Tag Archives: Gustavus Alden

A Real Judge Burnham’s Daughter

23 Feb

Cover_By Way of the WildernessIn her novels, Isabella often wrote about the unique challenges of being a step-parent.

In By Way of the Wilderness, Wayne Pierson saw his new step-mother as an interloper and a rival for his father’s attention, causing much heart-ache for himself and his family.

Cover of Ruth Erskine's CrossesRuth Erskine, the main character in Ruth Erskine’s Crosses, disliked her step-mother to the point of being ashamed of her; and when Ruth later married a man with two daughters of his own (in Judge Burham’s Daughters), Ruth taught her step-children proper manners, but failed to address their spiritual needs.

Like all Isabella’s novels, By Way of the Wilderness and the Chautauqua Books were allegorical stories, written to convey specific messages and lessons about living the Christian life.

But what many people don’t know is that Isabella was herself a step-mother. When she married Gustavus “Ross” Alden in 1866, Ross had a ten-year-old daughter from his first marriage to Hannah Bogart.

Like Ross Alden’s family, Hannah’s ancestors were among the earliest emigrants to America; her ancestors arrived as far back as 1652 and settled the New Netherlands (now New York) in the time of Peter Stuyvesant.

Ross and Hannah met in New York and married when they were both in their early twenties. Nine months later, little Anna Maria Alden was born. Tragically, Hannah died just two months later.

Death notice of Hannah Bogart Alden. From the New York Daily Tribune, November 19, 1856.

Death notice of Hannah Bogart Alden. From the New York Daily Tribune, November 19, 1856.

Very few records exist to tell us how Ross coped with the daunting responsibility of raising an infant daughter after the death of his wife. We do know he stayed in New York, close to where Hannah’s family lived, and probably had much help from them. Census records show that by the time little Anna was four years old, she was living with her maternal grandparents, without Ross.

St. Andrews Church, Richmond. New York. Here Hannah Bogart Alden was buried, and Ross and Anna were baptized.

St. Andrews Church, Richmond. New York. Here Hannah Bogart Alden was buried, and Ross and Anna were baptized.

Three years after Hannah’s death, Ross made a decision that would influence the rest of his life. He “united with the Reformed Church in Richmond, Long Island”—the same church, which, for generations, had been the church of Hannah’s family—and he began laying the foundation for becoming a minister.

Membership records from the Dutch Reformed Church of New York.

Membership records from the Dutch Reformed Church of New York.

Ross was baptized, and a few months later his daughter Anna was baptized in the same church.

Baptism records from St. Andrews Church, Richmond, Staten Island, New York.

Baptism records from St. Andrews Church, Richmond, Staten Island, New York.

While Anna remained with her grandparents, Ross moved 300 miles away to begin studies at Auburn Theological Seminary. There he met Isabella Macdonald, who was visiting her sister Marcia and brother-in-law, Charles Livingston, who was also a theology student.

An 1863 Union Army record showing Ross Alden's registration for the draft. He lists his occupation as "student."

An 1863 Union Army record showing Ross Alden’s registration for the draft. He lists his occupation as “student.”

Ross and Isabella fell in love and married in 1866, the same year Ross graduated. The evening of their wedding day they boarded a train and left for Ross’s first church pastorate.

None of the records about that happy and blessed day mention whether Ross’s ten-year-old daughter Anna was at the wedding. Isabella’s good friend Theodosia Toll Foster was there, though, and that may have been the occasion when Theodosia and Anna met. Theodosia had younger sisters, the youngest of whom was just about Anna’s age.

Undated photo of Theodosia Toll

An undated photo of Theodosia Toll Foster

Though we can’t be certain when exactly Theodosia and Anna met, but we do know that very soon after Ross and Isabella’s marriage, Anna went to live with Theodosia at the Toll homestead in Verona, New York.

While Ross and Isabella led an almost itinerant life, moving from one church to another every two or three years, Anna enjoyed a very stable home life with Theodosia and her sisters. They called Anna their “truly sister” and she quickly became a much-loved and integral member of the family.

