Prolific Author and Poet: Eleanor Hallowell (Abbott) Coburn of Wilton and Portsmouth New Hampshire (1872-1958)

Photograph of Eleanor Hallowell Abbott from The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore MD 19 Oct 1913 page 30. Colorized by the blog editor.

Eleanor Hallowell Abbott was not a native of New Hampshire, for she was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1872, daughter of Rev. Edward & Clara (Davis) Abbott. She was a third generation of New England Abbott authors and editors, and a prolific writer in her own right penning over 75 short stories and 14 romantic novels (for a final count of reportedly over 100).

A grand-uncle [Lyman Abbott] was editor of the Outlook magazine. She composed and contributed short stories and poems to “Harper’s Magazine,” “The Ladies’ Home Journal,” “Colliers” and “The Delineator.” According to a 1911 Boston Globe article, “for two successive years she won a $1000 prize in Collier’s short story contest with “The Very Tired Girl,” and “The Sick-a-Bed Lady.”

Scene in Wilton New Hampshire.

Her education consisted of private tutors, public school (briefly) in Cambridge’s Harvard grammar school, and a special class at Radcliffe College. Eleanor “worked as secretary and teacher at Lowell State Normal School.”  According to an interview published in a Boston Newspaper, from early on her teachers noted her advanced aptitude and talent for English composition.  That interview indicated that her education was ongoing as at that time she “was taking a weekly class at Radcliffe in play writing under Professor George Baker.”

After her marriage to Dr. Fordyce Coburn in 1908, she moved to Wilton New Hampshire where she lived for many years.It appears that she had a close relationship with her husband, frequently including book characters who were involved in health care. They also shared a love of the outdoors, and of hunting and fishing.  Her 1911 interview stated, “Mrs. Coburn and her husband are great comrades. They spend spare time in outdoor amusements ranging from salmon fishing in Maine waters, tennis playing at the Lowell country club, coon and wild turkey hunting on the edge of the Florida everglades.”  Her dedication “To my silent partner” in her book Molly Make-Believe was in reference to her husband.

Photograph of Eleanor H. (Abbott) Coburn from The News and Observer Raleigh NC, 6 Sep 1936 p 35

The Coburn’s had called their Wilton home “Rollo Farm” to honor Eleanor’s grandfather, Jacob Abbott who wrote the Rollo series of books. Eleanor’s father visited her in New Hampshire as evidenced by The Cambridge Chronicle newspaper of 9 July 1904 who reported that “Rev. Edward Abbott, rector of St. James’s, is passing the summer at Rollo farm at Wilton, N. H.” [read the entire article] Per a 2013 local Telegraph newspaper article (by Jessie Salisbury) the Coburns, (Dr. & Mrs. Eleanor (Abbott) Coburn, lived on the Wilton NH property that later was called the Anne Jackson Memorial or Anne Jackson Girl Scout Camp (204 Wilson Road). The story goes on to state that the Girl Scout facility was closed in 2012 and sold, probably for redevelopment.

Near the end of her life she moved to Portsmouth New Hampshire where she died 4 June 1958. The book, Notable Boston Authors, etc.  stated that “after cremation she was buried on the grounds of her beloved Wilton home. The property was turned over to the Girl Scouts.” [Notable Boston authors; members of the Boston Authors Club, 1900-1966; 1965, Boston Author’s Club, Cambridge MA; Internet Archive]. I contacted the Wilton NH Historical Society, and David Potter of that society sent me an email with a local obituary simply stating her body had been cremated.  Her final resting place is therefore still unknown.


George Abbott,  [immigrant ancestor] born before 22 May 1617 in England; died 24 Nov 1681 Andover MA. He married Hannah Chandler [later Dane], daughter of William & Annis (Parmenter) Chandler . She was b 22 May 1629 in England and d. 11 June 1711 Andover MA.

—–Next Generation—–

Lieut Nathanial Abbott b 4 July 1671 Andover MA, d. 12 Dec 1749 Andover MA
He m. Dorcas Hibbard.

—–Next Generation—–

Joseph Abbott b abt 1705 Andover MA; d 23 Aug 1787 Wilton NH. He m. Deborah Blanchard.

—–Next Generation—–

Jacob Abbott b 9 Feb 1746 Andover MA; d. 5 March 1820 Brunswick Maine. He m. Lydia Stevens. She b May 1745, d. 3 June 1821 Brunswick Maine

—–Next Generation—–

Jacob Abbott, b 20 Oct 1776 New Hampshire; died 21 Jan 1847 in Maine. Buried Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick, Cumberland Maine. He m. Betsey Abbott on 8 April 1798
In 1800 moved to Hallowell Maine. In 1836 moved to Farmington Maine.  Betsey Abbott was b 1773 and d 31 July 1846. Daughter of Joshua & Elizabeth (Chandler) Abbott
Children of Jacob & Betsy (Abbott) Abbott:
1. Sallucia “Sallie” Abbott, born 7 August 1801, d. 8 April 1886 Brunswick Maine
2. +Jacob Abbott born 14 Nov 1803 Franklin Co. Maine [SEE]
3. John Stephen Cabot Abbott, born 18 Sep 1805; died June 1877; pastor of “Calvinistic Society;” resided in Worcester MA, New Haven CT; He married Jane Bourne.
4. Gorham Dummer Abbott, born 3 Sep 1807 Hallowell Maine; d. 3 August 1874. Clergyman, author, and educator. With his brother Jacob he ran the Mount Vernon School for Girls in Boston MA, leaving the school in 1833. Teacher of Spangler Institute, New York City, NY. He married Rebecca Leach.
5. Clara Ann Abbott, born 28 Oct 1809
6. Charles Edwards Abbott, born 24 October 1811; teacher; married M.E. Spalding.
7. Samuel Phillips Abbott, born 8 December 1815; Congregational clergyman; m. Hannah Barker.

—–Next Generation—–

Jacob Abbott, son of Jacob & Betsey (Abbott) Abbott, born 14 Nov 1803 Franklin Co. Maine. He died 31 Oct 1879, aged 75, Farmington Franklin Co. Maine. He is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Auburn Maine. He wrote the ‘Rollo books,’ famous in juvenile fiction. He also short histories, biographies, and religious books.  He was a graduate of Bowdoin College & attended Andover Seminar School; an ordained minister. He m. 18 May 1828 Harriet Vaughan.
Children of Jacob & Harriet (Vaughan) Abbott:
1. Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, lawyer, author
2. +Edward Abbott, b abt 1841 Maine
3. Austin Abbott, lawyer and academic.  According to Wikipedia: “the government counsel in the trial of Charles J. Guiteau for the assassination of President James Garfield.”
4. Lyman Abbott, lawyer, editor and author.

—–Next Generation—–

Edward Abbot b abt 1841 in Maine died 5 April 1908 Boston MA. He is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Brunswick, Maine with his 2nd wife.  He m. Clara E. Davis. She was born abt 1838 in Canada, died 25 May 1882 in Cambridge MA. She is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge MA. In Eleanor’s book, “Being Little in Cambridge…” she mentions that her parents met during the Civil War, her father being a theological school graduate, in service to the U.S. Sanitary commission, and her mother was a “war-nurse.” Reportedly they met “at a simple Sunday night supper with Abraham Lincoln and his family.” All she knew of her mother was she was born in “one of the Canadian provinces, where orphaned at an early age she had seemingly been separated somewhat mysteriously and for all time from her only little sister, and brought up alone by a grandfather and grandmother.” The book, “Woman’s Work in the Civil War — Project Gutenberg” on page 400 details Clara E. Davis’ Civil War work.   After Clara’s death, Edward married 2d) to Katharine Kelley.
1880 US Census > Massachusetts > Middlesex > Cambridge > 209 Lake Ave
Edward Abbot 29
Clara D. Abbot 40
Edward A. Abbot 12
Madeline U. Abbot 9
Elenor H. Abbot 7
Obituary, The Standard Union, Brooklyn NY, 6 Apr 1908 p 2
THE REV EDWARD ABBOTT D.D. brother of the Rev. Lyman Abbott, noted as a clergyman and author, died at the Homoepathic Hospital in Boston yesterday after a brief illness, aged sixty-six. He was a pastor emeritus of St. James Church of Cambridge. Dr. Abbott was a native of Farmington Me., and was graduated from New York University in 1860. He studied at Andover Theological Seminary and after his ordination became pastor of the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Cambridge where he remained four years. He then became editor of the “Congregationalist,” a position he held form 1869 to 1878. The following year he was ordained a Protestant Episcopal minister and became rector of St. James Church, where he had been ever since. In 1889 he was offered a position as missionary to Japan, but was unable to accept. He wrote extensively, among his publications being a book of verse entitled “The Baby’s Things.” He also wrote “Conversations of Jesus” “A Paragraph History of the United States” “A Paragraph History of the American Revolution: “Revolutionary Times” and “Phillips Brooks.”
Children of Edward & Clara (Davis) Abbott:
1. Edward Althorpe Abbott, b 18 Nov 1867 Cambridge MA; married 1 child. Died 24 Dec 1905; In 1900 lived in Portland, Oregon. Buried Hillside Memorial Park, Redlands California
2. Madeline Vaughan Abbott, b abt 1871 Cambridge MA; m. 6 Oct 1899 in Cambridge MA to Charles E. Bushnell, son of Daniel & Elizabeth C. (Jones) Bushnell.
3. +Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, born born 22 Sep 1872 Cambridge MA, daughter of clergyman Edward & Clara (Davis) Abbott. She died 4 June 1958. She m 25 Nov 1908 in Manhattan NY to Horace Fordyce Coburn. He was born 12 Nov 1872. Physician. This story is about her, see above article

—-Eleanor H. (Abbott) Coburn’s Books Online—–

Molly Make-Believe (1910)
The Sick-A-Bed Lady, and Other Stories [Hickory Dock, The Very Tired Girl, The Happy-Day, Something That Happened in October, The Amateur Lover, Heart of the City, The Pink Sash, Woman’s Only Business] (1911)
White Linen Nurse (1913)
Little Eve Edgarton (Sept 1914)
Indiscreet Letter (June 1915)
Stingy Receiver (Feb 1917) [Illustrations by Fanny Munsell]
Ne’er-Do-Much (1918) [Illustrations by James Montgomery Flagg]
Old-Dad (Feb 1919)
Peace on Earth Goodwill to Dogs,” (Oct 1920)
Rainy Week (1921)
Fairy Prince, and Other Stories (1922)
Silver Moon (1923)
Love and the Ladies (1928) [Six stories reprinted from magazines, i.e. “The other Jasper;” “Thursday’s swan had a crumpled wing;””Turkey in the oven;” “The prompt trousseau;” “The length and breadth of reality;” “The steps that went up into the sky.”]But Once a Year: Christmas Stories (1 January 1928)
Who Kicked the Cat (1932)
Being Little in Cambridge When Everyone Else Was Big (1936) [An autobiography about her childhood]

—-Information Sources—–

1. FamilySearch, various original birth, marriage, death and census records
3. Boston Globe newspaper of 26 March 1911, page 67, interview with Eleanor (Abbott) Coburn.
4. Various other newspaper articles
5. Notable Boston authors; members of the Boston Authors Club, 1900-1966; 1965, Boston Author’s Club, Cambridge MA; Internet Archive.
6.  Other newspapers and reference books as noted within the article.

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