lowell mormons

lowell banner
Lowell WomenLowell MenLowell ChildrenMissionaries and Apostles

Relief Bartlett


Relief M. Bartlett (Silver)
(Mill Girl and Secretary of the Lowell LDS Benevolent Sewing Society)

Relief M. Bartlett was born February 22, 1822 in Bloomfield, Essex, Vermont, the second eldest child of seven or eight, born to Aden Bartlett (1794-1863) and Nancy Clough or Cluff (1802-1879). Bloomfield lies on the border with New Hampshire and about 10 miles from the Canadian border.  Aden Bartlett, a native of New Hampshire, fought as a teenager in the War of 1812, the only man from Bloomfield, Vermont to do so. [1]  He later made his living as a farmer in Bloomfield, where he settled next to his wife’s family after their marriage on September 5, 1819 in Bloomfield.  The Bartlett family apparently belonged to the Methodist Church, as that is where the family burial plot lies. Relief’s mother, Nancy Clough Bartlett also was a native of New Hampshire.

Aden and Nancy Bartlett’s known children were:

  1. Isaac N. Bartlett born about 1820; married Loiza N. _____. 
  2. Relief M. Bartlett born in 1822
  3. Charles G. Bartlett born about 1823; married Francese A. ______; died August 24, 1882??? in Bloomfield.
  4. Julia Bartlett born about 1827
  5. Abigail Bartlett born about 1830
  6. Hiram L. Bartlett born about 1832; married Julia J. ______ about 1878 in Bloomfield; died August 24, 1882??? in Bloomfield.
  7. Joseph Warren Bartlett born January 23, 1834; married Harriet “Hattie” A. Sawyer on February 2, 1868 in Bloomfield; died November 15, 1899 in Colebrook, Coos, New Hampshire

Fortunately, Relief’s role as Secretary in the Benevolent Sewing Society in 1844 is not our only evidence that she lived in Lowell and was affiliated with the LDS Church. Relief Bartlett’s half-first cousin from her hometown of Bloomfield, Vermont appears to have moved to Lowell with her.  Several letters between Harriet Atwood Silver (1818-1858) and her non-Mormon relatives in Vermont can be found at BYU and include important information about Relief Barltett, including that the two young women roomed together and eventually joined the LDS Church together. In addition to being cousins, Relief would later marry Harriet’s brother, making them in-laws.    Although the two letters that mention Relief Bartlett are not dated by year, Martha Mayo of the Center for Lowell History has concluded that they both were written in 1843, and I fully agree with her speculation. [2] 

Harriet Silver’s first letter to refer to Relief Bartlett was dated May 25th is brief, and in it Harriet explained to her parents that she only had enough time to “write a few” lines.  She then updated them with the news that “R and myself are well and board at Mr. Husen’s on Wm. Street.”  In this letter, apparently to save time, Harriet abbreviated the names of people and towns to their first initials, and “R” here referred to Relief Bartlett.  “Mr. Husen” was apparently John Houston, and he must have died soon after this letter was written in 1843, as the 1844 Lowell City Directory lists Mrs. Mary Houston as the owner of the private boardinghouse on William Street, in the center of Lowell. [3]  The 1850 Census of Lowell also informs us that Mary Houston was born about 1793 in Ireland, and that her two daughters, Mary A. and Elizabeth, would have been about 18 and 10 respectively when Relief and Harriet boarded with them. [4]  Unaccountably, Harriet then contradicted herself about currently boarding at John Houston’s, switching to the past tense in stating “We left him on account of the distance from our work.”  Perhaps Harriet and Relief moved into a company boardinghouse located really close to their mill.  Mill workers were only given half an hour for lunch, which included walking time from the work areas to the dining rooms at the boardinghouses, so living closer would have made a significant difference in that area of their lives.

At the time of writing this letter, Harriet had been a baptized Mormon for almost six months and her millenialistic zeal comes through in her letter in an attempt to convert her family to her new faith as well. Although she had little time to write, about half of her brief letter is comprised of dire and dramatic warnings of an impending eschaton, “for in all probability our time on earth is short, though we cannot realize it.”  Harriet then clarified that she was not simply referring to the uncertain briefness of mortality; she wrote

…it may be while I am in L[owell] that we shall be called to meet our savior; but it matters not to me if I am prepared for that meeting.  Whether the trumpet of the Arch Angel calls me from L or B [Lowell or Bloomfield] to meet my dear Jesus in the air.  For me I am resolved to be prepared and I pray that you may.

