All things history and genealogy.

All things history and genealogy.

Tag: Historical Figures

The ancestor quest: humor, poems and prose for Genealogists.

I have gathered and transcribed several items of humor, poems and prose for Genealogists that have touched me in some way. The ones I have selected and printed below are my favorites of the hundreds that can be found – and the ones that hit home the most.

__________

Dear Ancestor

 

Your tombstone stands among the rest;
Neglected and alone
The name and date are chiseled out
On polished, marbled stone.
It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to mourn.
You did not know that I exist
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you
In flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
Entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
So many years ago
Spreads out among the ones you left
Who would have loved you so.
I wonder if you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
And come to visit you.

__________

 

 Genealogy – where you confuse the dead and irritate the living.

__________

 

Murphy’s Law for Genealogists

 

The public ceremony in which your distinguished ancestor participated and at which the platform collapsed under him turned out to be a hanging.

When at last after much hard work you have solved the mystery you have been working on for two years, your aunt says, “I could have told you that.”

You grandmother’s maiden name that you have searched for four years was on a letter in a box in the attic all the time.

You never asked your father about his family when he was alive because you weren’t interested in genealogy then.

The will you need is in the safe on board the Titanic.

Copies of old newspapers have holes occurring only on the surnames.

John, son of Thomas, the immigrant whom your relatives claim as the family progenitor, died on board ship at
age 10.

Your gr. grandfather’s newspaper obituary states that he died leaving no issue of record.

The keeper of the vital records you need has just been insulted by an another genealogist.

The relative who had all the family photographs gave them all to her daughter who has no interest in genealogy and no inclination to share.

The only record you find for your gr. grandfather is that his property was sold at a sheriff’s sale for insolvency.

The one document that would supply the missing link in your dead-end line has been lost due to fire, flood or war.

The town clerk to whom you wrote for the information sends you a long handwritten letter which is totally illegible.

The spelling for your European ancestor’s name bears no relationship to its current spelling or pronunciation.

None of the pictures in your recently deceased grandmother’s photo album have names written on them.

No one in your family tree ever did anything noteworthy, owned property, was sued or was named in wills.

You learn that your great aunt’s executor just sold her life’s collection of family genealogical materials to a flea market dealer “somewhere in New York City.”

Ink fades and paper deteriorates at a rate inversely proportional to the value of the data recorded.

The 37 volume, sixteen thousand page history of your county of origin isn’t indexed.

You finally find your gr. grandparent’s wedding records and discover that the brides’ father was named John Smith.

__________

 

Whoever said “Seek and ye shall find” was not a genealogist.

__________

Strangers in the Box

 

Come, look with me inside this drawer,
In this box I’ve often seen,
At the pictures, black and white,
Faces proud, still, and serene.

I wish I knew the people,
These strangers in the box,
Their names and all their memories,
Are lost among my socks.

I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.

If only someone had taken time,
To tell, who, what, where, and when,
These faces of my heritage,
Would come to life again.

Could this become the fate,
Of the pictures we take today?
The faces and the memories,
Someday to be passed away?

Take time to save your stories,
Seize the opportunity when it knocks,
Or someday you and yours,
Could be strangers in the box.

Originally posted 2016-04-26 10:17:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Mark Blythe to Barack Obama Relationship Chart

 

The relationship chart illustrating the multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-racial connections between Barack Obama and my husband Mark Blythe.

 

A while ago, we saw a genealogy chart in a Chicago newspaper online showing Barack Obama’s family tree, which includes one Ulrich Stehle (Steely), born about 1720 and died before 1773, living the entire time in Pennsylvania.

The connection is through Barack’s maternal line from his mother Stanley Ann Dunham and Mark’s paternal line.

We later discovered that Barack Obama and Mark are both related to John Bunch, the first documented slave in America, as described in a previous post.

Mark Blythe to Barack Obama Relationship Chart
Mark Blythe to Barack Obama Relationship Chart

Originally posted 2016-10-26 05:37:38. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

William The Conqueror I, King of England

 

William The Conqueror I, King of England and 28th great grandfather to my children through their father’s ancestry, was born in  Chateau de Falaise, Normandy, France in 1026 to Robert “le Diable, the Devil” II, Duc de Normandie (999-1035) and Arlette de Falaise (1003-1050), a tanner’s daughter.

 

As he was the illegitimate son of Robert I and Arlette, he is sometimes called William the Bastard.

 

Featured image (above): William the Conqueror I, King of England Section from the Bayeux Tapestry showing William with his half-brothers. William is in the centre, Odo is on the left, and Robert is on the right.

William The Conqueror I
William The Conqueror I, King of England

In 1035, when William was approximately seven years old, his father, also known as Robert the Magnificent, died when returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Upon Robert’s death, William was accepted as his successor by the Norman nobles and rebellion against Duke William broke out almost immediately.

He managed to secure his position in 1047 when he was victorious over a rebel force near Caen with the help of Henry I, King of France.

Defying a papal ban, William married Matilda of Flanders between 1050 and 1052 (she at approximately 22 years of age) at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Eu, France.

She was an asset to William as she was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders and a descendant of King Alfred the Great, thereby strengthening William’s claim to the crown of England.

Robert the Magnificent
Statue of Robert the Magnificent, William’s father, at Falaise, France.

This claim to the throne of England was based upon his assertion that Edward the Confessor, a distant cousin, had promised him the throne and by stating that Harold II had pledged in 1064 to support William’s right to the throne. Furthermore, William was supported by the Emperor Henry IV and had papal approval.

