As Edwin Loomis Davenport married into an acting family (the Vinings), so too did his daughter May. William Seymour and May Davenport were married in January of 1882. William’s parents were James and Eliza Seymour, performers of the highest standing, who played at Boston’s Howard Athenaeum in 1852 and 1853. The Athenaeum was later to become known as the “Old Howard” burlesque theater.

An aside here, my maternal grandfather had his plumbing shop next door to the theater, not the best environment for the young Healy boys to be around during their formative years as apprentices.

William’s parents played in a stock company in New Orleans where young William first appeared on stage, at the age of three, in his mother’s arms. He appeared on stage at the age of 5 with John Wilkes Booth, the young tragedian who assassinated President Lincoln in 1865. After William’s father’s death in 1864, Mrs. Seymour and her son took a steamship to New York, where young William became a call boy at Edwin Booth’s (John Wilkes’ brother) new theater. Here, at the age of 14, he enacted the role of the queen in “Hamlet” for 100 nights, in accordance with the custom of Shakespeare’s day of having young boys play female characters. In 1871 he became the call boy at the Globe Theater in Boston. In 1874, before he was 21, he was made stage manager by the tragedian, Lawrence Barrett, with whom he toured as manager and actor. In 1875, William was acting and directing the stage at the Union Square Theater in New York, then the leading stock theater in the United States.

After working in San Francisco, William came East again as stage manager for Lawrence Barrett. It was then he became stage manager at the famous Boston Museum (Theater) at a salary of $50 a week instead of the $100 a week he had been getting. He took the cut in pay because of the enhanced prestige and the varied experience the museum engagement would give him. He often said his nine years at the museum were the happiest years of his life. It was here in 1882 he met and married the juvenile lady of the company, May Davenport.

Although he worked intermittently as stage manager at other theaters and for a few leading actors, he was primarily stage manager for eight years beginning in 1889 at the Tremont Theater in Boston. He returned to the Boston Museum for one night, June 1, 1903, to deliver the farewell address at the performance of “Mrs. Dane’s Defense,” after which that playhouse was closed forever.

For many years after that, he passed much of his time at his Duxbury home, Clamavi Towers, which he adored. He never lost interest in theatrical matters and from time to time contributed interesting articles to Boston papers on the early days of the Boston stage.  As to the origin of the name Clamavi Towers, “Mrs. Seymour once said when asked “Why the Towers,” responded “well because there are none, I guess.” Clamavi could be “clam ’ave I” in a Soho accent, or some form of “claim” in Latin – just guessing.

William died two months shy of his 78th birthday, so he was connected with the theater for 75 years. The Boston Globe obituary stated, “Mr. Seymour was throughout his long career one of the most beloved members of his profession.”

May Seymour had a brief career in acting, mostly at the Boston Museum, prior to her marriage. She gave up her career to raise her five children and make a home for William. She could be seen in her Basket Phaeton riding around Duxbury doing her shopping and tending to family matters.

May and William’s oldest child was Edward Loomis Davenport Seymour, probably the only Davenport/Seymour not involved in the theater. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from Cornell University in 1909. A successful horticulturist, who wrote articles and was garden editor of “The American Home Magazine,” Edward was founder and president of the Long Island Horticultural Society for 12 years. In 1954 he developed a new variety of giant dahlia, which was named after him, “The Ned Seymour.”

May and William’s second child, Fanny Lydia Davenport Seymour, also an actress, married into another stage family when she wed Richard M. Field. I’ll cover what is known of the Field children later.

May and William’s third child was daughter May Seymour, an actress, who married William S. Eckert. She became curator of the theater and music collection for the Museum of the City of New York and was still there at age 78. Their daughter Anne Eckert, who used the name Anne Seymour, acted in over 120 movies, and radio and TV shows. She probably was most famous for playing Mary Marlin in a popular soap opera for 11 years. Born in 1909 she died unmarried in 1988 after completing a small part in “Field of Dreams.” May and William Eckert also had a son, William, who made a career in advertising.

James William Davenport Seymour, fourth child of May and William, graduated from Harvard in 1917. He was in the First World War and wrote about the American Field Service while in France. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government. He worked in publicity and for the alumni of Harvard for a few years and then for Joseph P. Kennedy (Harvard ’09) as an aide in Hollywood and later when he became ambassador to Great Britain. James was a screen writer after the First World War with 44 movies and plays to his credit. He was described, later in life, by an L.A. Times reporter, as slim, erect and “natty” in an impeccable suit. He was the co-writer of “42nd Street.” He was married twice, in 1930 to Josephine Paine and in 1935 to Jocelyn Lee, a dancer and actress. Jocelyn was a Hollywood “Spit-fire.” She was known as the most beautiful girl in the Ziegfeld Follies. Newspapers called her “The Red-headed Fury.” James was her third husband. Her first marriage lasted about a year and a half, and even after the divorce she harassed her ex-husband to the point where he had to leave town. There were stories of her breaking doors, smashing windows, restraining orders, throwing silverware (including knives), court appearances – need I go on! After her divorce in 1924, she had a daughter in 1926 and a son in 1928 and later married (in 1930) Luther Reed, believed to be the father of those children. Luther could not believe the stories Jocelyn’s first husband related in court. He wanted to learn for himself, and he did. After moving into a fashionable and expensive apartment, Jocelyn woke the neighbors with the crash of china being thrown. Luther said that once in a San Francisco hotel, his wife hurled glasses and dishes, scratched his face and then the inkstand hit him. Then on a gambling trip to Mexico she virtually exploded and his forehead was gashed by a flying ashtray. The marriage lasted three months. Again, trouble persisted for some time after the divorce. When James Seymour and Jocelyn were rumored to be getting married Luther Reed was wishing Jim “all kinds of good luck.” James, a true gentleman and diplomat, sat down with Jocelyn and they had a conversation Jocelyn announced that she was going to retire from the screen and try “being just a housewife.” To end the suspense, they were married in 1935, Jocelyn’s children used their step-father’s Seymour name, Jim died in 1976, Jocelyn in 1980 well known as Jocelyn Seymour.


For those of you who have been following my “obsession” with “Mildred Pierce” and “Ma” Pierce, James may be the Duxbury connection to James M. Cain, author of Mildred Pierce. Both James Seymour and James Cain were in the First World War; writing about their military units, from Paris to northeast France near Verdun. They both scrounged around for paper, ink and type; and both at the same time, near the end of the war. Cain was on the South Shore from mid August to mid November of 1938. His play “7-11” finished in late August and he chose to stay another two and a half months. Cain was a devoted opera fan. Here was a family that had a world-famous opera star in it. The same family had many actors and actresses who were appearing in Hollywood where Cain and his wife were living under the “Hollywood” sign. More significantly, James Cain and James W.D. Seymour were working as screenwriters for the same studio, Universal, in late 1938 and early 1939, the sametime that James Cain started “Mildred Pierce.” According to Ray Hoopes’ biography of Cain, he always ate lunch with other screenwriters in the studio cafeteria. Circumstantial but compelling!

Back to the Seymours. May and William’s youngest son, John Davenport Seymour, was an actor in 19 movies, broadway plays and other performances. He has appeared with his wife, Abby Lewis, on occasion. Abby was his third wife, and he had a son and a daughter by his second wife Frances E. Simpson.

Richard M. Field and Fanny Lydia Davenport Seymour inherited the Seymour house on Washington Street. They had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married L.L. McGrath and later married a man named Eramo. Richard and Fanny’s second daughter, Joan did some acting in Duxbury in the theater on Bay Farm in the 1950s after working in New York. She married Charles William Newbury, Jr. She also worked at the Williams School in Groton, Conn. as a successor to our Bob Hale. Barbara, the third daughter of Richard and Fanny, married Dr. John Hines Kennedy, and she inherited Clamavi Towers. Marian (Maryan), the fourth daughter married Frederick H. Rein, Jr., who was from a St. Louis family that promoted tourism and industry. I understand that Maryan now lives in Wilmington, NC. These daughters had 12 children amongst them at the time of the death of their parents in the 1960s. It is due to the Seymours (particularly May Eckert) and the Fields that Fanny Davenport’s and the Seymour’s papers are preserved at Princeton University.

I welcome any information about the Seymour and Field families that you may have.



                                                                                                  Lamont R. “Monty” Healy


                                                                     blog: DuxburysPilgrimsAndTheirLand.com


Duxbury’s early settlers: John Washburn Part 2

After George P. (Partridge) Richardson (1875) re-acquired most of the Partridge Farm it fell to Parker C. Richardson. The waterfront portion of the property was left by Dura Wadsworth to his two sons Henry Wadsworth (surveyor) and Gamaliel Wadsworth. Gamaliel sold to George P. Richardson in 1864, then later the property fell to Parker C. Richardson. He sold to Fanny Davenport MacDowell in 1893.


Many people and families in Duxbury have attained success in all types of endeavors. The Duxbury family that has been most successful in the entertainment industry is the Davenports, Seymours and Fields. In spite of their national and international success, they still found time to perform in Duxbury for their own enjoyment and to help worthwhile causes.

Edward Loomis Davenport (1816-1877) was a famed stage performer from a long line of actors in Great Britain. He married Fanny Vining, an actress who was a descendant of Jack Johnson, an 18th century Irish stage actor. From this union came five daughters and two sons, all of whom were active in the entertainment industry. The couple’s eldest daughter, Fanny Davenport, became famous on the stage throughout the country from the 1870s until the late 1800s. A little insight into Fanny’s sense of humor is in a poem found in her scrapbook:

“What wine?” the waiter cried-

“Here’s sherry, Chablis and champagne!”

-said Hall aside, “The man must be insane”

“shall he of me make sport?”

“My name is Daven – PORT”

Fanny first married Edwin F. Price (1879) and later married W. Melbourne MacDowell. She and W. Melbourne built Melbourne Hall on Washington Street across from her sister May Davenport Seymour’s house, Clamavi Towers. May’s house is now 148 Washington Street where James B. and Mary E. Lampert currently live. Melbourne Hall was built shortly after 1893 as Fanny’s summer retreat and was a magnificent structure. Sadly, she only lived there for three years before her untimely death in 1898 at age 48. Stories abound of the local gentry trying to get a glimpse of her while bathing or in her sailboat, Fanny D.  Parts of the original structure have been removed, but some of it remains and it is the home of Jacqueline B. Hutchinson.

W. Melbourne MacDowell was at one time commodore of the Duxbury Yacht Club and a successful sailor, winning several racing events. We know little of his relationship with Fanny, but after her death, he led a checkered life. He married, at least twice more, Fanny having been his second wife. His third wife had him arrested and sued for divorce, claiming cruelty on the honeymoon, abuse, drunkenness, philandering, etc. She won the divorce and the decree “forbade the actor (W. Melbourne) from marrying again during the lifetime of the plaintiff,” but she “is permitted to remarry.” This happened in 1900, and in 1904, breaking the divorce agreement, he married again, this time a young stage-struck girl named Bertha Woodin. W. Melburne had a long career in both silent movies (17 years) and on stage, although many of his appearances were met with less than rave reviews. To me, that makes him a bad actor both on and off stage.

Fanny’s sister Lillian, the next in line, acted under the stage name Lillian Vining (her mother’s maiden name). She married Frost Thorn, Jr. who drowned in a boating accident in 1876, leaving Lillian with a daughter, Marcellite, and a son, Frost Thorn, III. Even though Junior’s parents were wealthy, they seemed not to be supportive of Lillian and their grandchildren. Accusations of Mr. Thorn being pressured into the marriage caused Lillian’s father to publicly, in a Boston paper, defend his daughter. In any event, after Lillian died, her sister Fanny adopted the two children in 1888, when Marcellite was 14 and Frost was 13. Since Fanny lived until 1898 they would have reached adulthood in her care.

Of the Davenports, Blanche may have been the most famous to the rest of the world. She appeared in operas throughout Europe, primarily in France and Italy. Her stage name was Bianca La Blanche. A theater in Milan was named after her, and an opera was written for her. She was compared to the great Sarah Bernhardt and many people thought they were rivals, but Bernhardt never took singing roles and Blanche never took anything else. She sang Marguerite in Faust 1,600 times. Mignon and Carmen were two of her favorite roles. She ended her career in 1895 when she was about 42 to care for her ailing mother, an example of the dutiful daughter that she was. Blanche died in 1921, at the age of 68. She never married and had no children.

May Davenport, of Clamavi Towers, also an actress, lived most of her life in Duxbury married to William Seymour an actor and theatrical manager. This was another merger of two acting families. William’s mother and father were successful actors. I’ll cover the Seymour-Field family in Part 3. William and May are buried in Mayflower Cemetery, and their gravestone has the inscription, “married Jan. 8, 1882 and never parted.”

The youngest Davenport sister, Florence, was an actress as well. She married Harold Tears (Tiers) and they had a daughter Florence “Pinky” who was also an actress.

Edgar Davenport, the first of Edward and Fanny Davenport’s two sons, worked for the Edison Phonograph Co. producing elocution records.

Last, but by no means least, Edward and Fanny’s youngest son, Harold “Harry” was an actor in, or director or producer of 159 plays and movies. He most famously played the doctor in “Gone With The Wind.” Some of his other screen credits were “The Life of Emile Zola,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “You Can’t Take It With You,” “Kings Row,” “The Ox-Bow Incident,” “Meet Me In St. Louis” and many others. Although mostly remembered as a character actor, Harry played several leading man roles as well. Harry’s daughter by his first marriage, Dorothy, also an actress, married silent film idol Wallace Reid, Jr. Mr. Reid was a popular and beloved man, but after an accident, he became addicted to morphine and alcohol and died at the age of 31. One of their children, Wallace, Jr. was active in movie animation.

Harry’s second marriage was to Phyllis Rankin, who was a sister-in-law of Lionel Barrymore. They had four children Arthur, Ned, Ann (Fanny) and Kate, all of whom were actors and actresses. His son Arthur used Rankin as a stage name and in turn, Arthur’s son Arthur Rankin, Jr. was the founder of Rankin/Bass animation studio, which produced the movies “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Frosty the Snowman,” later to become perennial TV favorites.

Ned worked in the film industry in a behind-the-scenes capacity. He was a WWII veteran who served in the Philippines. He survived the war and died in Los Angeles, Calif., near his children.

Harry’s daughter from his second marriage, Kate, married Richard Summers, but by the time their son was born (1931) they were divorced. Their son, “Dirk” Drew Davenport Wayne Summers, was an actor, writer, producer or director in 43 movies. Dirk bore a striking resemblance to Van Johnson, June Allyson’s favorite on-screen partner. For those too young to remember, June was a big movie star in the 40s and 50s. This resemblance to Van Johnson, somebody June idolized, must have caused an instantaneous attraction when they met on a movie set. June was 31 and Dirk was 17! They were companions from 1962 until 1975. Dirk was named legal guardian of June’s two children, Dick Powell, Jr. and Pamela Powell, when June was suffering from alcoholism. The children were from June’s marriage to Dick Powell (he of The Thin Man fame). Dirk’s most recognized works, as a writer, were “Kojak,” “Ironside,” and “Mod-Squad.” He became an ordained minister in 1969.                                                                                                              

Blog: DuxburysPilgrimsAndTheirLand.com                                                                   LRH 9/18/2011

Duxbury’s early settlers: John Washburn

Pictured is the dwelling of the Rev. Ralph Partridge, George Partridge (Ralph’s brother or cousin) and the Honorable George Partridge (George’s great grandson) Currently owned by Stephen and Lisa Fitzgibbons.

John Washburn, a tailor, arrived in Plymouth in 1632. He was taxed in 1633, but not in 1634. In January of 1635 he purchased a house and land from Edward Bumpas. From this chain of events we can surmise that John returned to England in late 1633 and made arrangements for passage for his family and returned to Plymouth in late 1634. His wife, Margery, arrived in Plymouth with her two sons, John, Jr. and Philip in the spring of 1635. John Washburn did not appear on the list of colonists in 1627, and one wonders how he would qualify to share in the 1627 Plymouth Land Division, in which each family received 20 acres for every man, woman and child. There are some inferences that he may have traded the land he purchased from Bumpas for a lot more to his liking. In any event on April 5, 1641 it was ordered that “John Washburn might have forty acres in Duxburrow, if it be there to be had.” John Washburn, Sr. died soon after May of 1670.

