The plight of the Hoar children

Posted 7/5/22

On Oct. 27, 1895, Bridget (Collins) Hoar died at the age of 40. Immediately after giving birth to her seventh child, Jennie Etta Hoar, on Sept. 6 of that year, her health began to fail. She left a …

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The plight of the Hoar children


On Oct. 27, 1895, Bridget (Collins) Hoar died at the age of 40. Immediately after giving birth to her seventh child, Jennie Etta Hoar, on Sept. 6 of that year, her health began to fail. She left a husband, four daughters and three sons to mourn the loss of her.

For 35-year-old Thomas Hoar, this was more than he could handle. A former weaver and machinist, Thomas began drinking heavily and neighbors complained to the police. In the summer of 1897, he was arrested for drunkenness. He pleaded not guilty but later retracted his plea for a lighter sentence, six months at the Rhode Island State Farm.

Now there was a household of children alone. Emily Garfield Hoar was 16; William Francis Hoar was 14; Albert John Hoar was 11; Elizabeth and Helen Hoar were under the age of 10 and Jennie was only 2 years old. The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children went and collected them. Some were taken in by local families while the pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church placed the others at a children’s home in Boston.

When the pastor of St. Mary’s Church heard about Thomas’s plight and the scattering of the children, he went to the State Farm to speak with him. Although Thomas was aware the State had placed the children out, no one had requested his consent to do so. The clergyman therefore asked Thomas to sign an agreement stating that he would be allowed to bring the children into the care of the Rhode Island Catholic Home. After Thomas presented the agree-ment to John Walch, the overseer of the poor in Johnston, Walch consented to the idea.

On Sept. 3, 1897, Emily submitted a handwritten statement to the court, informing them that she had chosen Walch as her legal guardian. As she was a minor over the age of 14, she had the legal right to choose her own guardian. That same day, Walch presented a petition to the court, asking that he or some other suitable person be appointed legal guardian over the other Hoar children.

Where or with whom the children actually grew up isn’t known. While some of the children have proven untrace-able, the others seem to have lived full lives.

William married twice and worked as a collector for a furniture company in Providence and then as a traveling salesman for the Diamond Match Company. In Vermont, he was employed as a grain salesman and as an insecticide salesman in Connecticut.

Jennie was still unmarried by 1950 and resided in Fall River. That year, she sailed for Naples aboard the “SS Italia”. The following month, she departed on the “Queen Elizabeth” from Southampton, England with two bags of luggage for the return trip home.

Emily married Frank Henry Sheldon, a tobacco farmer from Connecticut. They later moved to New Jersey. After Frank became the managing director for James A. Hearn & Son and had to relocate to London for work, Emily applied for temporary residence in 1924 for herself and their two children in Great Britain and Ireland. She also requested permission to travel to France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Italy. She and Frank later became citizens of Brazil. She died on April 27, 1965 and was buried with Frank at West Suffield Cemetery in Conn.

Thomas married for a second time on July 17, 1899. It was also the second marriage of his wife, 32-year-old Bridget Kelly. He worked as a salesman and later as a weaver. By 1920, he was widowed again and employed as a janitor at the Providence apartment house where he lived. He later resided at a Providence boarding house and lived to be 80 years old, dying on April 10, 1935 at the Home for the Aged & Poor in Pawtucket.

Throughout past centuries, many families were broken up and scattered across the state due to death, disease, al-coholism, abuse and poverty. The situations of so many children demanded a strength which should never be neces-sary in childhood. 

Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.


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