Julia Duncan Worthington Bulkeley

I turn to my aunt, Ann Bradburd, for more about Julia herself (with minor edits by me).

“Julia lived in Brooklyn most of her life, over forty years in one house. It is due to her (and later to my great grandmother) that many of the letters and diaries were saved. Most of them were found in the attic of the house in Torringford that my great-grandmother lived in.

“She died at the age of 83 on November 23, 1888, a few months after her grandson Charles Loomis married my maternal great grandmother May Fullerton. She outlived two husbands and her four children. May Loomis died when I was two years old, so she knew both my great-great-great grandmother and me. Thus two hundred years are quickly spanned in three lifetimes.

“In addition to the letters themselves, there are some other sources of information about Julia’s life. She kept pocket diaries for many years. We still have about twenty diaries; they cover – with a few gaps — the years from 1861 to 1888 [in which span falls this website’s diary of 1864 — ed.]. She also saved her son Robert’s diaries, which date from the 1850s. At some time, probably about 1870, Julia made some genealogical notes about her family. Another interesting source is a long sketch of her life in a somewhat eulogistic letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that was printed a few days after she died. The letter was signed H.B.G. who may have been Harriet Backus Griggs, who has the right initials and was a friend of the family for many years. I will quote from the letter occasionally. What follows has been compiled from these and many secondary sources.

“Julia was born in New York City on January 19, 1805. She was the youngest child of Catherine McEuen and George Duncan. Her parents were both a generation removed from Scotland.

“Her mother, Catherine, was the daughter of Malcom McEuen, an immigrant from the Isle of Skye. He might have been the son of the Malcom McEuen who came to New York as one of the emigrants settled on the Argyll Patent, in Washington County, near Albany, around 1739. At about 1769, that man had died but he had three children living in New York City. But this connection is quite speculative.

“Whatever his antecedents, Malcom McEuen was in New York city by 1762 when a marriage license for Malcom McEuen and Mary McKenzie was issued. Julia’s notes indicate that his daughter Catherine was born in 1760, but this slight discrepancy has at least three explanations. [1] He was a member of the Brick church, the Presbyterian church on Beekman Street near the McEuen home at the corner of Beekman and Water Streets. The church was the overflow of an earlier Presbyterian church. The baptismal records have been published and you can find listings for Catherine’s younger siblings. John was baptized in 1766, Duncan in 1769, and Mary in 1772. They are all described as the children of Malcom McEuen and Mary Thompson. It is not clear whether their mother was the same as the earlier Mary – perhaps she was a widow. Finally, written on the fly leaf of the Loomis genealogy is the name Mary Brown. Perhaps there were two or three wives named Mary. Malcom was a pewterer and ‘plumber,’ that is to say, he worked with lead. He first advertised his services and wares in partnership with Cornelius Bradford, in 1772. Bradford died in 1786 and McEuen took over the business. In 1794, Malcom and his son Duncan, then 25 years old, announced a business partnership. Malcom is mentioned several times in the Minutes of the Common Council of New York in connection with the laying of pipes in the 1790s. He died in 1803, after falling from a ship’s scaffold. He must have been fairly old at the time.

“Catherine, Julia’s mother, was married twice, both times in the Brick Church. If she was born in 1760, she was 29 when in late November 1790 she married Prosper Wetmore. [2]

“He was the son of Rev. Izrahiah Wetmore, a Presbyterian clergyman in Stratford, Conn. Prosper ‘engaged in mercantile pursuits’ — in 1785 (when he was probably about 23 years old) he and his brothers Robert William and Victory established a partnership that dealt in dry goods. They did a lot of trade in the West Indies and so they also engaged in shipping. Prosper lived in New York and his brothers lived in Connecticut. He seems to have done a little something as postmaster too. On May 2, 1791, he and his brothers opened a store at No. 11, Burling Slip. He lived at 5 Golden Hill street, later named John Street. By 1793, the store was at 160 Water Street, at the corner of Beekman slip, the same address as Malcom McEuen. [3] The store advertised ‘A supply of West India Goods, such as Rum, Salt, Molasses, etc., etc.’ They also advertised for sale the sloop Argus in 1793 and in May 1796 the fast sailing sloop Minerva. They may have been trying to raise cash. By 1795, the Wetmore brothers’ store was at 95 Wall Street.

“Prosper Wetmore must have had literary tastes. He was a member of the New York Society Library, the city’s first public library, founded in 1754 and still in existence today. [4] It is a subscription library, open to anyone who pays the fee to join. The charging ledger for the period from 1789 to 1792 has been scanned and posted online. The ledger has been indexed so that you can see what books people borrowed from the library. The summer before he married, Prosper borrowed (among other things) Alexander’s History of Women from Earliest Antiquity to the Present Time. Wetmore was one of the founding members of the Friendly Club, one of the many literary societies in the city in the 1790s. Another member was the diarist Elihu Hubbard Smith. However, Wetmore’s commercial interests led to an unfriendly episode. He is mentioned several times in Smith’s diary. [5] Here is part of Smith’s entry for Saturday December 19th, 1795:

’Evening, at Club—at Woolsey’s—present, the Woolseys—H & W. Johnson, Dunlap, myself—Alsop, & Gahn visitors & much to our regret, Wetmore. Conversation was heavy–& the evening, on the whole, unpleasant. No small part of this may fairly be ascribed to Wetmore’s presence. It is a long time since he has met with us; &, in the mean while, he has been discovered to be guilty of some conduct, which made us all wish that he would never frequent our little circle again. Of this, however, no one wished to speak; & this general contest of feelings generated a general embarrassment, & heaviness. The explanation of this is, that Wetmore, & his brothers, with whom he is in partnership, in trade, have been discovered to have been guilty of smuggling, in several instances, & for very paltry savings. The dereliction of principles which conduct of this kind involves, has changed his character, in all our eyes, & makes him no longer an agreeable, or fit, associate for us.’

“So Smith and the other members asked him to leave:

“The club members treated him with extreme coolness when he attended the November and December meetings in 1795 with Richard Alsop; subsequently he received a letter written for the club by Smith, ‘pointing out the terms on which we must in future, associate with him.’ (PMLA, Vol 64:No. 3 (June, 1949, pp. 474-475)

“According to the author of Stratford and the Sea, in 1795 the Wetmore brothers’ ship the St. Joseph was seized because duty had not been paid on barrels of rum. Smuggling was a common response to the unpopular entry fees and the excise tax that the new Federal government imposed in 1791. This is the same tax that led to the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. In response to the smuggling, Congress authorized a seizure law, granting informants half the proceeds when the Customs officials seized ships and their cargoes and then auctioned them off. The loss of the St. Joseph in this way led to further economic difficulties for the Wetmores and ultimately to bankruptcy.[6]

“Prosper Wetmore had died by April 1798, as he was described as “Prosper Wetmore, late of the city, county and State of New York, deceased” when his brothers petitioned the General Assembly in Hartford, Connecticut for relief from their debts. Some sort of relief must have been granted: a notice in the Commercial Advertiser of July 20, 1798 advises creditors of “Robert Wm Wetmore and Victory Wetmore, surviving partners of Prosper Wetmore, under the firm of Prosper Wetmore and brothers” to apply to the undersigned, the appointed trustees of the creditors of the firm, for payment of any debts. Prosper Wetmore may have been lost at sea, Julia says so in the notes she wrote. [7]

“Catherine and Prosper had three children: Robert Walker (1792), Mary Ann (1794) and Malcom (1796). Mary Ann Wetmore was the author of the little poem quoted above.

“On September 11, 1802, the widowed Mrs. Catherine Wetmore married George Duncan at the Brick Church. If she was born in 1760, she was 41 at the time. They had two daughters: Catherine, born March 17, 1803 and Julia, born January 19, 1805. Catherine died as a young mother. In later years, Julia and her half-sister Mary Ann were to be close, despite the ten-year difference in their ages and their religious differences.

“Although I cannot be sure this poem was about their relationship, it was titled “To Mrs. J.B.” –here is a stanza from the poem:

And though our faiths may differ
Our hearts will still combine,
To walk the fields of Nature
Where love’s bright sunbeams shine.

“If Julia had not written on the back of a letter a list of some of her paternal relatives, we would know little more than was in HBG’s letter to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle—that her father was “an Edinburgh merchant, afterward in business in Wall Street and heir to large estates near Albany, of which he was defrauded by the combined machinations of his own brother and Aaron Burr, of infamous memory.” He was a merchant in the City, and he had been heir to a large estate. But it was his father, John Duncan, a Scottish soldier, who emigrated from Berwick-on-Tweed in 1755 and settled in the Albany-Schenectady area. [8]

“There, John Duncan became a trader and accumulated an estate. The area west from Albany through the Mohawk Valley was the scene of the westward expansion resulting from the fur trade and the French and Indian war. The area was under the control of Sir William Johnson, and John Duncan became one of his agents or henchman. Johnson’s collected papers run to 13 volumes (the index makes up the 14th volume). There are several references to John Duncan, and transcriptions of three of Duncan’s letter. I interject one here as it has some mild genealogical interest:

Schenectady, May 26, 1765


Yesterday afternoon Sent of in a Batoe, the Sundry Articles and herewith Send you the Batoemens Receipt pr there Safe delivery at Caghnewaga, wee was Oblig’d to Send for Some of the things to Albany or they woud been Sooner up.

The bearer Lieut. Phyn is going Again to Niagara, he’s been very Useful there, and has a Schieme in view, in case it Meet your Approbation will Endr. to put it in practice; he’s werthy And indefatigable but he has the Honour to be known to you need Say Nothing to recomend him further to your favour; He’s also to Endeavour to get me A Small Vessell built on Lake Erie, wish it May Answer, if things continue as At prest. it certainly will, but it cannot be thot that the General will continue to persevere in Cramping the Traders.

Intended doing my Self the Pleasure to have waited on you, with Mr. Phyn, but now have some hopes of falling in with the Honble Lady & reap the Laurels that properly belongs to Cap Clause, but I wont forget him when I’m in power But am not determined if I’ll do anything for the Adjt. General or Capt. John, unless they make the Next Attempt. I had a Visit last week from my Daughter for a few days only, She’s return’d. Mrs. Duncan Joins me in our best respects to you & all at the Hall –

And Am with great truth Dr. Sir Your Ever Oblig’d Humble Servt.

John Duncan


The Honble SIR WM. JOHNSON Bart.


Since writing thot. best to Send the Invs. of the things & keep the Batoemens rect. as a Check on them. – Mr. O. Branaham Shall be Sent up in a few days.


May 17th 1765 From Mr. Duncan [9]

“The wife and daughter in this letter both died. Mrs. Duncan, who was probably named Margaret, died although I do not know when. His daughter must have been away at school (or something like that) at the time of this letter. Two years later, his daughter died and Johnson was invited to the funeral.

“John Duncan became a very successful merchant and fur trader. He had business connections as far west as Wisconsin in the pre-revolutionary period, and was in partnership with the Mr. Phyn in the letter above, as well as with a Mr. Ellice. He eventually owned a great deal of real estate in the Mohawk Valley. He had a home in the city of Schenectady as well as a country estate called “The Hermitage” at Niskayuna, outside the city. During the revolution, he had loyalist sympathies and was known to be visited by unsavory people. As a result, in late 1776, he was confined on his country estate. In August 1778, he had told the authorities that he “conceived himself not to be comprehended within the meaning of the Act [regarding persons of a neutral or equivocal character] nevertheless to show his farther zeal and attachment to the State and the cause of America, he was willing and ready to take the Oath [of Allegiance] voluntarily.” [10] Despite his doubtful credentials as a patriot, he had lived quietly and was able to keep much of his land after the war.

“In 1786, he married Martha Marsh, although they seem to have started their family several years before that. She is said to have come from Massachusetts but I don’t know any more than that. We are descended from this wife.

“His oldest son by his first wife, Captain Richard Duncan, emigrated from Scotland with his father. He ‘was appointed a captain in the British Army and joined the troops at Saratoga…’ [Hansen, op cit.] After the revolution, Richard Duncan emigrated to Canada where he was rewarded for his services to the Crown by a grant of land in Dundas, Canada. He settled there but at some time he returned to New York, probably as his father grew older.

