Thursday, March 4, 2010

David Holden and Bridget Atwell

Have you ever asked an older relative about their ancestors and the response been, “I don’t really remember very much. I guess I should have paid a little more attention when I was growing up!” I know my grandmother was like that. She was the youngest of five children, and when I started researching my family tree, she was my first stop for family information. She sighed and told me she really didn’t know very much about the family. Then something rather remarkable happened. She was fast approaching her ninetieth birthday and the questions I had asked were about people long dead. I don’t think I had been home more than an hour when my grandmother phoned. The memories began flooding back. We had so many pleasant visits – I will always remember how much joy it brought her to think back over almost a century of living. Josiah Holden had the same reaction to Sarah Cummings’s previous letter.

Of course in 1880 you could not just “reach out and touch someone”, and thank goodness for us. Josiah writes to Sarah Cummings on 18 July 1880. He is answering a letter she had sent regarding his previous letter (see the William Wallace Holden entry). She must have been intrigued by the mention of Bridget Cummings (Sarah’s great grandmother). Josiah starts:

“…in answering your questions as regards our grandmother, she that was Bridget Cummings, I cannot give any information of her ancestry, but she was, I believe,of the unadulterated Scotch of high blood and of the aristocratic stamp of that day.”

Josiah then goes on to tell his niece that his mother’s parents were “upper 10” class. Upper 10 class is a new term for me. The connotations of upper class are self-evident, but what about this “upper 10” class? From what I can tell, Josiah must refer to uppertendom, which is a reference to the highest social standard. He paints a picture of a very comfortable couple. He continues on:

“Bridget Atwell [Josiah’s mother] was an only daughter, [she] was educated and brought up in luxury and doted on as is natural for foolish mothers dote on a beautiful, only daughter.”

Now comes the “Romeo and Juliet” part of the story! Josiah tells Sarah, “My father was as respectable a young man as there was in that town but was a poor cooper’s son.” Evidently, Bridget's mother refused to allow her to marry young David Holden, the cooper's son. Instead, she wanted her daughter to marry a much older man who was rich. Josiah continues, "she [Bridget's mother] used all of her influence to induce Bridget to marry [the rich man]." The more Bridget's mother insisted her daughter marry the older man, the more her daughter loved the poor cooper's son.

Josiah then relates a story his mother used to tell, "I have heard my mother say that one time when this rich man was riding in a nice carriage, her mother [Bridget's mother] called her to the window and says she 'see what a nice carriage you can ride in if you will marry that man'." Of course imagine what a teenage daughter would say. Josiah continues, "and Bridget said, 'I would rather marry David Holden and ride in a wheel barrow!'" Love conquers in the end. Josiah said his parents were married in the Congregational Church in Hollis, New Hampshire. He said he was told that when his parents married, they were the handsomest couple ever to be married in that church! I wonder if Bridget's mother was there?

Speaking of the Congregational Church of Hollis, New Hampshire, it still stands! The image on the right is a picture from the Chruch's website. Just click on the picture and the link will take you to the Church's website. You can see several photos of this historic church. Josiah would recognize it instantly, so would his parents. David Holden married Bridget Atwell on 01 Jan 1789.

What a time to be alive! George Washington would be inaugurated as the first President on 30 April 1789. I wonder if this young couple realized they were growing up with the young United States of America? David and Bridget Holden would spend the rest of their lives in Hollis, New Hampshire. I would like to think that Bridget's mother warmed up to David Holden.

Josiah seems to be silent on the topic...

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