Immigration is a foundation of America. No other nation has as large an immigrant population as does the United States. With the important exception of those descended from Native peoples and/or enslaved Africans, few people in this country cannot trace at least part of their ancestry to an immigrant—either recently or centuries ago.
Brookings Institution, 2021
No serious study of American history can be undertaken without acknowledging the role played by immigrants. As the introduction quotation acknowledges, America is founded on the immigrant experience. Americans are all either indigenous or descended from immigrants – either voluntary or involuntary. Modern discussions or immigration are frequently bound up in the legal language surrounding immigration – whether someone is “documented” or not, or whether someone followed the rules surrounding immigration.
In this book, I want to tell the story of the immigrants who came before the modern era – even before the great waves of immigrants who built our cities, farmed our land, and fueled the economic growth that created the dominant world power of the second half of the twentieth century. Most of my immigrant ancestors came to America in the 17th century, before there was anything called America. My previous research has focused on the lives of them and their descendants in America – what their lives were like, when and why they moved around, and how they intersected the “big history” of their times.
However, this project focuses on their lives before they came to America – mostly in England, but some in Germany, France, and the Netherlands as well. This involves accessing and assessing new sources of information about events further removed from me in both time and space. I had to enter a world I knew little about – a world of pre-industrial (in some ways barely post-medieval) Europe, where the language and customs were very different from my own. I had to learn a new geography, history, and sensibility.
In his seminal book Albion’s Seed, historian David Hackett Fischer provides a template for analyzing lives so removed from my own. He identified migration patterns that seems to fit the lives of immigrant ancestors I am trying to write about, and he taught me to ask some important questions about their lives in Europe and their decisions to emigrate.
My first pass at focusing on who to write about identified over 200 ancestors about whom I had at least a little information regarding their European roots. A second cut at the information pared that number down to more than 100. I have sorted these immigrant ancestors by location, and have come up with a schedule that will allow me to complete this project by the end of his year.
[This is a report on the research I did during the first week of work on my 2021 genealogy project Descendants of Spencer and Martha Pease Arnold. I’ll move on to work on his brother Joseph during the second week of January 2021, his brother Miles during the third week of January, and his sister Rosetta during the fourth week of January. I’ll be back to Adna the first week of February.]
Adna Arnold (1823-1898) is my 2nd great-uncle, younger brother to my 2nd great-grandfather Miles Arnold. He was born in Maine and moved to Ohio with his parents and siblings in 1930 or so.
Adna Arnold (1823-1898) married three time.
With his first wife, Rebecca Hamilton (1831-1921) he had six children – Martha “Mattie” Arnold (1848-1932), Rosaltha Jane (Rosa) Arnold 1851-1919), Thomas Jefferson (Tommy) Arnold (1853-1925, Mary Arnold (1856-1909), Lilly Arnold (1858-1862), and James Lewis Arnold (1858-1911).
His children were all born before we signed up to serve in the Civil War, where he served along with Miles in the 76th Ohio regiment.
Adna and Rebecca divorced in 1877. I don’t know why.
Adna remarried in 1879, to Hannah Hoskins. Her first husband, James K. Wood, had died in 1870, leaving her with a large number of small children. The 1880 census shows Adna living with Hannah and her three youngest sons, age 16, 12, and 10.
Adna and Hannah divorced in 1892. The newspaper article about their divorce gives “willful absence” as the cause. Adna married a third time later in 1892, to a woman named Helen Parsons. Adna died in 1898.
Here’s what I know about his children:
Mattie (1848-1932) and her husband Thomas Greenwood had 5 children between 1869 and 1882: Lillie, Thomas, Rosa, Alpha, and Robert. They moved to Iowa.
I don’t know anything about Lillie’s marriage or family.
Thomas married Elizabeth Sorenson and they had 8 children between 1891 and 1910. They moved to Iowa.
Rosa married Bert Bryant and they had 8 children between 1895 and 1917. They moved to Iowa.
Alpha married Lodella Ellen Barrick and they had 2 children in 1905 and 1912. They moved to Iowa.
Robert married Louella Myers and they had three children between 1907 and 1913. They moved to Mississippi.
Tommy (1853-1925) and his wife Frances Ella George had four children between 1891 and 1905: Walter, Frank, Charles, and Sarah. They stayed in Ohio.
Walter married Mary Beeman and they had one child, Francis Joseph in 1917. They stayed in Ohio.
Frank married Eda Budd and they had 7 children between 1921 and 1931. They stayed in Ohio.
Charles died at the age of 13
Sarah married Ennice Howard Shepard and they had 2 children between 1925 and 1929. They stayed in Ohio.
Rosa (1851-1919) married Timothy Jewette Clayton and they had 10 children between 1871 and 1896: Allena, Virgil, Bergey, Emery, Ethel, Otis, Laverne, Florence, Josie, and William. They lived their entire lives in Licking County, Ohio.
Allena married William Parker and they had 2 children in 1894 and 1896. They stayed in Ohio.
Virgil married Nellie Viola Longshore and they had seven children. They stayed in Ohio.
Bergey died at the age of 5
Emery married Bessie Mae Cantleberry and they had six children between 1904 and 1911. They stayed in Ohio.
Ethel died young
Otis married Bertha Frances Cantelberry (Bessie Mae’s sister?) and they had five children between 1915 and 19. They stayed in Ohio
Laverne apparently died young.
Florence married Jacob Chase and they had 13 children. They stayed in Ohio.
Josie married Verne Grandstaff and they did not have children. They stayed in Ohio.
William married Eulalia Margaret Ross and they had two children in 1920 and 1922. They stayed in Ohio.
Mary married Charles Bell and they had three children between 1876 and 1883: Charles, Arthur, and Asa. They stayed in Ohio.
Charles married Gertrude Wooles and they had one child in 1899. They stayed in Ohio.
Arthur died when he was 1 month old
Asa married twice. I don’t know much about him.
James Lewis (I think he went by Lewis) married Mary Bowers and they had four children between 1883 and 1889 : Calvin, Hattie, Wilbur, and Otto. Then he married Rebecca Perkins and they had five children between 1891 and 1907: Daisy, John, Beatrice, Clyde, and Forrest. They stayed in Ohio.
Calvin married Minnie May Messick and they had four children between 1909 and1916. They stayed in Ohio.
Hattie married three times: to H. J. Bell, William E. Priest, and Judd Bending. I don’t think she had any children, although Judd had a child whom she raised as a stepchild. I think. She died in Michigan, although I’m not sure how long she lived there.
Wilbur married Bertha (or Beatrice) Knapp and they had two children in 1914 and 1916. He stayed in Ohio.
Otto married Bernadine Noffs and they had four children between 1917 and 1925. This family lived in Michigan.
Daisy married Jesse James Cole and they had four children between 1910 and 1918. They stayed in Ohio.
John died at the age of 21.
Beatrice married William R. McMurtry and they had two children in 1918 and 1923. They stayed in Ohio.
Clyde married twice – to Bertha Stevens and Alice Fraley. They did not have any children. They stayed in Ohio
Forrest married Laura Walters and they had one child in 1928.
To sum up:
He had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood.
Four of his adult children spent their entire lives in Ohio; one relocated to Iowa. These are my great-grandfather’s first cousins (descendants of their common ancestor, their grandfather Spencer Arnold), making them my 1st cousins 3x removed.
His 26 grandchildren were born between 1869 and 1905. Two of them relocated to Iowa and two to Michigan. One went to Mississippi. The rest stayed in Ohio. These are my grandfather’s second cousins (descendants of their common ancestor, their great-grandfather Spencer Arnold), making them my 2nd cousins 2x removed.
His 86 great-grandchildren were born between 1891 and 1932. These are my fathers’ third cousins (descendants of their common ancestor, their 2nd great-grandfather Spencer Arnold), making them my 3rd cousins 1x removed. I haven’t documented their marriages, children, or locations yet.
Clean up hints on what you have so far
Documents marriages, children, and locations of great-grandchildren.
As I began to work on this project, the first step in the process was to build out the list of the descendants of Spencer and Martha, so that I could get an idea of what I was going to have to do in the next year. To accomplish this step, I simply utilized the family tree hints on Ancestry to quickly generate lists of children for each descendant I came across. I know that I would build in errors by doing this, but I was willing to deal with that later in exchange for getting a quick feel for how big this was going to be I quickly realized that it was going to be a big project. I had created a new tree on Ancestry just for the descendants of Spencer and Martha, so it wasn’t hard to figure out what I was going to be facing. My initial tree contained over 750 direct descendants. I realized that organization was an immediate and pressing need.
Here’s what I decided to do.
Spencer and Martha had four children who had children – Adna, Joseph, Miles, and Rosetta. Their youngest daughter, Matilda, married but did not have children before she died at age 35. Using this as a basis, I began to fiddle with ways of organizing my research, and I decided to spend one week at a time on each of Spencer’s children. Adna gets the first week of each month, Joseph the second, Miles the third, and Rosetta the fourth. I’ll spend any leftover days any way I wanted. My thinking went this way: by spending an uninterrupted week on each of Spencer’s children, I’ll be able to dig into the “shape” of the family – where they lived, how many children they had, what resources I could access – without getting bored. By the time I circle back to that set of descendants four weeks later, I’ll be in a position to look at then with fresh eyes. So here’s what this plan look like:
With this schedule in place, I can begin to work on this project now – in the last week of December – by continuing to scope out the work, identify resources, and so forth.
I’m not sure what the product of this research will look like. Right now, I’m thinking of an annotated Anhentafel (ancestor table). I can create this table through the Family Tree Maker software by uploading my GEDCOM and asking the program to create the descendants table. It downloads it as a PDF, but I can export the PDF to Microsoft Word to make it editable.
Here’s how this will work. What follows is a part of the 32-page Ahnentafel generated by Family Tree Maker, focusing on my 2nd great-grandfather Miles Arnold (2812-1899). I want you to note — I didn’t have to type any of this. It was created by FTM and all I did was export it to Word.
