Sunday, September 30, 2018

Summertime is Family time

When I was in elementary school, I hated summer vacation. When the new school year started, I didn’t have anything to write about for my “What did you do on your summer vacation?” essay. When I was growing up, time off from work was only taken when hunting season started. So, while others told about their trips to the beach or to exotic sounding places, I had nothing to say. This year I finally have something different to write about!

Planning the trip

While my husband and I were planning our trip, two seeming unrelated things happened. The first one was I needed a question answered that would involve contacting the Old Berwick Historical Society (OBHS) in Maine. Previously, I had contacted the Old York Historical Society and had a good bit of luck breaking through a somewhat tough wall. So now I had another question and was hoping for the same luck in the Berwick area.

Sometime in the spring, I emailed the OBHS with my question. As it turns out, the woman I talked to was very knowledgeable of the locations for the early settlers. She and I exchanged emails back and forth for several weeks. I told her when we were going to be in the area and she mentioned a tour of houses for my ancestors. She thought I was just another out-of-stater who wanted to see a house or two of a random ancestor whose descendants had migrated out of the area. Wrong! Little did she know that I am the only one in 10 generations that was dumb enough to move out of the area! Some of my ancestors started coming over to fish at the Isles of Shoals and propagated inland from the coast and didn’t stop coming into New England until the mid-1700s. The majority of my Maine ancestors who created the foundation of my family had come over with Captain John Mason’s company for the Laconia patent and settled the lands that were known as the Upper, Middle and Lower Parishes of Kittery, now Eliot, North, South and just plain Berwick, all 3 collectively known as “The Berwicks”, Lebanon and of course, Kittery itself. The list I sent her for just the Middle Parish took up several inches on the screen but was only a small portion of the names in my tree from the entire Kittery area.

The second seemingly unrelated thing that was happening around this time was on some of the Facebook pages I belong to. The talk was all about the Scottish Prisoner of War excavation and the Durham Cathedral as well as the Battles of Dunbar and Worcester. I had watched the video from the University of Durham with Dr. Pam Graves and Dr. Emerson Baker; bought Dr. Millard’s et al, Lost Lives, New Voices. I have several SPOWs that fought and were captured in both battles and wanted to learn more about them. In hindsight, what I found out was rather sad. The March, the number of dead… The phrase – by the Grace of God… kept running through my head as I read and learned more.

In an effort to negotiate with the planning for our vacation, we found that the site of the Saugus Iron Works was less than an hour’s drive (in ‘light’ Massachusetts traffic?!) from my husband’s daughter and her family’s home. So we planned a day to visit. I didn’t have any idea of what it entailed but was just excited to have the opportunity to visit.

Saugus Iron Works

This site is maintained by the National Park Service. The site consists of an air-conditioned museum and an outside guided tour. Our guide who was a very knowledgeable park ranger, gave us some history of why the location was chosen, took us to where they created the iron, and showed us how the waterwheels interacted within the whole process. Unfortunately the day we visited was one of the hottest days of our vacation! With the temperature adding to an already vivid perspective of what the conditions were like then, it brought home the fact that it really was blood, sweat and raw muscle that built our country. 

So called "Pizza" Oven

When this facility went bankrupt, the SPOWs workers were released from their contacts with the owners of the Iron Works and went on to other work, many to Oyster River in New Hampshire and to Berwick in Maine. Not all who worked there were prisoners of war. The latter group went to other locations, many to start up their own iron works companies. Our guide mentioned several other locations, including one in New Jersey that can be traced back to the Saugus Iron Works. Historically, this facility was proven to be the start of the iron industry in America.  

At the end of the visit, Ranger Kevin, in the gift shop and I had an interesting conversation about the SPOWs. He shared documentation with me on the people who were at the Iron Works as well as the sawmill at Berwick. It was interesting to hear that Richard Leader, the manager at the Iron Works became the manager of the sawmills in the Berwick area.

House tour

Next, we were off to Maine to visit with my family and the tour of my ancestors’ property. Norma, our volunteer guide from the OBHS, took us in her car to see settlements of some of the names that I had previously given her. We saw where Miles Thompson lived, with Nicholas Hodsdon’s property next door. We drove to several places that were historically significant but were now residential neighborhoods. The area that was excavated by Dr. Tad Baker a few years ago which belonged to Humphrey Chadbourn, Jr. was not accessible to vehicles. Humphrey Chadbourn,Sr. and Jr. were primary builders for the area sawmills as well as building the “Great House” at Strawberry Bank. Chadbourn,Sr. went back to England after his contacted work was completed. His son stayed and as they say, the rest is history. 

We saw many properties but the areas I was most impressed with were the Thomas Spencer Garrison and the house that James Emery was deeded from his father, Anthony Emery who lived in before him. 

