French In Name Only

A Genealogical Blog about the French and Grace Families

Puritans + Thanksgiving

Fowler Family Post Card 1908

My two most recent posts highlighted relatives who lived in New England in the mid-1700’s.  They describe how my 8th great-grandfather Humphrey Atherton persecuted Quakers while my 7th great-grandfather’s step-brother, Benanuel Bowers, was persecuted for being a Quaker.  Researching and writing about the history of America through the lives of distant relatives is a great experience.  However, the posts about Atherton and Bowers illustrate the fine line between myth and reality and (for me) create a struggle on how to accurately portray these stories.  I always question if I am getting the historical context correctly.

On the day that I published the story about Humphrey Atherton, the Washington Post ran an excellent story by Lori Stokes about the Puritans.   I dropped her a note and she was kind enough to respond!

I visited your blog and it’s very interesting. Keep up the good work! Family histories and historians are invaluable to the body of research. Together, eventually we’ll get everyone in the record. Lori Stokes


Five myths about Puritans – Washington Post – November 20, 2016

As Thanksgiving approaches, Americans look back on the first English settlers in what is now New England. Since these Puritans fill the earliest chapters of the American story, they make plenty of appearances in our shared imagination. But debates over who the Puritans were, what they stood for and how they contributed to our sense of national identity are shrouded in misunderstandings.


© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Death by Cow – Humphrey Atherton

Boston CommonHumphrey Atherton is my paternal eighth great-grandfather.  At the time of his death he was considered a powerful leader who was very active in the political affairs of the colony.  However, through the lens of history, his persecution of Quakers, questionable acquisition of Indian lands and apprehension and conviction of heretics presents him in less favorable lights.

Humphrey Atherton was born in England in 1608 and arrived in Boston by 1635/36.  According to published accounts, he held the highest military rank in colonial New England, served as deputy governor, a representative in the General Court, Speaker of the House, representing Springfield, Massachusetts and as magistrate in the judiciary of colonial government.

Major General Atherton after a review of the troops on Boston Common, September 16, 1661, died as a result of being thrown from his horse, which stumbled over a cow lying in the road.

Persecution of Quakers – Mary Dyer and three other Quakers were hanged on Boston Common in 1660 for civil disobedience.  They were given the opportunity to leave, to agree to permanent exile from Massachusetts, and instead they chose to die.  Many view their act as a touchstone for the separation of church and state in America, the birth of our First Amendment rights. Humphrey Atherton, as the below quote attests, held a different view of Mary’s death.

dyer

Mary Dyer of Rhode Island: The Quaker Martyr that was Hanged on Boston Common 


A later play by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (John Endicott) portrays Atherton’s death, as seen by the Quakers, as a punishment from God for his persecution of them.

ENDICOTT.
And did not some one say, or have I dreamed it,
That Humphrey Atherton is dead?

BELLINGHAM.
Alas!
He too is gone, and by a death as sudden.
Returning home one evening, at the place
Where usually the Quakers have been scourged,
His horse took fright, and threw him to the ground,
So that his brains were dashed about the street.

ENDICOTT.
I am not superstitions, Bellingham,
And yet I tremble lest it may have been
A judgment on him.


In 1659, he (Atherton) began a land speculation venture called the Atherton Company, supported by influential shareholders in the colonies and at the metropole.  Hardly a model of ethical practice, the company was a method of gaining control over vast quantities of Indian land.  In 1660, Atherton was part of a scheme to defraud the Narragansetts of much of their territory and remove them from their land. (Yale Indian Papers Project)

Additional background: Profits in the Wilderness: Entrepreneurship and the Founding of New England


© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

John S. French – Korean War

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Ben and Jerry

 Benanuel and Jerathmeel Bowers (Ben and Jerry)


Warning: this story contains references to fornication, moonshine, corporal punishment and jail. (Good, now that I have your attention – Read on!)


