“The Notorious George Barlow” – Part 2

The Scourge of the Quakers – A Tyrant’s Rise and Fall

            In 1657, George Barlow, a stranger to town with two sons and no wife, swore the Oath of Fidelity in Sandwich, Massachusetts. George declared he was free of legal bond, a  member of the church (Congregational, of course), that he would defend the colony and vote on local governance issues. Thus, the forty-something single father, George Barlow met the standard for respectability, but his life prior to this moment seems lived off the record.

It happened that the term for the current Sandwich constable, William Bassett, was coming to an end.  On Bassett’s watch, Boston had disturbing reports that Plymouth Colony folks treated strangers with charity and tolerated differing views on Christianity as matters of conscience.

The Puritan masters lived in daily terror of eternal damnation and had documented sightings of Satan. They had reports of Quaker missionaries avoiding Boston for alternative routes into the country, so the government alert level was “code red.” And someone in Boston knew George Barlow was the blunt instrument they needed. On June 1, 1658, the General Court appointed Barlow constable for Sandwich – with a special mandate to harass religious dissenters, – and those who aided them.

The constable was tasked with jailing local offenders, administering punishment, and collecting fines and fees. He was also granted certain powers that included conscripting men to assist him. He could also appraise property and choose what goods to take in forfeiture when people had no money. A perk of the office allowed the constable to pocket ten percent of all monies collected. For a bully like George Barlow, was a dream come true. He could torment Quakers – and anyone else he liked, while making a good living for himself, and earning points with Boston.

A woman addresses an early meeting of Quakers. Few 17th Century minds could deal with the concept of equality.Image

Knowing their faith forbade them taking oaths (for loyalty belonged to god alone) and to harm others, George targeted Quaker men to conscript as deputies. He knew they must refuse, they wouldn’t fight, and they’d be fined. George impoverished several Sandwich families. From those with no money, George took what would hurt the most, –even to the essentials of living,  food, livestock, tools, household goods that included cooking pots. He sent men to prison in Boston, leaving behind women and children to fend off cold, hunger, and likely sexual harassment from…Constable George Barlow.

Image

Prominent Sandwich townspeople sympathized with the persecuted Quakers and helped the affected families. Non-Quakers also refused to serve Barlow as deputies and paid the price. We know of a few men who told George Barlow what they thought of him to his face.

 “At the 1 March 1658/9 Court “George Barlow complained against

William Gifford and Edward Perry in an action of defamation…”

 Thomas Clark told the court in June 1660 that “G[e]orge Barlow is such an one that he is a shame and reproach to all his masters; and that he… stands convicted and recorded of a lie at Newberry.”

Yet, on October 2, 1660, Boston promoted George to Special Marshal for Sandwich,  - and Yarmouth – and Barnstable:

“marshal Gorge Barlow shall have libertie to apprehend ant forraigne Quaker or Quakers in any pte of this Jurisdiction and to be prosecuted according to order provided in that case.”

However, at this point, Barlow’s career had reached its zenith. A few months after his jurisdiction expanded, George himself was fined 20 shillings by the court for cruelty to… wait for it…a Quaker!

            George had seized Benjamin Allen and locked him into the stocks at Sandwich overnight – with no legal provocation. He was also cited “for other wronges done by him unto the said Allin.” At the same court session, George was also ordered to return a shirt and other clothing he had taken from Ralph Allen. Additionally, the William Allen family was one of those impoverished, and not because William was a Quaker (at the time), but because he allowed Quakers to hold meetings in his home.

The political tide was turning. The legislature of Massachusetts Bay hanged four Quakers on Boston Common between 1659 and 1661 that included wife, mother and preacher, Mary Dyer. That year, King Charles II “explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism.” [2]

George Barlow was less and less able to pass himself off as respectable by any standard. He drank, he picked fights, he disturbed the peace, and he hauled family members into court. After his term in law enforcement ended and with it, his authority over others, George Barlow faded away. There is no record of the day he died. Ironically, the memory of George Barlow remains alive because of the people he victimized.

