Hard Hearted Hannah Hathaway:”I do not give or bequeath anything…”

When most people get down to making a will, they do it to protect and provide for dear ones, and to acknowledge family members, friends, and others who gave special meaning to life. Most wills affirm bonds of love and provide comfort to the living. Some make a point of doing the opposite, like the one made by this 67-year-old Massachusetts woman  in November 1823:

I Hannah Hathaway singlewoman of Berkley… do not give or bequeath anything to my sister Welthea Ruggles. I also do not give nor bequeath anything to my three brothers viz: Gilbert Hathaway, Calvin Hathaway and Luther Hathaway. I do not give nor bequeath anything to the children of my two brothers viz: Ebenezer Hathaway and Shadrach Hathaway…

 I do not give nor bequeath to the following children of my sister Tryphena Crane viz: Weltha Nichols, Tryphena Hathaway, Nathaniel Crane, Henry Crane, Phebe Babbitt, Abi Babbitt, Hannah Crane, Lydia Babbitt, Rebekah Nichols. and James Crane.

Yikes. It wasn’t enough to name beneficiaries and leave the rest to speculation; Hannah Hathaway wanted her survivors to know she had disinherited them deliberately. And considering this was, literally, a deathbed testament, it’s difficult to not to conclude… the woman was a bitch on wheels.

To play devil’s advocate, in an attempt to soften the impression, we must consider Hannah’s religious training. It would have been more along the lines of God is angry with you,  than God loves you. It’s just possible that Hannah saw the public disgrace of her family members as her Christian duty. Okay, I don’t buy it, either.

So back to the big question: What offense could be so terrible to Hannah that it pushed every sibling, and virtually every one of their children beyond forgiveness?

If the Hathaways had been heretics or murderers or thieves… except they weren’t. The Hathaways were an ancient clan and respected members of their communities. So we come down to the ways intimate family relationships go sideways.

Hannah and her sisters (and brothers) were of the revolutionary generation. They lived the shattering transition from governance by royal decree to national independence.  Born in July 1756 at Freetown, Massachusetts to Ebenezer and Wealtha (Gilbert) Hathaway, she was the baby among the couple’s eight children. Her father, Ebenezer, inherited vast tracts of  land [1] , he farmed and was invested in local businesses. Though cash flow would have been unreliable as the vicissitudes of life affected everyone, the Hathaways were comfortable.[2]

–>The eldest was Gilbert Hathaway, born in 1745/6. He married three times and produced 14 children. The census for 1790 and 1800 show him next door to his parents’ home. The year after that, however, Gilbert sold his land in Freetown in preparation for relocation. The 1810 census shows him in Livermore, Maine. where he died in 1829.

–>Gilbert’s twin sister, Tryphena Hathaway, married Benjamin Crane of Berkley in 1763. He appears to have been a ship captain, and the couple had 13 little Cranes. Benjamin died in 1810 and Tryphena followed in 1812.

–>Ebenezer Hathaway, Jr. came along in 1748 and married a distant cousin, Mary Hathaway, with whom he had 7 children. The first three children were born in Freetown, and the younger ones in Burton, New Brunswick, where Ebenezer died in 1811.

–>Hannah’s other sister, Welthy [3] Hathaway was born in 1750, married Richard Ruggles with whom she had 8 children, the first in Freetown, the others in Nova Scotia. Welthy was living in Annapolis, Nova Scotia when Hannah made her will, and died the year after her in 1824.

–>Shadrach Hathaway was born in 1752 and married Hannah Chase of Berkley. This pair only had time for 4 children, because Shadrach died in a British camp on Long Island, NY in 1780.

–>Calvin and Luther Hathaway, another set of twins, were born before Hannah, in 1754. Their history has been difficult to track. Calvin may have died in 1823 and Luther in 1833 at Cornwallis in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia.

This family profile provides a few plausible reasons for Hannah’s bitterness. One obvious contrast is that all her siblings married and had children.

Then, with the exception of the deceased Shadrach and Tryphena, all had moved from Freetown, and not just across the town line (as Hanna had done), but into the wilds of Maine, and across the national border into Canada.

Perhaps, less obvious is that the burden of caring for aging and infirm parents fell to unmarried daughters, a duty, all caregivers know, can be isolating and onerous. While Ebenezer Hathaway, the father, died in 1791, when Hannah was just 35.  However, Wealtha, the mother, appears to have (briefly) outlived Hannah.

Did Hannah envy married life and parenthood? Had she, perhaps, lost her own life’s love? 

Did Hannah resent that her siblings moved away, leaving her alone with her mother?

Was Hannah a great patriot who branded her Loyalist leaning siblings traitors?

Was Hannah simply a crank who fashioned her last official act into an epic pay-back?

The answer is certainly some combination of all the above,  – with a generous dollop of unknowns lost to time. Yet we must factor in the favored ones, for Hannah Hathaway deemed two people on Earth worthy of her treasure:

 I do give and bequeath to Celia French, wife of Capt. Samuel French, Jr, my bed and bed furniture… Lastly I give and bequeath all the rest residue and remainder of my personal estate…to Adoniram Crane, Esq. 

Despite the unfamiliar surname, Celia French was Hannah’s niece, – the only good one among 50 of her siblings’ progeny! Celia was the daughter of Benjamin and Tryphena (Hathaway) Crane. Born in 1781, Celia married Samuel French in 1800, and had nine children of her own. She must have been very special to stay in the good graces of her prickly Aunt Hannah.

It turns out that Adoniram Crane (1780-1854) was related, also, Hannah’s great-nephew. A colonel of the local militia, public servant, politician [3], and church-going, family man, Adoniram Crane was a paragon in the eyes of Victorian era chroniclers. He was a respected public school teacher for three decades, and an “eminent singer.” Crane founded the Beethoven Society whose singers performed widely, and was in demand across three counties, as a voice coach. Enoch Sanford in his History of the the town of Berkley, Massachusetts (1872) describes him like this,

He was a man of dignified and commanding personal appearance, an excellent town officer, and as a singer he was well known in this and the neighboring towns as well for the great compass of his voice, his fine musical taste, and the correctness of his ear.

While the man was justly admired for his talent and accomplishments, this other sentence from Sanford’s  history, somehow, brought  Hannah to mind…

Col. Adoniram Crane was an eminent teacher, who, however, used great severity in discipline, and which tended rather to harden than soften the rough spirits he had to deal with.

Apparently, over 30 years, Adoniram Crane’s punishments had so deeply scarred so many students, that 20 years after he died, that line survived the book’s final edit.

And that got me to thinking that Hannah Hathaway chose to endow Adoniram Crane because he was a man after her own heart.

 

Notes:

[1] The Hathaway clan [also spelled Hathway and Hatheway] was among the area’s first white settlers.

[2] In 1790, Ebenezer Hathaway, Hannah’s father, provided his unmarried daughter with an income of her own, gifting her with his half of a gristmill operation.

[3] Welthy was named for her mother, “Wealtha” and this surprisingly popular name is found spelled many ways (Welthea, Welthe, etc.).

[4] Clear evidence for Calvin and Luther Hathaway has been devilishly difficult to find, but clues indicate that both brothers did marry and at least one of them had children.

[5] Adoniram’s political career took off after Hannah’s death. It appears he was not a drinker, for he was known as a “temperance man,” that movement which would eventually lead to national liquor Prohibition (1919-1933).

Sources:

Ancestry.com Collections: Massachusetts Town and Vital Records; Abstracts from Bristol County Probate Records; United States Census

GenealogyBank.com Newspapers: New-Bedford Mercury, New Bedford, MA (1838, 1841); The Boston Traveler, Boston, MA; Norfolk Advertiser, Dedham, MA (1835)

Archive.org Texts: History of the town of Berkley, Mass: including sketches of the lives of the two first ministers, Rev. Samuel Tobey, and Rev. Thomas Andros, whose united ministry continued ninety-one years; Sanford, Enoch (1872)

National Humanities Center: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/livingrev/religion/religion.htm

Religious Revivals and Revivalism in 1830s New England; http://www.teachushistory.org/second-great-awakening-age-reform/articles/religious-revivals-revivalism-1830s-new-england

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Ken Burns – Please, Love Thy Loyalist Ancestor, Too

I never thought I’d say this, but Ken Burns disappointed me. Of course, the documentary films he’s given us are priceless –  The Civil War – Baseball – Jazz, and recently, The Roosevelts. But this same Ken Burns, when he learned one of his ancestors was a Loyalist (or Tory) during the American Revolution, reacted as though told Darth Vader was his father. Considering that Burns also has a Virginia ancestor who owned slaves, – this stung and stunned me.

