Eliza Ann Wetherby

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Eliza Ann Wetherby was born August 16, 1833 in Walpole, Cheshire, New Hampshire, the daughter of Charles Thomas Wetherby and Nancy Hyde Wetherby. She was the second child and first daughter in a family of ten, only five of whom lived to adulthood. Charles Wetherby was a woolen manufacturer by trade who moved around considerably in the Cheshire County area during the eighteen years he lived in New Hampshire. He settled in Walpole in 1831, moved to Drewsville in 1837 and then to Gilsum in 1842. In 1849 he moved to South Acworth where his last child was born, and his wife died on September 6, 1849.

Charles was married a second time to Martha P. Fish on April 1, 1850, and after another of his children, Baxter died in 1851, they set off for Lowell, Ohio to start a new life.

Eliza graduated from the Castleton Seminary, in Castleton, Vermont in 1856. It is now a state college, but unfortunately all the old records from the seminary burned many years ago. Eliza was listed as a founding member of the Congregational Church of Lowell on November 13, 1857 with her father.

She taught at the Wetherby Academy in Lowell, where her future husband, Harrison Gray Otis was a student in 1856-7. He was four years her junior, and had spent several years

working as a printer's apprentice, so he brought enthusiasm and determination to his pursuit of education. They were married on September 11, 1859 in the newly constructed Congregational church by her father.

A month after their marriage Harrison left Lowell to look for printing work, first in Cincinnati, and then in Kentucky where he found a job on the Louisville Journal. Eliza joined him, and they spent the next year and a half there. Eliza kept a journal begun on January 1, 1860, which gives a vivid picture of life in Louisville before the war. They have rented a room in a boarding house, so Eliza does not need to spend any time cooking or cleaning. She walks the streets of the town, observing the life around her. There are visits to new friends, classes in painting, exhibits to admire and handiwork to do. She and Harry visit different churches on Sunday, and prayer meetings and lectures midweek. She and a friend, Mrs. Smith, attended the services at a Jewish Synagogue on a Saturday morning in February. She writes to family and friends and reports on her reading and the national news. It is a wonderful glimpse of the pre-Civil War world, seen through the eyes of a sensitive and intelligent woman.

On March 28, 1861, Eliza gave birth to their first child, Harrison Gray Otis, junior. Her husband enlisted as a private in the Twelfth Ohio Volunteers three months later, and Eliza moved back to Lowell, Ohio, to be near her family. She writes beautifully and emotionally of her life and her love for her two Harrys.


March 28

I'm a mother! A little life born of my own blesses me with its presence. I've a baby boy. The tiny little thing, I'm almost afraid to touch him, lest I should harm him.

March 29

I'm very comfortable today, and happy too, with this little helpless thing lying in my bosom. It was half past eleven last night when I first heard his little, feeble, wailing cry. Harry watches him with real fatherly pride - and takes him carefully in his arms. I love him for it.

March 30

My Darling is doing finely. How I love to kiss the soft velvet cheeks, and feel that this beautiful helpless thing is mine! But - what a solemn trust! God help me to fulfill it and train this little one for His Kingdom.

April 1

I'll call my baby Harry. He shall have his father's name, for there's no other name I love so well, and his father tells me I may call him what I please.


Baby Harry is three weeks old, and his father has left me for Wheeling. I don't get strong, yet I miss my good Husband more that if I was well. I've cried more than my baby today.

Sunday, April

Harrison is back again and I am happy. I hope that I'll get strong soon so that I shant be babyish as I have been.

Everything in our national life looks dark and frowning. Could I give up my Husband if my Country should need him? God help me to do my Duty!


December 24

Tonight My Husband is with me. He came this morning, taking me quite by surprise. I was delighted to see him after his long absence of six months. During that absence he has been in two battles - those of Scarey and Carnifex Ferry in Western Virginia. Numberless perils have been about him, but God has brought him to me again in health and safety, for which I thank Him.

Dear Baby Harry was sitting on the carpet when his papa came, and looked up with wondering eyes at the stranger - I took up the little boy in my arms, and he looked up with a pleased smile into his father's face, with no sign of fear such as he has sometimes evinced in the presence of strangers.

The little boy has grown very beautiful, and his mental life is unfolding rapidly.

December 25

This is "Merry Christmas" to me; with My Husband and baby boy.

My little one seems to be troubled with a pneuma. I don't know what it is. Nothing serious I hope, and yet he don't seem very well.

I took him to the front door one day as it was raining hard. His little eyes were full of wonder as he looked up to the eaves, and then at the door step to watch the drops as they fell. He would look at the rain, and then at me with a face full of childish amazement, and sweet with its smiling. It's wonderful how observing he is for one so young.

