Mary Ann Keeler Newbury (Sergeant) (1805 - 1863)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Lee, Massachusetts
Death: Died in Dubuque, Iowa
Managed by: Nancy Adams
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About Mary Ann Keeler Newbury (Sergeant)

Mary Ann Newbury (Sergeant) and her husband Rev. Samuel Newbury were abolitionists, and agents of the Underground Railroad.


Louise Moede Lex wrote a scholarly article about Mary Ann's daughter Mary Newbury Adams : "Mary Newbury Adams: Feminist Forerunner from Iowa," published in a journal of Iowa history, "Annals of Iowa," number 43, 5, Summer of 1976, pp 323-341. This article describes Rev. Samuel and Mary Ann Newbury's work as abolitionists, their service as agents of the underground railway, and their pioneering activities in women's education and suffrage. Lex wrote, "There were no elementary schools in the pioneer settlements where the family lived, so both parents assumed the task of educating their seven children. Cabin walls were covered with maps and periodicals; books were an important part of the family's possessions. The Newburys encouraged their children to read by reading to them. Mrs. [Mary Ann] Newbury was especially fond of reciting the poetry of her ancestor, Anne Dudley Bradstreet, probably the first American woman poet.

"One of the earliest memories which [Mary Newbury Adams] had of her mother related to the abolitionist movement. A mob of pro-slavery men attacked their home in White Pigeon when the father was away preaching or lecturing. The men tore down the white picket fence and demanded the release of a fugitive slave. The children huddled in one room, and their mother comforted them with "... Don't fear for we are in the right." [from a personal account by Mary Newbury Adams, in the "Austin Adams Family Papers," Iowa State University Library, Department of Special Collections, MS 10, 2-5.] She [Mary Ann] dispersed the attackers while the fugitive remained hidden in a secret cistern kept for this purpose. As an agent for the underground railroad, her mother [Mary Ann] had many opportunities to demonstrate that women could not be submissive if they also held firm convictions. The family left White Pigeon because the church congregation disagreed with the Newburys' anti-slavery views. ... the family moved to Jackson, Michigan, and then to Cleveland, Ohio...."

Here's a link to a pdf of this article (12.5 mb): <http://www.artlex.com/delahunt/Mary%20Newbury%20Adams_Lex_1976.pdf>

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Mary Ann Sergeant was born September 18, 1805, Lee, MA. She was the daughter of Doctor Erastus Sergeant Jr. and Margaret Pynchon Keeler Sergeant.

Mary Ann married Reverend Samuel Newbury on April 24, 1832, Lee, MA.

See the photo of Mary Ann Sergeant, paired with the photo of her husband, Reverend Samuel Newbury. Each was posed sitting in the same Gothic chair.

A rich account of the lives of Rev. Samuel and Mary Ann comes to us from Mary Ann's younger sister Jeanette Sergeant Ames Rice, who wrote a memoir in 1883: "Tales That Have the Rime of Age." It includes a description of howthe couple met and courted, their wedding, and their missionary travels west from Massachusetts to the Ohio River Valley, to Indianapolis not long after that city's founding, to White Pigeon, Michigan. Although she doesn't describe the family's involvement in the Underground Railway, we know by other means that the family later settled in Dubuque, Iowa. Altogether, Jeanette's narrative reveals that after they were married, Rev. Samuel Newbury and Mary Anne lived in a series of seven different places: Rutland, OH, Indianapolis, IN, Crawfordsville, IN, Peru, IN, Wabash, IN, White Pigeon, MI, and Dubuque, IA. The duty of a Presbyterian missionary required Samuel’s frequent moves, but this rootlessness was not unusual in American society of any period. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859, the French political thinker and historian best known for "Democracy in America," published in 1835 / 1840) said Americans start building a house and leave before the roof is built.

In her memoir, Jeanette S. A. Rice wrote that, "The principal event of [Mary Ann]’s childhood was her going to spend a year with Grandmother Keeler [Margaret Pynchon Keeler] in Norwalk, Connecticut, when she was but six years old. It was there [Mary Ann] first knew John Knox, his father having married our mother’s [Margaret Keeler Sergeant's] sister Martha for his second wife, and they all boarded with our grandmother. John was very near [Mary Ann’s] age and the children were fond of each other. He settled in Troy, New York, and married a very lovely and superior woman who was a daughter of Mrs. Sigourney (Mrs. Charles H. Sigourney)." [Mrs. Sigourney was Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney, 1791-1865, a prominent American author in her lifetime. The 1911 edition of The Encyclopædia Britannica said “She was one of the most popular writers of her day, both in America and in England, and was called ‘the American Hemans.’ {Felicia Hemans, 1793-1835, British poet whose romantic lyrics include "Casabianca" (1829).} Her writings were characterized by fluency, grace and quiet reflection on nature, domestic and religious life, and philanthropic questions; but they were too often sentimental, didactic and commonplace to have much literary value.” She spent most of her life in Hartford, Connecticut, where she conducted schools from 1811 to 1819. She contributed over two thousand articles to nearly 300 periodicals. Among the books she wrote are Letters to Young Ladies (1833), Zinzendorf, and Other Poems (1835), Letters to Mothers (1838), Pocahontas, and Other Poems (1841), Scenes in My Native Land (1844), Voice of Flowers (1845), and Past Meridian (1854).]