The children borne of the marriage between William and Matilda of Flanders were:

Robert “Curthose” II, Duc de Normandie (1052- )
Richard de Normandie (1054-1075)
Adelaide de Normandie (1055- )
Mathilde de Normandie ( – )
Cecilia de Normandie (1955- )
Guillaume “Rufus” II, King of England (1056-1100)
Constance de Normandie (1057-1090)
Agathe de Normandie (1074-1074)
Adela of England, de Normandie (1066-1138)
Henry “Beauclerc” I, King of England (1068-1135)

In 1063, William was made Comte de Maine.

Harold is killed at Hastings. It's not sure which killing shown reflects the manner in which Harold died.
Harold is killed at Hastings. It’s not sure which killing shown reflects the manner in which Harold died.

In 1064, Harald, Earl of Wessex, was taken prisoner by William after having been shipwrecked on the coast of Normandy.

However, William’s desire for the throne was thwarted when, upon King Edward’s death, the royal council elected Harald as the new King of England.

William was determined to make good on his claim and with Pope Alexander II’s support, Duke William and his forces defeated the English forces during the Battle of Hastings in 1066, during which Harold was killed.

Defeating resistors on his way, William made his way to London, and on Christmas Day of 1066, he was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey.

The English were very resentful of foreign rule and he met with strong opposition. In response, vast areas of the country were devastated, including Yorkshire against the Danes, who had arrived to join with the rebels. Having completely quelled opposing forces, William was again crowned King with a papal crown in 1070.

In the years that followed, William defeated rebellions among his Norman followers, including that in 1075, led by Ralph de Guader, 1st Earl of Norfolk, and Roger Fitzwilliam, Earl of Hereford, as well as several uprisings in Normandy led by his own and eldest son Robert, who later became Robert II, Duc de Normandie.

By 1086, the Domesday Book was started by William. He established feaudalism, granting his followers land in return for their pledge of loyalty to the throne.

King William also invaded Scotland, defeating King Malcolm III MacDuncan and forced his loyalty to the throne as well.

Domesday Book Page for Warwickshire.
Domesday Book Page for Warwickshire.

William completed the last months of his reign from Normandy, fighting against King Philip’s annexation of surrounding Norman territory. Prior to his death on 9 September 1087, William divided his ‘Anglo-Norman’ state between his sons. William bequeathed Normandy as he had promised to his eldest son Robert, despite their differences due to Robert wounding and defeating his father while siding with his father’s enemies in Normandy in 1079. His son, William Rufus, gained the throne as King of England, and his third son, Henry, was left 5,000 pounds in silver.

During a battle against King Philip I of France in 1087, William’s forces razed the town of Mantes. Sometime during these proceedings, William’s horse fell, fatally injuring him.

William died in Rouen on September 7, 1087 and he was buried at Abbaye de Sainte-Etienne in Caen on September 9, 1087. Abbaye de Sainte-Etienne had been founded by he and his wife Matilda in recompense for their marriage against the Pope’s wishes.

Abbaye des Hommes (formerly Abbaye de St-Etienne) in Caen, France.
Abbaye des Hommes (formerly Abbaye de St-Etienne) in Caen, France.

His burial place having later been damaged by Huguenots and revolutionaries between the 17th and 18th centuries, the burial place is now marked by a simple stone slab.

(It is interesting to note here that my own Acadian lineage through my mother’s ancestry originates from the French Huguenots settling on the east coast of Canada and the USA in the 17th century to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. Could it be that my own ancestors took part in the desecration of William the Conqueror’s tomb. To this day, the exact link between our Acadian ancestors and the French Huguenots eludes us.)

Sources:

  • Herbert and Einion Sais links to Blayneys, online.
  • Foundation for Medieval Genealogy online (http://fmg.ac/)
  • Directory of Royal Genealogical Data, Brian Tompsett, Dept. of Computer Science, Hull University online,(http://www.dcs.hull.ac.uk/public/genealogy/royal/catalog.html).
  • Ancestry of Richard Plantagenet and Cecily de Neville; Ernst-Friedrich Kraentzler; (: Selp-published, 1978).
  • Lineage and Ancestry of HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales; Gerald Paget; (Edinburgh: Skilton, 1977).
  • Dictionary of National Biography, Vols. 1-21; George Smith; (: Oxford Press, 1885-1990).
  • Kings and Queens of England – The Normans, The Royal Family of England online, (http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page17.asp); Virginia W. Westergard and Kyle S. Van Landingham, Parker and Blount in Florida (1983).
  • The Magna Carta Sureties, Weis, Frederick Lewis, Th.D.; 1215, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc.), 5th Ed., c1999.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica (: Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1997); (http://www.britannica.com/).
  • The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdon, Extant, Extinct or Dormant (G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard Walden, editors, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I).
  • Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage, 106th Edition; Charles Mosley (1999).
  • Royalty for Commoners; Stuart, Roderick W.; (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 1995).
  • Who’s Who in the Middle Ages; John Fines; (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1995).
  • Britannia Online, online (http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon24.html).
  • Welsh Origins of the Peverel Family, Ancient Wales Studies online (http://www.ancientwalesstudies.org/id50.html).
  • Wikipedia – Rollo of Normandy; Robert I, Duke of Normandy; Herleva; Robert II de France; Henry I, King of France; Henry I of England; Wikipedia.org online, (http://en.wikipedia.org).

Originally posted 2016-07-06 12:56:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Transcription – Civil War letters of Pte. David Coon now completed.

