1823: An Awful Casualty in Hopkinton NH

It was a chance encounter with the Silver family.  If you research genealogy you are familiar with how it happens. I was researching an entirely different family, gleaning tidbits from old newspapers.  And then this story leaped out from the page.

Awful Casualty.–We learn from Briggs’ Bulletin that on the evening of the 24th instant while a Mrs. Silver was sitting on the hearth in her house, near Concord, N.H., teaching three of her 1chineybrokenchildren to read, the whole chimney, from some defect in the foundation, suddenly gave way, and was precipitated into the cellar, carrying with it Mrs. S. and her children. One of the children, a boy about six years of age, was killed; another, a girl, was burnt by the hot bricks and bruised in so shocking a manner, that though alive on Saturday morning, it is very doubtful whether she recovers. Mrs. S. and the eldest boy, it is believed will do well, though badly bruised.”–Boston Cour., as printed 2 May 1835 in the Alexandra Gazette (Alexandria VA), page 2

I presumed by this that the event I would be looking for occurred in 1835 so I began there by looking in the New Hampshire Federal Census specifically in Concord NH area:

1830: Buswell Silver, John Silver
1840 Isaac Silver, John Silver

I began researching John Silver, who lived in Hopkinton, NH that is near Concord, and began reading about his family in the book: “History of the Silver, Copps, Duston homestead of Hopkinton, N. H. and its people,” by Arthur E. Silver, 1971.  It did not take long before I knew that I had found the right family.  The book related how John and his wife Mary had several children, and how they had given their home to their youngest son on the condition that he would care for his parents.  He wished to head west, and so he had signed the home (and promise to care for parents) to his brother Jacob and wife Abigail.  The story in the ‘Silver Copps Dustin’ book continues…

At the time of taking over the Homestead, Jacob and wife Abigail had five children. During their five years in the Home-stead four of these children died. They were buried in nearby Stumpfield Cemetery with a common tombstone. This cemetery was relocated to near Contoocook village in 1961 to make way for the Hopkinton and Everett Federal Floor Control Project, then under construction.

After five years of joint living in the Homestead it appears that Jacob and his parents decided to terminate the agreement. Under date of Dec 16, 1826 Jacob conveyed the homestead back to his father John. What Jacob and Abigail did next is know known. It is evident that they did not long continue as man and wife. It is understandable that the loss of four young children in quick succession may have turned Abigail against living longer in the Homestead. Also there is evidence that she was a person of unusually rigid convictions and determination. It appears that Abigail remained in the Hopkinton vicinity. A few years later Jacob was in Michigan.

Abigail died in 1843 and rests beside her four children in Stumpfield Cemetery. Abigails will made in 1841, seems peculiar to her. Among its stipulations were:
— She declared she was a “single woman.”
— She bequeathed,
     – To her one remaining child, daughter Sarah (then Mrs. Elias D. Sherman of Cass County, Michigan) $1.00
     – To a nephew for a specified use $20.00
     – “The residue (about $500) to First or Union Baptist Church Society in Hopkinton… the interest to be paid by said Society for the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yearly, and nothing else…”

What the ‘Silver Copps Dustin’ book does NOT mention is how the children were lost.  That terrible episode alone could explain Abigail’s behavior.  Perhaps the incident drove her mad.  Perhaps, as the rest of the family were making plans to head west, Abigail did not wish to leave her dead children. And it appears that even once they were buried, they were not left in peace. They were moved (as mentioned above) in 1961, along with several dwellings when the Hopkinton-Everett Flood Control Reservoir was built.

The Stumpfield Cemetery, now located in Contoocook NH, contains the graves of Abigail and her children who died young:
Abigail Silver, died Sep 18, 1842
Jazeel Silver 1808 – Aug 8 1822
Charles W. Silver 1812 – 12 March 1823
Dexter B. Silver 1817 – 1 April 1823
Horace C. Silver 1822 – 8 April 1823

It is now evident that the chimney incident occurred in 1823, not in 1835 when the newspaper reprinted the story. A bit more about Abigail that is not mentioned in the books–she was the daughter of Nathan & Hannah (Stockbridge) Piper. She was b. 18 Aug 1785 in Hopkinton NH  and had married 3 Dec 1804 in Hopkinton, Merrimack Co. NH to Jacob Silver.

In addition to the children who died young, the ‘Silver Copps Dustin’ book states that Jacob and Abigail (Piper) Silver also had a son and daughter (Benjamin F. and Sarah H) who both removed to Cass County along with Jacob’s parents in 1830,  Benjamin came in 1831 along with his uncle Abiel Silver. This is erroneous.  Benjamin F. was in fact Jacob’s youngest brother, not his son.  Benjamin Franklin Silver’s death certificate in Cass Co. Michigan attests that his parents were John and Mary (Buell) Silver.    Their daughter Sarah, the one who according to the original story was burned but survived the fallen chimney, did head west with the rest of her family.
Sarah Hastings Silver, b. 1 April 1807 and d. 18 February 1897. She m. 1 Jan 1833 to Elias Brewster Sherman of Cass Co., Michigan, a young Cassopolis lawyer, and son of James Sherman.  He was b. 29 July 1803 near Rome NY and d. 14 Nov 1890 in Cassopolis, Michigan
Children of Elias B. & Sarah (Silver) Sherman:
1. Ellen Silver Sherman, b. 21 Oct 1833; m. 25 Nov 1852 John Tietsort; d. 26 Aug 1862
2. Emma Brewster Sherman, b. 4 Dec 1835; m. 28 Dec 1853, George W. Jones; d. 26 Aug 1862
3. Byron Hamlet Sherman, b. 27 Nov 1838, d. 22 Sep 1861
4. Irving Voltaire Sherman, b. 6 Oct 1840; m1) 5 Feb 1861 Diantha Allen, who d. 13 Apr 1878; m2) 2 Aug 1899 Mary Edna Warner
5. Sarah Maria Sherman, b. 18 Aug 1843; m. 13 March 1862 T. McCinon Hull; d. 13 March 1870
6. Edna Celia Sherman, b. 23 Apr 1846; m. 2 Nov 1865 Maxwell Z. Norton
7. Jacob Silver Sherman, b. 26 Apr 1850; m. 27 Nov 1883 Eva White
[from The Sherman Family in The NEHGS Register, Vol 37-52; The Ancestry of Nathan Lewis Harrison Revisited Nineteen Years Later By Keith Harrison]

As for Abigail’s husband Jacob–he headed west with his siblings, and was joined by his parents, becoming a successful businessman.  Most of the people named Silver, the early settlers of Cass County, Michigan, can trace themselves to this one family.  After Abigail’s death, Jacob married 2nd) 1837 to Maria Goodrich.  He died on 5 Nov 1872 at Cassopolis, Cass Co. Michigan. She was b. abt 1796 and d. 4 December 1876, a native of VT and widow living in Cass Co., Michigan.


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1 Response to 1823: An Awful Casualty in Hopkinton NH

  1. Shirley Dyment says:

    This is what makes family history so interesting. Not just names and dates, but all the stories that go with them. My great grandmother was Eliza Silver who married George Hiscott.

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