Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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College Archives and Special Collections


@ElizaBTweetin: April 22-29 – Connections with Death

Posted on April 29, 2013

Special Collections, Brandeis University Library  “Vaccinating the Poor,” Harper’s Weekly 1872

Special Collections, Brandeis University Library
“Vaccinating the Poor,” Harper’s Weekly 1872

Death was a constant and common theme in the 19thcentury, especially in 1872-3 Boston, where a devastating smallpox epidemic took the lives of more than one thousand people. Yet Eliza Wheaton never mentions this devastating event in her diaries, only the deaths of relatives, the very young and the very old.  It was first suprising then that Eliza mentions the death of Dr. Samuel Deans, M.D., of Easton died on April 22. Eliza notes that she attended his funeral on April 25.

This poses the question, how was Dr. Deans associated with Eliza? Born in Connecticut in 1794, one of thirteen children, Deans was self-educated until attending the New Haven Medical School (Yale). He opened his practice in Furnace Village, an early industrial development in the western portion of Easton, MA. In 1821, Dr. Deans married Hannah LeBaron Goodwin Wheaton, daughter of Easton’s postmaster Daniel Wheaton, a cousin of Laban Morey Wheaton. In an odd coincidence, Hannah was born in Uxbridge, where Eliza B. Wheaton had attended school!

Deans, known as “a man of character and ability” who shared a “warm and constant” interest in education, served with “efficiency and zeal” on the Easton School Board for fifteen years and sought a good education for his children, four of whom survived infancy.  His eldest daughter, Elizabeth Wheaton Deans, was a member of Wheaton Female Seminary’s first graduating class in 1839, and was a successful teacher in Easton and Medway before her death in 1870.  Samuel’s youngest daughter, Anna LeBaron Deans, who graduated from Wheaton in 1853, also became a teacher.

Dr. Samuel’s two sons, George Wheaton and Charles Henry, both became lawyers. George Wheaton Deans was born in Easton in 1827. He attended Brown University for two years, and studied law in the Harvard Law School.  In another family coincidence, George went to California in 1849, where he stayed about four years, having some success in mining. There he may have met Eliza’s favorite brother, Samuel Austin Chapin, who kept a store catering to the ‘49ers. George returned to Taunton about 1855 and practiced law, but after two years opened a successful hardware business in Boston.  In the long economic depression that began in 1872, he suffered reverses, and abandoned mercantile pursuits to practice law in Jacksonville, Florida. Details regarding the Deans family may be found in William L. Chaffin’s History of the Town of Easton, Massachusetts (1886.

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