Thursday, December 25, 2014

Reeds, Colemans, and Civil War Marriages

An earlier post (see Paul’s Civil War Ancestors) includes Isaac Reed (1833-1863) and his wife Mary Jane Coleman (1839-1902), Paul’s great great grandparents. 

On August 4, 1862, President Lincoln called for another 300,000 men.  New Jersey was committed to 10,478 men.  New Jersey’s governor, Charles Smith Olden, threatened a draft if the quota was not met.  As a result, Isaac Reed and several of his cousins mustered to the 23rd Regiment of the New Jersey Infantry (also known as the Yahoos) on 13 Sep 1862 for a period of 90 days.  Isaac was a bit older than many soldiers – 29 at the time of his enlistment.  He died of typhoid fever during his service on 2 Jan 1863.  The widow Mary Jane remarried about nine months later to Henry Parker.

Isaac’s younger brother Joseph F Reed (1841-1865) mustered to the 3rd New Jersey Calvary, also known as the Butterflies, on 23 Aug 1864, perhaps to avenge his brother’s passing.  Joseph was married to Elizabeth Coleman (1843-1910), the younger sister of his brother’s wife Mary Jane Coleman.  Joseph too died of typhoid fever, he in the hospital at Harper’s Ferry on 20 Mar 1865.  Less than two months later, and about eight and one half months after his enlistment, Joseph’s wife gave birth to their son Joseph A Reed on 9 May 1865.

At the time of the Civil War, most women (and particularly younger women with young children) were unable to support themselves even if they had some land.  Thus, remarriage was often their only option for survival.  Like her sister, Elizabeth Coleman Reed married again quickly on 4 Jul 1865 – less than two months after her son Joseph was born.  Marriage records show the name of her new husband as Tull Workman, though he is listed in the 1870 census as Sarbert Workman.  The Workmans had two children – Anna in 1867 and Lizzie in 1870.  Mr. Workman’s whereabouts after 1870 are unknown.

By the 1880s, Elizabeth Coleman Reed Workman married a third time to George Donovan in the State of Delaware.  Elizabeth had two children with George – Andrew in 1883 and James in 1885.  By 1900, the Donovan family was living in Kansas.

In the effects of Andrew Donovan’s grandson Kenneth Mercer (1946-2007) there was a photo labeled Mary Jane Parker.  While she knew nothing of the many remarriages of the Coleman sisters, Kenneth’s widow Rhonda attached this photo to her private online tree at 

It is through her courtesy that the photo at right appears – Paul’s great great grandmother Mary JANE Coleman Reed Parker (1839-1902).  Thank you, Rhonda, for the only photo of a great-great grandparent in Paul’s tree.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Welsh Quakers and Pennsylvania Ironmasters

I almost named this post “Pots by Potts,” but that would be a far too frivolous title for a family with such deep religious convictions and so important in the history of Pennsylvania and the iron-making business.

Thomas Potts (1632-1680) was Marjory’s 9th-great grandfather.  He lived in Llanidles in the Shire of Montgomery, Wales.  He was one of the earliest followers of a man named George Fox who founded the Religious Society of Friends about 1847.  Members of this society was often called Quakers, as they were said to tremble in the way of the Lord.

This same Thomas Potts was also the 6th-great grandfather of President Richard Milhous Nixon, making Marjory this President’s 7th cousin three times removed.  (She is a cousin to many other presidents including Washington and Jefferson.)

The Quaker movement faced strong opposition and persecution in those days.  Many of the followers were jailed and had their property taken from them.  They were a threat to the official church, and refused to pay the tithes normally required.

Thomas’ son John Potts (1658-1698), Marjory’s 8th-great grandfather, was also a Quaker.  As a result, John had considerable difficulty in Wales.  On 18 July 1677, he was arrested and sent to prison for attending a meeting of Friends at the Montgomeryshire house of John Jarman.  John was at the head of the list of those arrested, and suffered the largest fine of “one cow and six young beasts” with a value of 12 pounds 10 shillings.

Thomas Potts (1680-1752) was Marjory’s 7th-great grandfather and an immigrant from Wales.  Some researchers say he traveled here with his father John and his sister Mary (later Tyson), while others insist that Thomas and his siblings were orphans sent to their uncles and aunts in the Pennsylvania colony after their father Thomas (above) passed in 1698.  (All of the Potts were Quakers, drawn to Pennsylvania by the guarantee of religious freedom offered by its founder, Quaker William Penn.)  Those uncles and aunts were Thomas Potts (a miller in Bristol, PA), Jonas Potts, Elizabeth Potts, Margaret (Potts) Shoemaker, Jane (Potts) Austin, and David Potts.

This same Thomas Potts became involved in the iron business at Colebrookdale in Berks County, just east of Reading and northwest of Philadelphia.  The owners of the furnace there leased it to Thomas Potts.  Colebrookdale is likely named for an English furnace of the same name, not terrible far from the Potts ancestral home in Wales.  The family may have been family with this operation in the old country.

Colebrookdale was well known for its cast iron stove parts as well as pots, kettles, and pot hooks.  Thomas Potts often worked with his family and other Quakers to market the furnace’s products.  For example, his brother-in-law Thomas Yorke became an agent, selling 19 pots and kettles in 1738.  Potts’ first cousin Jonathan Potts was also responsible for sales of up to £20 each year. 

Thomas Pott’s sons John and David did all of the casting in 1740.  John Potts (1710-1768), Marjory’s 7th great uncle, remained in the iron business, creating the largest iron-making empire in colonial America.  First, during the 1740s and 1750s he acquired or increased his interests in Pine Forge, Mount Joy Forge (also called Valley Forge), and Coventry Forge, all located in the Schuylkill River valley. He erected a mansion (below) at Mount Joy Forge, later in possession of his son Isaac, which George Washington later used as his headquarters during the Continental army's winter encampment at Valley Forge in 1777-1778.

Potts Mansion and Mount Joy aka Valley Forge

In 1752 he established the iron plantation of Pottsgrove, where he built a mansion house and refinery forge and laid out a village in a grid pattern. He made Pottsgrove his family seat and the residential and commercial center for the forge. Warwick Furnace produced pig iron that supplied all these and other refinery forges in southeastern Pennsylvania.  The village of Pottsgrove was later renamed Pottstown.  However John’s manor house, still standing and open to the public, keeps the name Pottsgrove.

Pottsgrove Manor in Pottstown, Pennsylvania
John’s sister Mary Keurlis Potts (1705-1757), Marjory’s 6th-great grandmother, married Derrick Cleaver, another Quaker.  Descendants of their daughter Mary Cleaver migrated down the Great Wagon Road (later the Shenandoah Valley Turnpike) to Kentucky, intermarrying with Marjory’s mother’s Miller family.

Another Mary Potts, John's aunt, married Mathias Teison / Tyson of Germantown, son of the first German immigrants to America (see The Importance of Germantown).

Monday, August 11, 2014

Red Hill Plantation

The Independence Day weekend seemed an appropriate time to visit Red Hill Plantation, the Patrick Henry National Memorial.  Located near Brookneal, Virginia, Henry bought Red Hill on his retirement in 1794 and continued here until his death in 1799.

Unlike other historic properties we have visited, Red Hill is not particularly grand and is partly a reconstruction.  While Henry’s law offices and some other outbuildings are original, the plantation house (below) was reproduced in 1954.

The beauty of Red Hill is its idyllic setting.  Located on the Staunton River, it was once a 520-acre tobacco plantation.  Flatboats called bateaux carried the crop downstream.

The Red Hill Visitor’s Center includes a museum with the largest collection of Henry memorabilia anywhere.  The centerpiece is Peter Rothermel's famous painting Patrick Henry before the Virginia House of Burgesses, depicting his "If this be treason, make the most of it" speech against the Stamp Act in 1765.

We were especially interested in the Henry Family Tree.  Henry’s first wife, Sarah Shelton (1738-1775) is Marjory’s third cousin six times removed.

For a nice drive in the country and a pleasant setting, Red Hill can’t be beat.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ayr Mount

While we are more likely to visit homes built after the Civil War, our last two visits have been to earlier homes from the Georgian / Federal period.  But our lack of attention to Ayr Mount, so close to our home in the piedmont of Virginia, is more due to the difficulty in finding house museums to tour.

Ayr Mount was completed in 1815 in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  William Kirkland named the house in honor of his birthplace, Ayr, Scotland.

Due to its Federal style, Ayr Mount looks simple and austere on the outside. It is one of the first homes built of brick in the piedmont.

Conversely, the interior is quite grand.  It has elaborate woodwork and plasterwork with a ceiling height of 14 feet on the main floor.  One particular style of cornice caught my eye because I had never seen it before.

