In which the Mystery of Reuben Moore somehow gets more mysterious

At this point, I should probably know better than to promise what I’ll talk about next when research is still ongoing. I told you I’d say more about Reuben Moore and Henrietta Durant Jackson Moore (Henrietta Durant v.1762) — and I suppose I will. But where I expected to find some answers, there were (yup!) more questions.

When I figured out who Reuben Moore was and where listed him as buried, M. and I realized we’d encountered this man before. Last summer, shortly after M. started at the museum, he’d been invited out to East Parish Burying Ground to look at a tomb that was being cleaned/restored. It’s one of I think just two that are like that in the burying ground — a tomb with a door instead of a plot with a headstone and footstone. He’d then pointed it out to me when we did a program in the burying ground on Halloween with a local middle school.

In a strange twist, that tomb turns out to be the final resting place of Reuben Moore. But, as it turns out, it isn’t just the tomb of Reuben Moore:

The text on the stone (pictured atop the tomb in the image on the left) reads: “Reuben Moore and Thomas Harbach’s Tomb 1810”

Aaaaaaaaand that’s where the questions start.

  1. Who is Thomas Harbach, and what was his relationship with Reuben?
  2. Why does it say 1810 when we know Reuben died in 1837?
  3. Where is Reuben’s wife Henrietta, since she doesn’t seem to be here?

A run through the censuses reveals a likely candidate for our Thomas Harbach in 1810, 1820, and 1830. The 1831 Map of Newton provides further context:

1831 Map - Kenrick - Harbach - Ward - Moore

[Map of Newton, 1831 — full map available here.]

We see three Harbach properties at what is today approximately the intersection of Ward St. and Waverley Ave. There’s no 1840 Census listing for Thomas Harbach, but there are two Newton Harbachs — Charlotte and John. The former household includes an elderly woman I figure is likely Thomas’s widow. Narrowing Thomas’s death, like Reuben’s, down to the period between 1830 and 1840, led me to his likely death record — one Thomas Harbach died in Newton on 8 April 1840.

I started wondering if I’d read the stone wrong and maybe it said “1840,” so I looked closer at the snapshot from my visit to the burying ground.


Nope. Definitely “1810.”

He was 68 when he died, meaning he was probably born ~1772. Reuben, by contrast, was probably about 20 years older.

So I turned to a secondary source I don’t love (inaccuracies/lore, unclear sourcing) but has proven to be usefully comprehensive, Francis Jackson’s History of Newton. There’s two entries for Thomas Harback, but one is too old. (That’s probably the Thomas Harbach appearing in the 1790 US Federal Census in Newton, though.) The other entry identifies its Thomas as marrying one Charlotte Wilson (probably ~1794/5) and producing 11 children, six of whom died young/youngish (three between the age of 10 and 18, two in their early 20s, and one at age 31).

All this is certainly something, but it doesn’t clarify why these men share a tomb. So far, I have no indication that they were family or business partners — only that they were down-the-street neighbors and that they share a final resting place. Nor does any of this elucidate the 1810 date.

Because this was starting to make me crazy, I returned to the person who probably should have been sharing that tomb with Reuben (and may, for all I know right now), Henrietta.

According to Francis Jackson’s History, Henrietta’s first husband, Thomas Jackson, was her cousin: Ann Jackson Durant, Henrietta’s grandmother, was the sister of Thomas’s father. The History notes that he married Henrietta in 1785 (see what I mean about inaccuracies? We know it was 1784) and that their son John was born 6 January 1785 before Thomas died in 1787 at the age of 25.

Their son John, according to the History, would go on to have two sons (Lysander and John) by two different women before apparently dying in Maine in 1805 just shy of his 21st birthday.

So two more questions:

  1. Where were she and her son John living 1787-1792, until she married Reuben Moore?
  2. Where was she from Reuben’s death in 1837 to her own in 1855?

But it strikes me that we may be at the point where we have to deal with Ned the Privateer, Henrietta’s father.

Short version: In approx. 1777, Edward “Ned” Durant IV goes to sea on a privateer and never comes back, leaving his wife, Mary Park Durant, and a slew of young children, the eldest of whom was 15-year-old Henrietta. Mary Park Durant remained a widow ’til her death in 1810. The reasons Ned apparently went to sea, though, and the tragedy of his not returning seem to have had a deep effect on his family. So we’ll talk about that next, while I see what else can be found out about Reuben.



The Mystery of Reuben Moore, Part II

Instead of buckling down to look at the censuses — because, honestly, that’s hard and annoying and involves writing stuff down to keep it all straight in my head — I was absently trawling Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, looking to see if I could just spot his marriage outright, rather than having to match him through his kids.

That’s when I noticed an entry for Henrietta Jackson, who married a Reuben Moore in Newton on 12 January 1792… which was an awfully familiar-feeling coincidence of names. So I went to check, and sure enough — on 29 July 1784, in Newton, Henrietta Durant had married one Thomas Jackson.


    … this is a married couple.

It all suddenly seems so obvious. I was right he had to have married in, and I almost missed it because he was her second husband. After putting this together, I then noticed that this Henrietta (v.1762)’s grandniece (her brother Thomas’s granddaughter) was named Henrietta Moore Durant. IT’S ALL SO CLEAR NOW. Seriously, how did I not see from the start that this is a married couple?

But that still leaves an important question: How did their portraits end up in the house where Henrietta was born when they were painted after she left it?

It might have something to do with the Kenricks. Our collection includes portraits from approximately the same range of time of John Kenrick, Esq.; John Adams Kenrick, Sr.; and Anna C. Kenrick, though they appear to be by a different painter. (A contemporaneous portrait of Esq’s other son/JAK Sr.’s brother William Kenrick is held by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which he helped found.) Reuben Moore and his wife Henrietta Durant Jackson Moore were, as it happens, the Kenricks’ neighbors. We can see on this map from 1831, six years before Reuben Moore’s death:


[Section of Newton town map, 1831 — Available in full here.]

But I increasingly don’t really believe that’s it. I think it’s at least as likely to be the work of one of our Durant Family Collectors, F. Clark Durant or Arthur Dewing.

From the time the Kenricks sold the property in 1900 until 1912, it was out of the hands of anyone affiliated with the Durant or Kenrick families, as far as I know (that’s a big AFAIK, though). But in 1912, it was acquired by one F. Clark Durant, descended from Edward Durant III’s son Thomas (brother of Ned the Privateer). He seems to have either begun or continued historic preservation efforts with the house (which may have started in the preceding period, but that will require more research).

Then, in 1923, his cousin Arthur, who was descended from Ned the Privateer, sought out the house to purchase as a historic preservation project for himself (he’d done this with several houses).

Historic preservation was approached somewhat differently at that time: Preservationists focused on collecting/preserving myriad historic things without always “sorting” their efforts. Results of Arthur’s approach to historic preservation are evident as soon as you walk into our museum in the form of a hand-blown glass window from England that Arthur rescued from somewhere, brought home to Newton, and cut a hole in the wall of his house to install and thus preserve it. We also have tapestries purchased somewhere in Europe depicting the conquests of Alexander the Great. One hangs in the bulk of the big main stairwell, because it’s very large. Kind of random, but that’s how they did things.

But Arthur sought out the family homestead on Waverley Avenue because of the family connection. He didn’t just want an old house project this time — he wanted a Durant family house.

So to me it would make a lot of sense if Arthur took the opportunity to purchase portraits of his however-many-greats-aunt and her husband and bring them to the home of Henrietta’s grandparents, the house where she was born. Two framed documents of Arthur’s and a portrait of his wife’s uncle were stored in the same closet.

That said, a week ago, our manager M. discovered that photos of the house from the pre-1912 period show furniture that belonged to the Durant/Dewings — before Arthur ever got his hands on the place. This introduces the third possibility: that F. Clark Durant and Arthur Dewing weren’t the only Durant Collectors. I’m going to have to work more on sorting out who the people were that owned the house in between to be anything like sure what’s going on here.

But if I can unexpectedly place Reuben Moore in the family, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I can, eventually, place the intermediate owners in the family, too.

In the next installment, I’ll investigate Reuben and Henrietta v.1762 themselves a little bit more, including taking a jaunt out to his tomb — which, in an odd coincidence, M. and I had actually encountered before.