My 7th paternal great-grandfather, Jerathmeel Bowers, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1650 to George and Elizabeth (Worthington) Bowers.  When Jerathmeel was six his father died and six months later his mother Elizabeth married Henry Bowtell.

The next mention of Jerathmeel in 1670 states that he “proved an outrageously insolent servant and was convicted of premarital fornication. (with Elizabeth Wilder)” (Sex in Middlesex).  Massachusetts law provided,“that if any man commit fornication, with any single woman, they shall be punished, either by enjoining marriage, or fine, or corporal punishment, or all or any of these, as the judge of the Court that hath Cognizance of the case shall appoint”

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-7-31-11-pmIn 1670, records show that Jerathmeel and Elizabeth were enjoined by the court and in 1671 had their first child, Hannah. Jerathmeel served in King William’s War and later as a captain in Queen Anne’s War.

Jerathmeel operated a still on the corner of his property and may have been the first man in Chelmsford to receive a license to sell liquor (“strong waters”). He was actively engaged in farming and became one of Chelmsford’s most prominent citizens, in addition to being a man of substantial wealth. His greatest distinctions came from serving the Town of Chelmsford as a selectman in 1690-92, state representative in 1697 and 1698.  (Groton’s Anonymous Mistress, Carl Flowers)


These documents offer additional information about Jerathmeel and Benanuel.


Benanuel Bowers – George Bowers by a previous marriage had a son who he named Benanuel (1627-1698).  According to published accounts, Benanuel and his wife Elizabeth (Dunster), due to being Quakers, both received “cruel whippings and imprisonment and the loss of part of their worldly substance” through “the outrage and violence of fiery zealots of the Presbyterian party.”

In one case, he came to the aid of a well known early Quaker by the name of Elizabeth Wooten.  From an account of her travels “So afterwards I returned to Cambridge, where they were very thirsty for blood because none had been there before that I knew of, and I cried repentance through some part of the town. So they took me and had me early in the morning before Thomas Danforth and Daniel Gookin, two of their magistrates who by their jailer thrust me in a very dark dungeon for the space of two days and two nights without helping me to either bread or water. But a Friend, Benanuel Bower, brought me some milk and they cast him into prison because he entertained a stranger and fined him £5.”

Other offenses of his are also documented – Benanuel Bowers appearing before the court and being convicted of absenting himself the public ordinances of Christ on the Lord’s days, by his own confession, for about a quarter of a year past, and of entertaining Quakers into his family two several times, on his examination he affirmed that the Spirit of God was a Christian’s rule. (Source)

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-25-33-pm screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-24-11-pmQuakers Benanuel Bowers and Elizabeth Dunster Bowers had twelve children.  One daughter, Bathsheba Bowers, become a well-known writer and speaker.


For further information about Colonial America read:

America’s True History of Religious Tolerance – The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring—and utterly at odds with the historical record (Smithsonian Magazine, Oct 2010)


© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Servants for Life”

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-7-45-10-pmMy Grandparents Owned “Servants for Life”

In 1641, Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery and was a center for the slave trade throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The 1754 slave census listed more than 2,720 slaves in Massachusetts.

1754 – Billerica reported eight slaves (three males and five females).

1771 – four families in Billerica were recorded “servants for life” on actual valuation lists.

1783 – Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared, “the idea of slavery is inconsistent with our own conduct and [the Commonwealth’s] Constitution.” Quock Walker Case

My 6th great paternal grandparents, Jonathan Bowers (1674-1744) and Hannah Barret Bowers (1679-1765), lived in Billerica, Massachusetts. Jonathan was a representative to the General Court, a captain in the militia, large landowner, postmaster, and generally influential citizen. Jonathan and Hannah were also slave owners. The first documentation that I found mentioning that they owned slaves references the birth of Nelly York in 1752 to Lydia York, a slave of Hannah Bowers.

nellyRecords show that Lydia York had two other daughters. Lydia who was baptized in 1754 and listed as a “servant girl to old Mrs. Bowers” and Anne who was baptized in 1756.  Lydia’s parents Pompy and Dillo, brother Samson and sister Eunice all resided in Billerica, I found no record of their status.

salemcolby

salem-bowersIn 1761, Hannah sold a boy named Salem to Mr. Lot Colby of New Hampshire. Remarkably, Salem Colby (aka Colbey) served during the American Revolution as a soldier in the New Hampshire Brigade, enlisting in 1780 and receiving a pension for his service (photo).