While a few of the furnishings belonged to the Kirkland family, most are period pieces from the collection of Richard Jenrette.  Ayr Mount was first intended to be a retirement home for Jenrette, a Raleigh native.  But with the acquisition and restoration of other fine homes, he has established a preservation trust to open them to the public.  We can’t wait to visit others.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Savannah’s Isaiah Davenport House

In late March, Marjory and I had the opportunity to Savannah, Georgia.  The older part of Savannah is a compact, walkable city built around numerous public squares.  Among our stops there was the Isaiah Davenport House Museum.

Originally trained as a carpenter in Rhode Island, Davenport relocated to Savannah in 107 or 1808.  In addition to being a carpenter and builder, he served as one of Savannah’s fire masters, a constable, a city alderman, and a member of the board of health.

He built his own home in 1820.  It is one of the earlier brick structures in the city located with a fine view of Columbia Square, the squares being the most desirable locations.  The house has been immaculately restored to its decoration and furnishings from the 1920s.  Of particular note are the wallpapers, faux finishes, and plaster cornices.

The Davenport House was the genesis for the Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF), which owns and operates the house today.  However, this was just the beginning for HSF, which has stimulated the preservation of many fine Savannah houses and the repurposing of many commercial properties.  As a result, present-day old Savannah oozes history from every pore.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Virginia Governor and Baronet of Benacre Hall

This story is about Marjory’s first cousin 11 times removed William Gooch.  He was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England in 1681 and died in London in 1751 at the age of 70.  However, he spent 22 years of his life in Virginia, 13 as Lieutenant Governor.

While Lieutenant Governor may not sound all that important, the two Crown Governors to whom he reported (George Hamilton, First Earl of Orkney and Willem Anne van Keppel, Second Earl of Albemarle) never actually visited Virginia.  William Gooch was in charge from 1727 to 1740.

Gooch’s policy as governor was to protect the western part of the territory from Native Americans and the French.  He authorized promoted the settlement of the Shenandoah Valley in order to buffer the rest of the colony from Indian attacks. 

One of his greatest successes was the passage of the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730.  The Act raised the quality of Virginia’s tobacco and reduced fraud, which greatly increased the demand for Virginia tobacco.  During his time as governor, he also distinguished himself militarily in New Grenada, South America.

Gooch honored himself by naming Goochland County just west of Richmond.  Also, one of the westernmost Shenandoah Valley towns at that time, Staunton, was named for his wife Rebecca Staunton Gooch in 1747.

William Gooch was made the 1st Baronet of Benacre Hall in 1746 and a Major General in 1747.  While still a commoner, a Baronet ranks above a Knight, and the title is hereditary.  While William and Rebecca (Staunton) Gooch had one son who they raised in Williamsburg, he passed at the young age of 25.  After William’s return to England in 1749 and his death in 1751, the baronetcy passed to his brother, Bishop Thomas Gooch.  The bishop’s descendants still carry the title today along with the Benacre Estate in Norfolk (shown below) today.

Governor William Gooch was not the first member of the family to come to Virginia.  Marjory’s 10th great grandfather and William’s uncle Lieutenant Colonel Henry Gooch (1635-1683) was living in York County by 1656.

William Gooch was also not the first Colonial Virginia Governor among Marjory’s kin.  See “West Family – Barons, Scoundrels, and Governors” for more.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Harry P. Leu Gardens

The Leu Gardens were bequeathed to the City of Orlando in 1961.  In addition to 50 acres of gardens, the site includes the Leu House Museum.  Marjory and I visited during February, 2014.

Harry P. Leu owned a successful industrial supply company.  In 1936, he purchased the property fronting Lake Rowena.  The house on the property was first constructed in the latter part of the 1800s, with Leu later becoming the fourth owner.

Harry and his wife Mary Jane traveled extensively and brought back plants, cuttings, and seeds from all over the world.  This is evidenced by the many tropical and sub-tropical gardens across the acreage.  There are pathways, gazebos, fountains, and rain shelters throughout.

The Leu Garden is particularly well known for its camellias, some of which were in bloom.  The trumpet trees were also flowering.  Perhaps because we were there in mid-winter, the garden beds did not seem particularly well tended.

The house was expanded several times over the years, but the main rooms has been restored to their turn of the century appearance.  Other areas, including the kitchen and bathrooms, have an Art-Deco motif.  While the house is not spectacular in any way, its docent-led tour provides an interesting and accurate glimpse of living in old Florida.  Well worth the 25 minutes.

Overall, our visit to the Harry P. Leu Gardens was a pleasant one – a relaxing morning but with tired legs at the end.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rossetter House Museum

The Historic Rossetter House Museum overlooks the Indian River in Eau Gallie, Brevard County, Florida.  (Resulting from a 1969 city merger, Eau Gallie is now part of the City of Melbourne.)  Eau Gallie was founded in the 1850s around a variety of agricultural ventures including sugar cane, rice, and citrus groves.  In 1877, commercial steamboats began to ply the Indian River, and the area began to grow.  By 1893 it had become the southern end of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway attracting new visitors from the north.

The museum comprises the 1880s / 1904 James Wadsworth Rossetter House and gardens, the 1892 William P. Roesch House, and the 1865 Houston Family Memorial Cemetery.  Marjory and I visited in early 2013 and again in March 2014.

Shaded with live oaks and sea grapes, this property was owned and developed by three different families.  When John Carrol Houston arrived in the area, there were precious few towns.  Purportedly Houston had his slaves build the first structure on the property where the Rossetter House now stands.  He operated a refuge and staging area for blockade runners transporting goods from the Indian River to the St. Johns River during the Civil War.  Later, he served as a hunting and fishing guide for wealthy northerners.  Houston also established Brevard County’s second post office in 1871.  Upon Houston’s death in 1885, the property went to his daughter, Ada Louise Houston.  The back / east portion of what is now the Rossetter House was built after her marriage to William R. Roesch.

Roesch also built a new house across the street, which now serves as the Museum’s visitor center and gift shop.  He went on to become Eau Gallie’s first Mayor and founder of the city’s first newspaper, The Eau Gallie Record.  Sadly, five of the Roesch’s six children died between the years 1887 and 1895. They are buried in the Houston Cemetery nearby, as are John Houston and his wife Mary.

James Wadsworth Rossetter and his family (wife Ella and daughters, Caroline and Ella) arrived in 1902.  The Rossetter House stands on the property Rossetter purchased in 1904, and is restored as it stood in 1908 as shown below. 

The material for the front / west portion of the house is said to have come from another home across the Eau Gallie River.  That house was dissembled and then reassembled here, connected to the back portion by breezeways on two levels. Of particular note in the front are the bead board walls and ceilings, sometimes in elaborate patterns.  This appears to be the work of shipbuilders rather than carpenters.

Rossetter’s fish company was one of the largest consumers of gasoline in Eau Gallie, which is how he came to be the Standard Oil agent for South Brevard County. 

When James W. Rossetter passed away in 1921, Caroline (Carrie), the oldest of the Rossetter children, had been working with her father for a number of years and decided to take over her father's oil agency.  A female oil agent was unheard of at the time, but she persuaded the Standard Oil Company to allow her to do so.  She was a success for 62 years, becoming the longest running Standard Oil agent in the country. 

Carrie built some of the first gasoline stations in South Brevard and was the sole distributor of oil to the Banana River Naval Air Station's civilian air force during the Second World War.  Caroline also continued her father's interests in the areas of both cattle and citrus.

In 1991, Caroline and her sister, Ella, donated their family home and collection of Victorian antiques to the Rossetter House Foundation as a monument to Eau Gallie’s past.  This local house museum is an excellent representation of what life was like on the Florida coast in the early 1900s.  The house’s plain wooden interior paneling held up to the moist climate, and the furniture and fixtures are well preserved.  Ella's Model A Ford remains in the garage.

It is interesting to compare the Rossetter house the Henry Flagler’s home, Whitehall, in Palm Beach, Florida.  Flagler was a founder of the Standard Oil Company while James Rossetter was a Standard Oil dealer.  Both of their homes are linked to the inter-coastal waterway and were completed at about the same time.  Both men have a connection to the Florida East Coast Railway – Flagler built it while Rossetter and Eau Gallie benefited from it.  But there the similarities end.  The Rossetter house would fit inside Whitehall at least 30 times.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Whitehall / Flagler Museum

Marjory and I visited Palm Beach and Whitehall in February, 2014.  This was the second "stop" on our tour of Florida Gilded Age mansions including Vizcaya in Miami and Ca' d'Zan in Sarasota.  Whitehall is by far the largest of the three.  At 100,000 square feet (including the lower floors of its one-time hotel addition), it is three times the size of Vizcaya.  And unlike the others, Whitehall seems to have been constructed solely to impress.

Henry Morrison Flagler was born on January 2, 1830 in Hopewell, New York.  In 1853, he married Mary Harkness. They had three children, Jennie Louise, Carrie, Henry Harkness.  Unfortunately, only Henry Harkness "Harry" Flagler would survive to have children.  His daughter, Jean Flagler Matthews, later establish the Flagler Museum.

