Monday, June 17, 2013

* Papers now at Yale

The letters and diaries are now available


Sterling Memorial 


Yale University, 

Manuscripts and Archives Division's

 Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection 

and are  identified as 

"J. Walter Bassett Papers." 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

* CHRONOLOGY: The J. Walter Bassett Documents (Scroll through quickly at first to get a sense of what his life encompassed.)

For a sample of the courtship letters themselves see my blog  A Yankee Romance  at 

These hundreds of documents were 
rescued (by me) 
1975 or 1976 
from an attic 
on Ives Street in Mt. Carmel,
They were about to be thrown out upon
 sale of the
 which may have belonged to 
Blandina Bassett who died in 1974 
at the age of 94.
 They are the courtship 
young manhood letters 
of her brother, 
J. Walter Bassett 1878-1968, 
and perhaps a 
State Librarian 
(also a kind of embalmer)

Much thanks to fellow researcher Ron Richo, who, from Boston by 
email, has assisted 
me in Vermont in every detail of this project. His energy, enthusiasm, 
and insightful conjectures have been invaluable .

Preliminary Reflection
A Life that Spanned the Assassinations of Three Presidents

I  have read only twenty of the possibly 120 courtship letters authored by Evangeline Cunningham and sent to J. Walter Bassett,  letters from 1900-1902, both from the beginning and the end of the correspondence. I have read all of the diaries: 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and assorted letters from friends and family.

I therefore am a blind man  "feeling the proverbial elephant" in even daring to comment about the courtship letters at this stage of the inquiry.  

I have included three items from those Evangeline Cunningham letters below for your consideration. A full chronological reading and transcription will take a year at least, and I have begun it on another blog 
A Yankee Romance .

 I have read enough however to realize that this is a strong willed woman who in the beginning tells JWB "them's my sentiments" about a friend who dumped her suitor because he wasn't paying enough attention to her on his visits, but was out gallivanting with the boys.  In another later letter she objects to being "patronized" in a place where she  declares "I have every right to be"  at a "three salad" church supper in her future in-laws' town: Patronized by church members ---apparently of a different denomination than her "Congregationalist" magazine would indicate was her own denomination.

She may be eight years older than Walter, "we must tell the truth about our ages and shame the devil" she comments about applying for the wedding license, but she is not desperate in her courtship --even though her biological clock is ticking at 32.

Accordingly, when she is reduced to anger she does not hesitate to write him in a letter she is sure will reach him in Connecticut from Wilbraham the next morning at his work address at " 93 Crown Street"  in New Haven ( a variation from the normal home address of "Mount Carmel" Connecticut), a letter which her "mama" advises her not to write or send in her present mood:   "Will you please be direct with me . . . " or I will suffer "nervous prostration."

Since we have no letters from J. Walter, only these hundred or so from Evangeline, we can only hope to infer his attitude in the courtship. 

One thing is for sure: When she is hospitalized with a heart ailment and undergoes an "operation"  in 1928 at the age of 58, Walter is desperately attentive (see diary entries in chronology here) .  His peripatetic schedule freezes into one destination:  daily visits to the "hospital"  and a significant "E. sat up for first time" in his diary well into her forty-day stay in the facility.

What happened after 1929 when the diaries end?

Does he succumb to the worries of The Great Depression? A comparison of his 1915, 1920, 1925 and 1930 bank books indicate he is flourishing the year after the 1929 stock market crash)  

Does Evangeline become an invalid?

Walter certainly doesn't become one: At 50 he walks "64 miles" in a day !

At 64 he is "drafted", in 1942, two years before Evangeline's death.  Were his services as an embalmer needed? He is certainly beyond normal draft age.

Only once in the diaries of over more than 1300 days (1924, 1927, 1928, 1929) when Elizabeth is 19, 22, 23, and 24, does her father mention his daughter accompanied by a male : "Eliz. and Bill Brown here."  Elizabeth does attend Connecticut college---an all girls school at the time she attended. At 24 she and her father use "snow shoes and skis" on a trek to "Fairy Glen"

 JWB began his career as an embalmer in 1901. 

Can a man who preserved dead bodies and preserved Sleeping Giant mountain from development have abandoned these courtship letters and related documents from his early manhood, courtships letters so carefully preserved in a box which inexplicably  wound up ownerless in an attic on Ives Street four houses away from his parents' home, perhaps his own former home, later occupied by his sister, who died a year before I rescued them in 1976?

