In the near future, the Thomas Cole site will be publishing a book about Thomas Cole's world here at his home in Catskill, based on new research and new information that has come to light. Now and then I'll be posting little bits from the upcoming publication, including this entry about Cole's children. Shown at right is a pencil drawing of their first-born son Theodore by William Sidney Mount from 1843. "Theddy" was 5 years old.
Thomas and Maria Cole's first child, Theodore, was born on January 1, 1838, followed by a daughter, Mary, on September 23, 1839. Both Thomas and Maria were doting parents, interested in all details of their children’s activities.
As they grew older, the Cole children attended school and also had responsibilities on the farm at Cedar Grove. Theddy seems to have had a particular interest in animals and was in charge of the chickens and ducks. Maria made the children little hoes when they were only 2 and 4 1/2 so they could join the adults digging in the garden.
One of Cole’s biggest concerns about the children was that they would forget him when he was on one of his many business trips. Calling Mary by her pet name, little Pinky, he wrote to Maria from New York, “I am afraid they will have forgotten me before I get back.” This fear was especially strong during Cole’s eleven months in Europe in 1841-42. Maria letters are full of encouragement, assuring him that his children remember him vividly.
The Cole’s third child, Emily, or “little periwinkle” as Cole sometimes called her, was born on August 27, 1843, earlier than expected. When Cole returned home from one of his many trips, he found that “a little stranger had arrived before me.” Despite the birth of his third child, Cole had to continue to travel and to spend time in New York without his family. He wrote to Maria, “Does little Emily laugh & talk as much as when I was home—tell me all the particulars.” According to Maria, Emily was a good baby and started her “baby talk” earlier than the other two children.
The birth and death of the Cole’s fourth child, Elizabeth, in April 1847 must have been a particularly difficult and painful loss, coming as it did less than a year after the death of Maria's uncle and the owner of their family home in Catskill, John Thomson. On the death of Elizabeth, Cole wrote in his journal, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away. Our infant daughter died yesterday afternoon. Its pilgrimage in this world has been short and sinless. God, in his great mercy, has taken it unto himself before the world could defile its spiritual garments.” The Cole’s fifth child, Thomas Cole, Jr., was born September 16, 1847, seven months after his father’s unexpected death at the age of 47.
With thanks to Maureen Hennessey for research and Marie Spano for writing and editing.