Photographs from Helen, Margaret, and Howard Swain’s Childhood, c.1905-1925

In an earlier post, we glimpsed the life of a boy, Rodgers Burgin, growing up in Quincy at the very start of the 20th century.

This is the life his future wife, Helen Swain, and her siblings were leading, more or less contemporaneously, in town at 226 Commonwealth Ave., at their grandfather’s house in Exeter, and on the beach in Cohasset.


HTS and children


In no particular order. Memory, I find, skips back and forth anyway…


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Exeter Cemetery, Exeter, NH

Boopie and Gagie are here.

Address: Linden St, Exeter, NH 03833

Dr Howard Townsend Swain, Sr

Birth:  May 16, 1868 Bath, Steuben County, New York
Death:  Dec. 6, 1936 Boston, Massachusetts

Plot: Lot 224 B
Find A Grave Memorial# 145938412

Harriet French Swain

Birth:  May 28, 1868 Exeter, New Hampshire
Death:  Jul. 16, 1958 Milton, Massachusetts

Plot: Lot 224 B
Find A Grave Memorial# 145938467



Map of Exeter Cemetery


Sperry French

Ebenezer Sperry French, father of Harriet French, was the principal of the grammar school in Exeter, NH for fifty years.  Elisha Lee has it on good authority that he was the basis for the character of “Old Francis” in Henry A. Shute’s The Real Diary of a Real Boy. (Free text available online here; a PDF of an original edition is available here; a copy can be purchased here).

Named after his father’s sister’s husband, Rev. Ebenezer Peck Sperry, he was called “Sperry” by family.  (In midlife, he went to the effort of actually dropping “Ebenezer” from his name– legally. There is a listing in the Laws of the State of NH announcing that “Ebenezer Sperry French may take the name of Sperry French.”)

It’s amazing to see him in photos with Nana (Helen Swain Burgin) and Aunt Magna (Margaret Swain Beecher), and think that his father was born during the American Revolution.





Left to right: Helen Swain, Margaret Swain, and Sperry French

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Namesake: The Historic Harriet Atwood Newell

Harriet Newell Robinson French (1828-1907) had a daughter, Harriet French Swain (1868-1958), who in turn had a granddaughter, Harriet Swain Burgin Lee (1934-).

This name – Harriet – clearly has some history attached to it, but where did that history begin? How far back does it go?

The answer is that it all began with one Harriet Atwood Newell (1793-1812), no relation whatsoever, whose much admired life runs as follows…


from Wikipedia:

Harriet Newell was born Harriet Atwood at Haverhill, Massachusetts on October 10, 1793.[1] She was part of the first wave of Christian missionaries to go overseas from the United States. She died less than a year into her journey. Following publication of her memoirs, she became a hero and role model for Christians during the nineteenth century. Many children were named for her over the following decades [emaphasis mine–LSL] including Harriet Newell Noyes who also went on to be a missionary.[2]

She married Rev. Samuel Newell in February 1812. Along with Adoniram Judson and Ann Judson [3] they went off to preach in India and Burma. They were expelled by the East India Company and sailed to Mauritius, where she died November 30, 1812. At sea she had given birth to a child who died after five days. Her memoirs were published posthumously,[4] going into a number of editions.



Harriet Atwood Newell (1793-1812)

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The Farrar Family Papers in The Lincoln Public Library

Consider this post a placeholder – for myself, or some future researcher – but there is a wealth of primary material relating to the Farrar family of Lincoln/ Concord, currently housed in the Lincoln Public library. And it’s waiting to be gone through and read.

On the genealogical bucket list, this is definitely towards the top (but behind photographing Jonathan French’s journal from the French and Indian War).



Bedford Road, Lincoln, Massachusetts


Farrar Family Collection


[The list of documents below is merely a sample.–LSL]


Series 2, Correspondence

Box # Folder # Identification # Description

  • 1 11 2003.009.2.1 Letter to Deacon Samuel Farrar, Lincoln, Mass., from children Jonathan and Rebecca French, Hampton, N.H., August 9 [1817?] (Encapsulated)
  • 1 11 2003.009.2.2 Letter to Deacon Samuel Farrar, Lincoln, Mass., from children Jonathan and Rebekah French, with note added from James French, January 12, 1824 (?) [Accessioned as 1982.56.2]
  • 1 11 2003.009.2.3 Letter to [Jonat]han French, (?) Canada, fragment. (Encapsulated) [Accessioned as 1982.56.4]
  • 1 1 12 12 2003.009.2.9 2003.009.2.9 Letter to Deacon Samuel Farrar, Lincoln, from son Letter to Deacon Samuel Farrar, Lincoln, from son Samuel Farrar, Andover, March 10, 1813.[Accessioned as 1982.56.7]
  • 1 12 2003.009.2.10 Letter to Samuel T. French, North Hampton, N.H., from brother J. F. French, Schenectady, N.Y., November 5, 1828.  (Poor condition)
  • 1 32 2003.009.4.16 Copy of part of a letter from Rev. Jonathan French, North Hampton, N.H. (husband of Rebecca Farrar) to Dea. Samuel Farrar, July 25, 1805.[Accessioned as 1982.54.7]

Series 4, Farrar Family Members

Box # Folder # Identification # Description

  • 1 33 2003.009.4.34 Brief biographical sketch of Dea. Samuel Farrar, Jr., 1737-1829, source unknown.


Two Discourses and a Sermon by Rev. Jonathan French, Jr.





  1. A Discourse Delivered At Northampton, New Hampshire, November 18, 1821: Being Twenty Years From The Author’s Settlement
  2. A sermon preached at Concord before His Excellency Samuel Bell, governor, the Honourable Council, Senate, and House of Representatives, of the state … June 6, 1822, being the anniversary election.
  3. Reminiscences of a Fifty-Years Pastorate: A Half-Century Discourse, Delivered in North-Hampton, N. H. November 18, 1851



Rev. Jonathan French, D.D.

Jonathan French, the Revolutionary war surgeon and pastor, had a son of the same name. He spent his professional life as the minister to the congregation in North Hampton/  Northampton.

Here, in succession, are two period accounts of his life.

There is a third– It can be found in a modern book titled, The Way It Was in North Hampton: Some History, Sketches, and Reminiscences That Illuminate the Times of a New Hampshire Seacoast Townby Stillman Moulton Hobbspubl. 1994. It is available as a used book on Amazon, here.



History of Rockingham and Strafford counties, New Hampshire : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men

by Hurd, D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton), publ. 1882

pp. 415-417




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The Battle of Bunker Hill Seen As A Family Affair, And Other Odd Observations

My cousin, Elisha Lee, raised an interesting point last fall. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that if you could go back in time and visit certain key events as they happened, such as the Battle of Bunker Hill, you could more or less pick out numerous ancestors fighting, if not side by side, then at least on the same field. At that particular moment, they had nothing to do with each other, no outstanding connections other than their shared service, but within a century or so, they would, many of them, be united by the bonds of family. The same could be said of the ill-fated Quebec expedition, which saw its members imprisoned by the British.

With this thought experiment in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of events where we either know or are pretty sure that certain ancestors would have likely crossed paths with one another.

I’ve also included a couple other quirky lists, which might just double as Jeopardy topics. These include:  “Tutored by John Adams,” and “Father/ Son Military Service in the Same War.”

Where else were they going to go?


Passage on the Mayflower & Life in the Early Massachusetts Bay Colony

  • William Bradford
  • John Alden and Priscilla Mullens Alden
  • William Mullens and Alice Mullens
  • Edward Doty
  • Isaac Allerton and Mary Norris Allerton
  • John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley Howland
  • John Tilley and Joan Hurst Rogers Tilley


The Battle of Lexington and Concord

  • Timothy Bigelow, Sr.
  • Samuel Farrar, Sr. (aged 66 at  the time!)
  • Samuel Farrar, Jr.
  • (Note: Samuel Lawrence and the Groton company marched at the alarm, but didn’t arrive in time.)


The Battle of Bunker Hill

  • Willam Prescott
  • John Linzee
  • Samuel Lawrence
  • Samuel Farrar, Jr.
  • Jonathan French, Sr.
  • Elishama Brandegee


Quebec Expedition and Life as a POW

  • Timothy Bigelow
  • Elishama Brandegee


The Surrender of Burgoyne

  • William Prescott
  • Samuel Farrar, Jr.


Tutored by John Adams

  • Timothy Bigelow
  • William Paine


Father/ Son Military Service in the Same War

  • Timothy Bigelow, Sr. & Timothy Bigelow, Jr.
  • Samuel Farrar, Sr. & Samuel Farrar, Jr.


If you can think of others, drop me a line!