Grandma was from Hudson. Her father was John Magoun Pearson, and her mother was Kate Stott. John Pearson worked, at least for a time, at C.H. & F.H. Stott Co. in Stottville, where he married the boss’s daughter. I’ve attached a short four-generation tree so you can see the players, but it doesn’t include interesting aunts and uncles. One uncle would have been Dr. Will Pearson, another son of Jonathan Pearson’s. Will Pearson stayed in Schenectady and never married. I have the horsehair lap robe his patients gave him in gratitude and concern, because he went out in all weather to look after them. I think Sarah may have his lantern?
Jonathan Pearson, in addition to holding about four different positions at Union College, wrote in his spare time THE definitive history and genealogy of the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. He even learned Old Dutch in order to read the family bibles and documents of all the Dutch descendants he could find.
Though he wrote so extensively about other families he was reticent about his own, which study he reserved for his journals. I’ve had trouble tracking down his children. I did stumble upon a very sad academic paper about grief and 19th century ritual, where I learned that his son Henry drowned at 15:
On July 16, 1858, Henry Pearson, then approaching his sixteenth birthday, went rowing on the Mohawk River after dinner with two of his friends. He was carried home several hours later, dead by drowning. […] Jonathan Pearson was utterly shocked by the loss of Henry.
[…] Pearson and his wife had been married seventeen years, with three sons, during which time, “God spared all.” but now, in Pearson’s words, “in his wise Providence He has called one home & filled ours hearts with desolation.” Jonathan felt compelled to record the accident in some detail, before reflecting on his son’s character. Henry, according to his father, “was not a brilliant youth,” but “had good, natural talents, . . . a natural loveliness of disposition, gentleness, kindness to others, respect for his parents & regard for the feelings of his associates.” Most comforting of all was the fact that Henry had been preparing to become a member of the Presbyterian Church. Pearson believed “such a consolation as this can alone console us for our loss. The sympathy of friends is valuable but vain is all that man can do if the love of God be wanting. . . . We feel confident that it is well with our dear boy & that our loss is his gain.”
The funeral was on Sunday, July 18. Pearson’s diary for that day and the next tells us that Henry was laid out in the parlor, “where he lay as if sweetly sleeping.” After scripture, a short address, and prayers, the body was taken to the front yard where, “the multitude assembled . . .passed by it, to take the last look.” Then, accompanied by about 3,000 sympathizers, the family proceeded to Vale Cemetery to bury Henry. Pearson was touched by the fact that, “no event . . .has so moved the city as the death of our son,” as well as by the “substantial & visible tokens of sympathy from our numerous friends and neighbors.” In spite of the support of the community, Pearson still lamented, “Oh, what a gap we do find in our little family. The light of our eyes – the pride of our hearts the joy of our house, – is gone, nothing but the consolations of the Gospel & the hope we have of his blessed reception in another world can reconcile us to our loss.”
The next few days were difficult […]. Union College, where he was both professor and assistant treasurer, was to commence that week, and he had trustees’ meetings and other business to prepare. This was at a time when he felt, “How does the world recede & eternity draw nigh when death enters our dwellings. All the vain things that please us most lose their interest. . . . It is hard to go back to the world and commence the routines of every day business. The world has a less lovely aspect, and the worth of earthly things has fallen very much out of my esteem.” In the midst of this, however, Pearson found comfort in riding with his wife, noting that she bore, “with Christian resignation & fortitude our afflicting loss.”
Had Henry Pearson lived, he would have been Grandma’s uncle. I’m glad that we looked him up and paid our respects when we visited the Union College plot at Vale Cemetery.
Of all the 8,000 people I’m tracking and learning about, I have to say that – immediate loved ones aside – Jonathan Pearson is my favorite ancestor. He wrote about everything; he was learned and insatiably curious; he was industrious and often kind – if also sometimes peevish; he took off as a sophomore in college to see the Erie Canal and famously ran out of money and had to walk home from Buffalo; and he seems to have been everyone’s favorite professor at Union. And just look at that face.
More on the Stott woolen business in another post.
Here’s the short tree. Note that Margaretta Roome, in Grandma’s fourth generation, was Dutch and Walloon (descended from families such as Bogert, De Groot, Le Chevalier, Benson, Van Kouwenhoven, Van Schaick, and Van Gelder). That makes Johanna & Sarah official members of the Dutch Hudson Valley Settlers Club!