Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jane Marlow Helps to Solve a Murder

Bridge at Littlebeck, North Yorkshire Moors
By Brian Norman, Accessed via Wikipedia Commons

While doing some random googling this morning, I stumbled across a story about my three times great grandmother, Jane Marlow (a.k.a. Marley). She was born Jane Fewster in about 1800 in Eskdaleside, North Yorkshire, and married George Marlow on January 19, 1826 in Whitby. She was the daughter of Thomas Fewster and Jane Ward, the mother of William Marlow, and the grandmother of Joseph H. Marlow. I was delighted to find this story, as it is unusual to find such detail about the life and personality of an ancestor in England who lived so long ago, particularly a female one.

The Annual Register, or a View of the History and Politics of the Year 1857, includes the following story:

York Assizes—Murder—Sarah Jemmison was charged with the wilful murder of her illegitimate son, Joseph Jemmison, on the 9th of December last.

From the evidence it appeared that the child whose death was the subject of inquiry was born three years ago, and was soon after its birth placed out at birth with a Mrs. Jane Marley, at Sleights, near Whitby. The child remained there for a long period, and the payments for its board being very irregularly made, and an arrear of 6l. or more having accumulated, Mrs. Marley declined any longer to keep him, she being herself in a position in life too poor to support any additional burden. The prisoner was then living as servant with Mr. Pearson, at Egton, a farmer, and in his absence she brought the child to his house. On his return he objected to its remaining there, having, as he said, as many as he could keep himself already. The prisoner proposed then that she should take her boy to a relation at Moorsholm, a distance of twelve miles. The farmer consented, and sent his son, a young lad, with his donkey and cart, to help her on the road. She parted from the lad at the junction of two roads, taking that which led to a large tract of moor land. The child was never seen again alive. This was in December last. Three months after a shepherd observed his dog feeding on something, and on inspecting it, found it to be the leg of a child. He returned home, taking it with him, and on someone’s suggestion the dog was kept without food for two days, and then let out. He at once went out to the moor in question, and returned apparently sated. He was then again taken to the moor, and led the way to a spot near where Pearson’s son had parted with the prisoner, and there a thigh and, not far off, the skull of a child were found. Further search was made, and other parts, sadly mangled and torn, as was supposed, by the dog, were discovered. On the skull were traces of injuries as to which evidence was laid before the jury by medical men, to the effect that in their opinion those injuries had been inflicted during life, and were not such as could be caused by the gnawing of a dog. The falsity of the prisoner’s statement was also proved: she had said, when asked what she had done with the child, that she had left him with Mrs. Wilson, his father’s sister.

After an absence of about an hour the jury returned a verdict of “Guilty”, but with a recommendation of mercy on account of the prisoner’s destitute condition. Sentence of death was passed, but, on the recommendation of the Judge, was committed to penal servitude for life.

In Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths around the Tees, the author Maureen Anderson expands upon the story. She relates that Sarah’s sister had originally taken the baby to stay with Mrs. Marley. On November 29, 1856, Sarah went to Mrs. Marley and informed her that she could not pay her the money that she owed her, but would try to pay her soon. She stated that she wanted to take the boy away, ostensibly to the poor house with her. Mrs. Marley apparently told her not to take the child that night, but to return the next day. When Sarah came for him the next day, the boy was wearing a white shirt with a slit on one of the sleeves, as he had had a “sore arm”. This shirt apparently matched one which had been found by the dog. Anderson goes on to state that Mrs. Marley went to the Pearson home a few months later to try to collect her debt, but to no avail. Sarah came to her house the next week, and told her that the child was staying with his father’s sister near Guisborough, “adding as a joke that his uncle would kill him because he was fond of pulling the cows’ tails”. When Mrs. Marley asked if she had clothes for him, she told her that the family had a boy a little older who had died whose clothes he was wearing. Later, after being apprehended by the authorities, it came out that Sarah had murdered her child and left his body on the moors.

I have since found references to newspaper reports which indicate that Mrs. Marlow’s suspicions led to Sarah’s arrest. (The names “Marlow” and “Marley” seem to be interchangeable, as we have found in the past).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Stephen Harts of Pinckney and Turin, Lewis County, New York

Happy New Year, everybody!