Miles Arnold was born in 1821 in Thomaston, Knox, Maine, USA and died in 1899 in Ferris, Hancock, Illinois. He married Vandia Orilla Brown on Mar. 21, 1844 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. Vandia Orilla was born in 1825 in Fredonia, Licking County, Ohio, United States of America and died in 1900 in Ferris, Hancock, Illinois, USA. Children of Miles Arnold and Vandia Orilla Brown 8. Oscar Eugene Arnold was born on Oct. 16, 1845 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Jul. 26, 1847 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. 9. Elizabeth Victory Arnold was born on Jul. 22, 1847 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Nov. 17, 1847 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. 10. Joseph Spencer Arnold was born on Jul. 8, 1849 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, United States and died on Jun. 30, 1903 in Hamilton, Hancock, Illinois, United States. 11. Roseanna Jane Arnold was born on Apr. 5, 1851 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on May 17, 1936 in Summitville, Lee, Iowa, USA. 12. George Washington Arnold was born on Mar. 14, 1854 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Sep. 10, 1855 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. 13. Warner Lismond Arnold was born on Mar. 22, 1856 in McKean, Licking, Ohio, United States and died on Jun. 29, 1938 in Jacksonville, Morgan, Illinois, USA. 14. Nelson Franklin Arnold was born on Jan. 8, 1859 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Feb. 10, 1888 in Quincy, Adams, Illinois, USA. 15. Miles Arnold was born on Jun. 8, 1861 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, United States and died on Aug. 10, 1934 in Keokuk Township, Wapello, Iowa, USA. 16. Charles Miller Arnold was born on Aug. 23, 1864 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Sep. 17, 1865 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. 17. Lucy Gilman Arnold was born on Aug. 4, 1866 in Bloomington, McLean, Illinois, USA and died on Mar. 13, 1930 in Keokuk, Lee, Iowa, USA. 18. Emma Violette Arnold was born on Nov. 4, 1869 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died in 1969 in La Harpe, Hancock, Illinois, USA.
One thing I know about Miles which is not captured in this table is his experience in the Civil War. I can edit the Ahnentafel to include this. It looks like this once it’s edited. I added the part in italics, based on what I have learned from researching this family.
Miles Arnold was born in 1821 in Thomaston, Knox, Maine, USA and died in 1899 in Ferris, Hancock, Illinois. He married Vandia Orilla Brown on Mar. 21, 1844 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. Vandia Orilla was born in 1825 in Fredonia, Licking County, Ohio, United States of America and died in 1900 in Ferris, Hancock, Illinois, USA. Miles and his brother Adna served in the 76th Ohio Regiment, which participated in engagements across the South, culminating in the Battle of Atlanta in April 1864. Miles was wounded and left for dead on the battlefield, but he was retrieved the following day and patched up sufficiently to go home to Ohio. He and Rilla had three more children after his Civil War service. Over the next ten years they moved around a lot – from Ohio, to Illinois, back to Ohio, to Kansas, and then finally to Hancock County, Illinois, where they settled and lived the rest of their lives. I am descended from their 6th child (only the 3rd child to live past infancy) Warner Lismond Arnold, #13 on the list below. Children of Miles Arnold and Vandia Orilla Brown 8. Oscar Eugene Arnold was born on Oct. 16, 1845 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Jul. 26, 1847 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. 9. Elizabeth Victory Arnold was born on Jul. 22, 1847 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Nov. 17, 1847 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. 10. Joseph Spencer Arnold was born on Jul. 8, 1849 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, United States and died on Jun. 30, 1903 in Hamilton, Hancock, Illinois, United States. 11. Roseanna Jane Arnold was born on Apr. 5, 1851 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on May 17, 1936 in Summitville, Lee, Iowa, USA. 12. George Washington Arnold was born on Mar. 14, 1854 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Sep. 10, 1855 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. 13. Warner Lismond Arnold was born on Mar. 22, 1856 in McKean, Licking, Ohio, United States and died on Jun. 29, 1938 in Jacksonville, Morgan, Illinois, USA. 14. Nelson Franklin Arnold was born on Jan. 8, 1859 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Feb. 10, 1888 in Quincy, Adams, Illinois, USA. 15. Miles Arnold was born on Jun. 8, 1861 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, United States and died on Aug. 10, 1934 in Keokuk Township, Wapello, Iowa, USA. 16. Charles Miller Arnold was born on Aug. 23, 1864 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died on Sep. 17, 1865 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA. 17. Lucy Gilman Arnold was born on Aug. 4, 1866 in Bloomington, McLean, Illinois, USA and died on Mar. 13, 1930 in Keokuk, Lee, Iowa, USA. 18. Emma Violette Arnold was born on Nov. 4, 1869 in Fredonia, Licking, Ohio, USA and died in 1969 in La Harpe, Hancock, Illinois, USA.
I intend to use the Ahnentafel this way, adding to and supplementing the information as I find it. Each descendant has his or her own entry in the Ahnentafel, with space to add information I have found. I can’t add everything I have been able to find out about each of these descendants of Spencer and Martha, but I can add interesting bits – who served in wars, the jobs or public positions people held, anecdotes about their lives.
As I was researching a project in 2017, I began to plan a genealogy research trip to the locations where my grandparents lived in 1900. I was stimulated to undertake this project by Ian Frazier’s book Family, which was a wonderful story of his family in the American Midwest at the turn of the 20th century. Here’s how he introduced his book:
“The twentieth century began on a Tuesday. On that day, all of my great-grandparents but one were living in Ohio or Indiana. Mr. and Mrs. Harry E. Frazier and their four children lived in Indianapolis, in a neighborhood of many vacant lots and telephone poles. Mr. and Mrs. Louis W. Wickham and their three children and hired girl lived at 237 Benedict Avenue, Norwalk, Ohio. The Reverend John Bachman and his wife and two daughters lived in New Knoxville, Ohio, where he was the pastor of the First German Reformed Church. Mrs. Elizabeth C. Hursh and her three grown daughters and one son lived at 86 Greenfield Street, Tiffin, Ohio; her husband, Professor O.A.S. Hursh, lay in a nearby cemetery, beneath a $200 monument inscribed with a Latin quotation and the years, months, and days of his life.”
I bet I can write this, I said to myself. So I did:
The twentieth century began on a Tuesday. On that day, all of my great-grandparents but one were living in Illinois, Oklahoma, or Texas. Mr. and Mrs. Warner Lismond Arnold and their eight children (including their youngest son, my grandfather John Cecil Arnold) lived in Montebello Township, Hancock County, Illinois. Mr. and Mrs. Howard P. Ellefritz and their two children (including their oldest daughter, my grandmother Orpha Lydia Ellefritz) (they would go on to have eight more children) lived just a few miles away, in Pilot Grove Township, Hancock County, Illinois.Mrs. Franklin Anthis (Mattie) lived with her ten children (including her two-year-old daughter, my grandmother Susan Vernon Anthis) in Justice Precinct 7, Lee County, Texas; her husband Frank, who had been dead for just a little over a year, lay in Forest Grove Cemetery in Milam County, Texas, a few miles from their home. Mattie would join him 32 years later.Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Calvin Workman, Sr., and their 11 children (including their youngest son, my grandfather Thomas Calvin Workman, Jr.), lived on the homestead in Bear Creek Township, Logan County, Oklahoma, that Tom had claimed in the Oklahoma Land Run a decade earlier.
And so this project began. As I researched it, I began to feel the pull to visit these locations. My family had moved around a lot – not my immediate family, as I have lived my whole life in Virginia. But my ancestors never stayed put for every long. My parents met and married in Arizona; my mothers family had moved there from Texas in the 1931, and my fathers family had moved there from Illinois in 1936. World War II brought them to the east coast, where they lived the rest of their lives and where my siblings and I have lived and raised our families.
But because earlier generations had moved so much, I knew nothing about family members who stayed behind – in Illinois and Texas, but also in Oklahoma, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and points east. But I wasn’t necessarily thinking about this as I planned my trip. After much planning, I took a 12-day solo research trip in January of 2018. It was fabulous.
One of the things I did in preparation for my trip was to write up posts for Facebook pages for genealogy groups in the areas I was visiting. My posts generally said something along the lines of “I’m visiting your area in January 2018 and want to know the best sources for information, since my time there will be limited.” Then I put in the surnames I was researching, not expecting much in return but thinking that maybe the names would strike a chord with someone. My maternal surnames were Workman and Anthis, and my paternal surnames were Arnold and Ellefritz.
In October of 2017, probably a month or two after I put up these original posts, I got a comment from a woman in central Oklahoma. The surname I was researching there was my mother’s maiden name, Workman, and the woman’s comment was simply “I have Workmans in central Oklahoma.” Within a couple of hours we had identified that our grandparents were siblings, and that time and family migration had separated these parts of the family. I had discovered my second cousin Susan, and soon became acquainted with her sister and brothers as well.
Her grandmother Tina Workman was my grandfather Tom Workman’s older sister. The family had pulled up stakes in central Oklahoma and moved to Texas in 1915, at which point Tina was an adult and engaged to be married, so she stayed in Oklahoma. Tom was 16 years old, so he moved with the family. Tina never left central Oklahoma, and that’s where Susan and her extended family are still living. Tom moved to Texas and then on to Arizona, and my parents came to Virginia, as I mentioned earlier.
Susan and I had never known of each other’s existence. The family separation was almost total, although it does not appear to have been hostile.. Susan did have one anecdote that referenced my mother, although she didn’t realize it at the time. Her uncle (our parents’ generation) talked once about his cousin “whose name was a beautiful as her eyes.” That was a reference to my mother, Violet Workman. Susan and I both teared up when she told me that story.
Oh yes, and she did tell me that story in person – when we met for lunch in Oklahoma City in January of 2018, when I was on my research trip. We both brought photos, and concluded that her grandmother looked a lot like my grandfather – not surprising for siblings!
Susan and I are in touch on Facebook now, along with her sister Liz. Susan is creative and crafty – the pictures she posts of the quilts she sews and the clothing she makes for her grandchildren are wonderful. Liz is a writer. She write fantasy fiction, and is as dedicated to her craft as Susan is to hers. Liz and I talk about writing, a lot. My brother, who passed away in 2014, was a writer of plays and poetry, and he and Liz would have had a lot to talk about. My writing is not creative in the same way as Liz’s is, but our shared passion for the written words ties us together.
So my “gift of genealogy” was the revelation of new family members. When the pandemic ends, we have plans to meet in the middle somewhere – I’m in Williamsburg, Virginia, so we may meeting somewhere in Tennessee to get to know each other better. Without genealogy, I would never have known anything about this part of my family.
For the last five years I have been writing my family history as a way of figuring out what I know – and, probably more importantly, what I don’t know. By trying to string a set of facts together in a narrative, I find it easy to figure out what pieces are missing or what doesn’t make sense.
I have also found that I can improve the focus of my research and feel more productive if I am attempting to answer specific questions. It’s only by writing these questions down, and keeping them in mind as I’m researching, that I can keep from going down the rabbit holes that attract us every day.
I have self-published a dozen or so books about my family history. I publish them through Lulu.com, which I have found to be very simple and extremely inexpensive. I started with examining what I knew (or thought I knew) about each of my family lines, winding my way back into American history. I discovered that I had ancestors in 11 of the 13 colonies before the Revolution, and that none of my direct ancestors were still living east of the Appalachian Mountains by 1840 or so. There were clearly stories to be told.
I wrote about my four grandparental lines – my paternal Arnold and Ellefritz lines and my maternal Anthis and Workman lines.
Then I wrote several books that cut across my ancestral lines – one about my 15 or so Patriot ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, and one about women in my family tree who interested me.
Then I embarked on a 2-year project to write about my ancestors on their birthdates – sometimes revisiting ancestors I had already written about and adding new information as my research skills improved.
Next, I picked a year and tried to write about what was going on with my family during that year. I picked 1900, which was a time when my great-grandparents were all young adults with young families, and their parents were still around (for the most part). This took me to three parts of the country – western Illinois, southeast Texas, and central Oklahoma – as I delved into the broad sweep of history as well as the family decisions that had put them in these places at this time. The project literally took me to these location – in January 2018 I visited each of these locations, walking main streets and cemeteries and haunting libraries and courthouse basements in search of information.
Most recently, I embarked on a 52 Locations in 52 Weeks project – taking another sweep through the family lines that I had already worked on, increasing both the breadth and depth of my knowledge as I tried to place my ancestors in context.
And in case you were wondering – here comes the gift part. Each time I wrote a book, I ordered enough copies of it to send it to my sister, my aunt, several of my cousins, and my children. My aunt and cousins were generally appreciative of what I had written; my sister and my children, not so much, although my daughter has become interested enough in the stories I tell to make a couple of forays into the locations where our ancestors lived.
I plan to donate copies of the books I’ve written to a local genealogy library where I volunteer (or at least where I volunteered before COVID shut us all down). I am content with the knowledge that when I’m gone, the research and the stories will survive me. That is a gift to myself.
York County, Pennsylvania, is located in the southeast portion of Pennsylvania, on the border with Maryland. It was formed from neighboring Lancaster County in 1749.
Changing Boundaries of York County
As the population of states grows, the organization of local government changes. York County was established primarily because immigrants – mostly German – came into the port of Philadelphia and then moved west to take advantage of the fertile farmland in the Great Appalachian Valley shown on the earlier map. All of these maps are taken from https://www.mapofus.org.
A (Very) Little History
The township of Dover, where my ancestors lived, was founded as part of Lancaster County before the establishment of York County. The earliest settlers – almost all German immigrants – moved there in 1736, the year of the oldest land warrants in the area. German was the primary language of this community even into the 19th century. This was a small community; in 1783, one year for which I have found records, the population of the village totaled 81. Everyone knew everyone else in the village. The township of Conewago, formed out of Newberry and Dover in 1818, was the home of some of my other ancestors.
The history of this part of Pennsylvania is caught up in the contest between the Penns (of the Pennsylvania Colony) and Lord Baltimore (of the Maryland Colony). Establishing the boundary line between the provinces was harder than it had to be, I think, because of the different assumptions and conditions under which the various proprietary land grants were given. It was not until the boundary line was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon that the border dispute was resolved by the drawing of what came to be known as the Mason-Dixon line.
The location of York County made it inevitable that the county would be at the crossroads of activity as the population of the country grew and moved around. As the earlier map illustrated, York County’s position in the extended Great Valley region, east of the Appalachian mountains, meant that it was on the pathway of migration and commerce that extended into the American heartland during the 18th century.
It also meant that the region did not escape the American Revolution, although no significant battles were fought there. York County was, however, the site of the Continental Congress’s temporary relocation from Philadelphia, and was thus the place where the Articles of Confederation were drafted and adopted. In addition, York County raised several corps of militia in 1774 and 1775 in preparation for the coming fight. The first company that marched from Pennsylvania to the battlefield was a company of riflemen from the town of York in July of 1775. York County sent our more soldiers the revolution than any one of her neighboring counties.
Although my ancestors were no longer living in York County by the time of the Civil War, it is worth noting that the first Civil War battle on Pennsylvania soil was fought at Hanover (in the far western portion of the county) on June 30th, 1863. Because of this engagement, Confederate General J.E.B Stuart and his much-heralded cavalry forces were unable to join General Robert E. Lee’s armies at Gettysburg until after the decisive battles had been fought. This delay in Hanover played an important part in the Union victory at Gettysburg, which is considered to be the turning point in the Civil War. The passing of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train through York County marked a somber close to this period. A large part of the local population was at the railroad station to pay tribute to the martyred president on April 21, 1865, as his funeral train passed through York.
My Ancestors in York County
This pedigree chart shows the small stub of ancestors I have in York County. They are part of my Ellefritz line. As I have worked on my genealogy research, I have generally organized my work by my grandparents’ surnames – the maternal names Workman and Anthis and the paternal names Arnold and Ellefritz.
My paternal 2nd great-grandfather wasn’t born in York County, but I wanted to put him here on this chart so it’s easier to see the connection to my immediate family. My grandmother’s maiden name was Ellefritz, so this chart shows when this important surname became connected to my family tree. One thing I have come to realize is that this part of my family tree moves in important direction at the level of my great-grandparents and 2nd great-grandparents. Through Solomon’s wife Mary Ann Botts, I am connected to a vast array of ancestors in colonial Virginia. I’ve told the sequential story of the Botts family in my week 45 essay on Stafford County, Virginia, my Week 5 essay on Boone County, Kentucky, and my Week 19 essay on Hancock County, Illinois. Through May Wilson, the wife of Solomon and Mary Ann’s son Howard Ellefritz (1875-1930), I am connected to a whole host of New England ancestors, including two Mayflower passengers.
Solomon’s great-grandfather Johann Georg Ilgenfritz (1702-1749) came to Pennsylvania in 1737 on the ship Charming Nancy, along with his wife Maria Appolonia (1705-1784) and their son Johannes George Ilgenfritz (1728-1810). The trip from Rotterdam to Philadelphia lasted 81 days, from June 29 until September 18, including a 10-day delay in Portsmouth, England, due to customs inspections and unfavorable winds. Once in Philadelphia, the passengers were quarantined until they were given a clean bill of health, on October 8. At that point, the men were taken to city hall where they had to swear allegiance to King George II.
I need to warn you, however; this was a difficult tree to trace because for the first three generations, all of my direct male ancestors were named, with some variation, Johannes Georg Iglenfritz. The first one, born in Germany in 1702, appears to have used the first name of Hans almost exclusively, although in records he appears as both Hans and Johannes. The second one, born in Germany in 1728, appears to have used Johannes and George interchangeably, appearing in records under both names. The third one, born in 1750 in Pennsylvania, appears to have been known as both Johannes and John. So in this essay, Johannes Georg 1702 will be called Johannes; Johannes George 1728 will be called George; and Johannes Georg 1750 will be called John.
The family thrived in York County. When Johannes 1702 died in 1749, he left his widow and children in pretty good shape. He and Maria had two more children after they settled in York County – a son named Christian (1740-1810) and a daughter named Anna (742-1800). George 1728 had married Margaretha Mohr (1731-1769) in 1748, and the young man rapidly assumed the position of head of the family. He owned over 300 acres of land, served as constable for Dover Township in the county in 1753, and was named road supervisor in 756 and 1758. He also owned a woolen mill. In addition, the 1968 book Conestoga Wagon, by George Shumway, lists George Elefritz of York County as one of many who furnished a Conestoga wagon and teams for the ill-fated expedition of General Braddock against Fort Duquesne in 1755 during the French and Indian war. Benjamin Franklin had made a plea for the voluntary furnishing of the wagons as an alternative to requisitioning by the British army, Daniel Boone was listed among the wagoneers, and George Washington led the militia. The map I showed earlier in this essay illustrates that Dover’s location along the Great Valley route from eastern Pennsylvania through the Shenandoah makes this a logical place for someone to produce wagons.
Before I go any further, I want to talk about minute about the parents of Margaretha Mohr, the wife of George 1728. Her father Peter Mohr (1703-1740) and her mother Catherine Matthias (1700-1761) came to Pennsylvania with their 10 children in 1740 on the ship Loyal Judith. Margaretha was their sixth child. Peter and Catherine lived in nearby Lancaster County, where Peter shows up on the 1769 property rolls as the owner of 100 acres of land.
George 1728 and Margaretha had 16 children in York County, including my 3rd great-grandfather Johannes George Ilgenfritz III (1750-1831). This is the man I am calling “John.” One interesting side note about George 1728; the militia muster rolls for York County how the name of George Ilgenfritz. Although George 1728 was almost 50 years old at the time of the Revolution, his son named George was only born in 1766, so is unlikely to be the person on the muster rolls. One suggestion about this family’s service is that, as German speakers, they helped communicate with the Hessian soldiers who had been captured after the Battle of Trenton and spent the rest of the war years working on farms in Lancaster County.
Margaretha died in 1769, the same year that records indicate she gave birth to a stillborn child. It is not a stretch to imagine that she died of complications from this event. George 1728 remarried in 1770, to a woman named Maria Dorr who was the widow with two children at the time they married. George 1728 and Maria went on to have three more children.
John 1750 married three times. With his first wife, Margaret Mummert, he had six children; with his second wife, Keturah Clark, he 11 children; and with his third wife, Permilia “Milly” Jarvis (1796-1860), he had five children, including my second great-grandfather Solomon A. Ellefritz (1825-1894). Solomon was born when his father was 74 years old (his mother was only 29 at the time), and his father died when Solomon was only six years old.
According to one source, there was some sort of feud among the descendants of George Ilgenfritz 1728. As the story goes, Eleanora (Ellen) Ilgenfritz (George’s great-granddaughter through his son Samuel) journeyed to Baltimore to visit her uncle John Ilgenfritz in 1836, and while there she met her distant cousin, Jacob Ilgenfritz, Jr., (George’s great-grandson through his son John 1750 and his second wife) and the young people fell in love. Her parents opposed the marriage, and his mother Susan Lau was also furious (his father had died in 1828). She forbade Jacob from seeing Eleanor. So they eloped to Philadelphia and were married.
