THANK YOU to Mayor Read, Mr. Farrington, and all the other City staff responsible for the quick response to correcting the street sign honoring Lucretia Davidson!
Why Is Lucretia Davidson important in Plattsburgh’s history?
Lucretia Maria Davidson was born Sept. 27, 1808 to Dr. Oliver Davidson and his wife, Margaret Miller Davidson. Her father was one of the first four physicians in the young settlement of Plattsburg. The family struggled not only financially but also personally. Of the ten children born to the couple, only four survived to adolescence and only two of those lived to adulthood.
Here’s an interesting aside: Dr. Davidson designed the weather vane that capped the newly built Plattsburg Academy in 1811. It depicted an angel blowing the trumpet of fame. Unfortunately, the Academy was completely destroyed by fire in Nov. 1871 and the weather vane lost.
When Plattsburg Academy opened in 1811, Lucretia, then 4 years old, attended to learn to read and write Roman letters (today this is printed letters in all caps). This is when her family discovered her first poetic attempts. Lucretia, mortified that others were seeing her work, burned all of them. She had learned script by the time she was seven and then began almost a decade of prolific writing. Encouraged by her mother, also a writer, she was continually composing poetry, often stopping all other activity to steal away and write the thoughts spilling into her head.
When Lucretia was 15, she received a scholarship to attend the Willard School in Troy, NY. However, too much attention to her studies and not enough to her health force Lucretia to return to Plattsburgh a short time later. After her recovery, she went to Miss Gilbert’s school in Albany, but three short months later she returned home gravely ill. Lucretia died at age 16 years and 11 months from consumption, now called tuberculosis.
Although Lucretia was prone to destroying the poems she decided didn’t meet her standards (estimated to be about 1/3rd of all her writing), she left behind 278 completed works – an amazing amount of poetry for such a young person. These works were praised by a number of notable writers of that time period including Edgar Allan Poe. Samuel F. B. Morse wrote a glowing biographical sketch of her which was published in 1829.
Other interesting asides: The youngest Davidson, Margaret, was only 2 yrs. old when Lucretia died. She also began to write poetry at a young age and by ten years old had written a drama (in two days) which she and some friends performed. Sadly, like her sister, Margaret succumbed to consumption shortly before her 16th birthday. The family had moved to Ballston Spa in 1833 in hopes that environment would be beneficial to the health of both mother and daughter. Margaret’s writing had caught the attention of Washington Irving, of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” fame, who wrote a glowing biography/eulogy of the young poet.
The Davidson house in Plattsburgh was next door to the Delord house on Cumberland Avenue. Frances Henrietta Delord and both Davidson girls knew each other and, although not in the same grade, attended Plattsburg Academy. When Frances Henrietta died in 1834, Margaret wrote a 13-verse tribute to her and sent it to Betsey Delord. Margaret had just move from Plattsburgh the previous year.
The complete works of the Davidson sisters were published together in 1850