In 1642 and again in 1643 a committee was appointed to “set the ancient bounds betwixt the lands of Mr. Thomas Besbeech and John Washburn.” John Washburn had purchased 20 acres of land and buildings from William Latham and he had also purchased land from Edward Bumpas that had once been granted to William Palmer, “which lote he (Palmer) gave up to ye company.” Latham sold 20 acres of land and house to the Rev. Ralph Partridge on Dec. 26, 1639. Identifying which parcel goes where is difficult at best. What we do know is, John Washburn left his homestead farm to his son Philip in 1666. Philip deeded the 40 acres with a house and orchard to Thomas Lasall in 1684 and Mr. Lasall deeded the property to John Partridge, George Partridge’s son within two months. John Washburn and his son John, Jr. were among the fifty-four proprietors of Bridgewater in 1645.  Although John and John, Jr. owned property in Bridgewater its quite possible only John, Jr. moved there right away. John, Sr. shows up in Duxbury records in 1658 but he died in 1670 in Bridgewater. By 1685 with the deed to John Partridge the entire Partridge Farm was either in the hands of George Partridge’s family or the heirs of the Rev. Ralph Partridge, specifically Ralph Thacher.   

The Rev. Ralph Partridge, a respected and honorable man, sometimes used property and later purchased it. I found an instance where two owners did exactly that. William Bassett and Francis Sprague deeded to Mr. Partridge “land now enclosed by the said Mr. Partridge.” That land seems to be closer to what is now Hall’s corner.

By 1658, at the time of his death, Mr. Partridge had accumulated some land in Palmer’s Grant, and Latham’s Grant, and it was now referred to as Partridge Farm. Although greatly reduced in area, a magnificent house still stands where the Partridges and their relatives lived for a long time. The property is currently owned by Stephen and Lisa Fitzgibbons.

The Rev. Ralph Partridge was the much revered first minister of Duxbury’s First Parish Church. He served the town well for over 20 years and compared to some who followed, he could be described as the best of the best. In addition to his preaching and church activities, he was often called upon to tutor the young men in town in the hope they would move on to Harvard. 

Rev. Partridge died in 1658, lamented by friends, family, parish and colony leaders. There were many tributes showing the respect he commanded throughout New England. He was buried in the graveyard by the first meeting house. Although there is no headstone, there is a cobblestoned area about the size of a grave. It was uncovered in the late 1800s and is probably the final resting place of Duxbury’s first minister.

When the Rev. Ralph died he had accumulated over 150 acres in different areas of town. The bulk of his property was left to his daughter, Elizabeth, his only daughter to come to New England. Elizabeth deeded some of the property to George Partridge, possibly her uncle, but at least a cousin. The Partridges who later owned the farm and the Stearns and Richardsons were descendents of George Partridge. Elizabeth’s descendents were Kemps and Thachers. Ralph Thacher, Elizabeth’s son, inherited the Partridge Farm, but he left to preach in Chilmark, on  Martha’s Vineyard and it went into the George Partridge side of the family.

The Partridge Farm was divided into several smaller parcels owned by different owners, but the largest tract was owned by George Partridge and he operated the farm successfully. The property passed through his family for several generations. George Partridge’s great-grandson, sometimes referred to as the Honorable George Partridge (1740-1828) inherited the farm and was probably Duxbury’s most famous Revolutionary patriot. When the Duxbury selectmen received a letter from Boston in 1773 seeking support from the cities and towns in their ongoing dispute with the British authorities, they appointed a committee to respond. The written response most likely fell to George Partridge, the most highly educated member of the committee. Probably written in the parlor of the Partridge Farm house, the letter was so highly regarded by the Patriot leaders that they included George in the councils of the colonies. For the next 10 to 15 years George dedicated his life to the service of his country.

George served with Col. Cotton in the Plymouth Company as Captain of the Duxbury Minutemen in 1773. He marched with that company to fight the British under Captain Balfour in Marshfield. That episode resulted in no bloodshed when the British escaped by sea. He was a representative to the General Court in Boston in 1774. He often traveled to Philadelphia and New York as a delegate to Congress under the old Confederation and later to the Continental Congress. He was a great admirer of George Washington and was present when George Washington gave up his commission. It’s quite possible that he was responsible for renaming Washington Street, where it had been previously called Commercial Street and Main Street.