Jeanette S. A. Rice also wrote that, "When [Dr. Erastus Sergeant Jr.] went to Norwalk to bring [his daughter Mary Ann] home, they came by way of New Haven in order to visit President Dwight [8th president of Yale University, 1795-1817], who was a cousin of [Dr. Erastus Sergeant Jr.’s]. The visit made a great impression on [Mary Ann]. It seems Mrs. Dwight rose early, leaving her husband asleep, and when he came to the breakfast table he addressed her with 'Good morning Madame Dwight,' in a precise dignified manner [Mary Ann] always remembered."

Jeanette continued to discuss Mary Ann, writing that she, "must have been quite a favored one in the family for she of ten made little trips and had a good time generally. She must have been a very pretty, bright, winsome child.

"Miss Catharine Sedgwick, a cousin of our father’s was very fond of her and would invite her for long visits, taking her into her own room and bed, and when she would go her rounds among the poor she was always assisting, would take the little girl with her, thereby giving her lessons in practical benevolence. Miss Sedgwick was at this time keeping house for her brother Charles, in the old 'Sedgwick Mansion' in Stockbridge [MA]. She was a noble, refined, cultured woman and your mother was very fond of her, naming your sister Kate for her.

"When [Mary Ann] was eighteen years old she was in poor health, so was sent to New York to Uncle Matthew Keeler, my mother's [Margaret Keeler Sergeant’s] youngest brother, to try the benefit of a change. He spared no pains nor expense for her improvement, and in a few months sent her home with the bloom of health upon her cheek. I remember Uncle Matthew very well in those days. He was my mother’s favorite brother; used to come to visit us and never tired in sending us beautiful things. A box from Uncle Matthew was sure to come every little while filled with useful as well as rare and costly things. He, at this time, was very wealthy, owning an elegant residence on Broadway, which was then the fashionable street for homes. He married a Miss Serena Howard, a most lovely woman, and his house was always open to receive those he loved. He was a very affectionate, generous-hearted man and we all loved him. My mother’s immediate family all lived in New York. Her mother, Margaret Pynchon Keeler, at this time a widow, made her home with uncle Matthew. The oldest brother, Stephen and three sisters — Nancy who never married, Martha (Mrs. Knox), and Sarah (Mrs. Charles Bonticou) — all lived there at this time, so New York possessed many attractions, and my sisters used often to go there. My Grandmother Keeler died there when I was ten years old, at the age of seventy-seven, in full possession of her faculties.

"When [Mary Ann] was about nineteen years old she went to Middlebury, Vermont, to be with our good kind aunt [Eunice] Starr, our father’s sister, and attend Mrs. Cook’s boarding school for young ladies . After being in school for a while, she acted as assistant teacher for a time, a position she much enjoyed.

"She remained in Middlebury four years and her return home after the long absence was a great event in the family. How well do I remember the day. She was more beautiful than ever and I was perfectly happy if I could be near her. On the other hand she made a great pet of me, took me under her special care, was always patient and kind, willing to help me in my lessons and work, (though I never did anything to be reproved for) and was always ready to give me a good time. My love for her amounted to worship almost and I hoped she never would leave home again. It was about this time I exacted the promise from her, one day when we were in the orchard together, that if she ever married and had a home of her own, then I might live with her. And sure enough, the promise was fulfilled to the letter, before very long too.

"We needed her cheerful presence in the home, at that time especially. My father [Dr. Erastus Sergeant Jr.] was in his last sickness, my mother’s health was very delicate, my youngest brother, William, of whom I was very fond, was in Uncle John Sergeant’s store in Stockbridge, and altogether it was sad and lonely in the little home. During your mother’s stay in Middlebury, this same brother had fallen from a horse and broken his leg just above the knee, causing a very long weary illness for him and increased care in the family, so all were tired and somewhat dispirited. Sister Elizabeth, with untiring patience and love, had stood firmly at the helm, but she needed help in guiding and managing the little craft and your mother came just in time to give cheer, hope and the necessary aid in the burden bearing."