Jacob began looking for work as a printer, but his mother hounded him and got him discharged from every position he got. He tried for work of any kind, but it was winter, and there was no work to be found. He and Ellen were expecting a baby, and still he could find no work. He caught a cold, it developed into pneumonia, and he died from lack of medical attention and malnutrition.
Ellen’s parents, hearing of her plight, went to Philadelphia and took her back to York with them, where her baby was born about three months later. Jacob’s mother, Susan (Lau) Ilgenfritz refused to acknowledge the baby, and never helped Ellen and the baby in any way. It is thought that she had a lot of property, as the Laus were wealthy farmers of Manchester Twp., York Co., and she had inherited much wealth. Just to complete the story — Eleanora (Ellen) Ilgenfritz married Abraham Gartman in 1849 and lived in York, Pa., until 1905, when she went out to the state of Washington with her daughter, Fanny Spangenberg, to live with her granddaughter, Eleanora (Nelly) and her husband Frank Dice, on a large farm near Present day Walla Walla Washington where she died on Jan 19, 1911, 10 days shy of her 97th birthday.
I want to note how prolific the Ilgenfritz/Ellefritz family was, and how that complicates the process of researching them. Johannes 1702 and his wife had only three children, but subsequent generations could have populated entire towns. George 1728 had 16 children with his first wife and three with his second wife. His son John 1750 had a total of 22 children, as I noted earlier. His other children had varying number of children: his five sons had 11, 10, 12, 10, and 10 children. This meant there were a lot of people named Ilgenfritz/Ellefritz in York County at the end of the 18th century. It appears that many of the boys were named some variant of Johannes or George, and many of the girls were named variants of Anna, Margaret, Elizabeth, and Catherine. This makes it difficult to untangle the various family threads.
I picked up the story of the Ellefritz family as they moved west in my Week 19 essay on Hancock County, Illinois.
I am beginning a new project, as described below. Enjoy this with me for the next few months.
My birth name is Arnold, and for most of my childhood my friends and classmates connected me with the most famous person with that surname in American history – the Revolutionary War soldier-turned-traitor Benedict Arnold. My father did some preliminary genealogy research in the 1970s and 1980s, and his entire purpose was to prove that we were descended from Benedict Arnold. He was a bit perverse that way. He never succeeded, however.
I haven’t succeeded in that quest, either. “My” Arnold family appears to have come from England after the middle of the 18th century, whereas Benedict’s family was in Rhode Island by 1637. But the Arnold connection has made me particularly attuned to the Arnold line in my family tree. It was through the Arnold line that I discovered my first connections to the Pease family of early colonial New England. This family was in Martha’s Vineyard by the 1640s, and, oddly enough, probably knew of Benedict Arnold, the grandfather of the “traitor” Benedict and Governor of the neighboring colony of Rhode Island at the time.
The first “Arnold” in my line that I have good information about is Spencer Arnold, who was born in the 1790s in Maine (part of Massachusetts at the time). Spencer married Martha Pease in Maine in 1817, and my father’s family is the product of this union.
In the course of pursuing several genealogy research projects over the years, I have developed portions of the line that connects me to Spencer and Martha. I wanted to reverse the process and write, not about my direct ancestors, but about their direct descendants. This is called descendancy research, and I decided I wanted to build up my genealogy research toolkit by figuring out how to do this.
Descendancy research projects can help answer a number of questions that are not necessarily the focus of a traditional genealogy or family tree project. By undertaking a descendancy research project, a researcher can:
Build out ancestors’ families to better understand kinship networks and generational relationships.
Participate in a family association or study project that aims to identify all the descendants of one individual or a group of individuals.
Better understand DNA matches or test out a paper-trail hypothesis by locating a potential cousin to test against.
Determine and locate next-of-kin in matters of heirship and inheritance.
Connect with previously unknown cousins to compare research notes, exchange photos, and swap stories.
Break down brick walls by getting a new perspective on your family.
I am most interested items 1, 3, 5, and 6 on this list.
I’m hopeful that by building out and analyzing the descendants of Spencer and Martha, I can understand more about this family’s migration patterns. Spencer and Martha were born and married in Maine, and that’s where their children were born. However, they moved to Ohio in the 1820s (with a lot of their family members). Most of the family stayed in Ohio after that, but some lines – including my line, descended from Spencer and Martha’s oldest son, Miles – moved on, to Illinois and other states.
Knowing more about their descendants will help me make sense of the DNA matches I am presented with through Ancestry.com and other sites. I hope to begin to recognize some of the surnames and be able to sort my Arnold family matches from my other family lines.
I would like to connect to living cousins to work on our research together and to share our appreciation of our ancestors. Several of Spencer and Martha’s sons served in the American Civil War – including Miles, whom I mentioned above – and I would like to jointly commemorate their service with their other descendants. In particular, 2021 marks the 200th anniversary of Miles’s birth. Miles served in the 76th Ohio regiment, and was wounded and left for dead at the 1864 Battle of Atlanta. He was removed from the battlefield – alive! – the next day, patched up, and sent home to recuperate. He lived another 35 years and had more children. I would love to sponsor a family reunion of as many of Miles’s descendants as I can in the spring of 2021. There is a problem of course; in the spring of 2021 the world is just beginning to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic, and we may have to put that event off for a year.
I have one major brick wall on the Arnold side of my family – I can’t prove a couple of very important marriages. Although joining lineage societies is not very high on my priority list, I am eligible for membership in both the Mayflower Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution through my Arnold family. Both societies require proof of birth and marriage to establish the desired connections, and unless I break down these walls I won’t be able to prove the connections to the standard these societies require.
Doing descendancy research involves consulting many of the same repositories and resources as used in traditional genealogy. Vital records, land records, census records, city directories, church records, and cemetery records all play an important role in descendancy research. Just like in traditional genealogy, descendancy research aims to use records to document each generation, but the goal is to bring the line closer to the present day rather than further back in time.
Understanding research strategies, standards, resources, and record types for traditional genealogy is an important part of successfully doing descendancy research. In particular, probate records, newspapers (including obituaries), US Public Records databases, directories and new online “people finders,” property Assessor and Tax Assessor’s Records, and Social Media can all be very useful in conducting descendancy research. These are resources that I don’t have much experience or expertise in, and I hope that by doing this project I will acquire new skills that will help me in my more traditional genealogy research as well.
The area that the Wharton County now occupies had been controlled by Spain until the 1821 Mexican war for independence. At that time, Anglo-American colonization of the area began under a program sponsored by the Mexican government in 1823, when 31 of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” received titled to land in the area. In 1846, after Texas statehood, Wharton County was formed from parts of Matagorda, Jackson, and Colorado counties.
Evolution of County Boundaries in Wharton County
The next section of this essay summarizes the history of Texas from Mexican independence from Spain in 1821 through the consolidation of the state’s boundaries in 1850. However, the next four maps place the evolution of the boundaries of Wharton County within this context. (These maps are taken from https://www.mapofus.org)
A (Very) Little History
The history of Wharton County begins with the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, led by the conquistador Hernan Cortes in 1519-1521. The Viceroyalty of New Spain, which was established by this conquest, included what is now Mexico, Florida and the Gulf Coast, and virtually all of the land west of the Mississippi River in the United States. Fast-forward to the 19th century, and we find tensions in New Spain as a result of changes in European power politics, in particular the relationship between France and Spain. A series of insurgences in the first decades of the 19th century culminated in a war for Mexican independence in 1810-1821; a short-lived “First Empire” in Mexico was followed in 1823 by the establishment of the First Republic.
It was into this confusing situation that Stephen F. Austin introduced his “Old Three Hundred” group of settlers. His father, Moses Austin, had received an empresarial grant from the government of Mexico in 1821, giving him land and permission to settle 300 families in Texas. After Moses unexpectedly died before he was able to act on this grant, Stephen was authorized to carry on the colonization enterprise under his father’s grant. It took a few years for this to all work out, but by 1828 Austin had complete civil and military authority over this colonists. About 43 of the original “Old 300” received land grants in what would become Wharton County.
The original settlers under this grant agreed to do three things: become Mexican citizens, become Catholic, and speak Spanish as their primary language. In general, the settlers didn’t meet these requirements, and tensions developed between the government of Mexico and the American settlers. These tensions were exacerbated when the government of Mexico proposed a new constitution that abolished slavery in the country; because many of the Americans who settled in Mexico were slaveholders from the old South, this caused general consternation among these settlers, who figured out ways to evade the evolving prohibition of slavery in Mexico. By 1835, Austin’s colonists had learned that Mexico’s tolerance for these evasions was drawing to a close; they soon took up arms against the Mexican government. After a string of engagements in 1835 and 1836 (including the famed siege at the Alamo), the Mexican Army was defeated and the Republic of Texas was proclaimed on March 2, 1836.
Sam Houston, who was elected President of the Republic of Texas, was the leaders of the vast majority of the population that advocated annexation of Texas to the United States. However, domestic American politics kept this from happening for almost 10 years, as the anti-slavery forces in both political parties opposed the addition of a new (and vast) slave-holding region into a country already divided into pro- and anti-slavery sections.
It wasn’t until 1845 that the US Congress passed a bill that authorized the United States to annex the Republic of Texas. On March 1, President John Tyler signed the bill. Changing political circumstances within the United States had made this change possible, and President Tyler was particularly interested in pursuing the annexation of Texas to gain popular support for another four years in office. He did not achieve his personal political goals, but he succeeded in making the acquisition of Texas an important part of the presidential election campaign of 1844; the result was that James K. Polk, who had run on a pro-Texas platform, won the presidency. In 1845, in the waning days of his presidency, President Tyler signed the annexation bill that had been past after the November 1844 election. Texas entered the Union.
The annexation of Texas precipitated a conflict with Mexico – the Mexican War – which lasted from 1846 to 1848 and resulted in the lost of 1/3 of Mexican territory to the United States. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (and the Compromise of 1850 which followed) established firm boundaries and regularized the status of Texas in the United States.
