Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Will Says "All Other Family Portraits to be Destroyed"

From the Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), Saturday, November 16, 1940, "Many Public Bequests Made in Will of Salem Woman", page 15

"Many Public Bequests Made in Will of Salem Woman

Salem, Nov. 15 - Many public bequests were included in the will of Miss Eleanor Hassam of Salem, filed in Essex probate court today and disposing of an estate of approximately $500, 000.  Miss Hassam, member of one of Salem's oldest families, died Nov. 9 at the age of 71.
        She left $20,000 to Harvard University for a scholarship in memory of her father, John Tyler Hassam, of the Harvard class of 1863.  Another gift was $25,000 to the First Congregational Society of Salem.
        Other bequests were [made]....
         ....The will bequeathed her antique furniture, jewelry, certain portraits, silhouettes and a picture, "Prodigal Son", to Essex Institute, and provided that all other family portraits be destroyed.  The document, drawn Feb. 4, 1930, left the residue to Essex Institute and Salem Hospital.
         Five cousins, Elizabeth S. Osgood, Henry Osgood and Charles S. Osgood of Salem, Robert W. Osgood of Swampscott, and Edward H. Osgood of Wenham were named as next of kin.  William D. Chapple of Salem was named Executor."

Eleanor Hassam was born 20 March 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts and died 9 November 1940 in Salem, Massachusetts, daughter of John Tyler Hassam and Nelly Alden Batchelder.  She was unmarried and had no children nor any siblings.   In the 1940 US Census of Salem, Massachusetts she was living in the Hotel Hawthorne in Washington Square.  Eleanor Hassam was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery with her parents.

Her father, John Tyler Hassam (1841 - 1903), was a Boston lawyer and also was the author of genealogies of the CHEEVER, HASSAM and HILTON families.  He was born in Manchester, Massachusetts, and was closely related to my mother on her LEACH, CHOATE and ALLEN lineages.  The accomplished painter, Childe Hassam (1859 - 1935) (born Frederick Childe Hassam, son of Frederick Fitch Hassam and Rose Delia Hathorne) is part of this same family.  

John Tyler Hassam published the Suffolk Deeds, and indexed the records at the Suffolk County registry of deeds.   His genealogical papers are held by the Massachusetts Historical Society under call number Ms N-1373.   He also wrote the useful book The Confiscated Estates of Boston Loyalists in 1895, and many other books.  The 1904 NEHGS Register has a four page obituary of John Tyler Hassam and his genealogical contributions.

I found this obituary for Eleanor Hassam when I was researching a cousin, Charles Stuart Osgood (1872 - 1956) and his family.  He was a first cousin to Andrew Nichols (1862 - 1861) who married my great aunt Mary Ann Bill (about 1861 - 1910).  Charlie Osgood was always good to my father's family during the great depression. My father remembered him as a rich relative who bought him and his brothers a fine Lionel train set one Christmas, delivered by a chauffeur.

And isn't it sad that Eleanor Hassam wanted the family portraits to be destroyed?  I wonder what else she didn't want passed on to family members or anyone else?   The Hassam Family Papers (1802 - 1929) are kept at the Peabody Essex Museum under the call number MS 452, and are held in 9 boxes.

Click here to see a paisley shawl donated by Eleanor Hassam to The Center for the Study of Clothing, Costume, Fashion and Culture at the Five Colleges Historic Dress Project in Northampton, Massachusetts.  This shawl had been worn by her Hilton great - grandmother circa 1820 - 1825 

Isn't it amazing how much family history can be gleaned from one newspaper article?


To Cite/Link to this post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "The Will Says "All Other Family Portraits to be Destroyed", Nutfield Genealogy, posted August 20, 2015, ( : accessed [access date]). 


  1. This is fascinating. I've never heard of anyone indicating they wanted all family portraits to be destroyed. Do you have any theories as to why she would request such a thing?

    1. It's a mystery, Michelle! There was a Charles Osgood, marine painter in the family. I wonder if he did some of the portraits?