When I was researching my three times great grandfather, the Honorable Stephen Hart of Pinckney, Lewis County, New York, I became confused by references to “Stephen Hart” living in Turin, Lewis County. After doing some further research, I discovered that they were two unrelated people with the same name, of about the same age, living in two different towns in the same small rural county. I thought it might be important to blog about this discovery, despite the fact that other Lewis County researchers are aware of the distinction, particularly because it is so easy from the extant documents to get the two Stephens mixed up.

In fact, this is precisely what happened in 1903 to James M. Hart, the author of The Genealogical History of Samuel Hartt, a book with a much longer title, which includes the lineage of my forebear, Nicholas Hart, whose name goes down in infamy. Finding this book on the World Vital Records website was one of my main discoveries of 2013, particularly as it is the one document I have found which clearly connects Jeremiah to Stephen to John Hart, my great great grandfather, in one fell swoop. James Hart states that Stephen “settled at Turin and later at Pinckney, N.Y., in the Black River section”. I feel I should set the record straight as many people are likely to take the word of James Hart, who has published the only in depth genealogy of the descendants of Nicholas Hart of which I am aware. In addition, the book, The History of Lewis County, New York written by Franklin B. Hough in 1883, mentions both Stephens without making clear distinctions between the two, except by where they live, therefore paving the way for future readers to amalgamate them in their minds. I am thinking that it is likely that James Hart partly drew upon Hough for his account of our Stephen Hart’s life, and thus made his error.

I know that the Stephen Harts are two different people because not only did I do my Stephen’s family tree, I also did the Turin Stephen’s. I felt it was important to do this so that I also did not mix up their families. I discovered that although the two Stephens were not related to each other, they are both related to me! The Turin Stephen is descended from my other Hart line, that of Deacon Stephen Hart of Connecticut, one of the forebears of my great great grandmother, Sally Wright Merriam. He is my second cousin five times removed. Our nearest common ancestors are Hawkins Hart and Sarah Royce, my six times great grandparents.

The Turin Stephen Hart was born on June 3, 1767 in Wallingford, Connecticut to Nathaniel Hart and Alice Hall. He was only about four years older than the Pinckney Stephen. He married Eunice Seymour in Colebrook, Connecticut, on September 9, 1790. They had a total of nine children of which I am aware: Jeremiah, Martin, Seymour, Melinda, Eliza, Sylvester, Anson, and twin boys who died at birth. He came to Lewis County, New York from Colebrook between 1803 and 1807, roughly about the same time our Stephen came to the area. Interestingly, he and his family came from the same general area in Connecticut as the Charles Wright extended family, within a few years of each other, as they are both reported to have set out from Colebrook. The families may have known each other before coming to Lewis County, and they were related, but may not have known this. He, like the Pinckney Stephen, was a farmer.

His brother, Levi Hart, however, who also settled in the Turin area from Connecticut, was involved in politics, as was the Pinckney Stephen. He served in the New York State Legislature in 1817 and 1818, a few years before our Stephen held that distinction. Levi’s daughter, Caroline, married Clinton Levi Merriam (also distantly related to me through Sally Wright Merriam), who became a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. They were parents of the famous naturalists, Clinton Hart Merriam and Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey, to whom I am therefore at least doubly related, however distantly. (I may blog about them in future).

The Stephen Hart of Turin died in Turin on August 13, 1857, four years before the death of the Pinckney Stephen; so as they were born about four years apart, they therefore died at about the same age, that of ninety years old. I think that it was highly likely that they knew each other, or of each other, especially considering the political activities of their families.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Joseph Green and the Christmas Rose

The Christmas Rose (Helleborus Niger)
from Wikipedia Commons
by Archenzo Moggio (Lecco)

Throughout the year I look for family history stories which apply to Christmas. I found one for this year, but I must warn you, it is a little sad. In my research in British newspapers this year I came across a story about my three times great grandfather, Joseph Green. Now, to clarify, this is the great grandfather of my maternal grandfather, William Sanderson, and not one of the Greens related to my maternal grandmother, Alice Sanderson, nee Saunders.

A little background: Joseph Green was born about 1819 in March, Cambridgeshire, England, the son of Joseph Green and Ann Banes. He was baptised on August 2, 1819 at the Church of St. Wendreda. He married Mary Pepper, nee Smart, also known as the “widow Pepper” on December 23, 1841, the same year her first husband died. She had two small children, Jonathan, 5, and Elizabeth Ann, 4, from her first marriage. Mary was born about 1815 in Downham Market, Norfolk, and was the daughter of John Smart and Elizabeth Wanford. Joseph and Mary (see, already a Christmas connection) went on to have at least five children together, including Joseph, (my great great grandfather), Susannah, Ann, Joanna, and Grace.

