04 October, 2015

October, When the Witches Fly!

In a previous post, I wrote about my 9th great-grandmother, Elizabeth Carrington Paine, who was an accused witch in Salem, MA. That entry was mainly dealing with the question of who the woman was who married John Lilley, as she was potentially the great x3 granddaughter of Elizabeth and a great x4 grandmother of mine. Since that post I have found more dna matches that strongly suggest that my presumption that the wife of Lilley was Elizabeth Valpey and great x3 granddaughter of Elizabeth Carrington Paine, Salem witch.

So, a bit more about Salem and my supposed demonic great-grandmother Elizabeth! She was born in Charlestown, MA in 1639, and her parents were immigrants Edward Carrington and Elizabeth Preston of Cheshire, England who had settled in Charlestown, just north of Boston. A bit further north of Boston is the city of Malden, which had been part of Charlestown and was incorporated as its own city when Elizabeth was 10 years old. The Carrington family lived in Malden (coincidentally the city where I grew up!).

When Elizabeth was just 19 years old, she married 26 year old Stephen Paine, also an immigrant, who hailed from the Wapping section of London. Less than a year later they had their first of six children in just nine years, three boys and three girls, who would make up their family. (I descend from their second child, Mary Paine.) One can only imagine how busy Goody Paine must have been with six children under the age of ten!

But it wasn't until all her children were grown and out on their own that the 53 year old grandmother, Elizabeth Carrington Paine, became one of the accused in the dreadful year of 1692. Few people realize that, once the horror began in Salem, it spread rapidly throughout surrounding towns, and many of the accused were not from Salem at all but from more than twenty neighboring locales, including Andover, Haverhill, Reading and Malden.

According to Elizabeth's arrest warrant of 28 May 1692, she was accused of "sundry acts of witchcraft" against Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren of Salem. I have not discovered how Elizabeth's path crossed with these two young women of Salem, but I do know that Mercy Lewis was a maidservant in the home of Mr. Thomas Putnam, as she had been orphaned at age 14 in an Indian attack on her family's home in Maine. Her elder sister was married and living in Salem when she was placed, first in the household of Reverend George Burroughs, whom she would accuse, and later with the Putnams.

It is generally thought that Mercy's accusation of her former master, Burroughs, was based in a desire to retaliate against him for having reportedly sold shot and powder to the Indians who eventually massacred her family. Burroughs was tried and hanged for witchcraft, largely on Mercy's testimony that he came to her in a vision, imploring her "sign his book", presumably the devil's book. What prior offense could have inspired Mercy to exact revenge on Elizabeth Paine? The answer will never be known, but it could well have been that the accusation of Elizabeth amounted to the settling of a score. 

At the time of Elizabeth's accusation, Mercy was about 17 years of age and friendly with her masters' daughter, Ann Putnam, and her cousin Mary Walcott, who were among the first to become "afflicted" by unseen tormentors, leading to the initial accusations of witchcraft against their neighbors. After the trials, Mercy moved to a relative's home in Boston where she gave birth to a child out of wedlock. Eventually she married a Mr. Allen of Boston and nothing more is known of her.

Mary Warren, Elizabeth Paine's other accuser, was the 19
year old servant of the Proctors in Salem. She was one of the
young women who accused her neighbors of appearing to her and tormenting her. At one point, Mary seems to have suffered some feelings of guilt, as she apparently insinuated that the other girls were lying when they said they had seen the devil. Her friends turned against her, and she soon found herself in jail as one of the accused. Under questioning, however, she reverted to having fits and naming others as witches, perhaps to take the focus off of herself. Nothing is known of Mary's life after the trials.

While it is known that Elizabeth Paine was sent to jail following her arrest on 2 June 1692, there is no known record as to the disposal of her case. Whether she was pardoned, tried and found not guilty, or the charges were dropped, Elizabeth went on to live 19 more years after the trials of 1692. Her life must have been forever marred by the vicious accusation, her grief compounded by the loss of her husband a year later. One can imagine that her widowhood was a long and lonely one. We can hope that she was able to enjoy her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including one Elizabeth Fowle, born four years before her death, my great x6 grandmother.

02 October, 2015

The Quest

Okay, maybe I've gone over the deep end! This dna data is so cool, though! It's gotten me to thinking and I've begun a great quest... I'll admit, it could take me years to solve, or I may never be able to come to a resolution, but it's a challenge that I just cannot pass up. What is it?

In a few of my earlier entries I've mentioned that my paternal great-grandfather, John Reid, was born to an unwed mother in a poorhouse in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Her name was Caroline Reid, and she gave her child her own surname. I have the birth record, and no father is listed. SO... my quest is to use dna analysis to find out who the mystery man was! Impossible? Maybe. But not definitely! I have at least one good thing on my side.

Scotland did a good and thorough census in 1871, the year John Reid was conceived (he was born in January of 1872). So if my mystery man was living in Scotland during the census taking that year, he may well be on record. With the census record for that year, I may be able to place him in the vicinity of my Caroline Reid, that is, once I have narrowed my search down to some concrete possibilities.

Now, there are plenty of things working against me too. One of those is that I do not have a record for Caroline herself in that 1871 census. As of the 1861 census, she was living in Collier Street, Johnstone, Renfrewshire (a suburb of Paisley) as a boarder while she worked in the nearby mills. She was 13 at that time. The next record I have for her is the possible birth of her first son, William, in Neilston, not far from Johnstone, in 1870. That record may not be her, but I have a good feeling that it was. The next record is her giving birth to John in January of 1872 at Abbey poorhouse in Neilston, Renfrewshire, three miles down the road from her Collier Street address. After that, I have only her death record in February 1881 in a boarding house in Neilston (Andrews Land Boarding House).

Mystery Man
However, as I am daily discovering, dna is a powerful tool. I have about 4,000 matches on ancestry .com... that is, 4,000 people who share some of the same dna strands that I carry. For many of these I have already discovered the exact ancestors that I have in common with my matches and recorded that. Most have been on my maternal side, but I do have at least a few matches for each branch of my Dad's side, except, of course, for great-grandfather John Reid. So, at least I can confirm that my other great-grandparents are probably accurate as I have them recorded, including John's wife's family.

I have had my father's dna taken and it is currently in the lab being processed at ancestry. I eagerly await the results, as this should help to narrow down my avenues toward accomplishing my quest. One thing that I'm very curious about is his % of Scandinavian ethnicity. Mine says I am 17% Scandinavian and I know of no one in any of my lines from that part of the world. If he is at least that amount or more Scandinavian as well, then my guess would be that at least one of Mystery Man's parents were of that ethnicity.

Please follow me and find out how the Great Quest turns out! Who knows, it may be solved sooner than I think, if I'm very, very lucky. The next step is to examine my Dad's dna results, which should be done in just a few weeks time. Can't wait!

05 July, 2015

Two Tragic Aunts

This evening I would like to write about two great-aunts of mine and their sad stories. These aunts have no one to remember them, as they both passed away in their youth and never had children to pass on their stories. I will remember them here by relating as much as I know about them and their fates.

The first of these two lovely young ladies is my great-great aunt Lena Thacher. Lena was the daughter of my great-great grandfather George Engs Thacher and his wife Paulina Baxter Thacher. George and Paulina lived on Main Street in South Dennis (now part of Old Bass River Road) and raised seven children.

George Engs and Paulina Baxter Thacher & Family circa 1867
(Lena seated front)

They had a set of identical twins, delightfully named Amelia and Cecelia, born the same year as their marriage in 1851. Their sons George and Charles (my great-grandfather) followed in 1854 and 1856. Then was Lena in 1860, Peleg in 1861 and Willie, a "late" baby, in 1872 (not in photograph).

The father, George Engs Thacher, was a master mariner and he ran his schooner, the G.E. Thacher, to many ports, far and near.

The story of "Little Lena", as she was called due to her petite stature, goes that she fell in love with a young man at the age of 19. Who this person was has been lost to time, but apparently she was quite besotted and the couple wished to marry. For whatever reason, her father did not care for the young man and he forbade Lena to marry him.

According to family lore, Little Lena was so distraught that she began to make herself ill with her grief. Her mother was very concerned for her health. So, her father proposed that he take Lena along with him on his next voyage, which included a stop in Mobile, Alabama. Perhaps he thought that the warm climate would do her health good and that the trip would help her to get past her bitter disappointment.

