Friday, July 18, 2014

Ancestor Spotlight - Dr. John Woodson

     Dr. John Woodson was my 10th great-grandfather. He was born in 1586 in Devonshire, England.  He matriculated at St. John's College at Oxford on March 1, 1604.  He lived in Dorsetshire until 1619, when he and his wife Sarah decided to join an expedition to the new colony of Jamestown.

The Jamestown Colony

A view of Jamestown, circa 1620
    On January 29th, 1619, the ship George sailed from England and landed the following April at Jamestown, Virginia.  The ship carried Sir George Yeardley and a company of his men to the Virginia colony, where Sir George had been appointed the new governor.  Among the passengers on the George was Dr. John Woodson, attached to Sir George's company as surgeon. His wife Sarah accompanied him, and was one of only a handful of women to voyage to the colony before 1620.

   At the time of their arrival the Jamestown colony was just over a dozen years old and numbered no more than 600 residents. Drought, disease, starvation, and war with the local tribe of Powhatan Indians meant that only about half the colonists who arrived between 1607 and 1624 survived. 

   Dr. John Woodson settled on Governor Yeardley's plantation, known as Flowerdew Hundred, which was about 15 miles up the James river from Jamestown.  Dr. Woodson lived in a small, fortified compound on the plantation with about 10 other families. 

  Dr. Woodson and his wife arrived at the start of the second major wave of colonists to Jamestown.  Between 1619 and 1622, the number of colonists grew to about 1000 in the New World colony.  This tide of newcomers upset Chief Opechancanough of the Powhatan Confederacy of Indian tribes, who saw the influx as proof that the English planned to expand in to Powhatan lands. 

The Massacre of 1622
    On March 22, 1621/22, Chief Opechancanough launched a series of coordinated attacks on all the English plantations and towns developing around Jamestown.  Powhatan Confederacy braves entered each settlement with trade goods, looking as if they wished to barter.  When the colonists approached them, the braves grabbed any weapons or tools that were at hand and attacked the unprepared colonists.  347 people were killed, a quarter of the colony's total population.  Only the most fortified positions survived.  The fotifications at Flowerdew Hundred held and the Woodson family survived the attack.

    The settlement at Flowerdew Hundred plantation was one of the few that was allowed to remain outside the walls of Jamestown after the 1622 attack.  The next ten years involved attacks of retribution by the colonists. The time passed relatively peacefully for the Woodsons.  Two sons were born to them, John in 1632 and Robert in 1634.

    In 1634 the colonists built a pallisade defense wall across a six-mile wide strip of land between the James River and York River estuaries.  This structure may have lulled the colonists in to a false sense of security.  The Powhatan tribes were in no state to attack, having been nearly wiped out by English reprisal attacks. Emboldened, the colonists started building plantations outside the pallisade around 1640.  Chief Opechancanough was once again outraged by the English encroachment on his lands.  Gathering his forces, on April 18, 1644 he made a second surprise attack on the colony.

The Indian Massacre of 1644

    An account of the Woodson family's ordeal during this attack was handed down through the Woodson family and first printed by a Woodson family genealogist in the early 19th century.

    On the morning of April 18, 1644, Thomas Ligon, a soldier in the Governor's employ, stopped by the Woodson's house seeking Dr. Woodson's services.  Sarah Woodson informed him that her husband was out on his rounds through the nearby plantations, and Ligon elected to wait for the doctor to return.  When Ligon saw the Indians approaching, he raised an alarm and told Sarah to hide inside with her two sons.  Ligon grabbed his eight-foot muzzle-loaded rifle, and bracing his gun in the fork of a tree, fired on the approaching Indians.

   Meanwhile, Sarah gathered her boys together and desperately searched for a place to hid her 10 and 12 year old sons.  She spied the root cellar where the family kept potatoes during the winter.  She put Robert in the pit and covered it.  Then she upturned a washtub and had John hide beneath it.  With the boys hidden, she grabbed her husband rifle and proceeded to load and fire upon the Indian's from the window of the cabin.

   Before she could get off a second shot, the Indians had made their way around the back of the cabin and out of her sight.  Then she heard sounds on the side of the cabin and on the roof.  The Indians climbed atop the cabin an two of them attempted to come down the chimney.  The fire had gone out, but she still had a pot of hot water sitting in the hearth.  Thinking quickly, she upended the pot in to the fireplace just as the first Indian descended in to view, scalding his face.  His companion then climbed out over his wounded fellow and came towards her.  Sarah grabbed an iron roasting spit hanging next to the hearth and swung it at her attacker, knocking him senseless.

    Sarah grabbed her children from their hiding places and fled the house.  She ran towards Ligon, who was still firing upon the Indians, who were now in retreat.  Ligon struck another Indian as they fled.  In total, he and Sarah killed seven of their attackers. As she watched the Indians flee back in to the woods, Sarah noticed a familiar horse wandering riderless through the field from which the Indians had attacked.  It was her husband's horse.  Running to it, she found her husband lying beside the road to their house, an arrow in his chest.  He had evidently returned just as the Indians attacked, and having forgot his musket at home, was defenseless against them.

The Woodson Musket

    Dr. John Woodson was one of 500 colonists who died that fateful day in 1644.  Although the number was even greater than that killed in the 1622 attack, it represented less than 10% of the colony's population in 1644.  Nevertheless, the retribution by the colonists was severe.  A counterattack on all the nearby Powhatan-allied tribes nearly wiped them out.  In 1646 Chief Opechancanough was captured and brought to Jamestown.  He was nearly 100 years old at the time.  While being held at the stockade awaiting trial, he was killed by one of his guards in revenge for a family member killed in the 1644 attack.  After the death of their leader, the Powhatan Confederacy fell apart, and the individual tribes were either confined to reservations or left the area.

    Sarah Woodson remarried twice and outlived all her husbands.  She died in 1660.  Her sons both married and had large families.  Their descendants passed on the story of Sarah saving her sons from the Indian massacre, and referred to themselves as being either "potato hole" or "washtub" Woodsons. The Woodson musktet was also passed down from generation to generation, until in 1925 it was donated to the Virginia Historical Society, where it is on display in Richmond.

The First Slaveholders

The first Africans arrive at Jamestown
    The romantic and heroic story of John and Sarah Woodson as related through to her descendants frequently omits one of the most significant known facts about this early colonial family.  Dr. Woodson and Sarah were also one of the first recorded slaveholders in Colonial America.  In 1619 a Dutch privateer ship called The White Lion, and an English privateer called the Treasurer, captured a Portuguese slave ship São João Bautista in the Caribbean.  The privateers took the slaves aboard their ships and set sail for Jamestown to sell them to the colonists.

    The ships arrived at Point Comfort, on the James River, late in August 1619, with "20 and odd" Africans aboard the White Lion and at least a few more aboard the Treasurer.   Dr. Woodson bought some of these Africans.  In 1623 a census of the colony listed 23 Africans, six of whom appear in Dr. Woodson's household. Notably, Dr. Woodson's six African servants are the most of any colonist, and one of only two households that did not give names for their African servants on the 1623 census.  The fact that all the other Africans listed in the census were named could be interpreted as them having been indentured at the time of the census, while Dr. Woodson's servants were slaves.  This is similar to how slaves were counted but not named on future census.  If so, then the record of Dr. Woodson's servants on this census could be considered the first recorded mention of African slaves in Colonial America.

    It should be noted that in the early stages of Colonial America, Africans, though imported against their will, were not necessarily considered slaves as we understand it today.  Instead, they were considered indentured servants, similar to poorer English who agreed to work off their passage to the colonies under the headright system.  Several Africans were able to gain their freedom and become planters with headright contracts of their own.  Anthony Johnson was one such man, transported prior to 1622.  By 1651 he was a free man with 250 acres and five indentured servants of his own.  But Anthony Johnson is the exception.  By 1650 there was already some distinction made between indentured servants based on race.  The records of the early colony in Virginia show a number of African indentured servants having "life terms" of servitude, while their white counterparts only served a limited seven-year term.  This was the first step towards the racial, hereditary institution of slavery in America.

    It is not clear what happened to Dr. Woodson's servants.  There is no further record of them in his household (it is possible they were killed in the Indian attack of 1644).  When Sarah died in 1660, her will did not mention any servants. Around 1670 the first laws defining slaves were enacted in the colony.  When their son John Jr. wrote his will in 1699, he bequeathed several slaves to his children. The idea that one man could be another man's property was fully accepted by 1700 in Colonial Virginia.

Selected sources:

"Virginia's First Africans" from the Encyclopedia Virginia.
Archaeological Excavation of Flowerdew Hundred, by University of Virginia
J.C. Schreiber, "The Woodson Family"
Paul E. Pennebaker, "Dr. John Woodson"

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Westerfield Family

The Van Westervelts: From the Netherlands to Colonial America

  The Westerfield family has its roots in the Netherlands. The name Westerfield was originally Van Westervelt, meaning "of the western fields" and refers to an area near the town of Meppel, on the east coast of the Zuider Zee. The first immigrant Van Westervelts, Lubbert and William, were from Meppel. Beyond that, little is known. Walter Tallman Westervelt, a 19th century genealogist, speculated the family could be traced back to a Dirk Van Westervelt born about 1550 in the Netherlands. However, there is no documentation of a link between the line descended from Dirk Van Westervelt and the immigrant families of Lubbert and William. Since Van Westervelt is a place name, it is quite probable multiple unrelated families from the same area might have chosen to adopt it. Like most Dutch at the time, Lubbert and William often went by their patronymic Lubbertsen instead. It is only in the subsequent generations in America that the Van Westervelt surname was solidly adopted.

 New Amsterdam, circa 1660.

 The Westerfield family story in America begins, like many others, on the docks of New York City. Only it wasn't New York City when the Westerfields arrived, it was New Amsterdam. In June of 1662, Lubbert Lubbertse Van Westervelt, his brother William, and their families stepped off the ship Hope and on to the streets of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Lubbert and William were farmers, and immediately purchased land in the nearby colony of Flatbush, on Long Island. The Van Westervelt brothers prospered quickly, and by 1672 Lubbert was able to sell his lands for a large profit of 4,000 guilders (about $48,000 in today's currency, though its buying power was significantly more).

  Lubbert then moved his family to Hackensack, New Jersey.  He and his family show up in the congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church at Bergen in 1676.  In 1686, they are listed as founding members of the Dutch Reformed Church at Hackensack (the "Schaarlenburgh" congregation).  Lubbert died sometime around 1686 in Hackensack.  His wife, Geesie (Grace) Roelofse Van Houten, appears in church records as late as 1696.  

  The records of the Dutch Reformed Church of Bergen County, New Jersey provide an excellent paper trail not normally found in early colonial America.  From these records it is possible to trace the Westerfield family from Lubbert the immigrant, to his son Lubbert, (born c. 1661 in Meppel, died c. 1695 in Hackensack), to his son Jan (born 27 Mar 1686 Hackensack), to his son Jacobus (born 7 Sep 1712 Hackensack, died 1743, Closter, NJ), and finally to his son Jacobus "James" Westervelt (born 1 Jul 1737 Hackensack, died 1780, Kentucky), founder of the Westerfield family of Kentucky.

The Westerfield Massacre

  Jacobus Westervelt married Maria Demarest in on November 5, 1754 in Hackensack, New Jersey. This couple anglicized their names as James and Mary Westerfield.  In 1769, James and Mary left New Jersey with a group of Dutch settlers for the Conewago Valley in Pennsylvania, where they established the Conewago Dutch Colony near present day Gettysburg. James and Mary Westerfield stayed on a short while in Conewago and soon joined a group pushing farther west to Berkeley County, Virginia (now West Virginia).  In 1780, the family (and much of their Dutch relations) moved west again, traveling west to Fort Pitt (modern day Pittsburgh), then down the Ohio River by flat-boat to the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville). 

  In the spring of 1781, about 30 people set out from Louisville for Herrod's Station (now Harrodsburg in Mercer Co., Kentucky) along the Wilderness Road.  The Wilderness Road was the primary route for settlers traveling west from Virginia to Tennessee and Kentucky.  It had been trail-blazed by Daniel Boone in 1775.  By 1780 it extended to Louisville.  The Westerfields were actually traveling the trail in the opposite direction of most settlers as they were headed back east, having come down the river to Louisville on flatbed barge. Indian raids upon settlers traveling the trail was a significant problem between 1780 and 1790.

The Abduction of Daniel Boone's Daughter by the Indians by Charles Ferdinand Wimar (1853), depicting a similar abduction in 1776.
  This group included James and Mary Westerfield, their children, and a cousin named John Westerfield and his family.  The group had traveled about 15 miles southeast along the Wilderness Road, and camped somewhere near Clear Run Creek in Bullitt County (the old Wilderness Road at this point was roughly located where modern day Interstate 65 runs through the county -- their camp was likely somewhere around mile marker 119), when a group of Indians, likely Shawnee, attacked the party in the middle of the night.

  Two of the Westerfield's daughters were killed in the attack. Mary Westerfield survived along with three of her daughters by hiding in a sink hole.  Her husband, James, was killed by the Indians.  James had been a large man, weighing upwards of 300 pounds.  After he was killed, three Indians wrapped themselves in his great coat and danced.  Most of the remaining settlers were scalped and killed.  A few were taken as prisoners.  These included James and Mary's daughter Deborah Westerfield and her cousin Polly Westerfield.  A few settlers escaped and made it to the nearest fort, alerting soldiers on duty there.

  A soldier named John Ryker, gave the following account:

"In the month of __ 1781 went with a party of men under Floyd Whittaker to Bullets Lick to bring back families defeated and massacred by the Indians (such as survived) while moving from Beargrass to Harrodsburgh, massacre was at Clear Station. Went on 2nd trip to bury the dead. Distance not now recollected, suppose it was fifteen miles. Time occupied in going both trips was about 3 or 4 days."

  After recovering, Mary Westerfield went in search of her missing daughter Deborah.  She was informed that the Shawnee, allies of the British, would likely try and sell their prisoners to the British at Fort Detroit.  She traveled alone on horseback north to Detroit. On the way she was attacked and taken prisoner by the Shawnee.  Her horse was shot out from under her and she was held captive while the Shawnee stole more horses from a nearby farm.  The Shawnee then took her to Fort Detroit, where she was released by the British officer of the fort, who informed her that her daughter and cousin had indeed been there, but had been taken back east to Quebec. Mary searched for her daughter in Michigan and Canada for about a year before returning home.  Meanwhile, the girls were either set free or escaped and eventually made their way back to their family via Philadelphia and then west back to Kentucky.

The Westerfields - A Kentucky Bourbon Tradition

  James and Mary's eldest son James Jr. was not present with the rest of his family on the Wilderness Road that fateful day.  This is because he stayed behind to serve in the Revolutionary War.  He was perhaps the James Westervelt who was a Corporal in the 2nd and 3rd Regiments, Duchess County NY Militia.  If so, he was likely present at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights on August 27, 1776, which by number of troops involved was the largest battle of the Revolutionary War.
 James Jr. and his wife Phoebe Cozine settled in Harrodsburg, in Mercer Co., Ky.

Cornelius Westerfield's Homestead, c. 1930
  James Jr.'s son Cornelius married Elizabeth Bruce in 1802 in Nelson county, Kentucky. The couple moved to Ohio county around 1805. He lived in what became Daviess County, on the banks of Deserter Creek south of Whitesville,  Ky. Cornelius distilled his own whiskey and around 1810 he began a commercial distillery on his farm. He was one of the founders of what became a thriving bourbon whiskey industry in Daviess county during the 19th century.   Westerfield Bourbon proved extremely successful and his family continued in the distilling business for another three generations.

  During the Civil War the Westerfield family provided it's whiskey under contracts with both the Union and Confederate armies.
Westerfield Bourbon Whiskey

  The Westerfields continued in the distilling business until 1872. The family then sold the brand to a St. Louis businessman who continued to produce Westerfield whiskey at a St. Louis distillery well in to the 20th century.

  Cornelius died in July of 1852. He left a simple will devising his entire estate to his wife.

  Cornelius' son David Westerfield was known as "Happy Jack," (I have not discovered the origin of this nickname). He married first to Elizabeth Ann Moseley on February 19th, 1838 in Daviess county. They had six children: Robert, Sarah, Nancy, Mary Catherine, Serilda, and Charles. Elizabeth passed away in about 1851. In 1852 Happy Jack married Catherine Ralph Sutton, widow of William Sutton, of Ohio county, Kentucky and moved his family there. There they had an additional seven children: Commodore Perry, William, Alexander, Isaac, George, Ida, and John Morgan.

C.P. and Mary Westerfield with daughter Ceona
  Commodore Perry Westerfield was generally known as C.P. He married Mary Louise Hoover on January 11th, 1872. They had four children: sons George and David, and daughters Dona and Ceona. In 1903, C.P. sold his farm and decided to move to Edmond, Oklahoma.  He lived for a while in Oklahoma, then moved to Arkansas, and finally back to Ohio county, Kentucky where he died in 1927. His daughter Dona married a man named William Daniel Taylor, and stayed in Oklahoma and later Arkansas. W.D. and Dona Taylor were my wife's great grandparents.

Selected Sources

Genealogy of the Westervelt Family by Walter Tallman Westervelt

The Old Bergen Dutch Reformed Church

Records of the South Schaarlenburgh Dutch Reformed Church, Hackensack, New Jersey History of the Conewago Colony

"The Westerfield Massacre" Bullitt County Genealogical Society

Transcript of letter of H.R. Stafford, 1865 describing the Westerfield Massacre (via rootsweb)

Cornelius Westerfield and Besty Bruce Marriage Bond

David Westerfield and Catherine Ralph Sutton Marriage Record

Excerpt from History of Whitesville, Ky regarding Cornelius Westerfield's distillery.

Famous Fridays - Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon
Perhaps you've heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well the game works equally as well for genealogy. Kevin Bacon is my 11th cousin thrice removed on my father's side (via the Beasley family). Our common ancestor is Thomas Morgan, Lord of Castell-Arnallt, born about 1534 in Llanrhymny, Monmouthshire, Wales.

Likelihood of relationship: 40% for me.

While it may take up to six steps to connect anyone to Kevin Bacon through movie credits, scientists believe it may take only one or two steps to do it genetically. On the PBS show Finding Your Roots scientists at used DNA evidence to show that all the celebrity participants (which included Kevin Bacon) linked to each other through only one or two relatives.

Fun fact: If you type an actor's name in to Google and follow it with "Bacon Number", Google will tell you how many degrees of movie separate the person is from Kevin Bacon.

Friday, July 4, 2014

My Military Ancestors

     This 4th of July I am thinking back about my ancestors that served the United States in times of conflict.  My ancestors fought in nearly ever major war, from the French and Indian War, through the Revolution and in to the 20th Century (the exceptions being World War I and the Mexican-American War).  Below is what I have been able to uncover so far about the military service of my ancestors.

French and Indian War

Battaile Harrison (1725-1776)
Lieutenant in VA Militia

Henry Francis (1734-1780)
Sergeant, 1st VA Regiment

John Hurlbut, Jr. (1732-1782)
Private, Connecticut Militia, Capt. Daniel Bradley's Company of Col.Andrew Burr's Regiment.
Kept a diary of his service at Fort Ticonderoga. More info.

Grave of Henry Francis, at the site of the Battle of Shallow Ford

Revolutionary War

Henry Francis (1734-1780)
Captain, VA Militia
Killed in action at Battle of Shallow Ford (NC), October 14, 1780. More info.

Battaile Harrison (1725-1776)
Lieutenant, MD & VA Rifle Regiment
Killed in action at Battle of Fort Washington (NY), November 16, 1776 More info.

Elisha Blackman
Elisha Blackman III (1760-1846)
Private, Pennsylvania Militia under Captain Bidlack.
Survivor of the Wyoming Massacre (PA) (July 3rd 1778) More info.

Henry Boas (1760-1834)
Private, Col. William Hay's Pennsylvania Regiment
Fought at Battles of Long Island, White Plains, and Trenton. More info.

Reuben Harrison Sr. (1749-1824)
Ensign, Amherst Co., VA Militia

Hezekiah Stone (1752-1798)
Corporal, 6th VA Regiment (Lunenburg Co.) Commanded by Capt. Garland.
Present at Valley Forge, PA in January, 1778.

Joshua Ferguson (1753-1837)
Private, Fairfax Co. VA Militia under Col. Waggoner.
Met George Washington and defended Mount Vernon and Alexandria, VA. More info.

Isham Beasley (1760-1855)
Private, Enlisted November, 1779, North Carolina

John Knight (1760-1843)
Private, in Regiment Commanded by Col. Matthew Locke in North Carolina.

John Stewart (1730-1805)
Private, 3rd VA Regiment (Halifax Co.) Commanded by Col. Thomas Marshall.

War of 1812

Reuben Harrison Jr. (1782-1844)
Major, Kentucky Mounted Militia.

Samuel Shelton Sr. (1793-1868)

John Selby (1786-1851)
Private, Virginia Militia, Commanded by Capt. Baldwin

Civil War

Jacob Frank (1833-1909) (Union)
Private, 9th Cavalry Regiment, Missouri State Militia Vols, Co. D.
Patrolled Missouri, mostly in Franklin and Gasconade counties. Protected rail lines from saboteurs. Reenlisted 1863, Thomas’ Callaway County Volunteer Militia G.O. #3 (Callaway County Home Guard)

James L Crisp (1830-1887) (Union)
Private, Company C, 42 Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia

Patrick Sullivan

Patrick Sullivan (1839-1888) (Union)
Private, Co. B, 7th Mo. Reg't Inv. Vols. under Captain Coffee.
Siege of Vicksburg, MS, May 18-July 4, 1863. Reenlisted as a veteran Dec 13, 1863 at Vicksburg, MS. Transferred to 11th Mo. Reg't Inf. Vols., Co. C under Captain Scott. Injured while on patrol in TN in 1865. More info.

George Gruenewald (1844-1917) (Union)
Private, 1st Missouri Vols., Co. C.

Jacob Gruenewald (1815-1869)(Union)
Private, 1st Regiment, Missouri State Militia Infantry, Co.K

Joseph Selby (1824-1874) (Union)
Private, 7th Regt Iowa Infantry, Co. E. Reenlisted as a veteran 1863 in Missouri

Jesse Beasley (1827-1904) (Confederate)
Private, 24th TN Inf., Co. H
Battle of Shiloh (TN, April 6-7, 1862)
Battle of Perryville (KY, October 8, 1862)
Battle of Murfreesboro(TN, December 31, 1862)
Battle of Chickamauga (TN, September 19-20, 1863)
Battle of Missionary Ridge (TN, November 25, 1863)
Atlanta Campaign (GA, May-July 1864)
Battle of Franklin (TN, November 30, 1864)

Forrest Frank Jr. and wife Ruth, Alabama, 1941

World War II

Forrest F. Frank, Jr.
Private, U.S. Army
Served in Pacific Theater, stationed at base in Philippines.

Selected Sources

Diary of John Hurlbut, Jr.
Describes his march from Connecticut to upstate New York and the capture of Fort Ticonderoga from the French in 1759.

Battaile Harrison Revolutionary War Land Bounty Application
Filed by his nephew.

Ancestor Spotlight Elisha Blackman III
My blog post recounting Elisha Blackman's experience during the Wyoming Massacre.

Revolutionary War Pension application of Henry Boas.
Details where he lived after the war.

Revolutionary War Pension application of Joshua Ferguson.     
In which he recalls his wartime activities in Fairfax County, Virginia, including meeting General George Washington. Transcript

Civil War Pension application of Hannah Sullivan, widow of Patrick Sullivan.
Includes testimony regarding his service and injury, as well as family birth and marriage records.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ancestor Spotlight - Elisha Blackman III (1760-1845)

     Elisha Blackman III is my 5th Great-Grandfather. He was born in April 4, 1760 in Lebanon, Connecticut to Elisha Blackman Jr. and Lucy Polly. His family moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1773. In 1778, at age 18, he enlisted as a private with the 24th Regiment Pennsylvania Militia in the Company of Captain James Bidlack. He was part of a very inexperienced unit protecting farms in the Wyoming Valley on the Pennsylvania frontier, and on July 3, 1778 was art of a battle that became known as the Wyoming Massacre.

The Wyoming Massacre, by Alonzo Chappell, 1858
    In late June of 1778, the regimental commander Col. Zebulon Butler received word that approximately seven hundred British regulars, Rangers, and Indians under the command of Major John Butler and Chief Sayenqueraghta of the Seneca Iroquois were gathering near Pittston at Fort Wintermute. The militia immediately gathered their families in to several forts and sent word to General Washington requesting reinforcements. A small company of reinforcements arrived from Hanover, commanded by Lazarus Stewart. The British commander, under flag of truce, demanded the surrender of the militia forces, which was refused. Col. Zebulon Butler planned to remain in the fort until reinforcements arrived from the Continental Army. Lazarus Stewart disagreed, and passionately called for the men to launch a preemptive attack on the British. His zeal for battle won over many of the young recruits, and Butler was eventually forced to lead the men in to battle, lest he lose his command.

    On July 3, 1778, approximately 360 militia members marched out of the fort at Wilkes-Barre to face the British and Indian forces. When the British heard the militia troops were on the move, they set fire to their own forts. Seeing this, many in the militia believed the British were retreating and broke ranks to pursue them. But the fire was a trap. The British commander, Col. John Butler, had instructed the Seneca to lie flat in the grass and wait for the American rush. The British and Indian forces flanked the disorganized militia and the result was a massacre. The battle lasted only about a half hour, by which time the remaining Americans scattered. But the Seneca gave them no quarter and hunted down the almost all the militia. Capt. John Butler reported the Seneca took 227 American scalps that day. Two British rangers and one Seneca warrior were killed, but estimates are that no more than 60 of the 360 militia members who marched that day escaped with their lives.

    During the battle Elisha Blackman saw his brother-in-law, Darius Spafford, fall mortally wounded, and he became so intent on avenging the death that it was some time before he discovered that the Americans were losing ground. In the flight from the field he and a companion headed for the river. Indians chased them and called to them to surrender, assuring them that they would not be hurt. Blackman did not surrender, but his companion did. only to have his skull immediately split open with a tomahawk. Blackman strained every nerve to escape, and did so by swimming to Monocanock Island, with the bullets fired by his pursuers whistling about his head. He remained in hiding on the island until after nightfall. The next morning he set out for Wilkes-Barre, and reached the fort shortly before noon. Only eight members of Captain Bidlack's company escaped from the battleground on July 3, 1778.

    After the battle, the settlements in the area were destroyed and the survivors were parolled on their oath that they would sit out the remainder of the war. Elisha Blackman and most of the others did not honor this pledge and within a year. In the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 he served in the Wyoming militia company commanded by Capt. John Franklin. This was a campaign to drive the Iroquois and Loyalists from New York and Pennsylvania in retribution for the attacks in the Wyoming Valley. The expedition conducted a scorched earth campaign, razing all Iroquois villages and farmland. That winter the remaining Iroquois were driven across the Niagara in to British Canada, where many of them starved to death.     In 1780, Elisha joined his parents and the other members of their family, who had moved back to Connecticut. Early in 1781 Elisha Blackman enlisted as a private in the company of Capt. Selah Benton of Stratford, in the 5th Regiment, Connecticut Line, commanded by Lieut. Col. Isaac Sherman, and served till the latter part of June, 1782. He was honorably discharged from the service at Fishkill, New York, and went home to his parents in Lebanon.

    After the war Elisha learned the trade of a tanner and currier, and in 1786, he and his brothers Ichabod and Eleazar returned to Wilkes-Barre. There the three brothers built a log house and opened a tannery. Elisha Blackman III was married January 10, 1788, to Anna Hurlbut (born January 5, 1763), daughter of "Deacon" John and Abigail (Avery) Hurlbut of Westmoreland, CT.

Elisha Blackman
    On March 25, 1790, Elisha Blackman III, was commissioned First Lieutenant of the Light Infantry Company attached to the "1st Regiment of Militia in Luzerne County," commanded by Lieut. Col. Matthias Hollenback. In 1791 Lieutenant Blackman returned to the Wyoming Valley bought a tract of land, which he cleared up and converted into a farm. His wife died there January 6, 1828. He received a Revolutionary War pension in 1835. He resided until his death, which occurred December 5, 1845.

    Elisha and Anna (Hurlbut) Blackman were the parents of ten children:
    1.     Henry, born 28 August, 1789; died 18 October 1842 in Luzerne Co., PA.

    2.     Stephen, born 20 August, 1790; died 28 September, 1790.

    3.     Ebenezer, born 28 July, 1791; married in 1817 to Susan M. Stockbridge; died 4 December, 1844 in Miami Co., OH. 

    4.     Lovina, born 6 August, 1793; died 29 August, 1793.

    5.     Hurlbut born 25 September, 1794; married (1) 18 January, 1821, to Sarah Rollin; married (2) to Mary Telford; died 17 October, 1872 in Miami Co., OH.

    6.     William, born 19 November, 1796; died 14 January 1800.

    7.     Elisabeth "Betsey", born 20 August, 1799; married 27 August, 1823, to Henry Boos; died 28 February, 1858 in Johnson Co., IA. (my line)

    8.     Judge Elisha Blackman IV, born 1 August, 1801; married 22 December, 1828, to Amy Rollin; died 29 February, 1872 in Noble Co., IN. 

    9.     Julia Anna, born 25 April, 1806; married 21 Dec 1808 to Charles Plumb; died 29 Jun 1889 in Luzerne Co., PA.

    10.     Abigail, twin sister of Julia Anna, died 24 April, 1807.

Selected Sources

History of Hanover Township by Henry Blackman Plumb
Grandson of Elisha Blackman, and source of much of the above account of Elisha Blackman's life.
Elisha Blackman Census records, 1800-1840
Elisha Blackman's Commission as Lieutenant in the Pennsylvania Militia

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Harrison Family

The Harrison family has its origins in England. Beyond that, the exact origins are unknown. At least three different genealogists have tried to uncover English records for this Harrison family. Best guesses are that the family is from either Cambridge or London. But neither of these theories is supported by solid evidence. What is clear is that our line NOT connected within America to the "famous" Harrison line, which includes two presidents and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Our story starts with Andrew Harrison Sr., who was born sometime between 1640 and 1660 in England. He immigrated to Virginia colony sometime before 1683. Records indicate that Andrew Sr. came to the colonies under a "headright" contract with a colony official named Cadwallader Jones.

The Headright system was established by the colonial government as a method of solving the colony's chronic shortage of laborers. Passage to the Americas was not cheap, and often those wealthy enough to afford passage did not wish to pay for a number of servants to accompany them. The headright system gave these future landowners a bonus of 50 acres per person they paid to bring over from England. Many wealthy landowners saw a business opportunity, and established headright contracts, where the landowners paid for the passage of an indentured servant, who then worked for a set amount of time afterwards until the cost of the passage and the cost of the land was paid to the landowner, at which point the servant was freed and received title to the 50 acres.

Location of Andrew Harrison's Plantation in Virginia

If this is how Andrew Sr. came to Virginia, then within a few years Andrew Sr. had made enough to free himself of the debt, because he is listed as a freeman in the mid-1680's. Further, in 1686, Andrew Sr. and some friends entered the lucrative headright business themselves. Andrew Sr. purchased several thousand acres on Golden Vale Creek in Essex Co, Virginia (Now Caroline Co). He lived on 130 acres of the land, and used the rest for headright contracts. At one point he owned 1800 acres as part of his plantation. All this land is now part of the Fort A.P. Hill military training center near the town of Bowling Green, Virginia.

Andrew Sr. was probably a wealthy man by colonial Virginia standards. He was a tobacco plantation owner, with several slaves and indentured servants, and he (and later his son Andrew Jr.) served in the office of Constable for his part of Essex Co. for a number of years. Holding an office in the colonial government speaks to the fact that Andrew Sr. was a man of wealth and privilege.

Picture of a Tobacco PlantationA Tobacco Plantation
Like most colonists, Andrew Sr.'s life revolved around tobacco. The rise and fall of tobacco prices governed not only the wealth of the planters, but also the stability of the government. At least twice during Andrew Sr.'s life rebellions occurred in Virginia colony directly related to tobacco laws imposed by the British. It is likely that Andrew Sr. or his son Andrew Jr. were involved in at least one of these rebellions, when in 1714 a group of planters burned British-controlled tobacco warehouses in Williamsburg, where Andrew Sr. took his tobacco to market. Andrew Sr. was one of a group of planters who sold their tobacco to private warehouses run by free black merchants, who offered better prices than the British government. When the British government tried to ban private wholesalers, the planters rebelled and burned the British-controlled warehouses. We have no record of Andrew Sr. or Jr. directly participating in any of these rebellions, but it is likely that they were somehow involved as they had a large stake in the matter.

One of Andrew Sr.'s closest friends was John Battaile, a fellow headright who became his neighbor in Virginia and had remained a close family friend of the Harrisons. John Battaile had connections to many of the elite members of Virginia colonial society, which both the Battailes and the Harrisons exploited. John had married into two very important families, the Taliaferros and the Smiths, who had received very large grants of land in the colonies and were prominent members of the aristocracy.

In 1708 John Battaile died, leaving his daughter Elizabeth in the care of the Harrisons. Andrew Sr. was made her guardian. Two years later, Elizabeth married Andrew Sr.'s son, Andrew Jr. The couple inherited several hundred acres of land along Golden Vale Creek when Andrew Sr. died in 1718.

Andrew Jr. was a tobacco plantation owner like his father. He also served as an Essex Co. constable, and later, as an officer in the Spotsylvania county militia and a road overseer for Spotsylvania county. The records that survive show that Andrew Jr. was well-connected and a savvy businessman. For example, in 1727, Andrew Jr. was arrested as part of a suit by a business partner, but Andrew used his connections in the colonial government to turn the tables on his opponent. The court record books of Essex Co. contain the following colorful entry:

"Andrew Harrison, being arrested at the suit of James Gillison, in debt, and he having rescued himself by a superior force out of the sheriff's custody, order is granted to the said plaintiff against the said defendant for what shall appear due at next Court unless the defendant then appear and answer the said suit."
The next year, Andrew Jr. began courting a group of wealthy landowners in the hopes of receiving a choice land patent. A patent is a grant of unclaimed land.

Sir William Gooch, Colonial Governor of Virginia, 1727-1749Sir William Gooch, Colonial Governor of Virginia, 1727-1749

In December 1728 Andrew Jr. sold 600 acres he had bought in Spotsylvania county to a group of wealthy colonists who included the Colonial Governor, William Gooch. In exchange, Andrew Jr. received a patent on 1000 acres along Harris Creek in Spotsylvania county, near Fredericksburg, Va. The land was adjacent to land owned by several prominent members of the colonial militia. Andrew started a new tobacco plantation on this land, which eventually grew to 1800 acres. The land became a part of Orange County when it was formed out of Spotsylvania. Andrew Jr. lived there for the rest of his life. In 1747, he deeded 200 acres of the Harris Creek land to his oldest son, Battaile Harrison.

Battaile lived for a time on the land granted to him by his father, but eventually decided to get into the land business for himself. Battaile used the land given to him by his father, as well as land given to him by his father-in-law in nearby Culpeper county to secure a large land grant in Amherst county, near Lynchburg. Battaile moved there, where he ran a plantation and also acted as road overseer for a nearby road. In addition, Battaile ran an inn along the road, a profession which was generally only undertaken by the aristocracy in colonial Virginia.

Battaile was also lieutenant in the Virginia militia,.  In June, 1776 he joined the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, commonly called Rowling's Rifle Regiment, a light infantry unit of riflemen in the Continental Army. After the men were recruited the regiment joined up with the main body of George Washington's Continental Army in New York.  Washington had recently been defeated by the British at the Battle of White Plains, and was in the process of retreating to New Jersey.  The regiment was tasked with defending Fort Washington, on the northern tip of the island of Manhattan.

On November 16, 1776, approximately 3,000 Continental Army troops faced approximately 8,000 British and Hessen troops at Fort Washington.  Hearing of the size of the opposing force, General Washington ordered the fort abandoned.  However, Col. Robert Magaw, the fort's commander, declined to follow the order as he believed he could successfully defend the fort.  This proved to be one of the most disastrous errors made in the course of the war.  The result of the battle was a complete rout of the American forces: 59 killed, 96 wounded, 2,837 captured.  Lt. Battaile Harrison was one of the officers killed in action on that day.

Battaile's eldest son was named Reuben (Sr.). Reuben Sr. also served in the Revolutionary War, as an Ensign with the Amherst County Virginia Militia. After the war, a family dispute over the inheritance of his father may have led Reuben to move west. He moved west twice, eventually settling in Barren County, Kentucky by 1811. His son, Reuben Jr., had gone with him to Kentucky. Like his father and grandfather, Reuben Jr. was a military man. He served as a Major in the Kentucky Mounted Milita during the War of 1812. Late in life Reuben Jr. chose to move west again, settling in Miller County, Missouri in the early 1830's.

Reuben Jr. was the father of Samuel Toliver Harrison, who was the father of 20 children by two wives (16 with the first wife!). Samuel was a farmer in Miller county, near Eldon, Missouri. His 10th child was Robert Berry ("RB") Harrison, who married Phoebe Ellen Crisp, daughter of James Layette Crisp and Rebecca Waddell on February 22, 1883. RB and Phoebe Ellen moved to Callaway County, Missouri, to the north of Jefferson City. He was a melon farmer, and did well enough for himself that he managed to pay off his farm's mortgage after just the first year's harvest. RB lived in Callaway County until his retirement, when he went to live with his daughter Pearl in Kansas City. RB was the father of Lela Harrison, who married Forrest Frank Sr.

Below are links for more information on the Harrison family. I highly suggest reading Part II of Abner Harrison's manuscript "Andrew Harrison and Other Early Harrisons," which is the source for much of my information and provides a much more detailed look at the world in which Andrew Harrison lived.

Phoebe Ellen Harrison Death Certificate
Robert Berry Harrison Death Certificate
Ancestors of Lela Harrison(PDF)
R.B. Harrison 1930 Census
R.B. Harrison 1920 Census
R.B. Harrison 1900 Census
"Andrew Harrison and Other Early Harrisons," by Abner Harrison
A Chronological Listing of Events in the Life of Andrew Harrison
Harrisons of Miller County, Missouri

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Genealogy Narrative

One of my main goals in publishing this blog is to transform dry genealogy data into a more meaningful narrative story of my ancestors, their times and their journeys to America. This approach lacks the academic rigor of a drier, more straightforward cataloging of historical records, but is far more readable. I try to strike a balance between these two approaches by including direct links to as many original documents as possible. This allows the reader to see the basis for my stories and come to their own conclusions if they so choose.

I'm pleased to see others taking this narrative approach to genealogy in order to appeal to a wider audience. Today the New York times has published a very interesting story on the family of Michele Obama. The article focuses on the discovery of a white ancestor in Mrs. Obama's tree. However, the trail of records is sparse and lacking for detailed information, as was quite common for black families after the Civil War. To fill these gaps the author includes stories of those who knew Mrs. Obama's ancestors. The article also includes a multimedia presentation with an interactive family tree and images of all the original documents on which the story is based. Cheers to the Times for taking this narrative approach to a genealogy story and especially for publishing the original documents. Too often newspapers publish stories on famous genealogies that only cherry pick interesting and often misleading details from a serious genealogist's work (i.e., headlines like "Obama and Bush and Cheney are all Cousins -- imagine the family reuinions!"). To see genealogy presented in the press in this professional and moving way benefits both the reader and the view of genealogy in general.