Monday, December 20, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - Salem's Deputy Custom Collector

This is a letter by my grandmother's grandfather. It was interesting to talk to my grandmother about Abijah Franklin Hitchings. In reading this letter and other published accounts by and about him, he seemed like a stern person. She remembered him only as a kindly grandfather, and called him "Dada Hitchings". He was wounded at the Battle of Fredricksburg, and walked with a cane. She remembered his house was located near the famous Salem Fire that destroyed most of historic Salem in 1914. He had a large home with servants, which was typical of his station in life at this time period. Those are her memories of him.

A photocopy of a letter by my 2x great grandfather
Abijah Franklin Hitchings
My Great Great Grandfather Abijah Franklin Hitchings (1841 - 1910) worked at the Historic Salem Custom House as a deputy customs collector from 1873 until he died. This is the same position Nathaniel Hawthorne held when he worked at the same office in Salem. My ancestor also wrote a book about Salem ships and their captains while he was there, using the records on file in the custom house. I wrote to the National Park Service, which now owns the custom house, to see if they had any record of his employement. This was the only document they could find. There is a copy of Great Grandfather Hitching's book in the rare books at NEHGS, the Phillip's Library in Salem, and at Google books.

Custom House, Salem, Mass
Collector's Office August 1, 1902

Messrs. Luscomb and Taggard,
Officers of the Customs

The Customs Regulations allow all
Officers of the Customs 30 days
leave of absence during the calendar
year, if for any reason any officer
is away from his duty without such
leave he should report it on his
book as absent without leave even
if it is no more than a half an
hour, this letter should be kept
on file and in the future your
actions are to governed by it
and in accordance with the
U.S. Regulations.
Respectfully yours,
A. F. Hitchings

For more information:
Ship registers of the district of Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts, 1789-1900, by A. Frank Hitchings, with annotations by Stephen Willard Phillips (Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1906).

I transcribed three obituaries for Abijah Franklin Hitchings at a blog post on 26 July 2010. Both obituaries describe his military service in the Civil War and his appointment as deputy customs collector for Salem. You can view the obituaries at this link

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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