...

"Your mother [Mary Ann] was no common woman as you well know. She 'looked well to the ways of her household' always, cheerful, hopeful, and strong in character. Amid all the trying changes of a new country, her courage never failed. She was ready to meet every emergency in an uncomplaining manner. Being with her during the very trying years of home missionary life, I know whereof I speak. Her example has always been a noble one to follow. In her Christian character she was loving, and unchanging in her faith and trust, ready to do good and minister to the needy. Hers was a rare spirit."

Mary Ann Sergeant Newbury died at 58 years, on September 19, 1863, in Dubuque [where the family had moved in 1853], IA, preceding her husband's death by three years.

Louise Moede Lex wrote a scholarly article about Mary Ann's daughter Mary Newbury Adams : "Mary Newbury Adams: Feminist Forerunner from Iowa," published in a journal of Iowa history, "Annals of Iowa," number 43, 5, Summer of 1976, pp 323-341. This article describes Rev. Samuel and Mary Ann Newbury's work as abolitionists, their service as agents of the underground railway, and their pioneering activities in women's education and suffrage. Lex wrote, "There were no elementary schools in the pioneer settlements where the family lived, so both parents assumed the task of educating their seven children. Cabin walls were covered with maps and periodicals; books were an important part of the family's possessions. The Newburys encouraged their children to read by reading to them. Mrs. [Mary Ann] Newbury was especially fond of reciting the poetry of her ancestor, Anne Dudley Bradstreet, probably the first American woman poet.

"An integral part of the children's education was family history. Stories were related about the eight generations of grandmothers. The family genealogy revealed that [Mary Newbury] Adams was a descendant of John Cotton, William Pynchon, a patentee of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, three colonial governors, numerous non-conformist ministers, three physicians, and four judges. [Mary Newbury] Adams was also aware that Pynchon had defended Anne Hutchinson who had challenged the assumption that women could have no voice in church affairs. (Her trial was the first time the question of equal status for women was raised in this country.)

"One of the earliest memories which [Mary Newbury Adams] had of her mother related to the abolitionist movement. A mob of pro-slavery men attacked their home in White Pigeon when the father was away preaching or lecturing. The men tore down the white picket fence and demanded the release of a fugitive slave. The children huddled in one room, and their mother comforted them with "... Don't fear for we are in the right." [from a personal account by Mary Newbury Adams, in the "Austin Adams Family Papers," Iowa State University Library, Department of Special Collections, MS 10, 2-5.] She [Mary Ann] dispersed the attackers while the fugitive remained hidden in a secret cistern kept for this purpose. As an agent for the underground railroad, her mother [Mary Ann] had many opportunities to demonstrate that women could not be submissive if they also held firm convictions. The family left White Pigeon because the church congregation disagreed with the Newburys' anti-slavery views. ... the family moved to Jackson, Michigan, and then to Cleveland, Ohio...."

Here's a link to a pdf of this article (12.5 mb): <http://www.artlex.com/delahunt/Mary%20Newbury%20Adams_Lex_1976.pdf>;

Remembering that Mary Ann spent some time in Stockbridge with Catharine Sedgwick, it may be of interest to learn the story of a former slave who was in the Sedgwick family's employ at the time of Mary Ann's visit. This woman's grave has always been beside that of Catharine's.

Mum Bett

As lawyers Theodore Sedgwick and Tapping Reeve pled the case of Brom and Bett vs. Ashley for Mum Bett (c. 1744-1829), a black slave who had fled from her master (Col. John Ashley's family in Sheffield, Mass.) on account of cruel treatment. In 1780, Mum Bett prevented her master's wife from striking another slave in the household, Lizzie, thought to be her sister. Mum Bett left the house and refused to return. When Ashley tried to use the force of law to compel her to return to the household, she went to Theodore Sedgwick and asked him to represent her in a suit for her freedom. The jury ruled that she was free, thus making this case the earliest application of the declaration of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 that "all men are born free and equal." This decision was later upheld by the state Supreme Court after Sedgwick became a justice thereof.

According to tradition, before her legal action against the Ashleys, Mum Bett heard the discussions regarding the drafting of the Massachusetts constitution, most specifically the portion that reads: "All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness."

Mum Bett, who changed her name to Elizabeth Freeman, chose to work for the Sedgwick household for much of the rest of her life and is buried in the family plot. Her grave (also in the "Sedgwick Pie") is marked by a monument beside the grave of his daughter Catharine Maria Sedgwick, one of the first noted female writers in the United States. He also helped Elizabeth Freeman sue for her freedom. He helped her sue Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusettes.

A trip to the Stockbridge Cemetery would not be complete without a visit to the famous Sedgwick Pie. Sedgwick lore has it that the graves are laid out with the patriarch and matriarch, Theodore and Pamela, in the center, with the rest in concentric circles around them, "so on Judgment Day, when they rose, they would see only Sedgwicks," Garrison said, although he added he believes that was a "joke they told on themselves."

There in the Sedgwick Pie stands the grave of Mum Bett, written as "Mumbet" on the gravestone, next to Catharine Sedgwick. People have sometimes placed stones on top of Mum Bett's grave in tribute to her.'

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Following is a letter from Rev. Samuel Newbury to his wife Mary Ann.

Detroit, Mich., Sat. May 19, 1860

My Dear Mary Ann

I feel inclined to employ my lonesome moments this forenoon in commencing a letter to you I have finish and mail it next Monday or this day. I have not yet left the house since I came not feeling as well as usual and it is cold and rainy without. I shall try to go down into the city this afternoon. We expect John home today. Frances was much tired out by her journey and the calls and excitements at Jackson but she feels much better this morning. The children are as happy as larks and give their mother no trouble. Emma is thin, quick, guardian and helper. Franny has another very good girl in the kitchen. Saml is busy and I should should think steadily increasing his business and yet I should not be surprised if he yet went to Chicago. This question will be settled however within a few weeks. I hope and think that he will remain here, but he thinks he can make more money at Chicago, says he shall not go there until that is made certain. If however any arrangements are made here for Egbert, he will probably decide to stay here or at least that would affect his determination somewhat.

Frances of course opposes all projects for Saml's going to Chicago. Told him yesterday, if he want, she would go too. I wrote a postscript in Saml's letter to you yesterday and enclosed your two dollars which I hope you have received. I shall expect to receive a letter from home by Monday. Good bye till Monday.

Monday May 21. The Sabbath is past. Saml and I attended Dr. Duffield's church yesterday morning. Rain in the evening prevents my going out. It rains hard all night. Hope you have some rain at Dubuque. I have been quite unwell since I have been here so that I have not been out at all. My [ ] trouble [ ] terribly night and day. I feel a little more comfortable to day. As to my future course I am wholly at sea and more in doubt than ever.Saml opposes outright my going to Ohio and John opposes my having anything to do with the [agevry?]. He thinks it all "pop cock." I am wholly undecided what to do. Hope the question will be settled this week. Saml wants us to take a trip up to Lake Superior for my health on a fire [srap? not sloop]. But I am too anxious about home [or how?] to do any such thing at present, unless I have [or hall] some money to [ ] home. I shall however try and see that you are kept in market money. Saml has quite an increase of business lately last week that will soon yield him some money. I hope you will write me every day or two and keep me posted as to all matters at home. I shall remain here for several days yet. How long I can not tell.

Monday, Detroit, May 28,/60 My Dear Mary Ann Your very welcome letter of the 25 inst was received this morning. I was much relieved to hear from home, had begun to be nervous not hearing last week. I expect to leave here Cleveland tomorrow evening. enclosed I send you five dollars (5$) for Mary Woodbury, the balance of the fifteen dollars I had of her. Ten dollars I sent back to her from Duluth[?] by Egbert, which he of course gave her. i also enclose two dollars for yourself. Saml and I attended Rev. Mr. Hogarth's church yesterday morning and evening. He is a fine preacher, the best in the city. He reminds me of Rev. Trowbridge. Rev. Hogarth inquired particularly after Bro. Trobridge, and wished to be remembered to him. Saml is very popular here. His business is steadily increasing. Lockwood & Clark this morning put some new business into his hands, had him appointed receiver of the assets of a firm that failed. It gives no money now, but will when the matter is finally settled. Saml has nearly abandoned all idea of going to Chicago. Franny wrote you last week. She and the children are quite well. John is full of politics, is terribly disappointed that Seward was not nominated instead of Lincoln.

Saml received this morning a very long and interesting letter from Robb, or rather from "Pat" as his signature was. Ch. J. Eire[?] advanced Saml fifteen dollars on the Kirtland[?] note as he holds the security of Kirtland[?] in his hands, seven dollars of which is enclosed in this letter, the balance for my own expenses to Ohio. I wish Egbert to give special attention to the practice of reading, writing. Have him read alone every letter mind from every source till he can read readily any handwriting. Let him spend hours in this practice every day. And I wish him to devote at least one hour each day to writing so as to be able to write a good business hand. Then two things vis: writing and reading writing are absolutely indispensable to his obtaining a clerkship of any volume. A plan will soon be obtained for him, but John says it will depend on his writing and his ability to read writing readily. Please hand the enclosed line to Mr. Allamy[?] without delay.