Flagler was at first in the salt business, later entering the grain business as a commission merchant in Cleveland, Ohio. There he met John D. Rockefeller, who had decided to leave the grain business to start his own oil refinery. In need of capital for his new venture, Rockefeller approached Henry Flagler, who invested $100,000 and became Rockefeller's 25% partner.  In just two years Standard Oil became the leader in the American oil refining industry.  As secretary / treasurer, it was Flagler who, in effect, invented the modern corporation.  His day-to-day involvement with Standard Oil continued until the mid-1880s.

Flagler first became interested in Florida in 1878, when he wintered in Jacksonville because of his wife Mary's health.  She passed in 1881, and Flagler married her nurse, Ida Alice Shourds, in 1883.  Soon after their wedding, the couple traveled to St. Augustine, Florida, which they found charming but lacking in adequate hotels and transportation. Flagler believed that Florida had the potential to attract large numbers of tourists and began building hotels.  He also purchased the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Halifax Railroad that he expanded to became the Florida East Coast Railway.  By 1896, the railroad had reached Palm Beach and Miami, and by 1912, its Over-Sea Railroad extension reached Key West.

Flagler lost his second wife to mental illness. In 1901, Flagler married for the third time, to Mary Lily Kenan.  Whitehall was built as a wedding present to Mary Lily in 1902.  It was described by the New York Herald as, "... more wonderful than any palace in Europe, grander and more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world."  In 1913, Flagler fell down a flight of stairs at Whitehall, passing from his injuries soon after.  Some say that Henry and Mary Lily are still in residence.

Flagler commissioned Beaux-Arts architects Carrere and Hastings to design Whitehall.  This resulted in a façade much like a temple.  The Grand Hall is entered through large bronze doors.  At 5,000 square feet, this marble-floored entry hall is the largest room in any Gilded Age home – large enough to contain two or three typical suburban dwellings.  Ahead is a double staircase and, behind it, an open courtyard. 

To the left is Flagler’s very masculine library.  He used this room to meet with business associates.  Next is the more-feminine music room that doubles as an art gallery.  Mrs. Flagler used this room for club meetings and bridge parties.  Further to the rear is the billiards room – large enough to make two massive billiards table and other games to appear quite small.

Across the south hall and behind the courtyard is the grand ballroom, nearly as large as the entry hall.  When Whitehall was converted to a hotel in 1925, the lake front marbled terrace adjacent the ballroom was removed and replaced with a ten-story tower.  While the hotel was removed in 1963, its two lower floors remain. As a result, this room no longer has a view of Lake Worth.

To the right of the entry hall is the salon or drawing room.  This room is decorated with aluminum leaf which, at the time of construction, was as expensive and precious as gold.

Behind the drawing room are the dining room and breakfast room.  Further to the rear were the butler’s pantry and kitchen, no longer in existence.

On the second floor are bedroom suites, each with its own bath and closet and each decorated in a different style.  There are also servants quarters including space for the servants of the Flagler’s guests.

A 2005 addition to the property is the Flagler-Kenan Pavilion.  In addition to a restaurant, it houses one of Flagler’s private railroad cars. 

Unlike Florida’s other Gilded Age mansions, this home is not primarily a display of precious art and antiques. Many of the furnishing are reproductions or were created specifically for Whitehall.  Whitehall is all about what money can buy, leaving it devoid of the love and personal affection shown by James Deering at Vizcaya and by the Ringlings at Ca’ d’Zan.

It is also interesting to compare Whitehall to the Rossetter house in Eau Gallie, Florida. Flagler was a founder of the Standard Oil Company while James Rossetter was a Standard Oil dealer. Both of their homes front the inter-coastal waterway and were built at about the same time. Both men have a connection to the Florida East Coast Railway – Flagler built it while Rossetter and Eau Gallie benefited from it. But there the similarities end. Though the Rossetters were somewhat well-to-do, their home would fit inside Whitehall at least 50 times.


The James Deering estate of Vizcaya is from a time when seasonal houses and their gardens were a measure of personal wealth.  Located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, it is owned by Miami-Dade County.  The estate includes one of the grand Gilded Age mansions that I so love to visit, and one of only three in Florida.  Marjory and I have visited all three Florida mansions this winter including also Whitehall (Palm Beach) in February, and Ca’ d’Zan (at The Ringling on Sarasota) in March.  We toured Vizcaya in late January.

James Deering is from the family of farm equipment manufacturers whose company eventually became International Harvester.  From this, the entire family achieved great wealth.  James Deering began planning his winter home in 1910 and purchased the land on Biscayne Bay in 1912.  Deering began to collect art, artifacts, and architectural elements which were later incorporated into both house and gardens.  These collections span the entire period of the European renaissance and include items from Italy, France, Spain, and elsewhere.

Working with designer Paul Chalfin, Deering first imagined a Spanish-style house.  However, the design was later changed to that of an Italian villa (country house).  The house was designed with an open center forming a courtyard.  (The courtyard has been enclosed with a skylight since 1986 to help preserve the house and its treasures.)  Construction of the main house was completed in 1916 and the gardens in 1921.  At its peak, this project employed ten percent of the population of Miami at the time.

The mansion offers a symmetrical view from the east, with Biscayne Bay intended as the main arrival route (see below).  Today, visitors enter through the motor court on the west side.  The north façade includes a swimming pool that emerges from vaulted arches at the lower level of the house. The south façade opens onto the formal gardens with enclosed loggias on the first and second floors.

Perhaps the least that can be said about Vizcaya is that it is stunning.  The interiors of the main house were meant to suggest the passing of time and the layered accumulation of artifacts and memories.  Decorative elements and furnishings include Italian wood paneling, French silk walls and marbled walls, massive furniture pieces from the Napoleonic French empire period, and tapestries and paintings dating from 1300 to 1900. 

The grounds, too, are amazing, including a mound with a casino, a grand allee, a maze, fountains, a secret garden, and many others.  Unique to my knowledge is the “barge,” actually a concrete and stone breakwater that sits between the house and the bay.  This has helped to somewhat protect the house from the water.

Originally a working estate, a dozen farm buildings, called Vizcaya Village, are still in existence across South Miami Avenue.  It is hoped that these will someday be fully restored and open to the public.

Deering, always a bachelor, passed in 1925.  Partly because of the enormous cost of maintenance, Deering’s nieces sold the house to the county for a small fraction of its value in 1955.

There is a very nice one-hour documentary on Vizcaya prepared by the local PBS-member station WPBT2 available online.  It does far more than I possibly could in describing Mr. Deering’s legacy.

Vizcaya is the smallest of Florida's Gilded Age mansions – originally only 30,000 square feet without the courtyard that was enclosed much later.  But because of the blending of so many styles and periods of its furnishings and collections, it remains somewhat overwhelming.  And its grounds were originally the largest.

As always, I'm left with so many questions.  Despite its magnificent water view, did Deering understand the peril of placing his house so close to Biscayne Bay?  (It has been damaged by hurricanes at least four times.)  Why did he feel the need for a working estate?  Did he intend or expect that Vizcaya and its contents would become a museum after his passing?  A single visit is not enough to fully absorb, understand, and appreciate this wonder created my James Deering and designer Paul Chalfin.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ca’ d’Zan / The Ringling

“The Ringling” is the State Art Museum of Florida.  The property includes a historic mansion, art museum, circus museum, and historic theater on sixty-six acres of bay front property in Sarasota.  The mansion and the art museum were constructed by the circus king John and his wife Mable Ringling.

Of course, my greatest interest was in the mansion, Ca’ d’Zan or “House of John.”  It is one of the grand Gilded Age mansions that I so love to visit, and one of only three in Florida.  Marjory and I have visited all three Florida mansions this winter including Vizcaya (Miami) in late January, Whitehall (Palm Beach) in February, and Ca’ d’Zan (Sarasota) on March 4, 2014.  Ca’ d’Zan is the youngest of the three, completed in 1925.  At 36,000 square feet, it is larger than Vizcaya.  But comparing the two houses without their courtyards, Ca’ d’Zan is smaller and far more intimate.

The mansion, shown from the Sarasota Bay above, was inspired by and designed in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzos (palaces) on Venice canals.  The Ringlings loved Italy, and traveled there nearly every year while looking for new circus acts during the winter hiatus.  They also indulged their love for art, amassing a collection so large that they needed their own museum to hold it.

While there, we visited every square inch of the mansion that could be visited including the Guided Tour (first floor and part of the second floor) and the Private Places Tour.  We were very fortunate to be the only takers for our Private Places Tour, giving us our own docent.  In addition to seeing the balance of the second floor and the third floor game room, we also ascended to the fourth floor tower bedroom and then to the Belvedere on top.  The views from the Belvedere were magnificent.

As with the other Florida mansions, Ca’ d’Zan has a central courtyard.  Differently, this courtyard was always enclosed having a central skylight with five soft colors of English glass.  This was the Ringling’s primary space for entertaining.  It has seven arched doorways that can open to the 1,300 square foot marble terrace adjacent to the bay.

