Newsletter April 2004
Contents of this Newsletter:
Featured Bassett in our next issue : Louis D. Bassett, founder of Bassett's Ice Cream of Philadelphia
Section 1 - Welcome
I want to welcome everyone who is receiving their first issue of this Bassett family newsletter. In addition to documenting the results of our Bassett DNA study, I will provide updates on my Bassett family research and will include articles on Bassetts of note to share with others.
I went to Washington D.C. for spring break with my family this spring and seemed to run into Bassetts of note everywhere I went. Some of the Bassett information I saw include:
(1) Sergeant Roy Douglas Bassett Jr., born 5 Oct 1942 in Tampa, Florida, died 19 Dec 1969 in Inh Thuan, South Vietnam. His name can found on the Vietnam Memorial. I do not yet know which branch of the family that he belonged to.
(2) We toured Mt. Vernon, home of George and Martha Wasington. Hanging in the parlor is a picture of Fannie Bassett, niece of the Washington Family. She was the daughter of Burwell and Anna Maria (Dandridge) Bassett. Anna was a sister to Martha Washington. This Burwell was also a sister to Elizabeth Bassett Harrison. Elizabeth was married to Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and was the mother of President William Henry Harrison. These Bassetts belong to the #5B William Bassett of Virginia family.
(3) While touring the Smithsonian Musuem of American History, I ran across a room full of silver and pewter. In the pewter collection was a whole cabinet full of pewter made by "Master Pewterers John and Frederick Bassett" of New York. These Bassetts belong to the #19B Michael Bassett of New York family.
(4) While visiting the National Archives, we saw the U.S. Constitution, which was signed by Richard Bassett, governor of Delaware at the time. He belongs to the family of #32B Arnold Bassett. Family information from the #8B John Bassett family list Governor Richard Bassett as a relative. It is possible that Arnold Bassett was a brother to this John.
(5) The highlight of our visit to Washington was our special tour of the U.S. Capitol building given to us by Senate Curator Diane K. Skvarla. In addition to our tour, we got to see the picture of Isaac Bassett hanging in the Capitol along with several other artifacts of his including several walking canes. He is the featured Bassett in this newsletter and you can read more about him later on. He was the son of Simeon Bassett and is a descendant of the #3B Thomas Bassett of Connecticut. His picture and possibly several of his articles will reside in the new U.S. Capitol visitors center which is currently under construction.
Section 2 - Death of Thomas Russell Bassett
I am sad to report the death of Thomas Russell Bassett. Some of you may remember him from the Bassett Family National Reunion held in 1997 in Salt Lake City where he talked about his branch of the Bassetts and their connections to China. I have included a copy of his talk from the reunion below.
a) Line of Thomas Russell Bassett
William Bassett of Plymouth and wife Elizabeth William Bassett (b. 1624)
and wife Mary Rainsford
b) Obituary for Thomas Russell Bassett
Thomas Russell Bassett, obituary
Thomas Russell Bassett, 83, of Louisville, died Wednesday, February 11,
2004, at Baptist Hospital East. He was born in Shanghai, China, to American
parents and educated in England and Canada. In 1938, he began a long career
with British American Tobacco Company (BAT) as a trainee in the China Company,
first in Shanghai and later in Hankow and Tientsen. During World War II, he
was interned by Japanese in Weihsien, Chinga. After the war, he continued
his career with BAT, first in China, then after a stay in California, in Venezuela
and Costa Rica, before coming to the Export Sales Department of Brown &
Williamson in Louisville in 1961. He retired in 1977.
C) Speach given by Thomas Russell Bassett at the Bassett Family Reunion
MY BASSETT FAMILY IN CHINA, by Thomas R. Bassett
I am descended from Thomas Bassett, a descendant of William Bassett who arrived on the Fortune in 1621. He was a Revolutionary War soldier. His son, Ezra, married Keziah Russell of New Bedford, a town founded by Joshua Russell under the auspices of the Duke of Bedford, which is why it is called New Bedford. At this time New Bedford was the whaling capital of the world. These Bassetts were merchant bankers, financing whaling ships which made voyages of two or three years or more around Cape horn into the Pacific. By 1840 whaling was declining. Whales were harder to find and by the 1850s mineral oil was beginning to come in, so they shifted their investments to cotton, financing cotton to be grown in the South. Cotton mills in New England were flourishing. When the Civil War broke out, they literally lost their shirts for no cotton could be shipped from the South.
Ezra's son, Thomas, my grandfather, was already at sea, having been apprenticed at fourteen years old on a sailing ship. During the Civil War he served in the merchant marine supplying the Union forces. His brother, Oriville, was in the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry and later transferred to the navy as an engineering officer, serving in the South Atlantic.
After the Civil War the interest of the United States turned to railroads and the development of the West. As the United States did not get into steamships, the merchant marine steadily declined. Russell and Company sold its ships to the China Merchants Company. Those were the only Chinese merchants permitted by the Emperor to trade with foreigners. My grandfather probably elapt at the opportunity of a captaincy of one of these ships based in Shanghai.