In researching Hannah and Jonathan’s son, Josiah Bowers (my 5th g-grandfather), I discovered a record of Josiah selling a slave girl to Amos Fortune. That girl was none other than Lydia (b.1754) the daughter of Lydia York. The story of Amos is very amos-josiahinteresting and has been told in a book entitled, Amos Fortune – Free Man (Yates – 1950). Below is an excerpt from the The Amos Fortune Forum regarding Amos.


Amos Fortune, an exemplary citizen of colonial New England, was born in the early 1700s in Africa and came to this country as a slave. A tanner by profession, Fortune bought his freedom and that of his two wives. Unfortunately, nothing is known of Amos Fortune’s early life. The first historical record is an unsigned “freedom paper,” dated December 30, 1763, in which Ichabod Richardson “agreed to and with my Negroe man, Amos, that at the end of four years next issuing this date the said Amos shall be Discharged, Freed, and Set at Liberty from my service power & Command for ever….”

Richardson died unexpectedly in 1768, and his will contained no provisions for the slave’s promised freedom. Aamosmos Fortune negotiated with the heirs to pay off his bond and made the last payment in 1770, becoming a free man at age 60. During the next few years Amos Fortune lived and worked in Woburn, buying land and building a house. His first wife, Lydia Somerset – whom he had purchased for *fifty pounds from Josiah Bowers of Billerica – died shortly after their marriage in 1778.

*Pounds Sterling to Dollars/ £50 = $7,500 in 2016 U.S. dollars


© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reverend Nathaniel Eggleston’s Woods

Rev. Nathaniel Hillyer Eggleston Nathaniel Hillyer Eggleston was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 7, 1822. Nathaniel is my 4th great-grand uncle and the brother of my 5th great-grandparent Orrin Eggleston (1783-1870).

Nathaniel graduated from Yale College in 1840 and Yale Seminary (now Yale Divinity School) in 1843. He served as a Congregational pastor in Ellington (CT), New York, Chicago, Madison (WI) and Stockbridge (MA) and was a founder of the American Congregational Union and the Chicago Theological Seminary.

After many years of leading a rapid westward expansion of congregational churches, Nathaniel’s life took a remarkable turn when he went to Washington D.C. and was appointed to be the second Chief of the U.S. Division of Forestry (1883-1886).

U.S. Forest History Society (edited)  In 1893, U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture George Loring appointed his friend Eggleston as chief of the Division of Forestry.  Neither suited for the job nor a strong administrator, Eggleston floundered as chief but did offer some ideas that were later acted upon. In his first annual report he suggested that the federal government should ensure that the extensive federal forest lands in the public domain were properly cared for and were used for the general welfare. He also recommended that the federal government establish forest experiment stations.


neggelstonThe trees are man’s best friends; but man has treated them as his enemies. The history of our race may be said to be the history of warfare upon the tree world. But while man has seemed to be the victor, his victories have brought upon him inevitable disasters. Nathaniel Eggleston


A new presidential administration in 1885 brought a new commissioner of agriculture, Norman J. Colman. He did not ask for, nor did Eggleston volunteer to provide, a plan for the division. Eggleston couldn’t even get a meeting appointment with him. When Colman requested and received Eggleston’s resignation, he waited a month before returning it to the chief. Eggleston spent the next year “befuddled by indecision and uncertainty…meekly waiting to be fired.” Eventually, he was demoted but contentedly stayed on as a clerk for the next twelve years.