I was the most impressed with Mr. Ringling’s suite.  (As was typical for the wealthy, Mrs. Ringling had her own suite.)  Mr. Ringling had balconies opening to the east, south, and west, a 35-piece gilt mahogany bedroom set made in Paris, a marble bath with a tub made from a solid slab of marble, a private office, and an exercise room.  If I have ever seen a nicer suite of rooms, I do not recall it.

Ca’ d’Zan is clearly an architectural masterpiece.  But is also warm and inviting, the kind of house where we could feel comfortable and at home.

After so much time and effort viewing Ca’ d’Zan, we decided to upgrade our tickets to a multi-day pass and return for the art museum the next day.  While art museums aren’t usually my thing, I’m glad we did.  And Marjory loved the old masters, sometimes finding it difficult to speak.

The museum begins with two galleries of enormous works by Rubens (1577-1640).  The smallest, The Departure of Lot and His Family from Sodom, is 7 by 8 feet.  The largest, at more than 12 by 17, is The Triumph of Divine Love.  It is difficult not to be awe struck.

However, my personal favorite is a much smaller work by Francesco del Cairo (1607-1665) at only 3 by 4 feet.  I was attracted by the contrast – the whiteness of the subject’s skin against the blackness of her gown and the background along with the yellow and blue turban.  It was only later that I understood the scene being depicted by del Cairo, which has also been painted by scores other artists including Roselli, Cesari, Baglione, and even Rubens in hundreds of paintings. 

This work titled Judith with the Head of Holofernes tells the heroic biblical tale of the Jewish widow who seduces and then beheads an Assyrian General to prevent him from ravaging the city of Bethulia.  While I didn’t notice it at first, General Holofernes’ severed head can be seen at the lower left.

Without even considering the circus museum or the theatre, we would gauge The Ringling as the best attraction for art and architecture buffs anywhere in Florida. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Marjory and I visited the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida, on March 5, 2014.  This site includes their winter homes, a laboratory, and a museum.

Thomas Edison first purchased 13 acres of land and a cottage in Fort Myers in March of 1885, almost exactly 129 years before our visit.  The younger Henry Ford first came to Fort Myers in 1914 at the invitation of Mr. Edison.  He bought the house next door in 1916 (at far left in the photo below).  While Edison often stayed the winter in Florida, Ford would visit for only a week or two each year.

The homes are sturdy and well furnished, but clearly intended only as vacation cottages.  Their greatest asset is their frontage on the Caloosahatchee River – the only means of access until the train arrived in 1904.  Visitors are provided with an audio tour of the site.  The homes are not actually entered – they are visible through the doorways and windows facing their extensive porches.  We spent a pleasant two hours strolling the grounds.

The museum has an extensive collection of Edison memorabilia with somewhat less about Mr. Ford.  Although there are several Model T’s and a Model A on site, this is not an automotive museum.

For me, the most interesting bit of history was about the rubber industry.  During the 1870s, rubber tree seeds were smuggled from Brazil and rubber plantations established in East Asia.  During World War I the price of rubber rose dramatically because a cartel of Dutch and English rubber barons controlled these plantations and the majority of the world’s rubber supply.  As a result, Edison, Ford, and their friend Harvey Firestone began looking for solutions.

One possible solution was to find a domestic plant that produced latex (a white milky sap).  To that end, the Edison Botanic Research Corporation was formed in 1927 by Edison, Ford, and Firestone.  Its laboratory was constructed across the road from the estates, completed in 1928.  It was found that Goldenrod was the best domestic source of latex but that production costs were too high.  The project continued for a few years after Edison’s death in 1931.

At the same time, Henry Ford attempted to develop large-scale rubber plantations in Brazil.  His first effort was to purchase nearly 2.5 million acres that he called Fordlandia in 1929.  When the soil at Fordlandia was found to be inadequate, he bought another tract called Belterra in 1934 and shifted his emphasis there.  At both plantations, he built entire towns along with schools, hospitals, and production facilities.   By 1940, about 500 Brazilians worked at Fordlandia and another and 2,500 downstream at Belterra.  However, mass production of latex rubber was never achieved. 

In 1931, the first viable synthetic rubber called Neoprene was developed.  This eventually eliminated the need for Ford’s plantations, and in 1945 he sold both to Brazilian government at a loss of $20 million (over $200 million today).  Synthetic rubber also removed the need for the Edison Botanic Research Corporation, which closed in 1936.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Father of Middle Tennessee

See also Robertson / Robinson Family.

James Robertson, early leader of both the Watauga and Cumberland settlements, has been called the “Father of Middle Tennessee.” Born in 1742 in Brunswick County, Virginia, he was the son of John and Mary Gower Robertson. He was the grandson of Israel Robertson, who was Marjory’s 6th great grandfather.  Thus, James Robertson was her first cousin six times removed.

In 1759, young Robertson accompanied explorer Daniel Boone on his third expedition to lands beyond the Allegheny Mountains. The party discovered the "Old Fields" (lands previously cultivated by Indians) along the Watauga River valley at present day Elizabethton, Tennessee, which Robertson planted with corn while Boone continued on to Kentucky.

Physically, Robertson stood close to six feet tall, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion.  All descriptions of James Robertson point to an individual who was soft spoken and even-tempered, a person who maintained an inner composure regardless of external circumstances. Charlotte Reeves, who married Robertson in 1768, admired these traits. The daughter of a minister, Charlotte later persevered under the harsh frontier conditions and established a reputation for resourcefulness and strength. She and Robertson had thirteen children, two of whom died in infancy.

In late 1769, Robertson grew increasingly frustrated with the provincial rule of North Carolina Governor William Tryon.  He became part of the Regulator Movement, an uprising against corrupt colonial officials.  He remembered his trip to the land west of the Appalachian Mountains and began to consider relocating his family there. They were living in the Watauga Valley by 1772.

Encouraged by his favorable description of the land, several of Robertson's North Carolina cousins and neighbors decided to accompany him to the new frontier. In May 1772, when the Watauga settlers met to establish a government, they selected Robertson as one of the five magistrates to lead the Watauga Association. In addition, he was elected commander of the Watauga Fort.

In 1777 Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Land Company purchased a large tract of land from the Cherokees, including most of what constitutes present-day Middle Tennessee. In the spring of 1779 Robertson and a small party of Wataugans, acting on behalf of Henderson's claim, traveled to a site along the Cumberland River known as French Lick. There they selected a suitable location for a new settlement. Late that same year, Robertson returned with a group of men to prepare temporary shelter for friends and relatives, who planned to join them in a few months. The men arrived on Christmas Day and drove their cattle across the frozen Cumberland River. Crude cabins were erected for immediate winter housing, and a fort was built atop a bluff along the river. The fort was named Fort Nashborough (now Nashville), in honor of Francis Nash, who had fought alongside Robertson at the battle of Alamance in 1771.

The balance of the party, led by John Donelson, arrived by water on April 24, 1780.  A statue erected along the Cumberland riverfront in Nashville shows James Robertson welcoming Donelson and his party to Fort Nashborough.  Donelson’s daughter Rachel, 13 years old at the time their arrival, would become the wife of Andrew Jackson, the future war hero and seventh President of the United States.  Rachel died suddenly just before Jackson’s inauguration, never becoming First Lady.

A faction of Cherokees known as the Chickamaugas opposed the Transylvania Purchase and warned the new settlers that trouble would follow their claim to the land. Attacks on the Cumberland settlement lasted several years and reached a peak between 1789 and 1794. Robertson's brothers, John and Mark, were killed, as were his sons, Peyton and James Jr. Another son, Jonathan, was scalped. Robertson narrowly escaped death on two occasions. Once he was shot in the foot while hoeing corn. Another time he was ambushed along a trail and received gunshot wounds in both wrists.

In 1790 Congress created the Territory South of the River Ohio, and Robertson became lieutenant colonel commandant of the Mero District. The following year, President George Washington appointed him brigadier general of the U.S. Army of the same region. Under Robertson's guidance, the settlers worked together and persevered. Eventually attacks on the community decreased, and the population rose with the arrival of new settlers. As the Cumberland settlement entered a period of prosperity, the Robertsons built a comfortable brick home.

Occasionally, Robertson acted on behalf of the federal government to assist in the treaty negotiations with various Indian tribes. In 1804 he was commissioned U.S. Indian agent to the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. His final mission took him to the Chickasaw Agency at Chickasaw Bluff (near Memphis). In his seventies, Robertson made the trip during heavy rains that forced him to swim several swollen creeks along the way. As a result, he became ill and died there on September 1, 1814. His remains were later returned to Nashville, where he received a formal burial in the City Cemetery.

James’ son Felix Robertson served as mayor of Nashville during 1818 and 1819.

In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS James Roberton was named in his honor.  She was torpedoed by the German U-boat U-185 and sunk 175 miles east of Brazil on July 7, 1943.

Robinson / Robertson Family

The first of Marjory’s Robinson / Robertson ancestors to come to the new world was her 9th great grandfather Christopher Robinson in 1642.  As you would suspect from his name, Christopher’s ancestors were Scandinavian, migrating first to Scotland and then to England. 

Soon after his arrival in Virginia, Christopher married Frances Marie Burrell, also a settler from England.  The oldest of their four sons, Edward (Marjory’s 8th great grandfather) was born soon thereafter in 1645.  The family remained largely on the middle peninsula of Virginia until Edward’s grandson Israel Robinson (1698-1758, Marjory’s 6th great grandfather) moved inland to Granville County, North Carolina, north of present-day Raleigh.  Many of Israel’s descendants eventually moved west over the mountains becoming settlers in what is now the State of Tennessee.

During these many years, the family name was heard and written in various ways including Robinson, Robertson, and sometimes Robison or Robeson.  They are the same family but, some being illiterate, relied on others to record their names.

Israel’s son Charles B. Robinson (1733-1798, Marjory’s 5th great grandfather) and Israel’s grandson James Robinson/Robertson (1742-1814, Marjory’s 1st cousin six times removed) are among the most known.  Both were commissioners elected by the Watauga Association, the first representative government west of the Allegheny Mountains formed in 1772. 

Charles and his son Julius Caesar Robinson fought with the Overmountain Men at Kings Mountain.  Julius is also famous for his earlier role in the Battle of Point Pleasant.  Later, Charles was a leader in the founding of the failed State of Franklin, being speaker of its senate. 

James traveled even further west, establishing Fort Nashborough, the present-day City of Nashville.  There, he signed the Cumberland Compact establishing a constitutional government for the settlers.  James Robertson is often called the “Father of Middle Tennessee.”

Please enjoy the posts about this family and their accomplishments. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Declaration of Stephen Ford

On November 5, 1833, Stephen Ford made the following declaration about his service during the Revolutionary War to the Burlington County Inferior Court.  He did so “in order to obtain the benefits of the Act of Congress passed June 7, 1832,” the most liberal service-pension act passed to date.  This Act removed the previous requirement that the pensioner be “in need.”  Stephen Ford was about 77 years old at the time of this declaration.  He was Paul’s 4th-great grandfather.

That he entered the service of the United States under the following officers and served as herein stated.  The declarant was born in the Township of Little Egg Harbour in the said County of Burlington and resided there until some time in year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy five when he turned out under Captain Joseph Estell of the Militia of New Jersey and served under him as a militia man, for the space of three or four months.  This declarant at this distance of time has no distinct recollection of the day or moth of the year when he first entered the service, nor hath he any record or memorandum from which he can ascertain it.  This declarant during his first tour of service was stationed for some time at the Village of Slabtown [now called Jacksonville] in the Township of Springfield in the said County of Burlington, and was in the battle near that place, sometime called the battle of Petticoat bridge, between the Americans and the Hessians.

While stationed at the said village of Slabtown, and at a time when this declarant was standing as a sentinel, he was wounded in the knee by a Hessian.  After the battle at Slabtown and the wound in the knee, this declarant having been three or four months in service, and being disabled by his wound from active service, returned home with the permission of his said Captain.  Some three or four months after this declarant had returned home and after the wound in his knee had been so far cured as not to disable him from active service, he was solicited to enter the service again as a militia man, but being unwilling to do so, he went to Philadelphia and enlisted as a marine or musket man under Captain John Hamilton who commanded the ship Mifflin belonging to the State of Pennsylvania.   John Farenor[?] acted as the first Lieutenant of the said ship.  This declarant has no distinct recollection, nor any means within his power of ascertaining the precise time when he so enlisted to serve on board said ship Mifflin, nor the precise period when she sailed from Philadelphia, but distinctly recollects to have understood at the time he sailed in the said from Philadelphia, that the British were still in possession of the City of Boston [April 19, 1775 to March 17, 1776]. 

The Mifflin sailed toward the Island of Jamaica, and continued to cruise off that Island, and in other places on the West Indian Station, and off at sea, and made many prizes.  The declarant recollects that (among other vessels) the Mifflin captured a Schooner called the Locust and took her into Cape Franḉois, where she was disposed of.  John Stibbins, the commander of The Locust when taken by the Mifflin, after her capture took the oath of allegiance to the United States and became Second Lieutenant of the Mifflin.

This declarant remained in service as a marine on board the said Ship Mifflin from the time she sailed from Philadelphia until she returned to the United States of America, comprising a period of two years and six months.  During the latter part of this period, the Mifflin attacked a British Letter of Marque [a cargo ship] commanded by Captain John Marely.  She was carried by boarding.  This declarant was the first of the crew of the Mifflin that boarded the Letter of Marque, and his right arm was broken in the conflict in a personal contest between this declarant and the Captain of the said vessel.  Falling in with a British fleet of twelve vessels, shortly after the said capture, the letter of Marque was retaken by the enemy, but the Mifflin escaped.

On the return of the Mifflin to the United States she landed her crew at Kenney’s Wharf [in or near Charleston] in South Carolina.  This declarant then and there received a written discharge under the hand of the said Captain Hamilton, and a pass was signed and delivered to him by a Colonel of the Militia of the State of South Carolina, whose name this declarant has forgotten.

Upon receiving his discharge from the Captain of the Ship Mifflin this declarant retuned home, and shortly after his return, he again entered the service of the United States as a militia man under the command of the same Captain Joseph Estell of the Militia of New Jersey under whom this declarant has served before at the commencement of the war, and served under him in that capacity in the State of New Jersey opposite Mudfort [Fort Mifflin on Mud Island] for the space of four months.  During a part of this last tour of duty this declarant was stationed opposite to Mudfort, and was there at the time the fort was taken by the enemy [November 16, 1777].  After this the declarant was in the service a year at Batsto furnace where he was employed in aiding to make cannon guns and balls, chain shots, and other things for the use of the Army of the United States.

And this declarant further saith that he has not nor ever had any record of his age, but is satisfied that he was twenty one years of age or thereabouts when the British took Philadelphia during the revolutionary war [September 26, 1777, making his birth c. 1756], from the information given to him by those with whom he was brought up; that has always continued to reside in the Township of Little Egg Harbour and the adjoining Township of Washington, in the County of Burlington aforesaid, except during the period of time while he was in the service of the United States during the revolutionary war, and still resides in said Township of Washington; that during the latter part of the revolutionary war this declarant’s house was burnt and all his papers destroyed and among the rest of his discharge under the hand of said John Hamilton, Captain of the said Ship Mifflin, and the pass he received from the Colonel of the Militia of the State of South Carolina.

This declarant is known to Nicholas Sooy, Jesse Richards, and Jesse Evans and others in the neighborhood where he now resides who can testify to his character for veracity and the belief of his services in the revolutionary war as a soldier and marine; but this declarant cannot produce any witnesses to prove his actual services during the revolution, all those who knew him in actual service being dead, or if living, having removed to places not within the knowledge of the declarant except only those ___ whose affidavits are herewith attached; that there is no clergyman residing within the immediate vicinity of the declarant and acquainted with him upon whom he can call to testify in his behalf. 

He hereby relinquishes every claim whatever to a pension or annuity except the present, and declare that his name is not on the pension role of the agency of any state.

After some further inquiries by the Court, the document is signed with Stephen Ford's mark.

The term “marine” has a different meaning than today.  At that time, their most important duty was to serve as on-board security forces, protecting the Captain of a ship and his officers. During naval engagements Marine sharpshooters were stationed in the fighting tops of the ships' masts, and were supposed to shoot the opponent's officers, naval gunners, and helmsmen.

Ultimately, Stephen Ford’s request for a pension was denied.  The ship Mifflin was not a part of the Pennsylvania State Navy or the Continental Navy, and was likely a privateer. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

William Tooker

It seems that Paul has no end of 16th century English churchmen (see also Cranmer Family).

William Tooker (sometimes spelled Tucker) was born in Exeter about 1566 and passed in Salisbury on the 19th of March 1620/21.  He is interred in the Salisbury Cathedral.

Tooker attended school at Oxford where he completed his master's degree in 1583.  In 1585 he became the Archdeacon of Barnstaple in Devonshire. 

During that time, he wrote a book dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I (see Tudor Monarchs and the Church) defending the power of kings to cure diseases, particularly Scrofula.  As a result, Elizabeth I appointed him as a chaplain, a role he continued under her successor, James I.  It is this monarch for whom the King James translation of the Bible is named.

Tooker achieved his Doctor of Divinity degree in 1594.  he was widely recognized as an excellent Greek and Latin Scholar.

In 1604 he published a treatise called Of the Fabrique of the Church and Churchmens Livings, dedicated to James I, in which he attacked the tendency of puritanism towards ecclesiastical democracy because it paved the way for spiritual anarchy.

William Tooker's son Robert (1595-1687) was also a churchman, becoming the rector of Vange in Essex in 1625.

