Continued from Travels Through New York, 2013 – part II
The librarian did not bring me a copy of the poem. She brought the poem. I sat there at a table and just stared for a few moments. I couldn’t quite believe it was really here, after all of that, and it was just incredible to realize I was staring at a document written in 1799…over 200 years ago, and by my ancestor! I tried not to breathe on the thing.
I don’t know when, if ever, I have been able to be this close to a document this old, let alone so personally significant to me. I could even see the strands of the paper, which was more of a material, vs. the clean cut version we know today. Someone else (different handwriting) had noted on the document that it was found among Major Ladd’s papers, written in his own manuscript. Also in Ladd’s writing, besides the poem itself, was “A coppy.” At the end of the poem he wrote “December ye 24th 1799.”
Looking at it more closely, I could see something was written on the other side. As I raised the paper towards the light to see better, the librarian was immediately at my elbow. Did I need her to copy it larger for me? No, I said, this is actually fine, and easily read. But I just noticed something seemed to have been written on the other side. Oh, said the librarian, here. And she grabbed the document and casually flipped it over. With her hand. Now, I’m probably overreacting here, but come on! It’s over 200 years old, and she’s manhandling it like it’s the Times?? Sigh.
Anyway, on the other side it stated
“Elegy on the Death of
Who Died Decr ye 14th 1799
Written Decr ye 24th
I finished reading the poem, thanked the librarian profusely for all her help, accepted the copy she made for me, and left. At 2:55pm. Yessss!!
So taken all in all, besides now owning my very own copy of my 5x great-grandfather’s poem, which would be pretty darn awesome in its own right, I now have a new set of mysteries to research.
1. Simeon is referred to in the secondary note as a major. I knew he was a patriot in terms of donating goods and services to the revolutionary cause, but he had rank, too?
2. Simeon did not write this poem as an elegy for President Washington, but rather General Washington. Why?
3. Simeon wrote “a coppy” on this page. I’m not sure that it is a copy, so much as a rough draft. There are mistakes and cross-outs, etc. The final and true copy was probably the one he sent or submitted. So where is that one — the pretty, clean copy? Did he send it to Martha Washington or simply to the Washington Family? Does it still exist somewhere?
I have the most fun considering the events that transpired for me to have found this poem in the first place. First, Simeon Ladd had to write the poem. How many were written in mourning for Washington, anyway? Next, the poem had to be kept and preserved. Then, the collection it was in had to be in an area accessible to the public. Also, I had to find mention of it online, travel to NYC, find a secure place to leave the truck and trailer, and get to the Society while it was open. Finally, I actually read the document. I may be the first person in 7 generations to even know of this poem’s existence, let alone actually see it and read it for myself.
Words just can’t express what I’m feeling, but I sure have tried.