Although not written by Relief, these are certainly very similar sentiments to what Relief was expressing to her own family as well.  The second letter, from Harriet’s cousin Lydia M. Buswell to Harriet, also spends half its length in speaking of religion, although she mainly reported about the “new preacher” in Bloomfield, whom she thought was not as good as their old one.  She also mentioned that a “Bro. Hamilton” lectured on “the Second Coming of Christ” and affirmed “There is considerable excitement here now about the subject.”  The other half deals with some sort of order for cloth and money matters surrounding it.  Cousin Lydia then closed with “Mother and sisters send their love to you and Relief.”

Harriet Atwood Silver and three of her girlfriends from the mills all joined the LDS Church with Harriet being baptized on November 27, 1842. [5]  Her baptism was likely performed by Elder Eli P. Maginn, the only DLS missionary known to have been in Lowell at that time, although Elder Julian Moses had also been there as late as August 1842 (see Zelnora S. Snow’s biography for more information on Elder Maginn in Lowell).  Harriet’s three[????] friends were: Sophia P. Clark (later King), who testified in the excommunication trial of Elder John Hardy in Boston, October 1844; Lucy Jane Nutting (later Ferguson); Susan Eliza Savage, who would later become the plural wife of renowned Salt Lake Temple architect, Truman O. Angell; and Zelnora Sophronia Snow (later Glover), who was a Committee Member of the LDS Benevolent Sewing Society (see her biography). Harriett’s girlfriends later all joined the controversial Samuel Brannan on his journey to San Francisco aboard the ship Brooklyn in 1846; they each eventually migrated to Utah and married.  Relief’s relative and sister-in-law, Harriet Atwood Silver, however traveled directly to Nauvoo and was part of the mass migration out of Nauvoo in February 1846.  She met Simeon Adams Dunn in Winter Quarters, where they were both members of the 17th Ward.  Dunn’s first wife had died in Nauvoo, leaving him with four small children and two other plural wives with their own children. Harriet agreed to raise his wife’s children and Brigham Young performed the marriage of Elder Dunn with Harriet A. Silver on January 3, 1847. The family left Winter Quarters on June 5, 1848 with the huge Brigham Young Company (some 1220 people) and arrived in Salt Lake in September 1848.  Harriet Atwood Silver Dunn died just ten years later, at the age of 39, three days after giving birth to twins, Harriet and Henry Silver Dunn.  Tragically, baby Harriet died at birth and Henry only lived less than three months before he died as well.

Beside Relief Bartlett having friends in Lowell, the city records also indicate that one year after the Benevolent Society was formed, her 25 year-old brother, Isaac N. Bartlett, had joined her in Lowell and was working as a carder in the mills, for he opened a bank account that year. [6] It is unlikely that he was in Lowell any earlier than 1846, because in 1845 he was still listed as a registered voter in Bloomfield, Vermont. [7]  This means that it was Relief who paved the way for the older Bartlett siblings to move to Lowell and find employment in the rapidly developing industrial economy. Next after Isaac, in 1847 their 20-year sister Julia also opened a savings account in the Lowell Institution for Savings, and she listed her employment as weaver in the mills.  In addition, a woman named Elvira, Alvira or Almira Bartlett also worked as a weaver in the cotton mills as early as 1845.  She died of smallpox in Lowell in 1849. [8]  Her hospital records state she was born in Bloomfield, Maine; however there is no town by that name in the state of Maine, so she was likely born in Bloomfield, Vermont, just like Relief and her siblings, and was therefore probably another relative.  Relief also later named a daughter Elvira; therefore there is a strong probability that the two were sisters. So many Bartlett siblings working for the Lowell mills indicates that the economic outlook for the Bartlett family in Vermont had been significantly bleak enough to warrant the break up of the family.  On the positive side, the siblings who moved to Lowell were able to support and look out for each other when necessary.

Relief married her half first-cousin William Riley Silver in early 1849, probably back in Bloomfield, as they were living there near her father’s family in 1850. [9]  Although not LDS himself, William was the brother of Harriet Atwood Silver, another Lowell mill girl.

When Relief M. Bartlett moved back to Bloomfield, she may have been encouraged by Harriet to meet her brother William R. Silver, leading to their marriage in 1849. 

