Thursday, January 13, 2011


The history of my distant Dunham relations buried here in Abington in
Mt Vernon Cemetery would make, I think, a good historical epic. Their
family fortunes were tied to the rise and fall of the shoe industry in this
area, and with a Brigadier General, an inventor, and a Civil War veteran
in the family there's no shortage of interesting characters to consider
(and I have still to post about their ancestor, Captain Cornelius Dunham!).
But the last grave in the Henry Dunham family plot led me to a story that
has some particularly dramatic elements.

I mentioned in my post on Andrew Jackson Dunham that even though
he was still listed as married on the 1880 Federal Census he was living
alone in Rockland Ma. except for his housekeeper and that subsequently
he and his wife Mercie Whitcomb Dunham were divorced. I found her
and their two daughters Sarah and Emma living on Beulah St. in South
Abington (now Whitman)Ma. on the same census. Mercie is listed as a
dressmaker and her two daughters are employed in a shoefactory. Quite
possibly Sarah Dunham had already met her future husband Clinton R
Dorr who lived  nearby on Washington St and who likewise worked at
a shoe factory. She's listed as Sadie Dunham instead of Sarah.

I knew from the gravestone that Sarah's son Richard Clinton Dorr was
born in 1881. There's no way of telling but I hope Sarah had a few years
of happy family life because by 1900 things had taken a drastic turn.
(It's not unusual for me to mentally curse the loss of the 1890 censuses
while researching. This case is no exception.) I found Sadie Dorr and her
son Richard as boarders halfway across the state in Worcester. Sadie
was working as a dressmaker while nineteen year old Richard was at
school. There was no mention of her husband Clinton. It's possible that
Richard was attending a technical school because he turns up in Boston
on the 1910 census as an electrical engineer living in the same boarding
house as his grandmother Mercie Whitcomb Dunham. I haven't found
any trace of Sadie on the 1910 Census as yet.

I had lived for nearly ten years near the Abington-Whitman town line
not far from where Sarah Dunham and Clifford Dorr had lived in the
previous century. Our house was on Bicknell Hill Rd off of Washington
St. and I used to play wiffleball and basketball on Beulah St. I still drive
down either Washington or Beulah Streets on the way to visit my sister.
and there's an old shoe factory that takes up most of a block between the
two streets that has been renovated into an apartment building. Perhaps
it's where Sarah worked and met Clinton Dorr.

Maybe knowing the area so well is the reason why this kept niggling away
at my mind and I kept digging away at it.

What I found will be in my next post.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

can't wait for the net installment!