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Celia aging

Key dates in Celia Thaxter's life (1835-1894)

1830s / 1840s / 1850s / 1860s / 1870s / 1880s / 1890s


Feb. 2: Levi Thaxter was born in Watertown, Mass. to a prominent New England family.


June 23: Thomas Laighton and Eliza Rymes were married.


June 29: Celia was born at 48 Daniel Street, Portsmouth.


March: Thomas was defeated for the office of Selectman of Portsmouth; he believed the vote was unfair and became disillusioned and angry; before this he had served as Postmaster.

April 26: Thomas and his brother Joseph jointly bought Hog, Smutty-nose and Malaga Island.

Thomas took the position of lighthouse keeper on White Island.



Sept. 4: Cedric was born.


Thomas was unexpectedly elected as representative to the New Hampshire Legislature.

June 30: Oscar was born.

The family moved to Haley House, old house on Smutty Nose , which Eliza made into an inn.

Guests: Nathan Hale and his sister, Whittier s younger sister Lizzie, her friend Margie Curzon, John Weiss and Levi Thaxter.


After Thomas term in the Legislature was over, the family moved back to White Island, but returned to Haley House each summer: frequent visitors included Margie Curzon & Lizzie Whittier.


Fall 1845: The family returned to the lighthouse on White Island.

Thomas Portsmouth property was sold in the spring.


Sept. 12: Eliza s mother, Lucy Rymes, died at age 80.


Spring: Thomas sold his share of the family holdings in Portsmouth and had the capital to begin building a summer hotel on Hog Island, which he renamed Appledore.

Sept. 10: Levi Thaxter and Thomas Laighton became partners in building a hotel on Appledore. Levi also became the children s tutor.

Sept. 15: The family moved permanently from White Island to Appledore.


June 15, 1848: Appledore House opened to the public.

Winter 1848: Levi taught the children.

Levi s family spent the season at Appledore; Celia began her friendship with Lucy Thaxter (Titcomb).


November: Levi and Thomas dissolved their partnership.

1849-1850: Celia attended Mt. Washington Female Seminary in Boston for one semester run by a Mrs. Burrill.



Levi began to become romantically interested in Celia


First recorded correspondence of Celia: letter to a friend from school

Sept. 30, 1851: Celia (16) and Levi (27) were married at Appledore House by Levi s Harvard classmate John Weir.

Celia and Levi paid a long visit to Watertown and probably lived in a house owned by Levi s father.


Levi and Celia went back to Appledore for birth of Karl in June. Karl suffered a birth injury, and for the rest of his life walked with a limp, had uncontrollable temper tantrums and other emotional problems. Eventually Celia became his main care-giver.

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about the Isles of Shoals and Celia in his American Notebooks.

After the summer Levi, Celia and Karl returned to the mainland and began house hunting.


Levi assumed the temporarily vacant position of preacher in the stone chapel on Star Islands, his duties included teaching the fishermen s children in the little town of Gosport.


Fall: An ordained minister was sent to Gosport, so Levi had to give up his position.

Nov.: Levi, Celia & Karl accepted the hospitality of the Curzon family of Newburyport, Mass. and moved to the Mill House on the Artichoke River. This was probably when Celia first met John Greenleaf Whittier.

Nov. 29, 1854: John was born in Newburyport.


Summer: Levi, Celia, Karl , and John spent the summer in Appledore.

Fall 1855: Levi and Oscar almost drowned in an unexpected squall which arose as they were sailing home from Portsmouth. As a result, Levi sold Thomas his remaining fifty acres on the island and the little house where he and Celia had lived.

Winter: The family went back to the Mill House.


Winter of 1855-56: The Thaxters acquired a house on the corner of Nevada and California Streets in Newtonville, near the Charles River, probably given to them by Levi s father.

May 1856: Celia went with the children to spend the summer at her parents hotel on Appledore.


Celia was very happy with her young family.

Levi spent time with his aging parents who were not well.


Aug. 28, 1858: Roland was born in Newtonville.

Feb. 1858: Oscar visited Celia in Newtonville.

Spring 1858: Financial panic Celia s letters show her to be low-spirited.

Oct. 1858: Levi bought the north dwelling on Appledore from Thomas known thereafter as the Thaxter Cottage for $600.


Celia is faced with childhood illnesses, a gulf stream of company, and the problems of taking care of her home. There is a lack of money because Levi does not have a job.



Celia s poem Land-Locked was published in the March edition of the Atlantic Monthly. As a result Celia was introduced to the literary world by James and Annie Fields.


September: Sandpiper , Celia s most anthologized poem, was published.

Thomas Laighton s health began to fail.

Sept. 1862: These were the War years Celia writes of the boys playing war.


Summer 1863: Celia stayed at Shoals because of Thomas stroke; Levi went to Mt. Desert with Karl (11), John (8), and Roland (5). At the end of the summer Levi took the children home (except Karl), leaving Celia to rest.