Texas barely had time to settle into statehood before the coming of the Civil War led to its secession; it was the 7th state to secede, on February 1, 1861. Texas was firmly a slave state at this time, and slaves accounted for about 2/3 of the population in Wharton County prior to the civil war. This was driven in part by the focus on growing sugar cane in the area; the counties of Wharton, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Matagord came to be known as the “Texas sugar bowl.”
The abolition of slavery at the end of the civil war led to economic changes throughout Texas; in Wharton County, plantation style farming was replaced by cattle raising, drawing significant numbers of Mexicans into the area to serve as hersemen. The percentage of blacks in the county remained high – as much as 80% in 1890 – but the numbers decreased to the point that by 1920 only 1/3 of the populations was black. Today the black population of Wharton County numbers a little over 14% — just a little higher than the national average.
My ancestors were from the town of El Campo in Wharton County, and here’s what I have learned about the name of this town. In 1882 a railroad camp called Prairie Switch was situated where El Campo now stands and served as a switching point on New York, Texas and Mexican Railway. Cowboys called the camp “Pearl of the Prairies.” Located in the midst of cattle country, the camp was used by Mexican cowboys who changed the name to El Campo in 1890.
My Ancestors in Wharton County
My ancestors did not move to Wharton County until the 20th century, well after the events that shaped the state in the decades surrounding independence, statehood, secession, reconstruction, and the years that followed.
My mother Violet Henrietts Workman (1921-2012) was born in El Campo, the largest town in Wharton County, on September 26, 1921. Three of her four grandparents were living in El Campo at the time of her birth, and they never left the town. They came to the town by different routes, however, and I want to tell their stories a little here.
Her paternal grandparents, Thomas Calvin Workman Sr. (1854-1930) and Mary Elizabeth Thomas (1859-1926) had moved to El Campo with several of their children in 1915 or 1916, so far as I can determine. Before moving to El Campo, they were living in Guthrie County, Oklahoma, where they had lived for 25 years on land they acquired through the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run. I wrote about their lives there in my Week 30 essay on Logan County, Oklahoma.
I don’t know what led them to make this move; census records identify the men in this family simply as “farmers,” which doesn’t give me much to go on. This family met with some tragedy shortly after moving to El Campo; Thomas and Mary’s first-born son, Wesley Harrison Workman (1888-1918) died in the 1918 influenza epidemic, and their second youngest son (and my grandfather), Thomas Calvin Workman Jr. (1898-1973), almost died in the epidemic and lived the rest of his life with weakened lungs.
Thomas recovered sufficiently, however, to marry Susan Vernon Anthis (1898-1944) in El Campo in 1919. Susie’s parents, Franklin Anthis (1849-1899) and Martha Elizabeth (Mattie) Kyle (1857-1932), had moved to El Campo a decade or so before the Workman family moved there. Prior to the move, they had lived in Lee County, Texas; I wrote about their lives there in my Week 27 essay on Lee County.
I can speculate a little more about what led this family to move the 100 miles or so from Lee County to El Campo. A little research into Wharton County reveals that rice farming was an emerging industry in the early years of the 20th century, and the 1910 census shows that at least three members of the Anthis family – Susie’s older brothers and my great-uncles Kyle, John, and Harley – were identified as laborers on a rice farm. According to one source http://genealogytrails.com/tex/gulfcoast/wharton/history_el_campo.htm the first rice mill in Wharton County was built in 1903 and second one in 1908. The profits realized from growning rice attracted settlers from all parts of the country and during the period from 1901 to 1910 the country settled rapidly. My Anthis ancestors may have been part of this population boom. My great-uncle John Anthis seems to have stuck with this trade; subsequent censuses in 1930 and 1940 continue to identify him as a laborer in a rice mill.
Thomas 1898 married Susie Anthis in El Campo in 1919. The 1920 census shows them living possibly right next door or across the street from Thomas 1854 and Mary. (I know that’s not definitive – that placement on a page does not necessarily signal that they lived as closely together as their census entries suggest). The 1920 census reveals something else interesting about this family. You remember Wesley, who died in the 1918 flu epidemic? He left behind his wife (also named Susie) and their daughter Emmie, and the 1920 census shows Susie and Emmie living with Thomas 1854 and Mary, Wesley’s parents. Another occupant of the house was Wesley’s 28-year-old brother Charles, who married Susie at the end of 1920. As an aside – through Ancestry, I found a DNA match with Velma Adele Workman Poenisch, the daughter of Charles and Susie. I “found” Velma in 2018 and we talked off and on until her death in April 2020 at the age of 94.
Thomas 1898 and SusieAnthisWorkman had three children in El Campo, including my mother Violet Henrietta Workman (1921-2012), who was their first child. I think they must have doted on this child; when she reached school age, they moved from “the farm” into “town” so that she could go to school. She told stories about picking cotton when she was a child. The weakness that plagued Thomas 1898 after his bout with influenze impacted him in lots of ways; one change was that he was unable to do the outdoor work required by farming, so when they moved into town he took up work as a plumber and general handyman, the kind of work he would continue to do the rest of his life.
Thomas 1898 and Susie had two more children in El Campo – my aunt Mary Lorraine Workman (1928 – ) and my uncle T. C. Workman (1929-2011) before the state of my grandfather’s health led the family to move to Arizona, where the dry climate would help my grandfather and his weak lungs. It worked pretty well – he lived until 1973, more than 40 years after the move. Their move to Arizona was facilitated by the fact that Susie’s older brother Abner had moved to Tucson sometime before 1930, and could help them find a place to live and get settled. The 1930 and 1940 census records show Abner living in the city of Tucson and working as a house painter, which would have provided good connections for Thomas 1898 to continue to work as a plumber but also to branch out to work as an electrician by 1940.
To see how this turned out, read the further story of this family in Tucson in my Week 39 essay on Pima County.
Washington County was created as Kings County in 1729 within the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It was renamed Washington County on October 29, 1781 in honor of George Washington. At the earliest stage of colonial settlement, the area was called “The Narragansett Country”, named after the Naragansett tribe and its tributary tribe the Niantics, both of whom lived in the area.
Early settlers purchased land in the Narragansett Country after Indian trading posts were established at Fort Neck in Charlestown and at “Smith’s Castle” in Wickford. A series of conflicts involving the Manisseans on Block Island gave that island to the Massachusetts Bay Colony for a number of years, before it was transferred to the Rhode Island Colony under Newport County, and then finally to Washington County in 1959.
The borders of the Narragansett country were disputed for nearly 100 years among the colonies of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The Narragansetts had pledged their fealty to King Charles, and the area was known as “The King’s Province” and was placed under the authority of Rhode Island “until the King’s pleasure was further known”. In 1664, a royal commission under Charles II stepped in to adjudicate these conflicting claims. The commission extinguished the claims of Massachusetts, and Rhode Island was granted jurisdiction until the commission finished processing Connecticut’s appeals, which were not ended until 1726. Settlements of King’s Province were named to reflect the English Restoration, in honor of King Charles II. Towns reflecting this history include the two Kingstowns and Charlestown, as well as the villages of Kingston and West Kingston.
Washington County is also known in Rhode Island as “South County”.
Westerly: A (Very) Little History
The first English colonists settled on the southwest shoreline of Rhode Island in 1661, and the town was incorporated in 1669. Washington County was not formed until 1729, when it was created as Kings County. As I write about this county in this week’s essay, I’m going to refer to it as Kings/Washington County.
The first European visitors on record arrived in Westerly, RI, (later in Kings/Washington County) in the early seventeenth century. In 1614, Adrian Block landed at Pawcatuck Rock, on the Connecticut side of the Pawcatuck River, and made the first survey and map of the river. Soon after, Dutch traders began exchanging cloth and arms for furs from the Indians, with whom they had a temporary compact. The first English settler in the area was Thomas Stanton, who built a trading house near the Pawcatuck, on the Connecticut side, in 1649, and enjoyed a monopoly of trade at the mouth of the river for many years. The Pawcatuck River flows through Westerly and forms a portion of the boundary between Rhode Island and Connecticut
In 1660, a private company was organized in Newport to purchase and settle Misquamicut in what would become Westerly; in the same year, the sachem Sosoa, or Socho, deeded to Robert Stanton, William Vaughan, and several other associates the area that approximately comprises today’s town of Westerly.
In 1661, house lots were laid out extending along the east side of the Pawcatuck River and permanent settlement began. In 1669, when the entire area had only about thirty white families, the town was incorporated; it then included today’s Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton. Charlestown including Richmond was set off as an independent town in 1738, and in 1757 all of Westerly north of the Pawcatuck River became part of the new town of Hopkinton. Kings County was created in 1729; the name was changed to Washington County in 1781, for reasons that should be obvious.
Richmond: A (Very) Little History
I learned a lot about the history of the town of Richmond in an 1876 book Historical Sketch of the Town of Richmond R.I., written by The Rev. J.R. Irish. Here’s what he has to say:
“The history of this town, during its settlement, can be traced only in connection with the history of Westerly, as it was a part of that territory for sixty-nine years after its organization. Still earlier, the entire area, from Narragansett Bay to the Pawcatuck River, and the bay at its mouth (early known as little Narragansett) was a subject of controversy, being claimed in turn by Connecticut and Massachusetts, in opposition to the claim of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
“The controversy arose because in 1660 Connecticut had received a royal charter from the King of England embracing all the territory from Narragansett Bay and the Pawcatuck River westward to the Pacific Ocean. The following year the King issued a charter to Rhode Island extending its limits westward to the Pawcatuck River.
“Authorities in each colony then laid claim to the whole. To add insult to injury, in 1642 a colony from Massachusetts had settled in Wickford with subsequent claims to lands in Narragansett Country. The dispute was settled in 1665 when the King dissolved the charters, assumed governance, and referred to the area as King’s county or province, today’s Washington County, or as it is commonly known, ‘South County’.
“In May 1669, it was organized by the General Assembly of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, under the name of Westerly, as the fifth town in the colony. Westerly, as then organized, embraced what is now the four towns: Westerly, Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton.
“Charlestown was set off as a separate town in 1738, and Richmond separated from Charlestown in 1747. Settlement, however, was a slow process. To stimulate settlement a commission of the General Assembly in 1709 sold certain vacant lands known as the ‘Shannock purchase’ to approximately 27 persons who then settled in the area. These early settlers included the Barbers, Browns, Clarkes (Clarks), Hoxsies, Kenyons, Utters, Crandalls, Teffts and Perrys, names still common in the area. It is of interest to note that these settlers were a conservative lot. They did indeed support the Revolutionary War, sending troops and setting aside monies for the manufacture of munitions. However, in March of 1787 they voted against the adoption of the Constitution. Of the 77 legal voters in the town at that time, 69 voted. The vote was 68 nays and 1 aye!”