William's grandson Henry Tucker (1619-1694) came to the Massachusetts Colony before 1651, going first to Sandwich on Cape Cod.  Henry was a member of the Society of Friends (a Quaker).  He eventually moved to Dartmouth to avoid persecution by the Puritans.

William Tooker was Paul's 11th great grandfather, Henry Tucker Paul's 9th great grandfather.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cranmer Family

Paul is connected to the Cranmer family through his paternal third great grandmother Hannah Ford (1812-1884) of Washington Township, Burlington County.  Hannah was the daughter of Jeremiah Ford (c. 1791-1845) and his wife Sarah Jane Cranmer (1795-1860).

The Cranmer family first came to the new world from England before 1640.  William Cranmer (1620-1689), the progenitor of the New Jersey family, first lived in Southold, Long Island, where he married Elizabeth Carwithy.  They moved to Elizabethtown, New Jersey (now the City of Elizabeth in Union County), in the 1660s.  Sarah Jane (Cranmer) Ford was the third great granddaughter of this William and Elizabeth (Carwithy) Cranmer.

By the early 1700s, or perhaps slightly before, William Cranmer’s son William (1664-1716) moved further south to West Creek, then in Monmouth County but now in Ocean County.  His son John Cranmer (1696-1760) moved even further south residing in Bass River, Burlington County.  The large Burlington County branch of the Cranmer family descends from John.  Many of those descendants rest either in the Bass River Methodist Cemetery or further inland at the Pleasant Mills Cemetery near Batsto.

Many of the Cranmer men who lived near the coastal waters became sea captains.  It has been said that there were more captains with the name Cranmer than for any other surname.  Those who moved further inland were likely involved in the bog iron industry and later in glassmaking.

Looking back to the family history in England extremely interesting.  William Cranmer’s great-great grandfather was a man named Thomas Cranmer (1467-1501).  Thomas and his wife Agnes Hatfield, Paul’s 13th great grandparents, had three sons – John, Thomas, and Edmund.  John inherited the modest family estate while Thomas and Edmund were educated at Cambridge.

The younger Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), at right, took his Master of Arts degree at the College of Jesus in 1515 and was elected to a fellowship at the college.  Soon after, he married Joan Black.  Although he was not yet a priest, he was forced to give up his fellowship as a result.  When Joan died during her first childbirth, Thomas’ fellowship was restored.

Thomas began studying theology and by 1520 had been ordained.  His received a Doctorate of Divinity in 1526.  For a time, he was assigned to England’s embassy in Spain.  On his return in 1527, he was given a personal half-hour interview with the English king, Henry VIII, who he described as “the kindest of princes” (see Tudor Monarchs and the Church).

From 1529 to 1532, Thomas accepted various appointments on the continent including a team set up in Rome to study the possible annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could wed Anne Boleyn.  Later, he served as the resident ambassador at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor.  While traveling with the Emperor, he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior bishop and principal leader of the church in England.  This appointment was secured by the family of Anne Boleyn, and was quite a surprise because Cranmer had previously held only minor positions in the church.

In May 1533, Cranmer pronounced the judgment that Henry's marriage with Catherine was against the law of God.  He even issued a threat of excommunication if Henry did not stay away from Catherine.  Cranmer also validated Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s secret marriage and personally crowned and anointed Anne as queen.  This had the effect of

As archbishop, Thomas appointed his brother Edmund, Paul’s 12th great grandfather, as Archdeacon of Canterbury in 1534/5.  Unlike other English Archdeacons, the Archdeacon of Canterbury is usually a relative of the Archbishop and has special duties related to enthronement.  Thomas also proceeded with the reform of the Church of England under both Henry VIII and his son Edward VI, including allowing ordained priest to marry.  Both Thomas and his brother Edmund did so, Thomas producing two daughters with his second wife Margaret Ann Osiander and Edmund producing at least one son and one daughter with his wife Alice Sands.

Upon the ascent of the Catholic Queen Mary I (also known as Bloody Mary) to the throne in 1553, Edmund Cranmer was confronted because of his marriage.  Because he would not forsake his wife, he was suspended from executing the priestly functions and required to abstain from the marriage bed.  Wisely, Edmund fled to Germany and later to Rotterdam where he died.  His children eventually returned to England under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I (again see Tudor Monarchs).  Edmunds eldest son Thomas Cranmer (1535-1604) became the grandfather of William Cranmer of Elizabethtown, New Jersey.

Edmund’s brother Thomas Cranmer was imprisoned for his role in the reformation of the Church of England.  Needless to say, Thomas sent his wife and children away for their safety.  He was convicted of treason and condemned to death.  In 1556, Thomas Cranmer recanted his break from the church in Rome, which normally would have resulted in his absolution.  But Queen Mary I would have none of it, and ordered Thomas burned at the stake as depicted below.

Cranmer was given the opportunity to make a final public recantation from a prepared speech before he was burned.   At the pulpit on the day of his execution, he deviated from the prepared script, renouncing the recantations that he had signed with his own hand and stated his hand would be punished by being burnt first.  As the flames drew around him, and as shown in the scene above, Thomas fulfilled his promise by placing his right hand into the heart of the fire while saying “that unworthy hand.”  His dying words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

Tudor Monarchs and the Church

Both Paul’s and Marjory’s ancestors had interactions with the kings and queens of England during the 1500s.  This post serves as background for other posts about those ancestors.

The story of these monarchs is interwoven with the story of the Church of England, with the country switching official religions four times.  Even under the Church of England, there were swings between the Puritans who sought even more reform and the more conservative churchmen.

The Tudor dynasty began after the War of Roses with coronation of Henry VII in 1486.  A Roman Catholic like his predecessors, he is viewed as having returned stability to a war-torn country while taxing the noble class far too highly. 

Henry VII was followed by his son, Henry VIII (at right), in 1509.  Besides his six marriages (the first three discussed here), he is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. 

Henry VIII first married Catherine of Aragon who, after a stillborn daughter, produced a son Henry in 1511, a daughter Mary in 1516, and another stillborn.  The young Henry passed after only seven weeks.  As Henry VIII became more impatient for a male heir, he attempted but failed to have the pope annul his marriage to Catherine on various grounds.  He wanted instead to marry Anne Boleyn. 

In 1532, Thomas Cranmer (at right) was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury with the approval of the Pope.  Thomas Cranmer was Paul’s 13th great uncle (see Cranmer Family).  The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the church in England.  Cranmer, loyal to the king rather than the Pope, annulled the marriage to Catherine and validated Henry VIII‘s marriage to Anne Boleyn.  Soon after, in 1533, Anne produced a daughter Elizabeth.  The Pope excommunicated Henry VIII as well as Thomas Cranmer, and the Church of England became a protestant denomination separate from the church in Rome.

Still anxious for a male heir, and with Anne Boleyn producing only miscarriages, it was arranged for her to be accused of incestuous adultery.  Despite a lack of evidence, she was convicted and executed in May 1536.

Ten days later, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour.  It was Jane who gave Henry his male heir Edward.  On the death of his father, the son ascended to the throne at the age of 10 as Edward VI.  It was during Edward’s reign that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer moved the Church of England event further from Catholic rituals and practices.  However, Edward died at the age of 15 with no heirs, and Henry VIII’s eldest daughter Mary (with Catherine of Aragon) was enthroned in 1553.

Mary I was a Roman Catholic, and restored that church as the official religion.  She also executed at least 280 protestant leaders, including Paul’s uncle Thomas Cranmer, earning her the nickname “Bloody Mary.”  A man named William West was involved in a plot to overthrow Queen Mary.  He was convicted of treason, but his execution was not carried out.  In 1557, he was somehow pardoned by Queen Mary. This William West was Marjory’s 13th great grandfather (see West Family).

Mary I ruled only five years before passing from influenza.  Her half-sister Elizabeth became the next Monarch in 1558.  Quite different from her predecessor, she became known as "Good Queen Bess."  Elizabeth I restored the Church of England as the official religion.  She knighted Marjory’s ancestor William West and created for him the title of Baron De La Warr in 1563.  William West descendants later became governors of Colonial Virginia.  She also appointed William Tooker as one of her chaplains.

Following the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 without issue, the Scottish king, James VI, succeeded to the English throne as James I, the first English monarch from the House of Stuart.  James was descended from the Tudors through his great-grandmother, Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII.  William Tooker was also a chaplain to James I.

Nearly all of these monarch practiced a ritual called the Royal Touch.  It was believed that, as a gift from the Divine, English monarchs could heal a disease called Scrofula by the laying on of hands.  Scrofula (technically tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis) is an infection of the lymph nodes in the neck.

