HomeGrotonA Tale of Two Boutwells


A Tale of Two Boutwells — 12 Comments

  1. Won­der­ful research (and pre­sen­ta­tion). This fam­i­ly has roots in both places, and now, so do you! 

    Your sum­ma­ry of G.S. Boutwell's polit­i­cal career has roused my nos­tal­gia for the era when "reg­u­lar peo­ple" (as opposed to career politi­cians) held state and nation­al offices. He had the income from the store, didn't have to solic­it funds from lobbyists. 

    (As a for­mer stu­dent of US his­to­ry I am con­fi­dent there were oth­er con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal chal­lenges that I am gloss­ing over.)

    I've noticed in oth­er com­ments that your blog has inspired peo­ple to vis­it the places you write about! Now I'm feel­ing it too. At least in La Crosse I will be much clos­er to the source of the Mis­sis­sip­pi than I usu­al­ly am! (New Orleans is the loca­tion from which I have most fre­quent­ly appre­ci­at­ed it.)

  2. Yes, in the 1830s the coun­try was still rec­og­niz­ably sim­i­lar to the vision of the Founders, with farm­ers and yeomen com­pris­ing an edu­cat­ed and informed elec­torate and ordi­nary (white, male) cit­i­zens tak­ing time out to serve in gov­ern­ment. The indus­tri­al­iza­tion of the coun­try was well under way, but by 1840 only 11% of the pop­u­la­tion lived in cities, and still only 18% in the Northeast.

  3. As always, Kei­th, I so enjoy your obser­va­tions! I also love his­to­ry and read­ing about said his­to­ry from a mas­ter of the Eng­lish language.

    When I pon­der how dif­fi­cult Eng­lish is to learn, I am in awe of our immi­grants who have mas­tered it. I am sure glad that I didn't have to learn it as a sec­ond language!

  4. Thanks Lin­da! As a friend of mine once said, "I'm a mas­ter of the Eng­lish lan­guage. It lies bleed­ing at my feet." 😛

  5. Here's an inter­est­ing note from Samuel Abbott Green's 1894 book, An His­tor­i­cal Sketch of Gro­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts, 1655 – 1890:

    It is curi­ous to note the dif­fer­ent ways which the ear­ly set­tlers had of spelling the name; and the same per­sons took lit­tle or no care to write it uni­form­ly. Among the doc­u­ments and papers that I have exam­ined in col­lect­ing mate­r­i­al for a his­to­ry of the town, I find it spelled in twen­ty-one dif­fer­ent ways, viz: Gro­ton, Grot­ten, Groten, Grot­ten, Grotin, Groat­en, Groatne, Groa­ton, Groat­ton, Grooton, Gror­ton, Grouten, Grou­ton, Groughton, Grow­ton, Growtin, Groy­ton, Grau­ton, Grawten, Graw­ton and Croaton.
  6. Kei­th,

    Great stuff, as always. 

    A few observations/​questions.

    1. Wow, that fam­i­ly sure had some longevi­ty genes! John Boutell lived to be 100, for one instance, and his wife made it to 93. These are not lifes­pans I asso­ciate with peo­ple born in the 1600's.

    2. Any idea whether Willam Thurston attempt­ed to write the Ojib­wa lan­guage? Here on Martha's Vine­yard there's an ongo­ing pro­gram to revive the Wampanoag lan­guage. A key source is a ver­sion of the Eliot Bible that was trans­lat­ed into Wapanoag by Expe­ri­ence Mayhew.

  7. Thanks John. Yes, I won­dered about that longevi­ty — checked John Boutell at two dif­fer­ent sources and they agreed that he had died at 100. That had to have been van­ish­ing­ly rare back then. This page says it was rare even as late as 1940! "Rough­ly 1 per­son in every 6,000 reach their 100th birth­day today. Fifty years ago, only 1 per­son in every 67,000 reached the cen­tu­ry mark."

    I don't know about Rev. Wm. and his lan­guage stud­ies; will see what I can find. I know that now Ojib­wa is writ­ten using the Eng­lish alpha­bet, and some­what pho­net­i­cal­ly from what I have seen (which is most­ly the Eng­lish tran­scrip­tions of reli­gious hymns in that language).

    (Now that I look, Wikipedia says: "…no stan­dard writ­ing sys­tem [is] used to rep­re­sent all dialects. Ojib­we dialects have been writ­ten in numer­ous ways over a peri­od of sev­er­al cen­turies, with the devel­op­ment of dif­fer­ent writ­ten tra­di­tions reflect­ing a range of influ­ences from the ortho­graph­ic prac­tices of oth­er lan­guages." The one I have encoun­tered seems to be "the dou­ble vow­el sys­tem, attrib­uted to Charles Fiero.")

  8. John — I found an account of Rev. Wm. Boutwell's life and min­istry in the Jour­nal of Pres­by­ter­ian His­to­ry (who knew?). You'll need a Jstor account to read that. Boutwell worked with the Indi­ans for 15 years at Leech Lake and up around what became Duluth; but it seems he didn't do much with the Ojib­wa lan­guage. His wife was 1/​4 Ojib­we and spoke the lan­guage as a native, as well as Eng­lish and French. Boutwell seems to have con­sid­ered it his main job to entice or cajole the Indi­ans into the mod­ern white man's lifestyle and econ­o­my; he learned of their rit­u­als and beliefs but appar­ent­ly found no good in them. Such mores were not to be built upon but instead stamped out and replaced. There was no sense, in Boutwell or the orga­ni­za­tion that sent him, that one could be Chris­t­ian with­out also liv­ing like a white man. To mod­ern eyes, not an admirable attitude.

  9. I just added a pho­to of the (pos­si­ble) Boutwell inscrip­tion or sig­na­ture from the base­ment of my old house, cour­tesy of the cur­rent owner.

  10. Great arti­cle, good read. Many researchers miss the fact that George Sewall Boutwell and Ulyssess Grant were also dis­tant cousins, although I don't believe they ever real­ized it dur­ing their life­times. Their com­mon ances­tor was Robert White, who lived in the Coun­ty of Essex, England.

  11. Thanks David, real­ly inter­est­ing. Of course George went to work in the Grant administration.

    I have to ask: are you a descen­dent of George? Or how do you con­nect with that line? As far as I can see his two chil­dren had no issue.

    And I'm curi­ous how you came across this article.

    [ Note added 2019-07-25: David replied pri­vate­ly that he is a third cousin five times removed from both George and Rev. William. He found this blog post via Brent Peter­son of the Wash­ing­ton Coun­ty (Still­wa­ter) His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety, from whom we shall hear more below. ]

  12. A friend com­ment­ed on a pri­vate mail­ing list that Rev. Boutwell’s Latin may not have been all that impressive: 

    Ver­i­tas is “truth,” a noun, and such a con­struc­tion would sug­gest that the lake is both (the) truth and (the) head. Bet­ter Latin would be either verum caput or caput verum.

    I’ll take my friend’s word for it, as my own “small Latin” is decades in the past. It sur­pris­es me that the Rev. Boutwell would make such an ele­men­tary error in Latin gram­mar. He had, after all, a fine edu­ca­tion. And Brent Peter­son of the Wash­ing­ton Coun­ty (Still­wa­ter) His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety con­firmed to me pri­vate­ly by email that Rev. Boutwell’s clas­si­cal edu­ca­tion was rig­or­ous and his facil­i­ty with lan­guages was strong.

    Which all leads me to believe that the con­ven­tion­al ori­gin sto­ry for the name of Lake Itas­ca has been fudged a bit. My sup­po­si­tion is that Rev. Boutwell and the expe­di­tion leader, School­craft, put their heads togeth­er and came up with a rea­son­ably eupho­nious name, which had the virtue of sound­ing vague­ly “Indi­an.” School­craft in fact was known for this kind of naming.

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