Friday, December 14, 2018

Mary 'Molly' Brant; Hero and Villain of the American Revolution

Molly Brant and her brother Joseph were important characters in the Mohawk Valley of New York before and during the American Revolution. Today most Americans don't recognize their names, but in Canada they are remembered as heroes. Here is a little bit about her fascinating life.

Mary's parent were christian Mohawks living in the Upper Castle, Canajoharie, on the south bank of the Mohawk River. The Native American towns were heavily fortified and the English referred to them as 'Castles.' Her birth year is estimated at 1736, her mother's name was Margaret Sahetagearat Onagsakearat. Her father's name cannot be confirmed but it is possible that she shared a father with her younger brother, Joseph. His father is known to have been Peter Tehowaghwengaraghkwin. The place of her birth is also unknown but has been speculated to have been in Canajoharie. At birth, Mary's Native name was Gonwatsijayenni, which means 'someone lends her a flower.' Later in life she went by Dagonwadonti, 'she against whom rival forces contend'. [1]As the Mohawk are a matrilineal society, children belong to their mother's clan, in this case Mary and Joseph were part of the Wolf Clan.

Peter died in the 1740's leaving Margaret destitute. She had a brief marriage at the end of the 1740's to a War Chief by the name of Lykus, but he was killed in May of 1750 in a raid. In September 1753 Margaret married the man who would lend Mary and Joseph their surname; Brant Kanagaradunka. Brant was a Mohawk sachem from the Turtle Clan, and he was wealthy. [2] Some sources claim that Margaret married Nickus Brant, the son of Brant Kanagaradunka. [3] Barbara Graymont says the stepfather was named Carrihogo, News-Carrier, known to the whites as Bernard, Barnet or Brant. [4] Most source seem to agree that Brant Kanagaradunka was Mary's stepfather. [5]

According to author Peggy Dymond Leavey, Brant built a large house for Margaret in Canajoharie, complete with glass windows and middle-class European furniture. [6] From this point on, Molly and Joseph had a foot in two worlds, their native culture and that of the New York Colony. Her step father and stepbrother Nickus, who one author described as a 'Chief.' had frequent interaction with William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, a frequent visitor to Canajoharie. His Native name was Warraghiyageh, "he who does much business'. [7]

middle years

In 1759, 23 year old Molly began a relationship with the much older Sir William Johnson. He his wife, Catherine, had died. It is rumored he married her on her deathbed to legitimize his children by her. There is no proof of an English marriage between William and Molly, but it is possible they had a traditional Mohawk ceremony. In any case she moved into his home, Fort Johnson, and took the running of his household. She was sometime's referred to as the 'Brown Mrs. Johnson'.

Molly gave birth to at least eight children. Sir William eventually built a larger house to show off his status and accommodate his large, and growing family. [8] Together they entertained the leaders of both the Iroquois Confederacy the English Colonies, political, military as well as businessmen. Her home was open to any and all and she and Sir William entertained constantly. In 1763 they moved into the larger, grander Johnson Hall. John Johnson, Sir Williams legitimate son and heir took over Fort Johnson. 

Sir William passed away in 1774. In a way, his death symbolized the death knell of English rule in America.  Already the seeds of revolution were germinating in the thirteen colonies. Molly relinquished control of Johnson's estate to his eldest son and heir, Sir John Johnson and moved with her children to Canajoharie.

american revolution
The American Revolution brought an end to the thousand year old Iroquois Confederacy, splintering the tribes. The Mohawks choose the side of the King. From her home in Canajoharie, Molly kept an eye on the rebel movements. In October 1777 she gave warning to the British of the approach of an American force resulting in the Battle of Oriskany. A band of Oneida's, burnt her house to the ground in retribution. She fled for the safety of the Cayugas, eventually making her way to Fort Niagara. [9]
Molly supported the efforts of her brother Joseph, who lead a group of white Tories and Mohawks. She eventually landed at Carleton Island for the duration of the war, trying to broker peace between unhappy Mohawks and the English.

After the war she was awarded a pension from the crown and settled in Kingston, Ontario, on the mainland. Today, Carleton Island is part of the United States. Five of her daughters married Canadians. She had one son who survived, George, who worked for the Indian Department.

Molly lived in Kingston for the rest of her life. She died in 1796. Sir William's heir attempted to reclaim their lost American property, to no avail.

Blood in the Valley
Blood in the Valley is my next book, in its final editing stages, it should be available Spring 2019. Molly and her brother feature in this novel set before and during the American Revolution. UPDATE: It has been released! Get it now on Amazon.


[1] Peggy Dymond Leavey, Molly Brant: Mohawk Loyalist and Diplomat, (Toronto: Dundurn, 2015).