My two Harrys! What treasures they are! How I love them both. To love them is of itself a joy. God guard my Darlings and make them His. Without them what a blank my life would be. Blessings on them my dearest treasures.



Monday, February 17.

Little Harry - My Darling, Precious Baby Boy, his little life went out at ten minutes past eleven this morning, after just one short week of suffering.

Sunday, March 2.

Dear Little Harry's second Sabbath in Heaven! How I miss him! The hours seem long and silent with sorrow. The little One had entwined himself with every fibre of my heart - every tendril was twined around my Baby. My arms are aching to hold him again. All day long I miss his sweet prattle, his happy laugh, his glad smile; his baby kiss, and childish caresses. I miss the soft touch of the dimpled hand - the look of the bright, dark eyes that used to look up into my face so lovingly, while the little lips are drawing nourishment from my bosom - And that baby song too - I loved it - because it was Harry's own - bum, bum, bum, gogen, gogen, gogen - it was the expression of his happy heart, before he could quite frame his joy into real words. And when night comes, it is so terrible to lie down without my baby. How I miss then the bright little head that used to lie all night on my arm, the darling form that would nestle in my bosom until the morning: Sweet Little Darling! there's no night where you are now, and it is well with you, my Baby, for "of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

During his illness he was a patient little sufferer - Meek and gentle as when in health.

He seemed as well as usual on the morning of the day on which he was taken sick. So I left him and went up to call on Mr. Beull's people. He was asleep when I returned, but on awakening he seemed hot and feverish. All the afternoon he seemed to want "mama," but in the evening I undressed him as usual and put him in his little crib. He soon fell asleep, and I sat down to write to Harrison.

But, the Darling woke about nine, so I put away my writing and went to bed with him. I noticed his breathing was bad, and he was more restless than usual, but only once in the night did he cry, and then as if he was in great pain.

Tuesday morning dressed him as usual, and during the day he slept a great deal. When I held him he would lean his little head ever so wearily on my bosom. I sat him in his crib about tea time and bolstered him with pillows, but I saw he was too weak to sit so, and he cried for me to take him up, and I could not deny his pleadings. Rapidly he grew worse and about nine I sent for Dr. Clark.

He came and told the Darling was very ill. All night long I watched by his crib, bathed his little head, and wet his fevered lips, but the morning found him no better. Evening Father came over to see him, and he pulled Pa's face down to his with his little hot hands, and seemed full of joy to see him.

All through his sickness he seemed to rouse up at father's coming, and he'd work his little shoulders and ask him in his baby way to take him.

I think that the last time that the little One recognized me fully and clearly was on Sabbath morning. All day Saturday his eyes had been closed so that he couldn't open them. Sunday morning, Jennie washed them, and picked apart the long, dark lashes, then he turned around and saw me, and cried at once for his mama to take him. I thought him better, and my heart grew strong with the hope that my Baby would be spared me - but before noon a change for the worse took place, and in the midst of most intense suffering on Monday morning his little life ebbed out.

He was very beautiful in death - and it almost broke my heart to lay him away in the cold grave. I wished his father could have looked on the sweet pale face of his Darling, but he was too late for that. But he comforted me when he did come by the sweet reminder that we had not lost our Treasure for "we had a Baby Boy in Heaven."

May 3

Today the Twelfth moved from Charleston, and I bid Harrison a tearful good-bye. It seemed as though I could not part with him so soon after our little Harry had gone.

He didn't quite understand my feelings, and thought it was weakness that made me feel as I did - but it wasn't that.

I've spent a pleasant five weeks with him here in Mrs. Newton's home, and the memory of these weeks will go with me while memory lasts.

As I went out this morning the long line of ambulances filled the streets, and the soldiers were hurrying to and fro busy in their final preparations for departure.

It was one of the saddest mornings of my life. One realizes something about war here.

Mrs. Walls called to see me today, but I was feeling too lonely to see her, so I sent down an excuse.

I received a little note from Harry after he went to camp. It was kind, generous and noble just like himself. My heart goes with him, and blesses him always. But it's hard to do without him, and yet I would as soon lay my head upon the block, and throw away forever my hopes of immortality, as to say one word to dissuade him from duty, or lead him to seek a life of inglorious ease at home, in this hour of our Nation's imminent peril.

His country has higher claims upon him now than I have, and I yield him to him,. praying our Father to keep him safe from any danger.

I'll go back to Lowell soon. It matters little how soon. I've a home beside my Baby Harry's grave. I'm going to try and be cheerful. It's a duty and I must fulfill it. It would pain little Harry, I know, to see his "mama" so sad.

There are large gaps in the journal, so it is difficult to ascertain where Eliza was living during the summer of 1862. On August 21, she and Nellie Van Clief took the boat for Parkersburg, and the following day Eliza met Harrison on his way to Washington.

