Tuesday, September 22, 2009
My Cousin, America's First Postmaster
September 22, 1789
On this day, the first postmaster general of the United States was appointed. His name was Samuel Osgood. I know this may sound strained, but he is my 3rd cousin 6 times removed. We're kin!
Samuel and I descend from the same grandfather, John Osgood. Of course, to Samuel, John was his second great-grandfather. To me, John is my eighth great grandfather.
Here's the line:
John Osgood, the immigrant (1595-1651). His son was also John Osgood (1631-1693).
This is where the family line splits. John Jr. had six children. Samuel descends from his son, Timothy (1659-1748). I descend from Timothy's older brother, John. I would have never figured out the relationship, but my genealogy software, Family Tree Maker, did for me.
In honor of this anniversary, I would like to share some information I've found about my cousin Samuel.
Samuel was born in February 1748 in the town our mutual grandfather helped to found, Andover, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard in 1770, intending to pursue a career in theology. Like so many young men of his day, he was caught up in the tumult of the American Revolution.
In 1774, Samuel represented Andover in congress. Keep in mind--at the time, this was treason to the crown. He participated in the battle at Lexington on April 19, 1775. In that fight, he was a commander of a company of minute men and joined in chasing the British back to Cambridge. He rose through the ranks of the Army for the next year but refused the command of a regiment of men in 1776. He turned to politics. He took a seat in the provincial congress of Massachusetts and was appointed a member of the board of war. He was also on the committee that framed the first state constitution. He was elected the first senator from Essex County in 1780. He was repeatedly re-elected to congress throughout this time of revolution and framing our nation's political system. He was one of the commissioners to manage the Treasury of the United States until 1789 when the Treasury department was organized and put under the stewardship of Alexander Hamilton.
On a personal side, he married Martha Brandon on January 4, 1775. Martha was described as a, "woman of rare accomplishments and great beauty." Sadly, she died in September 1778 before the couple could have any children. Samuel remarried in May 1786, to widow named Maria Brown (Franklin). Together they had six children. Their youngest, Caroline, was born in 1799 and died within a year. Another daughter, Eliza, died the same year as her little sister at the age of about seven.
Samuel was respected for his "talents and usefulness, for his urbanity and moral and religious worth." He loved literature. He was an original member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. He had extensive correspondence with his friends, our Founding Fathers. Among them, George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson. He also enjoyed reading and writing on theological subjects. His principal publications include: "Remarks on Daniel and Revelations," "A Letter of Episcopacy," and a volume on "Theology and Metaphysics."
Samuel Osgood died in New York on August 12, 1813 and was buried in the church where he was a member on the corner of Nassau and Beekman streets in New York City. I wonder if a church still stands there? Here is a street view, courtesy of Google:
There is a movement among Osgoods in this country to have a stamp commemorate Samuel Osgood's contributions to this country. If you would like to participate in this effort, you can read all about it here.
Next time you go to the post office, or lick a stamp, or drop something in the mail, you can thank Samuel Osgood for helping make it happen.
1. Holgate, Jerome Bonaparte. "A History of Some of the Early Settlers of North America and Their Descendants, from Their First Emigration to the Present Time With Their Intermarriages and Collateral Branches. Including Notices of Prominent Families and Distinguished Individuals, with Anecdotes, Reminiscences, Traditions, Sketches of the Founding Of Cities, Villages, Manors, and Progressive Improvements of the Country From Its Wilderness State to the Present Era." 1851
2. Osgood, Ira, Putnam, Eben, Ed. "A Genealogy of the Descendants of John, William, and Christopher Osgood Who Came from England and Settled in New England Early in the Seventeenth Century." 1894