When Anna was 16, she lived with Ross and Isabella in Cooperstown, New York, where they were in charge of yet another congregation. And when Ross and Isabella moved two years later to New Hartford, New York, Anna went with them … as did the entire Toll family. Theodosia, her elderly father and her younger sisters all moved to New Hartford. There Theodosia put her talents for teaching to good use. She and her sisters set up a boarding and day school, and their journals reveal that Anna helped run the enterprise.

By then, Ross and Isabella had a son (two-year-old Raymond), and Isabella’s mother and sister Julia were also living with them in New Hartford. It must have been wonderful to have had their large, extended family so close together again!

The 1875 Federal Census showing the members of the Alden household in New Hartford, New York.

The 1875 Federal Census showing the members of the Alden household in New Hartford, New York.

But their reunion didn’t last long. Within months, Ross received a call to minister at a church in Indiana. Once again he and Isabella left New York for a new city. This time, 20 year old Anna stayed behind with Theodosia.

There is only one other instance recorded of Anna living with Ross and Isabella. When the 1880 Federal Census was taken, Anna was 24 years old and the Census shows her living with Ross and Isabella in Cumminsville, Ohio (a suburb of Cincinnati), where Ross had a church. That same year, Alida, the youngest of Theodosia’s sisters, wrote in her journal that she was excited over an upcoming trip to visit Anna in her Ohio home.

Sometime after that visit in Cumminsville, Anna once again returned to New York to live with the Tolls. And when the Toll sisters closed their school in New Hartford and returned to their home town of Verona, New York, Anna went with them; and there she remained for the rest of her life.

In Verona Anna was a long-time member of the Presbyterian Church, and she was deeply involved in church matters. Friends described her as “a consistent Christian woman” who “won the sincere love and respect of all who knew her.

Anna was just 57 years old when she passed away from complications of pneumonia. Theodosia’s sister Eunice marked the sad day in her journal with the notation, “Our Anna died.”

Obituary of Anna Alden. From the Rome Daily Sentinel, December 21, 1914.

Obituary of Anna Alden. From the Rome Daily Sentinel, December 21, 1914.

Unfortunately for us, none of Isabella’s correspondence with Theodosia has ever been found, so we cannot know the initial reason Anna first went to live with the Toll family; but we do know, from records that do exist of her life, that no matter where Anna lived, she was very much loved by her family and community.


You can click on the links below to read previous posts about:
Ross Alden and his connection to the Mayflower
The day Isabella and Ross met
Isabella’s early years of marriage
Isabella’s friendship with Theodosia

The Pansy Magazine

6 Jan

For over twenty years Isabella Alden and her husband edited a children’s magazine called The Pansy.

Pansy Cover 1886 Jul

 

Each issue was filled with inspiring stories, delightful illustrations, short poems, and descriptions of exotic and far-away places to spark children’s imaginations. Published by D. Lothrop and Company of Boston, the magazine was first produced as a weekly publication, and later changed to a monthly.

D. Lothrop and Company sales room

 

Editing and writing for the magazine was no easy undertaking and Isabella’s entire family pitched in to help.

Pick up any issue of The Pansy and you’ll find stories by Isabella’s sisters, Julia Macdonald and Marcia Livingston, or her best friend, Theodosia Foster (writing as Faye Huntington).

Margaret Sidney, famous for the Five Little Peppers books for children, published some of her books as serials in The Pansy, as did author Ruth Ogden. Even Isabella’s brother-in-law Charles and beloved niece Grace Livingston (before her marriage to Reverend Frank Hill) contributed stories.

The 1881 cover of The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

The 1881 cover of The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

 

Isabella’s son Raymond wrote poems, and her husband Reverend Gustavus “Ross” Alden contributed stories and short homilies like this one:

Don't Gossip. Children, avoid this evil. I am pained every day at seeing the work which mischief-makers do. Someone has compared this evil to pin-making. “There is sometimes some truth, which I call the wire. As this passes from hand to hand, one gives it a polish, another a point, others make and put on the head, and at last the pin is done.” The Bible speaks much against mischief-making, and I would advise you to collect all the verses in this book, bearing on this subject, and commit them to memory, and then I do not think you will ever be guilty of this sin. Remember, my little friends, that you can never gather up the mischief you may do by gossip.