The town of Richmond was originally part of the territory of Westerly, Rhode Island (1669 to 1747), which remained in dispute for several years among the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut Colony, and Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1665, King Charles II dissolved the charters of those three colonies and renamed the disputed area “King’s County”. In May 1669, the General Assembly of Rhode Island organized King’s County into the town of Westerly, and the town of Westerly organized itself into four separate areas: Westerly, Charlestown, Richmond, and Hopkinton.
North Kingstown: A (Very) Little History
The roots of North Kingstown extend back in time to 1637, when Roger Williams, recently banished from the nearby Massachusetts Bay Colony, established a temporary trading post at the intersection of two major Native American thoroughfares, the Pequot Path (now Post Road) and the major east-west route of Narragansett People between their winter and summer villages (now Stony Lane); this seasonal trading outpost was additionally adjacent to the home of his friend Narragansett Chief Sachem Canonicus.
Williams was followed in 1639 by two additional seasonal traders, Richard Smith and Edward Wilcox. (You’ll read more about Edward Wilcox later in this essay – he was my 9th great-grandfather.) Wilcox left the area after a time and relocated to the region that was to become Westerly, but Smith in 1641 and Williams in 1643 decided to make the “Narragansett Country,” as it was then known, their permanent home. Roger Williams, for his part, stayed on at Cocumscussoc for nearly eight years, farming, raising goats on Queen’s Island, and trading with the Narragansett People for fur and wampum. (A warning: I have some trouble with the dates provided for Edward Wilcox’s activities; I think he died in 1643, which makes some of this untenable.)
Much of Williams’s groundbreaking writings, including Experiments of Spiritual Life and Health were written here. In 1651, needing funds for a trip to England to secure the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Colony’s Charter, Williams sold his land to Smith and never again lived here on a permanent basis. Richard Smith on the other hand was here to stay and increased his land holdings greatly through his involvement in the 1658 Pettasquamscutt Purchase. Smith’s vast estate eventually included all the lands in an area approximately nine miles long by three miles wide.
In 1674, Kings Towne was founded by the colonial government. This region contained much of the old “Narragansett Country” and included the present day towns of North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Exeter, and Narragansett. It got off to a rocky start though, as by virtue of its strategic location in the region and Richard Smith’s growing allegiance with the Connecticut Colony, it became a theater of King Philip’s War, a conflict between the Narragansett and Wampanoag People and the inhabitants of the Connecticut, Plymouth, and Massachusetts Bay Colonies, fought in 1675-6. More than 30 years of peaceful co-existence between the settlers of the region and the Narragansett people ended with the destruction of all colonial structures south of Warwick.
Exeter: A (Very) Little History
The town of Exeter was founded in 1742/3, when it was set off from North Kingstown. To get the backstory on the history of the town of Exeter, I refer you to the earlier discussion of North Kingstown.
Changing Boundaries of Washington County
Rhode Island is a very small state. It stretches only 48 miles from north to south and 37 miles from east to west. Some of my ancestors seem to have moved around a lot, from Little Compton (Newport County) in the east to Westerly (Washington County) in the west. Sometimes their children appear to have been born in different counties from where I thought they were living. I think this can be explained in part by the small size of the state; it just wasn’t very difficult to travel from one part of the state to another, particularly if you traveled by water. I think it is also true that the records in some parts of Rhode Island are inconsistent.
It is always useful to understand how counties formed. These maps illustrate this process for Rhode Island. All of the following maps are from https://www.mapofus.org/ .
My Ancestors in Rhode Island
Although I have ancestors in the four towns I talked briefly about earlier in this essay, they are all one branch of my family tree over six generations. I’m going to break the tree into two parts, however, so I can show the generations I’m interested in.
My paternal 4th great-grandmother Rebecca Moon had the distinction of being a 7-generation New Englander and 6-generation Rhode Islander when she was born in the 1750s. Some of her ancestors lived in Massachusetts – mostly in Middlesex County, which I wrote about in Week 32 of this series of essays – but the others emigrated directly to Rhode Island.
I want to examine this pedigree chart by starting at the upper right, where you find my 8th great-grandfather Robert Moon (1621-1698).Robert arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637; I assume he came with his parents, but I haven’t been able to prove that. He married Dorothy Osbourne (1624-1698) in Boston in 1644. I haven’t been able to find out when Dorothy’s family came to Massachusetts. Robert worked as a tailor in Boston before he relocated to Newport, Rhode Island, in 1651
Robert and Dorothy had four children before they left Boston, including my 7th great-grandfather Ebenezer Moon (1645-1712), who was their first child. Some records suggest that they had three more children in Rhode Island, but I can’t find good proof of that. Dorothy died sometime after 1660, and Robert remarried, to Hannah (Parker?). Robert died in 1698, at which time Hannah, identified as his widow, appointed an attorney to settle her deceased husband’s affairs.
Although Robert and Dorothy never left Newport, my 7th great-grandfather Ebenezer Moon was living in Kings/Washington County by 1670, when he married Rebecca Peabody (1649-1728) there. I don’t know much about Ebenezer’s life in Kings/Washington County. He and Rebecca had five children, including my 6th great-grandfather, also named Ebenezer Moon (1680-1757). All of their children were born in Kings/Washington County, probably in the town of Kingston (which is now in South Kingstown County).
Ebenezer1680 married Elizabeth Richardson (1680-1777) in Washington County in 1705. Elizabeth’s paternal grandparents, Theophilus Richardson (1633-1674) and Mary Champney (1633-1704) had married in Woburn, Middlesex County, Massachusetts in 1654. I talked about them in my Week 32 essay on Middlesex County
Ebenezer Moon 1680 and Elizabeth Richardson had 13 children in Kings/Washington County, so far as I can tell, including my 5th great-grandfather, once again named Ebenezer Moon (1708-1788), who was their second child. Ebenezer married Elizabeth Deake (1715-1778) in Kingston in Washington County in 1715.
Elizabeth’s heritage is also worth exploring. Her paternal grandfather, Charles Deake (1650-1735) was born in England and does not appear to have come to Rhode Island until sometime before 1705, when his son, my 6th great-grandfather Richard Deake (1637-1667), married Mary Lewis (1660-1739) there. Mary’s great-grandfather, Edmund Lewis (1601-1650) was born in Wales but came to Massachusetts with his family on the Elizabeth in 1634. His family included my 8th great-grandfather John Lewis (1631-1690). This family settled first in Watertown and then moved to Lynn, Essex County, by 1648. John relocated to Westerly, Rhode Island, where he married Mary Button (1634-1705) in 1650.
Mary and John had seven children in Rhode Island, including my 7th great-grandfather John Lewis (1660-1735), who was their second child. John 1660 married Anna Lanphere (1661-1747) in Westerly in 1682. Anna family was also notable; her father George Lanphere (1631-) was the descendant of French Huguenots who had fled France at the end of the 16th century. George moved to Rhode Island from his home in Ireland in 1669, buying land in Westerly from John Clarke in that year. He was baptized into the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Westerly in 1678. He married Jane Hulet (1647-1742) in Westerly in 1669. I have not been able to find out anything definitive about Jane’s background.
George and Jane had four children, including my 8th great-grandmother Anna Lanpheare, who was their first child. I mentioned her above.
Anna married John Lewis 1660, as I mentioned above, and they had two children, including my 7th great-grandmother Mary Lewis (1689-1739). Mary married Richard Deake (1680-1753) in Westerly in 1705, and my 5th great-grandmother Elizabeth Deake (I mentioned her above) was their third child.
This brings us back to Elizabeth’s marriage to Ebenezer Moon in Westerly in 1735. Ebenezer and Elizabeth had 11 children, including my 5th great-grandmother Rebecca Moon (1752-1791), who was their 9th child (and yes, her oldest brother was Ebenezer Moon IV). Rebecca is of the generation that might have been expected to serve in the American Revolution; it appears that, although her brothers served, none of them served in Rhode Island. They had moved away, primarily to New York and Vermont. Rebecca married Nathan Wilcox (1747-1823) in Washington County in 1772, and they had three children, including my 3rd great-grandfather David Alonzo Wilcox (1772-1860), who was born in Vermont.
My paternal 4th great-grandfather Nathan Wilcox (1747-1823) married Rebecca Moon in Rhode Island in 1772. The pedigree chart above traces his lineage back into colonial New England, and I want to tell this story here.
Nathan’s ancestors go as far back in New England as Rebecca’s did. Nathan’s family is more purely “Rhode Island” than Rebecca’s. The surnames arrayed on the right side of this pedigree chart – Wilcox, Hazzard, Crandall, Gorton, Brownell, Carr – are among the best know in colonial Rhode Island history. That they all ended up in western Rhode Island – mainly in Washington County – tells us a lot about the evolution of the colony of Rhode Island as independence approached.
Let’s begin with the Wilcox family, from the upper right in this chart. Stephen Wilcox (1630-1690), Nathan’s 2nd great-grandfather (and my 8th great-grandfather) was not the first of this line to live in the colonies. Stephen’s father Edward Wilcox (1604-1680) married Susan (or Susanna) Thomson (1607-) in England in 1631, where they had two children before coming to the colonies sometime before 1638. One of the children was my 8th great-grandfather Stephen Wilcox.
Edward is identified as a “free inhabitant” of Aquidneck in 1638, and he joined in founding the compact of government in May 28 of that year. He and Susan had six more children in Rhode Island. Edward owned a trading house in Narragansett in 1638. He died in Narragansett probably in 1648. I’m not sure when Susan died; she and Edward had their last child in 1639, and when Edward died his business partner Richard Smith appears to have acted as guardian for all eight children, which probably means that Susan had already died. Some of this is suppositional; some records suggest that Edward lived until 1690, but I don’t think that’s true.
The family continued to live in Newport County, Rhode Island; Stephen married Hannah Hazard (1636-1685) there in 1648. I wrote about these families in my Week 35 essay on Newport County, Rhode Island. He and Hannah had at least one child before moving to Westerly, in the early 1660s. They had eight more children in Westerly, including my 7th great-grandfather Stephen Wilcox II (1670-1766).Stephen 1630 achieved some prominence in Westerly; his name appears several times on the list of men who represented the town in the Rhode Island General Assembly.