I’m very happy to say I have finally completed the transcription of the 100+ pages of letters from Pte. David Coon to his family during his time of service and his capture and imprisonment by Confederate forces in Libby Prison and then Salsbury Prison, where he died late in 1864.

I do apologize for taking so long, but it was a great deal of work and had to be done when I could find time amid my responsibilities updating and maintaining my four blogs and my daily responsibilities as a wife and mother of two young adults.

I have divided the transcription into individual website pages containing 10 pages of letters each. The pages can be easily scrolled through using the page navigation links at the bottom of each web page.

This is a treasured artifact of our family. We do not hold the original letters, but we do have an original typed transcription of the letters completed in 1913 (interestingly enough, 100 years old as of this year) by David’s son Dr. John W. Coon.

My Signature

King Richard III’s genome to be sequenced by scientists.

Previous posts I’ve written described our fascination with King Richard III and the search for his grave, which ended successfully when his skeleton was unearthed in a Leicester parking lot in England.

Richard III, King of England

Now scientists have announced they will be sequencing Richard III’s DNA, which is of great interest to us and numerous other descendants of Richard III and his family.

He is an ancestor of Mark’s family and has been the subject of some research on my part. The resulting posts were:

Richard III's grave in Leicester parking lot.I’ve been toying with the idea of getting Mark’s and my DNA, and now that DNA profiles are more prevalent, it’s looking more and more like it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

Tombstone plaque for Richard III.Research can only be so accurate. Every family and generation has experienced their scandals and secrets that were never documented, and which may have affected the recorded ancestries, such as a child born from an illicit affair that was never disclosed. Even more questionable are the undocumented connections.

DNA might be helpful in solving some mysteries in more recent generations of branches of my family, as it is the one and only way we might have to prove blood connections to family and ancestors, either confirming or refuting the documentary evidence. It would be wonderful to have some of my questions answered and suspicions and theories confirmed.

photo credit: University of Leicester via photopin cc

photo credit: OZinOH via photopin cc

photo credit: lisby1 via photopin cc

Kaziah Hancock: Artist paints portraits in honor of fallen soldiers.

This video is actually quite old, but I find it – and the artist, Kaziah Hancock  – quite amazing!

Kaziah Hancock portrait.
Portrait of Dale Panchot by Kaziah Hancock.

She paints, frames, and ships the portraits of her ‘friends’ and ‘buddies’ to their grieving families, as with this one for Minnesota’s Dale Panchot.

I’m posting this video in honor of the US Memorial Day and the lost souls.

As a military daughter, wife and mother, I truly appreciate the efforts of anyone to honor our military heroes, especially those who gave their lives for their country, whatever country that may be.

photo credit: The U.S. Army via photopin cc

Newfoundland and Labrador are the gems of Canada.

Melanson Village Community Hall
Melanson Village Community Hall

Mark is scared to death.

As we get closer to retirement, I’ve been focusing on possible places we could retire to. Unfortunately, unless something drastic changes, it isn’t likely we’ll be able to afford to stay in British Columbia, where the average home price in our area is $375,000.

This is not what Mark wants to hear. His family has lived in Chilliwack, British Columbia since the 1930’s after his grandmother sold the family farm on the Saskatchewan prairie.

I always thought like Mark. Having spent most of my life in British Columbia among the mountains, I never could foresee living elsewhere – until 2005 when we traveled to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to research my mother’s Melanson, Acadian family history.

New Brunswick was pretty in its own way and it was great seeing it as we drove through, but there was something primal tugging at me in Nova Scotia. Each of the Acadian sites we visited tugged at me more and more.

Melanson Mountain Sign
Melanson Mountain directional sign.

I had this strange feeling of ‘welcome home’, which was bolstered by the odd coincidences we experienced, the people we met and the places we discovered. One of the weird coincidences was my being disappointed in how little there was in my family’s pioneer ‘Melanson Settlement’ site.

All my life I’d heard my mother talk about the dike systems devised by the Acadians to drain the land on the ocean front and create some of the most fertile farmland anywhere. We were never able to find an example of the aboiteau (dike valves) that were used – not at Grand Pré museum, nor at the Melanson Settlement site or anywhere else. Yet, that very day, on our way after seeing the Melanson Settlement and being very disappointed, we happened upon a non-descript little house with a sign out front, “North Hills Museum.” We decided to stop and check it out. It seemed like the usual home refurbished to look as it had centuries before with period furnishings, art, utensils, dishware, etc. We did, however, strike up a conversation with the woman working there and upon mentioning our disappointment in the Melanson Settlement and not being able to find an aboiteau, she said, “We have an aboiteau stored here, ready to be archived and put on display.” I couldn’t believe it and my mind raced as she led us to a back barn being used as a storage shed – and there was the aboiteau. From one angle it looked like  a log, but looking up from the open end, the valve could be seen and it was easy to imagine it in operation. This and other odd coincidences such as the graveyard tour at Fort Anne being led by Alan Melanson, another direct Melanson descendant, led to my feeling like we were expected and welcomed.

Since this trip to Nova Scotia and my resulting love of the area, I’ve been checking out properties there and have seen some amazing, waterfront acreages with heritage homes for $100,000 or less. This would be ideal for our retirement budget. Every time I show Mark one of these, I can see the panic in his eyes.

Over the last few years, I’ve been noticing the wonderfully charming, quaint commercials being produced by Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. Each time, I feel so sorry that we never ventured that far while visiting the east coast on our genealogical quest. There’s something about the charm and hominess of these ads that invokes the same kind of ‘Welcome Home’ feeling and I mentioned to Mark that it might be smart to consider retiring there as well. The bonus there is that the rugged waterfront, high cliffs and jagged rocks are somewhat reminiscent of our Rocky Mountains in British Columbia. Again, I immediately saw panic in Mark’s eyes.

After this experience, I truly believe there is an innate tie between us and the homeland of our ancestors. I’d never seen Nova Scotia before and have no explanation for the deep draw and connection I experienced.

I still wonder at the ads produced by Newfoundland and Labrador tourism and have placed the videos of my favorites below.

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Videos

Iceberg Alley

Secret Place

Most Easterly Point

Gros Morne

Conversation

Vikings

Architecture

Place Names

The Edge

Richard 3rd’s facial reconstruction illustrates show family traits can span generations.

A while ago, I watched with great interest the progress of the effort to positively identify the remains found in a Leicester parking lot as those of Richard III, as described in a past post.
News was later released that a Richard 3rd’s facial reconstruction was done from his skull and a photo was published on News Leicester next to that of his 17th generation nephew, Michael Ibsen.

Marsh Blythe: Richard 3rd's facial reconstruction illustrates show family traits can span generations.

Portrait of Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky.

I hope it’s not just me, but I can see a familial resemblance and wonder if the likeness of Michael Ibsen had any bearing on the artist’s rendering, or if it was indeed solely based on the skull. If it is only based on Richard III’s skull, the resemblance is quite striking.

In an earlier post, I posted images of, and described the remarkable resemblance between my father-in-law (see right) and Isaac Shelby, nephew of my father-in-law’s seventh great grandfather (see above left), Governor of Kentucky and hero of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

I only wish I could one day compare these images with images of the original Shelby family immigrant, Evan (Dhu) Isaac Shelby (direct ancestor to both).

In another instance I had conducted research into a family friend’s background with the story surrounding the mysterious ‘aunt’ of another ancestor in mind. This aunt had always intrigued the family as they never knew much about her.

My research led me to the story of a young, single girl working as a domestic in the home of a wealthy business man, and soon becoming pregnant and bearing an illegitimate child. This girl turned out to be the mysterious aunt, only the ancestor, although believing she was an aunt, never learned she was actually her mother.

I wondered if this ‘aunt’ had become pregnant by her employer as there were no other males of an age to be candidates in the household. I managed to locate photos of a second generation descendant and his son who still owned and operated the family business. Upon comparison, I could see a definite likeness, although not quite as marked as in the two examples above. This likeness strengthened my belief that my conjecture was correct.

Without documentary proof of any kind and with no possibility of DNA testing, this is the best I can do.

It’s truly amazing to me how similar and consistent family traits can remain over the generations.

Bones unearthed could be those of Richard III, King of England.

, 1st cousin 24 times removed to my children, was King of England from 1483 to 1485, yet is most widely known in our time as the scandalous title character of the play ‘Richard III’ by William Shakespeare. His reign ended upon his death in the Battle of Bosworth Field.

Richard’s checkered past before becoming King included becoming Duke of Gloucester on November 1, 1461. He was then appointed Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine on October 12, 1462 and made Constable of England October 17, 1469. Besides suspicion over the disappearance of the princes, his reputation as a scoundrel was cemented by suspicion of his participation in the murder of Edward Prince of Wales, whose widow he married, as well as becoming Great Chamberlain of England in succession to his brother George, Duke of Clarence on February 21, 1478, the same day he was murdered.

Upon the death of Richard’s brother Edward, Richard became Lord Protector of the Realm for the heir apparent, Edward’s 12 year old son King Edward V. Richard escorted Edward V to the Tower of London, where he was placed, to be joined later by his brother Richard. Before young King Edward was crowned, Edward IV’s marriage to the boys’ mother Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid, illegitimizing the children, negating their claim to the throne and making Richard III the heir to the throne. Princes Edward and Richard disappeared and accusations soon arose that Richard had the boys killed.

Richard married (Westminster Abbey 12 Jul 1472) as her second husband, Anne Neville, widow of Edward, Prince of Wales, and daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Anne Beauchamp.

Accounts of the time describe Richard as having a condition of the spine causing his right shoulder to be considerably higher than his left. This condition is now widely believed to have been scoliosis, an exaggerated curvature of the spine that can be severe and debilitating.

Based on the accounts of Richard’s physical disability and the fatal injuries he sustained in the battle now lead archaelogists to believe they have unearthed the grave of Richard III.

This grave existed under a parking lot on the grounds originally belonging to Greyfriars Abbey in Leicester, the church where Richard was supposedly buried. The bones show evidence of similar wounds and a spinal condition similar to what has been described. As optimistic as archaelogists are, they are seeking to prove his identity by performing a DNA test on a living, direct ancestor to Richard’s sister.

I’m hoping there will be some way the DNA information from this testing will be made available for others like my husband and children to compare to in an effort to prove our own connection.

Sources:

  1. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy; http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/ENGLAND,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm#_Toc321390527
  2. Wikipedia.org; http://www.wikipedia.org
  3. Kings and Queens of England – The Plantagenets, The Royal Family online; http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page58.asp.
  4. Kings and Queens of England – The Yorkists, The Royal Family online; http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page47.asp.

 

 

DNA Solved Mystery for the Child of the Last US Soldier Killed in Vietnam

On Friday, the family of John O’Neal Rucker gathered with Tia McConnell and her husband Allan and their two boys Matthew and Quentin at the Veterans’ Memorial at Linden’s courthouse to honor her newly discovered father.

