Sarah Brigham Jacobs

Time Period

1860-1910

Notable Facts

A member of the large and socially prominent Brigham family of New England, Sarah Brigham Jacobs' financial donations helped to build the Brigham Academy in Bakersfield. After her death, she left $100,000 to further endow the school and to provide seven scholarships to the University of Vermont specifically for Brigham Academy graduates.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

04/05/1809

Date of Death

11/24/1891

Primary Residence

Bakersfield

Historical Significance

Sarah Brigham Jacobs was born in March 1809 in Bakersfield, Vermont. She was the youngest of nine children born to Marlboro, MA native Uriah Brigham and his second wife Elizabeth Fay, originally from Southboro, MA. The family moved to Bakersfield in 1796 after Uriah had purchased land in the north part of town.

In 1820, Uriah died leaving Elizabeth solely responsible for their three daughters and six sons. The boys were expected to support themselves at an early age and make their own way. In this they were very successful; in later life Josiah Fay Brigham (1801- 1878) became a respected Democrat who was elected to the Vermont legislature three times. Benjamin Gott Brigham (1804-1856) became known as "the Greatest Farmer in New England," owning upwards of 200 cows and 50 horses on his farm in Fairfield, VT. Peter Bent Brigham (1807-1877), the second youngest after Sarah, moved to Boston where he began by selling oysters out of a basement, but went on to amass a fortune as a restaurateur and real estate speculator in the newly formed Back Bay neighborhood.

At the age of 26, Sarah married James B. Jacobs and moved to Boston; in 1935 she gave birth to her only child, a son, James. B. Jacobs Jr. James Jr. died at 19 in 1854 and was buried at Mount Auburn in Cambridge, MA. Sarah's husband, James Sr., also predeceased her. After her husband's death, Sarah moved to the Bulfinch Street home of her bachelor brother, Peter Bent Brigham, and became the de facto mistress of the household. According to an 1891 memoir by a trustee of Brigham's estate, it was to Sarah's "industry and frugal care and affectionate solicitude for his welfare he was much indebted, who was his companion in his home, and to whom he was tenderly attached."

When Peter Bent Brigham died on May 24, 1877, he left an estate valued at $1,309,000. According to his trustee, "It was his firm belief that it was far better for any man with health and strength to earn his own living, and that inherited money would be a hindrance rather than a benefit." Therefore, he made no provision in his will for any of the male relatives he deemed able to work. But he did make arrangements for 2 disabled male relatives, his many nieces and, of course, his sister.

Two wills from before the Civil War had left the bulk of Peter Bent Brigham's estate to emancipation organizations. After the abolition of slavery, he revised his will to leave the majority of his wealth, following a period of 25 years in the care of trustees, to build a hospital in the Boston area. In 1902, concerned about the influence of Harvard University should the proposed hospital become a teaching facility for Harvard Medical School, some Brigham heirs contested the will in court. But the family and trustees lost the case, and construction on the Peter Bent Brigham hospital in Boston began on August 8, 1911.

In 1980, three of Boston's oldest and most prestigious Harvard teaching hospitals (the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital and the Boston Hospital for Women) merged to become Brigham and Women's Hospital. Brigham and Women's Hospital merged with the Faulkner Hospital in 2012 to form Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital.

Among his other bequests, $30,000 was left to the town of Bakersfield, VT for educational use. According to the trustee, "He often lamented his want of a liberal education, which he could not have obtained on account of the necessities of his situation." Thus the money was designated for the endowment of an academy in his old hometown.

On August 14, 1879 the Brigham Academy was dedicated. On the same day, with two nieces, Mrs. Roxana B. Hankinson and Mrs. Sarah Jane Kendall (daughters of her brother Josiah Fay Brigham, a Vermont state representative), Sarah Brigham Jacobs pledged $12,000 to erect the school's first building. According to an 1891 History of Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, Vermont, Sarah (though misidentified as one of the aforementioned nieces, Sarah Jane Brigham Kendall) also provided for a $1,300 “steam heating apparatus,” as well as an “apparatus for putting out fires” costing $590. Finally, at this time, she donated a $2,000 marble bust of her brother, Peter Bent Brigham, sculpted by Martin Millmore – Boston’s leading sculptor of the day. Another niece, Mrs. Deborah Fay Northrup, a daughter of Sarah’s eldest sister Mary, would donate a public clock and bell to the Brigham Academy.

Sarah Brigham Jacobs lived for another 12 years. She died on November 24, 1891. In her will, Sarah left a further $100,000 to Brigham Academy, far surpassing her brother’s original endowment of $30,000. She also funded seven University of Vermont scholarships exclusively for Brigham Academy students. Furniture and art bestowed on the school are supposed to have come from the Boston home she shared with her brother.

Occupations

  • hostess
  • philanthropist

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Bakersfield, Franklin County Driving Tour Link

Additional Images

Jacobs, Sarah
Jacobs, Sarah