Lighthouse Mobile Harbor
Sadly, Lena's health did not rally on the voyage. She sickened and died while in Mobile on 16 December 1879, and her body was brought back to her grief-stricken family to be buried in South Dennis. It was always said in the family that Little Lena Thacher died of a broken heart. I suppose her father felt some remorse and probably experienced some guilt about denying her the man she had wanted to wed. In truth, Lena's cause of death was listed as "consumption", the term used for tuberculosis, so her fate was no doubt sealed whether or not she had achieved her heart's desire.

The story of the second aunt is just as tragic. This was a great-aunt from the generation after Lena's. Her brother Charles Lincoln Thacher, my great-grandfather, also dwelt in South Dennis in the area that is now the intersection of High Bank Road and Rt. 134. He and his wife, Alice Sears Hall Thacher, raised their family of six children there.

Their first child, Charles Jr., died at just under a year old. But their second son, my grandfather, Freeman Gibbs Thacher, born in 1892, thrived, as did the second son William who came along two years later. Three girls followed; Edith in 1898, Alice in 1901 and Cynthia Hallett Thacher in 1905. 

Little Cynthia, the baby of the family, was a bright, happy child with "a laugh for everyone" as the papers would report. She was often mentioned in the paper as being on the honor roll at school and having perfect attendance. She was a child with a bright future.

Bass River
On 16 August 1916, Cynthia, aged 11 and sister Alice, 15, headed for Bass river for a picnic in the shade of the trees on the banks of the river on that hot summer day. They met their cousin, Malcolm Thacher, aged 13, there and proceeded to enjoy the humid afternoon.

At some point, Cynthia decided to wade in the cool river, then she began to swim. Bass river still has a good strong current through that area, and possibly it was stronger back in 1916. At any rate, Cynthia was caught in the force of the current and pulled away from her frightened sister and cousin on the shore. Despite her cries for help, neither Alice nor Malcolm could go to her aid, as neither of them knew how to swim! 

A call of alarm went out to nearby homes and people came scurrying down to the beach from all sides. Cynthia was pulled from the water and, though there were four doctors among those who responded, they were unable to revive the eleven year old girl.
Bass River Today

The entire Thacher family was, naturally, devastated by the loss. 

As a side note, when my mother was born (Cynthia's older brother Freeman's child), they had thought to name her Cynthia after the lost little sister. But, Cynthia's mother, the new baby's grandmother, thought it would be bad luck to name her after her drowned child. She spread the word as quickly as she could that the baby was named Nancy. When my grandmother realized that everyone already thought she was Nancy, she decided to abandon plans to name her Cynthia and my mother was named Nancy Thacher.

I have no photograph of Cynthia, but one may yet surface. If it does, I'll be sure to add it to her story.

To both of my lost aunts, may you know that you were terribly missed in this life and that you are not forgotten.

13 April, 2015

Elizabeth Plantagenet of Rhuddlan

Elizabeth Plantagenet of Rhuddlan

Princess Elizabeth Plantagenet is my 21st great-grandmother and daughter of King Edward I of England. Edward, son of King Henry III, was born at Westminster in June of 1239. At the age of 15 he was sent to Spain to marry the 9-year-old Infanta Leonor (called Eleanor in English) of Castile. King Henry III died in 1272 and Edward ascended to the throne of England.

Edward was devoted to his Spanish wife, and they had a total of sixteen children. Elizabeth was the youngest daughter and second to last child, with her younger brother Edward being the youngest. Edward, who would succeed his father as King, and Elizabeth were only two years apart in age and reportedly quite close throughout their lives. Elizabeth was also a favorite of her father's and he spoiled her, much to the vexation of her mother Queen Eleanor.

King Edward had been given lands in Wales at his marriage, and after he became King he continued to subdue both the Welsh and the Scots to expand his authority into their realms. He was quite successful at this endeavor, and brought much of Wales and Scotland into the fold of the English crown. Both Elizabeth and the future King Edward II were born during campaigns in Wales, and Edward II was the first to be styled “Prince of Wales”in the hope that it would endear the English to the Welsh people. This title has since been conferred upon each heir to the British throne.

