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.


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