The Widow Judith

When I wrote in the previous post about Edward Durant II’s “will,” I misspoke — Edward Durant II died intestate, but the distribution of real estate was apparently agreed-upon by his administrators (his widow Judith Waldo Durant and his son Edward Durant III). But the settlement of his estate also required the establishment of guardianship for his three minor children — 12-year-old Elizabeth, 10-year-old Thomas, and 8-year-old Cornelius Durant. That guardianship was awarded to their mother, Judith Waldo Durant, with Cornelius Waldo (her brother) listed as “surety.”

In other words, Judith was granted guardianship of her children with the financial backing of her brother. That her brother Cornelius Waldo, writing his will a decade (or less) later, didn’t think it necessary to provide for his sister (or her children) suggests that Judith’s situation was sufficiently comfortable that, relieved of a need to care for her children (Cornelius Durant v.1732 would turn 18 in 1750 and had entered the Waldo family business), she did not require her brother’s financial backing. [Interestingly, the 1741 order naming Judith guardian of the three youngest children is issued out of Cambridge — not Newton or Boston. It’s not clear to me yet what that would mean.]

It was unusual for a widow with small children not to remarry, but it wasn’t unheard of. As a widow, Judith Waldo Durant was out from under coverture, the principle by which she, as a married woman, had her identity (including property ownership) “covered” by her husband. And she had a presumably significant payout from her husband’s estate (and a brick house of her own in the city) to sustain her, though I have not pinned down details and exact amounts and may not be able to. So if she felt like she had sufficient support to finish raising her minor children, she would not have needed to remarry unless she wanted to. And with her father and uncles dead and only one living brother, pressure from her immediate family to remarry may have been minimal.

She also came from a family that had its fair share of independent-minded and independently operating women. Her mother was Faith Peck Waldo — Judith’s father Cornelius Waldo died young, when Judith was 4 or 5 years old, but Faith Peck Waldo lived almost another 40 years without remarrying. That Faith made a will on her death shows she had sufficient personal estate and sufficient foresight to do so —┬áshe could not have known her youngest daughter would face a similar situation less than a decade after she passed, but her example would have been a useful blueprint for Judith to follow.

A relevant question, then, is what did the rest of that blueprint look like? Particularly, what did these women do with their days?

More on that in my next post. ­čÖé



Whoops, time off… and Judith Waldo Durant

These things happen.

The saga of Cornelius Durant and Betsey Hawley never found any clear resolution. I need to email V., our guest, the contact info for the Ripley County Historical Society, as I’ve pretty much exhausted my resources. I continue to suspect that Cornelius v.1787 was in fact her Cornelius, but there may just not be any way to tell.

But since that meant I’d had cause to dig into Judith Waldo Durant, what I’ve discovered means┬áI need to finish the job. As if “finish the job” is something one could actually do in this kind of work. ­čÖé

When Judith’s┬áhusband, Edward Durant II, dies in 1740, she has three minor children (12, 10, and 8) and is 49 years old. Judith, Edward, and their three youngest children had been living on the farmstead in Newton, but her husband actually had three┬áhouses in Boston, as well as another farmstead in Worcester, where their eldest son, Edward Durant III, was living with his family. In his father’s will, Edward Durant III, got the Newton property, and the Worcester property went to then-8-year-old Cornelius v.1732, while then-12-year-old Elizabeth and then-10-year-old Thomas and the widow Judith got the houses in the city. So Edward Durant III and his family take up residence in Newton, and Judith moves with her three minor children into the city.

But here’s the thing about Judith: When she dies in 1785, she dies in Medford (just to the north of Boston), and her name is listed as Judith Durant, meaning a) she wasn’t living in the house her husband left her, but also b) she never remarried.

This is unusual — a widow with three young children in the early 18th century not remarrying. The easy explanation is that she was a Waldo. The Waldos, as we have noted, were powerful merchant-traders in this period.

I initially assumed she must have been under the protection of her father, uncles, or brothers. In 1740, though, her father had been dead for over 40 years, and her last living uncle had died in Connecticut in 1737. Her only brother, Cornelius Waldo, was still alive, but his will, probated in 1753, makes mention of his wife and all his children (plus spouses), but not of his sister Judith Waldo Durant or her children.

Still, his sons Cornelius, John, and Thomas Waldo, who came up in the family business and were powerful merchant-traders themselves, would have been the perfect mentors for her sons Thomas and Cornelius Durant (v.1732), both of whom also became merchant-traders. John and Thomas Waldo were, for instance, closer in age to Thomas and Cornelius Durant than their own elder brother Edward Durant III was. But the published genealogy of the Waldo family makes no mention of Judith’s doings or whereabouts after the probate of her husband’s will — she’s just not followed up on.

She wasn’t, apparently, with her sister Rachel Waldo Durant — whose husband John Durant was her brother-in-law twiceover because he was her husband Edward Durant II’s brother — Rachel and John repaired to Dedham, where their daughter Faith eventually joined them after, according to her tombstone, being cruelly driven out of Boston for some reason as yet unknown to me. Rachel died in 1776, though John did not pass until 1790.

Their sister Elizabeth, born in 1686,┬ádied in Boston in 1746, and was married to a cousin John Waldo, but the girls’ widowed mother, Faith Peck Waldo, apparently approved of neither John Durant nor John Waldo, specifically naming them as having no share in her estate, despite their marriages to her daughters. (In the case of John Waldo, this may have something to do with Elizabeth’s being his fourth wife.) Faith, who died in 1732, apparently did not make the same specification about Judith’s husband, Edward Durant II.

But all of that, on some level, comes down to recognizing the notion that Judith Waldo Durant may have lived out her life as a very independently-operating widow, perhaps not unlike her own mother.

More on that in my next post.