Meet Mrs. Lizzie Farrar, Who Walked Away from a Life of Luxury

If you are a follower of my blog, you know that, from time to time, I share mystery photos in my family collection. Some are completely unidentified, while others have names inscribed on the back, but I still can’t find out who those people were.

Well, meet Mrs. Lizzie Farrar:


Mrs. Lizzie Farrar, inscribed on back

Mrs. Farrar looks fairly well-to-do, based on her clothing, which is quite stylish and very in vogue during the Civil War era.

Also on the back is a photographer’s imprint: Photographed by Higgins & Co., 109 Washington St., Boston.

A bit of digging through city directories showed that O.T. Higgins had his business at 114 Hanover Street in 1856, but had moved to 109 Washington Street by 1864.

I thought I had previously written about Lizzie Farrar, but can’t find any trace of her in my blog. I think perhaps I started to research, but found so little, I gave it up for the time being.

First, the provenance for this photo, of which I own an original print. This is one of many photos I inherited from my cousin, Charles Chadwick, who in turn, inherited them from his mother, Vera Pearl Adams Chadwick, born in 1887 and died in 1973.

Aunt Pearl, as she was called, was the daughter of Calvin Adams and Nellie Tarbox. The Adamses were boat builders and mariners. The Tarboxes owned a granite quarry and dabbled in ship building, at least in commissioning them. Both families had a fairly wide network of relatives in Maine and Massachusetts and were known to have traveled to Massachusetts and lived there.

Mrs. Lizzie Farrar had to have been an acquaintance that one of the family members met in the 1860s on a visit to the Boston area.

I was quite stymied, though, in locating any Elizabeth, Eliza or Lizzie Farrar who was in her 20s in the Civil War time period. Until a couple of days ago, that is!

I was browsing through FamilySearch and look what popped up:


Family of Stephen Farwell, Household #155
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1870 Census

Here we have Stephen T. Farwell, 75 years old and born in Massachusetts and quite well to do with real estate valued at $15,000 and personal property at $30,000. With him is (wife) Elizabeth, 65, also born in Massachusetts. Also in the home are Lizzie Farrar, 30, born Massachusetts with no occupation, Florence Farrar, 7, born Mississippi, and Ellen Mulligan, 19, a domestic servant born in Massachusetts.

A quick check of Massachusetts vital records confirmed my hypothesis. Lizzie was Charlotte Elizabeth Farwell, born to Stephen and Elizabeth Farwell on 18 March 1843 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lizzie was actually only 27 in 1870. Perhaps her daughter told the census taker how old she thought her mother was!

More sleuthing produced a death notice in the April 1873 issue of the New England Historic Genealogical Register for Stephen Farwell:

I have no idea exactly how my family came to own a photo of Lizzie Farwell Farrar, but right now, I am leaning towards Nellie Tarbox Adams’s parents, George Rogers Tarbox and Mary Elizabeth Scripture, taking a trip to Boston.

Stephen Farwell was a deacon in the Congregational Church, of which the Tarboxes were members. In addition, the Farwell family hailed from Groton, Massachusetts, where the Scripture family also lived for quite some time.

They maybe had met at a Sunday church service or at some social function. Mary Scripture Tarbox died back home in Calais, Maine (cause unknown to me) in March 1866, not long after Lizzie had her picture taken.

However, the question of how they all met is but one of many that were created as I researched George and Lizzie Farrar.

We need to set the scene, first, though. I can only imagine 15 or 16 year old Lizzie, born and raised in Cambridge in a well-to-do home meeting a dapper young 21 year old Southern law student at Harvard from an exotic – at least to Lizzie – place like Mississippi.

I don’t know about you, but when I think antebellum South, I think of Scarlett and Rhett in Gone with the Wind. That is exactly the lifestyle in which Lizzie was about to find herself.

Young Lizzie might well have been swept off her feet, receiving and accepting a proposal of marriage from George Farrar and on 21 December 1859, they married in Cambridge:


Source: American Ancestors

However, note that I first found Lizzie in her parents’ home living with her daughter Florence Farrar, a 7 year old born in Mississippi.

What happened in the interim between 21 December 1859 and the 1870 Cambridge, Massachusetts? The Civil War, of course.

Based on these few facts, I am assuming that George Farrar completed his law studies at Harvard in the spring of 1860, when he and his new bride began the long trip back to Adams County, Mississippi.

George likely told Lizzie and her parents that his father was a well-to-do plantation owner, but exactly how much he told them is one of many questions that can’t be answered because all of the principals involved are long gone.

It turns out that George’s father was what author William Kauffman Scarborough in his 2003 book (Masters of the Big House: Elite Slaveholders of the Mid-Nineteenth Century South) called an “elite slaveholder.”

Alexander King Farrar, George’s father, owned a lot of real estate, consisting of cotton plantations, in Adams and Wilkinson Counties, Mississippi AND in Catahoula, Louisiana, with labor provided by 322 enslaved people!

Exactly how wealthy was Alexander Farrar? In 1870, when the war was over and many Southerners in financial ruin, Farrar reported his financial worth at $100,000! Today, that would be worth almost $2,000,000 and that was after his 300+ enslaved people had received their freedom.

Because the Farrar wealth was gained on the backs of laborers who had no choice in the matter, I don’t want to paint a glowing picture of this way of life. However, looking at it through Lizzie’s 16 year old eyes, it had to appear as a sumptuous, extremely over-the-top lifestyle.

I would love to interview her and ask her thoughts about her new life. How did she feel getting on the boat (most likely method of travel) in Boston only to sail to New Orleans, thousands of miles from her family and the only life she had known? How did she adjust to the huge change in climate? Even more importantly, what were her opinions on the slavery issue?

I would also love to know what George’s family thought about him returning from Harvard with a 16 year old Yankee (Yankee, being the key word) bride in tow?

What happened to George and Lizzie during those Civil War years? Three facts can be documented. First, George served in the Confederate Army, earning the eventual rank of quartermaster. Second, Lizzie gave birth to their only known child, a daughter, Florence Yulee, born in 1863. Third, by the 1865 Massachusetts state census, Lizzie and Florence Farrar were enumerated Stephen Farwell’s home in Cambridge.


Source: FamilySearch

Even more questions arise from their separation (and online comments about a divorce, which I haven’t documented).

Were Lizzie and Florence sent back to Massachusetts to be out of harm’s way? Did Lizzie announce she was going home for a visit and to introduce the baby to its grandparents? Or did she just take off with the baby? Did George approve of her leaving and taking his child?

I’ve found no answers to any of these questions and probably won’t find any.

What happened to George and Lizzie in later years?

In 1870, George was at home in his father’s household, with no wife to be found. By 1880, he had married Susan Ballance (born 1861 in Adams County, Mississippi and died 9 June 1951 in Cherokee County, Texas) and there were three stepchildren in the home.

No death record has been found for George, nor even a cemetery record, which seems odd given the family resources. However, in 1900, Susan called herself a widow living in Police Jury Ward 8 in Iberia, Louisiana.

Lizzie Farwell Farrar never remarried. Her daughter, Florence, married Charles Chollet in Providence, Rhode Island on 29 November 1887. Florence reportedly died in 1893, but the Chollets and Lizzie moved to Colville, Stevens, Washington, where Lizzie died on 8 December 1925.

There are descendants today and I have gifted my photo of Lizzie to a great great grandchild. 🙂

I never expected the twists and turns that happened in the life story of Lizzie Farwell Farrar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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