The following is the first of a series of excerpts from books about Lowell that I will share in this new year. These brief passages about people, places, and happenings remind us of our community’s rich history and may help us notice the soon-to-be historic elements of our experience right now.—PM
“This writer was the poet, par excellence, of the early volumes of The Offering; as Lucy Larcom said, ‘She was regarded as one of the best writers of verse while I was in Lowell.
“‘The Tomb of Washington,’ first printed in No. 1 of the first series of The Offering, was thought to be a wonderful production, and was widely copied. She also wrote for that publication ‘Old Ironsides,’ a poem widely read and quoted. She left Lowell before 1848, and went as a missionary to the Choctaw Indians, travelling on horseback a greater part of the way, across the unsettled region. …
“In ‘border-ruffian’ days Miss Hall lived in Kansas, and was an owner of considerable real estate.. She lived on the line of emigration, was hostess of a sort of ‘Wayside Inn,’ and was sometimes obliged to keep the peace among the lawless men who infested that part of the country. She would have no quarrelling, drinking, or gambling on her premises. She was well able to enforce these regulations, being a woman of great courage and most commanding presence.
“From a newspaper article some years ago, of which I did not preserve the date, I quote the following:
‘A LOWELL FACTORY-GIRL UNITED STATES TREASURER.
‘Miss Lydia S. Hall, who is now acting U.S. Treasurer in the absence of a male chief, was once a Lowell factory-girl, and was a contributor to The Lowell Offering … Meeting with some misfortune with regard to titles of property, she went to Washington, and has a clerkship in the Treasury Department since, being also engaged in studying law in order to enable her to secure her property rights in Kansas … She is a lady of great versatility of talent, and would fill a higher position than the one she now occupies with credit.’ …
“Miss Hall’s letters to Lucy Larcom would have thrown much light on her stirring and eventful life, but these were destroyed before I had thought to ask for them. Her married name was Graffam ….”
—from Loom & Spindle or Life Among the Early Mill Girls by Harriet H. Robinson (Thomas Y. Crowell and Co., New York and Boston, 1898), reprinted from an edition of the book published by Press Pacifica of Kailua, Hawaii (1976)