Tia had been an orphan in Da Nang, and was adopted by Karen and Jack Whittier of Colorado after being evacuated from Vietnam. After a lengthy and problematic search for her birth family, Tia discovered that John Rucker was her father.

She honored her father with placement of a flag at the monument that recognized him as the last American soldier to die in Vietnam. Rucker had been a member of 366 Combat Support Group, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War, and was the last American soldier to die in Vietnam, having been killed by a rocket attack on January 27, 1973. Sadly, this attack and John’s subsequent death occurred only hours before the Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending the Vietnam War.

Mae Rucker, John’s mother, had met Tia and her family the day before, after Tia’s search led to John and DNA testing proved the connection. Despite a negative first test in comparison to John’s mother, they persevered and had another test done to confirm the result. This time her DNA was compared with John’s two sisters and the tests were positive, indicating a 91 percent match, which is impossible unless the parties are closely related.

This story has finally convinced Mark and I to get our DNA tested. It’s something I’ve been considering for quite a while now, but I’ve been hesitant because I wasn’t sure I trusted the process enough yet.

Mark and I want to test our DNA rather than our children’s because we feel it would allow us to maintain separation of the data from our two different branches. I’m curious to find if my suspicions are correct and there are commonalities between the two branches.

I’ll post later about the process and results.

We must fight for our veterans as they fought for us.

We must fight for our veterans.
poppy field

Remembrance Day is fast approaching and this is one very important day I always recognize with a post on this blog.

My family’s history is well-entrenched in military service.

  • My father was in the military for 30 years.
  • My father-in-law was in the military for over 30 years.
  • My husband, Mark served 20 years.

They all served tours in hostile environments.

Our family have also lost two family members in WWI, one being Pte Philias Joseph Albert Emery during advance actions at Vimy Ridge, and the other being Pte Joseph Turmaine in the Battle of Courcelette.

I have always thought that our government was not doing enough to help veterans who are disabled as a result of their duties.

I’m appalled to say that under this present Conservative government, instead of improving, the conditions and treatment of our valued veterans are much, much worse.

Reading this post at Change.org prompted me to write about his myself and I encourage everyone to go online at the Change.org site to sign the petition demanding better financial, physical and mental health care, and administrative treatment of our veterans.

This video of a rant by Rick Mercer on behalf of our veterans is a good example of just one area of concern.

Author credit: Christine Blythe, Feathering the Empty Nest Blog

photo credit: Dukas.Ju via photopin cc

Transcription: Biography of Henry O’Reilly from ‘Rochester History’

Rochester History, Henry O'Reilly
Rochester History, Henry O’Reilly

The following is a transcription of the biography of Henry O’Reilly from the book, “Rochester History,” edited by Dexter Perkins, City Historian, and Blake McKelvey, Assistant City Historian.

ROCHESTER HISTORY

Edited by DEXTER PERKINS, City Historian and BLAKE MCKELVEY, Assistant City Historian

VoL. VII JANUARY, 1945 No. 1

Henry O’Reilly

By DEXTER PERKINS

Henry O’Reilly (or O’Rielly, as he insisted on calling himself in later life) was, no doubt, not one of the greatest figures connected with the city of Rochester. He was not born here; he did not spend the major part of his life here; and when he died in 1884, he had long since outlived the period of his major usefulness. He never attained distinction of the first order; he was volatile, improvident and —— so his enemies said — quarrelsome; he was a great man for starting something, and a poor man for finishing anything — with the large exception of his Sketches of Rochester, published in 1838. But none the less he is an extremely interesting person. He had warmth and brilliance; he identified himself with a whole variety of good causes, and contributed materially to all of them; he had a kind of itch to improve the little world in which he moved; and he succeeded in doing so in many ways. He was also the storm center in one of the most interesting technological and business controversies in the period before the Civil War, the controversy over the telegraph; and though he lacked the constructive genius that characterized Hiram Sibley, another Rochesterian of far more practical capacity, he was for a time the idol of those Americans who saw in the telegraph a menacing monopoly and played a part, stormy and dramatic, in the development of a great industry. When you begin to study O’Reilly, you may not unqualifiedly admire him, but you are sure to find him worth knowing; and because he is well worth historical acquaintance, I am going to sketch in this number of Rochester History the essentials of his career.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Rochester History, published quarterly by the Rochester Public Library, distributed free at the Library, by mail 25 cents per year. Address correspondence to the City Historian, Rochester Public Library, 115 South Avenue, Rochester 4, N.Y.

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The Young Immigrant

O’Reilly was born in Cartickmacross, County Monaghan, Ireland, on February 6, 1806. Like many another Irishman, in later years Henry was prone to discuss his ancestry in terms that suggested a distinguished lineage. He seems to have dwelt with some pleasure upon a certain great grand-uncle who was Bishop of the Diocese, and he was also proud to relate that his maternal grandfather, Henry Ledbetter, had once been offered a peerage, and was the confidential physician of the Bresfords, a family then powerful in Ireland. But Henry’s immediate origins were less impressive. Of his father, very little is known; he seems to have been a merchant; he failed in business in the depression following the Napoleonic wars; and he was, through the rigor of a brother-in-law, confined in a debtor’s prison in 1816. Though later he followed the rest of the O’Reilly family, that is, his wife, and son and daughter, to America, he seems to have played no important part in Henry’s life, and even the date and place of his death are uncertain.

Henry came to the United States at the tender age of ten, with his mother and sister, and landed, as millions of immigrants have landed since, in the City of New York. There he was received by his “good uncle,” Edward Ledbetter, but his uncle’s benevolence did not extend so far as to provide support for his youthful relative, and still at the age of ten, O’Reilly was apprenticed to Baptiste Irvine, editor of the New York Columbian. The articles of apprenticeship were for a term of eight years, and for the greater part of the period O’Rei1ly was to serve without pay. He was to be given sufficient meat, drink and clothing; and he was to be instructed in the mysteries of the art of printing, in reading, writing and arithmetic, and in the rudiments of the “latin and french languages.” In exchange for these manifest advantages O’Reilly agreed “not to waste his master’s goods, not to commit fornication or contract matrimony, not to play at cards, dice or any unlawful game, not to absent himself day or night frorn his master’s service without leave, and not to haunt alehouses, taverns, or playhouses.”

There was to be plenty of variety in Henry O’Reilly’s career as time went on, but the termination of his first apprenticeship was no fault of his, and it is probable that a similar statement may be made

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with regard to his other frequent changes of employment in these early years. The papers of the time were frequently ill-supported; Irvine gave up the editorship of the Columbian less than a year after the signing of Henry’s articles of apprenticeship. The boy seems to have Worked for some time thereafter in the printing office of Clayton and Kingsland; but in 1823 he was offered a place on the New York Patriot, and there he first began to take part in politics, becoming, as was natural in the circumstances, an ardent partisan of the candidacy of Andrew Jackson for the Presidency of the United States. In 1824, indeed, in company with his employer, Colonel Charles K. Gardner, Henry paid a visit to Washington, and was presented to Old Hickory. Before the year was out, we find him moving to Kinderhook, New York, to become the printer of the local paper, the Herald, and we cannot help believing that he had by now formed a connection with Martin Van Buren, and that he was fairly launched in a reasonably active political career.

But Kinderhook was only a way station to Rochester. While serving on the Patriot, O’Reilly had had as a fellow-compositor one Luther Tucker. Tucker had a friend who wished to establish at Rochester a daily newspaper, and he was offered the business management of the paper, and asked to select a competent editor. Thus, in 1826, at the age of twenty, the young Henry moved once more, and on October 21, 1826, he issued the first number of the Rochester Daily Advertiser, which, with changes of name, and, indeed, changes of policy, has none the less endured down to our own day.

The Editor and Politician.

The young editor had walked into the center of a major political storm. These were the days of the anti-Masonic agitation. In September of 1826, William Morgan, who had written and promoted a book which purported to reveal the secrets of Masonry, had been abducted from the jail at Canandaigua, and had disappeared. Now in Western New York at this same period, the foes of the Jackson patty were looking for a political issue, and particularly for an issue that would wean away from the dominant political faction some of the more democratic elements in the population. They found what they wanted in the disappearance of Morgan. Here was an opportunity to raise a

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terrific hue and cry over the secret society of Masonry and its aristocratic implications. The opportunity became still more profitable when a body was washed ashore from Lake Ontario, which, it was speedily rumored, and afterwards alleged in a coroner’s inquest, was the body of Morgan himself. Political excitement, therefore, mounted higher and higher, and in due course gave rise to a new political party which described itself as the Anti-Masonic party.

Into this interesting political scene Henry O’Reilly was precipitated in the fall of 1826. He began his editorship of the Advertiser, as a wise editor would do, by professing the highest impartiality with regard to politics. But O’Reilly, as a detached and neutral observer of the political scene, or indeed of anything else, is an O’Reilly that never existed. He already had his political predilections; his Irish blood yearned for a fight; and before long he was involved in the controversy over anti-Masonry, arid was locked in conflict with one of the most formidable figures in the history of political journalism.

In 1826 Thutlow Weed was editor of the Ror/Jerter Telegraph, a man thirty-four years of age, who might well resent the appearance of a stripling of twenty as his competitor in the thriving frontier community. Weed was not the originator, but soon became one of the participants, in the anti-Masonic agitation, and one of the leaders in the attempt to capitalize the disappearance and the death of Morgan in the formation of the new party. It is not likely, having regard to the newspaper methods of the time, and to the extraordinary violence of journalistic controversy, that O’Rei1ly would long have escaped the shafts of his rival. But the hot-headed Irishman apparently offered the first provocation for the outburst of hostilities. From the first he had been suspicious of the inquest that had attended the finding of the alleged corpse of Morgan on the shores of Lake Ontario, and had not hesitated to express his suspicions that there was something very peculiar about the whole business. Soon a most interesting story came to his ears. In the arguments that took place in the frontier community the question of the identity of the body of Morgan naturally rook a prominent place. In one of these arguments, so the story began to circulate, Thurlow Weed was reported to have said, in informal conversation, that at any rate the corpse was a “good-enough Morgan till after election.” Later on, when confronted with this charge, Weed denied it categorically, and declared that what he had said was that it

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was a good enough Morgan till another body was found, a comment which, it must be admitted, was hardly less cynical than that of which he was accused. But when O’Reilly published the first of these two versions of his rival’s words, he found himself the object of the most bitter attacks on the part of Weed. He was pilloried as a liar; he was described in the pages of the Telegraph as a “Mason-jade” a peculiarly offensive epithet in the current political controversy, and all the more so in the case of O’Reilly, since O’Reilly was not a Mason; and he was in due course, fixed with a libel suit whida hung over his head for thirteen years, and was naturally a source of considerable embarrassment. In such circumstances, to put it bluntly, O’Reilly found that he could not take it, and in ]uly, 1827, he temporarily withdrew from the scene, alleging feeble health in part as an excuse. After a visit to Niagara Falls, he went back to New York City, and there again took up printing at the Methodist Printing Office which had been one of the scenes of his employment some years before.

