Whittier Cameo        
Evelina Bray Downey        
cameo_prior_button1.png cameo_home_button2.png cameo_next_button1.png

brooch03.png Played by Pat Thoen

Evelina Bray Downey

My father was a ship captain and I was the youngest of ten children. I was sent to school in Haverhill for my education and there I met John as we boarded across the street from each other. He would walk to school at Haverhill Academy with me and two of my girlfriends. I was two years younger than him.

One of the farmhands taught John how to make women's shoes and he used that skill to make money for school tuition. He worked in a small shop across the street from his house and sold the shoes for eight cents a pair. He then taught at Birch Meadow School to earn tuition for his second and last term at Haverhill Academy.

pat_0640-denoise-clear_cp1_fx1_med.jpg Once he tried to visit me in at my home Marblehead. I could not receive him at the house, because my parents forbade it, so I suggested a stroll; and we took a long walk along the seashore together. At the time we thought we were in love with each other but there were too many obstacles to overcome. My family was wealthy; he was a poor farmer without much of a future. He was a Quaker who disapproved of music, where I played the piano and dearly loved music and art. We ended up going our separate ways.

Years later, I was a teacher in St. Louis. There I married an Episcopal clergyman, Rev. William S. Downey. I met my husband during an epidemic when our school had been turned into an emergency hospital and he had been a patient there.

It was not an ideal marriage. To my friends I admitted that in unhappiness, loneliness, and desperation I vowed to marry the first man who offered himself. What a mistake! My husband was overbearing and tyrannical, and when he found out I had been a childhood friend of Whittier, he wrote John, taking advantage of our old friendship by asking him for money, which John sent. I was furious when I found out.

When John was working in Philadelphia, I was living there with my husband and he stopped by for a visit. It was quite a surprise! We met again at an Academy reunion in 1885, where we renewed our relationship. John was the center of attention, but we had a chance to exchange souvenirs and take another seaside walk. It was about this time John wrote the poem called A Sea Dream, recalling the seaside walk of our youth.

Although I didn't see him again, we corresponded often. His last letter to me was written a few weeks before he died.

Whittier donated $10,000 to the Amesbury Home for Aged Women. A room at the home was called "The Whittier Room" and was furnished with furniture from his house that was used when he entertained his guests.

I applied for admission to the home two years after his death because I wished to live the sunset time of my life near his memory and his grave. There are miniature portraits of both Greenleaf and me in the Amesbury home. After John's death, I donated a piece of china to the birthplace in Haverhill that is still on display.

Note. Whittier worked for William Lloyd Garrison, following his lead in the abolition movement. He was then appointed the editor of the Middlesex Standard in Lowell where he met a talented young woman writer named Lucy Larcom who had sent him an article for publication.