“Quack! Quack!! Quack!!!”

John Urquhart – The Opinionated Enumerator

Perusing the 1871 Census of Canada recently, I was jolted by a comment written in the far right column, on the line for the entry of Thomas Benson, a married man of 39 years, whose occupation was given as “Doctor.” It read,

Quack! Quack!! Quack!!!

Cures by laying on hands

Wowee, that’s not information typically recorded on a census. Governments charge census officials to collect specified, statistical data, not opinion. And that wasn’t the only one provided by John Urquhart on his house-to-house survey in April 1871.

Urquhart, like most enumerators, was a resident of the district he was assigned to cover, Springfield, Kings County, New Brunswick. (They were paid $3 for each day of service.) According to the 1871 Census of Canada “Manual Containing Instructions to Enumerators,” a successful census required “intelligent, honest and well-trained” individuals. They were directed:

  1. Not to omit anything of importance.
  2. Not to record the same thing twice.
  3. Not to exaggerate anything.
  4. Not to underrate anything.

“…the enumerator is never to take upon himself to insert anything which is not stated and distinctly acknowledged by the person giving the information.”

On the official form, the far right column had two uses, to record “the date of each day’s operation” and “to be entered any remark which may be found necessary ; but in general enumerators should not have to resort to explanations, unless in special cases.”

After the quackery remark, I combed the entire census in search more of Urquhart’s “special cases.” Sadly, no other comments reach that level, but the following clues us in to things that bugged John about his Springfield neighbors:

“Lives all alone”

William Corey, a 35-year-old Baptist clergyman, who happened to be Irish.

“Religion not defined”

Caroline Sims was a 60-year-old widow, born in the United States, who lived with her 30-yr-old son William and apparently refused to declare a church affiliation.

“Don’t live with Wife”

Thomas Wilson was 33, also born Ireland, and residing in the Charles Gunter  household.

“Lives alone in his Shop”

Smyth Keirstead was a 25-year-old Merchant, born in New Brunswick, and a Baptist of German ethnicity.

Urquhart disapproved of young men who lived alone, and a possible female freethinker. However, we can’t write him off entirely as a judgmental grump. In the comments column for a widow, Mary Ross, who gave her age as 106, he wrote,

“Slightly advanced in years.”

Yeah, John Urquhart had a sense of humor – or he just couldn’t help himself.

 

Next time: There’s something about Thomas Benson

John Urquhart may have known more about “Doctor” Thomas S. Benson than we can know from mute documents. Benson was born in the United States and his young, New Brunswick bride, Judith Spragg, wasn’t his first wife, nor would she be his last, and do his medical credentials exist?

Sources | Resources 

 

 

 

 

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The Boy Tenor of New England

I wrote the following profile of my grandfather, James P. H. Roane (1895-1960), as a contributor to WikiTree and, I decided to share it (slightly edited) in honor of the 120th anniversary of his birth.

James PH Roane circa 1911James Patrick Henry Roane was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on August 8, 1895, the fifth child, and fourth son of John F. & Mary J. (Donahue) Roane. His mother died as the year 1900 ended, and his father never remarried, leaving James and five siblings to grow up motherless.

His sister Mollie, the firstborn and only girl at 10 years, raised her brothers and kept house for her father. At least one year, 1902,  when school let out, James and his brothers were sent to Baker Farm in Tyngsboro, apparently, a summer camp where boys could experience the natural world, fresh air and clean water (not found in the factory city of Lowell).

Young James played school sports and made his mark as quarterback for the Lowell High football team, following in the footsteps of his older brothers, who were also noted athletes. The amusing nickname, “Roundy Roane” was applied to various brothers, including James, and probably was descriptive of the short, muscular frame which ran in the family.

All the Roane men had excellent voices; their names turn up regularly in newspaper accounts of church choirs, and featured singers at public entertainments and private events. James, however, was the only one to have gone professional. As a teenager, he was a member of a touring company (perhaps, on a vaudeville circuit) and billed as, “the Boy Tenor of New England.” (The photo below may have been taken for publicity purposes.)James PH Roane circa 1907

James also performed close to home, as The Lowell Sun noted on May, 2, 1912:

…riding the crest of a popular wave, scored a tremendous hit in minstrelsy at Associate Hall. Patrons thought the program was the best ever presented by this talented group. Interlocutor was Charlie McKenzie, with Tom Salmon, Ed [?]andley, Joe Clarke and James Roane as end men.

In the 1920s and 1930s, James lent his voice to local broadcasts, which included vocal performances, according to his son. James, Sr. He was also an announcer for sporting events, however, cryptic newspaper comments suggest his style wasn’t popular with all listeners.

James had enlisted in the US Army by 1915 and served until 1919. Returning to civilian life, he was employed as a stock clerk at a machine shop and grew close to another Lowell High alum, Edna Mae Keirstead, a bookkeeper at Union National Bank.

Edna’s parents were Canadian immigrants, and she wasn’t Irish or Catholic, but the young couple shared a common vision. They married in the family’s parish at St. Margaret’s church on May 31, 1921, and left promptly for Lakewood, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland). James had arranged a sales job with the May Company, and Edna got position with the Union Trust Company. The newlyweds’ initial plan didn’t last long, as they returned to Lowell that same year, likely precipitated by the death of Edna’s father in August.

After settling back in Lowell, James thought about becoming an attorney, and earned a degree from Suffolk Law School in 1923, – the year his first child was born, a daughter, Edna Mary Roane. Whether the outlook for earnings from a law practice looked poor, or whether he decided law didn’t suit him, James studied medicine at Harvard University, and in 1924, the year his son and namesake was born, his credentials won him a teaching position in Lowell public schools. His passion for physical education and sports sustained him in a 30-year career, from phys ed instructor at Charles Morey School, to Athletic Director for the Lowell Public Schools at his retirement in 1952.

In the family sphere, James shared his delight in travel, culminating in an episode his daughter described by his daughter more than 60 years later, as their “famous trip” to Texas by automobile.

James also took the wife and kids, every summer for a week or two (some years longer) to New Hampshire at Lake Winnipesaukee, where they swam, fished, played, and socialized, with the scent of pine wafting through the air. Lake.Winnipesauke.c1928 His daughter never forgot those lovely, happy summers.(Above c. 1929: James, Sr. Edna, James Jr., and Edna Mary Roane at Lake Winnipesaukee, NH )

Back home in Lowell, James was member of fraternal organizations that included the Elks. He led or worked on committees that supported a variety of organizational and community undertakings, through which he built life-long friendships.

To his grandchildren lucky enough to have been born before his passing at age 64, in the spring of 1960, James Roane, Sr, was “Baba.”  He left us with memories of his warmth, his sense of fun, and his love.

Homicide By a Woman

Good people who lived good lives are bad subjects for a family historian trying to create vivid profiles that snap, crackle and pop with individuality. Most of our families come from hardworking, warmhearted and respectable people who kept their names out of the newspapers. So our good folks are boring, unless, maybe, they were good and rich.  I’m among those fortunate to have long-ago cousins who did some bad, bad things.

Homicide By a Woman—A woman named Adaline Clark, residing in Freetown, Mass. has been arrested for killing David S. Hathaway, on the night of the 22nd inst., in that town.  The Taunton Gazette says the parties resided together, and had a drunken quarrel.  Hathaway was armed with an axe, and it appears that the woman, under apprehension of an attack from him with such a weapon, discharged a pistol, shooting him through the head and, killing him instantly…  

This was news from Southeastern Massachusetts to Boston, to New York City where the Tribune ran the story above on September 30, 1856. From that single paragraph, unravels a convoluted and frankly sordid story. For starters, the murdered man, David Simmons Hathaway, and the murdering woman, Adaline (Hathaway) Clark, were cousins, the grandchildren of Dudley and Margaret (Briggs) Hathaway. Both families had deep roots in Freetown, Massachusetts.

 

The Murdered

Twenty six years before his awful end, 18-year-old David Simmons Hathaway, Jr. was so deeply in love with Olive Barrows, that he marched himself into the town hall to register his intention to marry her. When you look at the Freetown records for 1830, below the marriage intention, you can see the town clerk added,

“Forbidden by David S. Hathaway,  father.”  