But the itch for politics was strong in O’Reilly, and a most exciting and possibly a most rewarding Presidential campaign was approaching. The Old Hero, the veteran of New Orleans, the idol of the people, Andrew ]ackson, was running for the Presidency. The campaign was a delirious one; indeed, never before had so large a part of the electorate gone to the polls. How could a good party man be content to print Methodist tracts instead of ringing Jacksonian speeches? There could be but one answer to this question, so O‘Reilly, at the solicitation of Mr. Tucker, his original employer, went back to Rochester, and took part as editor of the Advertiser once more in the campaign which was to elevate Old Hickory to the Presidency of the United States. And now O’Reilly appears for the first time, but not the last, if not in the guise of an officeseeker, at least in the guise of one much interested in the offices. In 1828 Abelard Reynolds was Postmaster of Rochester, a position which he had held since the very beginnings of Rochester’s civic history. Reynolds, of course, was a supporter of the conservative cause, and of John Quincy Adams in the campaign of 1828. It was obvious, at any rate to the Jacksonians, that a new appointment was in order. So the editor of the Advertiser journeyed to Washington, and secured the appointment of a good Jackson man, ]ohn B. Elwood, in place of Reynolds. He also brought back from his visit to the capital another political plum, the collectorship

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of the Genesee Revenue District, which was awarded to General Jacob Gould.

One might have thought that by this time O’Reil1y would have been in a fair way to settle down. But in 1850 he married, and his bride, Marcia Brooks, was the daughter of a land~holder of the upper Genesee country, in the neighborhood of Nunda. Thither the editor of the Advertiser removed in May of 1830, hoping no doubt to profit from his father-in-law’s plans to establish a village in that neighborhood, and thoughtfully providing himself with the job of postmaster in the new locality, a matter which was not difficult in view of his services to the administration in power. O’Reilly‘s removal to Brooks Grove, as the place was called, hardly does credit to his business sagacity. It is true that in 1830, when for the second time he left Rochester, the town was experiencing its first recession, following the boom created by the building of the Erie Canal. But there was no good reason to believe that the Genesee mill town and canal port had exhausted its potentialities; indeed those with greater confidence were soon justified as growth was resumed and the village became a city in 1854. Nor was there anything about the job of postmastership at Brooks’ Grove that could be described as challenging to a young man now 24, who had substantial capacities, and a growing circle of friends. So once again O’Reilly’s exile was a brief one, and the campaign of 1832 saw the young Irishman, now a citizen, back once more in the editorship of the Advertiser, and warmly engaged in re-electing Andrew Jackson to the Presidency of the United States. For his services in this regard he received the post of Deputy-Collector for the Genesee District, and this together with his journalistic activities, provided him with a reasonable pecuniary reward. He was now to settle down for a while — in so far as it was in his nature to settle down, and in the course of the next ten years he played an important part in the life of the young community. In some ways he was at his best during these next ten years, active, public-spirited, the friend of many liberal causes, and the author of one of the best books of its kind, a book that is invaluable to any student of Rochester history.

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The Rochester Civic Reformer

Amongst the objects of O’Reilly’s activity during his ten years’ continuous residence in Rochester none was more important than the enlargement of the Erie Canal. The canal had been finished in 1825, and had, of course, been the major factor in the astoundingly rapid growth of the city on the Genesee. Constructed at a cost of around $10,000,000, it had been amazingly profitable, and it had been possible for the state to retire a loan of seven and three quarter million dollars from the revenues of the first ten years. The chief drawbacks were its size, particularly its depth of only four feet, and the flimsy character of the locks and other features of its construction. It was natural that there should arise a demand for its reconstruction and enlargement, and this movement was closely connected with a movement for the reduction of the tolls. But the question soon became a controversial one; there was much opposition in the legislature to a new borrowing program; and it took a long and vigorous agitation before the enlargement of the canal could be carried into effect.

Into this agitation O’Reilly threw himself with characteristic ardor. He was, of course, by no means alone in his advocacy of enlargement Indeed, the opinion of leading Rochester citizens of both political parties coincided as to the necessity of such a policy. But his name appears again and again amongst the men who took the deepest interest in the project, and his views, it would appear, had a greater and greater influence as time went on. The canal commissioners first recommended the enlargement of the canal in their report of the spring of 1855. The legislature, very much under the influence of those short-sighted individuals who thought borrowing to be inherently immoral, enacted in May a law providing that the surplus tolls from the Canal might be devoted to the deepening of the waterway, or to the construction of further locks, if needed. In the fall of 1835 a committee of Rochester citizens, of which O’ReilIy was a member, passed resolutions expressing pleasure at this initial step and the profound conviction of the importance of a forward looking policy with regard to the canal in general. But the method of providing for enlargement through surplus revenues was soon seen to be inadequate. The sum that was found to be necessary to carry through the program

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determined upon by the canal commissioners was found to be at least equal to the original expense of constructing the canal. To expect that such a sum could be found through tolls would mean that the much-desired improvement would be long-delayed. Confronted with this fact, friends of the canal urged a borrowing program to effect the necessary construction.