Can we conjecture that  the punctilious author of these meticulous diaries, and preserver of these honored courtship letters, had outlived his own memory, and that the letters were abandoned to the vicissitudes of  senescence?

We may never know.

But I know what  I feel every time I withdraw a letter from a snug and brittle envelope which may not have been touched by a human hand for more than a century: Awe.

Respectfully submitted, 

Paul Keane
November 29, 2011

The Sleeping Giant, Mount Carmel, Connecticut.
J. Walter Bassett spearheaded fundraising to purchase the mountain 

and donate it as a state park.
The tower atop Sleeping Giant  has a vista of hundreds of miles.
Quinnipiac University now sits at the base of The Sleeping Giant.

(  Best guess : JWB, top row, extreme right )

Hopkins Grammar School Class of 1896
 (courtesy of Thom Peters, Archivist, 
The Hopkins School)

1811  Joseph Baker Cunningham born.
1834/5   Martha A. Latham (Cunningham) born.

1851/3  Lyman H. Bassett born.
Mount Carmel

1853  Emma E. Mitchell (Bassett ) born, February 4.

1870/1  Emily Evangeline Cunningham born, December 22, Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

19th Century Wilbraham, Massachusetts

1874  Ella E. Bassett born, March 1, Mt. Carmel, Connecticut.

1875  Grace Mitchell Bassett born Mt. Carmel, Connecticut.

Mount Carmel Congregational Church at the turn of the century.

1878  J. Walter Bassett born, April 17,  Mt. Carmel, Connecticut.

1878  Switchboards connect telephones, invented in 1876.

In 1878 a manual switching board was introduced that allowed many phones to be connected through a single exchange. The first switchboard was located in New Haven Connecticut. Interestingly enough, the first switching board operators were teenage boys.* With the invention of the switchboard, exchanges opened rapidly across the country. Because of the fierce competition, some cities actually had two telephone exchanges.

*The first operators were boys, who turned out to be impatient and rude when dealing with phone customers. Their rudeness made them extinct within only a few years, replaced by females who were, "calm and gracious."

1880 Blandina Laura Bassett born, Mt. Carmel, Connecticut.

1881 President Garfield Assassinated.

1891-93  JWB attends Cheshire Academy ( Episcopal Academy of Connecticut ).

1895-96 JWB takes two Hopkins Grammar School diplomas:  In Science and in Classics.

("May it bring you happiness and good fortune")

1896  JWB passes Yale College Entrance Exam.

Connecticut Hall, oldest building on Yale campus (1752).

1897  JWB receives bills for purchases by (for?) Miss E.E. Cunningham in Springfield, Massachusetts.

1897  In Southern Pines, N. C. health resort, JWB receives letter of recommendation to teach school from Mr. Arthur Marvin former Hopkins Grammar School teacher.

1899  JWB receives letter from Aunt Charlie ( employed in the Census Bureau in Washington, D. C. ) announcing her plans to sell Southern Pines' house.