[2] Isabel Thompson Kelsay, Joseph Brant, 1743-1807, Man of Two Worlds, Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.

[3] Marshall, George L, Jr., Chief Joseph Brant: Mohawk, Loyalist, and Freemason:

[4] Barbara Graymont, “THAYENDANEGEA,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Universit√© Laval, 2003–, accessed December 13 2018.

[5] James Taylor Carson, "Molly Brant, From Clan Mother to Loyalist Chief," Sifters: Native American Women's Lives, 

[6] Peggy Dymond Leavey, Molly Brant: Mohawk Loyalist and Diplomat, (Toronto: Dundurn, 2015).

[7] Leavey, Molly Brant.

[8] The Editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, "Mary Brant", Encyclopedia Britannica ( : accessed 13 December 2018).

[9] Carson, Molly Brant.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

1718 Scots-Irish Migration: From Londonderry, Ireland to Boston, Massachusetts

If you are interested in early colonial American history then you know of the phenomenon called the Puritan Great Migration which began in 1630 and lasted for 15-20 years. But less than one hundred years later there was a second smaller migration from the North of Ireland that has been labeled the 1718 Migration. The people who made up this migratory group were Scots-Irish or Ulster-Scots as they are called in Ireland today. This year (2018) marked the 300th anniversary of their voyage to America. This fascinating phase in the peopling of America is understudied and deserves more attention. There is a great facebook page dedicated to the 1718 Migration which I have found very helpful. There is also a familytreedna project trying to connect descendants of those immigrants to their ancestral origins in Ireland and Scotland. Long time blogger Heather Wilkinson Rojo has profiles on many of the early Londonderry (Nutfield) on her blog a must read.

I've only recently become interested in this integral piece of my family history, hopefully you'll catch the bug as well. 

Scottish Origins
The Scots-Irish/Ulster Scots, as their name implies, have their origins in Scotland. A large number of Scottish immigrants arrived in the Northern counties of Ireland during the plantation schemes, from 1607 until 1697. The plantations were limited to the counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Fermanagh and Derry. The purpose of the scheme, organized and fully supported by the Crown, was to fill the North of Ireland with loyal subjects. Most those who left the mainland were from Scotland but there were also English immigrants from the north of England. Scotland was only happy to rid itself of the marauding lowland border inhabitants, know as reivers.

Unsettled Times
By the late 1690s many of the Scots-Irish settlers were unhappy with life in Ireland. Most were excluded  from many aspects of government and civic duties. They were being hampered in their religious life as well. Many had leases that were about to expire and faced significantly higher rents, a process known as rack-renting. The economy was weak and the British controlled export prices, the export of woolen and linen items was hampered by the Irish parliament.The Woolens Act prohibited the exportation of Irish wool and cloth to anywhere except England and Wales. To top it all off the weather lead to crop failures. A five year drought from 1714 to 1719 led to crop failures. This affected both the food supply but also the supply of flax for linen production.

 A letter, drafted in Ireland and signed by eight Presbyterian ministers and 319 men was sent to Governor Shute. The letter was a request to settle in the Colony. The letter was sent with Reverend Boyd, however the immigrants did not wait for a reply. The Reverend James McGregor organized about 120 families from Antrim and Londonderry and set sail from Derry and Belfast for America. They arrived in four or five ships between August and September of 1718.

Massachusetts was still a Puritan stronghold in 1718. But, they had a slight problem, the Native population continued to threatened their borders. The immigrants were not overwhelmingly welcomed and were dispatched immediately to distant settlements in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts, where they could act as a barrier between Indian territory and the settled areas of Massachusetts of which Maine was still a part. The ship the Robert sailed for Casco Bay in Maine, its passengers forced to winter aboard the ship.

My Ancestors
My 1718 Migration ancestors were the Thornton family who are said to be from the Strabane Valley of County Tyrone. We know that James Thornton said his father William was born in Tyrone County. William was born in 1713, son of James Thornton. There is a manuscript in the New York archives, which I have not read, which says the Thorntons were in Londonderry, Ireland during the seige, but little else. Many people believe that the Thorntons originated in Yorkshire, England, which would preclude them from being Scottish.

The Thornton Family arrived in Boston, probably on the ship the McCallum. They were part of the group who headed to Maine, first to Merrymeeting Bay and then closer to Bunswick. James had a homestead in Brunswick, Maine on the Rossmore Road. This home was consequentially burned by Natives in June of 1722. The family was forced to flee. I believe they found refuge in Marblehead.

There is a baptismal record for Hannah and Sarah Thornton in Marblehead in 1726. There is no further record of James and Catherine Thornton in Marblehead, so I believe that this is a record of their known daughter Hannah and unknown daughter Sarah.

James, along with other Marblehead Scots-Irish removed to Worcester, Massachusetts in the late 1720s. James bought and sold land, was listed in the meeting house seating records along with his two sons William, my ancestor, and Matthew, the signer of the Declaration of Independence. Worcester was not as welcoming to the Scots-Irish as they had hoped, and after some years, James and others purchased land for their own town of Lisburn/Pelham. James ended his years in the Scots-Irish stronghold of Derry.


Bolton, C. Knowles. (1910). Scotch Irish pioneers in Ulster and America. Boston: Bacon and Brown.

Parker, E. L. 1785-1850. (1851). The history of Londonderry, comprising the towns of Derry and Londonderry, N. H.. Boston: Perkins and Whipple.

Dickson, R. J. (1966). Ulster emigration to colonial America, 1718-1775. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Lunney, Linde. "The 1718 Migration." North Irish Roots 22, no. 1 (2011): 18-25.

Nutfield Genealogy

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Martha Ann Morris Knuff (1869-1935) From Canada to Los Angeles: Is she your ancestor?

This is the second batch of photos that were recently found in a resale shop. This beauty is Martha Ann Morris aged about 16 according to the writing on the back of the photo. She was born in Canada on in 1869. On 28 January 1891 she married Angus Knuff. Agnes and Martha can be found on the Canadian census for Battleford, Saskatchewan for many years. In 1930 Martha was living in Los Angeles with her daughter, Loretta Moore. Both she and Angus applied for Social Security in the United States. Martha died on 12 April 1935 and is buried in Los Angeles. Angus died in 1951 and is buried in Canada. These photos were part of collection that included the Jennison Family of Mason City, Iowa who also moved to L.A.

According to a second photo, Martha Ann was raised by her grandparents and later became a 'mothers helper for a family named Morrison. Pictured below. However there is an ancestry tree which lists her parents as Matthew Morris and Emma Hutchinson. Both of these names are on the back of this photo. I suspect that these folks are her parents.

Here is a photo of two of Martha's children Loretta Alberta and 'Fernie'. The dog is not named.

Are these your ancestors or people in your tree? Would you like these photos? Send me a message with your name and address. What I ask in return is a donation of $10.00 to cover the cost of mailing envelop and postage and a bit of my time can buy a copy of my book. Either way, please contact me and I will be happy to get them in the mail.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Horton Clark Jennison (1847-1939) son of George Henry Jennison of Swanton, Vermont: Is this your family?

Horton Clark Jennison
Taking a break from my second novel to post some pictures that were donated to a resale shop. This handsome man is Horton Clark Jennison. He was born on 24 March 1874 in Mason City, Iowa. Mason City is due north of Des Moines, and sorry Iowa but it appears to be in the middle of nowhere.  Sorry just sayin. Anyway Horton's parents were George Henry Jennison and Addie Mary Potter, originally from Swanton, Vermont. According to an ancestry tree George Henry was the son of Nahum Eager Jennison (no that's not a typo). Nahum Eager was a minute man in Massachusetts, probably a friend or hero to the parents. In fact I just found a reference for a Israel Jennison whose married daughter was Sarah Eager, so it seems they were related. 

If this ancestry is correct, which at first glance seems plausible. Nahum was born on 24 April 1793 in Worcester, MA, he died 8 August 1849 in Swanton, Vermont. Swanton is just shy of the Canadian border. Nahum married Betsy Hubbard in Swanton on 5 January 1824 and had at least nine children, George Henry coming at the end. George married Addie Mary Potter of St. Albans. At some time after their marriage the couple moved to Mason City, Iowa. 

Horton, who was a clerk in a store,  married Anna Hutchins on 8 June 1910 in Cerro County, Iowa. In 1916 Horton and his family were living in Los Angeles, California, working as a clerk. His sister Addie Lou Jennison Hathaway and her husband Earl had also removed to California. Below is one of two pictures of Horton and his fellow employees. 

Horton is second from left, top row

This is a picture of Addie Lou Jennison Hathaway, Lou was Horton's sister. On the back it say's it was taken about 1910.

So, do you know these folk? More importantly do you want these photos? If so, please contact me with your mailing address. What I ask in return is one of two things: $10.00 via the donate button above to cover the cost of photo mailing envelop, postage and my time or buy my book, the digital version is  under $10.00. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

History and Genealogy Tour of the Mohawk Valley: Summer 2018

The Stockade
The oldest part of Schenectady, New York is known as the Stockade. This designated area was once inside, you guessed it, a stockade. It is made up of half dozen streets that all seem to lead to the banks of the Mohawk river. They are peppered with 18th century houses, churches, graveyards and other buildings. The oldest surviving house was built in 1742. Many of the houses have historical significance for both the state of New York and the American Revolution. Despite this, it is not a touristy area. I think I was the only person trouping around with a camera. The houses are almost exclusively private homes. 

We stayed in a charming little hotel called The Stockade Inn. It's not a chain, has only a dozen or so rooms and was a few minutes from the river. It was full of historical photos of old Schenectady and was once a 'Men's Club'. It proved to be a great place to crash at night after a day of sightseeing. There are several really good restaurants within walking distance as well. 

We visited the Schenectady Historical Museum which was really nice. It had a lot of interesting information about the founding and evolution of the city. Well worth stopping by. 

Fort Ticonderoga 
The drive to Fort Ticonderoga was a mixed bag; half interstate, half winding road along the shore of  Lake George. An interstate is an interstate, but the drive long the lake was lovely; once we got away from the touristy bits. The Village of Lake George was slammed with people and is chock-a-block with restaurants, gift shops, putt-putt golf, cute motels and camps along the river. It looks like a great family friendly town, but it was very crowded. We were there on a Tuesday, can't imagine what the weekend is like. 

At the very end of Lake George is a recreation of Fort William Henry, made famous in the movie, The Last of the Mahicans. My husband described it as 'Disneyesque' and it was not worth our time.  It was great for small to medium sized children, but not so much for the serious history buff. 

Fort Ticonderoga sits all by itself on Lake Champlain. Vermont, the state, is just across the lake. The views from the ramparts are amazing. The fort was mostly reconstructed in the early 1900s but if you did not know it you might not guess. The museum rooms are full of artifacts and history. When we went there were a few reenactors but not too many. 

The day was cloudy with a slight drizzle, the low hanging clouds added to the mystery of the place. A plaque at the Sally Port lists all the amazing people who passed through the gates from Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys to Benedict Arnold. It was really quite wonderful to be there. After a tour of the fort we drove up to the top of Mount Defiance, where the canny British dragged their cannons, forcing the surrender of the Fort in 1777. What a spectacular view of the surrounding area. 

What really struck me though, and this would be a common theme throughout our trip, there was almost no one there. Maybe thirty people at this huge historical site, so important to our county's history.  It made for a nicer experience for us, having the place to ourselves but, wow, just wow. 

The Van Alstyne House, Canajoharie
The Van Alystne House is a rare gem in the small town of Canajoharie. It was built in stages by Martin Van Alstyne, the oldest portion dates to around 1730. It started life as a one room house for Martin, his wife and their children. By the time of the American Revolution it belonged to Goshen Van Alstyne and had multiple rooms. It was not only the Van Alstyne family home but  a tavern. This was the site of many, if not most, of the meetings of the Tryon County Committee of Safety.  

The museum/house is well maintained and holds many historical treasures, including a 17th century bible. There are  documents from the time of the revolution and a collection of paintings and documents belonging to Rufus Grider, a teacher/ historian who documented life in the Mohawk Valley. 

The house is only scheduled to open on Saturdays, but we were given a private tour, on request. Our tour guide Shirley was highly knowledgeable on the history of the house and the part it played in our collective history. It was well worth the visit. The house host reenactments during the summer season, has it's own Facebook page and is on twitter: @VahsCanjo. 

Cherry Valley
The town/village of Cherry Valley is a quiet peaceful farming community with a violent history. During the American Revolution combined Loyalist and Native American forces descended on the tiny settlement and killed, butchered really, anyone they could get their hands on, including several families with Loyalist standings. Hundreds more were taken captive. Despite the presence of a fort, the naive commander, Colonel Alden spread his troops across the valley, most  were killed, including himself. Every building in the valley was torched. 

There is a small historical museum in town with artifacts from the original inhabitants. It's small but worth stopping into. The well maintained cemetery has a monument to those who were killed during the massacre, the fallen Col. Alden and is the final resting place of those who fought during the revolution. The drive to Cherry Valley is beautiful, the roads winding their way up and down the hills.  There's not much else there historically but it's  nice stop. 

All I can say it was crazy packed with people. We did a quick walk through the packed baseball hall of fame and then boogied. 

Herkimer House
The home of hero Nicolas Herkimer was the first of three historical homes we toured on the same day. We arrived just about 10:00am. There were two other people there. The house is located outside of the town of Little Falls. The grounds are large and the setting is lovely. The Georgian house is in fantastic condition and beautifully furnished, including some items original to the house. We  had a great tour, our guide was well versed in the history of the house and the life of Nicholas Herkimer. After viewing the house we visited the graveyard which has a very large monument dedicated to Nicholas Herkimer.  The visitors center has many interesting displays and is worth walking through.  When we left we were the only visitors there. 

