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Friday, April 05, 2013

Making Connections

Here at the Rosenbach we are thrilled when people make a personal connection with our collections. Sometimes the connection is sparked by an aesthetic encounter, sometimes a connection with a historic document, but one of our recent visitors was surprised to find a family connection here at the Rosenbach.

The story comes to us from one of our new 2012 class of docents, who explained that a colleague's daughter, who is in college studying literature, came to visit the Rosenbach a few weeks back. She was on the house tour when the docent giving the tour explained about the Rosenbach's collection of captivity narratives (accounts of white women taken captive by Indians in the 17th through 19th centuries). 

It turns out that the daughter is a descendant of Mary Jemison, a woman who was taken captive in 1758 in a raid on along Marsh Creek in central Pennsylvania. Mary's story is recounted in the 1824 Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison and our visitor was thrilled to actually see the book on our shelves. She remembered her grandmother mentioning that Mary had been the subject of a famous book and she couldn't wait to share her experience at the Rosenbach with the rest of her family

James E. Seaver, A narrative of the life of Mary Jemison. Canandaiuga: James Bemis and Co., 1824. A 824n

Mary Jemison's story is a particularly interesting captivity narrative because she became assimilated to Native American life.  She married twice: first a Delaware man and then a Seneca, and despite many opportunities to rejoin white society she chose to remain with the Seneca until she died in 1833. She had eight children and numerous descendents, one of whom was our visitor! 

So you never know what kind of connection you'll find at the Rosenbach. If you are intrigued by the story of Mary Jemison, you can read the whole text via Project Gutenberg. For more about the genre of captivity narratives, you can check out the 2011 Rosen-Blog post on Mary Rowlandson, whose 1682 narrative began this uniquely American literary genre.


Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

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