Gifford Pinchot, considered by some to be the father of the American conservation movement, was less than enthralled with Nathaniel and in his book Breaking New Ground, stated (Eggleston) was “one of those failures in life whom the spoils system is constantly catapulting into responsible positions.”

Amateur Hour: Nathaniel H. Eggleston and Professional Forestry in Post–Civil War America

Religion in politics; a discourse to the congregational church and society in Madison, Wisconsin

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© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Introducing Annie + John W. Spencer

Part of the joy of conducting genealogical research is the unexpected.  Sometimes that comes from finding a interesting passage in an old book that has been digitized by Google, a blog post that leads you in a new direction or getting a response to an inquiry.

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In one instance, I’d asked a researcher from the Connecticut State Library for information about  my 3rd great grandfather Abiram Spencer (1812-1871).  He passed along some general information and then added, you do know how he died – don’t you?   Like the train that killed Abiram, I did not see that coming.

However, that piece of information does not come remotely close to another discovery that also features Abiram.  Out of the blue, I received a message on this blog that stated, My name is Shelby — , and while looking for information about Abiram Spencer, I landed on your page. I am delighted to learn that you and I share our 2nd great grand-parents, Annie Eggleston and John W. Spencer. 

And here is what blew me away, she added, “I have their original wedding photograph, which I would be overjoyed to share with you.”  Well, here they are, 16 year old Annie Eggleston and 25 year old John W. Spencer. How cool is that!


AJSpencer


© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1924 Wedding – Gladys May Spencer

IMG_3422On the afternoon of November 15, 1924, my grandparents, Gladys May Spencer (1898-1984) and George Bradley French (1898- 1983) were married at the Blue Hills Baptist Church in Hartford, Connecticut.  Recently, I obtained their marriage certificate and a wedding program containing signatures of those on attendance.  Those signing the guest book included my great grandmothers Minnie Fowler Spencer + Mary McEachern French!  In addition, there was also a small 1923 calendar, where Gladys noted, item-by-item, the costs of her wedding dress, her bridesmaids dresses and other wedding expenses.

Gladys and Walter were divorced prior to 1940.  They had one son together, John Spencer French, born 1931.


Snippet from Gladys’ Wedding Planner

White Dress – Materials $15.80/Shoes $7.75/Garters $1.25

Velvet Dress (dressmaker) – $29.77/Shoes $5.90

Brides Maid Dress – Materials $15.94/ Thread .24c/ Ribbon $2.34

Wedding Expenses – Wedding invitations & announcement $16.00/Postage $3.00/Engraving ring $1.50

$1 in 1924 would calculate to approximately $13.96 in 2016 dollars.

For example, her wedding shoes would cost $108.22 today!


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© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Lord, How They Died

In researching Robert Lord, my 9th great-grandfather who resided in Ipswich, Massachusetts, I came across an account regarding the death of his son Joseph (1638-1677).  The account read, “upon the death of Joseph, son of Robert Lord Sr., of Ipswich, who was killed in the woods about two miles and a half from Ipswich meeting house, that he with others was felling a tree and a limb, as it fell, hit another tree breaking it and it fell upon said Lord killing him.” Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts (p.397)

A remarkable thing about researching New England history is the depth and extent that they recorded their lives and in this case, deaths. The History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton (p. 202-4) records some rather notable deaths:

  • Feb 21st 1787 – Francis a child of William Cogswell of Chebacco (Essex, MA) died by falling into a kettle of boiling chocolate.
  • Oct 16th 1727 – We are informed from Ipswich that on Wednesday night last a young woman pf that place being more merry than wise dressed herself in men’s apparel intending a frolic at a place some distance off but as she was riding through a river or pond her horse in all likelihood threw her into the water where she was taken up the next day drowne.
  • September 1771 – At the Hamlet, a child of Mr Bolles died by drinking scalding water from a tea pot.
  • Jan 5th 1814 – Betsey Telock AE 49 is burnt to death. It has been commonly reported that she came to her end by spontaneous combustion from the inordinate use of ardent spirits. But it is the opinion of the gentleman who first discovered her body soon after the flames in her room were extinguished that she caught her bed clothes on fire with a candle and thus lost her life.

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The History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton also mentioned the Dark Day, a day many New Englanders believed carried prophetic meaning.  The true cause is believed to have been a massive forest fire combined with a thick cloud cover and fog.

May 19th 1780  – Darkness came on like that of an eclipse. By 9 o clock a.m. persons could not see to weave. Candles were lighted to dine by.  As the day began prematurely to put on the appearance of twilight cattle lowed and fowls went to roost. The darkness of the succeeding evening was almost palpable. Many feared and trembled lest the end of all things had come. They alone are truly wise who seek the Lord when the bow of his mercy is over them, as well as, when they hear his thunders and behold his lightnings. (p.202)

General George Washington, who was encamped with his Continental Army in nearby New Jersey, commented on the strange weather in a May 18 diary entry. “Heavy and uncommon kind of clouds,” he wrote, “dark and at the same time a bright and reddish kind of light intermixed with them…” (Remembering New England’s Dark Day)

Additional Stories about the Dark Day:

On the dark day, May 19th, 1780. Library of Congress

The Dark Day – BBC Story

© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Lord, How They Lived

Robert Lord Jr., my 9th great-grandfather, was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, England in 1603. Robert arrived in Massachusetts in 1634/5 with his wife Mary Waite and four children. He took the freeman’s oath (example below) at Boston in 1636. Robert lived for 80 years died on August 21, 1683 in Ipswich.

My family relation continues through their daughter Abigail who was born in 1646 and died June 04, 1729. Abigail married Jacob Foster on February 26, 1665/66 in Ipswich. Jacob’s 4th g-granddaughter, Laura Maria Foster, married Horace French.

In September 1636, Robert was appointed Town Clerk and Clerk of the Court of Ipswich and continued to hold that position until his death. His duties included what would now be considered Clerk of Probate and Register of Deeds. As Marshal, he is said to have served more than twenty years in the Indian wars and became so inured to camp life and exposure that he could never afterwards sleep upon a feather bed. He is said to have been below the medium stature, but of powerful mold and one of the most athletic, strong, and fearless men in the Colonial service.

In 1660, Henry KingsbuScreen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.55.22 PMry sold his home and land on High Street to Robert Lord for “two oxen in hand — 5 pounds to be paid Robert Paine and 40s to Edmund Bridges” (to perhaps settle debts?).  The Henry Kingsbury – Robert Lord House, 52 High Street still stands and was featured in Stories from Ipswich, a fine blog about the history of Ipswich.

Background: Genealogical and Family History of the State of New Hampshire: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation, Vol 4


FREEMAN’S NEW OATH (Post 1636)

Being by God’s providence, an Inhabitant, and Freeman, within the Jurisdiction of this Commonwealth; do freely acknowledge my self to be subject to the Government thereof: And do therefore do here swear by the great and dreadful Name of the Ever-living God, that I will be true and faithfull to the same, and will accordingly yield assistance & support thereunto, with my person and estate, as in equity I am bound; and will also truly endeavor to maintain and preserve all the liberties and priveliges thereof, submitting my self to the wholesome Lawes & Orders made and established by the same. And further, that I will not plot or practice any evill against it, or consent to any that shall so do; but will timely discover and reveal the same to lawful Authority now here es- tablished, for the speedy prevention thereof. Moreover, I doe solemnly bind my self in the sight of God, that when I shall be called to give my voyce touching any such matter to this State, in which Freemen are to deal, I will give my vote and suffrage as I shall judge in mine own conscience may best conduce and tend to the public weal of the body. So help me God in the Lord Jesus Christ.

© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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