Indian Castle Church
This is a tiny church built in 1769 for the Indians of  the Mohawk Castle whose inhabitants included Joseph Brant and his sister Molly Brant. The church has been restored following a fire and is in amazing condition. I was surprised to find the door unlocked and we were able to see the inside. We were the only people there. The church sits on a small hill off with a dirt drive. If you're not looking for it you'll drive right past. It a nice example of 18th century Colonial buildings, and worth a stop.

Johnson Hall
Johnson Hall is in the town of Johnstown. It was the third and final home of Sir William Johnson, hero of the French and Indian Wars and Superintendent of Indian Affairs until the time of his death in 1774. He was a very colorful character who lived a robust adventurous life. His second 'wife' was the Native American woman, Molly Brant. Sir William was the richest man in the Mohawk Valley and his home reflects this. It is full of period, some original, furniture and is full of history. The tour was fantastic and the guide highly knowledgeable. There were three of us on the tour.  

Old Fort Johnson
This was the second home of Sir William Johnson, built with his first flush of wealth. He designed the Georgian style house himself and the dimension reflect the lack of an architect, but he did a pretty good job.  He lived here with his first 'wife' a runaway indentured servant. The house can be toured and is okay condition. It could use a bit of restoration, but is still well worth a visit. The grounds are pretty and there is a small museum/bookshop and a video presentation on the house. Again there were three of us on the tour. 

We had only four days to pack in a lot of sightseeing. The Mohawk Valley is full of historical sites that we were unable to squeeze in. As much as I enjoyed my practically one on one tours at this significant historical sights, it saddens  me that there is such a lack of interest in them. These places cost a fortune to preserve and if no one comes to visit we may lose them. So get off yer duff and go visit a historical site! 

See this Facebook page for things to do. Colonial Families of Tryon County  

If I'd had another day, I'd have gone to Fort Plain.

Great book on the Mohawk Valley during both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. The Bloody Mohawk. I read and re-read this book. 

I am in the process of writing my second book, Blood in the Valley, set in Cherry Valley during the massacre. While you eagerly await it publishing, big grin, you can read my first novel, Weave a Web of Witchcraft, set in Puritan Massachusetts. It tells the true story of Hugh and Mary Parsons of  Springfield, both of whom were accused of witchcraft. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Summer Kitchen: Colonial Style

It's hot here this bright May morning; yesterday our high was 95° and steamy. Today looks to be the same. My oven grows cobwebs from May to September, no cookies are baked, no homemade bread. We grill a lot in the summer, if it can be flipped, skewered, or tossed in a grill pan, it's on the menu. Some folks around here have fancy (expensive) outdoor kitchens with built in sinks and fridges which make the process a little more pleasant, but a simple grill will suffice. 

The other day I was researching life in upstate New York at the time of the American Revolution and I came across a reference to a building called a 'summer kitchen.' I knew that these types of kitchens, removed from the main residence, existed in the south but not as far north as New York. My interest was piqued. So what was a summer kitchen and what did it look like. 
Summer Kitchen photo by Royalbroil

Summer kitchens were popular in the north from the 18th through the 19th century. They were usually a single room, 150-250 square feet, building that was distinct from the house. This not only kept the main building cooler but lessened the risk of fire. Often these summer kitchens were built of rock or brick, which had the benefit of making them less flammable. 

In the early versions of the summer kitchen, the fireplace and chimney usually took up an entire end wall and might also have a baking oven built into it. Unlike today's kitchens there was no built in furniture, everything was movable. If the owner could not afford two sets of cooking implements and all the accouterments that were needed for cooking then they needed to be transported back and forth. 

In 1795 the cast iron stove was introduced to America. Bulky in size, it took up a significant amount of space in the home. These were often put in the Summer Kitchen to free up square footage. The stoves  also gave off significant heat, another reason to relegate them to their own building during the summer months. See this link for a great photo. 

The building was used for more than just production of the days meals. In the north where, abundant summer fruits and vegetables were grown, there was a need for space to pickle, can, and dry the produce. The housewife or her servants made jams, jellies and fruit butters. Herbs could be hung from rafters to dry. The kitchen could also be used for the processing of meat, drying, salting, and smoking of hams and bacon and the production of meat products such as sausage. 

