Seth LOW and Mary PORTER

Mary Ann LOW Archer, Tim's great-great-great-grandmother, was the oldest of twelve children born to Seth LOW and Mary PORTER.

Seth (b. 29 Mar 1782, Gloucester, MA; d. 19 Jun 1853, Brooklyn, NY) and Mary (b. 29 Mar 1786, Topsfield, MA; d. 17 Jul 1872, Brooklyn, NY) are discussed in a number of biographies and genealogies. This is, in part, because they had twelve children; no doubt it's also because Seth's grandson and namesake Seth Low (1850-1916) became mayor of New York City (1902-3). This latter distinction earned the family notice by Gary Boyd Roberts, who sketches the LOW line in American Ancestors and Cousins of the Princess of Wales. (Thanks to this work, we know Tim's degree of kinship not only to the late Diana, but also to Dorothea Dix, L. Frank Baum, and Benjamin Bradlee, among other notables. And via Seth Low's "gateway ancestor" Alice FREEMAN Thompson, it's an easy ride back to Charlemagne!)

We've drawn heavily on a 1956 genealogy by Abbot Low Moffat (b. 1901) entitled Old Low, Old Low's Son: the descendants of Seth Low and Mary Porter; Low genealogy, 1807-1956. This work is probably not terribly reliable, but it's given us a lot of leads and working hypotheses. We also learned a great deal from a 1951 young-adult biography of Seth and Mary's family by Helen Augur: Tall Ships to Cathay. (This latter work first gave us the connection between Seth and Mary's firstborn, Mary Ann, and our ARCHER/LORD line.)

Other sources we've used in our research include two eponymous biographies of the younger Seth Low: by Gerald Kurland, published 1968, and by Benjamin Robbins Curtis Low (1880-1941), published 1925. (Many other works on Seth Low the mayor can be found in a good-sized library catalogue.)

Some representative quotes:

From Kurland:

"Seth Low, the elder, was born on March 29, 1782 in the Haskell family home on Lincoln Road in West Gloucester, Cape Ann. Upon the death at sea of his father, the family moved to Haverhill where Seth was prepared for Harvard under the Unitarian minister, Abiel Abbot." (p. 13)

From B. Low:

"The first Seth Low was a son of the last David; was born in Gloucester; as a young man moved to Salem, where he entered business; joined the Salem Light Infantry, and, most important of all, married Mary Porter. ...in the year 1829, with the courage and initiative of his generation, moved his home from Salem to Brooklyn, and set up business in New York as a merchant. This Seth Low carried on in the family tradition of public spirit, serving as an alderman, and becoming one of the incorporators of the city of Brooklyn. He died in 1853, and at his death bed, his grandson and namesake, being then some three and one-half years old, was put on the bed with him; 'was lovingly regarded, and told to be kind to the poor.'" (pp. 29-30)

Many family papers, largely relating to the China trade conducted by A.A., Josiah, William Henry, Charles and Seth H. -- and journals and letters from their sister Harriet and brother Edward A. -- are in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, and some are available on microfilm.

Biographies of Seth LOW the elder and Mary PORTER Low also exist in book or pamphlet form; the memorial sermon preached for Seth (in Church of the Saviour, Brooklyn, the Sunday following his death) is available on microfiche from a number of university libraries.

Keeping in mind that none of our sources have actually been checked in original records, we're happy to share our working ahnentafel for Mary Ann LOW Archer. If you're another descendant of hers, we'd love to hear from you; we know her parents' and husband's names, and one daughter's, but very little else about her! (Any details would be gratefully received.)

Last update: 25 January 1999