801 K St., N.W.  Carnegie Library (1899)

1899. Dec. 11

Postmark Washington DC Dec 11, 1899

Mr. J. Walter Bassett,
Southern Pines,

                                                 1212 K-St., N.W.
                                                  Washington, D.C.

Dear Walter,

       Like you in your last, nice letter, I have so much to write about, I hardly know where to begin.  Perhaps business first will be best. I had a note from Mr. Root yesterday with this month’s rent in advance enclosed, and he said his father-in-law wanted to know my lowest terms for my house, as he was thinking of buying or building in Southern Pines. I have answered, acknowledging the check, and told him I would write again in a few days in regard to the house. Now, did you find the papers in that box in the big bank giving the cost of building the house etc.? If so, I would be greatly obliged if you would send them to be right away, as I think they would help towards an estimate. If you can find a moment I wish you would just glance over them and give me an idea what you think I ought to give as my lowest cash price.  Believe I haven’t written you since Thanksgiving. I had a very pleasant day. Went to my cousin’s to dinner, and she and her husband invited me to the horse races in the afternoon; they were quite exciting, and I enjoyed them very much, but was shocked at the sight of so many women betting.   One has to go to those places once in a while to see what evil there is in the world, and to be able to thank God that you are out of it.  I also went to two or three entertainments that week with some of the people in the house. They are all very kind to me. One was musical and literary and very fine. Another was a visit to Halls of the Ancients, a new building here, which you must surely see when you come. The whole inside represents  [page side  numbered 5]the way the wealthy Romans lived at the time Pompeii was destroyed; it was not only entertaining but instructive, and I felt as though I had really been there.  Believe I wrote you about my cousin and her husband celebrating the 4th anniversary of their wedding that week by inviting company in the evening. I was out every night but one, but this last week I have been more quiet, and wanted to be, having taken a little cold, but don’t think it is going to amount to much. I went to the opening of Congress with a lady in the house  and enjoyed it very much, especially seeing the beautiful flowers that were presented to some of the senators. Senator Chandler kindly gave me a season ticket to the Senate, and I am going to try and get one for the House. The latter I couldn’t get in the opening day, as I didn’t try for a ticket in time, and there was a great crowd on account of the Roberts’ case. A day or two ago I received a notice from the Civil Service Comm, asking me if I understood any foreign language, and if I would accept an appointment in Cuba, Porto Rico, or the Phillipines. My not knowing any language of course settles the matter, otherwise you might have heard of me packing my trunk for Cuba or [“the’ crossed out]Porto Rico , the Phillipines. [sic] I might object  to just now. Any way things seem to be moving  a little more my way, as I have at last got a chance to take the Census examination, through a gentleman connected with the WASHINGTON Post, who is very influential here, a Mr. little, a friend of a friends of mine. I am also going to see Pritchard again tomorrow by appointment, so there is every hope of a position if I can only pass. Iam going to commence [page side numbered 9] to study tomorrow in good earnest, and will have about three, possibly four weeks to prepare. I must pass an average of 75%  and every one tells me the examination is very hard, but I’m bound to try anyway.  Please not [sic]say anything about it to anyone. I am going to keep the word “success”  before me all the time, for I know it will help. I am reading Richard Carrell [Carvel ?] and like it very much , but not quite as well as Hugh Wynne; perhaps it’s because I haven’t you to read to me. Oh, I miss the happy times so much, but am trying like yourself not to think about it, but they never never will be forgotten if I live to be a hundred. I am glad your business is so good, hope Johnson will stay away.
Have you had to help John Powell any? If I could see you and talk, I’m afraid I should never stop, but now I must say good-night. Hope you received the candle-holders all right and will have a nice time Tuesday night. Please not forget [sic] the papers.

  “Always the same” – also


1899  JWB receives letter from Grace Genevieve Pierpont (North Haven, Connecticut )  giving advice about marriage.

POSTMARK: May 19, 1899

(The Pierpont Coat of Arms)

My dear J. Walter: -

        Another tribute of your kindness came this morning –you have ever been doing them and I have appreciated [inserted “them”] all. This cheese knife is lovely  my first, and doubtless last, gift from Tiffany’s, and I thank [sic] very, very much.
       How slow and yet how fast the time has gone since I saw you, and I have been as busy as a [“busy” crossed out] bee [inserted], and as happy. Only a week more and then this terrible function [friction? fustian?] will be over and we can all rest. J. Walter, when you marry seek “the little church round the corner” every time.[my emphasis] The marriage will be just as legal, and you will both live longer.
        I shall never forget you, dear old friend of mine and may “Sweetness” ever live in your memory.  We have had many a pleasant time together, haven’t we?
        Forever your sincere friend,

                                               Grace Genevieve Pierpont
                                         North HavenConnecticut
                                                May nineteenth, 1899

1900  JWB pays Renouard School of Embalmers ( New York ), for May 1st term.

1900 (through 1902)  JWB receives weekly courtship letters from Evangeline Cunningham, North Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

