Home‎ > ‎Biography‎ > ‎

The Memory Book of Rebecca Smith

    I sat on this information for about two years, not knowing what it meant and what to do with it. The image below of a page from the Memory Book of Rebecca Smith was emailed to me by a long-time friend of Robert Ball Hughes from England. He obtained it several years before from the New Jersey Historical Society. I don’t know how the reference to Ball Hughes was located by someone at the NJHS on this particular handwritten page.
Page from the Memory Book of Rebecca Smith
Click on image to enlarge


A very witty compliment offered to me by
          Ball Hughes Sculptor 

Vulcan forged the bolts of love

A mighty smith was he

I've seen a Smithx could forge love's links

Would bind the raging sea.

      x for the Smiths’ address apply to 

                        Ball Hughes


                         Dorchester -

 Oct 1849.


    The memory book entry appears to be authentic. Robert was known as “Ball Hughes,” was a sculptor, and lived in Dorchester, MA  in 1849. Rebecca calls the verses a very witty compliment. Was that all it was or was he flirting with her?

    The note in the margin says “Mb 273 Memory book of Mary Smith.” A NJHS Reference Associate informed me that the data file was not very enlightening and that upon closer examination of the material, the name on the manuscript is Rebecca Smith not Mary Smith. Unable to find any information on Rebecca Smith of Burlington, NJ in the 1840's, it appeared that I had reached a dead end. Three months later a NJHS Reference Assistant sent me the following helpful information:

"Dear Mr. Brown,


Thank you for your interest in The New Jersey Historical Society, New Jersey’s oldest private cultural institution. I have just finished researching your inquiry regarding Rebecca Smith, and would like to inform you that nothing definite showed up. Both the data file and the manuscript have nothing concrete about her.


There is, however, a lithograph of the school she attended, located on the front page of the manuscript. The school was “Boarding School for Girls, on Green-Bank, Burlington.” The lithograph was done by Samuel R. Gummere. Right on the bottom she wrote “At this school I passed three years of my life.”


That’s all we have for you, unfortunately.


You might want to contact local historical and cultural institutions in Burlington County available here http://www.njdigitalhighway.org/cultural_heritage_libr.php?Sortby=county&Find=Burlington#start."



    I have been unable to learn any more information about Rebecca Smith. Perhaps she was a member of a prominent family in New Jersey. She may have attended the Boarding School for Girls sometime between about 1829 (when the Quaker school was relocated to Green Bank) and 1836 (when it was sold). This would make her about 30-35 years old in 1849 when she wrote this entry in 1849 if she was about 17 when she graduated.


    The Boarding School for Girls founder and head from 1821-1836 was Quaker, Samuel R. Gummere. He was referenced on the lithograph on the front Rebecca Smith’s memory book. In 1836 the Boarding School for Girls was purchased by the Episcopal Church and renamed St. Mary’s School for Girls, a.k.a. “St. Mary’s Hall,” in 1837. It has been named the Doane Academy since 2008.


Please help


Does anyone know who Rebecca Smith was and her relationship with Ball Hughes?
last update 10/5/2010
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2010