The silhouette at left is Phoebe Hatfield (1720-1796) , the wife of Robert Ogden, Jr. of Elizabeth and later Sparta, New Jersey. The Ogden nose is immediately recognizable and has reappeared regularly in her progeny of either gender until at least my grandmother's generation. She had 22 pregnancies and bore 14 children, 9 of whom lived to adulthood: numbers that are incomprehensible in this age but were an accepted part of life in the 18th century.
Phoebe's youngest daughter, Hannah Ogden, was a girl of 18 in 1779 when she wrote a remarkable letter that survives in our family papers. Corresponding with a close female acquaintence, she displays a playful wit and shares thoughts on the course of the war, concern for absent friends and family off with the New Jersey regiments, and scandalous gossip of fellow Elizabethtowners.
"The Girls here Look upon the Command increse (sic) and multiply as very asential (sic) to happiness as they are all increasing; Mrs Pollack is return'd has Left behind her Daughter The Poor Little Wretch is as yet Fatherless through the Delicacy of her Mother, who declines mentioning the amorous Youth who intic'd her to betray her Virtue...Our neighbors the British are rather troublesome but do us no material damage."
Letters from Hannah Ogden to her brother Col. Matthias Ogden of the 1st NJ Line are mentioned in Wheeler's Ogden Family Genealogy, but this one example is all that our branch of the family has preserved of her writing. She lived with her parents after the Revolution in Sparta, New Jersey and died unmarried at 28.
The men in our family have at times been trials to their long suffering mothers. Imagine how my gr-gr-gr-gr-great grandmother, Sarah Gilmore Olmsted must have felt to come downstairs one fine morning in the 1820s only to discover the following waiting for her with the breakfast toast:
You will no doubt be surprised at not finding me in the house this morning; but the cause is I am requested to act as second in an affair of honour, which is to take place this morning near Chester [PA]. We leave here at 7'o'C in a hack and shall probably return between 11 & 12 o'clock - You need be under no
apprehensionfear as to the result for no injury will be done to Either party, as they fight with swords and are both inexperienced in the use of the weapon -
Yours, E. Olmsted"
Edward Olmsted, at least, came through the encounter unscathed and went on to be a noted attorney in Philadelphia, but on the subject of how his poor mother fared the archives are silent.
Family names endure in our tribe, and for one we have a precise record of which foremother named Margaret gave rise to the rest. A bit of genealogical doggerel from my Great Grandmother Margaret "Madge" Olmsted written in 1933 sets the record straight:
In New Castle he settled / And long was rector there.
Joanna Williams was his wife / And children six she bore
The second one was Margaret / of whom you've heard before.
She married a young parson / but ere long he was dead
Then William Currie courted her / And soon the two were wed.
And wrote a touching epitaph / when, after years, she died.
They had a son named Richard / and Hannah Potts he wed
Their daughter, Margaret Currie / was to the altar led
Called Sarah Pennypacker / She many children bore
Among them that dear Margaret / Whom all of us adore.
Our own beloved "Dear Ma" Stearns / whose name is yours
has continued on for three generations further, passing from
mother to daughter and down the collateral branches
of our family tree. "Esther" has another proud lineage, from Esther Rogers Gracie whose Manhattan estate is now the mayor's official residence to my Gr-great Aunt Het the Suffragist, but there is no bit of playful rhyme as with Margaret to aid the genealogist. The women in my family who gave up their family names preserved their own stories, and we much the richer for it.