#52Ancestors: Heirlooms Lost to Fire

The eighth of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompts is Heirloom.

Sadly, not everyone has heirlooms passed down from one generation to the next. The reasons for that are many. In one case the primary culprit is fire. To be exact, that should read fires.

According to federal censuses, my paternal great grandparents, Everett F. and Emma (Nichols) Merryfield, lived in Center Sandwich, Carroll, New Hampshire, between 1910 and 1940. Everett and Emma owned a combination hotel, general store, and ice cream parlor there.

The 1910 census lists Everett’s occupation as mail carrier and stage coach driver and Emma’s as hotel keeper. In 1920, Everett was the “driver of a public car”; after leaving Sandwich, he operated the Ashmont Taxi company in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The 1930 census shows Everett as a mail carrier, “star route” (i.e. rural delivery), and Emma as the proprietor of an ice cream store.

1 Sandwich fire3On the afternoon of February 27, 1934, tragedy struck when a fire broke out in the afternoon. The Portsmouth Herald reported the following day:

“The worst fire in the history of this little town swept through the heart of the business section yesterday afternoon, leveling five mercantile establishments and two dwelling houses and causing damage estimated at $150,000. Three families were made homeless.

“Practically the whole town, men, women, and children, left their homes to join the firemen from the local, Moultonboro and Center Harbor departments in battling the blaze. They formed bucket brigades from the nearby mill pond and huge quantities of water were poured on the flames.

“After raging from 1:30 yesterday afternoon until after 6 o’clock last night the conflagration was declared under control although firemen and volunteers continued to guard burning embers and fight sporadic outburst in cord wood piled in the rear of the postoffice building and [piles] of lumber piled near the rear of the Thompson garage. …

“Buildings which were completely wiped out included:

“Everett Merryfield’s general store, two and one-half story structure in the basement of which the blaze originated. …

“At the Merryfield store practically all the contents were destroyed, including all the town records for the past 70 years. Mr. Merryfield, the owner, is town clerk of Center Sandwich.

“The origin of the blaze was not determined. It broke out in the basement of the Merryfield store shortly after Fred Mudgett, local mechanic, had left the building, where he had been at work repairing a tractor snowplow.”

1 Sandwich1However, should this fire not have been enough to destroy any family heirlooms on the property, a second fire in Center Sandwich again devastated the Merryfield family.

On May 30, 1939, the 100-year-old Merryfield farm was “destroyed by fire of unknown origin” with a “loss estimated at close to $3,000.”

The farm, owned by Everett and Emma, now of Roxbury, had just recently been occupied by my grandfather, Harold Merryfield of Dover, and his family.

Apparently, the house was being used as a summer home, as it had not been occupied since the previous summer.

The Portsmouth Herald reported:

While eating the noon meal Mr. Merryfield detected smoke and going to the barn found a pile of hay ablaze. Although he hurried to the nearest telephone to summon the Center Sandwich volunteer fire department, the fire had spread to every part of the farmhouse and outbuildings by the time help arrived and the structure was a total loss.

“Mrs. Merryfield and the couple’s four children managed to save a few pieces of furniture before being obliged to leave the building.”

Fortunately, no one was injured or died in these fires. These are not uncommon events. Fire fighting as it was in those days was by bucket brigade and personal possessions stood little chance of survival.

1 Sandwich 1892Center Sandwich, New Hampshire c1892

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#52Ancestors: Evening in Paris

The seventh of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompts is Valentine.

My mother’s mother, Cassie Lavina (Tuttle) Holmes (1896-1988), was the only grandmother I knew. ‘Gram’, as I called her, was my true Valentine. The first of the many things I associate with her is Evening in Paris cologne, or Soir de Paris as it is called in France:

Evening in Paris came from the daring decade of the 1920s — think glittering nightlife, flapper fashion, the heady perfume of luxury. By the 1950s, Evening in Paris was touted as ‘the fragrance more women wear than any other in the world,’ yet by 1969 it had disappeared.

SCAN0134I say without any proof whatsoever that I seriously doubt my grandmother engaged in much of a nightlife in rural New Hampshire in the 1920s or cavorted about as a flapper. In 1917 she married my grandfather, Elmer Hilton Holmes (1895-1967), and late that year had her first child.

Evening in Paris is described as “a rich floral eau de parfum blended with a slightly woody base.” This may explain why I am drawn first to any chypre scent.*

Most likely Gram’s distinctive little cobalt blue glass bottle of Evening in Paris with its silvery label was a gift.

It’s chypre scent was a gift to me as well. I do not think I ever wore more than the occasional dab she placed behind my ear when I was young. That fragrance lingers and evokes memories with me even until today.

Gram was what you would call an unsophisticated clean-cut country girl. I do not believe she ever went to a hairdresser. She always cut and trimmed her own hair in the same neck-length style — brown-haired when I was young, snow white by her 80s — wound up in pin curls, combed out with a casually-crafted ringlet in front of each ear, each expertly turned inward towards her face.

1c.3When she was headed for an outing like church, the Ladies Aid, the Woman’s Club or a card party or, later in life, her beloved Bingo, she “set” her hair in the early or late morning or early afternoon. It was a tip-off that an outing was at hand.

She always wore a dress and hose with garters above the knee for more formal occasions or white cotton ankle socks with the cuff always turned down and white canvas sneakers in her later years.

Gram wore screw-back earrings. Having her ears pierced would never have occurred to her. She had several costume jewelry dress pins, necklaces, and the often-present string of “pearls”. I never did find out where her pale sapphire-blue ring ended up. It was only worn for those dress-up occasions.

And, of course, she always wore her gold wedding band.

Right before leaving the house, she rubbed a touch of rosy-hued rouge onto each cheek and carefully applied bright red lipstick. I don’t think she ever wore anything but the brightest cherry red.

Gram was no follower of Vogue or any other fashion magazine. Changes in color from one season to the next gained no interest. The only other facial adornment might be a pat or two of skin-toned face powder from her compact.

I can imagine that her cosmetics all came from one of several local Five and Dime stores like Woolworths, W.T. Grant or J.J. Newberrys. However, she was a great fan of the visiting Avon lady. I think it was more an opportunity to entertain and swap gossip than an interest in the most recent product catalog.

Next in the getting-ready scheme came the dabbing on of the Evening in Paris. This was followed by the ritual checking in her purse to make sure she was equipped with a roll or two of butter rum-flavored Life Savers — always smelling a bit like Evening in Paris! — a few dollar bills in her wallet, and a crochet or lace-edged handkerchief or two. It was a long long while before a Kleenex found its way into her bag.

Gram did not smoke, so no need for cigarettes, matches or a lighter. She did not drive and the only keys she carried were house keys.

Last but not least, if she was headed for Bingo, she tucked her necessary repurposed margarine container of clear red Bingo chips into the purse.

The frequent occasions of Gram readying for any social event are fixed in my mind. Her routine was simple, predictable, and nearly always the same, forever in my memory by the scent of Evening in Paris.

. . . .

* My favorites are Euphoria by Calvin Klein and Chypre d’Orient by Molinard. Classic chypres, for example, are the original Chanel No. 5 and Miss Dior. My guilty pleasure, sparingly used, is Jean Marc’s Sinan Lune.

. Tip: Use a test strip before purchasing a chypre as it is a very strong scent, an acquired taste, and a strongly offensive smell to some people.)

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#52Ancestors: Drisco

The sixth of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompts is Favorite Name.

The ancestors were so clever, using and reusing certain surnames recycled as given names to leave an unmistakable path of breadcrumbs for we descendants to follow. The Drisco trail should be an easy one. It is not.

The origins of John Drisco are unknown other than he most likely came from England. He appeared in Wells, York, Maine around 1677, when he had a grant of fifty acres. John had been at Blackpoint (Scarborough, Cumberland, Maine) before being killed by Indians July 16, 1697, near Wells.

There is a great conflict over the various Drisco families. There is a Timothy alias Teague Drisco of Exeter, Rockingham, New Hampshire. Cornelius Drisco was later of Newmarket (part of Exeter). His wife and two daughters were baptized in Durham, Strafford, New Hampshire.

Joseph Drisco married Mary Getchell of Salisbury, Essex, Massachusetts. According to a Getchell family history, John Drisco was born December 28, 1686, in Wells, Maine. While the date of Joseph and Mary’s marriage is unknown, their children were born in Salisbury.

This is a particularly neat trick as the only qualifying John Drisco was the son of the first of Wells, who allegedly went away, never to be heard from again.

This John Drisco had two sisters, Mercy and Sarah. Mercy married in 1704 in Dover, Strafford, New Hampshire, Timothy Conner.

Sarah married December 13, 1706, Sylvanus Nock. Their son Drisco Nock married Margaret Lord September 14, 1774, in Berwick, York, Maine.

1revDrisco Nock served as a private in the New Hampshire Militia. In 1775 Drisco Nocks served as a “minute man”. On November 5, 1775, Drisco served as a private in Capt. Stephen Hodgdon’s Company at Kittery Point.

Several other members of the Nocks family of Berwick fought in the Revolutionary War as well. David fought at Falmouth, Cumberland, Maine, in 1790; James Nocks Jr. was a minute man in 1775 and enlisted for three years 1777-1780, and was a prisoner in 1777; John Nocks served three years, 1777-1780; Nathan Nocks, also a minute man in 1775; Zachariah Nocks was in the army in 1778, and served nine months in 1778; and Zachariah Nocks the 3rd served in the army in 1778.

However, the most interesting reports on these dedicated military men comes from the December 1835 obituaries for “Drisco Knox” who died September 5th in Rye, Rockingham, New Hampshire. He is buried in the Rye Central Cemetery.

The Saturday Morning Transcript (Boston) of December 19, 1835, merely described Drisco as “a soldier of the revolution, 87.”

The Boston Traveler of December 18, 1835, provides us with not only a report of Drisco’s passing at age 87, but also a few more deadpan and amusing details:

In Rye, N.H. 5th inst. Mr Drisco Knox, a soldier of the Revolution, 87. He was sitting in his chair as usual, suffering under no other complaint, than the infirmities common to old age, when his death was announced to those in the room by his falling upon the floor.

Drisco Knox’s daughter Elizabeth married Daniel Allen on April 28, 1799, in Belmont, Belknap, New Hampshire. One of their sons was named Drisco.

. . .


. William Richard Cutter, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of Massachusetts, Vol. 4 (1910): 2137.
. Edward E. Bourne, The History of Wells and Kennebunk [Maine] (1875): 181-182.
. Thomas (Nock) Knox of Dover, N.H., 1652: and some of his descendants.

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#52Ancestors: Occupation Pathways

The fifth of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompts is In the Census.

Occupations are front and center. We have a steamboat captain, a porter on a steam railway, a boot-black in a barber shop, a nurse, a hairdresser in a beauty parlor, and Southern plantation owners that represent two families joined by marriage in 1915. The first family begins with a Georgia plantation slave family of unknown origins. The other originates with an Irishman from Tipperary who settled around 1700 in Virginia.

Censuses have provided us with a lot of information on these two families. Well-known for their strengths and weaknesses — the stumbling blocks of misspellings and questionable informants, and poor transcriptions — when joined by such resources as city directories and other public documents, censuses are proven powerhouses.

The Bagnell Family

. Robert Herbert Bagnell was born June 22, 1842, somewhere in Georgia, most likely near Savannah. We do not know who his parents were other than his father’s given name was William.

On June 27, 1867, Robert Bagnell’s name appears in the Savannah, Georgia Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books. (Note that “In order to vote, men had to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States.”)

Robert Bagnell married Hagar, the daughter of Charles and Marie Simmons, sometime in 1870. We know this on two counts. First of all, Robert opened a Freedmen’s Bank account on June 30, 1870, in his wife’s name. Hagar was 19 on the date of the application and was born in St. Mary’s, Georgia.

The Freedmen’s Bank, officially the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company (1865-1874), was created by the United States to “aid the freedmen in their transition from slavery to freedom.”

Secondly, when the 1870 census was taken June 22nd, Hagar Simmons, 19, “B” (Black) was working as a nurse and sharing a residence with two other single people in St. Mary’s, Georgia.

Also in 1870, Robert was listed in the Property Tax Records in Savannah. The same year, Robert Bagnell, 26, a “colored” porter, registered to vote.

We do not know how many children Robert and Hagar had but there are four known to us: Stella, born about 1885; Walter Scott, born about 1886; Clifford, born about 1887; and Willie, born about 1893.

The 1900 census shows Hagar Bagnell, 50, residing at Satilla Mills, Camden County, Georgia, with her father, Charles Simmons, 75. Hagar’s son William, aged 10, was with her.

This clearly indicates that the census informant was someone outside of the family.

According to Georgia Cemetery and Burial Records, Hagar’s father, Charles Simmons, died September 1, 1889, in Savannah. He is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery South.

This was the only census record in 1900 that shows the immediate members of the Bagnell family.

Ten years later, the 1910 Federal Census shows Robert Bagnell, 50, a porter in a store, and Hagar, 60, working as a laundress. Clifford, 23, is a teacher in a public school; Walter, 21, is working as a barber in a barber shop; and Willie, 17, is a collector (perhaps a teller) in a bank. All of the children are identified as “Mu” for Mulatto.

In 1920 we find Robert, reportedly 79, and Hagar, 70.

Robert Herbert Bagnell died June 20, 1923, at age 81, in Camden County, Georgia.

Cemetery and Burial Records for Savannah include a final statement made out to Hagar for the family cemetery plot in the Laurel Grove Cemetery South.

1bHagar was obviously the one in the family who handled the money, first indicated by Robert opening up a bank account for her in June 1870. In anticipation of her and Robert approaching their later years, Hagar had signed an indenture June 30, 1928, for the cemetery lot. The final payment was made June 30, 1923, ten days after Robert’s passing.

Laurel Grove was created due to overcrowding in other cemeteries in Savannah. As a result the city negotiated with the heirs of the Stiles family in 1850 for a section of the Springfield Plantation. In the mid 1750s, Joseph Stiles, an Oglethorpe colonist, originally owned the rice plantation.

The 1930 census shows Hagar Bagnell, 75, widowed, and her daughter Stella, 35. In 1940 Hagar is stated as age 80. Stella Bagnell, now aged 55, and head of the household, was a fitter in a dress shop. These ages from two censuses a decade apart are obviously unreliable.

Hagar Bagnell died sometime between 1940 and 1950 and is buried with her husband and father in the Laurel Grove Cemetery South.

. Walter Scott Bagnell, born about 1886 in Savannah, worked as a barber in 1907. By 1915 Walter had relocated to New York City where he found work as a porter. On February 16, 1915, Walter and Mabel Elizabeth O’Bannon married in Chicago, Illinois.

The 1925 New York census shows Walter, 39, working as a railroad porter, and in 1930, while living in the Bronx, Walter was a porter on a steam railway. Mabel, born in Louisiana, was a hairdresser in a beauty parlor.

Nothing sums up the significant career of Walter Scott Bagnell more than two newspaper articles written about him at the time of his passing by James H. Hogans of The New York Age:

October 21, 1933: “Walter Bagnall Dies” — After an illness which kept him a patient all summer but which friends and fellow-workers thought he had overcome, Walter S. Bagnall, one of the most affable and esteemed porters of the New Haven Railroad group, died at his home, 80 St. Nicholas place, on October 11. Death was due to tuberculosis. He was 47 years old. Surviving are his widow, a 17-year old daughter, his mother, and two sisters and brothers.

November 11, 1933: Born in Savannah, Ga., of poor but sturdy parents, Walter Scott Bagnall attended elementary and grammar school in that city, but began at an early age to earn his own living. Beginning as boot-black in a barber shop, considered at the time to be the best in Savannah he soon won the confidence of his employer, who set out to teach him the trade. Being an apt pupil, it was not long before he found himself stationed in a regular chair. Shortly after that he was made foreman of the establishment. … an agent of the Pullman Company came to Savannah to hire porters for the summer season. Bagnall heard of it, applied for an employment blank and was given one to fill in. When references were requested, he replied that he had none other than the persons who knew him and knew where he had worked. It happened that one of his former customers was Superintendent of the Pullman district in Savannah … he was hired and given transportation to New York immediately, and to this day the Pullman Company has no written references on its files of Walter Bagnall.

The O’Bannon Family

. The O’Bannon family of Farquier County, Virginia, traces its roots to Bryant O’Bannon (Brien Obanion), born about 1683 in Tipperary, Ireland. His name is often found with family history files as Brien Boru, but that name connects with legend.

About 1705, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Bryant O’Bannon married Zena Sarah Isham, said to have been born about 1680 in Tipperary. It is unknown how either of them came to America.

The 1753 early Virginia census shows Bryant Obanion resident in Prince William County. His will, proved February 25, 1762, shows him to have been a large landowner. He had several plantations upon which his sons lived. His oldest son, John, received approximately 212 acres, as did his son William. Son Samuel received approximately 300 acres in King George County.

Bryant O’Bannon’s estate also included a number of slaves. His bequests included one to his wife and one each to two of his grandsons, both named Bryan O’Bannon. His wife’s slave, Indy, if living at his death, was to be kept from outdoor labor. The remaining slaves, an unknown number, were to appraised and sold, with the proceeds distributed among his sons and grandsons.

. John O’Bannon, born about 1710 in Westmoreland County, died after November 18, 1763, in what is now Marshall, Farquier County, Virginia. He is buried there in the O’Bannon Cemetery.

About 1728, John married Sarah Barbee, the daughter of Thomas Barbee Sr. and Margaret Williams of Stafford County. Sarah died about 1806 and is mentioned in her father’s will of November 8, 1748, proved March 10, 1752, in Stafford County.

An account about John’s son George O’Bannon (1757-1776) provides some family background:

[George] had spent almost all of his nineteen years at his father’s home on the north slope of the Pignut Mountain … Two years before his father had died, leaving him a modest inheritance from the estate granted his grandfather, old Briant O’Bannon who had come to Virginia forty years before.

George remembered his grandfather mostly for his stories of Ireland, especially those about Brian Boru, the great King of Munster from whom the O’Bannons were supposed to be descended.

The foregoing source also informs that John O’Bannon’s will names wife Sarah; son William to whom he bequeaths the plantation land on the east side of Pignutt Ridge left by his grandfather Bryant Obanon; clothes to his son James; to son Samuel a tract of land and one negro girl named Hannah; son Andrew legacies from his grandfather etc.

. Samuel O’Bannon, next in line, was born after 1732 in Prince William (now Farquier) County, Virginia, and died about 1822 in Berkeley County, West Virginia (then in Virginia).

Little is found of him other than he married Sarah/Sally ___ about 1771 in Virginia. Samuel served as a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War.

. Willis Obannon/O’Bannon, John’s son, was born about 1781 in Farquier, Virginia, and died in October 1869.

Willis married January 4, 1827, in Farquier County, Mary E. Mott. Nothing more is found of her.

Federal records show Willis appointed May 21, 1856, as U.S. Postmaster in Dover, Russel County, Alabama, at Smith’s Station. The 1860 census shows Willis, 78, as postmaster. Mary O’Bannon was 58.

The 1866 Alabama State Census shows Willis residing in Mobile, Alabama. The 1870 U.S. Federal Mortality Schedule shows the death of Willis O’Bannon, age 85, in Muscogee County, Georgia. He is buried in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus, Muscogee County.

. Willis Sr.’s son Willis was born about 1812. While we know he had children, the matter of his wife, and their mother, is a bit of a puzzle.

The 1860 census for Mobile, Alabama, shows Willis O’Bannon, an engineer, as the only member of his household.

By 1870 we know that Willis had two children born in Mobile, Alabama: daughter Hettie O’Bannon, born about 1869, and son Willis (aka William Augustus) O’Bannon born January 2, 1870.

The 1880 census for Mobile shows Willis O’Bannon, 67, “W” (White). Children Hetty, 10, and William, 9, are both identified as “Mu” (Mulatto).

We know from other reports that the mother of these children is Hetty White. Identified as “B” (Black) on the 1880 census, her name is listed next under those of Willis and the children. It appears she may have lived in a separate part of the same dwelling. Hetty White is identified as a servant, housekeeper.

Willis O’Bannon died May 2, 1884, in Mobile, and was buried in the Magnolia Cemetery there, as is his daughter Hettie (O’Bannon) Nicholas.

FP Steamer Mary Swan Willis Obannon masterWillis O’Bannon was not just a steamboat captain but was a very well known one. His obituary appeared in Mobile’s The Daily Register:

May 5, 1884: Captain O’Bannon, the oldest and most popular river man died suddenly at Selma, while in command of the steamer Mary. The body was sent to Charlestown, Jefferson County, Virginia, where he was born and where his mother is buried. He died in his 72nd year. He came to Mobile in 1840 and ran on the Alabama River until 1858, at which time he became owner and commander of the steamer Virginia. He afterward owned and commanded the steamer Virginia, Jefferson Davis, and Mary Swan. At the time of his death, he was part owner of the Mary.

The 1880 census leaves it unclear as to the role Hetty White played in her children’s lives. We find her as a servant, housekeeper, in the O’Bannon household. However, that is not the end of the story, as we learn from an account published in The Southern Reporter, Vol. 8: (emphasis added)

“The record in this case succinctly stated on a preponderence of the evidence discloses the fact that prior to May 4, 1884, Hettie White, appellant, who was the paramour of Willis O’Bannon, kept in her own name a running account with Tonsmiere & Craft, the predecessors of Craft & Co., for groceries and family supplies, the items of which were entered as purchased in a pass-book kept in her possession. That about the 4th of May, 1884, Willis O’Bannon died, and that James K. Glennon became administrator of his estate. … [plead that] the items had been purchased for O’Bannon’s children …”–White v. Craft et al., Supreme Court of Alabama

There is no longer any mystery as to Hetty White’s status: she was Willia O’Bannon’s “paramour.”

. William O’Bannon, a young teen when his father died, married five years later, August 8, 1889, in Mobile, to Rosa Watkins. They had one child, Mabel Elizabeth O’Bannon before they divorced October 16, 1895.

William followed in his father’s footsteps. The 1889 and 1890 Mobile city directories give William’s occupation as “striker, steamboat carrier.” A striker is an apprentice. The 1900 census shows William O’Bannon promoted to the position of steamboat engineer.

William married again, October 27, 1895, in Mobile, to Flora Perez, with whom he had two children: Willis, 4, born in January 1896, and Earle, an infant, born in August 1899.

Also living with William and Flora (found in the 1900 census as “Florida”) was Hettie White, 75, born in January 1825. She is identified as “mother”.

Here we pause for a bit of census madness: The transcription shows William’s occupation as “Horologist Ingeniero”, which is Spanish for a clock maker or clock engineer. This is (1) a far cry from steamboat engineer, and (2) curious as to why the person making the census transcription would be making the identification in Spanish, not English.

William O’Bannon is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, listed as Willie O’Bannon.

The Bagnell-O’Bannon Family

Walter Scott Bagnell and Mabel Elizabeth O’Bannon were married February 18, 1915, in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. By 1935, Walter and Mabel were no longer living together; Mabel married again in September 1939, in Leesburg, Loudon County, Virginia, to Louis Scott Henry.

. . .


. The Freedmen’s Bureau “supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen, including issuing rations, clothing and medicine.” The Freedmen’s Bureau Online.

. Numerous photographs of Laurel Grove South Cemetery in “Gettysburg at Savannah,” Gettysburg Daily, May 10, 2011.

. Interment.net: Alphabetical listing of graves in the Laurel Grove South Cemetery. Check the “B” listings for Bagnell. Hagar Bagnell, for instance, is listed as Hagar Bagwell and her husband Robert’s name is not listed at all.

. re George O’Bannon: Thomas Triplett Russell and John Kenneth Gott, Fauquier County in the Revolution (Heritage Books, 2008): 113, 114.

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#52Ancestors: Scottish POW Table for Four

The fourth of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompts is Invite to Dinner.

It seemed a great scheme to see how many diverse and interesting ancestors I could crowd into an oversized banquet hall or line up around a King Arthur vintage round table with holders of Trivial Pursuit cards strategically placed at appropriate intervals to keep the conversations lively.

However, I decided that a successful scheme would require far fewer guests and a much narrower focus.

In the end, I decided on a cozy table for four; the guest list included only three of my young Scotsmen ancestors who had fought and were taken prisoner in 1650 by Cromwell’s army at the Battle of Dunbar.

These courageous men — Alexander Cooper, William Gowen, and Peter Grant — were among the few prisoners of war who survived the forced death march to Durham, packed aboard the ‘Unity” and transported to Boston as indentured chattel to work either in the Hammersmith Iron Works in Saugus, Massachusetts (opened in 1646) or Berwick, Maine, where they cut timber for building or to be turned into charcoal to feed the work’s hungry blast furnaces and forges, or worked at the Great Works saw and grist mills.


The general questions about life in Scotland would be the low-hanging fruit of questions — plentiful and most informative, providing clues to the past.

Where was your home in Scotland? Who and how many were in your family? What was your occupation? What was your home-life like? Did you grow your own food? How did you make your clothing? Did other members of your family fight in the battle? Who? Why? What was their fate? Are there any healers or midwives in your family? Musicians? What do you know about the witchcraft scare? Did you return to Scotland? Did you bring any family members to New England?

What can you tell us about mid-17th-century Scotland?

(The basics come from the Scottish Archive for Schools)

17th century Scotland looked very different to today: it was predominantly rural, the landscape being made up of clusters of small farms, surrounded by narrow strips of cultivated ground (rigs) in an otherwise barren landscape. There were few trees or hedges, but plenty of bogs, mountains and moorland. There were very few roads, with access generally being by muddy tracks that were frequently impassable due to the weather. Most of the farms were quite small – usually less than 300 acres in total. Individual families lived on as little as 20 acres and survived by subsistence farming.

Agriculture was a community affair where groups of tenants worked together to look after their livestock and shared equipment to grow their crops, mainly barley and oats. Settlements grew up around churches, castles and mills, where local crafts and trades flourished.

None of this is unexpected. Medieval Scotland outside of then newly-forming urban centers was much the same.

But then I began to think: what do I really want to know?

Here at my imaginary dining table was the opportunity of a lifetime to explore the wonders of the time machine: how much about life in Scotland before Cromwell’s civil war do these men know?

For example, do they know why they fought this final Battle of Dunbar at Doon Hill? Would they be amazed to see — through the magic of the internet, of course — that they had fought on a hill with an amazing panoramic (and stragetic) view of the landscape?

Had they walked along the Doon Hill pathways prior to the war? What did they know about Doon Hill lore as the home of the faeries?

What did they know about prehistoric Scotland, about the ancient Mesolithic, Bronze, and Iron age sites near Doon Hill amidst which they had fought the bloody battle? Had they and their ancestors had as much curiosity about these sites as generations since have had?

Too many questions, way too little time.

Posted in #52Ancestors, Cooper, Gowen, Grant, Immigrant Ancestor, Kittery, Maine, prisoner of war, Scotland, Scottish prisoner of war, Unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Morrill of this story is?

Isaac Morrill Sr. and his son, Isaac Morrill, Jr., were both living in 1690 and both resided in Salisbury, Massachusetts. These are indisputable facts.

The question is this: were either of them the Isaac Morrill — or related to the Isaac Morrill — accused of a treasonous plot to foment a slave and Indian servant uprising that would destroy such small towns as Haverhill and Amesbury?

The short answer is that we simply do not know precisely who this Isaac Morrill was and it is the fault of those who briefly — without any clues as to their source material — wrote about it.

To add injury to insult, the version written by Joshua Coffin in his historical sketch on Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, has been repeated without question.

Coffin wrote in 1845:

“Isaac Morrill, a native of New Jersey, came to Newbury, to entice Indians and negroes to leave their masters to go with him, saying that the English should be cut off, and the negroes should be free. He was arrested May twenty-ninth, 1690, and sent to Ipswich for trial. … Their intention was to take a vessel out of dock at Newbury, and go for Canada and join the French against the English and come down upon the backside of the country and save none but the negroes and Indians. They intended to come with four or five hundred Indians, three hundred Canadians, between Haverhill and Amesbury, over Merrimac river, near ‘Indian river by Archelaus’ hill on the backside of John Emery’s meadow and destroy, and then they might easily destroy such small towns as Haverhill and Amesbury.

FH Map Essex Co 1643

A more plausible version was reported in 2004 by David Thomas Konig in his book on law and society in Puritan Massachusetts:

Anxieties in Essex became more intense when an escaped slave was apprehended and revealed the plans for an insurrection. He said he was fleeing to join Isaac Morrill, a local Jerseyman who had persuaded him to organize the blacks and Indians of the area as part of a combined uprising and invasion against the English settlements. Morrill had made elaborate preparations, he continued, and had spied on military garrisons from Massachusetts Bay to New York. Moreover, other advance scouting had been made by two Frenchmen visiting Newbury under the pretense of buying corn. The local blacks and Indians were to be directed by Morrill, ‘a Frenchman’ named George Major (or Moger or Mayo), and two others. Joined by five hundred Indians and three hundred French troops crossing the Merrimack, they would destroy Haverhill, Amesbury, and Newbury. The story was corroborated by another slave, Robert Negro. According to his story, Major was planning to lead the assault “upon the backside of the country and destroy all the English and save none but the Negro and Indian Servants and that the French would come with vessels and lay at the harbour that none should escape.”

The detail that Isaac Morrill was a “Jerseyman” precludes the Isaac Morrills of Salisbury from consideration. Both were native born. It is more possible to believe Isaac Morrill was from New Jersey than that he was a “local Jerseyman.”

According to Duane Hamilton Hurd, in his history of Essex County, Massachusetts, Isaac Morrill was arrested May 29, 1690, in Newbury and sent for trial in Ipswich.

The court record regarding this matter has not been located. However, we do know that, on June 2, 1690, Nathaniel Clarke of Newbury was tasked with taking depositions from two of the alleged witnesses:

Clarke “took the depositions of Joseph, an Indian, and of Robin, a negro, concerning the supposed treasonable communication of Isaac Morrill with the French.”

The search for the identity of Isaac Morrill, alleged traitor, continues.

Major Issues

Konig identified George Major as a “Frenchman”. This is equally as unprovable as Coffin’s claim that Major came from the “parish of St. Lora, in the island of Jersey.” St. Lora is not one of the twelve known parishes.

George Major (also found as Mager) did not arrive in New England until 1672 and settled in Newbury, where he was married by August 21st. Very little is found of him. His three children were born between 1673 and 1676. He took the oath of allegiance at Newbury in 1676, when he gave his age as 31. He is believed to have died soon after 1690; no death record for him or his wife Susanna has been found. His two daughters married but there is no further record of his son, George.

. . .

. Joshua Coffin, A sketch of the history of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, from 1635 to 1845 (Boston: S.G. Drake, 1845): 153-154 and 309.
. David Thomas Konig, Law and Society in Puritan Massachusetts: Essex County, 1629-1692 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004). No page numbers available in this Google eBook preview.
. Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Essex County, Massachusetts: With biographical sketches of many of its pioneer and prominent men (1888), Vol. 2:1946.
. Genealogy of the descendants of Nathaniel Clarke: 11. Available online.

Posted in Great Migration, Massachusetts, Merrill, Morrill | Tagged , , , , , ,

#52Ancestors: The Long-Living Rev. Stephen Bachiler

The third of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompts is Longevity.

The Rev. Stephen Bachilder is my 11th great grandfather. Although some sources make the claim that he died in his 100th year, it is a claim lacking proof.

Rev. Bachiler, born about 1561, lived a long and most interesting life. He married at least three times in Hampshire and most, if not all, of his children were born there. He came to New England in 1632 and returned to England around 1654, where in died around October 31, 1656, and is buried in All Hallows Staining Tower in London.

In 1581, he matriculated from St John, Oxford, received his B.A. in 1586, and was Vicar of Wherwell, Hampshire, the following year. For reasons unknown, in 1605, he was rejected as Vicar and “deprived of his living.” In 1622 he was at the church located just east of Wherwell, at Newton Stacey, where, between 1622 and 1629, he acquired “considerable property.”

1churchBarton Stacey, All Saints Church:

One of the most fascinating pieces of history linked to Barton Stacey church revolves around Rev. Stephen Bachiler, who served as vicar of Wherwell church from 1587 until 1605, when he was ejected from the living for his non-conformist views. From 1614-1631 he lived in Newton Stacey, where he continued to preach unofficially, and gathered adherents amongst the local population. Bachiler was stridently vocal against the role of bishops in the Church, famously declaring ‘The sun rises equally over all’.

In 1632 trouble broke out between Bachiler and Sir Robert Paine, lord of the manor at Barton Stacey. Paine was the Sheriff of Hampshire and Churchwarden of Barton Stacey. The church was in poor repair, and Paine proposed to repair the chancel and add a much-needed buttress to the south wall, all at his own expense. Bachiler objected to the work, and led an angry mob of villagers who stopped construction. He then led the mob on to Newton Stacey and destroyed the chapel. It was never rebuilt.

In 1630, Rev. Bachiler had been chosen as its pastor by the Plough Company of Husbandmen which formed to establish a settlement near the mouth of the Sagadahoc river in Maine. Rev. Bachiler sold his Hampshire property and “adventured a considerable sum in the enterprise.”

However, something went wrong with the deal and the Plough Company failed and Rev. Bachiler’s appearance in 1632 in New England almost immediately ran into “conflict” with the Puritan authorities. He had brought his congregation of friends and family with him and they encountered trouble in Saugus (Lynn), Ipswich, and Yarmouth (on Cape Cod), before founding in 1638 the settlement at what became the town of Hampton. Even here Rev. Bachiler’s troubles did not end. His third wife, Helen, died and his house and library were set fire. He gave up the ministry, removed to Portsmouth, “where he became a private resident.”


Rev. Stephen Bachiler married first around 1590 to Ann Bate, believed to be a relative of the Rev. John Bate. Ann was the mother of all of his children. Ann died before March 1623, when Rev. Bachiler married second, at Abbots Ann, Hampshire, Christian Weare.

His third marriage, in March 1627, was also at Abbots Ann, to Helena Mason, who accompanied him to New England and died there before 1642. Both Christian Weare and Helena Mason were about twenty years his junior yet comfortably beyond their child-bearing years.

More Troubles

Rev. Bachiler, then in his late 80s, “married” fourth, about 1648, the widow, Mary Magdalene (Bailey) Beedle, whom he had taken into his household as a housekeeper. Mary was notoriously the wearer of the Scarlet Letter.

If the timing is correct, the Rev. Bachiler and Mary were “married” at the time she was convicted in October 1651, in Kittery, Maine, of adultery with a neighbor. Mary and George Rogers had been living together in a single room. Rev. Bachiler and Mary were separated, with her residing on a lot granted her by the town.

The term “married” is used here loosely. The aging reverend not only took it upon himself to allegedly “marry” himself to Mary but promptly forgot to publish his marriage as was custom. When Rev. Bachiler attempted to obtain a divorce from Mary, he was ordered to live with her. After he returned to England, Mary did obtain a divorce, in October 1656, by alleging not only had she been abandoned by her husband but also that he had taken another wife back in England. The latter was untrue but most likely helped to secure her decree.

. . .


. The Bachelder Family: Rev. Stephen Bachiler in New England Family History, Vol. 3:366ff.
. Henry F. Waters, Genealogical Gleanings in England, Vol. I:786.
. Rev. Stephen Bachiler in the NEHGR 46 (Jan 1892).
. Bachiler Memorial in Founders Park, Hampton, New Hampshire.

Posted in #52Ancestors, Bachiler, Bailey, Batchelder, Beedle, Great Migration, Mary Bailey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire | Tagged , ,