Stephen II married Elizabeth Crandall (1675-1704) in Westerly in 1691. Elizabeth’s family was also prominent in Westerly. Her grandfather, John Crandall (1617-1676), also appears on the list of representatives above. Frequently identified as Elder John Crandall, he was in Newport, Rhode Island by 1643, when he served as a grand juror. At an early date he was associated with the Baptists at Newport and was made a freeman there in 1655.
A Baptist and later a Seventh Day Baptist, John and several companions were arrested at Lynn on July 21,1651 and suffered imprisonment at Boston. All three men were fined and publicly whipped for their attachment to the Baptist cause. In 1660, he was one of a group of five investors who purchased a land grant known as Misquamicuck (later Westerly). After several years of boundary and jurisdiction disputes, the town of Westerly was incorporated; John Crandall’s is the first name on the list of freeholders of the town in 1669. He became the first elder and preacher in Westerly, where his name is the first in the list of “free inhabitant” in 1669.
On 21 May 1669, the Governor and Council of Rhode Island appointed six men as Conservators of the Peace for the Colony. The men were assigned to geographic areas in pairs, the first of the pair to also act as coroner for their area. John Crandal and Tobias Saunders were appointed as justices at Misquamicut, with John likely acting as coroner. John is also listed as a deputy representative of Westerly in the General Assembly in both 1670 and 1671.
John married a woman named Mary in 1649. I’m not sure of Mary’s last name. They had eight children in Newport before moving to Westerly, including my 8th great-grandfather, John Crandall II (1651-1704).John II inherited his father’s property when his father died, and worked as a blacksmith in the town. He married Elizabeth Gorton (1641-1704) in Newport, RI, in 1672. Elizabeth’s Gorton’s father, Samuel Gorton (1592-1677), seems to have been a wholly contentious fellow in Boston, Plymouth, and Newport RI; I wrote about him in my week 35 essay on Newport County, RI.
As I have written about a number of times in this series of essays, King Philip’s War interrupted the peaceful growth on New England’s frontier in 1675-1676. John died in Newport in 1676; this is a little hard to understand, as he was clearly living in Westerly at the time. Some sources suggest that he had temporarily relocated to Newport to escape the violence of King Philip’s War, while others suggest that he was wounded in the 1675 Great Swamp Fight in West Kingston, Rhode Island (about 20 miles from Westerly). He is buried in a family cemetery located near the Crandall homestead in Westerly.
John II and Elizabeth had four children in Kings/Washington County, including my 7th great-grandmother Elizabeth Crandall (1675-1704), who was their third child. In 1691, Elizabeth married Stephen Wilcox II, which is where this part of my story began a few pages ago. Stephen and Elizabeth had two children, including my 6th great-grandfather, also named Stephen Wilcox (1692-1766), who was their first child.
Stephen 1692 married Alice Brownell (1695-1742) in Westerly in 1714. Alice’s Grandfather, Thomas Brownell (1608-1665), was an early inhabitant of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. I wrote about him in my Week 35 essay on Newport County. Alice’s parents, William Brownell (1648-1715) and Sarah Smitton (1654-1715) never moved away from Newport County, and that’s where Alice was born. I’m not sure how Alice and Stephen 1692 met, but there was sufficient interaction between the families in Newport and Westerly that it’s not surprising that they met and married.
Stephen 1692 and Alice had 10 children in western Rhode Island, including my 5th great-grandfather William Wilcox (1715-1805), who was their first child. This family is identified as being in Richmond, but the town of Richmond didn’t separate from Westerly until 1745, so my guess is that they lived in the part of Westerly that split off to become Richmond.
William married Elizabeth Baker (1725-1788) in Exeter in 1744. Elizabeth’s ancestors also have stories to tell us. Her great-grandfather, Thomas Baker (1638-1710), appears on the list of freemen of Newport in 1655. His father, William Baker (1616-1669), had come to Rhode Island by 1638, when he appears on the list of freemen and also receives a land grant. Also in 1655, Thomas Baker he was ordained, and in 1656, he and others separated from the First Baptist Church and organized a new society, the Second Baptist Church. He then moved with his family to Kingstown, Rhode Island, where he organized the Baptist Church. He remained the presiding Elder of this church until his death in 1710. Some records suggest that he was a tailor before he was ordained a minister, because he identifies himself as a tailor in his land transactions in Newport.
Thomas married Sarah Carr (1654-1721) in Kingstown sometime before 1679, when their first child was born. Sarah’s father, George Carr (1613-1682), came to Ipswich in 1634, but had moved to Salisbury in Essex County by 1639. George was a ferryman and shipwright in those communities. His land was on an island in the middle of the Merrimack River that separated the towns of Newbury and Salisbury; today, this land is set aside as Carr Island State Reservation.
George married Elizabeth Dexter (1624-1691) in 1641 in Salisbury. Elizabeth’s father, Thomas Dexter (1594-1676) was one of the “Ten Men from Saugus” who founded Sandwich, Massachusetts, in 1637. I wrote about him in my Week 3 essay on Barnstable County.
George and Elizabeth had nine children, including my 9th great-grandmother Sarah Carr (1654-1721), who was their 8th child. Sarah married Thomas Baker before 1679, as I mentioned earlier.
Sarah and Thomas had 13 children, including my 7th great-grandfather John Baker (1699-1757). John married Susannah Reynolds (1703-1759) in Kingston, RI, in 1723, and they had six children, including my 5th great- 4th great-grandmother Elizabeth Baker (1725-1761), who was their fifth child.
As you should expect by now, Susannah’s ancestors have yet another set of stories to tell. Her great-grandfather James Reynolds (1625-1698) was living in Rhode Island in 1643, when he signed the compact that established the town of Providence. I wrote about him in my Week 35 essay on Newport County, Rhode Island. James was one of the first settlers of the community of Quidnesett in North Kingstown. He married Deborah Potter (1628-1692) in North Kingstown in 1647; I wrote about Deborah’s parents, Nathaniel Potter (163-1644) and Dorothy Wilbur (1616-1696), in my Week 35 essay on Newport County.
James and Deborah had 13 children, including my 8th great-grandfather Joseph Reynolds (1652-1739). Joseph married Susanna Spencer (1653-1695) in Kingston in 1672. Susanna’s grandfather, Michael Spencer (1611-1653) had come to Massachusetts in 1634 and settled at Cambridge before moving to Lynn in Essex County. He had come to Massachusetts with his three brothers, each of whom made a name for himself in the colony. Michael and his wife Isabel (I don’t know her last name) had seven children, including my 7th great-grandfather John Spencer (1638-1684), who was born in Lynn. John married SusannahGriffin (1644-1719) in 1657.
I don’t know much about Susannah’s father, Robert Griffin (1613-1684), who appears in the records of Newport, Rhode Island, a number of times in the 1640s and 1650s. I don’t know when Robert came to the colonies, I don’t know what he did for a living, and I don’t know who he married. I do know that Susannah was Robert’s fourth child and was born in Newport.
John Spencer owned a house in Newport and became a freeman in 1688. In 1677 he and 47 other veterans of King Philip’s War were granted 5,000 acres to establish a town situated across Narraganset Bay from Newport. The named this town East Greenwich. This confused me, but once again Wikipedia comes to the rescue. When the town was founded, its founders named it Greenwich, for Greenwich, England. After the more rural western ¾ of the town was set off as West Greenwich, the remaining portion was renamed East Greenwich. John was named the first town clerk; he also served as a deputy to the colonial General Assembly.
John and Susannah had five children, including my 8th great-grandmother Susanna Spencer (1653-1695), who was their first child. Born in East Greenwich, she married Joseph Reynolds 1652, as mentioned above. Joseph and Susanna had 14 children, including my 7th great-grandfather, also named Joseph Reynolds (1672-1722), who was their first child. By the time Joseph 1672 was born, they were living in Kingston.
Joseph 1672 married Susannah Babcock (1677-1723) in Westerly in 1697. Susannah’s grandfather, James Babcock (1612-1679), had moved with his family to Leyden in Holland in 1620, and came to Plymouth perhaps on the Anne in 1623. By 1638 James was living in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. In 1660, James was one of a company of men who bought the land that would become Westerly. At the time of Westerly’s incorporation in 1669, there were 24 freemen in the town; four of them were Babcocks, including James 1612 and his adult sons James, John, and Job.
I am descended from James’s son John Babcock (1644-1684), mentioned above. John married Mary Lawton (1644-1711) in Westerly in 1552. I wrote about Mary’s parents, George Lawton (1607-1693) and Elizabeth Hazard (1630-1711) in my Week 35 essay on Newport County, Rhode Island. I am also descended from George and Elizabeth’s daughter Mercy Lawton (1660-1685),Mary’s sister.
Tradition tells a romantic story about John and Mary. According to the legend, John and Mary eloped from Newport and settled in what would become Westerly, where they remained undiscovered by their parents for several months. This legend identifies them as the first white settlers of Westerly. There is, unfortunately, no evidence proving this tale. But it’s a good story anyway.
What can be proven is that 16-year-old John was part of the company of men who settled Westerly in 1660. In 1675, when King Philip’s War broke out and many settlers in Westerly fled to eastern Rhode Island for safety, John and his family stayed in the settlement. By this time, John and Mary had six children. John had volunteered to serve with the Connecticut militia (ownership of Westerly was disputed between Connecticut and Rhode Island until 1728), and participated in the “Great Swamp fight” on December 19, 1675 – the date of the birth of his seventh child, Elihu. After King Philip’s War was over, John filled a number of public positions in Westerly, including “conservator of the peace” (sort of an early police force) and Deputy from Westerly to the colonial legislature in 1682 and 1684.
John and Mary had 11 children in Westerly, including my 7th great-grandmother Susannah Babcock (1677-1723), who was their 8th child. Susannah married Joseph Reynolds (1672-1722) in 1697; they had 9 children, including my 6th great-grandmother Susannah Reynolds (1703-1759), who was their third child. Susannah 1703 married John Baker (1699-1757) in North Kingstown in 1723; this is where this part of the story began a couple of pages ago.