The Joseph Green of our story had a few different occupations during his life, including operating an alehouse, and being a “carter” far away in Lancashire, possibly for a coal mine or a quarry. He also had a farm, more of a smallholding, of about sixteen acres, on Whittle End Road in March. Some of the newspaper stories I have found which seem to apply to him, may also apply to his father, Joseph Green, who was also a farmer of a smallholding in March, of about ten acres. Unfortunately, Joseph Green the elder met his end at the age of seventy-one due to falling off a “load of peas” in August of 1862.

from Cambridge Independent Press, August 23, 1862
accessed via Find My Past
So, one of the Joseph Greens grew a plant called Helleborus Niger in his garden, a plant which was also known as the Christmas Rose. There is a legend that it got its name because it sprouted out of the snow from the tears of a young girl who had no gifts to give the Christ child in Bethlehem. Apparently, it has been a favourite among cottage gardeners because it continues to flower in the midst of winter. It is also poisonous. I found the following article in The Cambridge Independent Press, dated December 29, 1860:

The “Tuesday last” of that week referred to in the article would have been Christmas Day. So, to recap:  Joseph and Mary may have awakened on Christmas morning in 1860 to find that several of their precious sheep had died from eating the Christmas roses in their garden. Where were the shepherds when they needed them?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Elizabeth Watson, Wife of Joseph Long Johnson, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Elizabeth Johnson, Wife of Joseph Long Johnson Gravestone
St. Mary the Virgin's Church Cemetery
Whitby, North Yorkshire
(by permisson of Charles Sale, Gravestone Photographic Resource

I am happy to present to you today a photo of the gravestone of Elizabeth Johnson, wife of Joseph Long Johnson, in St. Mary the Virgin’s Church Cemetery in Whitby, North Yorkshire. This was kindly provided to me by Charles Sale of Gravestone Photographic Resource, and is reproduced here with his permission. (Thank you, Charles).

I believe this to be the oldest gravestone of which I possess an image from my direct lineage in England. We can know that it is Elizabeth because you can see that she is the “wife of Joseph Long Johnson”, although there is little else that is legible. It is possible that others are buried with her, but so far, we have no evidence of this.

This is what I know about  Elizabeth Johnson, nee Watson, who was my three times great grandmother. According to the 1841 census, she was born about 1796 in Yorkshire. She married Joseph Long Johnson on May 2, 1824 in Whity, North Yorkshire. She had at least six children: Sarah, Mary Ann, Joseph, Elizabeth, Benjamin, and Thomas Henry. She died in the second quarter of 1843 In Whitby and, as mentioned, was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin’s Church, which was Anglican.

St. Mary the Virgin Church
via Wikipedia Commons
from author Tom Richardson

I mentioned Elizabeth in a previous blogpost, Marlow Line: Joseph Long and Joseph Long Johnson in the Newspapers, and stated there that her mother was Ellis Watson. I no longer believe that this is so. This is because the Elizabeth Watson who was the daughter of Ellis Watson had a baby named after her stepfather, Francis Fishburn, a year after our Elizabeth married Joseph Long Johnson. The baptism record of the baby gives the mother as Elizabeth Watson, and mentions no father. I believe it is unlikely that this could be our Elizabeth, who was a married woman at the time, particularly as the child, born May 24, 1825,  would have to have been conceived after Elizabeth’s marriage.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Evelyn Sampson’s Pilgrim Fathers

Evelyn Sampson

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers, and to everyone else.

Today, I am honoured to present a poem written by my beautiful mother-in-law, Evelyn Sampson, who died in 1974, long before I met her son. Her gentle and loving spirit has been with us always. She was a poet as a young adolescent, and many of her poems were published in Chicago newspapers. Recently, when I was reading her poetry, I came across one about the pilgrims, which gave me chills considering that her only child was to be born on American Thanksgiving, and that her grandson would be a Mayflower descendant.

Pilgrim Fathers

They came for peace and happiness,
The sisters, sons, and mothers.
For freedom in a far-away land
They came, those Pilgrim fathers!