To give some historical background: earlier President Fillmore had wanted to open up trade with the Far East and had sent Commodore Perry to open up Japan. Meanwhile the British, in two wars, had forced the Chinese to permit trade in the so-called "Treaty" ports where concessions of land were given where foreigners could live; not under Chinese law, but under the laws of their own countries. In Shanghai the United States, after refusing a concession of their own, participated in an international settlement with the British and other countries. The French, however, insisted on their own concession, run by themsleves. The international settlement gre rapidly as it provided security and freedom from arbitrary Chinese law.
My grandfather did well in Shanghai, mainly in real estated. He married Catherine Denton, whose father was William Pitt Denton, an attorney in Massachusetts, and show mother was Elizabeth Randall. Randall was a well known name in Massachusetts at the time and Catherine's uncle was Speaker of the House in Washington. Their son, Russell, was my father.
I was brought up in various countries with the idea that I would be finishing off at a U.S. university, but the money ran out, so I had to return to China. In China my father was able to get me a job with the British-American Tobacco Company as a pupil or trainee, with the idea that after four or five years I would become part of the management staff. After internment by the Japanese, I spent some time in Latin America, before being transferred to Louisville, Kentucky.
This branch of the Bassetts had its ups and downs.
Section 3 - New family lines combined or added since the last newsletter
#187B. The Bassetts of Tittensor & Sheen, Stafford, England were combined into family #16B Bassetts of Alstonfield, Staffordshire
#121B. James Aquilla Bassett (b. 1867 South Carolina) was combined into the #88B Richard W. Bassett of SC family.
The following family lines have been added since the last newsletter.
#121B The Bassetts of Exmouth, Devon, England
Section 4 - DNA project update.
For those new to the newsletter, the Bassett y-chromosome DNA project is being used to show relationships between the different Bassett families worldwide. I will have an update on this project in my next newsletter.
We have scholarship funds available to fund several tests for Bassetts from lines that have not yet taken part but that can't afford the testing. Contact me if you are interested. Lines that we are pursuing for these are the Bassetts of Sutton Coldfield, Bassetts of Tasmania that came from Birmingham, and the Bassetts of Rotherfield, Sussex, England.
Scholarship fund total as of 18 Apr 2004 = $145.00
Donations of any amount will be put into this fund to be used to fund select Bassett DNA tests that will further our project as a whole and benefit all Bassetts worldwide.
Outstanding tests as of today are:
Kit #13826 #46B Isaac Bassett of Kentucky
This is just a reminder that the DNA website can be found at:
A current spreadsheet of results can be found at:
Section 5 - Featured Bassett: Isaac Bassett, Assistant Doorkeeper of the U.S. Senate 1832 - 1895
Capt. Isaac Bassett is descended from Thomas Bassett of Connecticut as follows:
Thomas Bassett (b. 1598) and wife Joanna Beardsley Thomas Bassett (b. 1660) and wife Sarah Baldwin Josiah Bassett (b. 1690) and wife Alice Canfield Samuel Bassett (b. 1723 ) and wife Susannah Morris Isaac Basett (b. 1750) and wife Desire Hotchkiss Simeon Basett (b. 1794) and wife Effie Eufemia Tweedy Isaac Bassett (b. 1819) and wife Adeline Virginia Hurdle
3B323.251. Captain Isaac Bassett, son of Simeon Bassett
Captain Isaac Bassett, son of Simeon and Effie Euphemia (Tweedy) Bassett,
was born 4 Aug 1819. He died 22 Dec 1895. He married Adeline Virginia Hurdle
on 27 Dec 1838. She was born 22 Jul 1820. She died 27 Dec 1897. They are both
buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
1860 Federal Census of 5th Ward, Washington, DC (1 Jun 1860)
1880 Federal Census of Washington, District of Columbia
+ 3B3232511. George Thomas Bassett - born 4 Nov 1839, died 9 Mar 1908, married Ellen Anjanett Treadway on 5 Dec 1861. Ellen was born 30 Aug 1843. She died 12 Oct 1924.
3B3232512. William S. Bassett
3B3232513. Alice Rebecca Bassett - baptized 2 Oct 1844 at the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Washington, D.C., buried at the Congressional Cemetery on 10 Oct 1844.
3B3232514. Simeon Bassett - baptized 28 Aug 1846 at the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Washington, D.C.
+ 3B3232515. Isaac Albertson Bassett - born 31 Dec 1850, died 25 Jun 1925, married Mary Morton Zimmerman.
United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art
Isaac Bassett began his Senate career in December 1831, at the age of 12, when he was appointed by Daniel Webster to serve as the institution's second page. Bassett's father, Simeon Bassett, was a Senate messenger at the time, and young Isaac frequently accompanied him to the U.S. Capitol. Isaac Bassett later recalled, "on one of these visits... Daniel Webster called me to him and took me up in his lap and... said to me: "My little man, would you like to be made a page?".
