Autograph letter signed ("James G. Drake") to W. Elliott Woodward, being an account of the life of Samuel G. Bishop; Boston, 8 June 1866
3 1/4 pages, 8vo, a bifolium on pale bluish-green paper. Evidence of folds, a marginal tear not affecting text, scant remains of former mounting on last page. Item #409885
The American antiquarian and historian Samuel G. Drake (1798-1875) writes to William Elliot Woodward (1825-1892), the numismatist, New England genealogist, and publisher, about the life of Samuel G. Bishop. Drake opened one of the first antiquarian bookstores established in the United States and was one of the founders, in 1847, of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Woodward reprinted an edition of Bishop’s Eulogium on the Death of George Washington in the year of this letter’s writing, presumably the prompt for requesting biographical details from Drake.
Boston, 8 June 1866
Agreeably to your request, in conformity to my promise, I have undertaken this letter to give you some facts in the life of Samuel G. Bishop, the author among some of fugitive work, of an Eulogy of Gen. Washington [Gilmanton, NH: E. Russell for the author, 1800]. My letter will be brief, for the very good reason that there is not much of general interest respecting him.
Mr. Bishop was a native of some part of Connecticut, but of what branch of the Bishop family I never learned. According to his own account his father's name was "Billie" Bishop who died previous to the year 1800. He had a fair education, but how he obtained it is not known. He first appears in New Hampshire at what is usually called Great Island, near the mouth of the Pascataqua [sic]. Here he was a preacher of the orthodox persuasion, & gained considerable popularity. Whether regularly settled there I am unable to state. He preached also at various other places in that part of the state. At Rye he became acquainted with a very beautiful young lady, Miss Abigail Tucke, whose father, the Rev. John Tucke, had died in the service of his country in the time of the Revolutionary war [Drake’s mother was born Love Muchmore Tucke, presumably making him related to his subject by marriage]. To this lady he was married on the 19th of March, 1800 [Josiah Carpenter celebratory sermon at the event was published as 'The importance of right views in matrimony,' Gilmanton, NH: s. n., 1800].
Not long after his marriage he gave up preaching & entered into land speculations; & finally made large purchases of wild land on or about the head waters of the Connecticut river, in what was called the Upper Coos. In these purchases he invested all his means, thinking to meet with a ready sale of farms to actual settlers. But about this time the current of emigration began to set towards the interior of New York & other parts adjacent, & Mr. Bishop was left with his Coos Lands on his hands, & he could not dispose of farms at any price. He therefore resolved to settle in that then wild region himself. After his removal there a succession of cold seasons occurred, & no crops of any account could be raised.
Mr. Bishop was a man of strict integrity, but he found himself among a set of borderers, some of whom would stick at nothing that lay in the way of what they conceived to be their interest. Difficulties arose respecting bounds of land & other less important matters, & Mr. Bishop was drawn into one lawsuit after another, & it was about the same whether he recovered or lost a case, as his antagonists had no means of indemnification in either event. In this way what he could not get from his land was dissipated. And eventually, through certain knavish limbs of the law he was in debt in Large sums, & thrown into jail at Lancaster, & was kept there some or two or three years.
While this cruelly treated, Mr. Bishop wrote, & in the year 1821 published a pamphlet of some sixty six pages, giving a detailed account of his experiences of border life, & exposing some of the prominent individuals who had been the cause of his reactions.
At length, about the year 1832, Mr. Bishop had the good fortune to be able to leave the Coos Country. He went on land in the interior of Ohio, where he found a more congenial people. He had several sons & daughters, some of whom I believe still reside in Coose. Mr. Bishop has probably been dead several years.
He was a man of an iron will, never believing in compromises. What he knew to be right he would contend for to the last. Hence he rendered himself unpopular& a good prey to unscrupulous demagogues.
Mr. Bishop had many peculiarities, & was generally reputed "a very off person." He suffered intolerable hardships, but such was his unpopularity that he found little sympathy in any direction. But his family were obliged to suffer with him, which caused the regrets of all who knew him.
Very truly yours,
Sam. G. Drake
Woodward lived in Middletown, CT and was a pharmacist by trade before becoming a dealer in coins, stamps, books, and antiques in the 1860s. On February 3, 1858, he became a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. In 1864 he reprinted Records of Salem Witchcraft, copied from the original documents, in two volumes. Also in 1864, he issued a Catalogue of a Choice Collection of American and English Books. In October 1864 he held his Fifth Semi Annual Sale. In 1865, W. Elliot had printed two volumes by Franklin Benjamin Hough (1822-1885). One was "Washingtoniana or, Memorials of the death of George Washington, giving an account of the funeral honors paid to his memory, with a list of tracts and volumes printed upon the occasion, and a catalogue of medals commemorating the event." The other was "Bibliographical list of books and pamphlets, containing eulogies, orations, poems or other papers, relating to the death of General Washington, or to the honors paid to his memory." Also in 1865, he had published works edited by Samuel Gardner Drake (1798-1875). One was "Annals of Witchcraft in New England and Elsewhere in the United States, From Their First Settlement." Another was "The History of the Indian Wars in New England from the First Settlement to the Termination of the War with King Philip, in 1677."From the Original Work, by the Rev. William Hubbard, Carefully revisited, and accompanied with an historical preface, life and pedigree of the author, and extensive notes." In 1869 he published Bibliotheca Americana. In 1870 he published Henry Phillips, Historical Sketches of Paper Currency of the American Colonies Prior to the Adoption of the Federal Constitution.