Janette Thompson, of Greenfield

Janette Thompson, of Greenfield

By Carol Aleman

Janette Thompson’s story is one of a young woman enlisted as a household servant and two sisters, Elizabeth and Charlotte, remarkably close in age to her.  The sisters were daughters of Bethlehem, Connecticut clergyman Joseph Bellamy and his wife, Sarah, and each ultimately married clergymen. What appears to emerge is a lasting relationship of trust and friendship, shared tragedy and resilience.

Miss Thompson was native of Seymour, Connecticut.[1]  Her father, Daniel Thompson, was said to have been enslaved in Connecticut.[2]  Miss Thompson came to Greenfield in all probability from Bethlehem, Connecticut, where she had been residing in the household of the then widowed Mrs. Bellamy.[3] A resident of that household as early as 1850,[4]Miss Thompson’s birth in about 1819 was just nine years after a Bethlehem death notice appeared in The Newtown Bee for “Tony, child of Jennet Thompson, colored.”[5] Noteworthy is that Miss Thompson’s first name has been recorded in various records as “Jennette”, “Jeannette”, “Janette”, and even “Jeneatte.”[6] Despite these discrepancies, it is tempting to speculate that she was related to Jennet, the mother who lost her son in 1810, especially given that the early spelling of her name is so close.

In 1853, one of the two sisters, Elizabeth Bellamy, married Bethlehem pastor Rev. Aretas G. Loomis,[7]  whose mother’s family had ties to Greenfield.[8] According to the 1860 federal census, the Loomises and Miss Thompson were living with Mrs. Bellamy (Elizabeth’s mother) in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Also in that household were two young children of Elizabeth’s deceased sister Charlotte, named Charlotte and Bellamy Munroe.[9]

Mrs. Bellamy died in 1866 and Miss Thompson joined Rev. and Mrs. Loomis in their Greenfield household,[10]  it becoming her residence and presumed place of service for 30 years. 

In 1870, Jennie Thompson, 12, almost certainly a relative of Miss Thompson, was living with Miss Thompson in the Loomis household, along with Charlotte and Bellamy Munroe, by then 14 and 13, and a young teacher for the children.[11]  Graves in Green River Cemetery indicate that the younger Charlotte died in 1874; her brother, Bellamy in 1875; and Jennie in 1880. Of the three, only Jennie lived to the age of 20.[12]

Late in the 1890s, Janette Thompson left the Loomis’ service.[13] The reason for the change is unclear, but it may have been related to Rev. Loomis’s death in 1893.[14] For almost another decade thereafter, Miss Thompson resided with Charles and Phebe Walcott, also in Greenfield.[15]

Rev. and Mrs. Loomis never had children of their own, and Miss Thompson never married. For the Loomises, whether residing in the early years of their marriage in Connecticut with Mrs. Bellamy, Miss Thompson, and Charlotte’s young children or sharing their home with them thereafter, one thing is clear: together with Miss Thompson, they offered a secure family setting. 

That family was important is further attested by the fact that in 1880, the year Jennie died, Rev. Munroe, 73, and two other boarders were residing with the Loomis family.[16] With each federal census, it becomes clear that whatever the family make-up happened to be, Miss Thompson was central to it. The Loomises were hosts to several Chinese students, perhaps as many as 7 or 8 over the years, as part of the Chinese Educational Mission (1872-1881).[17] Whether welcoming motherless children, boarders, teachers, or others for temporary lodging, respite, or instruction, the adjustments were made to adapt to an ever diverse household.

Miss Thompson died at the Walcott home on December 19, 1905.[18] In her will, she left her assets to Tuskegee Institute.[19] Both Mr. and Mrs. Walcott survived her, as did Mrs. Loomis. Miss Thompson’s burial in the Loomis-Munroe family plot[20] at Green River Cemetery represents the significance of her roughly five decades with the Bellamy family, in one form or another, in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Her final resting place is in Lot 152, next to the young Jennie, who died 25 years earlier. Miss Thompson’s dedication and enduring presence were recognized at her death for the vital place she held in the family. The greatest tribute to her, in the end, may have been that she always belonged there. 

Carol Aleman, representing the Historical Society of Greenfield as organizational participant, is a budding researcher, a lifelong student, and a current member of the historical society’s Board.

[1] Greenfield Recorder, 23 December 1905, p. 6.

[2] Greenfield Recorder, 23 December 1905, p. 6.

[3] U.S. Census, Bethlehem, Connecticut, 1860.

[4] U.S. Census, Bethlehem, Connecticut, 1850.

[5] The Newtown Bee, 31 January 1810, p. 10.

[6] Massachusetts, U.S. Death Records, 1841-1915.

[7]Greenfield Gazette & Courier, 11 April 1908, p. 5 and 8 April 1908, p. 4.

[8] Thompson, Francis M. History of Greenfield: Shire Town of Franklin County1682-1900. T. Morey & Son, 1904, p. 838.

[9] U.S. Census, Bethlehem, Connecticut, 1860.

[10] Greenfield Recorder, 23 December 1905, p. 6.

[11] U.S. Census, Greenfield, Massachusetts, 1870.

[12] Find-A-Grave website. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/120463842/janette-thompson

[13] Greenfield Recorder, 23 December 1905, p. 6.

[14] Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910.

[15] Greenfield Recorder, 23 December 1905, p. 6.

[16] U.S. Census, Greenfield, Massachusetts, 1880.

[17] “What Became of the Boys that once Studied under Rev. Mr. Loomis.” Greenfield Recorder, October 1905, p. 2 and “Former Student Here. New Mandarin.” Greenfield Recorder, 27 March 1909. For more information on the Chinese Educational Mission, see: http://www.cemconnections.org. For information about the students’ hosts in western Mass., see: https://pvhncem.wordpress.com/about

[18] Greenfield Recorder, 23 December 1905, p.6 and Greenfield Recorder, December 27, 1905, p. 4.

[19] “Gives Money to Tuskegee.” Greenfield Recorder, 6 January 1906.

[20] Find-A-Grave website. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/120463842/janette-thompson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *