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Have you ever noticed this gravestone in the Longmeadow Cemetery? While not common, causes of death were sometimes included on gravestones in the 18th and 19th centuries. The largest number of these seem to be for accidental deaths--perhaps meant as a cautionary tale.

"In memory of Gaius son of Mr Gaius and Mrs Eunice Bliss who was instantly killed by a Bull Nov 16, 1814 aged 15"

In 1814, 15 year old Gaius Bliss was "instantly killed by a bull." While horses were used for farm work as well as transportation, oxen were critical for much farm work. They were less selective about what they ate, they needed less gear for control and they were very smart. Typical training could take up to four years, and the animals could learn dozens of commands. According to an issue of Old Sturbridge Visitor, (Summer 2011), oxen start out as a male bull calf, and once neutered they are called steers. They earn the title of oxen when they have been trained to obey commands such as: haw (turn left), gee (turn right), or whoa--we all know what that one means!

In spite of their intelligence, they are large animals, weighing in at nearly a ton when fully grown. We don't know exactly what happened to young Gaius, and the fact that his stone says "bull" and not oxen might suggest a different beast, but the process of yoking or unyoking oxen was inherently dangerous, as these animals have large horns. Another gravestone with a similar story in Warren, MA states that 14 year old Joseph Kar "who was killed June 30th 1770 by onyoking a pair of Oxen." Young boys were often given the responsibility of training a team of oxen.

Young Gaius' unexpected and tragic death was a reminder to all of his family and neighbors of the fragility of life and that tomorrow was promised to no one. A journal belonging to his cousin Hannah Bliss, also of Longmeadow, is now in the collections of the MA Historical Society archives. She mentions the incident in her journal:

"Novem 17 Thurs

Have this morning heard of the death of Cousin Gaius Bliss he was killed by a bull surprising was his death to me O may this solemn dispensation of thy holy providence be the means of preparing of us all for our own great and last change."

A similar fate in Warren, MA 1770

1390 Longmeadow Street, Home of Gaius Bliss

Betsy and Al McKee have made a study of gravestones, with a special interest in causes of death found on gravestones. Their photo collection of gravestones numbers more than 30,000.

Contributed by Betsy McKee, Board Member, Longmeadow Historical Society

Originally published December 3, 2020

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Silhouette, like daguerreotype, is a word I always pause over when writing. No surprise that both terms were named after Frenchmen—Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767) and Louis Daguerre (1787-1851). My high school French is not quite up to the task!

The reason for the recent exploration into French terms and the creation of images is a recent donation to the Historical Society. A gentleman who grew up in Longmeadow, but has since moved to the Midwest, contacted us about a framed series of silhouettes. The five women were the traditional black paper silhouettes about 3 inches tall. It was apparent that they were of a variety of ages, from young woman to elderly, and all from the “Chapin” family, according to the donor. The donor, now elderly, thought that the silhouettes, that hung in the family home on Chandler Avenue for decades, should come home. He sent along a photo, and they looked interesting. Then, when questioned about specific identification, the tantalizing response— “there’s some writing on the back.” Oh boy!

A few days later, the carefully packed box appeared, and the 5 profiles were first seen. Then, I flipped over the frame to read the back—each lady is described with name, spouse, home town, and some with dates of birth and death. The one exception was “Aunt King.” Two of the women had relationship information like “my great grandmother” and “my great, great grandmother.” There were Chapins in the mix, but the oldest lady was identified as “Mary Williams Chapin, daughter of John and Anne Williams, and granddaughter of Rev. Stephen Williams, first pastor of Longmeadow Congregational Church.” Bingo! That’s a great Longmeadow connection! The writer of the information helpfully added his or her own initials---“E.G.C.”

While Chapin is a fairly common name in the area, it’s not especially common in Longmeadow. Not that we don’t have an abundance of names starting with “C”—you can’t throw a stick in our cemetery without hitting a Colton, Coomes, or Cooley! Since the donor’s mother’s maiden name was Burt, I started there. Many hours, searches, notes, trees, and pulled hair later—I have extensive family trees created for Burts, Williams, Chapins, Cady’s, and Davis, but have yet to find anyone with the initials “E. G. C.!”

I did take a break to look into Monsieur Silhouette. He was not an artist, but was the French Minister of Finance under Louis XVth in 1759. He had the ill luck of trying to save money during the Seven Years’ War. His budget-cutting measures were criticized as overly cheap, and “a la Silhouette” became a derogatory term for cheap. What we now call silhouettes were already common, inexpensive ways to create a likeness if you couldn’t afford the more expensive painting. They became highly popular in the United States from about 1790 to 1840. Here the artists who created silhouettes were called “profilists” or “scissorgraphists.” Say that three times fast! They were usually cut from a lightweight black cardboard and mounted on a light background. The talented artists could create them very quickly—sometimes in as little as three minutes! The Longmeadow Historical Society is fortunate to have other silhouettes, including a set complete with its negative—the paper it was cut out of.

Portraits are not the only places that we see silhouettes—they are common in everyday life as signs, ads, and even coins.

So, the research continues—I am determined to discover who “E. G. C.” is—wish me luck! And we thank our generous donor for thinking of us.

-Contributed by Betsy McKee, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member

Census records are wonderful tools that offer researchers all sorts of clues into a person's life within a household or community. But sometimes, they leave you with more questions than answers. Such is the case of the Wallace children in 1850. Because they moved households in the short time between when the census was recorded from one place to another, they actually appear two times, in two different households, in two different states, and under the care of different individuals.

Twins Alfred and Albert Wallace and their younger sister Jane Wallace were three children of Harlin (or Harland or Harlem) and Mary Jane Wallace. The boys were born in Wilbraham, MA; Jane was born in either Wilbraham or Connecticut. When Mary Jane, the mother, died on July 10, 1850, the family unit became strained. Census records reflect unusual changes to the family.

  • The census of Wilbraham, which was taken on August 12, included Harlim, a farmer age 31, living in a household with Albert and Alfred, age 4, and Mary J., age 1.

  • A month later, the children appear in in the Somers, CT census (taken on September 22) living in the home of Irish immigrants Edrouin (?) and Susan Wood. Their father was not part of the household. Who are the Woods? I do not know, and research did not provide an answer, but I suspect that they were kin of one of the parents.

Why was Harlim not living with his children? Certainly, it would have been a daunting task for the father to care for three young children while simultaneously running a farm, so maybe Harlim placed his children with the Woods so that he could concentrate on his work. Or, perhaps Harlim died and the record of his death has disappeared. It is possible that he became infected with "gold fever" and left to find his fortune on the gold fields of California. Research reveals that several men named “H. Wallace” who were in their early 30s travelled on the Panama route to California from 1851-1854. I have been unable to definitively trace Harlim's activities after the Wilbraham census so do not know if he ever lived with his children again.

His children, however, have left a trail that we can pick up in 1853 when the Alfred, Albert, and Jane Wallace children first appear in town records as paupers and public charges of the Town of Longmeadow.

Alfred and Albert Wallace Since they were town wards, the Town of Longmeadow was responsible for caring for the children. The boys were kept together and shuttled between several different families. Town records reflect that in 1953 Sidney Kibbe, Mrs. Mary Bliss, and Henry C. Coomes were compensated for keeping the twins at different times. A permanent housing solution was found in 1854 when both Albert and Alfred were indentured to Ebenezer McGregory until they turned age 21. They were to learn “the art of Husbandry & Stonecutting”. The town agreed to pay Mr. McGregory $200 over a two-year period for their support.

Ebenezer McGregory was a farmer and a stonecutter and, during an era when work was gendered, Albert and Alfred likely provided much needed assistance with “male” tasks both at the farm and at the quarry, help that was especially needed when Ebenezer’s only son, Ebenezer P. McGregory, entered the Union Army in 1862. Both boys show up in the McGregory household through the 1865 Massachusetts Census. Albert died at age 20, before his indenture finished, of congestion of the lungs.

After Alfred finished his indenture, he moved to Monson, married, had a son, and worked as a shoe maker, then as a house painter. When he died in 1887, he was “well known and universally respected,” according to his obituary.

Jane Wallace

Jane Wallace was known by several different names. Census records of her time in Longmeadow refer to her as Jane or Mary J. and, as a married woman, she was known as Jenny. Like her brothers, town officers placed her in several homes in 1853 (Mrs. Mary Bliss and Luther Hills). She was living in the Luther Hills house in 1855.

Apparently, Luther Hills frequently contracted with the town to house paupers for Jane was not the only town pauper living in the Hills household in 1855 – Philena Whittee (age 60) and Mrs. Mills (age 74) were also living in the Hills house. Mrs. Mills died two years later, but Philena Whittee remained a town pauper until she was 95. Town records showed that she was boarded in at least five different Longmeadow households from 1824 until her death in 1890.

Luther Hills and Ebenezer McGregory were neighbors, both located on the north side of what is now Hampden Road in East Longmeadow, so it is likely that the Wallace siblings attended school together and were able to easily keep in touch with each other. Both houses are still standing today; the Hills lived at 54 Hampden Road and the McGregorys lived at 112 Hampden Road.

In 1857, the Selectmen of Longmeadow indentured 9 year-old Jane Wallace to Luther Hills until she turned age 18. It appears that the Selectmen made an effort to get to know their charge, for they mention in the Annual Report that she "is an interesting girl". Luther Hills was paid a total of $60 for the first two years of her indenture. Jane was to be instructed “in the art of House Wifery in the several branches of business which are proper and common for a girl to be instructed in…” Jane appears in the Luther Hills household through the 1865 Massachusetts Census.

In 1868, 19 year-old Jane Wallace married Rienzi A. Clark, a roofer, in Longmeadow in a ceremony officiated by a Baptist minister. The Clarks had children and moved to West Hartford where they stayed until Jennie died in 1911.

Jane's indenture is the most recent of the thirty indentures that are in the archives of the Longmeadow Historical Society, so it is possible that the Wallace children were the last pauper children indentured by the Longmeadow Selectmen and Overseers of the Poor.


1850 U.S. Census

1855 Massachusetts Census

1860 U.S. Census

1865 Massachusetts Census

Longmeadow Historical Society archives

Springfield Republican Nov. 6, 1887

Massachusetts, U.S., Death Records, 1841-1915

Massachusetts, U.S., Marriage Records, 1840-1915

Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988

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