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Stevens, Joseph, Jr.
Joseph Lowe Stevens, Jr. (1823–1908) was Lane's closest friend and traveling companion. He was also executor of Lane's estate, and a tireless promoter of Lane's work. He was a supporter of abolition and animal welfare, and an active member of the Gloucester Lyceum. It was the Stevens family who encouraged Lane to make a print of Castine and who published and promoted it there. Joseph first worked as a dry goods salesman and in later life “engaged in the wholesale dry-goods and woollen trade on Summer St. Boston, travelling daily to and fro” on the train. (1)
Joseph's father, Dr. Joseph Lowe Stevens, Sr., was born in Andover, Massachusetts, and raised in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He married Dorothy Little of Castine, Maine, where the couple settled, and where Joseph Jr. was born in 1823. In the spring of 1840, at the age of seventeen, Joseph, Jr. left Maine and moved to Gloucester to work in his uncle’s Samuel Stevens' dry goods store and to live with his grandfather, Zachariah Stevens. Seven years later, Joseph, Jr. married his second cousin, Caroline Stevens Foster. The couple eventually had five children, one of whom died very young.
Like most of the educated population of the town, Joseph joined the Gloucester Lyceum shortly after arriving in town; the signature of John J. Piper appears next in the membership book; and the next after him was Fitz Henry Lane. (2) Joseph remained involved with the Gloucester Lyceum and Library for most of his life, acting as director for many years, and was the superintendent at the time it became incorporated as the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library.
Joseph also helped his father work on a history of Castine, and he was sufficiently concerned about the welfare of animals to serve on the boards of three animal-aid societies. He became the secretary of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the New England Humane Education Society, and treasurer of the Band of Mercy. (3) Joseph was committed to more than animal welfare; he involved himself in the Free Soil movement and the slavery debate, to the extent that he left Gloucester for Kansas in 1855 “to see for himself what was going on,” returning about two years later. (4)
Joseph L. Stevens, Jr. first became friends with Lane after the artist had returned from Boston and had set up a studio on Elm Stree. That same year, Joseph invited Lane to accompany him to Castine. It was the first of many such trips to the Maine coast, where Lane sketched and painted and visited with Joseph’s parents.
When Lane fell out with his brother-in-law, Joseph Stevens came to the rescue by purchasing the contested stone house from Lane and evicting the troublesome in-laws. He was also at Lane’s side when he died and was named as one of two executors in Lane’s will. In addition, he inherited two-thirds of the residual property of the estate.
Joseph’s wife Caroline died in 1886, and Joseph left Gloucester nine years later to marry Charlotte M. Todd of Milton. He remained there until his own death. He is buried in Oak Grove cemetery alongside Caroline and their infant son. Lane is also buried in their family plot.
– Stephanie Buck
(1) Joseph L. Stevens Jr., letter written as Superintendent of the Sawyer Free Library, for the 1876 Women’s Time Capsule. Gloucester Archives, CC195 and AS300.
(2) Gloucester Lyceum Records, vol. 1, 1830–1852.
(3) The New England Humane Education Society is not to be confused with the coastal lifesaving institution which was then known as the Massachusetts Humane Society. The Band of Mercy was associated with the Massachusetts SPCA.
(4) F. A. Sharf, "Fitz Hugh Lane: Visits to the Maine Coast, 1848–1855," Essex Institute Historical Collection 98, no. 2 (April 1962): 112.
Gloucester Daily Telegraph
Article by Joseph L. Stevens
"The beauties of this place [Maine] are well known and appreciated among artists. We heard of Bonfield and Williams who had reluctantly left but a short time before. Fishe had spent several weeks there. Champney and Kensett were then in another part of the island, and we have reason to believe that Church and some others were in the immediate vicinity–Lane who was with us, made good additions to his portfolio."
Wilson Museum, Castine, Maine
Box 2, F1 (A00772)
John Stevens was the younger brother of Joseph Stevens, and acquainted with Lane, spending time with him in Gloucester and at the family home in Castine. His journal, quoted below, includes reference to hunting plover and teal, school, sailing, local events. Mentions Castine mill, lighthouse, and block house.
"Friday [September] 17th: Cloudy all day. Wind N. blowing quite hard. A British Rig loaded with salt from Liverpool came into port last night. She run way up by the Monument and got aground. They kedged her off this P.M. and came down. She came in with one of these old English charts as her guide. They have the town set down on the Brooksville side, two miles + three quarters from the lighthouse."
"Wednesday [September] 22. . .Went down to the Indians Camp on the Back Cove. There were five camps of them."
Visits Gloucester from Castine:
"Wednesday [October] 27th. . .Left for Gloucester [from Boston] at 5 o'clock this P.M. arrived there safe + sound at 6 1/2 o'clock; went right down to the store and saw Joe. We then went up to his house and got supper.
"Thursday [October] 28th. At. Gloucester. Pleasant day. Went down to the "Cut" a gunning this morning before breakfast but saw no birds. Went out in the harbor this forenoon alone, had a fine sail but couldn't get a chance at any birds. Went out again this P.M. got down to East Point Light and the wind died all away, so I had to scull home."
"Friday 29th. Very pleasant day, went out in the harbor this morning with Joe. Took a walk this A.M. with "Lina", called on Mr. Lane + Doct. Hildreth. Joe + I went out in the harbor this P.M. I fired at some birds several times, but didn't get any. . . ."
"Ignatius Winter v. Joseph L. Stevens, Jr.—This was an action of tort brought by the plaintiff to recover damages for personal injury in ejecting him from his dwelling house, as the plaintiff claimed. Defendant justified his expulsion of the plaintiff on the ground that he expelled him from his own, the defendant's house, using no more force than was reasonably necessary to accomplish this."
Letter to the editor: "Fitz H. Lane's will and gift of the Old Fort painting in the Town Hall, sketched in 1859, from T. Sewell Lancaster and Joseph L. Stevens, executors."
Reply from Selectmen: "Mr. Lane was much esteemed by his townsmen not only for his skill as an artist, but also for his character, as a gentleman of Honor and Integrity."
Wilson Museum, Castine, Maine (A00787-1a-1d)
Letter regarding the burning of the packet ship "Boston"
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass.
"Dear Sir, Agreeable to your request that I would write something to attach to the picture in your possession of the Burning of the Packet Ship Boston in 1830, your object I suppose more fully to establish the fact that it is really one of the early productions of our fellow townsman and afterward most distinguished artist Fitz H. Lane.
The picture was drawn the same year by Mr. Lane from a sketch I made soon after the disaster aided by one of the passengers S.S. Osgood Esq. afterward a distinguished portrait painter. Mr. Lane had made not reputation of course at this time as an artist. And probably had received no instruction. It afforded me great pleasure to present this picture to you who was so devoted to him, knowing full well tho nothing very great of itself would be highly appreciative [...] as the early work of that [...] particular friend."
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. . ."
Sawyer Free Library
Castine Historical Society, Maine
"[John] says Charles proposes to come down on Saturday—to return on Monday—so that may be so—I think of defering sending the pictures till then—it has been my intention to have sent them tomorrow. [??] went away on Monday last before I had time to have them boxed. Mr. Noyes will see to that. The have been, for a day or two, in Witherle & Co.'s store, where they were much admired—& a little remarkable, among the visitors there yesterday was Mr. King—the son of the Keeper of the Light—who was engaged in catching herring while you was at the Rock. He was very much pleased—thought it as natural as life—as it was to his recollection—having only left there a week since. He observed that he would not have believed Mr. Lane had so much in him. In case Charles does not come on Saturday how shall I direct the box—for I shall send it by express to Boston—I don't remember any thing was said about that. I hope you will come over to Owl's Head, as proposed—if so, you & Lane must come & spend one night at least. Our two teacher boarders came in the boat that took you away—but we can continue to accommodate some way or other. Mary is to leave on Monday next."
Collection of the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive, Gloucester, Mass.
"[The painting] is offered you for $150 on as long time and in as many notes at 3% interest as you choose. . . I believe this to be the only important painting of Gloucester Harbor that Lane never duplicated. . . .Returning from a Gloucester visit while I was still under the roof there, father brought a print of Lane's first Gloucester view, bought of the artist at his Tremont Temple studio in Boston. An extra dollar had been paid for coloring it. For a few years it was a home delight.. . .I had been a few years in Gloucester when Lane began to come, for part of the time a while, if I remember rightly. He painted in his brother's house, "up in town" it then was. I recall visits there to see his pictures. But it was long after, that I could claim more than a simple speaking acquaintance. The Stacys were very kind, aiding him as time went on in selling paintings by lot. I invested in a view of Gloucester from Rocky Neck, thus put on sale at the old reading room, irreverently called "Wisdom Hall." And they bought direct of him to some extent, before other residents. Lane was much my senior and yet we gradually drifted together. Our earliest approach to friendship was after his abode began in Elm Street as an occupant of the old Prentiss [sic-corrected Stacy] house, moved there from Pleasant. I was a frequenter of this studio to a considerable extent, yet little compared with my intimacy at the next and last in the new stone house on the hill. Lane's art books and magazines were always at my service and a great inspiration and delight—notably the London Art Journal to which he long subscribed. I have here a little story to tell you. A Castine man came to Gloucester on business that brought the passing of $60 through my hands at 2 1/2 % commission. I bought with the $1.50 thus earned Ruskin's Modern Painters, my first purchase of an artbook. I dare say no other copy was then owned in town. . . .Lane was frequently in Boston, his sales agent being Balch who was at the head of his guild in those days. So in my Boston visits – I was led to Balch's fairly often – the resort of many artists and the depot of their works. Thus through, Lane in various ways I was long in touch with the art world, not only of New England but of New York and Philadelphia. I knew of most picture exhibits and saw many. The coming of the Dusseldorf Gallery to Boston was an event to fix itself in one's memory for all time. What talks of all these things Lane and I had in his studio and by my fireside!
For a long series of years I knew nearly every painting he made. I was with him on several trips to the Maine coast where he did much sketching, and sometimes was was [sic] his chooser of spots and bearer of materials when he sketched in the home neighborhood. Thus there are many paintings whose growth I saw both from brush and pencil. For his physical infirmity prevented his becoming an out-door colorist."
Single sheet, writing both sides
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives, Gloucester, Mass.
"My dear Sir,
I hope you will not attribute the delay in acknowledging the receipt of your splendid, and most unexpected Gift to a want of a due appreciation of it. Many reasons have consipired to prevent my doing it – unnecessary to repeat. But I can no longer defer the expressions of our warmest acknowledgements for a present in itself so valuable, and endeared to us by many associations, as a representation of scenery often admired, and which I have many times wished could be transferred to canvas, although vary far from thinking that wish would ever be gratified. You must premit me, however, to say that the Painting, valuable as it is as a work of Art, and pleased as I may be as the possessor of it, is less appreciated by us than the delicate and very generous manner in which its acceptance has been tendered. My love of Art, to which you do politely allude, I am sensible has only wanted opportunity of indulgence to have amounted to a passion. From my earliest days I have wished for opportunities to visit places, where that desire could be gratified, and my reading has only had the effect of increasing my regrets for the want of them, and of encouraging envy for those more fortunate - I feel, too, under great obligations for the Drawing of the "Siege"(1) – I had no expectations you could have produced anything so good from so rough a copy. I shall have it framed for presentation and future reference. Several gentlemen who have called in to see the painting have expressed a desire to have a drawing from you of our town, similar to yours of Gloucester, which they much admire, and of lithographs, I have no doubts copies enough could be disposed of to remunerate you. That of Homans you are aware is feebly drawn, & still worse printed. I feel desirous myself it should be done, if it suits your wishes. There are several points of view, which you did not see, & to which it will be my pleasure, next summer, to carry you. I know many of our citizens would be gratified to have this done by you. Our house we shall expect to be your home, and if, as you suggested in Gloucester, you should come in your Boat, this place could be made the rendezvous, from whence you could start to any place that convenience & inclination might dictate – . . . Permit me again to tender acknowledgements for the picture. It hangs in our parlor, & I never come in to the house, without looking in to see it, & can never cease to feel grateful for your generosity and politeness. "
(1) Joseph Stevens was very interested the Revolutionary war event known as the "Penobscot Expedition" or the "Siege of Castine" by the British on July 25, 1779. In 1852 he handwrote an account of it and many articles are in the family's scrapbook at the Wilson Museum in Castine.
Essex County Probate Records, Volume 424, Leaves 34 & 35
The will disposed of Lane's property (including watch and diamond breast pin), his monetary assets, and gave to the city of Gloucester a painting of the Old Fort. Joseph Stevens, Jr. and T. Sewall Lancaster were named executors. It was signed by Lane on March 10, 1865.
Wilson Museum, Castine, Maine (A00060-1a-1h)
Description of an excursion taken by Joseph Stevens, Jr., Lane, Witherle, Samuel Adams, Jr., and George Tilden around the islands of Maine near Mt. Desert. The group hired the Sloop "Superior" which was owned by Pilot Getchell. In his diary, Witherle mentions multiple times that "Lane took a sketch" especially when the water was calm. Lane often stayed on board the boat, while the others went ashore.
Excerpts of the diary include:
August 16: "Lane has a knack for frying fish."
August 17: "leaving Lane to take a sketch, we took a climb."
August 19: "went to ascend one of the highest mountains. 3/4 the way up we had to wait – once in a while for Lane who with his crutches could not keep up with us – but got along faster than we thought possible . . .Lane got up about an hour after the rest of us."
The entire text is transcribed in an account published by the Wilson Museum.