Much they suffered and endured
For liberty’s dear sake.
And many loved ones were laid to rest
From a sleep they would never wake.

But in them was a spirit true,
And tho the bitter cold made them numb,
They determined in, stay and pave a way
For the generations to come.

Ah, gone are they now - gone forever -
‘Neath the cool green grass for many a day.
Yet the spirit so true that has sprung from them
Shall never fade away.
                                By Evelyn Sampson

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Phebe Bloom Hart, David Thomas Vail, and Abraham Lincoln

From The City of Troy and its vicinity,
Phebe Bloom Hart, the third child of Richard Philip Hart and Betsey Amelia Howard, was born June 30, 1819 in Troy, New York. She was named after her father’s first wife, and after his first daughter by that wife, who died at the age of twelve. Like most of her sisters, she attended the Troy Female Seminary, and her biography also appears in the book, Emma Willard and Her Pupils, having attended from 1827 to 1837. She married David Thomas Vail on November, 20, 1838 at the age of nineteen. They travelled in Europe for a year after their marriage. They had four children, Howard Hart Vail, who died at the age of one, Rev. Richard Phiip Hart Vail, Jane Eliza Vail, and Phebe Hart Vail.

Her husband, most often referred to as “D. Thomas Vail”, was born September 18, 1814 also in Troy, New York. He was from a prominent family in Troy, and his uncle Henry was a U.S. Congressman, who was also a “close friend” of President Martin Van Buren. David Thomas graduated from Williams College in 1834, and then went into his father’s mercantile business. He became the director of the Merchants and Mechanics’ Bank of Troy in 1847, and in 1850 succeeded his father as its president. He had many other business interests including railroads and manufacturing.

Abraham Lincoln, 1860
Matthew Brady photograph
from Wikipedia Commons via Library of Congress

One of the high points of his life may have been that in 1861 he was given the honour of playing a role in Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Troy. The following is from The History of Troy:

The reception of Abraham Lincoln by the people of Troy, on the 19th of February, is thus described: “Abraham Lincoln, President-elect of the United States, arrived in this city this morning a few minutes past nine o’clock. The Central railroad cars brought him over the Rensselaer & Saratoga road from Albany via the Junction, on account of the swollen condition of the river, the passage across it in a boat at Albany being considered unsafe. The train consisted of six cars, filled with the suite of the President, the members of the New York Press, the Troy Committee of arrangements, the Albany Burgesses Corps, and several gentlemen from Albany. The depot was filled to its utmost capacity by men of all parties, to do honor to the President-elect. There was one vast sea of heads, and the noise and enthusiasm were beyond description. There could not have been less than thirty thousand people present in the depot. The Hudson River car prepared to convey the President to New York stood on the middle track with a platform car covered with matting drawn up in the rear, on which the reception ceremonies were to take place, in the presence of this vast audience. The Citizens’ Corps, Capt. H. L. Shields, which had been ordered out to do duty, were drawn up on both sides of the open car, to keep back the crowd. The train ran in the depot to the east of the New York train, and a plank being laid from the rear end of the train to the platform car, Mr. Lincoln soon appeared upon it in company with Mayor McConihe. His appearance was the signal for applause never before equalled in this city. Mr. Lincoln bowed in response, and replied in brief terms. While he was speaking, his suite embarked on the Hudson River Train, and Mr. Lincoln, upon conclusion of his address, was conducted by Vice President D. Thomas Vail, of the Troy Union Railroad Company, the platform of the rear car, where, as the train moved away, he stood with uncovered head and bowed his acknowledgments to the plaudits of the people. While the train was coming over the Rensselaer & Saratoga railroad bridge, a detachment of the Troy City Artillery fired a salute of thirty-four guns in honor of the President”.