The Society of Friends established the oldest continuous monthly meeting in America at Sandwich, Massachusetts and its historians tell a story that is not a literal account, but one that captures the Quaker essence in a charming way. Scott Corbett in his book, Cape Cod’s Way, put it this way:

 “At a time when William Allen was in prison in Boston, Barlow paid a visit to the Allen home. He took the cow and all the food he could find, including some given to Mrs. Allen by neighbors. Then for good measure he confiscated the only kettle she had, and leered at her triumphantly. “Now, Priscilla, how will thee cook for thy family and friends? Thee has no kettle.

“George,” said Priscilla, “that God who hears the young ravens when they cry will provide for them. I trust in that God, and I verily believe the time will come when thy necessity will be greater than mine.”

Legend has it that Priscilla Allen was right.

***

Dear Readers, I’m surprised myself to announce a Part 3,  George Barlow – The Brute and Bully At Home,  is yet to come.

 ***

[1]  Title quote from The American Genealogist; Vol. XXVI, No. 4; October, 1950; Barclay, Mrs. John E.; Ann (Besse) Hallet, Step-Mother of Abigail (Hallet) Alden.

[2]  Boston Martyrs – Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_martyrs

Sources:

Sandwich Historical Commission; http://sandwichhistory.org/

Mass Moments: Quakers Outlawed in Plymouth; http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=347

Mary Dyer – Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Dyer

Boston Martyrs – Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_martyrs

Sandwich Monthly Meeting; http://www.capecodquakers.org/

Title page of book on the persecution of Quakers in New England (1660-1661); http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/thumbnail11.html

Comments Off

Filed under American history, Colonial History, Family History, Massachusetts History, Uncategorized

“The Notorious George Barlow” – Part 1

I’m thankful for a sprinkling of heretics (or as they are politely called today, – Protestants) that add color to an otherwise monotonous Roman Catholic background. I owe the debt to my paternal grandfather, James Patrick Henry Roane, Senior who, in 1921, married a devout Baptist, Edna Mae Keirstead.

Nana’s line includes clergymen, even saintly men, who suffered for their faith, among them, the Reverend Obadiah Holmes, an ancestor of Abraham Lincoln. At the other end of the spectrum, is my ninth great-grandfather, George Barlow. His claim to fame is that he made people suffer for their beliefs, and worse, – he enjoyed it.

An illustration of the public whipping of Obadiah Holmes, a baptist preacher by Puritan authorities of Massachusetts.

Barlow made his mark decades after the Mayflower Pilgrims established their little commonwealth in Plymouth. As that colony’s population multiplied, the founders’ ideals gave way to a new generation’s lust, — the lust for land. Families spread out and new settlements sprang up. By 1640, another 20,000 English settlers had come to New England.

The most notable arrivals disembarked further up the coast in 1630. They were another group of reformers, the Puritans. While the Pilgrims were religious refugees, chased from England to the Netherlands, the Puritans voluntarily left an England they found too tolerant.

Backed by investors expecting a good return from Massachusetts Bay, the industrious Puritans did not disappoint. The industrious newcomers rapidly established Boston as the political, commercial, financial, educational and religious center of New England. Granted authority they were denied in England (and blind to historical irony), the Puritans introduced religious persecution to the New World.

They mounted a particularly vicious campaign against the Quakers, which always struck me as odd, as I suspect it does most of us. If we modern folks know anything about this small Protestant denomination, also known as the Religious Society of Friends it’s the following:

- Quakers hold silent devotional meetings;

- Quakers organize to relieve human suffering worldwide;

- Quakers go to jail rather than kill for warring nations;

- Quakers engage in nonviolent protests against militarism and environmental destruction.

So how could the Puritans, fellow Christians, treat these peaceful souls so barbarously? Well, it turns out that present day Quakers have changed considerably since the 17th century. Shiny new Quakers were fervent believers, like new converts in any century. Among the early leaders were zealous evangelicals determined to sow god’s latest message in New World soil. But it wasn’t simple religious heresy that enraged the Puritans, – Quaker ideas threatened the social order.