If David senior objected to the union for a reason other than his son’s youth, it’s been lost to time. But I’ll bet David and Olive surprised the community by waiting three, long years.  When David reached his majority (21) in 1833, no one could keep  him from making Olive his own.  The year after, a daughter, Sarah Briggs Hathaway, was born. She was to be the couple’s only child.

After the 1840 US census, Olive Hathaway disappears from record. David Hathaway became a man adrift who relied on alcohol to forget his sorrows and assuage his pain. If he was addicted to drink, it’s not hard to understand how  David’s character may have taken a dark turn. He may not have been a very good father.

In 1848, at 14 1/2 years, Sarah married John Peirce, a man 8 years older than herself. Two years later for the 1850 US census, Sarah and John were living with a Barrows family (probably relatives of her mother). I haven’t yet discovered where David was staying and what he was doing that year. His name resurfaces for the 1855 census in Freetown, and there he spent his last 14 months on Earth.

 

The Murderer

In March 1834, David’s cousin and neighbor, Adeline Hathaway, married another neighbor, Seth Clark.  Over the next 12 years, the Clarks produced four sons. The 1850 census shows Seth working as an unskilled  laborer,  and the family did not own their home. It must have been a struggle to feed and clothe their growing boys. Still, when the census enumerator stopped by in September, the Clarks appear to be an average family:

Seth Clark – Age 38 – Laborer
Adeline Clark – Age 36

Albert Clark – Age 15 – Attended school

Bradford Clark – Age 12 – Attended school
Rhodolphus Clark – Age 10
Phillip H -Clark – Age 4.

Not quite five years later, when the Massachusetts state census was taken July 17, 1855, the Clark household had changed significantly:

Seth Clark – Age 43 – Stone cutter
Adeline Clark – Age 40

Bradford Clark – Age 17 – Laborer

Phillip H -Clark – Age 9

David S. Hathaway – Age 43 – Farmer.

Seth has advanced from a laborer to a stone cutter, a skilled trade, which means he’s at last making a better wage. Two sons, Albert (20) and Rhodolphus (15), are missing from the home, and Bradford (17) is out of school and at work himself.

The final name in the household is David S. Hathaway. Perhaps, Adaline convinced Seth that her troubled cousin really needed a place to stay. There is no way for us today to know exactly when David came to live with the Clarks. We do know that they weren’t all living in harmony. The following bit among short items from Freetown, MA, appeared in March 1856:

David S. Hathaway was knocked down by Mrs. Seth Clark with a billet of wood for licking her son.

Adaline had a grievance, and few  parents wouldn’t seek to punish an adult who assaulted their child. However, to pick up a piece of lumber and beat a perpetrator to the ground, suggests a helluva temper. For the incident to make the papers as far away as Macon, Georgia, Adaline must have given David a spectacular thrashing.

 

The Murder

The opening newspaper quote makes the incident seem a clear case of self-defense: David Hathaway came home drunk out of his mind, and an argument ensued that escalated into an axe attack. Adeline Clark saved herself from a grisly fate by making a single, perfect, kill shot.  Self-defense was what Adaline told her neighbors that night.  Self-defense was what she told the authorities.

On examination, Adaline explained she’d gone to bed and was roused sometime later by the noise made by the falling-down-drunk David Hathaway who was attempting to get inside the locked back door. Adeline took an oil lamp to guide her way to the kitchen and let David inside. He took the lamp from her and shoved her outside into the rain. While she pounded and pleaded to be let back in, David guarded the door, axe in hand, and vowed he’d use it if Adaline reentered the house.

After an hour and a half outside in her rain-soaked clothes, Adaline said she heard a chair tip over, then a thud which she assumed was David having fallen down. At this point, Adaline went into the house and retrieved the pistol she had bought a week or so before and kept ready. By the lamp light in the front room, she saw David on the floor with the axe beside him. She claimed he reiterated his threat to kill her and “two or more of her children.” However, David was too incapacitated to stand up. That was the moment Adaline chose to fire a bullet into his brain.

