The Brown-Pearl Hall on Display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

In 1925 the Brown-Pearl House was acquired by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and dismantled.  The living area was reconstructed as an exhibit hall – an example of colonial architecture and early domestic life.  It was taken down and stored 10 or 11 years ago when the museum began construction of the new Art of the Americas Wing.

On Nov. 20th, 2010, the new wing was opened to the public and the Brown–Pearl Hall is again on display as a gallery in the lowest level of the new wing.

A little bit of history as excerpted from Norton Lee Bretz’ “Family Tree of John Pearl” (with additional comments in italics):

“John’s son Richard (the youngest of John Pearl’s sons) purchased the house, barn, and land from Cornelius Brown in 1737.  (Our ancestor, Timothy Pearl, had left Boxford and moved to what is now Hampton, CT roughly 30 years earlier.)  Mention was made in the deed of 175 acres of this land previously purchased by Richard.  Mr. Brown was allowed to live in the house until May 20 of that year.  It was on a narrow winding road near West Boxford.  Near the time of its purchase, Richard built a grist mill in the rear of the house, the first in the parish.  Major additions were put on the house in 1725 and in 1843 when an abandoned parish church was patched onto the building.  In 1925, the house was bought by the MFA.  It had been abandoned as a dwelling for some years and was rapidly deteriorating.  The structure was made of massive hewn, red oak beams, 12 by 14 inches, hand-fit at the supports.  The fireplace was over seven feet wide with a lintel made of oak.  The architecture was typical of the seventeenth century and one of the best remaining examples of colonial craftsmanship.  The living room, which the family knew as the foreroom, is what is now on display at the museum.  The original room was 19×19 feet and has an 8 foot ceiling.”

We also have this information from the “History of the Pearl Family” by Marian Arlene Pearl:

“John and his wife Elizabeth Pearl undoubtedly spent the remainder of their life on the Pearl Homestead at Boxford as the youngest son, Richard, was said to have been brought there in a bread trough when an infant.  This house stood on a 200 (acre) tract of land laid out originally to John Sandys in 1667.  The acreage passed into the hands of Joseph Dowding a Boston merchant who sold it Sept. 10, 1703 to Cornelius Brown of Reading for seventy pounds.  Mr. Brown built the house of solid hewn oak timber and it stood true and plumb throughout the years.  Alice Heath Fairbank Dow in her Pearl history of Richard’s line states that ‘one of the timbers measures 18 inches and between the inside and outside finish are bricks, larger than modern bricks, solidly laid in mortar and there are two or three wooden latches with the latch string in the house and the one on the south door is very large’  There were no highways when this home was erected and it faced south fronting a field.,  The road when eventually constructed was laid out at the rear of the house.  The Browns lived there many years, the wife Susannah died in 1734 at age 74.  The Pearl family occupied one side of it, and during this period it was known as the Brown-Pearl house.”

The house was built around 1704 and in this room the home’s occupants cooked, ate and slept, illustrating New England domestic life in the first years of the 1700’s.  Furnishings in the room as now displayed in the Museum are from other early homes and illustrate the multipurpose nature of a 17th and early 18th century hall.

– Dorothy Vander Meulen, Pearl Family Historian (with additional material and comments by Allen Vander Meulen III)

THE RESTLESS PEARLS

We recently heard from a distant cousin, Robert Brand, who found our Pearl Website and has communicated with us by email. He is descended from Ebenezer Pearl, born ca. 1778. Ebenezer was the son of James Pearl (1739-1831). One of James Pearl’s other sons, and brother to Ebenezer, was Jerome Pearl born in 1775.  Jerome is our family’s direct ancestor.

The migration patterns of various lines of the Pearl family are fascinating., Some moved to Nova Scotia, at least one moved back to England, many moved west to New York State, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and eventually on to the west coast before the 20th century dawned. Ebenezer Pearl migrated from Connecticut to New York State.

Below is a brief history and interesting story from Robert Brand’s family, which he shared with us.

“After moving from Connecticut to New York, Ebenezer Pearl married Lucy Cole, born 1786 in Sterling, CT.  She had come with her parents to NY when she was about 6 years old. Ebenezer married her in Fairfield, NY. They had 8 children, one of whom was Ebenezer A. Pearl born 1811 in NY. Ebenezer A. served in the Civil War and was pensioned out early in the war with $8.00 per month, Invalid Pension. In the 1860 and 1870 censuses he is listed as a peddler. He created and sold ‘Ebenezer A. Pearl’s Tincture of Life’*. He married Harriet M. ?? and had 8 children, one of whom was Aurilla Pearl, born 1852 in NY. Aurilla married William Brand, but unfortunately he died young after falling off a ladder, breaking his neck. He was only 29 years of age. He left Aurilla with 4 children (one of whom was Robert Brand’s grandfather) and an insurance policy. The insurance money attracted a scoundrel named Charles Wesley Delrymple who married Aurilla on Jan. 1, 1891. Unfortunately he already had three wives. Aurilla’s sisters filed charges against him to protect the children whom they said were being abused by him. Delrymple was arrested, tried and sent packing. Aurilla then married an English farmer named George Happs and found peace.”
…….Robert Brand, Sept. 2010.

*According to an article found on the web, from the ANTIQUE BOTTLE AND GLASS COLLECTOR MAGAZINE, Antique Medicine Bottles Dr. Cannon’s Medicine Chest: “Ebenezer A. Pearl’s Tincture of Life came in an aqua, rectangular, 7 3/4 inch tall bottle. The product was advertised for coughs, colds, sore throats, etc. in the Boonville Herald, NY Feb 16, 1888.” A fair number of these bottles have been found for sale on the web over the years.

71st Pearl Family Reunion

The Pearl Clan in front of the "Little River Grange" built by Austin Eugene Pearl and Arthur Eugene Pearl

This year the Pearl family held its reunion at site of the former Little River Grange Hall, now the Hampton Community Center in Hampton, CT. It was a day of celebration of family, and of remembering the two Pearl men who constructed this building over 100 years ago. Austin Eugene Pearl and his son, Arthur Eugene Pearl, built this hall which served the Little River Grange # 36 until recently, when dwindling membership forced its closing and the building was taken over and then renovated by the town of Hampton for a community center. As a Grange Hall and now as a community center, this building continues to serve its town well.

Some 55 ‘cousins’ attended this year. The ages of those present ranged from 5 1/2 months to 91 years. Some traveled from as far as Florida and Illinois to be here with us.

With plates full of good, filling and delicious food, most of our family enjoyed the pot luck lunch outside under the big trees surrounding the Hall while a few stayed inside to eat and visit in the quieter environs of the renovated dining room. There was much visiting and sharing of family news and enjoying each others company, renewing friendships and getting to know each other better. A brief business meeting followed the dinner. There it was voted to hold next year’s reunion in the same place.

Family Recipe

Feel free to share other Pearl family recipes by sending them to me for publication here. Dot Vander Meulen

The following recipe comes from Evelyn (Pearl) Estabrooks and was given to me many years ago. You will need to adapt it to modern measurement terms.

Cottage Pudding (this is a simple and delicious cake served with a sauce):

1 cup sugar
butter the size of a medium egg
1 egg thrown in
1 cup milk
2 cups sifted flour
1 heaping Tablespoon baking powder ( this measurement translates to 1 tsp. double acting baking powder)
dash vanilla (1 tsp.)
Mix, pour into a greased 9 inch square pan and bake in a 350 deg. oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
Serve warm with either whipped cream or lemon sauce (my recipe for lemon sauce follows.)

Lemon Sauce – (1 1/3 cup sauce… I usually double this recipe):

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
dash salt
dash nutmeg
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons margarine or butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Mix the first 4 ingredients then gradually stir in the water. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until thick and clear. Add the margarine and lemon juice. Blend thoroughly.