Aug. 1865: Levi went to Grand Manan, Maine. Celia was at Appledore, caring for Thomas, giving the boys lessons, and helping at the hotel. Her good friends Sarah and John Weiss and their children were among the guests at the hotel.

Fall: Karl went going to the Swedenborgian School at Waltham.


Jan. 1866: In letter to her friend Mary Lawson: ...Karly is at the New Church School in Waltham...doing well...comes home once a week...John to Mr. Allen (as usual) and Lony is learning to read...

May 16: Thomas Laighton died--at Shoals for 27 years.

Summer: Following the death of her father, Celia close, lifelong friendship with Whittier began. Whittier was 60 and in frail health; Celia was 32.

At the end of the summer: Celia took her mother on a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire

During the winter: Oscar and Cedric took turns visiting Celia in Newtonville.


April 6: Celia had dinner with Charles Dickens at Annie Fields home.

Summer: Celia went to Appledore with Karl, and the boys stayed home with Levi


Winter: Levi suffered from rheumatism all winter.

A young Hungarian boy, Ignatius Grossman, joined the family as a companion to Karl.

February: Celia took her first long winter visit at the Shoals, leaving Levi and the children with an Irish girl, Katy, to take care of them in Newtonville.

Summer: Celia had to go to Appledore to help out in the kitchen


February: Levi had the first serious attack of the illness from which he suffered for the rest of his life. He called it rheumatism of the chest. The doctor said that Levi must go to a warmer climate, so in April Levi set out for Florida with John, age 13, Roland, age 9, their school books, camping outfits, guns to collect birds along the coast.

Celia went to Appledore with Karl. She continued her writing there. She spent most of the winter there for the next eight years.

Celia began writing essays for the Atlantic which eventually become Among the Isles of Shoal. These articles stimulated interest in the Island.

Fall 1869: Levi, John, and Lony go to Florida again.



Summer: A particularly successful season at Appledore House: Cedric & Oscar bought out part of Appledore island which Celia had inherited from her father; she also made them a loan of $2, 3000 more so they could make improvements on the hotel.

Dec.: Levi became ill again.


Winter: Levi and Roland went south; John, now in high school, stayed with friends in Dedham; Celia and Karl went to the Island.

Summer: A good one for Celia many friends, including Whittier and Howells, were at Appledore.

Oct.: Levi was feeling better and decided to stay up north for the winter. Celia & Levi were happy together, fixed over the house, went to cultural and social events in Boston.

James Fields resigned as Editor of the Atlantic, and William Dean Howells took his place.

Poems was published in book form.


Winter: Mrs. Laighton visited in Newtonville until the spring.

Mr. John R. Poore built a rival hotel, the Oceanic, on Star Island.


Among the Isles of Shoals was published by James R. Osgood and Co.

March-May Celia spent with her mother, who was ill.

March 5, 1873: The murder on Smutty-Nose occurred.


Summer: Celia s new and enlarged volume of poems went on the market. Celia began painting in earnest .

End of summer: Oceanic Hotel burned down

Fall: Levi and Roland went on a sea voyage; Karl was working.

Celia began an autobiographical novel which she never completed.


The Laighton brothers bought the Oceanic Hotel, which had been rebuilt, for $100,000.

January: Celia was unable to get to the Shoals because of a bad storm so she spent three weeks in Portsmouth with her friends the De Normandie family who lived on State Street. This was her longest visit to Portsmouth since she left thirty six years before.

January March: Letters from Levi show that he was in Kingston, Jamaica, at this time.


Winter: As her mother became increasingly ill, she became more and more dependent upon Celia. During her long stays at Appledore, Celia began painting on china. Levi spent the winter in Florida.


Winter: Celia continued to nurse her mother; she was exhausted from the work and depressed by the isolation of the Isles of Shoals.

Summer: Celia took painting lessons from John Appleton Brown.

Fall: Eliza Laighton was moved to a house in Portsmouth. When Celia wasn t caring for her, she rode horseback around the countryside for two hours each day. While she sat at her mother s bedside she continued her painting. Eliza died in November and was buried on Appledore Island.


Although Celia's children were adults, she showed concern for all of them. Karl, 26, had problems finding work; John, 24, was farming in West Virginia; Roland, 20, was a medical student at Harvard.

Summer: one of best of Celia s later life

Fall: Driftwood, a collection of Celia s poems, was published.


Summer: Levi and his sons spent the entire summer in the Thaxter Cottage on Appledore to be with his friend William Morris Hunt, who was broken in health and spirits and had decided to try to recuperate there. Unfortunately, before the summer was over, he committed suicide; Celia discovered his body.

Driftwood was published.

Levi and Celia purchased the Champernowne property in Kittery, New Hampshire, which had been in the Cutts family from 1686 to 1879, for $9,000 including 186 acres.