Henry VII touched seven or eight infected people annually. Henry VIII touched 59 people between 1530 and 1532. The Protestant Edward VI apparently did not perform the ritual, but the Catholic Mary I took it somewhat more seriously.  Early in her reign, the Protestant Elizabeth I was reluctant to participate but resumed the practice to prove her legitimacy after the Roman Catholic Church alleged she had lost her healing power.  The Protestant James I wished to end the practice, he found himself having to touch an increasing number of people.  The same William Tooker wrote a historical vindication of the curing power inherent in the English sovereign.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

West Family – Barons, Scoundrels, and Governors

Marjory’s 13th great grandfather was a man named William West who lived from c. 1520 to December 1595.  He was the 1st Baron De La Warr of the second creation. 

While an impressive title, Barons are the lowest rank in the English Peerage – Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and then Baron.  All of these Peers were required to sit in the House of Lords of the English Parliament. 

The term “second creation” (above) means there was a previous line of Barons De La Warr.  The first Barony was created in 1299 and ended in 1554 with the death of William’s uncle Thomas West.  Uncle Thomas was childless and had adopted his nephew William as his heir and the next Baron.  However, William was accused of being impatient and poisoning his uncle, and was sent to the Tower of London in 1548.  An Act of Parliament in 1550 prevented him from inheriting the title.

Two years later, William was involved in a plot to overthrow Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary.  He was convicted of treason, but his execution was not carried out.  In 1557, he was somehow pardoned by Queen Mary.  (Paul’s kin also had contact with this queen, but the result was less fortunate.)  Later, because of his service to the first Queen Elizabeth, William West was knighted and the title of Baron De La Warr was recreated.  He thus became the 1st Baron De La Warr of the second creation. 

William West’s descendants continued to carry the title of Baron until 1761, when King George III (America’s nemesis) created William’s fourth great grandson as the 1st Earl De La Warr.  The 11th Earl De La Warr sits today with his eldest son and grandson in waiting.  The family’s Buckhurst Estate is shown below.

William’s son Thomas West (c. 1556 to March 1601/02), Marjory’s 12th great grandfather, became the 2nd Baron De La Warr on his father William’s passing.  Thomas was also a member of Queen Elizabeth I’s Privy Council and High Sheriff of Hampshire

Thomas had six sons and eight daughters.  Three of those sons became either governor or acting governor of the Virginia colony.

Thomas West’s eldest surviving son, also named Thomas West, succeeded his father in 1602 as the 3rd Baron De La Warr.  He was also a member of the Privy Council.  This Thomas West (1577-1618) headed a contingent of 150 men who sailed to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1610 – just in time to persuade the original settlers not to give up and return to England.  He successfully put down the Powhatan Indians and, as a result, was appointed governor-for-life and Captain-General of Virginia.  Leaving his deputy in charge, Thomas returned to England in 1610 or 1611 to report on conditions in the colony.  As he returned to Virginia 1618, he died at sea.  He was once thought buried in the Azores, but it is now believed he rests in the colony at Jamestown.

It was this Lord De La Warr, the 3rd Baron and Marjory’s 11th great grand uncle, for whom the river, the state, and the Indian tribe were named.  De La Warr has always been pronounced “Delaware.”

The 2nd Baron’s son Francis West (1586-1633/34), another of Marjory’s 11th great grand uncles, served as Acting Governor of Virginia from 1627 to 1629 while awaiting the appointment and arrival of Crown Governor Sir John Harvey.  The Honourable Francis West also served as Commandant of Jamestown and Captain-General of Virginia.  He was an appointed representative to the first House of Burgesses.

The 2nd Baron’s younger son John West (1590-1659) served as Acting Governor during 1635 and 1636.  This was at a time when the Crown Governor Sir John Harvey (above) was suspended and impeached by the House of Burgesses.  Sir John Harvey returned to England where he was restored to his post by King Charles I.

The Honourable John West, Marjory’s 11th great grandfather, was also a member of the House of Burgesses.  In 1630, the decision was made to plant a settlement along the York River.  John West received one of the first grants of 600 acres, which he subsequently sold.  He later acquired over 3,000 acres at the fork of the York River (at the confluence of the Pamunkey and the Mattaponi) that became known as West’s Point.  That land is the site of the present town of West Point, Virginia.

This John West’s son, also named John West (1632-1691) and Marjory’s 10th great grandfather, served in the colony’s militia from 1652 to 1673 ending with the rank of lieutenant colonel.  In 1685, he too sat in the House of Burgesses as representative of New Kent County, Virginia.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Civil War Pensions

During the Civil War, soldiers who became totally disabled received a pension of $8 per month.  For soldiers who died, their widows could collect that $8 per month plus $2 for each of the soldier’s children under age 16.  At first, the pensions for widows terminated when the widow remarried though the children were still compensated.  Later, a widow who remarried could still receive the $8 per month, but only until her children were grown.  Payouts were made twice each year by a government paymaster.

Not surprisingly, there were problems with the pension system.  Many people were illiterate at the time, making the application process cumbersome.  The paymasters operated only in larger cities, requiring travel or the use of a proxy (who usually charged a fee).  For widows in particular, there may have been no official record of marriages or the birth of children, requiring many sworn affidavits to provide the required proof. 

With no enforcement mechanism, widows did not always report new marriages or chose to live “adulterously” to keep their pensions intact.  As a result, a law as passed in 1882 requiring pension recipients to be “of good character.”

In an earlier post, I discussed two of my great grandfathers who did not return from the Civil War.  John George Molz was killed during the Battle of Wilderness in 1864 while Isaac Reed succumbed to typhoid fever near Fredericksburg in 1863.  The families of both of these Union soldiers benefited from military pensions, but not without some difficulty.  Their pension case files, now online at Fold3, tell interesting stories.

Sophia (Gampper) Molz (at right in later years) promptly applied for and received a widow’s pension of $8 plus $2 for each of her four children (Ernstine, John George Jr, Carolina, and Susanna) in Bridesburg, Philadelphia.  While the pension for her children continued, Sophia’s reported her marriage to Jacob Yoos in 1865 and her stipend was terminated.  When Yoos became insane, she left him and lived with her sister in New York.  Five years later, and after serving as his housekeeper, Sophia married Joseph Meier, another Civil War veteran and a widower with four children.

After a change in the pension law in 1901 and after Meier’s death, Sophia could apply to have her pension from John Molz reinstated.  This request was denied because of her failure to divorce Yoos before marring Meier.  Sophia requested several rehearings claiming variously that she thought Yoos was dead when she married Meier, and later that Yoos’ actual death legitimized the union with Meier.  Again, her claims were denied.

While the pension examiner described her as “uneducated,” she was not to be cheated of the pension she thought she deserved.  Sophia applied again as the widow of Joseph Meier.  This too was denied on the basis that her marriage to Meier was bigamous and therefore invalid.  Sophia’s pension-related documents total 294 pages and includes copies of many family documents as well as depositions of her children.

Sophia continued to live in Bridesburg in the house that she and Joseph Meier built until her passing in 1920.  She and Joseph rest in the nearby Bridesburg Presbyterian grounds.

Mary Jane (Coleman) Reed (known as Jane) also requested a pension for herself and her three children with Isaac – Richard, Reuben, and Sarah Jane – in March 1863, less than two months after Isaac’s death.  However, this claim was abandoned because of Jane’s marriage to Henry Parker in September 1863. 

With the change in the law allowing benefits for widows with children even if they had remarried, Jane renewed her request in early 1869.  Perhaps because she was illiterate, Jane began by appointing Thomas S. Miller of Batsto as the guardian of her children.  Miller then applied for and collected the pension benefits retroactive to September 1863.  The first payment to Miller in May 1869 was a huge sum at the time – $683.25.  Through 1870, Miller was paid a total of $935.25 for the benefit of the children.

In October 1870 there must have been a falling-out been Jane Reed Parker and Thomas Miller.  Jane dictated a letter to the pension agency claiming that Miller had not made any payments in over a year and had spent the pension moneys to buy a horse and for drink.  She asked that he be removed as guardian.  The next month, Miller countered that he had made payments to various parties for the benefit of the children.  Among others, he paid Josiah Ford, Jane’s uncle, $100 for board and clothing.  This suggests that the children did not always live with their mother Jane and stepfather Henry Parker. 

Miller offered that he did not pay directly to Jane and Henry Parker because they would have spent the money for rum.  This disagreement resulted in an accounting by Miller that was accepted by the Burlington County Orphan Court as accurate.  It appears that pension benefits continued to be paid through Miller until 1877 when the youngest child, Sarah Jane, reached the age of 16.

Interestingly, the only known birth record for Sarah Jane Reed (at right in 1909), my father’s maternal grandmother, is the affidavit from midwife Elizabeth Moore contained in the pension case file.  While her brothers’ births were officially reported, Sarah Jane was somehow omitted. 