Elizabeth was born in the newly rebuilt Rhuddlan castle which sits upon a hill in the North Wales countryside alongside a man-made canal, created by diverting the River Clwyd. The rebuilding of the more ancient structure had been completed just months prior to the birth of Elizabeth which took place in the castle on 7 August 1282.

Rhuddlan Castle, Wales
By the spring of 1285, negotiations were underway for the betrothal of three-year-old Elizabeth with Johann (John) I, count of Holland who was two years her junior. Little John was then sent to England to be raised and educated at court. He married Princess Elizabeth on 7 January 1297 when he was thirteen years of age and Elizabeth fifteen. Soon after, he was permitted to return to Holland, but Elizabeth did not wish to leave England and he went alone. It's interesting to wonder how much, if any at all, the two felt for one another. However, she did join him there the following year.

The marriage was to be short-lived, as John died of dysentery in November of 1299 at the age of fifteen years. No children were born of this marriage, and Elizabeth returned to England. There she met her new step mother, Margaret of France, whom her father had married during her time in Holland. Her own mother had died when Elizabeth was eight years of age.

In 1302 Elizabeth, now 20 years of age, married for a second time to Humphrey de Bohun, first Earl of Hereford, at Westminster Abbey. This marriage would prove to be fruitful, as the couple had eleven children, seven of whom survived childhood.

During Christmas 1315 Elizabeth was visited by her sister-in-law, Queen Isabella (of France) whom she entertained lavishly, though she was four months along in her 11th pregnancy. Perhaps she overtaxed herself, for when the baby was born in May, both mother and newborn child (named Isabel) died. Elizabeth was thirty-three years old.

I am descended from both her daughter Lady Margaret, who married Hugh de Courtenay, Earl of Devon and her son William de Bohun, who became Earl of Northampton and married Lady Elizabeth de Badlesmere.

29 March, 2015

Col. John Thacher of Yarmouth and Family Lore

Below is a biographical sketch of Colonel John Thacher of Yarmouth, Massachusetts (my maternal 7th great-grandfather) and a bit of family lore related to his long and fruitful life.

Col. John Thacher

John Thacher was born 17 March 1639. His parents were Antony Thacher and Elizabeth Jones, who had come over from England on the James in 1635 with four of Antony's children from his previous marriage. The Thachers had suffered an unimaginable tragedy in that same year when, on an ocean voyage from Ipswich to Marblehead, a horrific storm had smashed the ship to pieces. All on board were drowned except for Antony and his new wife, including the four young children. Antony and Elizabeth had washed up on a rocky island, still known as Thacher Island today, where they were eventually rescued by a passing fishing boat. (their story here)

The grieving couple lived for a time in Marblehead, Massachusetts colony, where they struggled to put the pieces of their lives back together. Surely the birth of a healthy son early in 1639 gave them a sense of optimism. Antony was one of three men who obtained permission that year from the King to settle the area of Cape Cod known as Mattachee. The three families made their homes there and named their new town Yarmouth.

As a young man, John was appointed an officer in the town militia, eventually rising to the rank of colonel, and soon after began his service as town selectman. In 1668 he became representative of Yarmouth to the General Court, and in 1681 he was chosen to the council of war. In addition, John Thacher was elected a member of the provincial council, so he certainly performed well in terms of his civic duties to the town his parents had founded.

But John was prolific in other ways as well, namely as a producer of new citizens for Yarmouth! He would father a total of 21 children between two wives. He first married in 1661 to Rebecca Winslow. There is a charming anecdote that has been passed down in the family regarding Rebecca and his future second wife, Lydia Gorham.

He and Rebecca Winslow married at Marshfield. On their return trip back to Yarmouth, they stopped at the home of friends, the Gorhams, for rest and refreshment. 

There was a new baby girl in the family, and she was proudly shown off to the newly married couple. It was remarked that the baby had been born on the same day as John Thacher and Rebecca had married. That being said, John took the child in his arms and said to his new wife “Here, my dear, is a little lady born on the same night that you and I were married. I wish you to kiss her, as I intend to have her for my second wife.” Rebecca laughed and kissed the baby, adding that she hoped that would be many years in the future, if at all.

Sadly, Rebecca did die at a young age in July of 1683. Later that summer, as legend has it, John was riding past the home of the Gorhams, when he spotted the horse belonging to his son Peter tied up outside. He stopped and went up to the house to see what he might have stopped there for and found him paying court to Lydia Gorham, the baby of that night many years ago, now grown. 
photo: paintedbarstables.com

John had not forgotten his pledge to make Lydia his second wife. It is said that he offered his son Peter 10 pounds and a yoke of black steer if he would relinquish his claim to the young lady. And so he did. 

Whether due to the clandestine “deal” or because John won out over his son on his own merits we will never know, but John Thacher and Lydia Gorham were married on New Year's day 1684. John was 45 years old and Lydia was 22. The couple raised a large family and John Thacher died in 1713 at the age of 82 years.

25 March, 2015

Samuel Richardson of Woburn, Massachusetts

This is a short biography of Samuel Richardson of Woburn, Massachusetts Bay Colony - 
my paternal 8th Great-Grandfather

Samuel Richardson

Middlesex Canal, Woburn, MA (wikipedia)

Samuel Richardson Jr was born 22 May 1646 to Samuel Sr and his wife Joanna Thake. Samuel's parents were from the town of Westmill in Hertfordshire, England and they arrived in Charlestown, Massachusetts Colony about 1636. From there the family removed to Woburn. Along with two of Samuel Sr's brothers, Ezekiel and Thomas and four other men, they founded the town of Woburn. The area where they lived still has a street called Richardson's Row today.

Samuel Jr. was born in Woburn where he grew up and married a woman by the name of Martha. Samuel's life in Woburn was to be far from tranquil. Martha died in 1673 giving birth to their fourth child, which included a pair of twins named Samuel and Thomas. But that was just the beginning of Samuel's woes.

He remarried to Hannah Kingsley the following year and early in April 1676 she gave birth to a healthy daughter. One week later, on 10 April 1676, while Hannah nursed the newborn in bed, Samuel had his six-year-old son Samuel with him, carting manure to the fields. Suddenly they heard screams coming from the house, and saw feathers flying from the terrified fowl in the front yard. Samuel raced back with his boy to find his wife slaughtered in the bed. Their nurse who had been helping the new mother in her recovery from the recent birth had tried to save the infant, but had dropped her outside in her haste to get away. The pursuing Indians had dashed the baby's brains out. Dead too was little Samuel's twin brother Thomas, age 6.

First Burying Ground, Woburn, MA (wikipedia)
Samuel Richardson and a group of his neighbors went out to find the Indians who had massacred his family. They came upon a group of three Indians and there was a skirmish in which one of the Indians was killed and the other two fled.

This horror took place against the backdrop of the King Philip's war, which had begun in June of 1675 and would continue until late summer of 1676. During this armed conflict between the local Native Americans and the English, in which our Samuel served, many colonists were attacked in such a manner and even whole villages were wiped out, the English inhabitants slaughtered or driven away. A dozen villages across Massachusetts and Rhode Island were thus eliminated before the killing ended after “King Philip”, or Metacomet, the leader of the Indian faction, was killed in August 1676. However, the war continued with ongoing raids occurring, mostly in what is now Maine, until a treaty was signed in April of 1678.

The grievances of the Native American populations included the expansion of the English population along with the taking of more and more land. In addition, the Native American people had been ravaged by diseases brought by the English to which the Indians had no immunity. Finally, break-downs in diplomatic relations between the Indians and English, often having to do with alliances with rival tribes, contributed to the boiling over of the Native Americans' frustrations which led to attacks on the English and war.

The King Philip's war is considered by many historians to be the deadliest war in American history. In the short space of sixteen months, twelve towns were obliterated, and over half of all New England towns were attacked, sending the colonial economy into a tailspin. The English population was decimated. Nearly a tenth of all military service aged men were lost. 

The best book and reference that I have so far read about this tragic series of events in American history is Flintlock and Tomahawk: New England in King Philip's War by Douglas Edward Leach.

Samuel Richardson survived this sad episode in history and remarried two more times, fathering a total of fifteen children. 

