.  The writing is in a carefully-written cursive that today we could expect to see only in calligraphy.

The Young Lady’s Companion; Sketches of Life, Manners, and Morals, at the Present Day contains a series of discussions of various topics of interest to antebellum ladies.  To quote from the Preface:

“The tastes of the ladies has been consulted in preparing the present volume for press.  From many writers of the best class, who are now contributing to the entertainment and instruction of the millions who read the English language, we have gathered choice pieces in perceptive, elegant, and imaginative literature, with here and there a gem of poetry – all bearing an intimate relation to the conduct of life, and addressed to female readers.”

After the first item, “The Influence of Woman in Society” [e.g.: society and civilization could not exist without the feminine] , the book consists of a series of essays and parables suggesting ways in which the proper society lady might be expected to act in the events daily life.  Since it was collected from the writings of ladies of “the best class” one expects that the solutions offered not only resolve the problems presented but also set the societal standard.

Back to Drusilla.  Seeing her name and town caused me to want to learn more about the lady.  Did she actually buy the book to help her prepare for her expected future role in society?  The Young Ladys Companion #2Or perhaps later in life, when as a dowager, did she find herself with time to enjoy reading books of an earlier age?  I took a tour through Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc. search engines without result.  So I turned to Ancestry.com to learn the basics.

I found her easily enough in the Census of 1850: Drusilla Richardson Chandler, age 12, living in Fryeburg, Maine [North Fryeburg in her signature].  She was the second of two daughters in a family with seven children.  Father John Chandler owned a small farm valued at $450 in 1850, $1,000 in 1860.  But Drusilla disappears in the Census of 1860.  What happened?  There are several possibilities.  The most logical is that she married before 1860, so I check the marriage records for Maine during the 1850s. Ancestry connects me to Mrs. Drusilla R. Walker, age 22, in the Census of 1860, the wife of the merchant Marshall Walker in Fryeburg, Maine with no children.

Now, if the lady is twelve years old in 1850 and twenty-two and married in 1860, and if the book that I have was published in 1854, I think it is a logical conclusion that she possessed the book as a sort of textbook shortly after it was published.  Supporting the textbook theory is the fact that the book has doodles on several pages which, to my mind, represent the bored mental wandering of a teen-aged girl being forced to sit through a school lesson.

So now, I’ve found her and I believe I have an answer to my initial question.  But that only makes me want to know more.  I’ll cover those discoveries next week.

SKG