Susannah 1703 and John had six children in Kings/Washington County, including my 5th great-grandmother Elizabeth Baker (1725-1788). Elizabeth married William Wilcox (1715-1805). They had 10 children, including my 4th great-grandfather Nathan Wilcox (1747-1823), who was their third child.
Nathan married Rebecca Moon (1752-1791) in 1768, bring together the two family trees I’ve written about in this essay. This family soon relocated, leaving six generation of Rhode Island history behind; they were in Vermont by 1770, and in western New York by 1791.
The following book extract documents the interaction among my ancestors who lived in Kings/Washington County in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Evolution of the Boundaries of Spotsylvania County
Knowing how the counties grew within a state helps me understand how the population moved and why my ancestors moved to a particular location when they did.
A (Very) Little History
As the colonial population increased, Spotsylvania County was established in 1721 from parts of Essex, King and Queen, and King William counties. The county was named in Latin for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Alexander Spotswood. Spotswood had early business interests in the area; his “Iron Mines Company,” a mining and smelting operation, was founded in 1725 at Germanna. Much of Spotsylvania’s early development is attributed to Spotswood’s ironworks founded in the early 1700s.
Spotswood’s Iron Mines Company, a mining and smelting operation founded in 1725 at Germanna, was the first fully equipped iron furnace in the colonies and the County’s first industry. A wharf was built at the mouth of Massaponax Creek for ships to load wares for colonial ports, including firebacks, pots, pans and kettles. A blast furnace, also founded by Spotswood, was operated in the area from 1730 through 1785.
The settlement of Germanna is an important part of the history of the area. Although Germanna is currently in Orange County, it was at one point the county seat of Spotsylvania County. In 1714, 42 German men, women, and children arrived in Virginia where Lt. Gov. Spotswood settled them on the Rapidan River in a five-sided palisaded fort (named Germanna for the Germans and Queen Anne) along what was then the frontier about 20 miles west of present-day Fredericksburg. With their pastor, Henry Haeger, they formed the first German Reformed congregation in Virginia.
The Germans had come from villages near Siegen, in North Rhine Westphalia, a silver and iron producing area. Spotswood planned to use them to mine his lands, and there were hopes that silver would be found. By 1717, iron had replaced silver as the focus of Spotswood’s mining operation. As the this group of Germans was coming to the end of their contract, Spotswood settled a second group of Germans to add to his workforce. Coming mainly from agricultural villages in the Kraichgau area of Baden-Wurttemberg, they had expected to go to Pennsylvania. The first group acquired land in present-day Fauquier County and moved there by 1720.
With the frontier now further west, Spotswood dismantled the fort and built a mansion, known as the “Enchanted Castle.” The Germanna settlement was also the site of the first courthouse for the large frontier county of Spotsylvania and was the starting point for Spotswood’s famous Knights of the Golden Horseshoe expedition over the Blue Ridge in 1716.
This second German group moved on to lands in the Robinson River Valley (now Madison County) and formed the Hebron Lutheran Church, the oldest continuously operating Lutheran Church in America. The influence and enterprising spirit of these early German colonists helped shape the Virginia colony, our young nation, and indeed can be felt throughout our nation’s history down to today.
Under Spotswood’s resourceful leadership, a road network for transporting the iron was laid out, and skilled laborers were imported from Germany. At his death in 1740, Spotswood left behind a nearly self-sufficient iron empire that set in motion the rise of America’s iron and steel industry. Spotswood’s furnace was acquired in 1842 by the U.S. Government, which set up a forge and foundries. Here, the government made hundreds of cannons to supply the Mexican War, making it one of the most important cannon works in the country.
My ancestors left Spotsylvania County shortly after the American Revolution, but the events of the Civil War that occurred in this county are worth a brief note. Many major battles were fought in this county during the Civil War, including the Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, Battle of Fredericksburg, and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The war resulted in widespread disruption and opportunity: some 10,000 African-American slaves left area plantations and city households to cross the Rappahannock River, reaching the Union lines and gaining freedom. This exodus is commemorated by historical markers on both sides of the river.
General Stonewall Jackson was shot and mortally wounded by friendly fire in Spotsylvania County during the Battle of Chancellorsville. A group of Confederate soldiers from North Carolina were in the woods and heard General Jackson’s party returning from reconnoitering the Union lines. They mistook them for a Federal patrol and fired on them, wounding Jackson in both arms. His left arm was amputated. General Jackson died a few days later from pneumonia at nearby Guinea Station. He and other Confederate wounded were being gathered there for evacuation to hospitals to the south and further away from enemy lines. In a somewhat macabre footnote, Jackson’s amputated arm was buried separately from his body, and is commemorated by a stone and sign in the Jones family cemetery in Locust Grove, Spotsylvania County, Virginia. (Both of these images are taken from https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/grave-of-stonewall-jackson-s-arm)
My Ancestors in Spotsylvania County
After writing about counties in New England where my ancestors lived, coming “back” to Virginia is a rude awakening. My problem in New England is that I have too much information, not all of it in agreement, and I have to make choices about which sources I’m going to accept and which sources I’m going to look at with suspicion. In Virginia, my problem is a lack of information. I’m going to pull back the curtain here a little bit (as they say) to let you know that the most recent essay I worked on, focused on Plymouth County, Massachusetts, ran for more than 20 pages as I explored the lives of dozens of ancestors and utilized hundreds of sources. For this week’s essay on Spotsylvania, I’ll be exploring the lives of a handful of ancestors using a limited range of sources. But here goes.
My 4th great-grandfather Charles Stuart (1774-1846) was born in Spotsylvania County in 1774; some records say he was born in Kentucky, but I don’t have evidence that the family went to Kentucky that early. I don’t know a lot about Charles’s paternal line once I get back beyond his father Benjamin Stuart (1732-1813), who was born in Spotsylvania, as were his six siblings. Benjamin’s father Charles Stewart (1690-750) (note the different spelling of the surname) was probably born in the same area as his children; some records say he was born in Spotsylvania, but Spotsylvania didn’t exist until 1721, so he was probably born in a part of either Essex County, King William, or King and Queen County, which would be folded into Spotsylvania after 1721. I don’t know anything about the parents of Charles 1690.
I do know a little about the ancestors of Mary Proctor (1710-1773), the paternal grandmother of Charles 1774. Mary descends from early settlers of Virginia; her grandfather, GeorgeProctor(1621-1682), was born in Jamestown and participated in Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. He was living in Surry County at the time, and was one of the authors of the Bill of Grievances for Surry County
I have to admit that I’m a little confused about my Proctor family ancestors. George1621 seems to have lived out his life in Surry County, in southside Virginia across the James River from Jamestown; however, I think George1660 was born in Spotsylvania County, and I can’t figure out why.
There’s even more confusion when I look at the immigrant ancestors of the Proctor line, JohnProctor (1583-1627) and Alice Graye (1587-1627). I have good documentation that John and Alice settled in the Jamestown colony and lived there until the late 1620s; I am not so fortunate when it comes to proving that George 1621 is their son. Records show that he and his brothers were born in Jamestown in the first half of the 1620s, but they do not prove his parentage. I don’t know of any other Proctors who were living in Jamestown at this time, but the Jamestowne Society (which curates membership in its hereditary organization) does not accept as members people who claim a connection to John and Alice.
George 1621 married Elizabeth Burgess Marriott (1621-1664) and they had four children, including my 7th great-grandfather George Proctor (1660-1730). I’m not sure who George1660 married; I think it was Katherine Frank (1670-1730), but I don’t know anything about her other than her name. They married in Essex County in 1693 (probably in the part of Essex County that became Spotsylvania County in 1720). Katherine and George had seven children, including my 6th great-grandmother Mary Proctor (1710-1773), who married Charles Stewart 1690, as I mentioned above.
I know more about the maternal ancestors of Charles Stuart 1774, the person who connects me to these ancestors. Charles’s maternal 2nd great-grandfathers, Samuel Clayton (1640-1702) and Philip Pendleton (1654-1721), were both early immigrants to Virginia. Samuel was born in England and settled in Gloucester County, Virginia (on the York River about 30 miles from Jamestown), where he married Susannah Morris (1654-1710) in about 1672.
Samuel’s father, Thomas Morris (1632-1669), was an early immigrant to Virginia, serving as clerk of Gloucester County in 1657 and 1661. Susannah and Samuel had six children in Gloucester, including my 7th great-grandfather Samuel Clayton (1680-1735).Samuel married Elizabeth Susannah Pendleton (1685-1761) in Culpeper County in 1702. I’m not sure how Samuel and Susannah got together; Culpeper is about 130 miles from Gloucester, and the roads were not good. One possibility – Philip Pendleton, Elizabeth’s father, and his brother Henry came to Virginia in 1674; Henry was a minister and the brothers may have travelled in circles that put them in touch with the colonial gentry, which would have included Susannah’s father Thomas. In the next generation, Elizabeth’s nephew Edmund Pendleton would find his place among the political leaders of Virginia, serving in the Continental Congress and the House of Burgesses before his death in 1803.
Samuel Clayton 1680 and Elizabeth had 10 children in central Virginia, including my 6th great-grandfather Jacob Clayton (1720-1771), who was their 9th child. By the time Jacob was born, the family was living in Essex County, probably in the part that would become Spotsylvania County in that same year.
I’m not sure who Jacob married; some records show her first name to be Elizabeth, and many records refer to her only by her married name, Elizabeth Clayton. Nonetheless, they married; I don’t know when they married, and I don’t know how many children they had. I think they had at least one child, Millicent Clayton (1736-1813), who was my 5th great-grandmother.
Just as a side note – as I’m writing this, I’m realizing how very little I can say for sure about these ancestors. This is a framework of what I think may be true, not a story of what I know to be true.
Moving right along.
I think Millicent married Benjamin Stuart (I talked about him earlier). They had seven children in Spotsylvania, including my 4th great-grandfather Charles Stuart (1774-1846), who was the fellow I talked about when I started this section of this essay. Charles was living in Kentucky by 1800 (he may have been there earlier – I have inconsistent locations for the places where he married and where his children were born). It looks as if many family members had moved to Kentucky – Charles’s father and mother both died in Rockcastle County in south-central Kentucky in 1813, if the records can be believed.
I have written about this family in several other essays in this series. I mention the Stuart family specifically in my Week 2 essay on Augusta County, Virginia. I mention the descendants of this family in my Week 31 essay on Mason County, Kentucky, and my Week 19 essay on Hancock County, Illinois.