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.....In the two branches of families that have descendants of Luther and Mary Briggs, the Smiths and the Wierums, there is an oral history that Mary was "read out of [Friends Meeting]" when she married out of her faith, and as Gertrude "Gig" (Smith) Wister put it, it was "apparently an amicable event, as they all came to the wedding supper aferwards." The New Bedford (Friends) Monthly Women's Meeting minutes contain the following on 28 December 1837:
This meeting is informed that Mary Briggs (late Thornton) has married in a manner contrary to our descipline, with one not in membership with us - on which account Ruth S. Davis and Mary Card are appointed to visit her and report to a future meeting.
On 25 January 1838:
The friends appointed to visit Mary Briggs (late Thornton) have made the following report viz. Agreeable to appointment we have visited Mary Briggs on account of her outgoing marriage, but did not find her in a disposition of mind to condemn her deviation. She manifested the desire [not] to be retained a member of our religious society and expressed a decided choice to attend the mettings of another with her husband. Believing further labor from us will be unavailing we submit the case to the monthly meeting. Mary Card, Ruth S. Davis
The Men's Meeting records reveal this:
Which report being considered, is accepted by this meeting, the conclusion whereof is to disown her right of membership with us, men friends uniting therewith and Ruth Baker is appointed to inform her of the judgement of this meeting.
.....The New Bedford Mercury reported that Luther and Mary were married by Charles Morgridge, the minister of the First (North) Christian Church. Their wedding supper probably took place at Mary's father's house at 20 Seventh St., in which she had lived at least since her mid-teens and was recently rescued from the wrecking ball. Luther and Mary lived with her parents in that house for several years. By 1841 they had taken rooms at the former Friends Meeting House across the street. Their landlords were probably an African American couple named Nathan and Polly Johnson, who lived next door. Due to the spotty publication of city directories and Luther's non-appearance in one published in 1845, their homes cannot be traced precisely in the 1840s. By 1849 they had moved in with Mary's grandmother Bethia Russell at 13 So. 6th St.
.....Mary's life must have been affected significantly by the fact that her husband was away at sea for most of their married lives. She joined Luther for at least two of his trips from New York to Liverpool and back. She suffered the death of her only daughter when Mary, Jr., was in her early teens, followed soon after by her youngest child, Harry. Fortunately she had the comfort of her sister Rebecca, who probably moved to Brooklyn with the Briggs and had surely been a companion to Mary since Mary married. Mary became a mother of sorts again in the 1870s when her granddaughters Harriet and Mary came to live with them for a time in Brooklyn Heights. "Gig" Wister said that her mother (Harriet) cherished the memory of her grandmother Briggs. The families of Harriet (Smith) and Mary (Wierum) also recalled Aunt Beck as a surrogate mother. The Thornton sisters died twenty years apart at the family home at 168 Livingston Ave., Brooklyn and are buried in the family plot at Green-Wood Cemetery. Mary's death certificate confirms family information that she died of breast cancer. It has been discovered 6 months earlier.
Mary's gravestone in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
children of Mary Brown Thornton and Luther Jenney Briggs:
Thornton, b. abt Fall 1843, Brockport, NY, d. 29 September 1898, Boston, MA
Luther Jenney, b. 6 July 1845
Mary B., b. 1852?, d. 26 December 1855, Brooklyn, NY
Henry Russell, b. 18? October 1853, d. 18 January 1856, Brooklyn, NY
vital records sources: Mary's birth is taken from New Bedford vital records. Her death is recorded on her death certificate (Brooklyn 1879 #2486), her gravestone and was reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
The attending doctor was William Henry Thayer, who had been her doctor for the last 3 years. Her age at death is given as 65 years, 2 months and 5 days. She was in the city for 26 years and died at 10:00 PM of "carcenoma of mesenteric gland." She was buried in 23 March.
all text and photographs © 1998-2005 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted