Isabel Small led procession of women who made wreath for Abe Lincoln’s coffin
The woman in this photo, courtesy York County Heritage Trust, is believed to be Isabel Cassat Small. She was the wife of businessman Samuel Small and a philanthropist in her own right. Background posts: Reader doesn’t understand some things about York County, Old P.A. and S. Small building fit better than successors and Freedman kisses earth as canalboat crossed Mason-Dixon Line.
Samuel Small, 19th-century York businessman, is at the top of the community contributor’s philanthropy list.
I pointed this out in a York Sunday News column (11/17/08), as I’ve done on elsewhere on this blog.
But Isabel Small, Samuel’s wife, was an overlooked and integral part of the Small philanthropy machine, as outlined in the following gleaned from my “East of Gettysburg” and George Prowell’s “History of York County:”
Samuel Small was a giver, and so was his wife Isabel.
When Samuel died in 1885, he bequeathed $8,000 to the Children’s Home of York.
Upon her death in 1890, Isabel earmarked $30,000.
And she bequeathed a similar amount to York Collegiate Institute, one of the forerunners of York College.
Years earlier, Isabel Cassat Small had spearheaded women’s efforts in the community to provide aid to Civil War soldiers. The women established an organization to recruit others – the Ladies Soldiers Aid Society.
Local farmers opened great chests brought with them from Germany to equip the women with linen to make dressing for wounds.
The women met in a large room set aside at P.A. and S. Small’s store.
They wound bandages from this donated linen, sorted donated clothing and sewed new clothing.
Children helped, too.
And when Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in York in 1865, Isabel Small was at the head of a delegation of women who had prepared a three-foot-around wreath of white roses and camellias. Freedman Aquilla Howard placed the wreath near Lincoln’s flag-draped coffin.
A Philadelphia Inquirer reporter remembered the contribution from Isabel Small and the women of York.
“The fragrance of the violets,” he wrote, “seemed like incense from heaven.”
For a host of other posts on York County women’s history, click here.