William R. Silver was born on March 27, 1820 in Bloomfield, Vermont.  He and sister Harriet were the children of Arad Silver (1793-1850) and Sophia Emily Nichols (1792-1865).  Relief and her husband William were closely related in that they shared the same grandmother, Abigail Buswell, who first married Samuel Silver and bore William’s father Arad.  Abigail Buswell Silver then married Joseph Clough, and bore Nancy Clough, Relief’s mother. [10]  In fact the Clough and Silver families interbred with each other over several generations in Massachusetts and Vermont.

Relief’s marriage to a non-Mormon coupled with her failure to migrate to Utah also indicate that after the death of Joseph Smith and the subsequent scandal over spiritual wifery that wracked the Eastern church branches, she must have abandoned Mormonism.

William and Relief had nine children, all born in Bloomfield, Vermont:

  1. William Riley Silver Jr. born March 1850; died before 1857.
  2. George Washington Silver born June 1851; moved to Sutter, Sacramento, California by 1900; never married.
  3. Louise Augusta Silver, born about 1852; died 1876.
  4. Julia Elvira Melonia Silver born January 3 1854; married Frank W. Hale of Henniker (his second marriage, her first) on March 26, 1893 in Bloomfield; moved to Hillsborough, New Hampshire by 1900.
  5. William Riley Silver Jr. born April 6, 1857 and died November 4, 1893.
  6. Henry Eugene Silver born about 1858.
  7. Alice “Nellie” Edna Silver born September 1859; married Edson Holden about 1878; remained in Bloomfield.
  8. Fayette Oscar Silver born about 1862
  9. Bernice E. Silver (male) born about 1864

William R. Silver was a very successful farmer who also became a lawyer and later assistant judge.  He also served as Bloomfield town representative in 1858-9 and again in 1884-5. Relief’s father, Aden Bartlett, died February 11, 1863 and Nancy Clough Bartlett died February 10, 1879.  Both were buried in the Bloomfield Methodist Cemetery.  Relief’s husband, the Honorable William Riley Silver, died on July 26, 1894, at the age of 74, and Rev. Ray J. Dinsmore of Laconia, New Hampshire performed the burial services. [11]  After her husband’s death, Relief M. Bartlett Silver lived more than six years longer in Bloomfield with her grandson, Archie E. Holden and his new wife, Isola, [12] Relief died there just five days short of turning 79, on February 17, 1901.



1. Roger Couture, Bloomfield, News and History, Bloomfield Bicentennial Committee, 1978, online at http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/VERMONT/1999-11/0941751490 (accessed August 27, 2007).  See also 1840 Federal Census list of “Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services,” Bloomfield, Essex, Vermont, p. 2.

2. Martha Mayo email to Connell O’Donovan, October 16, 2007.

3. Martha Mayo email to Connell O’Donovan, October 16, 2007.

4. 1850 Federal Census of Lowell, Massachusetts, p. 292.

6. Lowell Institute for Savings Bank Records, 1845-1846, http://library.uml.edu/clh/LIS/LIS45-46.htm

7. List of Voters in the Town of Bloomfield, 1845, http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/VERMONT/1999-11/0941751490 (accessed September 15, 2007); the brief list includes Relief’s father, her brother (Isaac), her future husband, and future father-in-law.

8. Lowell Institute for Savings Bank Records, 1845-1846,  http://library.uml.edu/clh/LIS/LIS45-46.htm
and Lowell Corporation Hospital Association Registry of Patients, 1849,
http://library.uml.edu/clh/PR/Record1849.html (accessed August 20, 2007).

9. 1850 Federal Census of Bloomfield, Essex, Vermont, p. 6.

10. Statement of family descendant, Andrea Edwards, http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/CLOUGH/2001-06/0991483759 (accessed December 30, 2007).

11. Much of this biographical information came from the obituary of Hon. William Riley Silver, Pond Island Herald of Bloomfield, Vermont, July 13, 1894.  Ray J. Dinsmore was a preacher living in nearby Laconia, New Hampshire, per the 1900 Federal Census.

12. 1900 Federal Census of Bloomfield, Essex, Vermont, p. 9.

| Women | Men | Children | Missionaries & Apostles

Contact Connell

"Lowell Mormons" has no official connection to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
© 2005-2007 Connell O'Donovan. All rights reserved.
Do not use without written permission from Connell O'Donovan