1900, Jan. 23

Postmark Jan 23 1900 North Wilbraham 11 AM

Mr. J. Walter Bassett
Southern Pines
North Carolina

My dear Walter,

The record of current events from my diary for the past week will not prove very interesting reading, but it has been the most satisfactory work in some respects that I have had in a long time, for I have had a few evenings to myself. Last Monday night we
[l]isenssed [?]the Stocks and everything connected with the Stock Exchange nearly the entire evening and to my surprise , I found it very interesting. Tomorrow night we review it and have the effect of the Norman Conquest on the language, manners, customs etc. of the English beside the events of the past week. I have to look up and tell about Lanframe [?]. Last night I played duplicate whist at Mr. Willis Cutler’s and my partner and I were beaten three points on six hands. . Do you play duplicate? The other seems very tame and uninteresting after it. I was much interested in your trip to Carthage and am glad it resulted so satisfactorily for you. I am surprised that you, presumably a good Yankee, should have allowed [the] hostess to burn those geese or goose feathers when they could have been utilized in filling a sofa pillow. Carthage was one of the places to which I never got but never mind. I did go to Roseland. Of all the misnomers that name is the most. This past week we have had elegant sleighing and moonlight nights, a most delightful combination. The cresting [crusting?] and skating was fine too but I have not tried the latter. Yesterday we had a warm rain and the snow and ice have entirely disappeared.  If the storms will only wait three weeks longer I don’t care how severe they are then. I shall be glad of a vacation, as the past week has fretted me more than any previous one. I am getting a class of five ready to take exams at the end of this term, when they are not due until June, and it is hard on us all, and I do not approve, but that is the decree. I have come to have quite a little respect for the Jones boy. He gives me very little trouble and works very well. He is very large for his age and I think has grown so fast that his mind has suffered and I know from his manner that he has been scolded  and nagged until he expects it. How grateful your family will be to know that your avoirdupois has increased to such an extent that your weight is disastrous to a bench holding only four others. It was a very good one, but hard on you. I have not read Pembroke, but enjoy Mary Wilkin’s [?] stories. I  have enjoyed the Outlook very much and find it a great help in preparing myself  for Monday nights. I should miss it very much, but am willing to subscribe for it myself. I wrote to Mrs. Gregory yesterday and felt so ashamed to have neglected her so long. Are the[illegible]  read in the paper the first of the week of the death of that Colonel  at Pinehurst.  He was from Worcester and his picture was with a long article in the Springfield paper. Last week Viola Allen was in Springfield in The Christian, and how I did want to see it, but as usual it was not convenient. Our drama was very well received in Ludlow [Sudlow?] but it did not go as well at home, but no one in the audience would have noticed the breaks. We had half of the receipts which was nearly forty dollars, so both performances have given the Ladies’ Society  about seventy dollars. The enclosed program  will give you an idea of the play and sometime you may read it. But what is your reference to "the leaders of the choir”? I don’t understand, am I dense? My letter to Steve last Sunday was entirely one of congratulation. I was glad and told her so, and then told her why. And she knows my reasons were correct. It was always a mystery to me how she could care for him, and she did feel hurt at his lack [?] of attention, but apologized for it, and called him undemonstrative, but I called him rude, to say the least. He visited her from Wednesday to Sunday and he spent nearly all his time out-of-doors with her brother or driving with her cousin who spent two weeks there. Steve was not well enough to go out and I devoted myself to her but he spent almost no time with her and she had anticipated his visit so much that she was perfectly miserable when it proved so disappointing.  Her health is poor enough and I am glad that what little strength she has is not going to be used up worrying over a careless husband. “Them’s my sentiments.”[ my emphasis]

Most sincerely, Evangeline 
North Wilbraham, January the twenty-first.

January 24, 1902: Evangeline puts her foot down.

Jan 24 1902  6 PM
North Wilbraham
Mr. J. W. Bassett

93 Crown Street [work address: New Haven Gas Light Co.]

New Haven, Conn.

My dear,

  Will you please be definite and tell me what you have decided and what I am to do about resigning? I am no better off than before I read your letter and I supposed it would be final. I am almost frantic, not knowing what to do. I do not  want to wait until the eleventh of June for it is sure to be blazing hot, and would prefer the fourth if it can possibly be arranged. If you have decided to go, at fifty dollars until Sept. why do you not tell him so and have it settled? You did not say anything any more definite  than in the previous letter. Please write a line when you receive this if you possibly can, and tell me what you are going to do. If it ["is" inserted] post-marked" "eleven A.M" I will get it at night. Let me hear if possible or I shall have nervous prostration. I love you dear. Your Evangeline

Friday, P.M.

1902, June (". . .seventeen more days . . .")

1902, June

Postmark, June 1902 (no day on postmark)
North Wilbraham, Mass

Mr. J. Walter Bassett
Mount Carmel

     After dinner I went over to spend a little while with Miss Phillips and select something from among Eunice's trinkets. When I came home Emma was here and has just gone, so it is getting near time to go to church, and I must go tonight, for I have been very bad lately. I guess I wrote last Thursday night, so I will begin there. Friday morning was the usual housework and in the afternoon I wrote the invitations to the wedding, and it took all the afternoon. In the evening I did my mending, and yesterday I spent in he city [Springfield?] and had a hard day. I make my bank book squeal, for I got a check for Mrs. Welden, and money for other things which are big. I got a hat for traveling and for general wear, which I thought stylish and serviceable, but mama does not like it, as it does not look nice enough, she thinks. Then I got two pair of shoes, one a high black pair, and the other a low yellow pair. The latter are lighter than I like, but will will grow dark. I got an appointment Thursday to have my broken tooth built up, and hope to buy my nice hat then. My announcements and cards came yesterday and now we can't back out. The card plates were each three dollars so he gave me the extras and letter and the one hundred cards were one dollar. When I have answered all your questions I fear there will not be room left to enclose something else to amuse you, and please do not show it, because you know I am funny. I saw Mr. Davis about the carpet and he said he would put a plain color outside the border to make the three inches. He also said they would lay the carpet, but there might be some trouble, as I was getting the carpet at almost wholesale price. So for that reason I would like if possible to get our dining room carpet there, and they would send a man more willingly. I got my ring, and it was engraved nicely, the six initials, and I paid the enormous and exorbitant sum of twelve cents for it.
Last evening I read, for the first time. Tomorrow they are going to begin to paint the house, in spite of all we can say, and Mrs. Gates tried to help us, but the painter has finally got to it, so Mr. Gates feels he must have him. So he agreed to go over one coat, and then estimate how long it will take to finish, and I am about as uncomfortable as is possible to be. Tomorrow I must write the invitations to the reception, and Tuesday I will go to the city, and Wednesday I must begin to address my announcements. So my dearest even though I love you so much, I cannot write three times, for the hours are so precious, and so many little things still left to do. I want to get my announcements done before Steve comes, for she will want to do them, and I am afraid she will not get the inside envelope right, for I understand, and she doesn't. I shall miss the third letter too, but it's only seventeen more days, so we can be patient. Now put this where you won't lose it. Dr. Squire told me to get one (Z) of bromide of soda and put it into four (Z) of water and take one teaspoonful after each meal and before going to bed for a week before going on the water and we wouldn't be sea-sick. So you want to try it, too.  Emma has a lovely big cape and she offered to loan it to me, when she heard me say I hoped my money would hold out to buy one. So I shall accept the loan, and be comfortable. When you have the leisure, would it not be well to measure the dining room floor and make a diagram, and then put it in your new pocket and we will have it, if we want it. It would be better to have it and not want it, than to want it and not have it. I will send the tickets to Mr. Herrick, as I shall wish to write again. I shall try to engage the mover next Tuesday for early Wednesday morning. Since we have two tables for the parlor, it seems a little unwise to have another , unless we know just the place for it. A chair for my desk would be very acceptable, as we need one, or [& ?] so would silver. Mr. and Mrs. Terry have given me a pair of silver spoons, solid of course. I hope the architects [sic] visit was satisfactory. I think I would like my wedding gift from you  the night that you come. What is it? Mama is coughing badly, and had to come out of church this morning, but does not appear sick. The Buffalo Bill's Wild West was the effort of the Jones boy, and I found it in my desk the other day. I suppose when we give our ages, we had better tell the truth and shame the Devil. [my emphasis] There is a new barber here, but as I have heard nothing about him, I cannot recommend him. There is more trouble at Mr. Bell's for  two weeks ago Mrs. Bell had a nervous collapse and has been in a state of melancholia ever since and yesterday they took her to a sanitarium. She has been through enough mental strain and done enough hard work to drive the woman insane. Miss Phillips leave us tomorrow and Mrs. Thomson in a few days.
With my best love to my heart's dearest,

                                      Your own,

Evangeline sends J. Walter these sketches drawn by one of  the children in the class she teaches, "the effort of the Jones boy" as she describes it, which she "found " in her desk drawer, perhaps a child's wedding  or farewell gift?