It happened that I was watching the October 2014 Season 2 episode of the wonderful PBS series, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that featured Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, and Anna Deavere Smith. I gave myself several months , to make sure I wasn’t overreacting,  and here I am. I’ll give you two reasons why, the first, as you may have guessed, is that I have Loyalists in my tree; second, Burns, steeped in history, should know that in any war, people caught up in power struggles – are not simply good guys or bad guys. Ken Burns, of all people, should realize that it wasn’t the Civil War, but the American Revolution that first pitted brother against brother.

Most Americans were farmers, many with deep roots in the land, some with Mayflower ancestors. Through generations of tilling, toiling, and building, families developed farms and expanded homes that they were proud to pass on to their children. They obeyed the laws and paid their taxes; they prayed for peace, so they could get on with their lives. But sometimes their neighbors wouldn’t let them. From U.S. History.org:

Patriots subjected Loyalists to public humiliation and violence. Many Loyalists found their property vandalized, looted, and burned. The patriots controlled public discourse. Woe to the citizen who publicly proclaimed sympathy to Britain.”

D. Hamilton Hurd’s History of Bristol County, Massachusetts (1883) mentions my own revolutionary era ancestors among the Chase, Hathaway, Briggs and Paine families below:

   “At a legal town-meeting held at ye public meeting-house house in Freetown on ye 31st day of May 1777, ye following Tories were voted for trial, viz.: George Brightman, William Winslow, Luther Winslow, John Winslow, Jael Hathaway, Solomon Terry, Abiel Terry, Abiel Terry, Jr., William Hathaway, Silas Hathaway (2nd), Silas Terry, Ebenezer Terry, Benjamin Tompkins, Ralph Paine, Job Paine, Job Paine (2nd), George Chase, George Chase, Jr., Bradford Gilbert, Ephraim Winslow, Ammi Chase, Horah Durfee, Jonathan Dodson, Job Terry, Silas Sherman, Benjamin Cleaveland, Abraham Ashley, John Briggs. – Then Maj. Joshua Hathaway was chosen agent in behalf of ye said town.”

Another book, Divided Hearts – Massachusetts Loyalists 1765 – 1790 by David E. Maas (1980), lists some of the names above: [Note: inimical means hostile or malevolent]

Ammi Chase – Freetown; shipwright RM & L 1777 Family L guilty inimical trial 1777

Eber Chace, Jr. – Bristol County RM inimical trial 1778

Ezra Chace, Jr. – Bristol County RM inimical trial 1777

George Chace, Jr. – Freetown; husbandman RM F; guilty inimical trial 1777; J 1777

Silas Hathway – Freetown; boatman RM inimical trial 1777

Illustration for the American Revolution

It wasn’t only neighbors who turned against one another, families were wrenched apart too, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. My 5th great-grandfather, James P. Chase (1745-1816), born in Freetown, was chased away from there, lived in New York for a time, then fled with the 80,000 or so other American loyalists to New Brunswick, Canada. James, however, may be seen as a bad guy, because he actually profited from the war, and I wouldn’t argue. But he paid an awful cost.

Nearly all of James Chase’s 17 brothers and sisters remained near their Massachusetts birthplace, even his brother, George (1755-1787), the Loyalist sympathizer mentioned above. His brothers, Edward Chase (1742-1815) who served 4 days in the Third Company of Freetown Militia in August 1780 and Greenfield Chase (1854-1810) who served in the First Company for 6 days – are Patriots to their proud descendants.

I hope Ken Burns will eventually find a way to embrace his Loyalist ancestor. Those times were difficult for all Americans; terrifying for those tortured by mobs; deadly for those who fell defending their homes and families from the British – or from former friends and neighbors. I believe, people of character acted with honorable intent, whether they chose to stand for tradition  – or to blaze new trails in the history of the world, both Patriot and Loyalist ancestors are worthy of respect.

For those interested, there is even a membership organization called Loyalists & Patriots.