“John Duncan died in 1791 at The Hermitage, in Niskayuna. In his will, John Duncan left three fourths of his estate in trust for the benefit of Martha and their seven children: Fanny, George, Margaret, John Major, Mary, Martha, and Julia Ann. Richard Duncan was responsible for managing the shares of his step-mother and half siblings. According to the will, when George was 21, he was to have the Hermitage as well as the care and support of his siblings. An agreement between the widow and Richard Duncan can be found in the Duncan file at the Schenectady Historical Society. Whatever the issue was in settling the estate, it does not seem that George got the Hermitage in 1800, when he would have turned 21. Instead, he moved to New York.

“George Duncan was in New York in September 1802 when he married Mrs. Wetmore, a 41 year old widow with three children under the age of ten. He must have been there somewhat earlier. We still have George Duncan’s magnifying glass and a note book in which he kept accounts, with notes from 1805 to 1807. In 1805, he moved his family to the suburbs, as he noted in his account book, ’1805, September 6th, moved my Family to Greenwich—Several Stores were shut up this day.’ It was a Friday. By then he and Catherine had two daughters of their own—little Julia was almost 9 months old when they moved. On the same page (and the same day?) he noted, ‘Recd from Mrs. Adams on Acct of rent of no. 66 Wm. St. –$.70.’ He was for a while in business with William Rhodes, but their partnership dissolved in 1804. However, his account book still has entries for transactions with Rhodes in 1805 and 1806.

“Death was to diminish the family over the next few years, as Julia’s half-brothers and parents died. The New-York Gazette & General Advertiser reported on Tuesday November 7, 1809, ‘Died, on Sunday, at the house of Mr. George Duncan, in Greenwich, Robert Walker Wetmore, aged 17, son of P. Wetmore, late merchant of this city. The friends and acquaintance of the family, and those of George Duncan, are requested to attend the funeral this afternoon at 3 o’clock.’ Robert died of tuberculosis. The 1810 census shows George Duncan living with an adult woman, a female older than 16 (Mary Ann), a male older than ten (Malcolm), and two girls under ten—his own daughters.

“Julia’s mother, Catherine McEuen Wetmore Duncan, died Nov. 19, 1811, aged 51. Several weeks later, on Feb. 4, 1812, her father, George Duncan, died ‘of a lingering complaint.’ There may have been an epidemic of some sort. They were all buried in St. John’s Burying Ground, a sort of annex to Trinity Cemetery in lower Manhattan. Julia’s handwritten notes say he was aged 34 when he died. It is hard to imagine a young man of 23 marrying a woman of 41 with three young children. But the evidence for his birthday supports Julia’s notes.

“The four remaining children—Mary Ann, Malcom, Catherine and Julia– were ages 18, 15, 9 and 7 when they were orphaned. They were probably living with their mother’s brother, Duncan McEuen and his wife. The household probably included their mother’s sister Mary as well. The 1820 census shows Duncan McEuen living with two older males and one female, a boy older than 16, and a girl older than ten.

“In 1816, Julia’s sister Catherine was attending Female Association School No. 2, in Manhattan –the sampler she embroidered there is still in our possession. The schools were part of the Free School Movement. The Female Association used two rooms in School No. 2 where they taught needlework and various academic subjects to young women. Many of the young women went on to teach. The school was probably the one shown below, so it seems probable that the family was still in the city at that time. Julia must have been educated too, but in 1816 she was 11 so I am not sure she went to this school. Mary Ann was also educated. Mary Ann operated a small school in Brooklyn and later, as a widow, she taught as a tutor or governess in at least two households.

New York Free School No. 2, Chatham Street, 1808.
From an old print in Valentine's Manual for 1866.

‘Before this time the churches had established schools, but the children of the churchless poor were allowed to grow up in ignorance. Some Quaker ladies started the first movement to provide an education for the city’s waifs, and Clinton, together with others, joined in the good work. Thus was begun what is now one of New York’s proudest institutions, a system that provides primary, grammar, and high schools, where two hundred and eighty thousand children receive free education; night schools, where those who work during the day may learn; vacation schools for the summer months, and free lectures for winter evenings; also two colleges, where the higher branches of knowledge are taught, and where young…’

“In 1819, Julia’s uncle Captain Richard Duncan died. In his will, he left $500 each to his ‘two nieces in New York, daughters of the late George Duncan,’ in lieu of any claims they might otherwise have to the estate of John Duncan. This would have provided, if it was ever delivered, a modest capital to Julia and her sister Catherine. The treatment of George and his daughters under the wills of John Duncan and his oldest son is probably the basis of the claim that Julia’s father was defrauded by his brother of ‘lands in the Albany area.’

