Aurore Eaton's Looking Back: The Tale of Manchester's Mary Gale
On the east side of the Valley Cemetery in Manchester is the handsome Gale family mausoleum. It was designed to resemble a miniature Gothic church, complete with stylized buttresses. Interred in this tomb are Mary Green Ayer Gale, her husband Dr. Amos G. Gale and their daughter Susan R. Gale.
Mary Gale was the daughter of Richard Hazen Ayer, who was born in Dunbarton, New Hampshire, in 1778. He grew up in Concord and became a successful banker, politician and real estate speculator. He owned the clay banks in Hooksett and his prosperous brickyard there produced many of the bricks for Manchester's first mills and for the town's early commercial buildings. He also owned lumber yards that provided wood for Manchester's early construction projects. He built the Union Block at the southwest corner of Market and Elm streets, invested in other commercial real estate in the downtown, and was the first President of the Amoskeag Bank.
An article about Mr. Ayer written after his death summed up his personality, "Though in manner partaking somewhat of austerity and in business transaction rigid and severe, we have known many instances in which he displayed genuine kindness of heart and none in which he compromised his honor or integrity."
There is a story that survives about Mr. Ayer that is both humorous and telling. When he was on his deathbed suffering from heart disease in February 1853, he was visited by the Reverend Cyrus Wallace, the first minister of the Hanover Street Congregational Church (now the First Congregational Church). The Reverend asked Mr. Ayer if he had any regrets in life that he wanted to discuss. Mr. Ayer was silent for a moment and responded, "Yes. I wish I had purchased more gas company stock at $1.00 per share because it is now worth $3.00 a share."
Richard Ayer's wife Mary Green Ayer died some time between 1850 and 1860. The couple had two daughters, Mary Green Gale and Susan Rebecca Gale. Susan married Dr. Enoch Barnes of Concord in 1827. She died in 1852 at age 44 of consumption (tuberculosis). It appears that her husband had died before her, and we know that her son Richard H. A. Barnes passed away in 1859, also of consumption. Her younger sister Mary Green Gale was born in 1810. When she was 20 years old she married prominent physician Dr. Amos G. Gale, who was originally from Kingston, New Hampshire. The Gales had one daughter, Susan R., who was known as "an accomplished young woman." Susan contracted tuberculosis and died in 1855, when she was only 20.
When Richard H. Ayer died in 1853, he passed on the ownership of most of his lucrative real estate holdings to Dr. Gale. When Dr. Gale died in 1861 of typhoid fever, Mary Gale inherited the properties. This made her a very wealthy woman. Her financial status would bring her little happiness, however. It was written of her after her death in 1876, "Since her husband died, at times she felt as if she were left alone in the world, with no ties of blood to attract her to earth. No one but her intimate friends knew how poignant was her grief, nor how much she suffered."
Mary endured a chronic illness for many years. This was likely the tuberculosis that would eventually take her life. In 1868, she contracted pneumonia. The doctors prescribed morphine to ease her pain. She, like many other people at the time, became addicted to this highly potent opium derivative. In her desperation, Mary contacted the famous Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science faith. Mrs. Eddy was both a controversial and an influential figure. She traveled from her home in Amesbury, Massachusetts, to Manchester. With her encouragement, Mary Gale managed to wean herself off of the morphine, and she regained her strength. In the months that followed, the two Mary's wrote to each other faithfully, keeping up a friendly correspondence. After a falling out of some sort, however, Mary Gale felt the need to abandon the budding friendship. This loss of another close associate added to the heavy burden of loneliness that cast a dark shadow over Mary Gale's life.
Next Week: A Valley Cemetery Story — Part 2 — Mary Gale's legacy..
Aurore Eaton is executive director of Manchester Historic Association; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org