Dot Vander Meulen

Pearl Settlement in the West

I am fortunate to have recently been loaned the Pearl genealogy/history written by Marian Arlene Pearl. It has been generously shared with me by Marion Emmons who is now in possession of this history of our family. In the process of copying this record I have come across many interesting tales, learned more about the history of our family from the time of John the immigrant,and I have been blessed with more insight into the lives and times of our ancestors. One of the insights I have come to appreciate is the story of the journey of Laura Shellenbarger’s family from Connecticut to the wilds of Ohio. This courageous act typifies the determination and toughness of those who choose to undertake such a dangerous journey.

Laura contacted me after discovering our blog. Her family is descended from Capt. Timothy Pearl, a son of Timothy from whom our Hampton Pearls are descended, and a half brother of James Pearl, our direct ancestor.

Linda Shellenbarger’s great-great-great grandpa, Oliver Pearl, born in Willington, CT in 1788, left Connecticut to pursue opportunities in the west. He had married Mary Sexton in 1811. Oliver was a farmer and he and Mary lived in Ellington, CT  for 8 years after their marriage before “trading his farm for 100 acres of heavily timbered land in what is now Berlin Township, Erie County, Ohio. He also acquired 40 acres at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, now a part of Cleveland. With true pioneer courage, this family now consisting of a wife and 4 small children, piled their household furniture and farm equipment into wagons, leaving Connecticut in 1819 for weeks of hazardous traveling. When they reached the pioneer farm at Cuyahoga River, malarial conditions forced them to continue on to their tract of land in Berlin. This was through a wilderness so dense that Mr. Pearl had to cut a road through to enable the teams to haul the wagons. According to history they passed through a Huron Indian village, now the site of the city of Milan, some 8 miles from his homestead. Fortunately, the Indians were friendly at that time to white settlers. Mr. Pearl first erected a cabin of round logs, later replacing it with a more spacious home of hewn logs. This couple was known for their kindness and good works. They helped to organize a Methodist church and were regular in attendance. Ten children were born to this union.”

Some of the information that Marian Arlene Pearl found was in Hewson L. Peeke’s “A Standard History of Erie Co. in 2 vols published in 1916., and The Firelands Historical Soc. Norwalk, Ohio Vol. 111 pg 26 Fireland Pioneers. and Huron Co. D.A.R. records Vol. 2 1812-1939 and Pearl/ History from E. Eldridge, Pearl family Bible.

The Fire Lands resource interested me. In looking up what this referred to, I found the following.  The Firelands tract was located at the western end of the Connecticut Western Reserve in what is now the state of Ohio. This land was set aside for people who lived in those Connecticut towns who had lost their homes when the British had burned them during the Revolutionary War. The towns affected were Danbury, Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, New London, New Haven, Norwalk and Ridgefield. Eventually about 30 towns were established in the Firelands on the southern shore area of Lake Erie. But, apparently not too many people from the above Connecticut towns took advantage of this opportunity, probably because of Indian hostilities around the War of 1812 and the thickly forested land, that was hard to clear for farming.  A number of members of Oliver Pearl’s family did move from northeastern Connecticut to this area of Ohio.

Dorothy Vander Meulen, Pearl Family Historian

A Poem: Something to Think About

If you could see your ancesters,

All standing in a row,

Would you be proud of them, or not,

Or don’t you really know?

Some strange discoveries are made

In climbing Family Trees

And some of them, you know, do not

Particularly please.

If you could see your ancesters

All standing in a row

There might be some of them perhaps,

You wouldn’t care to know.

But there’s another question, which

Requires a different view:

If you could meet your ancesters

Would they be proud of you?

…Anonymous.   Taken from Marian Arlene Pearl’s “Genealogy of John Pearl and His Descendants in America”

The Brown-Pearl Hall at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In the November/December 2009 issue of their magazine “Preview”, the Museum of Fine Arts has a short article and photograph on page 16 announcing the reinstallation of “Brown-Pearl Hall” which was the main living space from the old Pearl Family Homestead in West Boxford, MA, built in about 1704 (a few years before Timothy Pearl moved to Hampton, CT).  The museum acquired the room in 1925.

The hall will be one of nine galleries in the MFA’s new “American Wing” period rooms .  The article says that the “Brown-Pearl Hall will replicate the cooking, dining and sleeping space of an Essex County family of the period.” 

