Monday, September 17, 2012

On Their Honeymoon

Nathaniel Ferguson and Amanda Davenport on their honeymoon.

The writing on the back of the card is in ballpoint pen, obviously written many years after the photo was taken. Something not quite right there. Portraits such as this one were not produced in the 1820s. And, since Amanda Davenport wasn't born until 1830, this would have been a stretch. It turns out that the date should be 1856.

Amanda and Nathaniel Ferguson lived in Heidelberg, Pennsylvania. By the time of the 1880 Census they already had seven children. Their household also included her mother, Katherine Adams Davenport, two servants and a governess. Amanda gave birth to ten children and died at the age of 51.

Here's a biographical entry I found for Nathaniel Ferguson in Morton Montgomery's Historical and Biographical Annals, written in 1909.

Nathaniel Ferguson, the youngest son in the above family, was born in Lancaster county, Pa., Nov. 20, 1817. He left home when eighteen years of age with fifty cents in his pocket given him by his mother along with her blessings and well wishes for success. Having graduated from the Moscow Academy in Lancaster, where he had shown himself a diligent pupil, in 1839 he became clerk at the Elizabeth Furnace, in Lancaster county, then owned by the heirs of James Coleman, one of the proprietors of the Cornwall mines. Two and a half years later he rose to the management of the business, and he held that position for seven years. He then removed to Swatara Furnace, Schuylkill county, and became a member of the firm of Eckert, Gilbert & Company, of which he was the active manager. The partnership lasted until 1855 when the company ceased operations as the use of anthracite coal had superseded charcoal. In 1857 he removed to Robesonia Furnace and assumed the management. 

In 1860, at the death of Henry P. Robeson, he purchased an interest and became a partner in the firm of White, Ferguson & Company. In 1863 the firm became White & Ferguson, and remained so until 1875, although the interest of Mr. White, who died in 1868, was continued for the benefit of his heirs. Mr. Ferguson then purchased the interest of one of the heirs and the firm became Ferguson, White & Co. ... In 1885 Mr. Ferguson sold his interests in Robesonia, and, retiring from active business, removed to Reading, where he passed away in 1891. He was a prominent man in the city and served as a director of the First National Bank. As a man of self-reliance, sound education, untiring energy and great executive ability Mr. Ferguson became a successful manufacturer and clear-sighted business man with the respect and regard of all who knew him for his unswerving integrity, benevolence and liberality toward all. Patriotic and public spirited, generous and kind, he passed away after a life of great activity. 

Nathaniel Ferguson married in 1856 Miss Amanda Davenport, daughter of Dr. John Davenport, of Connecticut, and granddaughter of Judge William Adams, a member of Congress in the early part of the nineteenth century. They became the parents of ten children, five of whom still survive: Elizabeth, the wife of Charles L. Hoff, of Reading; Laura, the wife of Rev. S. H. Larper, a Presbyterian minister of Media, Pa.; Nathaniel, vice-president of the First National Bank, of Reading; Wilson; and Grace, wife of O. S. Doolittle, of New York City. 


  1. Great photo! I don't know how common a surname Davenport is, but there a lot of Davenports in the area where I've been researching family (in the UK).

  2. Wow, how do you find out such detail? They look a handsome couple - not that happy for honeymooners, but maybe that was just because of the length of time you had to sit still and wait for a photo to get taken in those days.

  3. Poor old Amanda, only 51. Worn out by all that childbearing I should think!

  4. Fascinating! Yes, where DO you get all those details? They didn't look too happy but no one ever seems to in those old portraits...

  5. There is such a solidity about the couple, But I suppose the birth of all those children will challenge even the most solid constitution.

  6. The incorrect year on the photo doesn't surprise me, particularly given that it was added much later. In doing genealogical research I've waded through errors planted by family members many times!

  7. They seem to be a little bit too old for a honeymoon, but according to the biography he would be 39 at his wedding, so that suits the photo well.



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