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The Sloat and Fassett Connection

As with restoration reveals at Harmony Hall over many years, genealogy discoveries come from unexpected places, adding exciting context to Jacob and Sarah Sloat’s family. On Saturday, August 5, 2023, a descendant of the Fassett family started her tentative search online, came across the Friends of Harmony Hall website, and contacted Geoff Welch, Harmony Hall’s historian. A phone call ensued between Christine Welles Coulter Wolcott and Geoff. Her mother, who descends from the Welles family, passed away in January 2023, and Christine inherited an oil portrait of Martha Ellen Sloat Fassett, Jacob and Sarah’s daughter! The discovery several years ago of the Jacob and Sarah oval oil portraits and seeing the images of Sloat family members provide a context for the times in which they lived and a sense of their countenance!

Martha Ellen Sloat at Arnot Art Museum

Martha Ellen Sloat Fassett was born on December 4, 1829. She married Newton Pomeroy Fassett, born November 26, 1827. Their lives were primarily in Elmira, in Chemung County, New York, where Newton died on January 17, 1894, and Martha on February 5, 1907. Martha and Newton were married on October 20, 1852, and they had six children, including Jacob, named after his Sloatsburg grandfather. Born November 13, 1853, Jacob was a businessman, a lawyer, and a member of the United States House of Representatives. In 1879, Jacob Fassett married Jennie Louise Crocker, an American heiress known for philanthropy to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California. Jacob and Jennie built one of Massachusetts’ largest private homes “Greycourt” in West Falmouth.

Cornelia Adele Strong Fassett

One exciting fact about the Martha Ellen Sloat Fassett portrait is that it was

painted by the well-known 19th-century female painter Cornelia Adele Strong Fassett. She painted portraits of politicians. Her most famous work is her painting of the Electoral Commission of 1877. “One of her finest portraits” is that of American author, editor, and historian Martha J. Lamb. The painting was well received and initially exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1878. It was later moved to the New York Historical Society, where it remains today. (Wikipedia) Cornelia's husband was Samuel Fassett, a well-known photographer and maker of daguerreotypes. He is best known for having taken one of the earliest known photographs of Abraham Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln considered the Fassett image taken in Chicago on October 4, 1859, to have been the best likeness of her husband.

Martha Ellen Sloat Fassett on display at HH.

The portrait of Martha Ellen Sloat Fassett in what appears to be an original frame is now at the Arnot Art Museum for examination and as a possible donation by Christine Welles Coulter Wolcott. Newton Pomeroy Fassett and Samuel Fassett were first cousins, which is likely why Martha Sloat Fassett became a subject for painter Cornelia Adele Strong Fassett. The Arnot Art Museum emailed the Friends of Harmony Hall a high-quality image of the framed painting. Peter Bush had it copied to its actual size and mounted on foam board. It is now on display at Harmony Hall.

Recently retired, Christine plans on delving into her Welles family history, which is Stan and Niki Welles of Alaska, who made a site visit to Harmony Hall and subsequently donated several small items owned by Martha, including an inscribed prayer book from Sarah Sloat, part of a desk set and a significantly deteriorated beaded evening bag. Christine was not familiar with the Welles family in Alaska. She provided the Welles genealogy she has to The Friends of Harmony Hall. Christine looks forward to visiting Harmony Hall. After many years working in Research and Development for Corning Glass, Christine is interested in the likely historic glass that has survived at Harmony Hall, such as the rear foyer transom window. We look forward to welcoming Christine to her ancestral home.

The Sloat and Fassett Connection

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