1901 President McKinley Assassinated.

1901   JWB is addressed as "Rev." in wedding announcement from John N. Powell of Southern Pines, N. C.

1902 Evangeline writes JWB about riding her "wheel".

$ 50.00 was pretty expensive when rent was $12.00 a month.

1902 The Wedding Cake (made three weeks early !)  and a Comeuppance

1902 May 28 Postmark North Wilbraham

Mr. J. Walter Bassett
Mount Carmel, Connecticut

Dearest Sweetheart,

Such a dear letter as yours was, and it deserves a lovely reply, but I am afraid it won’t get it and I don’t know why. I think I need you to keep me straight, and three weeks from tonight you will come for your wife and you must not think I am not happy if I should disappoint you by not being as jubilant as you would wish.  You were right, it was not a happy engaged girl who wrote to you Sunday, but an unhappy one. I was so tired, and the first hot days had had their usual effect on me, and I was troubled about little things which I will tell you about sometime. Yesterday Emma and I went in the city on the ten o’clock train. I left my ring to be engraved “E.E.C. – J.W. B.” and we walked down to Court Square and saw all there was to see, listened to the band concert for awhile, then went to her friends[sic] office and rested and then went to lunch. Then we went and did some errands, returned to the office, and stayed there until half after five. The parade passed four times and we wanted to come out after the second time and come home at four but we went down to the street and couldn’t get through the crowd.
Last night we got the fruit and other things ready to make “The” wedding cake, and this morning we made it [ three weeks early? ] There is enough for all the anniversaries to the golden wedding. This afternoon I sewed and this evening you [?]  are occupied as you see. When I finish this I am going to write to Stewart, for I received a half dozen berry [?] forks last night and they are darling. The handles are French gray with a strawberry with leaves to the end. I, too, am pleased with the table silver, and you may tell Mrs. Quimby that we would like silver better than anything else. We will consider the trip settled unless you think we had better take a less expensive one, in which case we can find something in the Berkshires. If we can afford it it will be the best water trip available, but a good deal to spend for three days pleasure, but it’s our honeymoon, so we must make the most of it and I do love the water better than anything else, except you. I will see Mr. Green about the carriage, and engage the carpenter for Monday and the mover for Tuesday, and see Mr. Davis about the carpet, but I am not willing to talk with Mr. Howes [Homes?] again about the springs for I have done so, many times.  I thought you told me to order them, and I did so, and if we can afford them, we will have them, and if not we will have something cheaper. And right here, my dearest, I am going to say something which will not be pleasant reading. I should have said it before if your feelings were not so easily injured, but as it troubles me I may better get it off my mind and let you know how I feel about it. I wish, sweetheart, than [sic] when you have decided a thing you would let it alone. [my emphasis]. It is a habit that you all have, making plans and then doing otherwise, and it frets and troubles me to feel unsettled. When I was down the last time, your mother talked as much as though she did not expect to have the new house as though she did, and it made me feel troubled and unhappy.

The new house "your mother" thought wouldn't get built in 1902, was built in 1905.

 Our own plans have been so many and different that I have felt mixed up until lately, and now we do not know how long we will have to stay in the old house. It makes me ache to think of our nice things with that awful paper and woodwork, but I do not want to be without them indefinitely.  When we have settled a thing and are satisfied, let’s let it alone, and not keep talking it over until we don’t know what we want.  I am not scolding or blaming anyone, but I do want you to know how uncomfortable this makes me feel and I want you to get out of the habit. About the carpet. I will see Mr. Davis when I go in. I do wish a carpet with a border and as this pleases us I see no reason why we should not take it. I will speak about the points you mention. If they do not send a man to unpack the goods and leave them in order, we won’t take them. Also, I think they would send a man to lay the carpet, and if we got [get] the covering for the dining room floor so much the better, and the same man might put up the draperies, but I don’t know. I think, considering the size of the order, that they would send a man each time.  Of course I shall see, but I do not want to have the carpet to watch this summer. I asked Mr. Spencer about the ticket to Leominster and he cannot sell one, but I could get one in Palmer, but not a round trip, or one good in either direction. I don’t know how much he knows, but that is what he said. The fare is $1.35 from Palmer, and could you not do this: Write to the ticket agent in Leominster and tell him what you want. If you cannot get a round trip ticket or two good in either direction, then get one and I will see what I can do in Palmer  about the one going back.  Last Sunday I found myself out of stamps, so got up before seven and took your letter down so it would go out as usual and not disappoint you, so you see I do love you. I haven’t an idea what my wedding gift is, unless it is one of three things I told you up on Sunset Rock. When will you give it to me?  When we are ready to have people call we will have an “at home” and I will wear my wedding gown. I shall sent [sic] my invitations a week from tomorrow.  As the parlor is regular I do not care so much for a drawing, but would like one of the dining room, as you did not tell me about the chimney. What I have is 12 ft. by 15 ft. 4 in. When I get the accurate measurements of these I will see what I can do, and if I find something which pleases me, shall I get it for the dining room? I understand perfectly about the parlor carpet. I, my dear, I nearly forgot!  They are going to start to paint the house this week! I can get your trunk when it comes. Alice leaves N.Y. at 9 o’clock arriving here at noon. Pension people next time. With all my dearest love to my own love. Your Evangeline.

1902  June 18, JWB is married to  Emily Evangeline Cunningham in  North Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

1903 The Wright brothers first sustained flight December 17.

1905  Daughter, Elizabeth, is born, September 8.

1909  New Haven Society: Edgerton, the private estate of F.F. Brewster, is constructed on 25 acres of the site of Eli Whitney's home, on the  Hamden/New Haven town line. Most traffic in and out of town  had to pass the mysterious ten-foot stone wall which surrounded it. Mr. Brewster served  on many boards of directors including the New Haven Gas [ Light ] Company for which JWB worked around 1900.

Edgerton, an architectural Sleeping Giant, was visible to all from East Rock.
Edgerton's gatehouse and ten-foot wall clearly visible from Whitney Avenue to daily traffic, even today.

East Rock as viewed from Edgerton. 
Thornton Wilder  (1897-1975), also a  one-time Mt. Carmelite, 
would call the Rock "our Dolomite" after its pink hue, 
visible from his  Hamden home (1930-75) near Edgerton.

1913  Ship's record shows James  Bassett arriving from Bermuda to the United States on November 27.

A Bermuda Lines ship, 1913

1914 - 1918 World War I

 1915  JWB is Master in Hamden Masonic Lodge.

Masonic Lodge, Hamden, Connecticut

1916   Elizabeth is hospitalized April 25-May 14.

1917 The first instance of J. Walter's own voice (other than the 'weather and whatnot' diaries of 1924, 1927,1928, and 1929 and perhaps the "The Cat" essay which was probably written in the 1890's by JWB or perhaps it is Elizabeth's effort).

"This work is not yet completed. The back of the sofa should have been covered with Tapestry same as the front which was the agreement.I will pay the bill when the work is completed or a portion of the account before if you desire. J. Walter Bassett"

Subject: The Cat

The cat is a very interesting animal. He is a small fur dog that meows and has whiskers and several other things. He has four paws --to [sic] fore paws and two behind ones and a tail.
He has been known for many years -- two of him having been said to be on the ark where he must have been tied up or what would become of the rats?
Cats don't be cats until they are a year old when they stop being kittens which they were born as.
It takes a kitten several weeks to get its eyes open if it doesn't get drownded before that time and he scratches when he is mad.
My father says camels used to be cats but got their backs up one day and couldn't get them down again and so became camels.
I never heard a camel meow but I suppose they can do most anything, have seven stomachs and going many days without water.

Conundrums"  [written perpendicular to the text]

1919  JWB owns Dodge Touring Car ( 1917 )  registration.

1920  Women's Right to Vote is assured with Passing of the Nineteenth Amendment.

1924  JWB is a founding member of The Sleeping Giant Association, which saved the mountain as a state park, free from commercial development.

1924  Elizabeth is attending college, January 3.

January 3, "Eliz. went back to college."

Connecticut College for Women, Founded 1911

1924  Grandma Cunningham ( Martha A. Lathom ), living in Mt. Carmel, dies, February 2, age 90 (+ -).

February 2, "Grandma C . died 4:40 P.M."

