What’s Missing?


Thomas Dugan died testate—having created a will. He left his estate to his “beloved wife Jenny Dugan,” with $1 each to three sons and two daughters, and $10 each to his two youngest sons.

Thomas Dugan’s probate inventory gives us a sense of his life through the belongings listed. Even with a list like this, there are likely items missing. There is no way to know what was not recorded by the appraisers of his estate – objects of sentimental value, but no monetary value, for instance, may have been excluded.

Where is the clothing belonging to his wife and children? Did they own any books? Most inventories list the food stored in the house; there is no food listed in Dugan’s inventory. Where is the plow? Dugan may have borrowed a plow from neighbors or it may be possible that with only seven acres, most of which probably grew grass and hay for the cow, Dugan did not need a plow.

Despite what may be missing, the inventory still provides a glimpse into Thomas Dugan’s life that would otherwise not be possible. It also can give us a sense of the lives of his contemporaries who are otherwise invisible to history.

John Hannigan, Scholar-in-Residence at The Robbins House, on how Thomas Dugan and others like him lived and worked in early 19th-century Concord.

Thomas Dugan Mirror

Thomas Dugan had a looking glass (mirror) valued at twenty-five cents. What does a twenty-five cent looking glass look like in 1827? There is no exact answer to this question, but it may have been similar to this one in the Concord Museum collection owned by Casy Feen, an African American who lived in Concord and was a contemporary of Thomas Dugan.

employment advertisement

In 1818, Thomas Dugan, then seventy-one years old, placed an advertisement in the local newspaper announcing that two of his sons were looking for employment. Two years later, the 1820 Concord census recorded unnamed “free colored males” aged twenty and thirteen living on nearby farms. They may well have been the Dugan boys, Elijah and Elisha.

To Learn More

Thomas and Jenny Dugan’s son, George Washington Dugan, enlisted in the Massachusetts 54th in 1863 and was officially listed as missing in action after the attack on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. His name, however, is missing from the Civil War monument in Concord Center. Visit the National Archives to learn more about black soldiers in the Civil War.

Elisha Dugan,—O man of wild habits…Elisha Dugan, son of Thomas and Jenny Dugan, is remembered in a poem “The Old Marlborough Road” by Henry Thoreau, published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1862.

The names of streets are often a lasting reminder of a town’s early history and are expressive of the personality of the town. Jennie Dugan Road in Concord is named for Thomas Dugan’s wife, whose name was also spelled Jenny. The Dugan home (no longer standing) was off Old Marlboro Road, near today’s Jennie Dugan Road.

Background image: Thomas Dugan’s Probate Inventory, 1827