In 1664 Esau Sharpe of Dover and his wife Amelia hired Mary Flint, a 19 year old girl from neighboring Folkestone, as governess for their four year old daughter Esther, an only child. Esau was a wealthy merchant and Amelia was a social butterfly. Neither took much interest in the girl. She was raised and educated almost exclusively by Mary.
In 1668, Mary Flint was visiting Hugh Hallowell’s wife Mary at their place in Folkestone. She and Dorcas Hallowell had been childhood playmates and lifelong friends so she visited the old folks from time to time. There she found John Hallowell, returned from his travels, full of interesting stories of the colonies and the household of the Duke of York.
John had known Mary Flint all her life and remembered her and a skinny young girl. He was completely entranced by the lovely young woman she had become. He found reasons to stay in Folkestone for some months and by years end had asked her to marry.
They were wed in February of 1669 and set up housekeeping in Folkestone near John’s parents. Mary had no confidence that Esther would be well cared for by her preoccupied parents so she and John agreed to offer that Esther might continue in Mary’s care in the Hallowell household for a time. The girl’s relieved parents were happy to have Mary continue to be responsible for Esther’s day to day care and agreed to a generous financial arrangement. Esther was not exactly estranged from her parents but was only a visitor in their home.
Esther and Mary became best friends as Esther grew into a young woman. Mary’s children knew Esther as Mother’s helper from their infancy until 1680 when Esther fell in love with a handsome and clever young man from Dover named Thomas Quinn. Thomas was the son of a prominent Dover family and Esther’s parents were thrilled to have Esther marry so well.
Hallowell family and Esther
Thomas turned out to be a self-centered and ill-tempered fellow with at least one eye on Esther’s likely inheritance. For seven years she endured a loveless and abusive marriage. Then in one of those things that sometime happen, while Thomas was waiting for Esau to die leaving Esther a fortune, he died himself. In early 1687 Esther was welcomed back into the Hallowell household to recover from her ordeal.
During the remainder of 1687 Esther fended off gentlemen callers by claiming she was in mourning for a husband she was well rid of. In 1688 her parents both perished at sea on a voyage to Portugal when the ship they were on caught fire and burned to the waterline. At the age of twenty-eight Esther became a wealthy widow. She tried to keep this fact a secret but lawyers and bankers are not all discreet so the word got around. The number of gentleman callers increased but now Esther was in fact in mourning for the parents who had been in their way good to her.
In 1689 Esther was out of excuses to refuse the advances of young men. She also had another problem. Young John Hallowell was known to be “slow”. Physically he was completely normal but all his life learning had been a struggle for him. As a child it had been Esther who spent hours coaching him in reading. He was unfailingly cheery and helpful and clearly adored Esther. When she married and left, John was ten years old. When she returned he was seventeen. The first thing he did after greeting her was demonstrate that he could read and write, thanks to her early tutoring.
As time passed Esther’s fondness for John became something more. She struggled with the inappropriateness of a mature, intelligent woman falling for a young man she had known as an infant and who was in many ways still childlike.
In the summer of 1689 Esther finally decided she must leave before her behavior became inappropriate as well as her thoughts. She moved into one of the properties her parents left her in Dover began accepting invitations to go out into society. In that way she met Horace Mills, a forty year old bachelor from Farthingloe. He was attentive and generous and Esther enjoyed his company.
Their relationship was two months old when Horace addressed the question of marriage. In all those months he had not caressed or attempted to kiss her.
“Esther neither of us are children,” Horace said. “I very much enjoy your company. We should talk about marriage, I think.”
“I have enjoyed your company as well Horace. I wonder, in that neither of us is children, as you say, why our relationship has not had a physical element.”
“Ah,” said Horace after quite a pause. “Here is the issue. I am not attracted in that way to women.”
“Good Lord!” said Esther. “Whatever did you mean by marriage then.”
“I thought that we could live together and continue to enjoy each other’s company but without physical intimacy. Aren’t we of an age where that is not necessary?”
“Oh, Horace I do like you but I need a complete marriage with spiritual and physical love.”
“Well how am I to get my parents to stop deviling me about getting married?”
“That, Horace, is a problem you will have to solve on your own. I am afraid we will not see each other again.”
So Horace left, sighing mightily, to be seen no more by Esther.
Then there was Bradley W. Bradley IV. He was extremely interested in how much money Esther would loan him. And Hiram Matthews who want to go out drinking every night. And James Elbridge who frequently burst into tears for no apparent reason.
So Esther gave up and returned to Mary’s household to share stories of the men she met.
There was young John Hallowell who filled Esther’s heart with joy. She decided to take the plunge into a relationship that possibly no one else would understand or approve.
Before speaking to John on the subject, Esther met with Mary and John Sr. saying, “I have wed clever and suffered intolerably. I would marry simple and live in love. Please give me your blessing to marry John if he is willing. He will want for nothing in this life and I will honor him always.”
John Sr. and Mary knew that of all people, Esther was aware of John’s limitations. After a night of careful consideration they agreed and Esther approached John with a proposal.
“Are we meant to live together always?” he asked.
“Indeed” she answered, “In a house of our own.”
“Then I’m for it” said John.
So John and Esther were married on January 31 1690 amid much skepticism from the neighbors. After seven years of the previous childless marriage, Esther was surprised in July to become pregnant. Their daughter Hannah was born in April of 1691. In all there were three children:
Hannah Hallowell 1691
Richard Hallowell 1694
Elbridge Hallowell 1696
In 1699 John died suddenly in his sleep. Esther mourned John’s loss and reconciled herself to a life of widowhood with her three children. In 1700 John’s mother died on the road to London in a robbery of the coach in which she was traveling. John’s father found himself adrift. His children were grown, his patron, James II, was in exile and his Jacobite friends scattered.
Esther sympathized with his plight and took pains to have him visit the grandchildren as often as he wished. As time went by they were spending more and more time together as a family, either at John, Sr.’s house or at Esther’s. In 1702 John at age sixty and Esther at age forty-two married and consolidated their household in John’s place in Folkestone. There they lived together in security and comfort for twenty-eight years. In February of 1730 Esther died. John Sr. died in September of that same year.