By 1900, Jane and Henry Parker had moved to Brookville in Ocean Township, Ocean County.  Jane passed there in 1902 followed by Henry in 1910.  They rest in the Reevestown Cemetery in what is now Barnegat, New Jersey.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Paul's Civil War Ancestors

Each of us has eight great-great-grandfathers.  Of my eight, I know the names of six.  Three of those resided in the United States at the time of the Civil War.  One, John Dotts, was born in 1802, and was thus was too old to have served.  The remaining two, John George Molz Sr. of New York City and Isaac Reed from the South Jersey Pine Barrens enlisted.  Both were hospitalized during their service (for every three soldiers who died in battle, five more passed from disease), and both are likely interred in the Fredericksburg (Virginia) National Cemetery.

John Molz arrived from Baden-Württemberg as early as 1850 but certainly by 1854.  In July of that year, at the age of approximately 22, he married Sophia Catharina Gampper at the Evangelical Lutheran Church at 108 West 24th Street in New York City (now the site of a Hampton Inn). 

John worked as a tailor, and three children were born in short order – Ernstine Christine “Deana” in 1856, John George Jr. (my mother’s grandfather) in 1858, and Carolina in 1860.  The family lived variously in New York and Philadelphia.

Change came on the 11th of September, 1861, when John enlisted in Company E, 45th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry at the age of 29.  This regiment was also known as the 5th German Rifles and was composed almost entirely of German immigrants.  Military records say John was a small man – 5 feet 5 inches in height with a dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.  We don’t know whether he was motivated by the Union’s cause, or perhaps his young family needed a soldier’s salary plus any enlistment bonus being offered.

While the records are sketchy, the Muster Rolls from 28 October 1861 and 1 January 1862 show him as neither present nor absent.  On 8 May 1862 (from the Muster Roll for March and April), he was present.  However, the Muster Roll for May and June lists him as absent – sick in the hospital in Winchester, Virginia.  On 24 June 1862, the records list John as having deserted at Mount Jackson, Virginia. 

Desertion was not uncommon during the Civil War.  There was no process for taking leave, and John had been ill.  Because his fourth child, Susanna, was born in June 1863, John must have returned to his family.

Nearly a year and one half after deserting, perhaps upon his full recovery, John enrolled in Company K, 98th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers as a veteran on 23 Dec. 1863.  He enlisted in the field at Brandy Station, Virginia.  There may have been a sign-up bonus for re-enlistment.

About four months later on the 5th of May, 1864, John George Molz was killed in the Overland Campaign in the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia – just 16 miles south from his point of re-enlistment.  After the war, the military attempted to remove bodies from the battlefield to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, though John’s earthly remains may lie in the dense underbrush at Wilderness.

John’s widow, Sophia (Gampper) Molz, married twice more and had three more children.  She received a pension for herself until she remarried and for her children with John George Molz until they had grown.  Sophia passed in 1920 and is interred in the Presbyterian Grounds in Bridesburg, Philadelphia.

Isaac Reed was 17 years old at the time of the 1850 Census, meaning he was born between September 1832 and September 1833.  At that time, he was living in the home of his parents, Eden Reed and Rachael Ford in Burlington County, New Jersey.  Some of Isaac’s ancestors were on this continent before the Revolutionary War and were among the first to populate the wilds of New Jersey.

Isaac married Mary Jane Coleman in Washington Township, Burlington County on the first of March 1855.  Mary Jane was born 15 Oct 1839, being 15 years old at the time of her marriage.    Their first child, Richard Reed, was born in August 1855, just five months later.  A second son, Reuben, was born in April 1858.  Their daughter Sarah Jane (my father’s grandmother) was the last.  the records are unclear on her birth date – October 1860 or November 1861.

Isaac Reed joined the 23rd Regiment of the New Jersey Infantry on 13 Sep 1862.  Many of his Reed cousins – Alfred, Benjamin, Daniel, Eden, John, and Joseph – also enlisted on that day in Beverly, New Jersey, for a term of nine months.  Nicknamed the “Yahoos,” the 23rd’s first engagement was the Battle of Fredericksburg from 11 to 15 Dec 1862.  However, it is not known whether Isaac fought in that battle.  He may have already been suffering with the Typhoid Fever from which he passed on 2 Jan 1863. 

Isaac was buried at the White Oak Church in Falmouth, Virginia.  The church served as a Union hospital (see map above).  The sign above its door in the photo below reads "United States Christian Commission."  According to military records, all remains at White Oak Church were moved to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery after the war. 

In March 1863, Isaac’s widow, Mary Jane (Coleman) Reed applied for pensions for his children at the young age 23.  She remarried in September of the same year to a man named Henry Parker and had four more children with him.  Mary Jane passed in 1902 and is interred with her second husband at the Reevestown Cemetery in Barnegat, New Jersey.

While the remains of John George Molz and Isaac Reed are both believed to be in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, their graves and most others are unmarked.  The United States first issued identification tags or “dog tags” in 1906.  During the Civil War, some soldiers pinned paper notes with their name and home address inside the backs of their coats or scratched their name into the back of their belt buckles.  This proved inadequate for many reasons including that clothing of the deceased was often reused by the undersupplied army. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Danville and the Civil War

Note:  Danville has been our adopted home town since late 2003.

Danville, Virginia, is situated on the banks of the Dan River just three miles from the North Carolina border.  With a population of about 3,500 in 1860, Danville was the center of the leaf tobacco business for southern Virginia and much of North Carolina.  Though it was comparatively remote, the tobacco industry made Danville a wealthy city. 

While slavery was common in Danville and the surrounding area, many residents opposed secession because it would threaten the prosperous tobacco industry.  However, public sentiment changed when the north began raising and army to quell the rebellion.  Danville’s mayor, William T. Sutherlin, was elected to the Virginia Secession Convention, and Virginia joined the other southern states in 1861.

Mayor Sutherlin was the city’s wealthiest citizen.  He owned the largest tobacco factory in Danville, the second largest in Virginia.  In 1859, he completed an Italianate mansion on four acres of ground near the city’s western boundary.  The mansion is shown below in 1900, much unchanged from the war years.

During the war, Sutherlin’s tobacco factory was converted to a prison for Union troops.  He served the Confederacy as Quartermaster for Danville, supplying food, clothing, and equipment to the army, and rising to the rank of Major.

Danville raised two companies, the Danville Blues and the Danville Grays for Virginia’s 18th Infantry.  Less than half the men in these units returned home.

In support of the war effort, tobacco factories were converted to other uses such as hospitals, factories, and prisons.  Sutherlin’s 1855 factory (shown today at right) became Confederate Prison No. 6.  Over 7,000 Union prisoners of war were housed in Danville.  Over half died from cold, dysentery, and smallpox.

Because of their relative prosperity, Danville's residents extended charitable assistance to the families of soldiers and other needy individuals.  While Union prisoners complained of the food and conditions, they fared little worse than Confederate troops in the field. 

Danville played its major role from April 3 to 10, 1865, as the last capital of the Confederacy.  After the fall of Petersburg, and with Richmond in grave danger, the Confederate government evacuated on the last operating railroad, the Richmond and Danville.  President Jefferson Davis took up residence in Major Sutherlin’s mansion, and the final meetings of the Confederate government intact occurred in the house.  Davis’ last proclamation was signed there.  After Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, Palm Sunday, Danville was deemed unsafe, and Davis with what remained of his government traveled further south.

Danville’s remoteness spared it some the hardships experienced by other southern cities.   It was not occupied by Union forces until after the war.  However, the economic and psychological damage was severe.  Families struggled when their soldiers did not return, and their Confederate scrip was valueless.  Operating even a small tobacco farm without slave labor was difficult, and property values fell by 80 percent.

The city’s recovery began in earnest in the early 1880s with the addition of cotton mills to its tobacco factories.  Danville’s wealthiest period extended until 1920 and saw the construction of many large and impressive homes.  The mile-long stretch from Ridge Street west to the Sutherlin mansion became known as “Millionaires’ Row.”  Sadly, perhaps half of these homes have been lost in the years since to redevelopment.  A walking tour, The Secrets Inside, is available through the Danville Historical Society.

Today, Marjory and I are fortunate to own one of the surviving large homes known as the Patton House, pictured at right.  The Patton family served as bankers to the wealthy tobacco and textile barons, and lived quite well as a result.  Completed in 1890, the 7,500 square foot home is unique in Danville because of its townhouse style and Richardsonian Revival architecture.

While sitting on the porch of the Patton House, we can clearly see the Sutherlin Mansion including the small balcony where Jefferson Davis review his troops and delivered his last public address.  The third and final flag of the Confederacy flies before the mansion today, but this was not always the case.  Major Sutherlin’s home also served as a public school and the city’s library before its present incarnation as the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.  Tours of the mansion are available and are highly recommended.

We also “see” the presence of Confederate soldiers, some serving as sentries.  They are most often in evidence when the Danville Grays re-enactors are encamped.  The aroma of the re-enactors campfires and the firing of rifles and cannon make for some uncanny flashbacks to Danville’s time as the Last Capital.

Additional Reading:
  Danville, Virginia, by Clara Garrett Fountain
  “Last Capitol of the Confederacy” at
  “Confederate Prison No. 6” at
  “Danville During the Civil War” at