French In Name Only

A Genealogical Blog about the French and Grace Families

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Halloween in Stone

Above is the gravestone of my paternal 9th great-grandfather Robert Harrington who was born in 1616 in Somerset, England and died in 1707 in Watertown, Massachusetts at the impressive age of 90! Below are links to prior posts that explore gravestones and tales of witches.

In Celebration of All Hallows’ Eve

Which, Witch?

Captain Jonathan, Gentleman: Part III – Thomas Danforth – Judge not lest ye be judged

Bodurtha – Ye streete fence to Ye great river

Reice Bodurtha, my 8th paternal great-grandfather, was born in 1621 in Wales and married Blanche Lewis in 1646 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Together, they had four children (John (died at birth), John, Joseph, Samuel) during their marriage. In 1645, he was granted a house lot, wet meadow and woodland by the Plantation of Agawam (Springfield Colony). The house lot extended from “Ye streete fence to Ye great river.”  The map (at left) illustrates the location of the Bodurtha house lot.

Sadly, Ye great river – the Connecticut River, was the place where Reice and his family suffered a tragedy. The event is described is in Stories Carved in Stone: Agawam, Massachusetts (Rusty Clark, 2005).


Which, Witch?

In 1652, Hugh Parsons, of Springfield, Massachusetts, was convicted before William Pynchon on formal charges of witchcraft. One of his formal accusers (along with his wife and most of the town) was Blanche Bodurtha, my 8th great-grandmother.

Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England: A Documentary History 1638

Before Salem: Witch Hunting in the Connecticut River Valley, 1647–1663

© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2017. 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.

 

Rough on Rats

It all started, quite innocently while researching a friend’s family history.  I came across the tragic death, by suicide, of Lucey Martelina (Toluca, Ilinois).  I learned that the means, ingesting rat poison, was a popular and common way to end one’s life.  The product, Rough on Rats, was a poison composed of arsenic and barium, with a little coal or sand added for coloring, designed to kill a variety of vermin.

According to the Annual Report of Illinois State Board of Health, in 1887, there were 259 suicides by poisoning and the “poisons most used were morphine and rough on rats.”

Upon further research, it became clear that he use of Rough on Rats was not limited to suicide.  In 1898, Frank Belew admitted that he had poisoned his sister Susie and brother Louis. “I poured the drug into the teakettle…I do not know what promoted me to do the deed” (Belew on Trail for His Life – SF Call 6 April 1898)

© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2017. 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.

Hello Minnie

This week, I had the chance to see my great-grandmother Mary “Minnie” MacEachern French for the first-time! Thanks to the genealogical community and an exchange of emails, I was able to learn a little more about her life and see a photograph.  (Thank you Rick!)

Notes left by the daughter of Susan Jane Wilkie indicated that at the age of 18 her mother left Cape Breton, Nova Scotia for Boston and lived with her cousin George French (my grandfather) and her Aunt Minnie. According to the notes, Susan learned dressmaking from Mary. The best news of all was that there was a photograph of Susan Jane “Jennie” Wilkie Small, Charles S. Small, Charles Jr. and Aunt Min taken in about 1916. That is Minnie on the left

Mary MacEachern (MacEachron) was born on 25 April 1877 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada to Duncan and Mary Maloney MacEachern. On the 13th of April 1897 she married Walter Abraham French, a carriage driver, in Boston, Massachusetts. Walter was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Horace E. and Laura Foster French. My grandfather George Bradley French was born in 1898.  Walter and Mary’s marriage did not last. The 1910 Census, recorded on April 22, 1910, identifies Mary was living with George on Huntington Avenue in Boston. The census lists Mary as a widow, however, that might not be entirely accurate (better a widow than a divorcee?). In George’s personal belongings at the time of his death is a letter from his father, Walter, to Ralph H. Hallett, Esquire:

Walter A. French

New York, March 8, 1910

Dear Sir: 

I have been advised that my wife, Mrs. Minnie French, of your city, has started a divorce proceeding against me in the court of your city, on the grounds of desertion, intoxication, cruelty, non-support, etc., and I understand the summons was returnable last month. I desire to have you enter an appearance for me and look after my interests in the proceedings. I have no desire to take a contest over the divorce, or the custody of the child, George, but I wish to be informed of the progress of the proceedings, and to be advised promptly if a decree is granted. I would also like to have you see that no decree for alimony is entered against me. Very Truly Yours,

The 1940 Census has Mary living in Lowell, Massachusetts with Archie and Margaret McLean. She is listed as being Archie’s aunt and listed as a widow. As for Walter, he appears in a March 1942 Social Security Application and Claim, I have no details as to the date or location of his death. A September Selective Service WWI Registration 1918 World War I draft registration card identifies Walter Abram French, living in New York City, with a date of birth of 26 January 1875 (2 years earlier than his true date of birth).

 

© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2017. 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.

A Happy New Year – 1908

Happy New Year!

This delightful post card was mailed on December 31, 1908 to my 2nd great-grandmother Ellen Jane Fowler (1845-1924) of Bloomfield Connecticut.

Your very substantial Christmas letter reached us on that day – Thanks for same – A happy New Year to you all. This is indeed a charming winter so far – No need to go south for warmth or good traveling. Charles is not at all well, but around nearly all the time – Wish the best of wishes for you all.  Mrs. S. Blake

Additional post cards from the Fowler family can be viewed in the following post: The Fowler’s Postcards

© 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.

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

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-4-45-08-pm

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.

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