The House of Moulton

8409_58th_Ave

The Moulton House today and in 1920 Harris Co. Catalogue

This 6-room,1-bath mail order house located at 8409 58th Avenue was built in 1920 – 1921 by the Berwyn Heights Company.1 It was purchased by Catherine A. Moulton (1874-1938) and her daughters Monemia and Parthia, joint tenants, in February 1922.2 Prior to purchasing the home, Catherine lived in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She was married to Francis J. Moulton (1868-1909), who worked as an oysterman off Hooper’s Island in the Chesapeake Bay.3 They had 5 children: twin girls Monemia and Parthia born in 1901, then Howard (1903), Charles (1905) and Lilly (1909).4

Catherine, nee Fitzpatrick, was an immigrant. She came to America from Ireland with her family in April 1887 aboard the ocean liner City of Montreal.5 Francis, on the other hand, grew up in a prominent New England family. He was born in France to Charles Raymond and Lillie (Greenough) Moulton.6 His Moulton ancestors had first settled in Saalem, MA in the late 1600s, and their English forebears trace their lineage to Thomas Moulton who fought with William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.7

A Moulton Family Crest

Charles R. Moulton was a wealthy banker, and a son of Charles F. Moulton, a merchant from Troy, NY, who had accumulated a great fortune in the cotton trade. Charles Sr. was a personal friend of Louis Napoleon, and he and his family moved to Paris when Napoleon became Emperor of France in 1852.8 The Moultons owned several houses in and near Paris, including the Chateau de Petit Val, where Charles Jr. and his wife Lillie would reside after their marriage. Lillie was a famous soprano and an appreciated guest at the court of Louis Napoleon. She gave performances in Paris’ high society and counted among her friends such important composers as Liszt, Wager, Rossini, Gounod and Auber.9 After the fall of Napoleon III in 1870, the Moultons returned to the United States, where Charles died. In 1875, Lillie married the Danish diplomat, Johann de Hegermann-Lindencrone, whom she followed to Washington and a number of European capitals where he served. Her life in Paris and as a diplomats wife is chronicled in two books of letters she published in 1911 and 1913.10

Lillie’s children were raised with the help of nurses. After her return to America, they stayed with her family at Fay House in Cambridge, MA and went to school there.11 Considering the upbringing, it is a bit of a mystery how the Moulton scion Francis ended up working the oyster grounds of the Chesapeake Bay. But the leap is perhaps not as great as it might first appear.

Crisfield Harbor Oyster House, 1901. (from Smithsonian Institution Web Exhibit)

Crisfield Harbor Oyster House, 1901

In the late 1800s, the Chesapeake Bay was experiencing an oyster boom that drew men in search of profit from many places, in particular from New England. The once thriving New England oyster industry had gone into decline because its oyster beds had been depleted. But the Chesapeake seemed to have an inexhaustible supply. In the peak year of 1884, 15 million bushels of oysters were harvested in the Chesapeake, representing nearly half of the world’s supply.12 A reporter for Harper’s Magazine described the boom as “simply a mad scramble carried on in 700 boats manned by 5,600 daring and unscrupulous men.”13 The scramble pitted mostly local watermen, who “tonged” for oysters in the shallow waters of the river deltas, against outsiders, or “oyster pirates,” who “dredged” in deeper waters, but gradually encroached on the tongers’ territory. This resulted in numerous violent clashes and often death. The efforts of the Maryland Oyster Navy to restore order during the Chesapeake Oyster Wars were largely ineffective.14

All things considered, Francis’ illustrious ancestry did not have much practical significance in his adult life. He died in March 1909 at the age of 41 from inflammation of the kidneys and acute bronchitis,15 possibly the result of working in the icy waters of the Chesapeake during the winter oyster season. Catherine was left to raise their children. The year 1920 finds her living in Vienna, Dorchester County, where she was employed as a laborer, while her sons worked as farm hands.16 Her daughters Monemia and Parthia both attended Maryland State Normal School (Towson University).17 After graduating in 1920, the Misses Moulton first lived in Washington, D.C., where Monemia was a clerk in the Commerce Department,18 before moving to Berwyn Heights. The Berwyn Heights house was sold in August 1939, a year after Catherine died, to Arthur and Mabel Shank.19 Catherine and two of her children are buried at Fort Lincoln Cemetery.

1 Berwyn Heights Company Minute Book, Page 64

2 Deed, 4 February 1922, Berwyn Heights Company to Catherine A. Moulton, Monemia Moulton & Parthia Moulton, Prince George’s Land Records, Book 237, Page 357.

3 U.S. Census Record, 1900.

4 U.S. Census Record, 1910.

5 City of Montreal Passenger List, 19 April 1887.

7 Miller, Charles C., and Samuel A. Baxter, eds. “The History of Allen County, Ohio and Representative Citizens.,” Chicago: Richmond & Arnold, 1906. Page 805.

8 Miller and Baxter. Page 809.

9 Hegermann-Lindencrone, Lillie. “In the Courts of Memory, 1858-1875,” Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co. 1911. Page vii.

10 Hegermann-Lindencrone, Lillie. “The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912.” New York: Harper’s & Bros. Publishers, 1913

11 U.S. Census record, 1880.

12 Wikipedia entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OysterWars, retrieved 10-14-2017.

13 Wennersten, John R. “The Oyster Wars of the Chesapeake Bay,” Tidewater Press, 1981. Page 55.

14 Wennersten

16 U.S. Census record, 1920.

17Maryland State Normal School. Book of the Senior Class, Vol. I. Towson MD, 1919. Page 60.

18 D.C. City Directory, 1922.

19 Deed, 10 August 1939, Prince George’s Land Records, Book 538, Page 67.

23 responses

  1. Jennifer Rea Clagett | Reply

    Hi,
    I can tell you about my great grandfather Francis Moulton. He wasn’t an oysterman. He had a PhD in Greeco-Roman Studies and moved to the Eastern Shore to enjoy the outdoors and sailing his boat. The locals would come to him for medical advice because he was very well educated, worldly and smart. He owned Possum Island (where he was buried) and a number of other homes and places in the area at the time of his death. He died after falling off of his sailboat and catching cold leaving behind his wife Catherine and five young children. He was divorced and met my great grandmother Catherine on a ship during a trip back to the United States. Catherine was immigrating to the US from England with her sister who married a Brennan from New Jersey.
    There is a lot more to the family history if you are interested. The records mentioned are flawed.

    1. frank ciaramello | Reply

      i am currently doing research on my Family and i believe that Lilly Moulton (1909) may be my great grand mother and i would like as much information as i could get please feel free to reach out to me fciaramello1@gmail.com

      1. Hello Mr. Ciaramello, may I ask which branch of Lilly Moulton’s family you are descended from?

    2. Jennifer, the records do indeed seem to be flawed. Who were the parents of your great-grandfather, Francis Moulton? As far as I can tell, Charles R. Moulton and his wife Lillie Greenough only had two children: a daughter, who married a Danish count, and a son named Howard Moulton or Charles Howard Moulton. Nowhere in Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone’s memoirs is a son named Francis mentioned, and she mentioned her children quite a bit.

      1. The death certificate of Francis Moulton names Lillie Greenough and Chas Moulton as his parents. The certificate is held by the Maryland State Archives.

      2. Yes, I saw that, and I am still puzzled. According to Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone’s two published books and what I have found on genealogy sites, she had four children, two from her first marriage to Charles Moulton and two from her second marriage to Johan de Hegermann-Lindencrone. With Charles Moulton, she had two children, a daughter who married a Danish count and a son, referred to as Howard in Lillie’s published letters and as Charles Howard Moulton on some genealogy sites. Nowhere is a son named Francis mentioned.

      3. I don’t know.

      4. The 1880 Census list 4 children: Charles Howard, Suzanne and Francis with last name ‘Moulton’ and only Frederike as ‘Hegermann-Lindencrone’. At the time they lived in the house of Maria Fay and Harriett Greenough in Cambridge, MA. This record has Francis as born in France.

      5. He could have been born in France. The parents traveled back and forth a lot.

      6. I believe Howard also moved back to the U.S., but I have no further information on his adult life.

      7. Really interesting! Will look up the 1880 census. Isn’t it curious, though, that in her published books Lillie never mentions Francis once, although she mentions her other children quite a bit, and the genealogy sites don’t either? It’s almost as if she excised him from her life. Could it be that the family disapproved of his life and marriage (marriages?), and cut him off? The Moultons’ rumored wealth turned out to be just that, rumor. When Charles Moulton died, he left Lillie and their children in straightened circumstances. She depended on her aunt and her mother for support until she married Johan de Hegermann-Lindencrone, so where did Francis get the money to buy Possum Island? All I can think of is that when Maria Denny Fay sold the Fay house to Radcliffe College, she must have given some of the money to Lillie, who was a favorite niece.

      8. One more thought: whatever happened, Francis must have continued to have some feelings for his family, since his three younger children are named after his brother, his father, and his mother, respectively.

      9. ‘Official’ records and genealogical sites are often wrong or incomplete. I believe one of Francis’s descendent has been working on his family line and adding documentation. Perhaps the other sites will get updated too.

      10. I think you are right. Francis paid his respects by naming 3 children after relatives. But what about the twins Monemia and Parthia? Those are unusual names.
        Regarding finances, Francis apparently had money, whether inherited or earned. As Jenny has pointed out earlier, Francis was highly educated and owned other property on the Eastern Shore. I looked them up in the Maryland land records: Castle Haven Neck on the Choptank River, Stephen’s Gift on the Blackwater and Barren Island. They were purchased in the name of Luisa Schardt Moulton, his first wife, whom he married in 1889.

      11. When I searched for the name ‘Monemia’ I came across this Miriam Webster Dictionary definition:

        History and Etymology for Monimia
        New Latin, from Latin Monima (from Latin, from Greek Monimē), the wife of Mithridates VI †63b.c. king of ancient Pontus after whom a related genus (Mithridatea) had been named + New Latin -ia

        The late Kings of Mithridatea were names King of Parthia.

        Francis had his PhD in Greco-Roman studies which took many years to earn.

      12. It makes sense that a Greco-Roman scholar would derive names from Greek history/mythology.

  2. Those are his parents.

    I believe his mother had five children. Three with her first husband and two with her second husband. She moved to Europe with all of her children. Francis was the only one to move back to the US.
    Francis died as a result of catching pneumonia after accidentally falling off his sailboat. He was out sailing with his dog. They lived on Possum Island which is where he was buried. He liked the outdoors and the slower life of the Eastern Shore.

    1. No, she stayed in contact and even visited his widow and grandchildren after her son died and vice versa. She was a very conscientious, loving and generous grandmother. Lily grew up at Fay House so it was only natural for her to return to her family after her first husband died. Francis had his own business dealings. His mother was well off and famous. She sold two best selling books. He was the type of person who preferred a quiet life.

      1. Well, then it is even more puzzling that Francis’s wife and children were left in want, if he was not estranged from his family when he died. According to the posts here, he was independently wealthy (which did not come from the Moultons, since his father, Charles Moulton, died leaving his family little money). Yet after his death, his family seems to have been in very straightened circumstances if his widow had to work as a “laborer” and his sons as farm hands. Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone had married into a Danish aristocratic family that was far from poor, as had his sister and half-siblings, so why was Francis’s family left destitute? Puzzling.

      2. The post is partially incorrect, as J. first pointed out. Francis was not an oysterman and his family was probably not left destitute. The information about the family’s occupations came from the 1900 and 1910 census but was not confirmed with other sources when initially written. I am happy to write another post to correct and supplement the first using additional information readers may supply.

      3. It’s a long story and I don’t care to go in to the details. Perhaps I’ll write a book!

      4. I’ll look forward to a book.

      5. I came across this ancestry.com record (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ot2fhnlBrskn59kYUIk0oZBdsvT9XnYp/view?usp=sharing)
        when researching Francis Moulton. It seems to indicate that in 1892, Francis was a broker living in Keyport, NJ and was the father of baby Frances A. Fitzpatrick and spouse? of Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. Frances is not among Catherine’s children on the 1910 and 1920 Census and may have died.

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