Sources & Resources:

Wikipedia – Loyalist (American Revolution); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalist_(American_Revolution)

AmericanRevolution.org; The Loyalist Pages; http://www.americanrevolution.org/loyalist.php

Divided hearts, Massachusetts loyalists, 1765-1790 : a biographical directory / compiled and edited Maas, David E. [S.l.] : Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ; [Boston] : New England Historic Genealogical Society, c1980.

U.S. History: The American Revolution; 11b. Loyalists, Fence-sitters, and Patriots; http://www.ushistory.org/us/11b.asp

History of Bristol County, Massachusetts with Biographical Sketches; D. Hamilton Hurd, (1883; reprint, Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1883), 285-308. Cit. Date: 12 Jul 2014.

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The Evolution of Ichabod Crane

The pleasures of the ancestor quest  for me include discovery, puzzle-solving, and people’s names. Because I have mostly Irish Catholic roots – and those names are limited to church-approved saints, –  I treasure the novelty of my  Protestant ancestors. With their affection for the Old Testament (and their ability to read it), my folks named sons Obadiah, Ebenezer and Zephaniah, and their daughters Keziah, Hephzibah  and Phoebe.*

With Halloween at the end of this week, I was particularly delighted to add a ancestor name that evokes both Protestant tradition and a slice of classic American horror, – Ichabod Pain.

A clip from an image of an original document; Ichabod Pain is enumerated in the 1800 US census in Freetown, Massachusetts.

Ichabod Pain enumerated in the 1800 US census of Freetown, Massachusetts.

Oh, I know you were expecting Ichabod Crane, but with my family, Ichabod Pain (1766-1819) was as close as I could get. I do, however, have plenty of kinship ties to old New York where the writer, Washington Irving (1783-1859) set his 1820 short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. (Thus, I rationalize this bit of digression.)

When we carve jack-o-lanterns, disguise the kids to fool the neighbors (trick-or-treat), or see a movie that scares us silly, we’re paying tribute to the ancient past.  Many cultures incorporated the belief that ghosts and other supernatural entities, get a visitors’ pass to the mortal world on Halloween night.

Washington Irving’s time and place had its own practices. He also wrote a history of New York.  As an educated man, Irving’s sensibilities were aligned with Enlightenment values of science and reason. For his entertaining fiction, he drew on regional folk tales, superstitions, and universal human foibles to poke a little fun at unreason.

The original Ichabod Crane was a stern, psalm-singing school teacher. Irving gave him a homely face and awkward physique.  When Ichabod sets his sights on marrying the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel,  – though his affection may be genuine, he is also fully aware that the inheritance due Katrina from her wealthy father would greatly improve his circumstances.

As the story goes, Crane loses the girl to his rival, Brom Bones, – who is not necessarily a better man. Brom is a bully, but not a dummy. His epic prank,  – the ride of the headless horseman, exposes Ichabod’s credulous and cowardly nature. So, as first conceived, Ichabod Crane was a dork and a loser.

Ichabod Crane, Respectfully Dedicated to Washington Irving. William J. Wilgus (1819–53), artist Chromolithograph, c. 1856

Ichabod Crane, Respectfully Dedicated to Washington Irving. William J. Wilgus (1819–53), artist, c. 1856

Irving would have loved Jeff Goldblum‘s Ichabod Crane in the 1980 NBC television version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Before, on the cusp of  the 20th and 21st centuries, the classic tale vanished.

In Tim Burton’s 1999 movie, Sleepy Hollow, Crane was reimagined as his opposite,  a man of science, brave enough to overcome his fears, – and solve crime!  Within 20 years, pop culture transformed Ichabod Crane from zero to hero. While the gifted Johnny Depp imbued his character with a bit of authentic dorkiness,  – his movie idol, swoon-inducing looks obliterated the literary image of Ichabod Crane.

Johnny Depp & Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow.

Johnny Depp & Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow.

In 2013, we got a Fox TV series that is a sort of Sleepy Hollow / Rip Van Winkle mash-up. The latest Ichabod Crane is a refugee from the 18th century trapped in our time.  He’s educated and intelligent, has courtly manners, a scrupulous sense of honor, and a wicked sense of humor. On top of that is layered so much courage, that Crane’s job is keeping the world from going to the devil – literally. Not a hero, a superhero.

