John Flear

A Servant's Christmas at Glessner House 1894

Servants are included in the holiday interpretation at Glessner House Museum.  Frances Glessner recorded a good deal of information on the various servants in the household, both in her weekly journal and in a separate journal specifically reserved for information on the hiring (and dismissal) of all household staff. 

To recall the servants and their important role in the operation of the household, each year a series of envelopes is placed in the butler’s pantry, addressed to those staff members who received Christmas gifts in 1894.  This display is based on an entry in Frances Glessner’s servants’ journal, which states:

“The servants who are with us now Nov. 1, 1893 are all to be paid an extra months pay Christmas 1894:
Frederick Reynolds
John Flear
Mattie Williamson
Alice Hassett
Julia Johnson
Antonie Gerstling
Annie Johnston
Charlie Nelson
Martin _________"

Six of those listed were still in service with the Glessners at Christmas 1894 and received their extra months pay.

·        Frederick Reynolds, the butler, had been hired in 1891 and was initially paid $50.00 per month.  By 1894, his pay had been increased to $60.00 per month.  He remained as the Glessners’ butler until May 1, 1900.

·        John Flear, the footman, began work with the Glessners in 1892 and remained until November 1896.  He was paid $45.00 per month.  An interesting fact is that Flear returned for eight months in 1923 to serve as butler.

·        Mattie Williamson was the Glessners’ beloved and long-serving cook.  She was hired in 1891 and remained until May 1, 1897 when she left for one year.  Returning on May 1, 1898 she continued as the cook until October 1, 1912 when she left to be married in Santa Barbara, California.  When originally hired, she was paid $5.00 per week, a typical amount for most of the female staff.

·        Alice Hassett had been in the employ of the Glessner family since 1874.  Although her position and pay are not recorded, Frances Glessner notes in her servants’ journal that Alice died on March 9, 1895 after 21 years of service.

·        Antonie Gerstling was hired as the ladies maid in January 1893 and was paid $5.00 per week.  It is not recorded when she left.

·        Charles Nelson served for many years as the Glessners’ coachman.  Although Frances Glessner did not record specific information on Nelson in her servant’s journal, the 1880 census shows that he was in service with the family at that time, and occupied an apartment over the coach house with his wife Martha and two-year-old son Norman. 

The remaining three servants listed left the employ of the Glessners before Christmas 1894.

·        Julia Johnson, the housemaid, started in November 1892 and left in June 1894.  She was paid $5.00 per week.  She was followed by Sarah McCarrick.

·        Annie Johnston was the laundress and worked for the Glessners for exactly one year – from October 1893 to October 1894.  She was paid $6.00 per week.  Belle Doormar was hired as the laundress in October 1894 and “left without notice” on April 26, 1895.  Frances Glessner recorded that she “told falsehoods” and later learned that her real name was Bridget Doonan.

·        Nothing is known about Martin, whose last name is not recorded, except that he left the Glessners’ employ in November or December 1893.

This valuable record which Frances Glessner left behind helps to give a face to those in service who have often been forgotten over the passage of time.