A loft  might cover a portion of the ceiling and used for storage or for sleeping quarters. With doors thrown open, the family might eat their meals at a table set up in the kitchen, if the breeze was right. In the south the separate kitchen was the domain of slaves, they lived, worked and slept in the kitchen. 

Wherever it was, the summer kitchen was the domain of women. The task of food processing fell to them. I can just picture my ancestor, swathed from head to toe in material, no fans, no A/C, nothing but a breeze to stir the air, standing before a hot fire, spoon in hand, stirring a pot of raspberry jam. I am thankful it's not me. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

From Asheville, North Carolina to a Resale Shop in Texas: The travels of a 1955 High School Class Ring

In a dusty box of costume jewelry sat a lovely gold class ring with a large red stone. It was in immaculate condition. Someone looked at that ring and saw a worthless object, the shop employee saw a profit, but I saw a detective story. I slipped the ring on my finger, it fit perfectly, it was a woman's ring. I knew I had to find the owner and her story.

The ring was from 1955, the school  Lee Edwards High School in Asheville, North Carolina. I've never been to Asheville, but I hear it's beautiful. Anyway, inside the ring were the owner's initials F. C. M. Thanks to I was able to find the 1955 Yearbook for Lee Edwards High, The Hillbilly. There she was, a pretty short haired blond, with a sweet smile; Frances Martin. Frances was in the Glee Club, the Latin Club, the French Club, and other activities. 

According to records found on Ancestrydotcom Frances Calvine Martin was born on 23 December 1936 to Robert James Martin and Elizabeth Howerton Babbitt in North Carolina. 

Shortly after graduation, eighteen year old Frances Calvine Martin married twenty-one year old Clyde Gilbert Tweed, also of Asheville, NC.  Clyde would become a doctor, graduating from Duke University in North Carolina and the couple lived in Florida. The marriage did not last; they were divorced in March of 1961 in Bradford, FL. Dr. Tweed would marry twice more, serve his country in the Navy, and die after a long life in Florida in the year 2012. The couple had at least two children, both sons, Jonathan and Robert. 

On the 22nd of September in 1961, Frances Martin Tweed remarried. Her second husband was Richard Phillip Caputo in Buncombe County, NC. Less than a year later, Richard Phillip Caputo Jr. was born, 29 August 1962, in Asheville. I found nothing further on the child. I believe that Richard, her husband died in 1997 and is buried in Alexandria, Virginia, but I'm not 100% sure.

On the 26th of July 1975, thirty-eight year old Frances Martin Caputo, twice divorced, married for the third time to Frank Ambrose Finnerty Jr. in Fairfax County, VA.  He was fifty-one and also divorced. According to their marriage record, she had at least two years of college and he five plus. Frank was a physician, who taught at Georgetown University. He died in 2011 at the age of 87. But, according to his obituary, he and Frances had divorced prior to his death. They had at least one son, Richard. 

Frances died on 27 February 2012 at her home in Brevard, North Carolina. She was survived by her husband  Christopher John Nuthall. She was retired from her job in hospital administration and was according to her obituary an accomplished artist. Chris Nuthall died in March of 2017, also in Brevard, NC. 

In all my searching, and it took a lot to track this lady through her interesting life, I could find no connection to Texas. The question remains, how did her 1955 class ring end up in a resale shop thousands of miles from where she was born, lived and died?  It's a mystery to me.

addendum: I contacted a family member and left a message. Probably thinks I'm a weirdo and did not return my call. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Slave Owners in the Colony/State of New York: Coming to terms with a slave owning ancestor

I am currently researching and writing a new book,  about  my ancestors who lived in the Colony/State of New York during the time of the French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution. The main character is the daughter of Scots-Irish immigrants who moved from Worcester, Mass to New Hampshire and finally to New York. They lived in for a time in Schenectady before moving to Currie's Bush, today's Princetown. This daughter, Catherine Wasson married Samuel Clyde, originally from New Hampshire. Catherine and Samuel moved to Cherry Valley in 1763 shortly after their marriage. 

General Herkimer Battle of Oriskany
By Frederick Coffay Yohn -
Painting at the public library of Utica, New York.
In 1763, Cherry Valley was the frontier, the edge of so-called civilized life. The 1768 treaty of Fort Stanwix set the border between Indian Territory and the Colony just west of Cherry Valley at the Unadilla River. The occupants of the Valley and surrounding villages lived in relative peace until the American Revolution. At the beginning of the war, battles were fought in Eastern New York, sparing the West. But, on 6 August 1777 one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war occurred at Oriskany about 50 miles northwest of Cherry Valley. Lt. Colonel Samuel Clyde survived the battled that cost so many their lives. 