Promoted to messenger in 1838 and to assistant doorkeeper in 1861, Bassett worked in the Senate Chamber, attending nearly every legislative session until his death in 1895. He was deeply esteemed by senators and fellow employees alike for his descreet, faithful, and dedicated service.
"I have tried to do my duties and act honestly," he wrote, and for this the Senate honored him with gifts and testimonials on several occasions. By the 1880s the elderly Bassett, with his long gray beard and dignified bearing, had become an icon of the gentlemanly, statesmanlike qualities that represented the Senate at its best. He was a willing subject for newspaper reporters, cartoonists, and photographers, always ready to regale anyone who would listen with stories of the Senate in "olden times" and of the great men who had served then.
Bassett's most abiding legacy to the Senate is the manuscript he left behind at his death, which provides an unparalleled view into the institution during the 19th century. Hoping to have a memoir of his Senate experiences published posthumously "to give the public the benefit of these years of observation among public men," he made copious notes and compiled a rich array of newspaper clippings describing the Senate's people, traditions, and procedures. The book was never published. However, the manuscript survived, faithfully preserved and eventually donated to the U.S. Senate.
Senator Daniel Webster had selected the first male page nearly a century and a half earlier. Proving that personal connections counted in the those days, he chose Grafton Hanson, the nine-year-old grandson of the Sentate Sergeant at Arms. In 1831, the Senate added a second page - twelve-year old Isaac Bassett. As the son of a Senate messenger, Bassett also benefitted from family connections.
Beginning a tradition in which service as a page sometimes became the first step on a Senate career path, Hanson held a variety of increasingly responsible Senate jobs over the next ten years. Bassett, who is well known to students of nineteenth-century Senate folklore, remained in the Senate's employ for the rest of his long life. In 1861, he became assistant Senate doorkeeper - a post in which he earned the legendary distinction of being the official who stopped a Massachusetts soldier from bayoneting the Senate desk previously occupied by Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis. In late nineteenth-century engravings showing the Senate struggling to wrap up end-of-session legislation, former page Bassett appears as the elderly man in the long white beard moving the chamber clock's minute hand backwards from the twelve o'clock adjournment time to gain a few precious minutes to complete the Senate's work.
Evening Star, Thursday, December 19, 1895 - Twelve
His Requiem at the Capitol - Arrangements for the Funeral - An Interesting Career.
Capt. Isaac Bassett died at 4:10 o'clock yesterday afternoon, surrounded by members of his family. There were present his wife, who has passed her seventy-fourth year of age, his sons, Isaac A. and George T., his brother and his sister. The death of Capt. Bassett was expected for several weeks, and there were many times when it did not seem possible for him to live more than a few hours, but his wonderful vitality frequently surprised his attending physician, and time and again he rallied, when it seemed that his life was ebbing away. It was known for a long time that his desease could not be other than fatal, and the autopsy verified the belief that he suffered from a cancer of the pancreas and a large pyloric orifice of the stomach.
His Last Moments
Capt. Bassett was concious almost to the last moment of his life, although
he had not been able to converse with his friends for some days, and during
the twenty-four hours preceding his death the lower part of his body had been
practically lifeless. But he could recognize his friends about his bedside,
and clung to their hands affectionately as his end approached. Many (visitors)
called at his home, 18 2nd Street, northeast, and Dr.
As long as the captain lived his mind dwelled on the old familiar scenes of the Senate, and he would inquire of the doings there so long as he had the power of speech.
His Long and Faithful Service
For the first time in sixty-four years the reassembling of the present Congress
found Capt Bassett absent from the Senate Chamber. The second page of that
body and appointed at the instance of Daniel Webster, Bassett became an object
of interest as the years passed by. He was always fiathful to his duties,
and was promoted to be assistant doorkeeper of the Senate, which position
he has held for over a generation. His father was from
During the war he organized a company for the defense of the capital with Senator Gorman, who had served under him as a page, as lieutenant, and it was by this service he gained the title of captain. He had been an eye witness to numberless interesting scenes in Congress, and as a confidential employee was never knwon to betray his trust. The full story of Capt Bassett's interesting life was altely published th The Star.
Funeral Arrangements Incomplete
Up to 2:30 o'clock today the Senate had taken no action in relation to the funeral of the late Capt. Bassett. It was thought by many that in consideration of the long service of the late assistant doorkeeper of the United States Senate, a "senatorial funeral" might be given him. But it is very doubtful if this will be done. It is likely, however, that an appropriation will be made covering the expenses of the funeral, and that a committee of Senators will be appointed to attend the ceremony.
The Senate Takes Notice
In executive session this afternoon the death of Capt. Bassett was referred to and the question of what the Senate should do in relation thereto was briefly discussed. No action was taken, but a resolution will probably be introduced to open session tomorrow by Mr. Sherman suggesting a proper course for the Senate. This resolution will commend the faithful services of Capt. Bassett.
|©2006 Bassett Family Association. All Rights Reserved|