Bidwell Lore – The Sedgwick Family

Welcome to Bidwell Lore number 149! This week we are going to talk a little more about the Sedgwick family, where Agrippa worked for many years.

And we are so excited for our upcoming Living History weekend at the Museum June 23-25. It is going to be so much fun and tickets for 12 and under are free! See all of the details and get your tickets HERE. 

Portrait of Agrippa Hull, unknown artist, unknown date. Acc# 47.002. Courtesy of the Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives. Painted from an 1845 daguerreotype taken by Anson Clark in West Stockbridge, also in the collection of the Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives.

The Sedgwick Family 
Rick Wilcox, 2022

This week we will talk a little more about the Sedgwick family, for whom Agrippa Hull worked for many years.

Theodore Sedgwick’s first wife was Elizabeth Mason, who he married in 1767. Tragically, she contracted smallpox while eight months pregnant and died on April 12, 1771. A few years later Sedgwick married a second time to Pamela Dwight, on April 17, 1774. Pamela was the daughter of Abigail Williams Sergeant Dwight and General Joseph Dwight. Pamela’s mother, Abigail, was the daughter of Colonel Ephraim Williams, Sr. and half-sister to Ephraim Williams, Jr. the founder of Williams College. Theodore and Pamela Sedgwick had ten children, three of whom died within a year of their birth. Pamela Sedgwick died on September 20, 1807, as described by Mary Bidwell in her letter to Barnabas that we shared last week.
Theodore married for a third time to Penelope Russell, some six months after Pamela’s death and much to the dismay of the Sedgwick children. Penelope and Theodore remained married until his death in January 1813. Theodore had been appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1802 and died while serving in that office.
Contrary to the popular belief that because the Bidwell and Sedgwick families were members of opposing parties they would be bitter enemies – Barnabas Bidwell was a Democratic-Republican and Theodore Sedgwick was a Federalist – the letter from last week and the letter below indicate otherwise. One might say that blood is thicker than political water. Pamela Sedgwick and Sarah Spring Gray, the mother of Mary Gray Bidwell, were first cousins. It would seem only natural that Mary, as Pamela’s second cousin, would offer to help at the Sedgwick house, following Pamela’s death. Agrippa was likely aware of the Bidwell family’s very strong anti-slavery position, which was also reflected in their friendship with Agrippa and Peggy Hull.

Portrait of Mary Gray Bidwell
Portrait of Mary Gray Bidwell (1764-1808) by Joseph Steward (1753-1822). Circa 1793, Oil on Canvas. Massachusetts. Acc# 2014.001. Gift of John and Judy Herdeg.

Stockbridge, Jan. 13th, 1807, a letter from Mary Gray Bidwell to Congressman Barnabas Bidwell, who was in Washington City:
Last Tuesday I received your letters, my dear friend, of the 27th and 28th ultimo, and the Friday preceding that of the 1st inst. (the New Year gift) This is a strange arrangement. Those written a week earlier delayed our mail, if not more. ‘These things should not be so.’ For three weeks I have not received one of Mr. Smith’s papers, except an old one of those published daily, two ‘Virginia Enquirers’ have been forwarded, though they contain little, if any, intelligence not previously received, and one ‘Baltimore Gazette.’ You wished me to preserve the court (Mr. Smith’s) gazette. I felt it necessary to make this statement to apprize you of delinquency, certainly not mine. We have suffered a disappointment in the suspension of our favorite gazette, but of that we do not mean to complain. Had you at first been less liberal and devoted but one, to us collectively with prohibition of sending it to N. Marlborough your file would now be entire, and an equal number distributed too (N. Marlborough excepted). If the post-masters suffer such thefts of papers, they ought to be exposed, and punished for their shameful marauding.
      On Tuesday evening Mrs. Spring [1] renounced her title to that once dear name and assumed that of Vallett, perhaps, more dear, time only can tell. Dr. West [2] was engaged to perform the hallowed rites, but indisposition prevented. He recommended Judge Sedgwick. [3] The old gentleman was diffident, Aunt, delicate, was peculiarly embarrassed. In this dilemma my pen was the only resource. Perhaps you may think me too officious. I had not indeed a moment to reflect. But seizing my pen stated the circumstances to the Honorable, and requested his assistance in this exigence. He returned a polite assurance of the pleasure he should feel in uniting the aged lovers, at my request. In five minutes, the Judge, appeared as magistrate, requesting I would permit Catharine and Laura, to witness this novel scene. Hunt was instantly deputed to attend the ladies. The cabalistic ceremony was brief , but comprehensive, each, merely avowing, to perform the duty of a Christian, in their respective characters. What more could be enjoined? Mr. Vallet insisted that the Judge should accept the customary fee; but he politely declined, adding ‘they must consider that as a part of the blessing.’ After supping upon turkey, etc, etc., our sleigh conveyed the happy pair to ‘Spring Hill.’ [4] This day (Thursday) the old gentleman has removed his bride and furniture to Lee. She was much affected at bidding adieu to the dear spot where she had passed so many happy days, with the friend of her youth. They called on us, and all our vivacity was necessary to enliven her dejected spirits. I never had advised – though after the interesting point was decided I endeavored to exhibit the agreeables of her intended change.  Richard Edwards has finished his course. His mortal career closed on the first day of the passing year. Little Ally-Mary, his only daughter is now confined with inflammatory rheumatism. Dr. West has at this moment called to take tea. I must therefore close assuring you that I am, Ever yours, M. B. [5]

Next week we will share a letter from Mary Bidwell to Barnabas that specifically mentions Agrippa Hull

1. Mary Gray Bidwell’s mother was Sarah Spring Gray.
2. Rev. Dr. Stephen West, the third Congregational Society minister in Stockbridge.
3. Theodore Sedgwick was a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice.
4. Prospect Hill Road, the majority of the land owned by the Williams family, to include Spring, Gray, etc.
5. The letters are from the Bidwell Collection at Yale. Both Mary and Barnabas had horrible handwriting so I transcribed most of their letters from 1805 to 1808.