 

Sometimes, the family banded together to write stories for the magazine. In 1886 each family member—Isabella, Ross, Marcia, Grace, Raymond, Theodosia, and Charles—took a turn writing a chapter of a serial story titled  “A Sevenfold Trouble.” In 1887 they continued their collaboration by writing a sequel titled, “Up Garret,” with each writer again  producing a different chapter. In 1889 the combined stories were published as a book titled A Sevenfold Trouble.

An original illustration for A Sevenfold Trouble, published in an 1887 edition of The Pansy.

An original illustration for A Sevenfold Trouble, published as an 1887 serial in The Pansy.

 

Isabella also previewed some of her own books by publishing them as serial stories in the magazine. Monteagle and A Dozen of Them first captured readers’ hearts in the pages of The Pansy.

Cover of 2015 e-book edition of Monteagle

 

The magazine was a resounding success. Thousands of boys and girls from around the world subscribed. Many children grew to adulthood reading the magazine, as Isabella remained at the helm of The Pansy for over 23 years.

Next week: The Pansy Society

A Gift for the New Minister’s Wife

30 Dec

In a newspaper interview, Isabella once confided her method for coping with troubling events that upset her:

Whenever things went wrong, I went home and wrote a book about it.

Bonnet 02 The Delineator Apr 1900Many of the trials she weathered in real life ended up as turning points for characters in her books. One such situation occurred when Isabella was a young bride and was working hard to make a good impression on her husband’s new congregation.

About a week after she and her husband arrived at a new church where he was to minister, Isabella received a gift from a member of the congregation. It was a “pitiful little bonnet,” clearly made out of the sleeve of an old brown dress. Whoever fashioned it had not tried to hide the wrinkles and pin holes still visible from the bonnet’s former life as a dress.

“In my ignorance [I supposed] it to be a love-gift from some dear old poverty-stricken soul.”

So Isabella, filled with gratitude, wore the unattractive bonnet to church the very next Sunday. There she discovered the truth: the person who made the hat and gave it to Isabella was the wealthiest woman in town. She’d sent it to Isabella because she deemed Isabella’s own bonnet was “too gay for a minister’s wife!”

Hat Box edIt was a stinging insult, and, like she always did, Isabella used her pen to write about it in her novel, Aunt Hannah and Martha and John.

In the book, Martha Remington was, like Isabella, the newly-wed wife of a new minister. And Martha, too, received a gift from a wealthy lady in the congregation.

When the bandbox was opened, she struggled with her inward conviction that she ought to feel grateful. Therein lay a bonnet—a very remarkable one. It was made of mixed green and black silk, shirred after the fashion of our grandmothers. Some of the shirrs had been laid in the old creases, and some had not. Between every third row came an obstinate crease, made in the times when the silk did duty as a dress sleeve—a crease that refused to be covered with stitches, or ironed out, but told its tale of “second-hand” as plainly as though it had a tongue.

Bonnet from The Delineator Apr 1900Poor Martha thought the black and green bonnet was “grotesque,” and she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she looked at it. But she did know one thing: she would not wear it to church!

As the story progressed, one of the ladies who created the ugly bonnet confronted Martha on Sunday after church, and added further insult to injury by demanding to know why Martha was still wearing her usual hat, instead of the gift the ladies had sent. Martha’s reply was friendly, but dignified—a response that was much different than Isabella’s reaction had been in real life.

Isabella later said that writing about the bonnet helped heal the woman’s hurtful actions, and, eventually, she was able to look back on it all with humor … possibly because writing about the woman’s insult really did help her see the whole incident in a more forgiving light.

Cover_Aunt Hannah and Martha and JohnYou can read more about Martha and the “grotesque” bonnet in Aunt Hannah and Martha and John. The book also contains a few more examples of awkward situations Isabella encountered in her years as a minister’s wife.  Click on the book cover to learn more.

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

%d bloggers like this: