An English major and history minor at Lawrence University back in my college days, I today relish both genealogy and family history as well as writing about discoveries. The Fourth of July this year provided an intriguing new insight on my paternal Bradley family.
July 4th seemed to be an appropriate time to again Google my patriot ancestor Aaron Bradley of Litchfield, Connecticut, who enlisted twice as a teenager during the Revolutionary War. The Web continually gains new content so doing a web search on ancestors’ names and locations can provide new details for your family history. Remarkably, the discoveries I made were about his daughters and their educations.
Aaron Bradley was born 27 August 1762, the son of Leaming Bradley and Anna Parsons. His second great-grandfather was Stephen Bradley who arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, from Yorkshire, England, in the mid-1640s with his mother Elizabeth Bradley and siblings Ellen, Joshua, Daniel and Nathan Bradley. Stephen settled in Guilford and married Hannah Smith; they had seven children and this Bradley family lived in Guilford for several generations. Aaron, however, was born in Middletown on the Connecticut River, where his father had moved by the 1750s. At that time, Middletown was Connecticut’s largest and most prosperous town and a port city comparable to Boston and New York.
Apparently seeking new opportunities, Leaming and Anna moved in the late 1760s to Litchfield, the county seat of Litchfield County and the leading community of northwestern Connecticut. This was a prosperous period for Litchfield, followed abruptly by the Revolutionary War. Here during 1777-1778, Aaron enlisted twice for military service, first serving in the Artificers Shop where weapons were made and repaired. During his second enlistment, he was a guard for the munitions stored in Litchfield as well as for prisoners held there.
After the war, Aaron Bradley opened a blacksmith shop and other businesses, and married Lorrain Abernethy, daughter of Dr. William Abernethy of nearby Harwinton. They had two sons, Horace and Leaming, and two daughters, Mary Ann Bradley and Maria Tallmadge Bradley. Aaron was a local selectman for 9 years, 1803-1812, according to “Sketches & chronicles of the town of Litchfield, CT, historical, biographical & statistical,” published in 1859. He represented Litchfield in the Connecticut Assemby in the October 1806, May 1808 and May 1810 sessions.
What turned up in the new Google search? Aaron and Lorrain Bradley sent their daughters to Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy, one of the first and most important educational institutions for women in the early United States. The Litchfield Historical Society provided these profiles about the two Bradley students:
>> Mary Ann Bradley, the oldest daughter, is believed to have attended the academy in 1806. She married Henry Wadsworth and they sent two of their children, Mary Ann Wadsworth and Charles Wadsworth, to the academy in the 1825-1828 period.
>> Maria Talmadge Bradley attended the academy in 1819. She later married William Coe.
The Litchfield Female Academy was not simply a finishing school for girls. It combined an academic curriculum including English, history, geography, writing and arithmetic with the ornamental arts such as embroidery. Among the students were Catharine Beecher, who later founded other educational institutions for women, and her sister Harriet Beecher, after marriage known as Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
My family believed in the importance of education, my parents and sister attended the University of Wisconsin, and I was most fortunate to have an excellent liberal arts education at Lawrence. This discovery that my Bradley ancestors provided their daughters with the best possible education of their era pleases me greatly. A grateful thank you to the Litchfield Historical Society for creating the online Litchfield Ledger with its wealth of information on the students of both the Litchfield Female Academy and the Litchfield Law School. It allowed me to make a remarkable discovery on the Fourth of July.
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