Quakers believe that each human being is born with “inner light,” and therefore, all men and women are created equal. At meetings, anyone might be moved to share a divine insight, and they did not have a paid clergy class. Quakers addressed others as “friend,” – whether rich or poor, black or white, titled or commoner. Furthermore, owing allegiance only to god, Quakers refused to swear oaths to civil authorities.

To Puritans who saw wealth and position as signs of god’s favor and expected have-nots and other moral inferiors to show deference to those god had placed above them, Quakers were more than disobedient, they made themselves downright obnoxious. Consider that –

- Quaker men did not remove their hats to their ‘betters’ (for in god’s sight, no man was better than any other);

- Quakers lined the streets of Boston to hoot and heckle the governor as he passed by;

- Quakers burst into churches, interrupting Sunday worship, and provoking arguments with clergymen in front of their congregations.

So while these offenses will never justify the atrocities the Puritans committed against Quakers (and other dissenters), they add a dimension that helps us understand (a little) how it happened. And it was under these circumstances, in 1658, that the General Court of Massachusetts awarded drunkard and bully, George Barlow, his dream job.

In Part 2 in which I’ll fill you in on my ignoble ancestor’s reign of terror on colonial Cape Cod!

SELECTED SOURCES:

The title quote comes from The American Genealogist; Vol. XXVI, No. 4; October, 1950; Barclay, Mrs. John E.; Ann (Besse) Hallet, Step-Mother of Abigail (Hallet) Alden.

Obadiah Holmes at Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obadiah_Holmes

Quakers: Persecution in colonial Massachusetts;

http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/The_Great_Republic_By_the_Master_Historians_Vol_I/quakershi_dg.html

Persecution of Quakers in Colonial New England, Excerpt from The Beginnings of New England by John Fiske, 1892; edited by Dainial MacAdhaimh, 2005.

1 Comment

Filed under American history, Colonial History, Family History, Keirstead / Kierstead, Massachusetts History, Roane / Roan / Ruane, social history

Why did O’Flaherty plant boiled potatoes?

I was excited when I acquired a copy of the Ayer’s American Almanac. Not only was it published in Lowell, Massachusetts, the ancestral city of my Roane clan, it’s the 1859 edition, – the year my Irish immigrant couple, John P. and Mary (Hurney) Roane were married. I liked to imagined the little booklet sitting on a shelf in their home on the comer of Gorham of Summer streets.

The purpose of the magazine, “For the health of All Nations,” was trumpeted by an angel on the cover.  Its enterprising publisher,  “Dr. James C. Ayer, Practical and Analytical Chemist,” had equal interest in promoting his financial health. Lengthy  articles describe the powers of Ayer’s Compound Concentrated Extract of Sarsaparilla, Ayer’s Cathartic Pills, and Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral, to ease everyday complaints, and to cure virtually everything from deafness, partial blindness, fits, paralysis and tumors –  to gout and syphilis.

Cover of Ayer's American Almanac 1859

The booklet measures 4 5/8 by 7 inches.

Despite the relentless advertising, the almanac had practical utility. The annual calendar incorporated the Christian observances of Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Trinity and Advent. It listed anniversaries of national significance,  such as “Franklin born, 1706″ and “Battle of Tippecanoe, 1811.” And it wouldn’t be an almanac without the weather. Predictions of wind, rain, snow and temperature would have interested city dwellers and rural folk, just as we check the daily forecast. The almanac also offered amusement. Each calendar page had extra space at the bottom. Some months filled it with run-over text. Other months featured aphorisms, witticisms, doggerel – and jokes.

In my mind’s eye, I’d  picture John in the parlor reading aloud to Mary (who was illiterate), or to a small group of Sunday visitors enjoying a break in the work week.  I’d imagine hearing their laughter and cups clinking (whether filled with tea or something stronger, I can’t say).

Then after I read the booklet through, I wondered if I was wrong about the laughter. What would any native of Ireland think and feel about the following?

            “How much did yees ask for thim buttons?” inquired an Irish customer.

            “Fifteen cents.” 

            “I’ll give ye thirty-siven.”

            “I didn’t say fifty ─ I said fifteen,” replied the honest dealer.

            “Bedad, an’ I’ll give you tin cints, thin.”

 

            “Why in the world do you plant boiled potatoes, Mr. O”Flaherty?”

            “Shure, yer honor, I’m goin’ to thry the ixpirimint of raising them already biled for my own aiting.”

 

            “Did yoar fall hurt you?” said Pat to his friend who fell with his hed from a high ladder.

             “No, Patrick, shure, it was hitting the ground that hurthed me.”

 

            The Irishman’s plan for casting cannon was, ─First take a hole, and then pour the iron around it. 

Today, this seems benign humor,  some gentle ribbing, – and no harm done. Certainly no reason to be upset, right? Now consider these other bits of fun from 1859:

            “Say, Pomp, you nigger, where you get dat new hat?”

            “Why at de shop, ob course.”

            “What is de price of such an article as dat?”

            “I don’t know, nigger, I don’t know; de shopkeeper wasn’t dar!”

 

            Sambo says, “Why am my belubed Dinah like de cloth dey make in Lowell? Cos she’s an unbleached she─ting.”

In both the Irish and the Black ‘jokes,’ ethnic speech patterns signal the low intelligence and low character of the subjects. Instantly recognized stereotypes provide the readers of the dominant culture with a good laugh. If the source of the humor is the same, – why is it only the last  two retain shock value?

In part, the ethnic slurs pop; but the rest of it is recognition that African Americans still do not enjoy the full-fledged membership privileges that Irish Americans have in modern society.

After the Civil War, things began to turn around for the Irish in America. They fought for the Union with distinction, and earned the gratitude of the nation. Gradually,  “real” Americans (white natives) became more accepting, and government jobs, – fire, police, public works, and other essential services were opened up to the Irish.

In 1888, John and Mary’s son joined the US Post Office and carried letters for 40 years. This modest post, paid John F. Roane enough to purchase a house and to raise a large, family. The Lowell newspapers over decades, reported the exploits of Roane grandsons – in  sports, the arts, the military, politics, and respectable Lowell society.

Yet  barely 20 years before his son got that post office job, John P. Roane died – and Lowell newspapers didn’t carry a word of his passing. Though a Lowell resident for 18 years,  an American citizen,  property owner and businessman,  the Irish native’s life went unremarked.

So we come back to Ayer’s American Almanac.  What do  its “jokes’ reveal about that period  - and about our own times?

I still wonder whether John Roane was angered by the characterization of the Irish in America or if being raised under English oppressors had inured him to insult.

I wonder, too, whether he felt sympathy for that other marginalized people – or whether he  laughed.

Notes:

1. The Old Farmers Almanac is still around and on the web – http://www.farmersalmanac.com

2.  There is a little bit about J. C. Ayer at Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Cook_Ayer

Comments Off

Filed under African American history, Ethnic humor, Irish History, Irish Immigrants to the USA, Lowell, Massachusetts, Massachusetts History, Roane / Roan / Ruane, social history

Mr. Murphy’s Beer

Moving into an old house is a bit like marrying into a family where instead of mingling blood, we mingle ink on property records. We redecorate; we inhabit kitchens, living spaces and bedrooms; we rarely think about the others who washed dishes, entertained guests, and slept within the same walls. However, every now and then we do, as I was reminded that my house used to be the Murphy’s place.

Pre-1962 Ballantine XXX Ale Can

Ballantine XXX Ale; matches the can I found.

Most original parts of this 1915 working-class bungalow have been replaced. The latest was the front porch. Over the years, I kept an eye on mortar crumbling and bricks sliding off piers through a basement window placed oddly (for the view), but fortunately (for monitoring) underneath the porch. Besides deteriorating structural elements, I saw only dead leaves, a green plastic flower pot and a couple of brown bottles, happily hidden from street view by lattice.

