Finding Aaron, it turned out, meant finding Francis, a family connection in my own backyard. I’ve written several posts about my genealogical journey to learn about my maternal grandfather, John Joseph Osborne, and, in the course of that journey, I discovered ancestral roots in the ancient colony of Acadia in Nova Scotia; family members accused during the Salem Witchcraft hysteria; a great-great-great-grandfather who was one of the first patients to be operated on using ether; and a great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Aaron Osborn (the older version of the surname was spelled without the last e), who set out with his fellow Danvers militiamen on the morning of 19 April 1775 to answer the Lexington Alarm.
Aaron Osborne (1752-1803) was the youngest child of potter Joseph Osborn and his second wife, Sarah Gardner. At the time of his birth, sixty years had passed since the Salem witchcraft trials. What stories might the young Aaron have heard at the knee of his father, whose own father, Samuel (1675-1744), had been a boy of seventeen in 1692 and likely still living in the family home just two miles from Gallows Hill? Had Aaron been told that his great-grandparents, William and Hannah, were among the thirty-nine in Salem Village, all of the “highest respectability,” who, at great personal peril, had come to the defense of the venerable matron Rebecca Nurse, accused of witchcraft? Despite her defenders and no credible evidence against her, Rebecca was hanged on 19 July 1692.
In March 1774, Aaron married Lydia Proctor and in February 1775, their first child, a son, was born. They named him John Proctor, perhaps in honor of Lydia’s father or grandfather, or perhaps to pay homage to Lydia’s great-great-grandfather John Proctor, a farmer and innkeeper also hanged after being wrongly accused of witchcraft.
On the morning of April 19, just two months after the birth of his son, Aaron Osborn marched from the village training field with more than three hundred Danvers men in nine companies. Among those on their way to Lexington and taking up a position in the village of Menotomy (present-day Arlington) were six other Osborn family members, including Aaron’s older brother Israel, older half-brother Joseph, and two of Joseph’s sons, Joseph III and sixteen-year-old Sylvester, the youngest of the militiamen who marched that day. Though all the Osborns returned safely to their families, seven from Danvers did not, having fallen during the encounter with the British column on the return to Boston.
Young Sylvester, born in 1758, went on to enjoy a long life, prospering as a merchant and serving the town of Danvers as a selectman and state representative before his death in 1845. After the death of his first wife, Susanna Southwick, Sylvester married Elizabeth Pool in 1797. Together they had four children, including Augustus Kendall Osborn, who married Mary Shove, the daughter of Quakers, on 3 January 1833. Nine months later a son, Francis Augustus Osborn, was born in Danvers (now Peabody).
In piecing together a simple genealogy to serve as a family roadmap as I explored my grandfather’s Osborne ancestry, the name of Francis’ second wife, Emily Tracy Bouve, jumped off the page.
In piecing together a simple genealogy to serve as a family roadmap as I explored my grandfather’s Osborne ancestry, the name of Francis’ second wife, Emily Tracy Bouve, jumped off the page. I recognized the surname as one belonging to a contributor to the History of the Town of Hingham, published by the town in 1893, and also as the name of a conservation area in Hingham. Indeed, Emily was the daughter of Thomas Tracy Bouve, of French Huguenot ancestry, and Emily Lincoln, who descended from Hingham’s founding Lincolns. After years of researching the Salem-Danvers-Peabody roots of my North Shore Osbornes, here I had found an Osborne in my South Shore hometown.
Francis Augustus Osborn (1833-1914) attended the public schools of Danvers, a private school in Marlborough, and the Boston Latin School, from which he graduated in 1849. The death of his father that same year interrupted plans to attend Harvard, and he went to work for a company that imported goods from Russia. In 1855 he joined the New England Guards, a prestigious militia company where he rose in the ranks to become captain, a commission dated (coincidentally enough) 19 April 1861, eighty-six years to the day after his grandfather Sylvester had marched on the Lexington Alarm.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, the Guards were organized into battalions which eventually offered their services to Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrew, who had taken a leadership role in contributing to the Union cause. As a staunch abolitionist Andrew had, most notably, advocated for the formation of the 54th Massachusetts African-American Regiment. Authorized by Andrew to raise a regiment, Major Thomas G. Stevenson was made colonel and Capt. Francis A. Osborn lieutenant colonel of the 24th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, mustered from September to December 1861 at Readville, then part of Dedham, Massachusetts. The regiment left Massachusetts for Annapolis on December 9 and was one of the last Massachusetts regiments to leave national service, mustered out at Richmond on 20 January 1866 and arriving in Boston four days later. The regimental colors were delivered to Governor Bullock at the State House on January 27.
He returned to Boston, where he enjoyed a distinguished business career…
In December 1862, Osborn had been promoted to colonel and in October 1864 he was appointed by President Lincoln Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers, an honorary promotion given in recognition for meritorious service or gallant conduct. A month later, Osborn resigned and was mustered out. He returned to Boston, where he enjoyed a distinguished business career and served in many civic, cultural, and political roles while refusing others he thought best to decline, including city treasurer and fire and police commissioner. He was a member of the John A. Andrew Grand Army of the Republic Post 15 in Boston.
On the occasion of his marriage to Emily T. Bouve in 1879, Osborn made Hingham his permanent home. The couple raised five children and were members of the New North Church, one of whose founders was a Lincoln family member, Revolutionary War General Benjamin Lincoln. Osborn died at his home on 11 March 1914; he is buried in the Hingham Cemetery.
I’ve returned to this cemetery time and time again and have written about it on several occasions for Vita Brevis. How many times must I have strolled past the grave of Francis Augustus Osborn not realizing his connection to my grandfather’s family? And as we explore cemeteries, getting to know their residents a little more intimately, heretofore unnoticed themes begin to emerge, a social network of history that seems to connect otherwise disparate individuals. I imagine weaving a long string between graves in a spider web-like fashion, a cemetery version of six degrees of separation, if you will. Indeed, while exploring my Francis A. Osborn connections there emerged, in that cemetery filled with colonial history and the ghosts of the town’s first settlers, a somewhat overlooked Civil War history.
Central to the web of connections is the Civil War Memorial, officially known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, an impressive 30-foot obelisk made of Quincy granite. Situated on a prominent knoll – “a quiet retreat, away from the noise of the street, with the bay so finely in view” – and honoring the seventy-four Hingham men lost in the war, the monument was dedicated on 17 June 1870. It stands near to the family plot of Governor John Albion Andrew (1818-1867), a Maine-born lawyer and statesman who was drawn to Hingham by his wife, Eliza Jones Hersey. The couple, said to have met at an anti-slavery fair in 1847, married on Christmas night in 1848 at the New North Church, thereafter maintaining residences in Hingham and Boston. After Andrew’s untimely death at his Boston home in 1867, he was buried in Cambridge but later reinterred in the Hingham Cemetery, at which time Brevet Brigadier General Luther Stephenson, Jr. was the driving force to have a monument built for the War Governor as an expression of gratitude. Andrew’s imposing neoclassical funerary monument, designed by Boston-born sculptor Thomas R. Gould and crafted of Italian marble, was dedicated in October 1875.
Steps away from the Civil War obelisk is the grave of Peter Ourish, the youngest volunteer from Hingham about whom I wrote for Vita Brevis. And near to the Osborn family plot are the headstones of Gen. Luther Stephenson, inscribed with the words, “HE FOUGHT FOR THE UNION 1861-1865,” and the grave of Edward Tracy Bouve (1841-1920), the brother-in-law of Col. Francis Osborn.
Collectively they tell a story of Hingham’s Civil War days, an outdoor classroom version with much more soul than the textbook version.