After the Revolution, George returned to Duxbury, served in the legislature and was sheriff of Plymouth County, a full-time job. He still found time to be active in town affairs. He was actively involved in church business, his many business interests, the farm, and his sheriff’s work. Sometime in the 1790s, Rebecca Frazar, sister of his friend Samuel Frazar, came to the Partridge Farm to work for George. She was much more than a housekeeper, actually a secretary and in a very real sense a business associate. She was the social equal of all who came to the house, a highly unusual situation for that era. Many times her name appeared on legal documents in her own bold signature, Rebecca Frazar, Jr.

George Partridge’s house was where the best minds of Duxbury gathered whether for good conversation or more serious matters. A meeting at his house in 1821 was described in a letter that Sarah Bradford Ripley, wife of the Rev. Ezra Ripley of Waltham and daughter of Capt. Gamaliel Bradford, wrote to her brother Daniel. “Last week father and I took a trip to Duxbury. We spent the day going the rounds and took tea at Mr. Partridge’s. In his small parlor was collected more good sence and soul than would save all Waltham, to wit- Mr. Partridge, Dr. Allyn, Mr. Frazar, Uncle Gershom, and father.”

When George Partridge was 83 in 1823 he wrote his will, leaving $10,000 to the town for support of the minister of the First Parish Church; $9,000 to Rebecca Frazar and one half the dwelling house so long as she shall continue to live in it and make it her home; the dwelling house in which he now lives to Zadock Bradford; $2,000 to Harvard University; $10,000 to several individuals in trust for the establishment of a school or academy in the town of Duxbury (a legacy that, to this day, still benefits the town); and finally “my homestead farm on which I now live and all my other Real Estate to my kinsman George P. Richardson.” The bequest to Rebecca was most likely discussed between her and George Partridge, for soon after his death she bought a house and opened a private school in the home’s ell.

The Honorable George Partridge died on July 7, 1828; Benjamin Kent presided at the funeral service and gave a sermon that has been often quoted. To me, truly the end of a great man and patriot.

Next: the Davenports and Seymours.

                                   Lamont “Monty” Healy       e-mail: monty15@msn.com

                                   8/26/2011                                Blog: DuxburysPilgrimsAndTheirLand.com

Hello Duxbury History Buffs

  • Welcome to DuxburysPilgrimsAndTheirLand.com. This will be the site for all things historical about Duxbury and its people, past and present.
  • We begin with the 1627 Plymouth Colony Court grants of land to the Plymouth settlers.  I try to find interesting stories that happened on the different land grants, whether they happened in 1620 or 2011. In the 1627 Second Division the Plymouth Colony set off to the colonists 20 acres to each man, woman and child. In Duxbury these lots were considered “shore lots” as they almost all had water frontage. At the time of this division the rest of the undivided land in Duxbury and Pembroke was referred to as “Common Land” for the use of all.
  • A little about me. I am a retired land surveyor who had offices in Weymouth, Hingham, Plymouth and Duxbury at various times. I’ve been searching through deeds for 50 years and I’ve always had an interest in history. I live in Duxbury with my wife, Grace, by beautiful Kingston Bay. Our daughter, Emelie (also an engineer) lives and works in Seattle, WA. I have a son, Ted, who is an IT specialist with an investment firm; and a daughter Erin, who is an editor of the Cape Cod Times’ PrimeTime magazine (BIG help to her dad). They both live close by. I am a die-hard Red Sox fan and I enjoy reading history books. You might run into me at the Dairy Twist, Bongi’s or the Duxbury Deli at lunch time (that was pre-diet). Mornings, I’m often pestering Carolyn Ravenscroft at the Drew Archives of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society. Midday I’m frequently at the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds. I got interested in these grants when I read Dorothy Wentworth’s “Settlement and Growth of Duxbury” an excellent book, but it did not cover all of the settlers. Then when I suggested writing these stories, Patrick Browne, the director of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society provided me with a paper written by Edwin D. Johnson, which covered almost all the lots on the south coast. Since neither of these sources covered all of the “shore lots,” I had a new job!   
  • Currently I am writing articles in the Duxbury Clipper about these “shore lots” in the Plymouth Second Division, with the hope of covering the Duxbury divisions at a later date.  As time goes on, I will be posting comments on things I’ve learned since a newspaper article was written, whether it is supplementary information or a correction.
  • Ultimately, I hope to put all this information in book form.