William Cullen Bryant
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski, B.F.A.

BRYANT'S FAMILY:

William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) died at age 84 and was the longest lived of his siblings. He was a poet and editor. Bryant was born in Cummington, Massachusetts; on November 3, 1794. His line came from Puritan stock. His father was Dr. Peter Bryant (a physican) and his mother was Sarah Snell.

William's Siblings:

The Children of William Cullen Bryant were:

In the 1920's Minna Godwin Goddard purchased her grandfather's home in Cummington. She lived there from 1917-1927. Minna's son, Conrad Goddard, built a "Caretaker's Cottage" in 1931. In 1975, the Bryant's Cedarmere estate was bequethed to Nassau County, New York by a great-granddaughter of William Cullen Bryant.

POETRY AND POLITICS:

William's father, who also wrote poetry, was thought to have submitted William's poetry, without his knowledge, in the early days. In 1808, he wrote "The Embargo" castigating President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), which he later regretted. William C. Bryant said of Andrew Jackson (1767-1845):

"Faults he had undoubtedly; such faults as often belong to an ardent, generous, sincere nature -- the weeds that grow in rich soil. Notwithstanding, he was precisely the man for the period, in which he lived and nobly discharged the duties demanded of him."

In 1811, he drafted his poem "Thanatopsis" and, in 1815, he was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Great Barrington, Massachusetts (unhappily) for ten years.

William Cullen Bryant studied at Williams College from 1810-1811. He then studied at Worthington and Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Bryant turned to law when his father's financial condition prevented him from continuing his studies at Williams College. From 1818-1825 Bryant wrote very little. William was a lawyer in Northampton, Plainfield, and Great Barrington, until he married Frances Fairchild, in 1825, and moved to New York City. He was always an avid reader and was fond of romantic poets.

In 1821 Bryant published a book of verse; in 1825, he worked for the New York Review and Athenaeum Magazine. In 1827, he worked for the New York Evening Post. In 1829, he became editor and part owner of New York Evening Post, a leading Democratic journal. In 1832, another volume of collected poems was published.

William's family all moved to Illinois in the 1830's with the Hamshire colony from Cummington, MA., while he remained in New York. His family settled in Princeton, Bureau County, Illinois. Their mother died (as was reported in records) in 1847. William's brothers Cyrus, Arthur, and John all made their permanent homes in Princeton and bought land there. While brother Cyrus's son Peter Bryant (1837-1912) was one of the original settlers in Kansas.

Julian Bryant, son of William's brother Arthur, was in the 33rd Illinois Voluntary Infantry. Julian re-enlisted and became colonel of a "colored regiment." Julian died in the Gulf of Mexico.

BRYANT'S HOMES:

William Cullen Bryant

Meanwhile William Cullen Bryant bought his grandfather's [Ebenezer Snell's] 465 acre homestead off of Rte. 112 in Cummington, MA. The house was a one-and-one-half story Dutch Colonial that was originally built in 1789. William remodelled the entire house and added wings and a new foundation on the old part. This home then grew to 26 rooms. Ebenezer Snell left Bridgewater in 1172, with his wife, five children, and two slaves to Cummington. "Squire" Snell served in the Revolutionary War, the General Court, and was a judge of the Court of Sessions. William's poem "The Old Man's Council" is about Ebenezer Snell.

The Bryant Homestead in Cummington

Bryant's other home, Cedarmere, was located on 225 Bryant Avenue, Roslyn, New York, 11576. It now belongs to Nassau County, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

CENTRAL PARK:

In the 1840s William Cullen Bryant led a movement to establish a public park such as the ones he saw in Europe. He held a contest for park design and received sixty (60) entries. He choose the design called "Greensward." This design was submitted by Calvert Vaux, an English architect, and Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903). Olmstead directed its construction. The plan called for curved drives, lakes, trees, and plantings typical of the English Romantic style.

It was thought that his travels to Europe might have influenced his idea for the park. His book Letters of a Traveller was printed in 1850. This was a series of letters William had written describing his tours of Europe, Mexico, Cuba, and South America.

It took until 1857 until a 843-acre site was found on Manhattan Island, New York. However, the property needed a lot of tender-loving care. They would be turning a "sow's ear into a silk purse." The land was filled with pig parts from a local slaughterhouse. There were fetid bogs, old shacks, and lots of rocks. They would hire unemployed men to clean this up. There was five million cubic feet of earth and rock to be moved. The first step after that was to make 58 miles of roads and paths. Then they planted some 500,000 trees.

The whole job took approximately sixteen (16) years to complete, and cost $14 million. The park survived many political squabbles and the Civil War. Today Central Park has playing fields, a zoo, statues, a band shell, playgrounds for kids (about 21) and a skating rink. Central Park is now a hub of activity on most nice days, an oasis among the skyscapers and crowded streets. The only thing to discolor its image was the occasional crimes and underfunding.

THE ABOLITIONIST:

Bryant had criticized Thomas Jefferson (1809-1865) for owning slaves, but he was sorry when he learned that Jefferson freed some of his slaves in his will in 1826. Jefferson did not free them while he was alive because he did not want to seem to be criticizing his slave-owning neighbors.

William Cullen Bryant was a supporter of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Though originally a Democrat, Bryant later became one of the founders of the Republican Party. He also became a leading abolitionist, even to the extent of finding John Brown a martyr to the cause. In 1860, Bryant founded New York Medical College.

Bryant liked what Abraham Lincoln had to say in his debate with Stephen A. Douglas:

"... 'a house divided against itself cannot stand' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided."

Douglas was in favor of letting each state decide for itself, if they wanted slaves. Abraham Lincoln was president from 1861-1865. On April 14, 1865, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater. Lincoln died April 15, 1865 in Washington D.C. His body was laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois, after a 1700 mile journey by train.

LATER LIFE:

William Cullen Bryant translated Homer and a number of Spanish poets. In 1866, after the death of his wife, William C. Bryant resumed translating the Iliad (in 1870) and the Odyssey (in 1871). In April 1878, he struck his head in a fall, and lapsed into a coma. Bryant died on June 12, 1878; in New York City. William is buried in Roslyn Cemetary, Roslyn, Nassau County, New York. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1910.

ORIGINS OF THE BRYANT FAMILY:

It was thought that the Bryant family originally came from Kent County, England. William's last English ancestor was the widow Anne Bryant. Anne married a neighbor called John Doane (a widower). John came from Ham, East Parish. They came to Massachusetts on The Handmaid, with her sons Thomas, Stephen, and John Bryant. They landed in Plymouth Colony on October 29, 1630. Anne Bryant's son, Thomas, was bound to Samuel Eddy, while her son Stephen was bound to John Shaw. As bonded servants they were to work for their passage to the New World. John, Anne's youngest son remained with her and his step-father. Thomas' home was later bought by Experience Mitchell for 12 pounds.

The BRYANT FAMILY AND THE PACKARD FAMILY:

GENERATION ONE:

.....William Cullen Bryant(1794-1878) married Frances Fairchild in 1821. Both are buried on their Long Island estate, Cedarmore.

.....Thomas Snell, Jr. (1809-1893) married Lucretia C. Porter (1810-1857). Their son was Rev. Moses Snell (1839-1909) who married Mary C. Hallick of New Haven Connecticutt.

.....Elijah Packard II married Adeline Bond (MY LINE)

The Packard Table of Contents

William Cullen Brant and my great-grandfather Elijah Packard II were "First Cousins," once removed.

GENERATION TWO:

.....Peter Bryant, son of Philip Bryant, died on April 6, 1766. Peter married Sarah Snell, in 1792, sister of Rev. Thomas Snell of North Brookfield, Massachusetts; and daughter of Ebnenezer Snell and Sarah Packard. Peter and Sarah settled in Cummington, Massachusetts.

.....Elijah Packard married Abigail Packard(MY LINE)

.....Dr. Thomas Snell (1774-1862), clergyman, married Tirzah Strong (1780-1855), daughter of Judah Strong and Martha Alvord of Bolton, Connecticutt. Thomas and Tirzah Snell's children were:

  • Ebenezer S. Snell married Sabra C. Clark
  • Samuel Snell died in infancy
  • Martha A. Snell married Moses Porter
  • Thomas Snell
  • Edward Snell died in infancy
  • Sarah P. Snell was unmarried
  • Tirzah S. Snell married Elijah C. Emerson
  • William W. Snell married (1) Jane E. Fay (2) Martha W. Fay.
  • Abigail F. Snell died unmarried
  • Phebe M. Snell married Lewis Thorpe.

GENERATION THREE:

.....Ebenezer Snell (1738-1813) was born on October 1, 1738 in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Ebenezer was the son of Zachariah Snell and Abigail Hayward. Ebenezer fought in the Revolutionary War in 1777, and was a member of Massachusetts General Court. Ebenezer Snell married Sarah Packard on April 5, 1764. Sarah was descended from Francis Cooke through the Mitchells. Ebenezer and Sarah [Packard] are buried in the Bryant Cemetary in Cummington. Ebenezer died August 2, 1813, in Cummington, MA. Their children were:

  • Abigail Snell married Elisha Fish
  • Martha Snell
  • Samuel Snell died in infancy
  • Sarah Snell married Peter Bryant
  • Ebenezer Snell marrried (1) Deborah G. Porter (2) Lydia Richards.
  • Dr. Thomas Snell was born November 11, 1774 in Cummington, MA., and died May 4, 1862, in North Brookfield, MA. He married Tirzah Strong (see above).

.....Thomas Packard(B: 1732) married Mary Howard (MY LINE)

.....Philip Bryant married Silence Howard, daughter of Abiel Howard.

