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Hester Tennant Farnham


Hester Tennant Farnham

Great Aunt Hester’s summer house at Mantaloking, NJ

Hester Farnham (née Tennant) may have been the sister of Horace, Pliny, and Virgil Tennant. Her husband Ellis Farnham and their attorney-banker Morris Hirsch were among the Founders of Agincourt in the 1850s. The Tennant family tree seems to be getting needlessly complex but that’s simply the way my head works these days. While all of this gets sorted out, perhaps you can help me settle on a picture of Aunt Hester. Do any of these work for you?

Aunt Hester lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey, but summered at Mantoloking, where Anson and the other members of the family enjoyed her hospitality in 1912. It was there that they worshiped in a small Episcopal church, St Simon’s-by-the-Sea, designed by William Halsey Wood. Wouldn’t you know I’d find another way to work Halsey Wood into the story.

Candidate #1 is perhaps too young but I like the pose and the dress

Candidate #2 seems about the right age

Candidate #3 is maybe a little too old

And lest you think I deal in stereotypes, Morris Hirsch grows from a childhood experience in Chicago. Once isolated on a tiny triangle of pavement where West Wacker Drive does a dogleg to follow the Chicago River and what used to be South Water Street peels off to the right heading east, there was a fascinating sculpture by Laredo Taft of George Washington shaking hands with two other figures: Robert Morris and Haym Salomon, two financiers who underwrote the Revolutionary War. The statue has been moved to a more pedestrian-friendly location, so you can now appreciate it without being creamed by a taxi. I honestly don’t know which of these is Salomon.

It’s embarrassing to learn that Congress reneged on their debt to Salomon, an immigrant Polish Jew, and he died penniless at the age of forty-five. I’ll gladly claim him as one of my ancestral countrymen.

“For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”  —President George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, 1790


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