“Julia’s half-brother Malcom McEwen Wetmore died on March 30, 1821; a newspaper clipping says, ‘Died, of a pulmonary complaint, on the 30th ult., on board the brig Gen. Jackson, on the passage from Savannah to St. Thomas, Mr. Malcolm McEwen Wetmore, age 24, son of the late Prosper Wetmore, formerly a merchant of this city.’ He was probably traveling to the Caribbean in the hope of improving his health, as was common then.

“After his death, the three sisters, Mary Ann Wetmore, Catherine Duncan and Julia Duncan were left nearly alone. They were then aged 26, 19 and 16. Their mother’s sister Mary and brother Duncan McEuen lived nearby. They had paternal relatives too. Mary Ann had several Wetmore relatives. Her father’s brother William Walker Wetmore lived in the city (he died in 1837). Another uncle — Robert – still lived in Connecticut. Julia and her sister Catherine had Duncan relatives living upstate – George Duncan’s mother was still alive; she had married a second time and was living in Andes, N.Y. (where she died around 1830). Several Duncan aunts and uncles lived upstate, in Schenectady and elsewhere. Julia Duncan kept in touch with some of her Duncan cousins; they appear very briefly in several letters in the 1860s and 1870s. …

“It is not clear where the three sisters lived after the death of their older brother in 1821. Catherine, who was 18, may have stayed in Manhattan. In the mid-1820s, she married Adam Walker and they lived in the city. I have no idea how Mary Ann and Julia ended up in Brooklyn. According to H. B. G.’s letter in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Julia moved to Brooklyn around 1820. She told the census taker in the 1855 census that she had lived in Brooklyn for 33 years, i. e. since about 1822.

“Mary Ann may have been living in Brooklyn earlier than Julia. Her father’s brother William Walker Wetmore was still alive and lived in the city. She also had Walker cousins through her paternal grandmother. Prosper Wetmore’s mother had been Rebecca Walker, the daughter of Judge Robert Walker, and Mary Ann was in touch with various Walker cousins at times. They lived in Norwich, CT, and Mary Ann travels there occasionally. (There is no reason to connect the Norwich Walkers with Adam Walker, although the ancestry is Scottish in both cases.)

Early Brooklyn

“Today’s Brooklyn is an amalgamation of six villages whose names survive as neighborhoods. The Brooklyn that Julia moved to comprised a settlement around the ferry landing at what is now Fulton Street, and the sandy hill overlooking New York harbor that would be developed and known as Brooklyn Heights, as well as outlying farmlands. The invention of the steamboat and its introduction to Brooklyn reduced travel time to Manhattan to several minutes and thus led to Brooklyn’s rapid growth and ‘suburbanization.’ Brooklyn was incorporated as a village in 1816. In the 1820 census, the village had a population of 7,175. The farmers were mostly Dutch. The ferry settlement was already multi-ethnic: a number of the residents were British or Yankee in origin, there were some slave and free Blacks and there were also a number of Dutch merchants who trafficked in the agricultural produce of Long Island who lived near the ferry.

Such persons as are inclined to compound, agree-able to law, in the Steam Ferry-Boat, Barges, or common Horse Boats, will be pleased to apply to the subscribers, who are authorized to settle the same.
JOHN PINTARD, 52 Wall-st.

Both of these are from Henry Stiles’ History of Brooklyn, published in 1867. Stiles drew extensively on newspaper articles, including the Long Island Star. I am indebted to Stiles for much of what follows. Alden Spooner and George Hicks will both appear in this story.

“As Ralph Weld describes in his ‘Brooklyn Village,’ the village became a community through several institutions. He mentions particularly the press and the churches (among other things). Our family was actively engaged in both these areas. The Long Island Star, the newspaper which printed the poem quoted above, was owned, and at times edited, by Alden Spooner. Spooner was closely connected to members of our family. Erastus Worthington and his son both worked for and with Spooner. And Spooner would eventually marry Mary Ann Wetmore. Spooner, a descendant of John Alden, was born on Jan. 32, 1783 in Westminster, Vermont to a printing family. In 1804, after a brief period learning printing in Connecticut with his cousin Samuel Green, he moved to Sag Harbor, Long Island. His maternal uncle Charles Douglass lived there. At the time it was Long Island’s major port. He described this period in an auto-biographical sketch he wrote:

‘At this time my whole fortune consisted of about $5 or $6 in my pocket and scarcely a decent suit of clothes to my back. The printing materials were wretched, indeed, and of very little value. The press, in particular, required the aid of the blacksmith very often, and the types were very unsuitable. It will appear curious to any printer to be told that I printed the Suffolk Gazette about two years without the assistance of any person whatever, not even a boy; every small duty was done by myself alone. I was editor, printer, publisher, clerk and errand boy. My family also claimed some of my time. During this period I printed custom house jobs for Mr. Dering and sermons for the Rev. Lyman Beecher of Easthampton, and the Rev. D. S. Bogart of Southampton. I had but a scanty supply of pica type, just enough for eight or ten pages, and the same type was used for my newspaper. I was thus cramped in my operations, and often had to work all the night to get clear of my jobs in order to print my newspaper.’ [11]

“On February 24, 1807, he married Rebecca Jermain, the daughter of an eminent citizen of Sag Harbor. She was born there on Oct. 2, 1786. Their first child was born there in late October. In 1811, Spooner moved to Brooklyn and bought the Long Island Star. He found he could not expand business in Sag Harbor sufficiently to support his family –a wife, two children, three apprentices, and a servant. In the last issue of the Suffolk Gazette, he wrote ‘This County has many enlightened and patriotic citizens whose friendship I shall long remember; but they are, indeed, too few for the support of a newspaper.‘ [12] He arrived in Brooklyn nearly penniless and borrowed money to make a start. Even in Brooklyn, Spooner published many things in addition to the newspaper, including several directories of Brooklyn, the first in 1822. (These were the Yellow Pages of their day.) In the end, he had a successful career in Brooklyn. His wife died on Nov. 15, 1824 in Brooklyn, a few days after giving birth to their eleventh child. He married Mary Ann Wetmore in 1831 and had one more child. He himself died on Nov. 24, 1848 in Brooklyn, after a long and active career in Brooklyn public life. Over the period from roughly 1811 to 1834, Brooklyn grew rapidly — indeed, it was to grow rapidly for the rest of the century. But during this period, many social institutions took form. The ferries stimulated growth and the population were interested in having a newspaper, establishing churches to their taste, and setting up a library. Here is a reminiscence of an early trip to Brooklyn by a man who settled there around the time my ancestors did. In 1861, the Brooklyn Union reprinted a copy of a letter to Alden J. Spooner, Jr. from General Joseph Swift. Swift had been asked to look over the manuscript of Henry Stiles’ history. In his letter to Spooner, he recalls his own memories of early Brooklyn. Swift was the first graduate of West Point, the birthplace of civil engineering, and thus the first professional civil engineer. He lived in Brooklyn intermittently. Here is a quotation from his letter:

‘…My first visit to Brooklyn was in 1801, on my way as a cadet to West point. My object was to see the lines of intrenchment left by the British in our war of independence…In the war with England in 1812 I was the Engineer of New York harbor, when the heights of Brooklyn and the water-line to Jamaica Bay came under my inspection, and aided me in 1814 to form the plan of defence which I presented to the city of New York…when I moved my family to Washington Street, Brooklyn, in June, in the year 1813, the ferry was from the “foot of Maiden lane” to the termination of the Flatbush road on the East River, and the ferry-boats were sail boats, barges, and sixpenny wherries. The village of Brooklyn then extended from the Wallabout to the foot of Joralemon Street, at a windmill and distillery, and thence by the south side of that street to Flatbush road, and then across to the Wallabout – and the population was not quite 4,000. At the time of the incorporation of Brooklyn (1816) the coming rapidity of its increase had not been dreamed of…When I became a citizen of Brooklyn, in 1813, there were only three churches in the village – St. Ann’s, on the corner of Washington and Sands streets; the Dutch Reformed – the oldest Society in Kings- on Joralemon and Flatbush road, and the Methodist Church, in Sands street.’

“Swift went to see the site of the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, the first important fight after the Declaration of Independence. The battle began on August 27, 1776. Two days later George Washington successfully withdrew all his troops to Manhattan without the loss of a single life. He was later to lose New York as well, but that is a long story. After Swift moved his family to Brooklyn, they joined St. Ann’s. His wife and her mother, Mrs. Walker, joined St. Ann’s. His friends George Gibbs and Dr. Daniel McNeil also joined St. Ann’s. We will hear more of them later.

“The war led to an influx of British and New England Yankees to the area. Following the war, a growing population of British and Yankee newcomers had been holding Anglican services in various homes. The group incorporated in 1787: When an act of incorporation was passed, April 23, 1787, referring to that which bore the style and title of ‘The Episcopal Church of Brooklyn,’ we note the name Joshua Sands among the list of original trustees. This was in the days of ecclesiastical pioneers, when services ‘were held at the house on the North East Corner of Fulton and Middagh Streets; which house was fitted with pews.’ So says Gabriel Furman in his now rare pamphlet, printed by A. Spooner, at No. 50 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, in 1824. [13] The Sands family donated the land for the church. Later, the church was named St. Ann’s in honor of Ann Sands. The first three communicants, enrolled in 1788, were Sarah Middagh, Ann Sands, and Jane Boerum. The fourth to enroll, in 1790, was John Van Nostrand. [14] He was one of the founding trustees. His sister Martha and his brother Losee also joined the church. Martha Van Nostrand married Sarah Middagh’s son Aert. After Aert Middagh died in 1815, leaving Martha with three under-age daughters, Martha’s brother Losee Van Nostrand was appointed guardian for the daughters and agent for the large estate they inherited. In 1825, Losee Van Nostrand was a trustee of St. Ann’s. Losee was a ferryman. He may have started rowing a ferry but he finished by owning ferry companies. One of Martha’s daughters, Magdalen Middagh, married Joshua and Ann Sands’ son Samuel. [15] The other two daughters married but never had children of their own. The congregation at St. Ann’s included many emigrants from Connecticut. General Swift and his wife had enrolled at St. Ann’s in 1813. By the time that General Swift was settling his family in Washington Street, the Worthingtons had moved to Brooklyn. The Worthingtons did enroll right away but must have been attending St. Ann’s. In the letter quoted above, General Swift notes that ‘The choir of St. Ann’s, in Brooklyn, had, under the aid of Major F. C. Tucker and lead of Sam. P. Taylor, long sustained a high repute for sacred melody, aided by the Misses Stanton and Miller and Messrs. Van Nostrand and Worthington.’ “Julia was active in the church, especially with respect to singing. [16] Julia’s singing was worthy of a mention in Henry Stiles’ History of Brooklyn:

‘The music of St. Ann’s, in those days, was worthy of notice. The fine voice of Miss Julia Duncan (afterwards Mrs. Worthington): the Misses Miller and Stanton, Major Tucker’s deep bass, and the skillful hands of S. P. Taylor at the organ combined to render the music of this sanctuary captivating and soul-enthralling. From this choir, also, sprang the St. Cecilia and Euterpian societies, whose concerts formed a prominent feature in the early social life of the village, and which did so much to cherish and develop that love of music for which Brooklyn has ever been noted.’ [p. 111]

“Julia’s interest in singing must have been profound. Using her father’s account book as a commonplace book, but starting from the other end, she kept a diary of what was preached and sung at St. Ann’s for several weeks in 1824. Here are two entries:

‘Sunday the 28th of March the text 8th Chapt of Romans 18 verse For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the Glory that shall be revealed in us sung 53 Psalm 3 first verses tune Arnold 38th hymn 4 first verses tune Clifford. In the afternoon the text 37th Psalm 23, 24th, verses The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delighteth in his way Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand sung 106 Psalm first 5 verses 47th hymn tune Reading.‘

