An online project under the direction of the CAPE ANN MUSEUM
Piper, John J.
John J. Piper’s life intersected with that of Fitz Henry Lane on several occasions. Both men joined the Gloucester Lyceum in the 1840s, signing the register in succession. In 1849, Piper and Lane helped organize Gloucester’s annual Fourth of July observances and rode together in an open carriage in the celebratory procession. John J. Piper, both of his wives and his son are all buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, adjacent to the grave of Fitz Henry Lane.
On at least two occasions, Piper ordered paintings done by Lane: one based on a pencil drawing entitled "View at Bass Rocks Looking Eastward," and the other from a drawing of Stage Rocks and the Western Shore of Gloucester Outer Harbor (1857). What became of these two paintings following Piper’s death in 1869 remains unknown.
John J. Piper was born in Stratham, New Hampshire, in 1825. He began teaching school in his hometown at the age of fourteen and at the age of sixteen, moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts where he also found work as a teacher. By 1842, he was employed in the Gloucester public schools as a teacher in the girl’s high school. During the 1846–47 school year, Piper was moved to Gloucester’s Numbers 1 & 2 High School for Boys.
While Piper had an early interest in teaching, his true passion was in printing and newspapers. In 1847, under his leadership, the boys’ high school began printing a small newspaper called The Germ which was envisioned as a means for Gloucester boys to improve their composition skills. While officials were pleased at first with Piper’s project, regular visits to the classroom revealed a growing undercurrent of resentment and disrespectfulness among students who were being kept after school to work on the newspaper. Absenteeism became a problem, student progress dropped and mid-way through the 1848 year Piper’s tenure with the Gloucester schools was abruptly terminated.
Later that same year, Piper focused his attention on the world of newspapers, starting a semi-weekly publication called the Gloucester News and Messenger. In 1851, the publication was taken over by the Gloucester Telegraph, and Piper moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he started The Reveille, a political paper that advocated the principals and policies of the Whig party.
Despite his move to Fitchburg, Piper maintained his connections to Cape Ann. In 1856, he and Eliza Sayward of Gloucester were married. Following Eliza’s death a year later, Piper married her younger sister Mary. Together they had one child, a son born in 1868. John J. Piper died in 1869; Mary passed away shortly thereafter, leaving their young son to be raised by his maternal grandmother who lived at the corner of Middle and Washington Streets in Gloucester.
– Martha Oaks
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive, Gloucester, Mass.
". . . will fully appreciate all that I have done in my garden, in ornamenting it, with flowers and plants, Rustic Arbours and Statues, and I only wish that you could be here to witness and enjoy his [Dr. J. L. Stevens] expressions of delight and interest, when a new flower attracts his attention, or some beauty of arrangement meets his eye. Samuel [B. Stevens of Castine] he tells me came up with the expectation of going on a voyage to Australia, but when he arrived in Boston he found the vessel with her compliment of men, and it is very uncertain if he goes in her. Your Mother and all at home are well. I yesterday made a sketch of Stage Fort and the surrounding scenery, from the water. Piper has given me an order for a picture from this point of view, to be treated as a sunset. I shall try to make something out of it, but it will require some management, as there is no foreground but water and vessels. One o’clock, it is very hot, the glass indicates 84° in my room, with the windows all open and a light breeze from the east, this is the warmest day . . .
. . . than devoting it to you. Since writing you last I have painted but one picture worth talking about and that one I intend for you if you should be pleased with it. It is a View of the beach between Stage Fort and Steep bank including Hovey’s Hill and residence, Fresh water cove and the point of land with the lone pine tree. Fessenden’s house, likewise comes into the picture. The effect is a mid day light with a cloudy sky, a patch of sunlight is thrown across the beach and the breaking waves, an old vessel lies stranded on the beach with two or three figures, there are a few vessels in the distance and the Field rocks likewise show at the left of the picture. I think you will be pleased with this picture, for it is a very picturesque scene especially the beach, as there are many rocks which come in to destroy the monotony of a plain sand beach, and I have so arranged the light and shade that the effect I think is very good indeed, however you will be better able to judge of that when you see it, the size is 20 x 33. . ."