Sarah Sprague Jacobs (1813-1902)

With the death of Sarah Sprague Jacobs, which occurred Wednesday night, at her home, 19 Pleasant street, another long time resident and ardent lover of the city of Cambridge is removed from her sphere of usefulness. Miss Jacobs is sure to be remembered by a large number of citizens as a lady of marked ability In literature, especially In historical work. For the past two years she had been in falling health and had done little or no writing of any nature, but her interest in public affairs at no time flagged.

Miss Jacobs’s death is by the doctor ascribed to cerebral anaemia, brought on by the weakness of old age. Her illness was more like a gradual exhaustion of the physical powers and she sank peacefully Into death when the final hour came. The funeral services will be conducted In St. Peter’s Episcopal church, this afternoon, at 2.30 o’clock. It Is expected that the rector. Rev. Charles H. Perry, will be in charge of the services. The burial will .be In the family lot at Mt. Auburn.

Sarah Sprague Jacobs was born in Cranston, R. I., March 17. 1813, so that she lacked little more than ten months of attaining the age of 90. She was the oldest daughter of Rev. Bela Jacobs, well known as a clergyman in this city in the early part of the present century. Mr. Jacobs was the first pastor of the First Baptist church, organized Dec. 17, 1817, and was later in charge of the Second Baptist church. Prior to coming to Cambridge he had charge of a Baptist church in Pawtucket, R. I.

Miss Jacobs received her education in the public schools of this city and later at Ebenezer Bailey’s private school in Boston. She always entertained vivid recollections of being taken to this school on one of the old-fashioned stage coaches, which would call for her every morning and would wait a few minutes If she did not happen to be quite ready. She was fond of contrasting this politeness with the custom of present day conductors. Even at this early period in her life she lived In the same house in which she died. No. 19 Pleasant street. This house was erected In 1818, and is in an excellent stale of preservation at the present day. In Cambridge she was the schoolmate of Richard Henry Dana. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Margaret Fuller.

After having secured her education she was occupied a number of years as school teacher, having charge of private schools in Providence, R. I., and in Liberty county, Georgia. But while she was teaching schools she would also occupy herself with literary work, for which she had great natural aptitude. She will be remembered by many as the author of several delightful books of short stories, among which may be mentioned “Eleanor’s Green Veil.” Another work of a different nature was called “Nonantum and Natlck,” or “The History of the Christian Indians.” This last book represents a very amount of historical research, which was the kind of employment that she always enjoyed.

Then, too, she employed her excellent knowledge of foreign languages to translate a number of works from Italian and other tongues. Magazine writing was another branch of her many-sided activity and she was a frequent contributor to such periodicals as the Atlantic Monthly. Many of her contributions were in the historical or reminiscent vein, while others were essays on various subjects; all her writings were of the most readable nature and showed a well stored and fully developed mind.

Since 1862, or thereabouts, Miss Jacobs was a resident of Cambridge to the day of her death. A mind like hers could not long remain aloof from public affairs and soon she found herself taking the most Intense Interest in all that pertained to the city’s Interests. Her brother, Justin A, Jacobs, was city clerk from 1857 to the time of his death In 1887. and she helped him very much In the performance of his duties. When the present city clerk. Edward J. Brandon, came into office Miss Jacobs, though at a very advanced age continued to assist in the work of the office and by her knowledge of its details was able to facilitate matters very considerably. She was occupied chiefly in transcribing old town and proprietors’ records, in which her personal knowledge of many of the facts aided greatly in supplying missing material where the original record was blurred or blotted. She gave up work in the city clerk’s office about three years ago through ill health.

From 1880 to 1887 she was a member of the school committee being the first woman who ever served on the Cambridge school board. She evidently improved her opportunities here, for in the book called “Cambridge Sketches” first published in 1896 she had an article entitled “Cambridge Schools of the Olden Time.” Another one of her manifold interests was a society known as the “Church Library Association,” composed of Cambridge ladies of the Episcopal church, who recommended books for Episcopal Sunday schools all over the country. Her work here was entirely voluntary and undertaken solely because of her enthusiasm for any kind of literary labors.

… In every line of literary endeavor Miss Jacobs was very proficient. In her home life she was lovable, by all who met her she was highly esteemed, and her death, even at her advanced age, can only he considered a distinct loss to the community.

— Obituary published in the Cambridge Chronicle (17 May 1902) p. 5