As played by the mesmerizing Tom Mison, – however preposterous the story line, a lot of educated and rational people are willing to suspend disbelief long enough to watch this incarnation of Ichabod Crane.

Tim Mison as Ichabod Crane - www.fox.com

Tim Mison as Ichabod Crane courtesy of http://www.fox.com

But before we part, a quick jump back to Washington Irving, the creator. He is thought to have named his  Ichabod Crane character for Colonel Ichabod Bennett Crane (1787-1857), a man Irving met in 1814. Colonel Crane went on to serve the nation an astonishing 48 years, – so he wasn’t a model for the protagonist’s flaws, – rather, Irving just really liked that name, Ichabod Crane.  — Happy Halloween!

1848 daguerrotype of Col. Ichabod Crane

Col. Ichabod B. Crane

* Protestant naming practices are also especially valued, because married women don’t always lose their birth names – as happens in Catholic families from the nineteenth century and earlier.

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The Notorious George Barlow – Part 3

The Brute and Bully At Home

George Barlow’s life before 1657 is a void. He brought to Sandwich, two sons, Moses and Aaron, but no wife.  Some researchers conjecture the marriage and births took place in England, and that George may have had other children. Presumably, his first wife died and presumably, of natural causes, but this article is about George’s life with a new wife.

The year 1657 was a milestone for Jane Besse, too, albeit a sad one. Her husband Anthony, one of the town’s original founders, fell ill in February and died in May. In the 18 years before, Anthony and Jane had built a house in the Spring Hill section, improved land, acquired livestock and other necessities which sustained a family of five girls and two boys.

Anthony Besse had a will, a standard instrument to convey property to heirs, but details add color to the legalese. Anthony named Jane his executrix, proof that he trusted in her judgment and abilities (perhaps surprisingly, this action was not uncommon). My attention was drawn to the bequests:

To Jane my wife, three Cowes… blacking Moose and Cherrey…

“To Dorcas my daughter two heifers… Nubbin and Spark and one more now

 which we call young moose;

“To Ann my daughter one heifer which we call pretty

To Nehemiah my son one heifer formerly Disposed to him Called Coll:

“… unto my two sonnes…Nehemiah and David…two steers…Burnett & Raven; 

“To my Daughter Mary one heifer wee call browne; 

“To my Daughter Jane one heifer wee call Daysey.”

While most seventeenth century wills designate livestock like inanimate property (description – cows, steers, horses, etc. and a quantity), the Besse animals were unique individuals with names, – Nubbin, Spark, Pretty, Brownie, Daisy… suggesting the Besses were good-natured and caring folks.  Anthony knew his children’s favorites and assigned parting gifts to make them happy. Yet, how hard it must have been for the Besses to be happy when this thoughtful and loving family man was gone from their lives!

Some months after burying Anthony, Jane gave birth to his last child.  The widow had to cope with the needs of eight fatherless children, a house, farm, animals, – and grief, a burden daunting for the stoutest heart. We don’t know how long the Widow Besse was on her own, and typically, widows remarried.  However, what moved Jane Besse to yoke herself to the cruel and tyrannical George Barlow – is beyond understanding.

The date of their marriage escaped record, but Plymouth County Court records document that it wasn’t going well. On March 4, 1661/62, Jane’s eldest daughters, Dorcas, Ann, and Mary Besse, went before the court for –

“crewell and unnatural practice toward their father-in-law George Barlow.”

Apparently, having failed to earn respect at home, George handled his stepdaughters the way he handled everyone who pissed him off, – he hauled them into court. To be fair, details of the case suggest the girls were not entirely blameless, and punishment was duly ordered.

At the same time, the court recognized the Barlow household was getting out of control. George and Jane –

“were both severely reproved for their most ungodly living in contention with the other, and admonished to live otherwise.”

Conflict was inevitable when George moved in with Jane, – into the house built by, and filled with memories of Anthony Besse. To make that situation work would have required a man of great sensitivity and delicacy, – not a man known from Cape Cod to Boston for his dickishness. George, the evil stepfather, appears in court again on June 3, 1662.