23 March, 2015

Tragedy in Plymouth

The citizens of early Plymouth Plantation were God-fearing, peaceful people, for the large part. Violence of any kind was uncommon among them. Though they were leery of the Native Americans that they met, they were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and relations were cordial, even friendly, between them.

However, as with any society, there will be aberrations; incidents that go against the grain of the norm, leaving shock and horror in their wake. Such was the case of Alice Martin Bishop.

photo: blogs.plimoth.org
There is some dispute as to Alice's parents. Some research points to her parents being Francis Martin and Prudence Deacon. Many believe her to have been the child of Mayflower passengers Christopher Martin and Marie Prower, and that she sailed with them to America at the age of 4 years. However, as she was not mentioned in Governor Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, the Mayflower Society does not recognize her as a passenger. 

Bradford's account, though, has been found to contain errors, written as it was from his own memory beginning ten years after the voyage. The portion containing the passenger list was written more than thirty years after the voyage, and it is quite possible that Bradford either neglected to include the child on his list by error, or decided not to include her due to her, by then, infamy in the colony. A third possibility is that he mis-remembered whose child she was, since she must have joined another family, probably the Churchills, who raised her, as she was only four when her parents both perished.

Whoever Alice's family of origin was, my Mayflower ancestors certainly were her neighbors and knew her well, at the very least. Whether or not she was the child of passenger Christopher Martin, who died along with his wife the first winter in America, she was my 9th great-grandmother.

Alice apparently married a man by the name of George Clark who died young, leaving her with a toddler, Abigail, and a new baby, Martha, in 1644. She married again quite soon after his death to Richard Bishop and had two more children in quick succession, the youngest, Damaris, having been born in 1646. (some sources have Abigail as the child of her second marriage and born in July 1648)

In the month of July 1648, tragedy struck. On 22 July, a friend by the name of Rachel Ramsden visited the Bishop home, when Richard was away from the house. Alice and Rachel chatted and at a certain point, Alice asked Rachel to take a vessel of hers and go and fetch some buttermilk from her house and bring it back for Alice's use. At that time, Rachel later stated that the four year old Martha was asleep in the loft just above their heads.

source: upcyclemagazine.com
When Rachel returned with the milk, she noticed a large quantity of blood on the floor beneath the ladder that led up to the loft. Horrified, she asked Alice what had happened. Alice mutely pointed up to the loft. Rachel, too frightened to ascend, appears to have assumed the worst.

She ran from the home to summon her parents who came, quickly followed by others, all of whom, confirming Rachel's worst fears, witnessed the wounds to the poor dead child, including the slicing of her windpipe and several other slash and stab wounds.

Alice appears to have admitted her guilt immediately and been remorseful for her horrible deed. When asked why she had done such a thing, she stated that she had no recollection of perpetrating the crime at all. She was tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. (Several of my ancestors were on the jury; Josiah Winslow, Anthony Snow and William Merrick.) Alice was hanged on 4 October 1648, aged 32 years. She was the first woman to be hanged in Plymouth Colony.

It is possible that Alice was suffering from a post-partum psychosis, since she had a toddler and there was no indication prior to this incident that she had been violent in any way. This is presumably the same condition that prompted Andrea Yates to drown her children in a bathtub in 2001. Naturally, no one at that time would have had any notion of such a condition and they must have been truly mystified at the motive for such a horrendous act against Alice's own innocent child. 

Of Alice's other children; little is known of Abigail and she probably died young. Daughter Damaris and son James both grew to adulthood, married, and had children.

Richard Bishop was, incidentally, a thief and general trouble-maker in the colony. He would be fined for theft of a neighbor's spade and, later, the sheep's fleece of another neighbor. He eventually joined his son-in-law William Sutton in New Jersey and died there.

We can be thankful that we live in the times that we do now. Had Alice Martin Bishop been alive today, symptoms may have been noticed and she might have been able to get the help she needed to avert the tragic fate of herself and her little girl.

Reference: Trial records of New Plimouth, 1648
                      Cape Cod History and Genealogy, C.W. Swift
                       Plymouth Colony, Its History and People - 1620-1691, Eugene Aubrey Stratton
                       Blog: http://alicemartinbishop.com/2011/01/