It was discovered during renstallation that the room, when on display in its original location in the nuseum (from 1928-2003) had been assembled backwards, and notes that “when the wing opens in [late fall] 2010, visitors will see for the first time Brown-Pearl Hall as it was originally constructed 300 years ago.'”

A search of the MFA website turned up the following photographs of the hall, apparently taken at various points in time during the 75 years prior to its dissassembly in 2003 (in preparation for the construction of the new wing):

http://www.mfa.org/collections/search_art.asp?recview=true&id=38237

Pearls of Hampton family prayer

Before each meal, William and Elizabeth Pearl would recite the following grace.  Their children and grandchildren continued the tradition saying this prayer whenever they gathered for a meal.  It bound us together and defined us as family as we proclaimed our gratitude for our blessings.

The Family Prayer is as follows:

We thank thee, Father, wise and good, for home and friends and daily food.  Bless to our use this food we take, and save us all for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

1938 Hurricane – Letter from Elizabeth Pearl to her stepdaughters

A personal perspective of Elizabeth Pearl….
 
 Pearl Farm 1938 Hurricane Damage
 (My father, Earl Overbaugh, removing apple trees knocked down by the 1938 Hurricane on the Pearl family farm in Hampton, CT.)

Elizabeth was the 2nd wife of William Austin Pearl. She and Will did not have any children together, but Elizabeth was a loving stepmother, close to Will’s children, Beatrice, Dorothy, Eleanor and William Waite Pearl. She was my grandmother and it was not until I was a teen ager that I learned she was really a stepgrandmother. I loved her.

Grandma and Grandpa Pearl lived on Hampton Hill, on Main ST (the old Rt.6). In 1938, Rt. 6 was the main road between Hartford, CT and Providence, RI. Will and Elizabeth had a large house, newly built sometime in the early 1930’s I believe, and it was painted white with green trim. The house is situated still at the curve in old Rt. 6 where it turns sharply to the north to follow Main Street for a short way before turning sharply to the east dropping down a steep hill into the Little River Valley and from there on to Providence. Directly in front of their house, where the road turned to the north, stood a maple tree. This tree was in the middle of the intersection where Main St. and Rt. 6 joined and it is still there today protecting the house from careless drivers going too fast to make the curve. From the back of the house, Elizabeth and Will had a commanding view of the valley.

In 1938 an intense hurricane hit the New England states. The following letter was written by Elizabeth one week and a day after the storm and it is obvious from the penciled scrawl and difficulty in understanding the cramped, poorly constructed sentences and misspellings that she was still under considerable stress and exhaustion even though 8 days had passed. The letter mentions William (Bill, brother of Bea, Dorothy and Eleanor), Bert (William’s hired farmhand), Mildred (William’s wife and the mother of Joyce Rodriguez) and Maurice (Elizabeth’s son-in law from her first marriage. He lived in NY State). At the time, the town was serviced by the railroad and had its own railroad station.

It is this quiet and lovely community that the storm descended upon without warning and caused such devastation. Elizabeth’s letter is the relating of events to family living in other parts of Connecticut on how Hampton fared, and specifically how my grandparents had fared. It gives us a glimpse of the terror of this storm and how it affected the people of Hampton. No one expected it, no one had prepared for it. And, because there was no possibility of being designated as a federal disaster area at that time, these folks faced the monumental task of cleaning up from the debris and repairing the fabric of their lives on their own.

The hurricane hit on Wed. Sept. 21, 1938. This letter is dated Thurs. AM Sept. 29th and is addressed to Mrs. Eleanor P. Hall 650 Main Street, Hartford, Conn. c/o Shepard & Co. It is from Mrs. W. A., Pearl, Hampton,, Conn. It has here been edited only enough to make it more easily understood.

The Letter:

Dear Eleanor: Was glad to receive yours, and Dot’s and Bea’s letters yesterday. First mail since last Wed. Will Jewett goes to Willi [Willimantic] after it, as mail train isn’t running yet. Since this one track has been repaired [it] has been given over to food and freight for Boston. Yesterday was first train in here for week. Hampton was pretty badly hit (awful we thot till we saw Brooklyn. That is as far that way as we have been and that was terrible). No one killed or injured in our town was a wonder too. Everybody has crawled out from under and frantically working to repair roofs where it is possible to get materials which has been a big hindrance.