CCarling Black Label flat top can pre-1962.

Carling Black Label flat top can.

When the contractor crew finished digging for the new footers, they said they’d set aside some glass they thought was interesting. After they left, under cold, damp and darkening skies, I gazed upon the “interesting” heap of naked beer bottles and rusted cans. Ugh. I’d rather read about archaeology than do it, but this was my house history, even if it wasn’t news that folks enjoy drinking beer on the front stoop, – and sometimes opt for the most expedient disposal method. I got myself an empty recycle bin and began the filthy work.

Every bottle was dirt-smeared gray. Big clots of wet soil and decomposing stuff clung to some. Whitish bits… ghosts of product labels stuck to some bottles. Then a brown bottle with something green on the neck caught my eye. Though the paper was eroded at the edges, it showed a clear image of a harp behind lettering that read, Imported Guinness Stout.

Lower down on the face of the bottle, about two thirds of an off-white, oval label remained. There was the harp, in finer detail, but just half of it with “Trade Mark” barely legible. Around the edges in bold…

GUINNESS FOR… STOUT  ST JAMES’S GAT…DUBLIN

…and inside that…

Bottled by

Guinness Exports, Ltd

Liverpool, Eng.

So among the American beers before pop-top cans (after 1962) was an Irish import, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, also known as FES, and described by the company,

“Foreign Extra Stout is a beer like no other. The most full-flavoured of all. Singular and striking. Uniquely satisfying. Brewed with extra hops and roasted barley for a natural bite. Bitter and sweet. Refreshingly crisp.”

Good advertising-speak for a bitter and high alcohol (8%) brew. Though all the other labels had worn away, enough bottles matched for me to know that Dennis Murphy (1895-1977), the former owner, identified strongly with his Irish roots, – and liked a drink with a kick.
Guinness.FES.RoundLabel-1950s.2

Dennis Maurice Murphy was born in County Kerry, came to the US in 1915, fought in World War I and became a US citizen. He worked to support his parents before he married Anna, another Irish immigrant, in 1920. He made tires before he landed a job with the city fire department. On his pay, the Murphys were able to buy a house and raise three daughters. Dennis topped off his career as District Fire Chief, and well deserved to savor his special brew on occasion.

I tried to attach dates to Mr. Murphy’s Guinness FES. I studied label images never finding an exact match (though the image above is close), and what I read on history of Foreign Extra Stout in the United States was inconsistent. Some say the product was not popular when it returned here as Prohibition ended and  World War II stopped its import again until 1956 and it was withdrawn shortly afterwards. Perhaps liquor purveyors in this Irish “Hungry Hill” neighborhood, purchased extra stock to keep on hand for good customers  - like Mr. Murphy.

Guinness Trademark

Sources:
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinness_Foreign_Extra_Stout#cite_note-FAQ-3

Guinness in America https://sites.google.com/site/jesskidden/guinnessinamerica

Beer Cans http://www.rustycans.com/HISTORY/history.html

Guinness Collectors Club http://www.guinntiques.com/brandidentity.aspx

Guinness Company Site http://www.guinness.com/en-gb/thebeer-fes.html

A Bottle of Guinness Please; by David Hughes http://books.google.com/books?id=_tOZqDtYv9QC&pg=PT132&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

Comments Off

December 25, 2013 · 4:30 pm

One Band of Brothers

November is the appropriate month to let you see the full image of this blog’s current header  featuring my great grandfather and four of his five sons in uniform in 1918.

Five men in uniforms stand in front of  a large tent at Camp Devens, Massachusetts in 1918.

Click for full size

They are at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, better known as Fort Devens, but originally a temporary spot for quick training military troops from New England. The likely scenario is that the boys were awaiting, or had received orders to ship out to their respective duty stations.

Their widowed father, John F. Roane, Sr., made the journey from Lowell to say goodbye and every man looking toward the camera was acutely aware that war meant this might be the last photograph they would ever take together.

I read warmth and pride on the face of my great-grandfather, who is dressed in his US Post Office uniform. The three army enlistees look appropriately serious, but, under the seaman’s cap, John Francis Roane, Jr. looks kind of excited to me.

When John registered in the 1917 draft, he was a single man employed as an ice cream tester, which sounds like a dream job to me, but John may have wanted work with a bit more weight. He certainly found it, as he served on a submarine chaser out of Newport, Rhode Island.

John’s twin brother, Francis Roane, (on the other side of John, Sr.) had more reason to look serious look. His year-old son died of meningitits in 1916, and he was  supporting a wife and infant daughter as a machinist in the US Cartridge factory at draft time. The army sent him overseas.

In 1921, Frank went back to Europe with a group of American Legionnaires who were feted by the king of Belgium. Frank famously struck up a conversation with the monarch himself (Albert I),  who remarked he liked Frank very much. The incident became legend of “the Peach,” as he became known in Lowell. There is plenty of evidence that Frank Roane shook off his early tragedy and knew how to have a good time.

Paul Roane is the short fellow on the end in the cloth cap and was the eldest of this generation of Roane men. When he registered for the draft, he was unmarried, and a secretary at the offices of the Harvard Brewery.  I know little about his service, but that he was proud of it, as he had been elected commander of American Legion Post 87.

James P.H. Roane, Sr . is the tall man on the left in this shot and my grandfather. I have not delved into his service record yet. He was  single and out on the road as a representative of the Loyal Order of Moose, and in registered for the draft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Though, like his older brothers, he was  a member of the American Legion, I suspect his military experience wasn’t  satisfying.

I recall my dad, James P.H. Roane, Jr., telling me that his father advised him to enlist in 1942, the year he graduated high school, rather than wait to be drafted, because he would have  no power to choose the job he’s do. Consequently, my  father enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the Air Force, and was a flight instructor stateside for the duration.

We must not forget the service of women. My dad’s sister was a WAVE, which stood for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, but the branch was officially, the US Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), and I’m delighted to report she recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

2 Comments

Filed under Family History, Lowell, Massachusetts, Massachusetts History, Roane / Roan / Ruane

An Orphans’ Story Gets a Happy Ending

I knew my  Granduncle Paul and his wife Lena (Dawson) Roane had an adopted daughter from the tree my “Uncle’ Paul’ sent me with all he knew of Roane family history. As it turns out, Paul and Lena Roane  made a home for two girls, who were hardly  strangers, – they were Lena’s nieces.

In 1919, Lena’s sister, Loretta, married Frank L. Vesey, a veteran of the Great War (WWI), lately returned from France.[1] -Frank moved in with the in-laws[2] on Claire Street, and 10 months after the wedding, they added a daughter, Mary Dorothy, to  the Dawson household. Little Loretta came along in 16 months and, not quite 18 months later, there was Francis Leo, Junior. Seven days after the boy’s birth, the mother of three was dead.[3] The Lowell Sun of April 30, 1923 reported:

Mrs. Loretta (Dawson) Vesey died yesterday at her home, 39 Claire street, following a short illness after the birth of a baby boy. Her age was 25 years. She was born in this city, the daughter of John and Mary J. (Deignan) Dawson, and was a most estimable young woman. She was an attendant of St. Patrick’s church, and a member of the Married Ladies sodality connected with the church. She leaves her husband, Frank L. Vesey; three children, Dorothy, Loretta and Francis Vesey; her parents, two brothers Thomas and Joseph, and one sister, Lena.

The  father, Frank Vesey, probably thought he had overcome the worst things life would throw at him. He’d known the loss of infant siblings, and his own mother’s death[4] when he was eight.  He’d only stuck out four years of grade school and may have suffered from dyslexia.[5]and then he experienced the horrors of a world war. When Loretta was taken from him, he was not yet 30, and completely unprepared to raise three little ones, that included a week-old baby.

Aunt Lena, no doubt, had a hand in caring for her nieces  from their infancy, and surely loved them as her own, but Lena was a 25-year-old working woman, an operator with the telephone company, whose income would have contributed to the support of the extended family.  Her father, John Dawson was 65, a laborer with the sewer department, who’d had health problems.[6] Lena’s mother, Mary, died the next year, – literally, of a broken heart.[7]

but what happened in that house after Loretta’s death?

Did the grief-stricken Frank immediately pack off the children to the orphanage? Was the family forced to make the decision  after grandmother Mary Dawson’s died? Was the parish priest involved in the process? At any rate, two of the Vesey children were inmates of St. Peter’s Orphanage on Stevens Street in 1930, while their big sister, Mary D. Vesey, was living in the Dawson house on Clare street with  Lena and Paul Roane.

By 1935, Paul and Lena were in a house on Washington Parkway they owned, according  to the 1940 census.  The couple  had created  a home for  now-grown nieces, Dorothy, 19, and 18-year-old Loretta who had taken the Roane name. While I was delighted to discover the sisters reunited, the image of the 1930 census sheet  filled in by Sister Mary Winifred’s neat hand haunted me. What had become of that little boy, Francis L. Vesey? Last weekend, I found out.

This excerpt from the 1930 US census shows the Vesey children, Loretta, 8 years, and Francis, 6 years, inmates of St. Peter's Orphanage.

A descendant of Frank’s brother, James Vesey, discovered my online tree and was surprised to learn Frank had two older daughters, Mary Dorothy and Loretta. But what she knew that I didn’t, was Frank Vesey married again, the widow, Alice Kane. In 1940, Frank and Alice are right there in Lowell with the three children they had together, Joseph, Pauline and William, the children from Alice’s first marriage, Robert, Helen and Dorothy Kane, and 16-year-old Francis Vesey, the son Frank lost for a time. I was greatly relieved to see  the motherless boy, at last, in the bosom of family.


[1]  Francis Leo Vesey, Sr. was awarded a Purple Heart; he served as army private in a machine gun battalion.

[2] The 1920 US census shows the parents, John and Mary Dawson, Lena (AKA Elizabeth M. Dawson), Loretta V. and Frank L. Vesey enumerated at the family home on Claire Street.

[3]  The cause of death for Loretta Veronica (Dawson) Vesey  was “Septic Pneumonia (Puerperal Septicemia),” common after anesthesia due to lesions in the trachea, which suggests she may have delivered in a hospital, though she died at  her parents’ home.  [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerperal_sepsis%5D

[4]  Catherine Vesey gave birth 13 times in 17 years of marriage, she died of eclampsia, the last child stillborn and buried with her. (Downton Abbey character, Lady Sybil Branson, died from eclampsia, though her baby survived.)

[5]  Frank Vesey’s WWI and WWII registration cards show he had terrible handwriting and in 1942 he reversed the last two digits of his birth year, writing “1849,” rather than 1894.

[6] The Lowell Sun reported that John Dawson had a “slight operation” at Lowell Hospital in 1915.

[7]  Mary (Deignan) Dawson died on October 1, 1924 of “Mitral insufficiency,” a heart valve malfunction that modern medicine calls Mitral regurgitation (MR).

3 Comments

Filed under Acts of genealogical kindness, Lowell, Massachusetts, Roane / Roan / Ruane

Treason!

With the current events focus on the US government charging whistleblowers, journalists and other leakers of embarrassing information with “aiding the enemy,” and threatening dire consequences, I thought it timely to mention my family tie to a man who was executed for treason.

I had a cousin in colonial New York named Elsje Tymens. She was a wealthy widow in 1663 when she married a German bachelor and son of a clergyman, Jacob Leisler. Over the next thirteen years, Jacob and Elsje built connections in business and government, accrued wealth, and added seven little Leislers to the household.  Jacob was a merchant, captain of the militia, and appointed by the courts to administer estates and other property matters.  A devout follower of John Calvin’s brand of religious reform, he identified with the (French Protestant) Huguenot community.

Image 

Statue of Jacob Leisler in New Rochelle, New York,

courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1685, England’s Charles II passed into history and his brother, James II (also James VII of Scotland and James II of Ireland), a Roman Catholic, succeeded him to the throne. To govern the Dominion of New England, James appointed Edmund Andros to sit in Boston, and Francis Nicholson,  lieutenant governor, was assigned to administer the province of New York. Their authoritarian style of rule made both men intensely disliked by the colonists.  Nicholson proclaimed the inhabitants of the former New Netherland (taken by England in 1664),  “a conquered people” who could not “claim rights and privileges as Englishmen.

Across the Atlantic, political factions were so alarmed by King  James’s policy of religious tolerance and his ties to France, that they invited William III, the Dutch Prince of Orange, to invade with his fleet (and his English wife, Mary). James was deposed in a coup known as the Glorious Revolution.

When the news reached American shores, it sparked  a popular uprising against Governor Andros in Massachusetts, and New York’s militia rebelled and forced Nicholson to yield Fort James, which controlled New York Harbor.  The next day,  a council of militia officers asked Jacob Leisler to take command. A few weeks later, a delegation from Lower New York and East Jersey chose Leisler as the province’s commander-in-chief, to act on behalf of England’s new monarchs, William and Mary, until a new governor was legitimately appointed.

Not all New Yorkers were pleased. In his rise to prominence, Jacob Leisler had made enemies that included his in-laws, the powerful Bayards and Van Cortlandts.  Diplomacy was not his strong suit. An anti-Leisler faction coalesced in Albany, and grew dangerously.

In late 1690, William III commissioned Colonel Henry Sloughter as his new governor, but Sloughter’s ship was delayed and his lieutenant governor, Ingoldesby, arrived first.  Ingoldesby demanded Leisler turn over the fort and governmental reins  to him, but, because he lacked the proper papers, Leisler refused.  Even when Sloughter made it to New York, Leisler remained suspicious, and took his sweet time before he surrendered and to his cost. Leisler’s reward for accepting the management and  defense of New York in the name of King William III, – was his arrest on charges of treason.

Jacob Leisler, his right hand man and son-in-law, Jacob Milbourne, and eight other men were tortured, tried, convicted, and condemned to be “hanged, drawn and quartered, and their estates confiscated.[1]” The panel of judges was stacked with a significant number of anti-Leislerians.

Governor Sloughter seems to have had some misgivings about the result, as he wrote a letter to King William about the matter. However, in it, he trashed Leisler, did not include trial transcripts, and failed to mention the death sentence. Also, the court refused the request to send the condemned to England for an appeal.

It’s been written that Governor Sloughter was bribed, that he was drunk, – perhaps, he was both when, at the instigation of Leisler’s enemies, he signed the death warrants. Leisler’s only ‘luck’ is that he avoided being drawn and quartered, was “merely hanged til ‘halfe dead’ then beheaded[2]” as was his son-in-law, Jacob Milbourne, on May 16, 1691.  None of the others convicted were executed.

Petitioners to London who included  the younger Jacob Leisler, won a hearing before the king. Within a year of their execution,  Leisler, Milbourne, and the remaining  prisoners were pardoned.  Parliament later passed a bill that would return the property stripped from Leisler’s heirs, and which was approved by the king in 1695. But it was 1698 before the family estate was restored, and the bodies of Leisler and Milbourne were moved from the dirt beneath the gallows and laid to rest in the yard of the Dutch Reform Church.

Scholars today recognize  Leisler’s Rebellion as a precursor to the American Revolution. It was a power struggle of middling folks against an entrenched elite, – not treason. That’s something to think about as we Americans celebrate the 237 anniversary of  our national ‘treason,’ – independence from England.

Wishing all my readers a wonderful Fourth of July!


[1] McCormick, Charles H (1989). Leisler’s Rebellion. Outstanding Studies in Early American History. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8240-6190-X.p.357.

[2]  Voorhees,  David William, Remembering Jacob Leisler, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Newsletter, (New York: The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, Spring/Summer 2002), p. 29.

Comments Off

Filed under Colonial History, Keirstead / Kierstead, New York History, Uncategorized