Phebe Bloom Hart Vail passed away on October 25, 1870, at the age of fifty-one. Her youngest daughter was only thirteen at the time. Her husband’s fortunes took another turn for the worse when in 1878 he was indicted for a fraudulent business deal while President of the Merchants and Mechanics Bank of Troy. This subsequently resulted in the failure of the bank. Reviewing the newspaper accounts of the time, I find that the following seems to put the affair most succinctly:

The Stark County Democrat
Canton, Ohio
, December 5, 1878
(accessed on Genealogy Bank)

In the course of time other family members were implicated, including his son-in-law and his brother-in-law. Although he was allowed not to go to jail due to his apparent imminent demise from ill health, he lived another four years. However, he remained mainly confined to his house for the last three years of his life due to “heart disease”, which was “aggravated” by his “financial troubles”. He died on February 5, 1882. It is reported in his obituary, “About two weeks since his complaint assumed a more serious phase, and since then he has been gradually sinking. His death, however, was not anticipated so soon. He bade his daughter “good night” about midnight Saturday, and said he thought they would all have a comfortable night. She visited his bedside occasionally after that, but thought him sleeping. At length, at about 5 o’clock a.m. Sunday, alarmed at his perfect quietude, she called assistance, and it was ascertained that Mr. Vail had peacefully closed his book of suffering and trouble, which he had uncomplainingly endured with manly resolution and Christian fortitude. By the death of Mr. Vail Troy loses a citizen who has ever been active in the promotion of its various local enterprises, and a zealous co-laborer for the welfare of its educational and charitable institutions”.

He and Phebe are buried at the Oakwood Cemetery, which he had helped to found.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Descent into Descent’s Blogiversary

Today I am celebrating the one year anniversary of the creation of this blog, My Descent into Descent. I am so excited that I have been able to keep this blog going for this long, although I have definitely not blogged every day as I had planned. I have discovered that for the type of blog this is, telling stories of interest from my family tree, the amount of research required for each blogpost makes publishing daily unrealistic. In addition, I enjoy just spending time researching without having to be focused on what I am going to write. This often leads to discoveries which I share with you later. When it comes to writing and research, I operate very much on the pleasure principle.

I have recently written about my blogging experience to date, which I invite you to visit for my personal joys of blogging. What I would like to share with you today are my most popular blogposts. These include:

William Cook 1849-1908, Saskatchewan Pioneer. This is the story of my great great grandfather William Cook and his experiences homesteading in Saskatchewan. I have been surprised and delighted by the response of my Cook relatives to my writings about this line in general. They have inspired me to write more about the Cooks.

Stephen A. Hart: The Singing Surveyor of Goodhue County, Minnesota. I believe the popularity of this blogpost is due more to the response of people interested in local history than of family history buffs, as Stephen’s children did not survive past childhood. Writing about Stephen has shown me that family history writing can be a special type of historical writing, which gives a deeper genealogical perspective to the events of history.

The Infamous Nicholas Hart (1610-1654?) I am fascinated by my mysterious first Hart ancestor to come to America. I don’t think most Hart researchers knew about his connection with Sarah Dudley, the governor’s daughter, before this. I’m glad to share.

William Cook Senior and the Case of the Purloined Ferret. This was the result of my explorations into British newspapers, and was a lot of fun to write. It was wonderful to find some confirmation for family stories about William Junior, too.

Lily Elizabeth Newton Cook Arnold 1881 - 1965. See what I mean about my Cook cousins? They have really supported this blog. Making contact with Great Grand Aunt Lily’s descendants was one of my main purposes in starting this blog in the first place. It took a little time, but they really came through. My contact with them has been one of the most gratifying results of writing MDID.

My own favourites are little different. They are:

All of my blogposts on my great grandfather Herbert Charles Saunders, which were my first. My journey discovering Herbert’s story has been the most profound of my research to date.

All of my blogposts on my great great grandmother, Emma Green Cook, one of my favourite ancestors, whose picture adorns this blog.

All of my blogposts about Melvin J. Hart, another of my great grandfathers, and also one of my favourite ancestors. The single greatest joy of my research to date is finding his Civil War photo on Ancestry. This year I was able to obtain a better copy of the original from the owner. How cool is that?

The Marlow Centennial – 100 Years in Canada. Imagine receiving a newspaper article written by one of your great aunts, exactly one hundred years before, describing her family’s recent emigration to Alberta. This was just spooky.

And, off the top of my head, all of my blogposts from my family history road trip this summer. Words cannot express the experience of walking in the footsteps of your ancestors. It was fun to blog from the road, too.

Oh, and I have to say that I’m pretty excited about the current series I am doing about the family of Richard and Betsey Hart, of Troy, New York—the Hart line I wish I had been born into. I lack the silver spoon.

I would love to hear what your personal favourites are. Thanks to all my “gentle readers” for their support throughout the year.