We learned above that Anthony Besse’s will gave his daughter Jane a heifer the little girl herself probably named Daysey (Daisy). Added on to Jane’s natural affection for Daisy, was the cow’s status as remembrance of her departed father. So George took it away. If he gave a reason for doing so, the court ruled it invalid:

“concerning a cow belonging to Jane, daughter of Anthony Bessey, of Sandwich, the Court have ordered G[e]orge Barlow, in whose hands the cow has been for some time, to return her to the overseers of the estate of the said Anthony Bessey, to be disposed of by them for the use and the good of the said Jane Bessey.”

In that same year (1662), two of the Besse girls he took to court, Ann and Mary, got married. This development would have significantly decreased domestic tension. Then in 1664, Nehemiah Besse, Jane’s eldest son, reached the age of majority and took over his father’s property. This prompted George and Jane to move some miles away from Spring Hill to Pocasset, (part of Bourne, Massachusetts today).

A change of scene can mean a fresh start in life, a chance to make things better, – but George got worse. On March 6, 1665/66, he was fined ten shillings for being drunk – a second time. Then in May 1665, he was accused of –

attempting the chastity of Abigaill, the wife of Jonathan Pratt, by aluring words and actes of force.”

It seems surprising that after these public transgressions, Jane bore George two sons, John (about 1669) and Nathan (1670).  Because she was also cited by the court for the couple’s scream fights, it’s doubtful she meekly forgave him. And, though it is awful to contemplate, the possibility that George also used “actes of force” on his wife is consistent with his character. In 1677 he was back in court for being “turbulent, and threatening to drive away the minister, Mr. Smith.” He returned in 1678 for being a “turbulent fellow” and was bound over for the next court session.

Fanatical, delusional, or just plain mean, George Barlow apparently believed he was right about everything. There’s no evidence he ever tried to reform his antisocial behavior, or regretted the terrible suffering he caused. He held grudges to the grave. In his will, to Aaron and Moses, sons of his first marriage, George gave only five shillings each, adding, “that is all I give them,” a verbal twist of the knife his sadistic nature couldn’t resist even as he prepared for death.

A widespread and popular story claims that George Barlow “ended his days alone and in want.” A version in Quaker tradition says he was reduced to begging for food and was fed by the very victims of his religious persecution. This would  be poetic justice, karma, and just deserts for this horrendously horrible human being; if only it were true. For the Quakers especially, it’s morality tale stressing the virtue of forgiveness, even for enemies. In real life, the craven George Barlow got away clean.

As mentioned earlier, George had a will because he had an estate. While it may have amounted to less than his neighbors, – eight acres, a house, farm stock and equipment, and household furnishings, – it refutes the notion that George was destitute and starving on the streets of Sandwich.

He wasn’t alone at the end either. The sons he had with Jane, John and Nathan, managed to stay in his good graces; he named them co-executors. George left his house, land, livestock, and all remaining worldly goods to the boys and their mother. George made his will on August 4, 1684 and it was probated October 31, 1684, so he also had time to make spiritual reckoning and prepare any arguments he might need for a heavenly court.

Despite all that passed between them, there’s little doubt Jane Besse Barlow dutifully nursed her truculent husband to the end. The awful George Barlow most likely died in his own bed, surrounded by family on a lovely fall day. He would have imparted his final words (typically religious admonishments) and had a good death. So the tale of George Barlow illustrates that life is not fair!

Somehow, the Barlow progeny all appear to have been respected members of the community. The sweetest outcome is that some married into Quaker families.  Barlow’s boys, John and Nathan, married and had seven sons between them, – but none of them carried the name George.

I imagine Jane was a happier widow this time around. I picture her pausing between chores to gaze toward the hearth for a moment. The aroma of a meat and vegetable stew emanates from an iron kettle and mingles with the scent of baking bread. Before the children and grandchildren tumble inside for the meal, Jane revels in the unaccustomed peace of her home, – and she whispers her heartfelt thanks to God.

SOURCES:

Plymouth Court Records. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010)

 The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010)

Cape Cod, Its People and Their History, Henry C. Kittredge; 1930.

Sandwich Historical Society; http://sandwichhistory.org

The History of The Society of Friends on Cape Cod by James Warren Gould; http://www.capecodquakers.org/smm_history.html

George Barlow of Sandwich Massachusetts – From the research of Edson Barlow; Barlow Genealogy 1998-2004; http://www.barlowgenealogy.com/GeorgeofSandwich/georgemass.html

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“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

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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.

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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

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