Although it was never publicly announced, this was the year when Celia and Levi began to live separately. Levi expected to give public reading of Robert Browning s work during the winter and planned to divide his time between Lucy s home in Boston and occasional visits to the farm. Karl stayed with Celia.

Spring: The house in Newtonville was sold at auction, and the whole family moved to Kittery Point; John began farming there.

Fall: Celia and Minna, the family housekeeper from Appledore, put the house in Kittery Point in order so it would be comfortable for John and Karl who would be spending the winter there. Roland was at Harvard, living in Cambridge.

Cedric became engaged to Julia Stowell. Oscar fell in love with Lucy Darby, but her parents wouldn't allow her to marry him, and he had a nervous breakdown.

October: Celia and Oscar sailed for Europe.


Feb.: Oscar and Celia returned from Europe.

Spring: Cedric married Julia Stowell.

Fall: Celia moved into the Kittery house with John and Karl and was overwhelmed with all the work there. She also spent time in Boston, particularly with Annie Fields since James had died in the spring.

Levi moved to the home of Mme. Monet at 98 Charles St. with his widowed sister Lucy Titcomb. Roland returned to Harvard when his knee injury was cured. In the summer Levi lived at the newly named Champernowne Farm .


January: John telegraphed Celia that Karl was out of control. Levi found rooms for Celia and Karl at the Winthrop Hotel, a small, inexpensive, quiet hotel on Bowdoin Street in Boston.

Levi s Browning readings were becoming very popular, but they took a toll on his health.

March 1882: Celia and Roland attended a Spiritualism meeting which sparked her interest in the movement.

June: Roland graduated cum laude from Harvard.


Celia s pattern of going to the farm in the spring and fall, the Shoals each summer, and Boston in the winter continued during 1882 and 1883.

December: Levi taken ill with his final illness; Roland, who was in medical school, stayed with him for five months.


May 31 (June 1?): Levi died of chronic peritonitis which finally affected the kidneys. He was buried in the little Congregational Cemetery at Kittery Point. Robert Browning wrote the epigraph for his gravestone.

Summer: After Levi s death Celia returned to the Shoals.

Fall: Celia and Karl moved into a small hotel in Boston, the Hotel Clifford on Cortes Street. John was finally settled at the farm. Celia s interest in spiritualism grew.


Winter: Karl and Celia continued to live on Cortes Street.

Winter 1884-5: Celia resumed her painting lessons with Ross Turner.


Summer: Not a successful season at either of the Laighton hotels on the Shoals.

Celia and Karl read and studied together The Bhagavad-Gita, The Light on the Path, and The Perfect Way.

Celia became active in the movement for preservation of birds by encouraging women to stop wearing clothes made with bird feathers.

In the summer and in October Celia was very sick with what she referred to as neuralgia.


June 1: John married Mary Gertrude Stoddard in Worcester

June 15: Roland married Mabel Freeman in Cambridge; they went to live at the Connecticut Agricultural Station where Roland was then working

Winter: Celia came under the influence of Mohini Mohum Chatterji.

Celia visited the women s prison in Boston.

Christmas: Celia visited her brother Cedric and his family in Portsmouth; then she and Karl returned to the Hotel Clifford where she painted and wrote poetry.


March: Celia and Karl were back at the Shoals where Karl was experimenting with photography.

Sept.: Celia suffered a sudden attack of illness which the doctor told her was due to over-work.


Winter: Celia suffered nervous prostration .



Winter: Letters indicate that Celia was depressed.

Celia began a correspondence with the naturalist writer Bradford Torrey discussing the birds on the Isles of Shoals she never actually met him.


Celia continues to seem depressed.

In the fall Roland s family came to the Shoals for two months.


Celia continues her interest in spiritualism. She is very happily involved with her son Roland s children.


Summer: Celia, Karl, and Roland s family were at the Shoals.

Celia appeared to have difficulty concentrating.


Easter: An Island Garden was published.

August 25: Celia died very suddenly and was buried on the Isles of Shoals. Her closest friends attended the funeral and decked her coffin with flowers from her garden.

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About the Author of
the Celia Thaxter Timeline

Norma H. Mandel, Ph.D.
Email the author

Norma Mandel is currently working on a biography of Celia Thaxter. This timeline was created to facilitate her research as she writes the book. She completed her undergraduate work at Wellsely and Barnard Colleges and received her doctorate in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The subject of her dissertation was Annie Adams Fields, one of Celia's closest friends.

Dr. Mandel is currently a member of the Education Department at Barnard College. She has also been appointed to the Speakers in the Humanities Program for the New York Council on the Humanities for the years 2000-2003. She will be speaking on Willa Cather. She will be included in a book of essays about Celia to be edited by Jane Vallier.

Copyright 1999 Norma Mandel
Reproduced online by exclusively with permission of the author.

For related information see:
Celia's Circle
Isles of Shoals
Smuttynose Murders

Page Design 1999

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