Hutchinson Family Singers
Abolitionists, reformers, entertainers.
Ten of the brothers, cir. 1845.
(left to right): Asa, Andrew, Jesse, Joshua, David, Caleb, Noah, Judson, Zephaniah, John
They used their songs:
as vehicles for their progressive ideas on issues ranging from temperance to women’s suffrage, alternative medicine, prison reform and, above all, abolitionism.
Judson Joseph (b. 1817; d. 1859); sang tenor
John Wallace (b. 1821; d. 1908); a baritone & falsetto singer
Asa Burnham (b. 1823; d. 1884); sang bass
Abigail Jemima (b. 1829; d. 1892); was a contralto singer
You can see a sketch of them on a poster below.
Another brother, Jesse jr. (b. 1813; d. 1853) - who had been an original performer but quit to write material for the group instead, began to invent original lyrics based on those themes they were so passionate to spread the word about, and put them to the music of known hymms and folk songs. This was after they'd met such inspiring people such as Frederick Douglass. They apparently travelled with him to England to spread the word about anti-slavery.
There were certainly those in the US who did not like their musical brand of social reform and were warned to cease spreading the word, but overall they received warm reviews and approval of the messages they were promoting.
In New York, Walt Whitman wrote often and favorably of them as heralds of a “new and true” American music that was “simple, fresh, and beautiful.”
Concert ticket for a perfomance in 1843.
They also went through a bit of a name change, being known as the Tribe of Jesse. Abby had left, presumably to get married (in 1849; but she did begin to write songs after that), and the brothers sometimes squabbled as siblings do, so they also went through a troupe shuffle and by the time the civil war began they'd split into two groups - the Tribe of John and the Tribe of Asa but still under the umbrella of the Hutchinson Family.
Sadly, in 1859 Judson committed suicide. He'd struggled with depression for many years.
“Even our most warm and enthusiastic friends among the abolitionists took alarm,” remembered Abby Hutchinson, and “begged that we might omit the song, as they did not wish to see us get killed.”
Sheet music, for a song written by John.
This is on display at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society.
"Civil War free pass and letter from Lydia Maria Child to John Hutchinson, Lynn Museum & Historical Society. The Hutchinson family would sing for the troops, by special permission of the Secretary of War, to cheer and inspire them. The great human rights activist and author Child applauds this in her letter to John of January 19th, 1862."
Also on display in that same museum is another great historical document (along with so many more - if you're lucky enough to be able to visit the museum, why not take a look).
[a] Letter from Susan B. Anthony to John Hutchinson, December 9th 1892, sending condolences for the death of his sister Abby, an especially talented member of the group and also, as Anthony says here, dedicated to the women’s rights cause.
"Written by Jesse in 1843, the group closed each of their concerts with “The Old Granite State,” a song about their origins in New Hampshire and their roving lifestyle. Right: Program from a Fourth of July concert in Lowell, Mass. Tickets were 25 cents each."
I am inordinately proud of what this family believed in, and what they achieved & inspired with their music and their passion.
Maybe one day someone will create a film about this extraordinary family.
Father: Jesse HUTCHINSON
b. 3 Feb 1778, Middleton, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
d. 16 Feb 1851, Milford, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, USA
Mother: Mary LEAVITT
b. 26 Jun 1785, Amherst, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, USA
d. 20 Sep 1868, Milford, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, USA
Other children (for a total of 16), all born in Milford:
Jesse (b. 1802; d. 1811)
David (b. 1803; d. 1881)
Noah Bartlett (b. 1805; d. 1873)
Mary (b. 1806; d. 1809)
Andrew B. (b. 1808; d. 1860)
Zephaniah Kittredge (b. 1810; d. 1853)
Joshua (b. 1811; d. 1883)
Caleb (b. 1811; d. 1854)
Benjamin Pierce (b. 1815; d. 1844)
Sarah Rhoda Jane (b. 1819; d. 1881)
Elizabeth (b. 1824; d. 1828)
This Hutchinson line can be traced directly back to Barnard Hutchinson, esq. (b. 1298, Cowlam, Yorkshire, England; d. 1382, Cowlam); and Bernard's wife Beatrice de Boyvill's family can be traced back even further.
Another famous descendant from Barnard & Beatrice is William Hutchinson (b. 1586, Alford, Lincolnshire, England; d. 1642, Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, USA) - or more precisely, his wife Anne (nee Marbury; b. 20 Jul 1591, Alford; d. 20 Aug 1643, Pelham Bay, Bronx, New York, USA) is the (in)famous one because of her life and then violent death.
The Hutchinson family homestead in Milford (NH), which stands today as an historic landmark. It had been purchased by father Jesse in 1824, from Colonel Joshua Burnham.
Three of the Hutchinson brothers - John, Asa, and Judson - are credited with founding the town of Hutchinson (McLeod, Minnesota, USA) in 1855.
It forbade liquor, bowling alleys, and gambling of all types, and granted that women “shall enjoy equal rights with men and shall have the privilege of voting in all matters not restricted by law.”
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