“Arnold, Clifford, and Reading are references to the musical arrangers, or psalmodists.[17]  And, the only entry not about the hymns sung:

‘The corner stone of the New Episcopal Church laid by the Revd H U Onderdonck Wednesday the 31st of March 1824.‘

“Julia sang but her sister Mary Ann was also involved; she established the first Sunday School at the church. She is listed as ‘S.S.T.’ – Sunday School Teacher – in Fish’s history of St. Ann’s.In the setting of the old church are brought together three lines of relatives that are united in the marriage of Julia Duncan to Erastus Worthington in 1825, and of her grandson Charles Loomis to John Van Nostrand’s great granddaughter in 1888. St. Ann’s Church was to figure in the lives of various members of the family for many years. In 1901, the rector of St. Ann’s, the Rev. Dr. Reese Alsop, performed the marriage ceremony for my great-grandmother’s sister, Edith Fullerton.”


[1] The possibilities are: she was born later than 1760; or, her parents weren’t married (seems unlikely?); or, her mother died and he remarried when she was about two years old. I can find her (apparently) in the 1810 census, but she is not listed as being older than 46, which she would have been if she were born in 1760.

[2] The Norwich Packet, a Connecticut paper, reported on December 17, 1790, “Married at New York….Mr. Prosper Wetmore to Miss Catherine McEuen.”

[3] The 1791 directory for the city has listings for both Malcom McEuen and Prosper Wetmore.

[4] It disbanded during the Revolutionary War and reopened in 1789.

[5] The surviving volumes cover September 1795 to September 1798, four days before Smith died of yellow fever; it was just days after his 27th birthday. The diary is approximately 354,000 words long, and is quite detailed. Smith was from Connecticut, went to Yale at age 11, studied and practiced medicine and combined that with literary interests. He was a young man of many talents and great promise.

[6] Stratford and the Sea… See also, “To the honourable General Assembly of the state of Connecticut, to be holden at Hartford, in said state, on the second Thursday of May next. The petition of Robert William Wetmore, and Victory Wetmore, of Stratford … late partners in trade with Prosper Wetmore, late of the city, county and state of New-York, deceased, etc. …”

[7] The Wetmore Memorial indicates that he was probably lost at sea around 1817, but the date cannot be correct, and it is likely that it was another Prosper Wetmore. There were several men of that name. He died before the Yellow Fever epidemic in September 1798, and he could have been lost at sea.

[8] Berwick on Tweed is the northern most town in England, virtually on the border with Scotland.

[9] from “The Papers of Sir William Johnson,” Vol. 11, page 751.

[10] 1916, “A History of Schenectady during the Revolution : to which is appended a contribution to the individual records of the inhabitants of the Schenectady district during that period”by Willis T. Hanson, Jr.; pub. by E.L. Hildreth & Co. (FHL film 1,425,590 item 2; Heritage Quest image 2/2007, Local History Reel/Fiche Number 6769), pp.159-160:.

[11] Quoted in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 18, 1894, “Our First Newspaper,” reprinting an article by Joshua Wilber from the Lockport Daily Journal. Wilber married Spooner’s youngest daughter, as we will see.

[12] Tooker, Early Printers of Sag Harbor, quoted from Alden Spooner’s autobiographical letter.

[13] Joshua Sands was a prominent citizen, a member of the New York senate from 1792 to 1799, and served in Congress twice. The quotation is taken from a biographical piece on the Sands’ son-in-law, Fanning Tucker. (http://justus.anglican.org/resources/pc/music/tucker/bio/01.html)

[14] from Fish’s history of St. Ann’s.

[15] The Sands genealogy indicates that when she was widowed ten years later, she married his nephew, Joshua Sands Marsh, who was about her own age. Both Sands and Marsh had significant real estate holdings. The Brooklyn Historical Society has a box of deeds relating to them that is three inches thick.

[16] Julia became a member of the Church of the Pilgrims in 1847.

[17] They are possibly Samuel Arnold, and John Reading (“Adestes Fideles”), and ? Clifford. Arnold and Reading were sung in Scottish churches.

© Ann Bradburd 2012, all rights reserved.


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