As some of you know, I have a keen interest in Hilltop House history in general, and Thomas Lovett and his family in particular. Thomas S. Lovett graduated from Storer College and maintained strong ties to it and had a close personal and professional relationship with Nathan C. Brackett, a founding school President.
In a random search, I came across Thomas Lovett’s name in a well-known slave narrative by Kate Drumgoold, who wrote an autobiography published in 1898.
She outlines her early life including the sale of her mother at the beginning of the Civil War so that her owner could pay a poor white man to take his place in battle:
“The money that my mother was sold for was to keep the rich man from going to the field of battle, as he sent a poor white man in his stead, and should the war end in his favor, the poor white man should have given to him one negro, and that would fully pay for all his service in the army.”
Kate did not know that her mother had been sold until she was gone. She was later reunited with her mother after the war.
Kate dreamed of becoming a teacher. She saved the money she earned as a housekeeper, and ultimately went to Washington, DC to attend the Wayland Seminary under yet another Maine native, Professor G.M.P. King of Bangor. In 1878, she went to Brooklyn to earn more money to attend school.
She continued her education in the Blue Ridge, Alleghany Mountains “where the very air of heaven seemed to fan the whole hill sides, and there never was a more lovely place on this earth for one to learn a lesson, for we could see the key to all lessons where nature had designed for a grand school of learning. At this place was to be found one of the best schools of learning that has been built by man. And I think of the hundreds and thousands of teachers and preachers and lawyers and doctors that these two schools have turned out in the different parts of this country, and many of tem are in other parts of the world.”
While she enjoyed Wayland Seminary’s location on Meridian Hill between 15th and 16th Streets, and the school was “lovely to behold with all its fine buildings and art galleries, though I do not like it as well as Harper’s Ferry, for I was not well the whole time I was there and I had so much better health at the Ferry.” p. 48
She stayed in Harper’s Ferry for four years, “and they were years of hard labor, but they were just as sweet as they could well be”. p. 28.
Who were her professors? Mrs. W. Brackett, Mr. W.P. Curtis, Mr. D.M. Wilson, Miss Caroline (Coralie)Franklin, Miss C. Brackett, and Mr. W.M. Bell, among others.
On page 55, the reader is introduced for the first time to a member of the Lovett Family, Mrs. William Lovett, Thomas’s mother. Kate says that Thomas has two little girls, Florence and Charlotte. She goes on to describe Hill Top House:
“Mr. Lovett has built a hill-top house in a lovely place. It is filled in the Summer time, while he has music for the boarders. That makes it pleasant during the warm weather of the Summer months, and it is one of the loveliest places that can be found on the B. & O. Railroad, and the white people go their (sic) from all parts.
I had the pleasure of stopping there on my way home in 1895, and it did my soul good to find such a fine house built by one of the colored gentlemen and one that I had known; for I was at his mother’s boarding house for the whole time that I was at the Ferry. He was teaching school then in the Winter time and looking after his mother’s business in the Summer time. So I am glad that some of my people are trying to make an honest living. He is one among the many at the Ferry that are keeping boarding houses; and I am thankful for all that comes to us as a race.”
Mr. William Lovett “is one of the finest gentlemen anywhere around the whole country, and is much beloved by all who know him. … He has a large family of girls and boys and all are smart. He sent two of them to the Hillsdale College when they had finished at the Ferry, and one was John Lovett, who studied law, and the other one, Miss Etta Lovett, was a fine school teacher and a music teacher.” As for Thomas and his wife, “Mr. Thomas Lovett is a school teacher and very much beloved. He married a doctress,who is one of the finest ladies that lives.”
Kate never mentions Storer College by name, which may explain why she is not clearly linked with the school. However, she is identified as one of the more famous students of Wayland Seminary. She, along with Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., Dr. Booker T. Washington, Reverend Harvey Johnson, and Alfred L. Cralle (inventor of the ice cream mold and disher a/k/a ice cream scoop, U.S. Patent No. 576,395 dated February 2, 1897), were students there.
Census records show that she spent the balance of her life in Brooklyn. She is listed as a teacher in the 1900 United States Census. She was identified in the 1930 Census as being 79 years old. She died while a resident of a retirement community in New York.
She was identified variously as “single” and “widowed,” although I could find no record of her marriage. Over time, it appears one of the “o”s went missing, so if you try to search for her, look for “Drumgold” instead of “Drumgoold.”
Also, if you are really interested in reading her autobiography, I would recommend that you look at a scanned original version, rather than a transcription.
If anyone knows where I can see Storer College student rosters for the years up until 1900, please let me know!
Steam at Harper’s Ferry has Storer College memorabilia on display.