This particular story begins at the end of Anna (Capernaum) Taunt’s life, because it raises many questions for me.
The end came on January 29, 1856 in Braintree, Norfolk County, MA. Anna died of old age as a pauper. Being a widow, this did not raise any flags for me; but the 1855 Massachusetts Census, taken just six months before, did. On July 13, 1855, Anna is listed separate from any family members and boarding with the Albert and Eliza Howard family with about a dozen other boarders. Albert’s occupation was listed as a “keeper of poor house”. The 1860 Census notes that this was an alms house that was supported by the town. (Thank you, meticulous census-taker!)
The question I ask is: why wasn’t Anna with any of her family? Her husband Seth died on April 7, 1837, so he was out of the picture. The 1840 Census showed her living next door to her son Seth and his family, but she was head of her own household and living alone.
I wondered how long Anna lived apart from her children, so I looked at the 1850 Census for each of her children:
Cynthia (Taunt) Savil had been widowed in 1846 and was living with her two surviving children in Braintree, being supported by her son Elisha, who worked as a bootmaker.
Seth Taunt lived next door to his sister with his wife and two youngest children. He also worked as a bootmaker.
Jerusha (Taunt) Goodwin lived in Berwick, York County, Maine with her own family, as she had since her 1824 marriage to Ivory.
William Taunt was living in Braintree with his young wife and month-old baby.
Anna was not in or very near any of these homes. In fact, I could not find her on the 1850 Census. Albert Howard did not yet run the alms house, so I wonder if there may have been another alms house where Anna could have boarded. It is possible that she may not have been living in Braintree, but I strongly doubt it, since she lived there since birth and all but one of her children lived there.
So I am left wondering why Anna did not spend her widowed years living with her children, as so many women of her generation did. Was she especially independent-minded, in spite of her poverty? Did her children not have sufficient means to support her (which is possible)? Or was she difficult to live with? Whatever the answer, there is a story here!