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
(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 .
A Life that Spanned the Assassinations of Three Presidents
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 http://walterandevangeline.blogspot.com/ .
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?
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.
|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.
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.
1880 Blandina Laura Bassett born, Mt. Carmel, Connecticut.
1891-93 JWB attends Cheshire Academy ( Episcopal Academy of Connecticut ).
1895-96 JWB takes two Hopkins Grammar School diplomas: In Science and in Classics.
|Connecticut Hall, oldest building on Yale campus (1752).|
1897 JWB receives bills for purchases by (for?) Miss E.E. Cunningham in Springfield, Massachusetts.
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)|
POSTMARK: May 19, 1899
My dear J. Walter: -
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.
Jan 24 1902 6 PM
|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
|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
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.
|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"
1919 JWB owns Dodge Touring Car ( 1917 ) registration.
1920 Women's Right to Vote is assured with Passing of the Nineteenth Amendment.
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"|
February 20, "18 degrees 9 A.M.. House 47 degrees."
|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)
1928 Dentist: All I want for Christmas is my . . .
|December 14 "Two front teeth out."|
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."|
|April 24, "E. Heart attack in P.M."|
|March 2, "E. Heart Attack"|
|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 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
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.