For a brief, 16-year run in the late 1800s, The Daily Graphic: An Illustrated Evening Newspaper was published in New York City, founded by two Canadian engravers and becoming the first American newspaper with daily illustrations. It had a circulation of 10,000 and lasted from March 1873 until September 1889.
It was the Tuesday, Aug, 26, 1873, edition of The Daily Graphic that held my attention the other day framed on an upstairs office wall of my son’s house in Portsmouth, N.H. It came from the Stonington COMO thrift shop and I hadn’t seen it in a few years.
The entire front page that August day was devoted to Stonington, with sketches of the borough, including the Wadawanuck Hotel; Mystic Bridge and the river; “Charles Palmer’s private park”; and, for good measure, the beach at Watch Hill.
There was also a portrait sketch of one Capt. Sam Bottom, said to be, at age 85, the oldest man in town and also the oldest surviving veteran of the Battle of Stonington in 1814.
Library collections of The Daily Graphic, according to a listing by the Library of Congress, include the Stonington Historical Society, which has copies of the newspaper from 1873 through 1877.
Apparently various copies, such as the one I saw, show up in the homes of private collectors and, no doubt, in shops and markets offering vintage maps, books and similar collectibles.
“Charles Palmer’s Private Park,” according to Mary Thacher, former president of the Stonington Historical Society and resident resource for most matters historical, was a 90-acre expanse, including mansion, extending over what is today the Admiral Fife Navy recreation area along Route 1, the plaza where Stonington Pizza is and much of Quanaduck Cove.
“Charles Phelps Palmer, son of Courtlandt Palmer and Mary Ann Suydam Palmer,” she wrote in an email, “bought the 90-acre Walnut Grove property from James Ingersoll Day, who built a 36-room house at the same time as the Palmers built the house now the headquarters of the Stonington Historical Society.
“He built a racecourse for trotting horses on land now the Quanaduck development. He died of appendicitis, as did his brother Courtlandt Palmer Jr., the father of Eva Palmer Sikilianos. In the 1890s, the property went through other hands and became the Stonington Manor Inn, which was taken down because of hurricane damage in 1938. The US 1 road dividing the property was built c. 1939-1940.”
As for Capt. Sam Bottom, the oldest man in town, it turns out, at least by observing his headstone in Stonington Cemetery, that his name was spelled Samuel Bottum and that he died in November 1874 at age 86.
The inscription below his name on the stone reads: “Formed upon our live’s noblest plan, an honest, upright, candid, worthy man.”
His wife, Nancy Palmer, the daughter of Peleg and Mary Burtch Palmer, who died at age 77 in 1869, is buried next to him.
Mary Thacher notes that the Bottum surname was originally Longbottum.
As for Bottum’s service during the Battle of Stonington, in which a coterie of local militia and volunteers fended off the four-day siege and bombardment of Stonington by four British warships under the command of Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy in August 1814, a muster roll of militia published by the Connecticut Gazette after the battle counts Samuel Bottum Jr. among the 30-odd enlistees:
“MUSTER ROLL of the 8th Company of Infantry under the command of CAPTAIN WM. POTTER in the Thirtieth Regiment of Con. Militia in service of the United States, at Stonington, commanded by Lieut. Col. WM. RANDALL, from the 9th of August when last mustered, to the 27th of August 1814,” the record was so published by the Gazette.
Bottum is among two dozen of those with the rank of corporal. Other ranks were captain (William Potter), lieutenant (Horatio G. Lewis), ensign (Daniel Frink) and sergeants (Francis Amy, Charles H. Smith, Peleg Hancox and Gurdon Trumbull).
Also listed was Joseph Bailey Jr., designated as “waiter” to Capt. William Potter.
James Tertius de Kay, in his renowned 1990 history, “The Battle of Stonington: Torpedoes, Submarines and Rockets in the War of 1812,” does account for the presence of militia and mentions (Colonel) William Randall and his men helping to haul one of the defenders’ few cannon down to join the other gun crews.
Later, writes de Kay, “The principal parts of three full regiments of militia were now encamped at the northern boundary of the borough, and the presence of such an overwhelming number of troops made the village secure against any possible British landing party.”
After the war, Bottum became a whaling captain and lived long enough to distinguish himself as Stonington’s oldest surviving veteran of the battle and thereby landing himself on the cover of The Daily Graphic.
Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime reporter and columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com.