GENERATION FOUR:

.....Abiel Packard (1699-1723) married Sarah Ames on January 11, 1722 (BOTH OUR LINES)(descendants of Francis Cooke)

.....Zachariah Snell was born on July 10, 1704, in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Zachariah died May 6, 1768 in North Bridgewater (now called Stockton). He married Abigail Hayward (1702-1796), daughter of Joseph Hayward and Hannah Mitchell, on March 10, 1704, in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, MA. Their children were:

  • Issacher Snell married Sarah Hayward
  • Abigail Snell married Robert Howard, Jr.
  • Zebedie Snell married Martha Howard and Mary Howard.
  • Ebenezer Snell was born on October 1, 1738 in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, MA., and died August 2, 1813.
  • Zachariah died in infancy.
  • Hannah Snell died in infancy

.....Ichabod Bryant married Ruth Staples

GENERATION FIVE:

.....Zaccheus Packard married Sarah Howard [daughter of John Howard, the son of John Howard (1653-1725) and Suzanna Lathom (1656-1703)] and Martha Hayward [daughter of Thomas Hayward and Suzanna Towne](BOTH OUR LINES). This line goes to James Chilton of the Mayflower.

.....Josiah Snell (1674-1753) was born May 5, 1674, in Bridgewater, MA., and died April 14, 1753. He married Anna Alden [daughter of Jonathan Alden and granddaughter of John Alden (b.1599)] on December 21, 1699. Anna died June 8, 1705. Their children were:

  • Josiah Snell b. 1701 married Abigail Forbes.
  • Abigail Snell b. 1702 married Isreal Sylvester
  • Zachariah Snell born March 10, 1704, in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, MA. married Abigail Hayward.
  • Anna Alden Snell (their mother) died in 1705. Anna Alden was the daughter of Jonathan Alden and Abigail Hallett of Duxbury.

.....Stephen Bryant II married Mehitable?

GENERATION SIX:

.....Samuel Packard, constable and tavern keeper, married Elizabeth ? (BOTH OUR LINES)

.....Thomas Snell (1625-1724) married Martha Harris circa 1668, in Bridgewater, Plymouth County, MA. Thomas was thought to be from Whitacre, Warwickshire, England, and came to Salem, Massachusetts, with his uncle Deacon Samuel Edson. Thomas died January 25, 1724, at age 99, in Bridgewater. Martha was the daughter of Arthur Harris of Duxbury. Their Children:

  • Martha Snell died in infancy
  • Thomas Snell married Abigail Kingsley and Faith Fish.
  • Josiah Snell
  • Samuel Snell maried Mary Alma
  • Amos Snell married Mary Packard.
  • John Snell married Suzanna Packard.
  • Joseph Snell married Hannah Williams
  • Ann Snell married Nicholas Byram
  • Mary Snell married Nathaniel Reynolds and David Ames.
  • Martha Snell married Ephraim Forbes.

.....Stephen Bryant, Jr. was born on February 2, 1657 and he married Mehitable ?

GENERATION SEVEN:

.....George Packard (?-1623), married Mary Wyther (BOTH OUR LINES)

.....Stephen Bryant came to Plymouth Colony on The Handmaid on October 29, 1630. He married Abigail Shaw, daughter of John Shaw of Plymouth, Plymouth County, MA. Stephen was bonded to John Shaw. Stephen's mother was Ann Bryant (widow). She married (2) to John Doane (a widower) in England, before traveling to Plymouth Colony. Stephen's brother, Thomas Bryant, was bonded to Samuel Eddy, while John, his youngest brother, stayed with his mom and his stepfather. John Bryant was in Scittuate in 1643. John married Mary Lewis on November 14, 1643. Mary was the daughter of George Lewis and Sarch Jenkins. Stephen Bryant's children were:

  • Abigail Bryant b. 1646/1647
  • John Bryant was born on April 7, 1650.
  • Mary Bryant was born on May 29, 1654
  • *Stephen Bryant was born on February 2, 1657
  • Sarah Bryant was born November 28, 1659
  • Lydia Bryant was born October 23, 1662
  • Elizabeth Bryant was born on October 17, 1665
  • Mehitable Bryant was born in 1669/1670.

Burial Hill Cemetary:
[formerly called Fort Hill]

The first Mayflower passenger was buried here in 1622, Those who died before this date, were buried on a hill across from Plymouth Rock.

Bryant and I both are related to Diana, Princess of Wales, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Julia Childs, and Mayflower passengers: Aldens, Cooke, Chilton and the Salem, Massachusetts' Witches.

SOURCES:

Banks. Emigrants to New England.

Bryant, Habbard W.(a descendant of Dr. Peter Bryant from Portland, ME. His manuscript was presented to the Historic Genealogy Society.

"Descendants of Thomas and Martha Snell," FTM, CD171 Genealogies of Mayflower Families 1500-1800's

Mitchell. History of Bridgewater

Plymouth County Court Records.

Roberts, Gary Boyd. Notable Kin. Volume I. Santa Clarita, CA.: Carl Boyer, 3rd, 1998, 20, 181.

Van Doren, editor,Charles. Webster's American Biographies. Springfield, MA.: G & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, 1975.

Rogak, Lisa. Stones and Bones of New England. Guilford, CT.: The Globe Pequot Press, 2004.

"Stephen Bryant and His Descendants," FTM, CD 171 Genealogies of Mayflower Families 1500-1800's.

Whitney, David C. The American President. Garden City, N.Y.: Nelson Doubleday, 1975.

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