1924 April, May:  Carbuncle treatment ( for whom?)
"20th" ( Twentieth ! ) house-call by Dr. Smith.

It is surprising that JWB would have trouble with a carbuncle.  This is a man who is so fastidious that he records his "manicures" in his diary. However, baths and shampoos are infrequent.  He has many more manicures than baths, and often they are performed by "E" ( Evangeline ).

April 26:, "Dr. Smith 11th call Opened 2nd Carbuncle"

May 7, "Dr. Smith 20th call"

1927 Mother, Emma E. Bassett, celebrates 75th birthday, February 4.

October 4, "Ma Birthday Party at night"

1927 February 20th: It is 18 degrees outside and 47 degrees in the house.


                                         February 20, "18 degrees 9 A.M.. House 47 degrees.
 1927  JWB's Twenty-fifth Wedding Anniversary, June 18

June 18, "25th Wedding Anniversary. Reception 8 P.M."

1927  Father, Lyman H. Bassett of Mt. Carmel,
 dies July 22, age 74(+ -) or 76(+ -).

Friday, July 23 "Dad died about 5 A.M." ( Note change in usually meticulous handwriting. )

1928 Evangeline hospitalized and has "operation," returns home after 40 days ( ! ), has another "heart attack".

January 2 "E. Sick. Heart Attack."

February 17, "E. Sick to hospital about 11 A.M." ( Note change in  usually meticulous handwriting. )

March 3, "E. Operation 8:30 A.M."

March 21, "E. sat up 1st time."

March 27, "E. home from hospital 8 P.M."
April 26, "E. heart attack, 11 A.M."
By September 23, "E" is well enough to attend "Centerville Church" .

1928  "Killed", Weather, and Whatnot

October 4 "Miss Laura Dickerman killed 7:50 P.M."

New Haven Register, October 6, 1928
(Courtesy of Larry Dowler)

courtesy of Ron Richo.

October 9 "Coroner's Office" [Perhaps JWB is still in the undertaking profession. His diaries note many funerals. He also performs duties as "auditor".  He sometimes works in"office" and other times in "shop."  His schedule seems amazingly full and amazingly flexible.
1928   Dentist: All I want for Christmas is my  . . .

December 14 "Two front teeth out."

1929 The Stock Market Crashes in October, setting off a 12-year Depresion.  No mention of this in 1929 diary.

1929  "E" has three heart attacks in 1929. This is the final diary and it ends on a non-medical note with "E. birthday" on December 22.  She lives fifteen more years, dying in 1944, age 73 or 74
( b. 1870 / 71 ). She is seven or eight years older than J. Walter. 

December 22: "E". birthday"

September 26." E. [ well enough to go ] to Civic Club at night."

September 20, "E. Heart Attack."

April 24, "E. Heart attack in P.M."

March 2, "E. Heart Attack"

1929  JWB  walks 64 miles in one day !

May 12, "Walked to Hampden, Mass. A.M. House at 5 P.M. 64 miles"

1929  "Yale professor J. Walter Bassett"  [sic] joins five others at Graduate Club to plan the Blue Trail

The Graduate Club

1939-1945  World War II


1942  JWB drafted (?) 
[ "A draft record for James (born 1878) for 1942  would make him 64. A little old for regular service" researcher RR ].

1944  Evangeline dies, age 74 ( +- ) in Mt. Carmel.

1944 Broadcast networks for television are established in three states.

1950-53  The Korean War

1955  Ella E. Bassett (sibling) dies age 80( + - )

1958 Russians' Sputnik orbits the earth; Space Age begins.

1963 President Kennedy Assassinated.

1964 Civil Rights Act Passed

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States[1] that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public ("public accommodations").

President Lyndon B. Johnson hands a pen to Rev. Martin Luther King,, Jr. after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

1965-75 Combat troops in Viet Nam

1968  JWB dies, age 89( + - )

1969 July 2,  Man lands on the Moon

1972 Grace Mitchell Bassett (sibling) dies age 97(+ -).

1974  Blandina Laura Bassett (sibling) dies age 93( + - ) Perhaps it was her former home where I found these documents in 1976 in an attic --about to be  thrown out --  on Ives Street in Mt. Carmel.

1991 Communism falls in Russia.

1997   Elizabeth Bassett (daughter) dies age 92 ( + - ) in Mt. Carmel.