Emery House in (now) Eliot, Maine

We met the current owner of the Emery house, he is the first non-descendant in 340 years to live in that house. AND he has copies of all the deeds going back to the beginning!!


Thomas Spencer Garrison So. Berwick, Me

The Thomas Spencer Garrison is a very impressive house. Thomas Spencer was a wealthy man. He owned over 5000 acres and as was the custom at that time, gave property to his children as they grew and married. 

 In his will, he provided a portion of his property
for a family cemetery called “Old Fields”.
This is just down the road from his house with many
of the headstones still standing. Truly a quintessential Colonial New England sight. 

Hamilton House

The Spencer house is directly across the street from the Hamilton House which is just as picturesque. Jonathan Hamilton built his house on the banks of the Salmon Falls River c 1787-1789. It is owned by Historic New England and is a National Historic Landmark. It is opened for tours June through October.

Norma, our OBHS guide, took us down to the Witchtrot Road area and showed us where the sawmills were located and where they loaded the logs for shipment to other towns. As she talked, you could just picture how the land was laid out in the mid 1600’s. Although my original question never got answered, it was really a great tour to see
and imagine how my ancestors' property looked in the 17th century.

Among many others, the names mentioned here are all my 9th great grandfathers.
Anthony Emery
Thomas Spencer
Humphrey Chadbourn, Jr
Richard Leader

My SPOW ancestors

George Gray
Alexander Cooper
William Gowen
Peter Grant
John Key
James Warren

It was a truly exciting vacation with very emotional connective overtones. One that won't soon be forgotten.

So, how was yours?

Pictures by Photos by Nancy

Friday, January 12, 2018

You can go home again, if only in your dreams

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
Week 2 – Photo

The Photo

This photo, taken about 1910, tells me a lot about my family.  In the back row, with the farmer overalls is my second great
grandfather Levi Whitman, in front of him is Hester, his daughter.  The man in the black suit is Monroe David Whitman, Levi’s brother.  The lady behind him is my 2 great grandmother, Fanny Ella Martin Whitman.  The older lady in the end of that row is Anna Bryant Whitman, Monroe’s wife.  Monroe and his wife Anna lived in Owatonna Steele Minnesota.  The little impish girl on the end is Elfreda Josephine Whitman Ladd.  The older girl with the long braids is my grandmother, Ruth Elizabeth Whitman Emery.  The picture was taken at the family farm in Newbury, Vermont.  It appears to me that a reunion of sorts was coming to an end and this picture was taken for remembrance of the occasion.

The People

When I first saw this picture I was taken back at the smiles and the happy nature of the girls.  Hester, Ruth and Josephine were sisters.  I didn’t remember this happiness from them as I was growing up.  Those smiles seemed to have faded more and more as the years took their toll.  They and their brother Horace were the children of Levi and his second wife, Fanny Ella.  Levi’s previously wife was Fanny’s sister, Ann.  Ann and Levi had 4 children: Dora, David, Everett Eugene “Gene” and Fanny Rebecca.  When Ann had died of untreated diabetes, Levi had to have someone to care for his children and free him up to work the farm.  Who better to marry then someone he and his children already knew?  Monroe was a Civil War veteran serving at the Battle of Gettysburg.  He and his brother Shepard, who served at Antietam, moved west into the Minnesota, Nebraska area and raised their families. 

The Farm

For years, the farm was the center of the family’s gatherings no matter where they were going or coming from, they would stop at the farm.  Many times you could visit and cousins from ‘away’ would be there, perhaps some you never meet or ever will again had stopped off to see the grand or great grandparents.  After I was born, I was included in the annual pilgrimages as well.  Each generation, it seemed, had its own little ‘club’.  My grandmother and her brothers and sisters, naturally; my mother and her first cousins were all the same age. Then there was the children of the first cousins who were also very close in age as well.  The generational division was obvious as they naturally gravitated together.

Levi’s father David had moved from Lyme, Grafton, New Hampshire, to approximately 20 miles west on the other side of the Connecticut River with 7 of his 8 children to Newbury, Orange, Vermont.  The farm was 109 acres more or less for the total sum of $750.00 with the mortgage signed by David’s X on 13 May 1852.   It was a working farm from the beginning.  They raised corn to feed the cattle as well as the people.  Everyone had chores. In the summer days when we visited, one of the chores I still remember is gathering the corn for the evening meal.  The corn was sweet, fresh off the stalk and right into the pot! They had chickens, other small livestock and of course, a barn full of milking cows.

Time Changes Things

Time passed and I started hearing stories about the changes on the farm. The 4th generation and part of the 3rd worked outside of the farm to sustain it.  Little by little, the cows were sold.  When aunts and uncles died, land was sold to pay the funeral expenses.  The barn, which was built in 1895, was taken down piece by piece, each piece was numbered to be rebuilt in another location in the area.  Some of the memories I have of time spent on the farm will live with me forever.  Little things like visiting one Easter, going out to the barn to watch the milking in my finest clothes.  The calf I tried to feed decided she liked my dress better than what I was trying to feed her!  I never had a cow munch on my dress before that!  Watching the cows come back to the barn from the day out in the field, I was amazed at the uniform parade as they went into their stalls without any problems or effort.  How can I forget the early morning run to the woodshed in the winter to take care of nature!  I wouldn’t have missed this part of my childhood for anything.  I know I won’t go back to see it as it is now, I want to dream and remember it as it was.  For it is my connection to the generations past that I feel fortunate to be a part of.

Monday, January 8, 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Week 1 – Start

I have committed to the challenge put forth by Amy Johnson Crow. Her first topic was “Start”. Let me start this challenge by telling you of my journey to becoming a genealogy researcher.

Where, oh where should I begin? In Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit is to testify at a trial. He asks the King, "Where should I begin?" The King responded, "Begin at the beginning and when you get to the end, Stop!" 

The beginning?  I knew very little of my family tree:  My grandfather had a brother who lived up the road. We saw him fairly often since my grandfather was sickly and needed help with mowing the lawn and other around the house things.  In my family, you had to pick up clues where you could.  Little by little I found out that he had several other siblings that were in various states of medical issues...Health was a big discussion point, at least other people’s. 

One thing that stood out was that my grandfather talked with his hands. It was so noticeable that one day I asked why.  The response I got was ethically based. I didn't take too much stock in it because since he lived in America, he didn't have any other ethnic background but American!  How is that for a 5 or 6 year old's mind?

For my grandmother's information, I knew she came from Vermont, we took the train every summer to visit all the cousins and aunts and uncles on the farm. 

Years passed and I became intrigued by the relationship of people's names with streets and places in my hometown.  One year, as my mother was in an assisted living facility, I couldn't think of anything to get her for Christmas, her wants and needs were so much different than when I was younger.  I found myself in the Clayton Library in Houston, Texas one Saturday.  As I wandered through the stacks I found a history of the town in Vermont where my grandmother grew up. AND it mentioned her father in as well!  That was the catalyst I needed to get me started.  I subscribed to NEHGS, ordered books for loan and got tons of information.  It seems that like other 19th century genealogists who published their research, there was a book published in 1898 for the immigrant ancestor that contained over 15,000 descendants.

WOW!  I never knew.  This ancestor was a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – The first recording of his name was in 1638.  He had 9 children; they helped to populate many other areas of the young country.  His oldest daughter was the 7th great grandmother of Abraham Lincoln and his oldest son was the 7th great grandson of my grandmother.  From there, my research went full speed ahead.  I put my research together in a book, with the lineage on both sides of my mother’s family from her parents to the immigrants coming into the New England area in the early to mid-1600s. In among this research, I found several Mayflower passengers, but didn't take any mind of them at that time.  What a gift to give my mother!  But it was very superficial as I wanted to get this book to her for that year’s Christmas.

Today, I am working on all four ancestral lines.  My research has given me some very interesting information.  As an example, I have Scot-Irish from Ulster (Presbyterians), Scottish Prisoner of War (Battle of Worcester and Dunbar); and other Scottish immigrants who weren't involved in either.  I have found a total of seven Mayflower passengers with 13 lines; immigrants involved in the founding of Hartford, Norwich and several other towns in Connecticut, at least 2 families from Rhode Island, MANY families from both the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony as well as founding families on Cape Cod and the islands. Founders of Dover, NH; Kittery, and York, Maine as well as many gateway ancestors, 10 in one line!  When my grandmother’s family migrated from Connecticut to Vermont through Northern New Hampshire, it solidified my circle around New England. AND to top it off, I found that my parents are cousins several times over.

Now the question comes back to WHERE do I start with this banyan tree? With such eye-opening experiences for someone who didn't know anything about their family prior to 15 years ago, it’s hard to find a starting point.  It could be anywhere.

Oh and by the way, my grandfather's line does have the ethnic background that promoted my answer to talking with his hands.  Both his paternal and material lines as far as you can see were all of Huguenot descent. Tradition has it that his ancestors were involved in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre.
The names of streets and places in my hometown?  Many streets and places are named after the people who owned the land.  I am related to more than half of the original founders of my hometown, the names match up to my family line very nicely. 

I haven't yet found the end to my research - my goal keeps shifting, but as the King told the White Rabbit, it is time to come to the end (of this narrative).