Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Frances Adams Chamberlain, Accomplished Artist

Frances "Fanny" Caroline Adams Chamberlain, pictured here in an undated photo from the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1984.122.1

Joshua L. Chamberlain’s grave lies next to that of his wife, Frances “Fanny” Caroline Adams Chamberlain, an accomplished painter and musician. Fanny was born on August 12, 1825 in Boston, Massachusetts to Ashur and Amelia Wyllys Adams. Because her father was 48 when she was born (at that time an age more appropriately fit for Fanny’s grandfather than father), and was suffering financially to support his other children, by the time Fanny turned 4 her parents decided to move her to Brunswick. There, Fanny was raised by her cousin, Rev. George Adams of the First Parish Church, and his wife Sarah Ann Folsom. The couple, who had no children, also adopted Anna Davis, who was very close in age to Fanny. It was not until she was 12 that Fanny wrote to her birth parents in Boston, a fact that author Diane Monroe Smith believes indicates Ashur & Amelia’s “complete surrender” of Fanny to Rev. George & Sarah (Smith, 5).

Rev. George E. Adams (1801-1875), Fanny's cousin & adoptive father.
From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc # OH.1726.1.e.

Fanny displayed her artistic aptitude at a very young age. Her organ instructor, Henry S. Edwards of Portland, was considered the best in Maine. Fanny was also instructed in art by her older (blood) sister, Catherine, and loved poetry and literature. By 1850 she was painting in her own studio in Portland while taking vocal lessons from a Professor Crouch (it is unknown if any of her paintings still exist). Fanny was also firm in her beliefs, frustrating her adoptive father by never officially joining the Congregational First Parish Church, though she would play the organ and sing during services there. Joshua L. Chamberlain, who had noticed Fanny at church and at various Brunswick literary events, began courting the 25-year-old woman in 1850, while Chamberlain was a student at Bowdoin College. In 1851, the pair directed the church choir together, and by October they were engaged.

During the couple’s engagement (while Chamberlain was studying at the Bangor Theological Seminary), Fanny stayed active. Not content to simply wait in Brunswick for Joshua to return, in April 1852 she traveled to New York to study music with her new uncle, George Frederick Root, who composed a slew of famous Civil War songs including “Battle Cry of Freedom” (Fanny’s adoptive mother, Sarah Ann Folsom, died in 1850, and Rev. George married Helen Root in 1851). Fanny even relocated briefly to Milledgeville, Georgia, where she taught voice at school for girls, played the organ at a Presbyterian church and gave piano lessons.

Fanny's Brunswick home on Maine Street, pictured here circa 1871-1876. Photo by A.O. Reed. From the Pejepscot Historical Society, acc# 1978.10.b.
After Chamberlain’s graduation from Bangor Theological Seminary in 1855, Fanny and Joshua were married at the First Parish Church on December 7, 1855 by Rev. George Adams. Beginning in 1857, the couple lived in what is now the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum at 226 Maine Street in Brunswick, the home they shared for more than 50 years. On October 16, 1856 Fanny gave birth to the couple’s first child, Grace “Daisy” Dupee Chamberlain. The couple would go on to have 4 more children: an unnamed infant son born 3 months premature who lived just a few hours after being born on November 19, 1857; Harold Wyllys, born October 10, 1858; Emily Stelle, born sometime in May, 1860 and died at age 4 months on September 23; Gertrude Loraine, born on January 16, 1865 and died on August 17 at the age of 7 months. All of Fanny & Joshua’s children are buried with them in Pine Grove Cemetery, though their unnamed son has no grave marker.

Footstone of Emily & Gertrude, the two young Chamberlain daughters who did not live to see their first birthday.
Fanny’s relationship with Joshua had many ups and downs over their 50-year marriage. By 1868, long absences were straining their marriage as Chamberlain worked in Augusta as the governor while Fanny maintained the Brunswick home. On November 20, 1868, Joshua wrote an angry letter to Fanny, complaining that she had been telling people he abused her and that she was seeking a divorce. Interestingly, the letter seems to suggest that Joshua was more upset that Fanny was telling people that he was abusing her than by the actual allegation: “Mr[.] Johnson says this is doing immense harm, whether the fact is so or not, & the bitter enemies who now assail me on public grounds, will soon get hold of this & will ruin me.” (Joshua L. Chamberlain, quoted in Smith, 195). In the letter, Joshua suggested a separation, and the couple lived apart for several months. By the time Chamberlain became president of Bowdoin College in 1871, Fanny & Joshua had reconciled, and with Chamberlain spending more time at home the couple began sharing their lives together again.
Fanny's gravestone, featuring her epitaph and date of death. Joshua's (not pictured) is directly beside it on the left.

By 1893, Fanny—who had always suffered from eye pains—had gone completely blind in her right eye. Six years later, Fanny had completely lost her sight and her health quickly began deteriorating. She died on the night of October 18, 1905 at home, her husband rushing to her side from Portland. After a service held at her Maine Street home attended by friends and family, Fanny was buried on October 21 in Pine Grove Cemetery with her three pre-deceased children. Her gravestone bears the simple epitaph “Unveiled”.

"Death of Mrs. Chamberlain". The Brunswick Record. 20 October 1905.
Smith, Diane Monroe. Fanny & Joshua: The Enigmatic Lives of Frances Caroline Adams and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1999.
"Tributes to Mrs. Chamberlain, Brunswick, Me." Lewiston Daily Evening Journal. 23 October 1905.
Trulock, Alice Rains. In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain & the American Civil War. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

1 comment:

  1. It is wonderful satisfaction to visit your web diary and to advantage however much as could be normal from your incredible information here. Thankful to you a wide measure the thing I was looking for.
    zwangerschapsmassage nijmegen