Bidwell Lore – Jemima Bidwell Partridge

Welcome to week 17 of Bidwell Lore! Last week, we introduced you to Reverend Bidwell’s youngest daughter, Theodosia, with a wonderful guest post by Bidwell descendant Wilma Spice.  This week we will introduce you to Reverend Bidwell’s oldest daughter, Jemima, with a guest post from Russ Taylor, one of our 2018 History Talk speakers and a Bidwell descendant. 

The Children of Adonijah Bidwell – Jemima Bidwell

Adonijah, Jr. (1761-1837)
Barbabas (1763-1833)
Jemima (1765-1842)
Theodosia (1766-1841)

The third child and first daughter born to Reverend Adonijah Bidwell and his wife Jemima Devotion Bidwell arrived at the Bidwell hearthside in Tyringham on January 26, 1765. Her proud parents named her Jemima. Details of her early life are sadly wanting, but on June 3, 1787, she married William Partridge, son of Col. Oliver Partridge of Hatfield, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. William was born in 1753 and had settled on a farm in Pittsfield about 1780. Jemima and William would make that farm their home for the rest of their lives.

In 1781, William Partridge began jotting down marginal notes in almanacs about his daily activities and was more or less consistent in doing so until his death in 1836. Fortunately, nearly 50 of those almanacs have survived [1]; a few, however, are no longer extant, including the one for 1787 in which he would have mentioned his marriage to Jemima. In subsequent almanac entries, William made occasional references to his and Jemima’s jaunts to local communities to visit relatives, but the most poignant entry was on September 30, 1826, when William wrote: “My Wife’s Left eye crush’d”. How that accident happened is a mystery, but evidence suggests that the loss of sight in her left eye may have resulted in sympathetic ophthalmia, leading to complete blindness in both eyes.

Jemima’s daughter and son-in-law, Mercy Partridge Whitney and Samuel Whitney, 1819, by Samuel F.B. Morse, image via Wikimedia Commons

William and Jemima’s daughter, Mercy (seen above), wrote to Clara Willcox Bidwell [2] in 1828 of her mother’s condition:

“Kauai, S.I. [Sandwich Islands] Dec 13th 1828

“My Dear Cousin,
“… The contents of your letter were such as deeply interested me. Every thing from it is precious, but whatever relates to beloved kindred and friends particularly Parents, brothers and sisters, appears doubly so. The state of my poor afflicted mother, has been much on my mind, ever since I firstheard of her loss of sight and it has been my earnest desire that this affliction might be sanctified to the good of her soul. If it should prove the means of leading her to the Saviour of Sinners for Divine illuminations, and for the enlightening of her mind into the knowledge of Christ, she will have abundant cause to bless God through eternity, that he laid his hand thus heavily upon her. My anxiety for the spiritual welfare of my friends has been great, and I have sometimes thought I could exercise faith in their behalf, but there are times when fear gets the ascendency, and seems to prevail. Such reasons are peculiarly distressing to my mind. O for stronger faith, and an unshaken trust in the promises of God.”

Many of Mercy’s letters and diaries are preserved in the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library at Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives in Honolulu and some, as the above letter, are in the Bidwell Family Papers at Yale University. All of this begs the question, “Why was Mercy in Hawaii?” This is another interesting aspect of William and Jemima’s family. Of their twelve children, all who reached adulthood, many were staunchly committed to their various religious denominations. And most of the children had an insatiable wanderlust.

Mercy and her husband, Reverend Samuel Whitney, were in the first company of Protestant missionaries to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) arriving in 1820. They were lifelong residents of the islands and are both buried there.

Mercy’s sister, Maria, is reported to also have served as a missionary in Smyrna, Turkey, and one of Jemima and William’s sons, Edward, joined the fledgling Church of Christ (later Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or “Mormons”), becoming the denomination’s first bishop. He assisted with the settlement of his fellow religionists in Missouri and later Illinois.

Another of Jemima and William’s children, Emily, married Tyringham minister Reverend Joseph Warren Dow (1779-1833). The youngest Partridge son, James Harvey, became an educator in New York City and was known for frequent contributions to scientific and education publications and was a biblical scholar. His obituary credited him with “one of the finest reference libraries … in the state [New Jersey]” at the time of his death. [4]  His headstone bears the following inscription: “Believe in God, Study His Word, and Admire His Works.”

Three of Jemima and William’s children stayed in Berkshire County, but the others eventually settled in New York, Illinois, Hawaii, Michigan, and New Jersey. One son, George Washington, even moved to Cuba!

Above is an engraving by J.W. Barber in the Museum’s collection. It depicts Pittsfield,  Jemima’s home for most of her life, around 1845, only a few years after she died.  

William Partridge died on October 28, 1836, in Pittsfield. The Pittsfield Sun published the following death announcement: “Died, In this town on Friday, Mr. William Partridge, aged 83, one of our oldest and most esteemed citizens.” [5] Jemima passed away a little over five years later on January 28, 1842. The Sun announced her death with these words: “Died, In this town on Friday last, Mrs. Partridge, relict of Mr. William Partridge, aged 77.” [6]

In 1838, William’s brother, Dr. Oliver Partridge of Stockbridge, observed that “Wm [Partridge] of Pittsfield & Miss Jemima Bidwell had 8 sons & 4 daughters, all grown & living (when he died in 1836, aged 83 ½ years) but never all at home together – were in Mass., New York, Missouri, Cuba, [etc]. But 40 minutes in 24 hours but the sun shines on one of them.” [7] With such a widely scattered posterity, William and Jemima left a remarkable legacy for this branch of the Bidwell family!

[1] Those almanacs can be found in the William Partridge Collection, MSS 2958, Perry Special Collections, Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
[2] Clara Wilcox Bidwell was married to Mercy’s cousin Marshall Spring Bidwell, son of Barnabas and Mary Gray Bidwell. Barnabas was Jemima Bidwell Partridge’s brother and someone we will be hearing a lot about in future articles.
[3]  Bidwell Family Papers, MS 79, box 10, folder 351, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
[4]  Obituary, James Harvey Partridge, in School: Devoted to the Public Schools and Education Interests, vol VII, no. 1 (1895), p. 119.
[5]Pittsfield Sun, November 3, 1836, p. 3.
[6]Pittsfield Sun, February 3, 1842, p. 3.
[7] Bidwell Family Papers, box 5, folder 218.

Stay tuned next week when we introduce the most well-known of Reverend Bidwell’s children, Barnabas Bidwell.