I was with him but four hours and they passed away quickly. I met him in his tent, under the shadow of the forest trees, that seemed to wave their long arms above us in silent benediction.

Dear Husband: God keep you in safety amid all the perils of the battle fields to which you go.

They next meet in April 1863, probably at her friend, Mrs. Newton's house.

Wednesday, April 1

As I was sitting in my chamber this afternoon, feeling a little lonely, and thinking I'd give anything in the world if Harry was here, I heard the front door open, and then someone looked into the parlor, and then the footsteps came up stairs, and as my door opened I looked up and there stood my Husband, his dear face full of joy, and smiling on me just as of old.

How glad I was to see him, and to be clasped to his heart again. We talked over that evening all the trial that I had passed through since our last meeting, and Harry said that I shouldn't go back again to Lowell where everything is so unpleasant. This evening he folded me to his heart, and said kissing me. "Lizzie you are my love, " and with that assurance I am content and forget all sorrow.

Thursday, April 2

How delightful to be with Harry again. I live in the sunshine.

They spend a happy week together, and then when Harrison has to leave, Eliza suffers with their separation. She stays in the same house , and seems to have many friends to spend her days with. There are letters to write, and people to visit. On April 19, she is appointed Sunday School teacher to a class of young ladies.

She visits the sick in the hospital, and helps out in the Newton home. Harrison returns on May 18, and stays for three days. They correspond almost daily when he is not in Charleston.

On June 1, she learns of Harrison's promotion to first Lieutenant, his commission being dated March 21, 1863.

The following week Eliza sets off to spend a month living near the Twelfth Ohio troops in their encampment in the Kanawha Valley. As the wife of an officer she becomes a part of the social world of the military, and she seems to thrive on it.

Harrison suffered a gun shot wound on July 24, 1864 and so is home in Marietta to be with Eliza for the birth of their second child, a daughter Beulah Lilian born on September 22, 1864. She is always called Lilian.

After the war the family moved to Marietta, Ohio where Harrison took a job as the editor of a weekly newspaper, the Washington County News. Eliza began to write poetry for the paper, something which she would do for the rest of her life. Their second daughter Marian was born on July 1, 1866. The paper was not a success, so the family made another move to Washington, D. C. in 1868. Two more daughters were born to them in Washington: Mabel in 1871, and Esther who was born and died in 1875. Harrison worked in the United States Patent Office from 1870 to 1876, when he moved his small family to Santa Barbara, California.

Eliza & Mabel Otis Eliza Ann (Wetherby) Otis
Eliza & Mabel Otis Eliza Ann (Wetherby) Otis

Arriving there on March 5, 1876, he purchased the Santa Barbara Press on March 11th. The paper was the leading daily and weekly in the area, and Colonel Otis published it for the next four years, even though he was out of the country during much of the period. When he left for the Seal Islands of Alaska in March, 1879, to serve as Special Agent of the Treasury Department to enforce the Government Lease to the Alaska Commercial Company in the fur seal trade, Eliza ran the paper, both overseeing the business side of the business and contributing articles and poems on the editorial side.

In January of 1881, Harrison returned to the Seal Islands for a third time with Eliza and their daughter Mabel accompanying him. Eliza kept a journal which began on New Year's Day and closed on July 27, 1881, the day they set sail for home. Her diary is a fascinating account of life on the bleak and desolate islands of the Aleutians, shut in by fog, harsh storms and no contact with the outside world except for the landing of two or three ships a year.

Eliza began her diary on January 1, 1881, writing almost daily from her room in Government House. On January 8, she reports: A wonderful day for this latitude. No wind, bright sunshine and the snow melting on slopes that face the sun. Took a long walk with Harry to the farthest point of the "Reef" where the island slopes down to the sea, bare of everything except rocks - dark, gray and purple rocks which some volcanic or earthquake shock scattered far and wide in the early days of the island's upheaval. The low rocky reef stretches out a long way into the shallow waters lying between this point and Otter Island some four or five miles distant. Today the waves came rolling in with a thundering boom. There was wind far out at sea. We did not see a footprint in the snow the whole length of the reef save our own, and that of the wild foxes who have their holes among the rocks. Here and there was a path made by a solitary seal who had crossed the land to plunge into the water on the other shore. There were a few small brown birds flying about above the spray of the breakers, but they were songless birds. 1881 letter (several interesting pictures)

The following year, Harrison resigned his commission with the Treasury Department, after having served under both President Hayes and Garfield, and Secretaries of the Treasury, Folger, Sherman and Windom. He was also offered the post of U. S. Consul at the Samoan Islands, and in 1884, the same job at Tien Tsin, China.

After years of changing jobs, and evidently never making much of a success of any of them, Harrison purchased a quarter interest in the Los Angeles Daily Times and Weekly Mirror newspapers in July of 1882 and on the first day of August became the 8 month old paper's editor. His family followed him to Los Angeles in October, and settled there. It must have been a relief to Eliza to finally have her husband following the career he had always wanted. She became a member of the staff and contributed to many different areas of the paper.

Her strong beliefs in the value of education for everyone; in the limitless possibilities of science to better our lives; in the basic goodness of all people are revealed in her writings. After her death in 1904, Harrison had a book of her writings published with the title, CALIFORNIA, WHERE SETS THE SUN. It includes samples of her poetry, both for adults and for children, and of her editorial writing.

One particularly interesting letter contains her descriptions of a trip she made to Yosemite in 1878, travelling by wagon from Santa Barbara with two lady companions, an artist, a botanist and others. She must have been a formidable traveling companion. There seems to be no area in Yosemite which she does not name, describe, and comment about; no plant or animal which she cannot identify.

"All this grand, untamed wildness of Nature was in keeping with my mood. With a saddle for my pillow and a blanket for my bed, sheltered by the starry brightness of California's skies, I could find delightful rest wherever night might overtake me. This wild, free life out of doors! I reveled and exulted in it, and with the glorious beauty of the cloudless blue above me, with the rich, golden strata of sunshine covering all the earth, and with the wildness and mystery of the Sierra regions stretching, it seemed into infinity beyond me, there was everything to entice me onward."

There seemed to be no subject out of her range. She wrote on the need to plant trees along the streets of California:

"He plants the forest's heritage,
The harvest of the coming age,
The joy that unborn eyes shall see...
These things he plants who plants a tree."

She worries about the increase of divorce in this country in 1904: "Whither are we drifting?" for upon the home rests the safety and permanency of our national life.

She is pleased to see the progressive schools of the country "made charming within by pictures and other fine works of art, and without by trees and flowers, lovely landscape gardens in which the children take pride and delight."

The move to Los Angeles in 1882 marked the beginning of Eliza's full time writing career. Until Charles Lummis joined the paper in 1885, she was the paper's only editorial employee. In addition to writing poetry and doing the local reporting, she was the society, dramatic, literary and travel editor, as well as the writer of children's and women's columns.

When Harrison bought out the paper's other owner in 1886, Eliza became a co-owner, and one of the four members of the board of directors. She wrote almost daily for the paper until her death on November 12, 1904.

All three girls began working for the paper as clerks in the business office.

Lilian married Monroe McPherron on her twenty second birthday, September 22, 1886. They had two daughters, Marian Otis McPherron, born in 1890, and Lilian Arrington McPherron, born in 1891. Lilian died in March of 1905, just four months after her mothers death.

Lilian (Otis) McPherron Monroe McPherron Letter from Eliza to Lillian
Lilian (Otis) McPherron Monroe McPherron Letter from Eliza to Lillian

There is a charming letter from Eliza Otis to her daughter, Lilian, on the birth of her daughter, Lilian Arrington McPherron, who was always called Arnie. Arnie is still alive at the age of one hundred. (1991)

Mabel was married on December 28, 1891 at the age of twenty to Franklin Booth. They had three children, Franklin Otis Booth, born in 1893, Eleanor Booth, born in 1901, and Neil Wetherby Booth, born in 1905.

Arnie McPherron & Mayne Hammond at The Bivouac Ida Mabel Otis Booth
Arnie McPherron & Mayne Hammond at The Bivouac Ida Mabel Otis Booth
Mayne  Hammond with Eleanor Booth Mabel Otis Booth & children
Mayne Hammond with Eleanor Booth Mabel Otis Booth & children

Marian became the business office secretary and a member of the board of directors and its secretary. In 1894 she married Harry Chandler, a widower with two small daughters, and the paper's head of circulation. Marian continued to be involved with the paper and after her father's death was made Vice-President, Director and Secretary of the board of the Times Mirror Company.

Eliza Ann Wetherby Otis Eliza Ann Wetherby Otis Monument to Eliza Wetherby Otis
Eliza Ann Wetherby Otis Monument to Eliza Wetherby Otis

After Eliza's death on November 12, 1904, Harrison described her as his dear companion, ever-ready co-worker, and journalistic comrade and her death as his greatest personal loss.

On Memorial Day in 1910, he erected a monument to her at the Hollywood Cemetery, an obelisk of Vermont granite, to join a set of twelve memorial bells in the cemetery chapel, which he had given in the year following her death. A book was published to commemorate the dedication with a limited edition of 50 volumes. The dean of the School of Theology at the University of Southern California, the Reverend Ezra A. Healy, D. D., was the orator of the day, and an honor guard of thirty six veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic were also a part of the ceremony.