Monday, January 14, 2013

What Is A Dorrite? The 1842 Aplin/Carpenter Correspondence

My 3X great grandparents are Joseph Carpenter and his wife,  Nancy Mason Bullock.  Joseph was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts on September 8, 1789 and he died in Attleboro, Massachusetts at age 91 in November 1880 just a few months after the death of his wife of more than 67 years.  Joseph and Nancy were married in Rehoboth on February 21, 1813 and she died in Attleboro on May 4, 1880.  Joseph was a veteran and pensioner of the War of 1812.

Joseph and Nancy had fourteen children – nine boys and five girls.  My 2X great grandfather, Samuel Carpenter, was one of the twins Joseph and Nancy had in 1828.  Sam’s sister, Jane Buffum Carpenter, died at just under two years old.

In late 1842, Joseph and Nancy were renting a home in Providence, Rhode Island from a woman named Emily Aplin and her siblings.  On November 2, 1842, Miss Aplin wrote a letter of eviction to my ancestors that included the following lines:

                        When the question was asked me if you could have
                        the tenement, I asked at once if you were a Dorrite!
                        My brother thought not for you appeared respectable,
                        but I have learned a different story – now I have no
                        possible objection to an honest suffrage man, but I say
                        without hesitation that were the privilege granted me
                        of choosing a tenant who must be either a Sabbath
                        breaker or Licentious or a gambler or Intemperate or
                        an understanding Dorrite, though I despise them all,
                        still there would be a decided preference for one of
                        the former named.  My whole soul shrinks from the
                        man, who to gratify his own selfishness would sacrifice
                        the welfare of a community.  So having my feelings I
                        proceed without further ceremony to request you
                        to vacate the tenement as soon as possible, at all
                        events at the end of the quarter.  Sooner would be
                        very agreeable if you can obtain a house, but I
                        repeat, certainly then.  I am decided.

The letter from Miss Aplin, and the reply from Joseph and Nancy’s daughter, Nancy Mason Carpenter (age 24), were found in the Anna Garlin Spencer Papers (DG 034), Swarthmore College Peace Collection.  [Anna Carpenter Garlin will the subject of a future post here on The Prism.] 

The Emily Aplin letter, November 2, 1842

The reply letter from Nancy Mason Carpenter,
November 4, 1842.
As you might imagine, reading a 169-year old letter evicting one’s ancestors from their home during a New England winter, grabs one’s attention – especially when the ancestor is being called a “Dorrite” and a Dorrite is being compared unfavorably with a Sabbath breaker, a gambler, a drinker and others of licentious nature.  I had to find out what this term “Dorrite” referred to.  My subsequent research and discovery led to an article that was published in the quarterly magazine of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors, in 2011.  NEHGS and American Ancestors have kindly granted me permission to post the article in its entirety here on The Prism.  The post of the article must be printed as it appears in American Ancestors and so it will follow in a separate post with the appropriate and required credits.  The permission of American Ancestors and NEHGS is greatly appreciated!

My lineage from Joseph Carpenter and Nancy Mason Bullock . . .

Generation 1:    Joseph Carpenter m. Nancy Mason Bullock
Generation 2:    Samuel Carpenter m. Ruth Ann Miller
Generation 3:    Samuel Eber Carpenter m. Sarah Etta Freeman
Generation 4:    Everett Shearman Carpenter m. Ruth Eaton Cooke
                            (my grandparents)

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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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