The roof over our bedroom, a corner off the main roof, and chimney came crashing down at once [and] blew in attic window. Some of the splintered glass Will found stuck in the attic door [some 12 to 14 feet from the window] and water poured in every where. Our hall paper, both up [stairs] and down is streaked.

Nothing but good workmanship kept this house together as it was rocked so the clock stopped twice. I thot our time had surely come when I saw Borgers porches both go, Miss Waters porch went right over the house and landed up to firehouse. One of our garage doors laid in by [our] back door [and] the cover over our well blew in front bay window and broke one glass [pane] as I was looking out. Fragments blew clear in the dining room. [The bay window was in the living room on the south side of the house and the glass would have blown clear across that room to the dining room on the north side of the house.]

Both of Mr. Fitts barn roofs and most of hay [and] part of house roof and many windows panes [blew away] which we don’t even mention now. Ford house roof and barn is a mess.

Our beautiful church steeple and belfry are in a heap between chapel and church. Parsonage chimneys and roof gone and tree on side porch. Can’t begin to tell you of everything, but our beautiful trees thru town was piled in every direction mostly in street and of course they took wires and poles also. Wed. night was like living in back woods no cars no lights. Next day the street was full of people wandering around so much to do no one seemed to know where to begin we were all in a daze. No phone to call for help. No way to get materials if we could. A temporary bridge which was only completed late Sat night into Willi. The enormous light pole by our place is still in a heap in our yard haven’t any idea when we will get juice as the Dyer Dam went out Sat which supplies power for Danielson so all workmen are laying a temporary line to Montville and after that we get fixed up. Can you imagine what that means to us. No electricity is a calamity to us no heat no anything and only water as Will dips and carrys up a pailful is so little. The porch and windows are like the road [a mess]. We can’t do cleaning till we get back to normal. We have a little hand lamp and borrowed Stella’s (Elizabeth’s sister-in law] oil stove to cook on as she was using her range [a wood stove]. Have been very thankful for the sunshine and that helps keep our spirits up and can work out side much faster if it doesn’t rain.

William and Mildred went out to Maurice’s [in NY State] Tues 4 PM [the day before the hurricane hit] with the truck to attend an auction of pure blood cows at Earlville 75 miles further on. He did and got one staid until Sat AM [when] they got over their radio the conditions this way. They had some [of the storm and rain] out there. Imagine our surprise to go down [Hammond Hill Rd to William’s farm] Wed AM and Bert told us [where William and Mildred were]. Tues night had a cloud burst here and took out most of small bridges and plenty of roads in town. Six big trees blocked William’s [road down the] hill. Will knew side roads would be left so he frantically set to work chopping and sawing and for three days to repair roofs and try and save William’s chickens. (126 drowned first night in open shelters.) Bert had dysentery so bad could hardly move so Fri and Sat Will bro’t him up here to eat. The maple in yard and ash across the road, apple tree, pear tree and lower ash are down also others on farm. Send this on to Dot as now we know they are all right will not be [down there] right away. If nice we may come out to Bea’s since you can let them know or read this. Love Mother.

…………….Dorothy Vander Meulen

 PearlHomeMainStreetHampton

William and Elizabeth Pearl’s home, photo taken sometime in the 1930’s.

Marian Arlene Pearl’s papers donated

 The following information, regarding the Genealogy of John Pearl and his descendants written by Marian Arlene Pearl, is given to us by Marion Emmons.

The Genealogy of John Pearl and his descendants was compiled and written by Miss Marian Arlene Pearl (known as Arlene) who lived in Augusta, ME. Marion Emmons obtained Arlene Pearls papers after her death 22 Oct. 1968. In 1987 Marion Emmons sent 473 copied pages of Arlene’s document to the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City, UT and they are preserved on microfilm. Copies of the same 473 pages were sent in 1990 to Maine State Library Reference Dept. in Augusta, ME where they can be viewed by tape or typed sheets by the public.