Somewhere, in the interest of full disclosure, she added that she had been David Hathaway’s mistress.

Having given testimony that she believed completely justified her act, Adaline must have been knocked for a loop when the coroner’s jury rendered its verdict of willful and malicious murder.

 

The Trial

Adaline failed to realize that her own account of the shooting and the advance planning that went into it, were cold and calculating moves. Why didn’t she go to her neighbor’s house when David locked her out in the rain, before she killed him, instead of afterward as she did? In spite of the wilful and malicious murder finding, Adaline was tried at Taunton for the lesser crime of manslaughter.

It was a tough trial and jury deliberations did not go smoothly. Adaline was convicted in May 1858, but not sentenced right away. In hope of being granted leniency, Adaline appealed to the court of public opinion by publishing a “lengthy statement in the Fall River News detailing the nature of the troubles between herself and Hathaway…”

In October 1858, Adaline Hathaway Clark was sentenced to five years at hard labor in the New Bedford House of Correction.  At 45 years of age, Adeline was enumerated there among the other inmates for the 1860 US census. Having paid her debt to society, she was released in June 1863.

 

The Surprise Ending

Several newspaper stories about Adaline including the line,  She has a husband living in Rhode Island.  That’s right, we can’t forget about Seth Clark, head of household, husband and father until his world imploded. When Seth left Freetown we can’t say exactly;  why he left is an easy guess in light of Adaline’s publicly confessed adultery. It’s most likely that Adaline and Seth never laid eyes on each other again after 1856.

In the 1865 state census, ex-con, Adaline Clark lived again in Freetown with her 26-year-old son, Bradford. She claimed that year she was a widow, but she wasn’t.  In 1880 Adeline said she was divorced, but that was not true either. During that same enumeration, Seth Clark, alive and well in Providence, RI, said he was a widower. And so the estranged spouses alternated between wishing their legal bonds dissolved, and wishing the other dead – for the rest of their long lives. Seth died in 1892 at nearly 82 years, and Adaline went in 1896 at 82 and some months more.

It’s touching irony that Seth and Adaline Clark were laid to rest forever together in Assonet Burying Ground.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=82168445http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=82168471

We who know the worst about them should resist the urge to smirk, and consider this. The Clark children suffered instability, a broken home, and social stigma that must have hurt them in countless ways, –  and yet they understood that in the end, love is all that matters.

The surviving Clark children forgave and honored their parents so that Clark descendants strolling the peaceful yard today might think of Seth and Adaline as just another boring, long-married couple.

 

 

 

 Sources:

Macon Weekly Telegraph (Macon, GA); Volume: XXX   Issue: 32; Tuesday, March 4, 1856; Page 3. Homicide by a Woman

The Boston Herald (Boston, MA); Saturday, September 27, 1856; Page 2. The Tragedy at Freetown

The New York Tribune (New York, NY); Volume: XVI   Issue: 4820; Tuesday, September 30, 1856; Page 3. Homicide by a Woman

The Boston Herald (Boston, MA); Volume: VI   Issue: 127; Thursday, April 2, 1857; Page 4. Miss Adeline Clark

The Boston Traveler (Boston, MA); Saturday, May 8, 1858; Page 2. Murderers on their Defence

The Boston Herald (Boston, MA); Friday, August 14, 1863; Page 2. The Shooting Case…

National Archives (NARA); US Population Schedules.

Massachusetts. 1855–1865 Massachusetts State Census [microform]. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

Ancestry.com, Massachusetts Town and Vital Records database.

Find A Grave <www.findagrave.com> photos courtesy of jtb, 2012; Seth Clark Memorial#82168445; Adaline Clark Memorial #82168471

“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

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.

Of Cofflins and Rohans

A few years ago I got an email from cousin John O’Connor who had recently cleared out his elderly mother’s Florida beach house. In the process, he came across an index card that most folks would have tossed away without a thought, and, fortunately, John  thought about it. He scrutinized his mother’s  faded and cryptic notations and realized he had 3X5 inch version of 19th-century Iowa family history.

ROHAN-J.OConnor.mom

Image of faded original doctored to make it easier to read.