The following November, when most inhabitants thought the fighting season was over for the year, war descended on the Valley. A army of Tories led by Walter Butler and Native Americans led by Joseph Brant attached the Village at about 9:00 a.m. There was a small fort in the village but most of the soldiers, including the commander Col. Alden, where housed in private homes. Alden was tomahawked and scalped as he attempted to reach the fort.  

Incident at Cherry Valley Alonzo Chapel
During the attack the enemy combatants brutally killed not only soldiers but men, women, children and infants. Women were hacked to death, some dismembered. All were scalped. The lucky ones were taken captive by the Natives. One Cherry Valley farmer, out in his field at the onslaught returned home to find his wife and three children brutally murdered. A fourth daughter was still alive. At the sound of the enemy returning, the farmer hid only to witness a Tory kill the surviving daughter and scalp her. One woman was hacked to pieces, an arm landed in a tree. 

The town minister, the respected Reverend Samuel Dunlop was spared at the last moment, but witnessed the death of his wife. His grown children were killed as were his slaves. And there it is, that ugly word 'slave.' In his will dated 1775, three years before most of the people named in it were killed, Reverend Dunlop willed his three female slaves, Silvia, Priss and Nora to his wife and children. All three slave women were killed. The Scot, Wilson, Campbell, and Ritchie families all owned slaved that were killed in the massacre. How many more Valley families owned that survived?

In multiple books and stories about that fateful day is the story of the miraculous escape of the Clyde family. Catherine and her children, at the sound of gunfire, took to the woods and hid overnight in freezing rain. The were rescued the following morning after Catherine sent a young boy to the fort to find her husband. The boy is variously describe as an apprentice or a servant in later texts. In a 1898 book, The History of Cherry Valley, 1740-1898, by John Sawyer, the boy is called a slave. 

How do you, how do I, come to grips with the idea that these men, who I so admired for their grit and determination to eek out a living on the frontier, brave patriots who fought and died for our country, and their wives who stood by them and shared their fate, were slave owners. I realize that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were wealthy southern slave-owners, but I never associated slavery with middle of the road frontiersmen in Upstate New York. It saddens me to find that a minister of God owned multiple human beings. I understand that I am seeing them through the lens of time and applying my 2018 standards to people who lived 250 years ago but still, they are somehow tarnished in my mind.

See this website for a brief overview of slavery in New York.

Also see this New York slavery index of owners.

One of the books I read doing research on the Mohawk Valley was Bloody Mohawk by Richard Berleth. I found it an excellent, well written, thoroughly researched book, it has been invaluable to my own writing. I hope to publish my book, Blood in the Valley, by years end.  Read my first book, Weave a Web of Witchcraft, the story of Hugh and Mary Parsons of Springfield, Massachusetts available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dorsey Corwin McMillen Family of Peebles, Adams, Ohio: Do you know this family?

So this is something new for me. Background, I work at a company that also runs a resale shop. The manager came across some old family photos and I thought I would try to reunite them with a family member. If you a member of this family and are interested in the photos let me know.

The first photo is of the family farmhouse of D.C. McMillen taken about 1907 in Peebles, Adams County, Ohio. Pictured in the photo are Arby, Mattie, Harlan, Dorsey, Selva and Bertha.

Here they are in the 1900 census. Dorsey is misspelled as Dosser.

I believe this is D.C. McMillen here in the 1860 census. His parents are Thomas and Sarah and in the 1900 census a Thomas and Sarah are listed just above Dorsey's family.

This is a picture of  Bertha Elizabeth McMillen Meyer and her two daughters Elizabeth Louise Meyer and Mary Jane Meyer. Bertha died at age 38, probably not to long after this was taken. Elizabeth, b. in 1912 went to college and then learned how to fly, becoming one of the first female pilots. See the link below. She ended up in Texas, living in Brownsville down on the border. This must explain how the photos ended up in Texas.

Elizabeth Louise Meyer Haywood

Elizabeth is a special kind of mother. She not only filled out her son's baby book, full of loving details, she included his genealogy chart.

James died in 2016, he lived not far from me. I guess no one wanted his pictures. If you want them, please contact me and I will send them on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Questions You Always Wanted To Ask About Life In Colonial New England: Doctors, Medicine and the Treatment of Illness

As a nurse, for more years than I'd like to mention, I marvel at the state of medicine and its frequent innovations. It is a great disappointment when illness cannot be cured or injuries repaired. Many people today live with chronic illnesses that would have resulted in death in the not so distant past. And it's the very distant past that I am interested in. What was the state of medicine in Colonial America? Was it accessible, was it affordable and was it effective? Let's take a look.

Doctor Who?
In 1776 the estimated population of the American Colonies was approximately 2.5 million. It is also estimated that in the 1770s there were only about 200 doctors with actual medical degrees. You don't have to do the math to see that the doctor patient ratio was extremely high. Why the dearth of degree'd doctors? The first medical school in the colonies did not open until 1765 in Philadelphia. English trained doctors were part of the early migration to New England but their numbers dropped rapidly. There was little profit and lots of hard work and they either returned to England or died and were not replaced. 

So, who did the doctoring? Ships surgeons, barber surgeons and apothecaries were all known as Doctor. They had little formal training, some were self taught others trained on the job, apprenticeship, with more experienced 'Doctors.' There were medical treatise that could be studied if one were literate. There were also plenty of quacks and charlatans, happy to sell you a cure for what ailed you. Midwives saw to childbirth, and often provided pediatric care for young children. They held a monopoly on women's reproductive health well into the 18th century. The average housewife would often have to rely on only her skills, or her neighbors skills at healing, apply any known herbal remedy they deemed effective. 

A hair cut and dental extraction-The Barber-Surgeon
The role of the barber surgeon in health care rose in prominence in the middle ages. They even formed their own guild to oversee their members. Typically the barber surgeon could give you a trim, pull your teeth, lance a boil or do a spot of blood-letting. The last barber-surgeon in England died in 1821. A barber surgeon with his own establishment would put out a red and white striped pole. Red represented blood and white bandages. The barber surgeon would also treat traumatic injuries received in battle or by accident. 

Blood-letting is one of the oldest medical treatments for illness. It is believed that the practice began in Ancient Egypt and spread to Greece and then on to the rest of Europe. Blood-letting was the treatment of choice for everything from the plague to gout, it might even be used to aid childbirth. It is possible that excessive blood-letting for a sore throat led to the death of George Washington. 

The reasoning behind blood-letting had to do with the belief in the four humors of the body. Black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. If you had some sort of inflammation, like that caused by a sore throat, blood-letting would reduce it. 

Like the barber surgeon, the apothecary had a sign to identify his business; the mortar and pestle. An apothecary often compounded his own medicine. He would diagnose, prescribe and treat his patients. Treatment was based on folklore, tradition or gleaned from medical books. American apothecaries were also interested in the medicines used by Native Americans. Occasionally the treatment was actual beneficial to the patient. Chalk was given for heartburn and chinchona bark was used to treat fevers. Chinchona contains the active ingredient quinine, which was used to treat malaria. The apothecary arsenal included opium for pain, salves for skin conditions, poultices to reduce inflammation, tinctures of herbs and other ingredients, emetics that caused vomiting and cathartics that induced diarrhea and willow bark which actual did reduce fevers. More often than not, the treatment was likely worse than the illness or contributed to the death of the patient. 

Midwifery was the only recognized role for women in medicine. The first new Americans were born aboard the Mayflower, delivered by a midwife. Childbirth was a risky business no matter how many children one had, each time the mother's life was at risk. Midwives were trained by other midwives, learning on the job. Some towns hired women to work as midwives and even furnished them a house and paid them a stipend. She was a reassuring presence during a dangerous event. 

One unique role of the midwife was to press unmarried women into revealing the father of their child. It was believed that a woman in the throes of labor would not lie. Midwives might also baptize babies they deemed unlikely to survive, testified to dates of deliveries, and examine female prisoners who claimed pregnancy to avoid punishment. 

Life Expectancy
Although life was tough in New England, life expectancy rose for the early immigrants. Was it the cold weather, less crowded living conditions? The first hurdle to a long life was surviving childhood. Mortality rates were high for children. In 1800 40% of children died by their first birthday; a grim statistic if ever I've seen one. Once out of childhood men stood a good chance to live into their forties. Women faced the hurdle of surviving childbirth while men contended with farming accidents and during periods of conflict battle related injuries and deaths. Despite this, many New Englanders lived into their 70s, 80s and older. 

Common illnesses were lethal
In the days before antibiotics, many people died of infectious disease. Smallpox, measles, yellow fever, scarlet fever, influenza, pneumonia ravaged New England. Something as simple as appendicitis could take a life. Imagine having a UTI, and no antibiotics to stop it in its tracks. Diarrhea caused by any number of infectious disease was also a killer. Of course due to a shorter life expectancy and a more active lifestyle they did not have the level of chronic illness that we suffer from, but some did. 

Like other post that I have written on the everyday life of our ancestors, I thank my lucky stars that I did not live in a pre-antibiotic world. 

Roles of Men, Women and Children in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts

In 17 th century pur itan Massachusetts , the roles of men , women and children were very clearly defined . Men were the ...