From your affectionate husband, Saml. Newbury

P.S. I will write soon after reaching Cleveland. Much love to the children. Mr. Story, whom you knew in Jackson just called and wished me to remember him to Mrs. Newbury. S. N.

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Following is a letter signed by Emily Harper, addressed to Rev. Samuel Newbury about Mary Anne Newbury (Sergeant)'s death (September 19, 1863). Emily speaks of Mary Anne as "Sister." There is no record yet of either Mary Anne or Rev. Samuel having a sister named Emily, so this person's identity is (2011) a mystery. [Emily uses very little punctuation, so I [Michael Delahunt] have modernized this aspect of the letter, leaving in other peculiarities of grammar.] Emily Harper wrote from:

Middlebury, Elk Co., Indiana, October 2, 1863 [in an envelope postmarked Middlebury, Ind, Nov 2]

My Dear Brother,

It is with feelings of sadness that I sit down to address you. I received a paper from Jeanett [Mary Ann's sister Jeanette Ames Rice (Sergeant), 1822-1900; not Mary Ann's daughter Jeanette Newbury, 1847-1899] containing Sisters death. It did not shock me much, for I was partly prepared to hear such news form what William said about her; he did not think she would live any time at all, and not getting any answer to my letter, I thought she was not able to write any more, and I was anxious about her all the time, but had not time to write until now. We have been very busy drying our fruit. Our peach orchard was full of peaches this year and the apples plenty also. This country was full of fruit. We could not sell any at a fare price, and dried all we had so it did not go to waist. We put up some 50 bushels of green apples; they will sell in the spring. Pa thinks I should love to have you have some of our fine apples to eat this winter. We use all we want. It saves so much to have a plenty of fruit to use in a family. I could not get along without it. I often thought of Sister when we were drying our peaches. She was so fond of them. It was her favorite. You know I should have tried and sent you some if we had the means to have done it, but we had not at that time any money at all, and would not sell any green peaches so as to raise a little money to send a box on to you. I presume you can buy them at your place now about as cheap as we can send them to you. It does not seem hardly possible that sister is gone to her long home but so it is that you are left alone in the world. But you have your children to comfort you in your affliction. Sister was spared to you until your children were all grown up and partly settled. It would have been harder to have parted with her when your children were little. She was spared to you for a long time to be company for you in your old age. You can live with your children now if you think best. You must not let it wear on your mind too much if you can help it. I know you loved Sister dearly, but it would be hard to part with Father and Mother all at once. I wish I could come and see you some more but I cannot now. I spent the pleasantest part of my life in your family. We never had any hard words with each other as I know [ ] always did our work pleasantly and I love to think of it now when the cares of a family are on me; I feel as if I was to be left alone in the world. Our family are all in their graves but Jeanette and myself. We had a letter from Nettie last week. She said Sister was better and thought she would be able to come home in a short time. I hope she will get well again. Her family needs a Mother's care. Now my Nettie takes care of everything but she is young yet I am glad she can make herself useful in her Aunty's family. My family are almost grown up now. Sarah was 16 in October slim and tall she is doing up our fall serving cuts pants by [ ] she is very useful to me is a kind good girl and little Mary Florance one year and half old can run all about and is beginning to talk a little. I have had 4 daughters and five sons. That is enough for me, ain't it. Eleck was 13 last Feb. John 8 last Sept. They work every day like old men. Charles is almost 21. He will be in May next. He has got a school this winter to teach and William has gone to war he does not like it much. I am getting old am getting stout and hearty. My front teeth are almost gone. I have to wear glasses to see. Do send me something that was sister's to remember her by. Give my love to the girls. This letter is to you all. Answer it soon some of you. We all send love to you from your affectionate sister, Emily Harper

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Mary Ann Newbury's Timeline

1805
September 18, 1805
Lee, Massachusetts
1832
April 24, 1832
Age 26
Lee, Massachusetts
1833
1833
Age 27
1835
1835
Age 29
Indianapolis, IN, USA
1837
October 13, 1837
Age 32
Peru, Indiana, United States
1839
1839
Age 33
1841
November 26, 1841
Age 36
1843
September 8, 1843
Age 37
Allegan, MI, USA
1847
February 12, 1847
Age 41
Wayland, MI, USA
1863
September 19, 1863
Age 58
Dubuque, Iowa