J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Final Glimpse of Mary Lobb

Yesterday I discussed the precedent-setting marriage of Capt. James Smithwick in 1800. He appears to have died just ten years later, leaving his wife with two small children. Fortunately, her sister died in 1813. That meant the widow Smithwick could move her small family in with her widowed brother-in-law, looking after the house while he provided for everyone. The eldest of all the young cousins, Edward Kavanagh, eventually represented Maine in Congress. (This picture of him comes courtesy of the Maine Historical Society.)

Capt. Smithwick’s mother, Mary Lobb, died before 1817. Another item from the Massachusetts court records gives us a glimpse of her last years.

In her will Lobb had left one of her properties to a seven-year-old grandson, Francis Campbell Smithwick, specifying that the tenant, William Jordan, would be his guardian and manage the property for his benefit until he turned twenty-one.

Jordan then came up with deeds showing that Lobb had signed the same property over to him after that will. He now owned it outright, he said. And that was a step too far. Some of the boy’s relatives sued Jordan. The lead plaintiff was another grandson—also named James Smithwick, just to make my searches more confusing.

The court decided that Mary Lobb had shown “evidence of extreme old age, and habits of intoxication.” The deeds were therefore void, her “extreme old age and imbecility having been taken advantage of, by the pretended grantee.” The court removed Jordan as the child’s guardian and created a “trust estate” instead.

And that ends my gossip about James Smithwick and Mary Lobb.

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