When he emailed me to see what I could make of it, I was intrigued to learn about the Galway trio of Larry Cofflin, Pete and Rohan! But I was frustrated, too.  This information failed to resonate with anything I knew about our shared ancestry.  John’s forbear was Patrick Roane, the brother of  my John P. Roane. Both men married in Lowell, Massachusetts, but while John stayed, Patrick struck out to obtain newly available government land  in Iowa.

Since my initial confusion, I’m happy to relay, I’ve learned a lot.  I discovered more descendants of the Midwest families, and resources that enabled me, at last, to interpret the notes made by John’s mother, Joanne Rowan O’Connor (1931-2013).

In 1950, a book came out that was written by Leo Ward,  a Monroe County, Iowa native and priest, titled, Concerning Mary Ann. It is a fictionalized account  of the life of his grandmother, Mary Ann (Coughlin) Murray (1859-1957),  and the Irish Catholic settlement known as Staceyville. Ward wielded elements of history, language and character to evoke a unique time and place, – and tells a good tale with authenticity.

However, the first name on the card about Rowan history, is “Larry Cofflin,”  who was Mary Ann’s father. Then, though I’ve found documents using Roane, Roan, and Rowan variant spellings, the only place I’ve found “Rohan,” is in Leo Ward’s book. I believe the excerpts below show that the first lines came straight from Concerning Mary Ann.

            “ON a lovely Autumn day in 1857, the sun hazy in the sky, Larry Cofflin…was en route from Boston to Iowa… as his train of an engine and two coaches steamed and puffed its way out of Chicago and across the top of Illinois and went with the sun toward the Mississippi…

“In his native County Galway, the Potato Famines had hit hard. No fooling about it, no escaping it. The Famines hit people in the stomach. All over Ireland, when it was averaged up, half the people died during and following the Famines of 1846-48

“He had good companions, too, …two sandy-haired, neat-set-up men of his own age were Pete and Ed Rohan. …they were from the same townland with him in Ireland, townies of his…so alike were they in the firm square shoulders, the loose-built bodies, the florid round faces, alike even to the snore. “Brother and brother, twins for it,” thought Larry… With Larry Cofflin they were of one mind, headed west with him to take up land in golden Iowa.”

I believe that well researched fiction can inform us about lives and times of our ancestors. However, even if we know real people inspired characters in a book, it is a mistake to accept those accounts as fact, without careful examination. We are lucky today to have online records easily available that help sort truth from fiction.

Ward’s book describes bachelors traveling together in 1857, but we have documented that Patrick Roane married in 1853 and came to Iowa with his wife and daughter.  But we have strong evidence that Lawrence Coughlin, Patrick Roane and Edward Roane were in league together for on June 3, 1856, each received patents on parcels of abutting land from the Chariton Land office. Census records from 1870 until 1900 show Lawrence Coughlin and Patrick Roan families occupied neighboring farms, but Edward Roane is absent.

However, it is not surprising that Mary Ann Coughlin remembered the names, “Pete and Ed Rohan.” They belonged to her generation of immigrants’ children. The book describes times she shared with the same-age friend, Rose Anne Roan. She was Patrick’s daughter and had brothers, Peter (1863-1942) and Edward (1868-1928). There was also, a set of twin boys, Edward and Lawrence, born to the younger Edward in 1905. These fellows just happen to be brothers of Pierce “Pete” Rowan, whom Joanne O’Connor identifies as her father.

The index card is decoded as part truth and part literary legend, with some mysteries yet to plumb (Were the two Roanes were really twin brothers? What happened to the elder Edward Roane?). And thus did Joanne Rowan O’Connor succeed in passing on a priceless bit of tradition for her children and grandchildren.

Levi Keirstead, Family and Friends?

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Levi Keirstead, Family and Friends?

Circa 1900, perhaps, in Littleton or Groton Massachusetts. My great grandfather, Levi Keirstead, sits on the porch rail, – hatless, in work boots, and with bushy mustache and arms crossed over his vest. Most of the others dressed up for the occasion, but what sort of gathering was it?

If anyone recognizes Keirstead (or other) relatives, the house, or anything else, please get in touch!