It may well be that O’Reilly was one of the first to formulate such a policy and to join with others in bringing it to fruition. (He was never afraid to borrow, either personally or otherwise.) At any rate, on the 30th of December, 1836, he was one of three citizens of Rochester who addressed a public meeting assembled at the courthouse, to consider the canal question, and out of this meeting came resolutions urging new loans based upon the canal revenues, and a call for a convention of the people of western New York to press for similar action. This convention met in Rochester on Ianuary 18, 1837, and attracted immense attention. It appointed a central executive committee, of which O’Reilly was chairman, for placing the matter before the public. This committee engaged in a successful agitation which had its final fruits in the law of April 18, 1838, authorizing a loan of four million dollars, (not as much as had been desired), for the improvement and enlargement of the canal.

O’Reilly’s success in bringing about the end which he had in view was due in part to a very energetic and skillful agitation. But it was due in part, also, to the particular circumstances of the time. The Jackson administration had hardly gone out of office when there followed one of the most disastrous depressions in the early history of the country, and one which was extremely severely felt in western New York. Of course in general the idea of borrowing to create employment was hardly the economic gospel of the 1830’s. But curiously enough in New York state there was considerable sentiment for just such a course, as was to be strikingly exemplified when William H. Seward was elected Governor in the fall of 1838. The passage of the canal law, it seems hardly doubtful, was in part assisted by the fact that here was a means ready to hand to deal with the critical problem of the depression.

Was O’Reilly’s agitation for the enlargement of the canal wise and far-seeing? In the very year in which the legislature voted for

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the enlargement of the canal, the first steam railway entered Rochester. Was it therefore something less than far-sighted to agitate for the development of canal navigation, at a time when a new agency of transportation was coming into being? Superficially, it might seem as if this question would have to be answered in the affirmative. But if one looks a little more deeply into the facts, one discovers that the Erie Canal remained for a long time after 1838 the principal means of transportation through the state of New York, and that the high point of its usefulness (the maximum development of its traffic) was not reached until the middle of the decade of the fifties. Looking at the matter, then, from this point of view, it seems clear that Henry O’Reilly was not only faithfully representing the necessities of his community in the agitation with which he had so much to do, but was promoting a development which was eminently desirable from the viewpoint of his time and of the decades immediately to come.

There was a second movement, fully as important as that which had to do with the canals, in which O’Reilly’s name appears again and again. This was the movement for the improvement of the schools of Rochester.

The decade of the thirties is remarkable not only in New York but throughout the Northern states for the developing interest in education. The great wave of liberalism which characterized the period expressed itself nowhere more vigorously than in the field of the schools. There was much to be done to improve them, for in most of the country only the most rudimentary educational conditions existed. This was true of Rochester when O’Reilly took up his residence in the community on the Genesee.

The Rochester schools had begun on the district system, that is, they bore no relation whatsoever to the community as a whole. One district might be well run, according to the standards of the time; another might be little short of infamous. One district might pay its teachers fairly well; another might grant little more than sweatshop wages. True, when the city was incorporated in 1854, the Common Council was given the power to act in the capacity of Commissioner of Schools, and was given a broad kind of supervisory authority. But these powers were almost never exercised, and the districts struggled along without any substantial support from the municipality. As late

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as 1839 three districts within the city lacked school-houses, one of them renting a room in an old cooper’s shop. Each separate school was kept only as long as the funds of the district permitted, some of them for only three or four months a year.

Into the movement for the improvement of the public schools, O’Reilly flung himself with characteristic energy. In 1836 a public meeting in Rochester provided for the appointment of a citizens‘ committee called “The Committee for Elevating the  Standards of Common School Education.” It provided for the circulation of a sheet called “The Common School Assistant,” and engaged young A. C. Pratt as a kind of propagandist to go through the county calling attention to the educational needs of the communities. lt continued its work during 1837 and 1838, and in November of the latter year recommended an “entirely free common school system, supported by a general tax on real and personal property.” A little later, on December 1, 1858, a resolution was adopted looking to the organization of a Board of Education which would appoint a superintendent of public schools, and which would have “districts so arranged and schools so regulated as to allow of gradation in public English education.” A committee of fifteen was appointed to urge the adoption of this policy upon the Common Council and the legislature.

It took time, however, to reach the desired goal. Today it is difficult for us to realize that the expenditure of funds for educational purposes was often opposed a century ago as an unnecessary coddling of the masses. There were Americans in that day who wished to keep the less fortunate in their place, and could see no point in making it possible for them to rise in the social and economic scale. The improvement of our schools, like most important steps in social progress, did not come about with the unanimous adhesion of all citizens, but had to be struggled for, as most good things do have to be struggled for.

But Henry O’Reilly had no doubt as to what needed to be done. At every stage he supported in the pages of the Advertiser the contemporary agitation. And in the spring of 1841 he drew up a memorial on the school question which received wide circulation throughout the state and which was one of the factors in securing the passage of a bill amending the city charter and providing for reforms of the first

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order of importance. The law of 1841 provided for the election of a board of education, composed of two members from each ward, which should have power to appoint a superintendent of schools, and which was charged with the financial authority necessary to the building up of the school system. The system to be established was to be public and free. Sixteen years before the state of New York entirely abolished the rate bill system, and early enough to become the fourth city of the state to do this, Rochester in 1841 set up an educational machinery which was hailed at the time, and with reason, as a great advance. The citizens of Rochester showed their appreciation of the role that O‘Reilly had played in the battle for the school law by electing him to the Board of Education constituted under it. There is no room for doubting his notable public service in this regard.

O’Reilly’s interest in the improvement of the educational standards and opportunities of Rochester was shown in another way when he was prominent in the organization, in 1838, of what was known as the Young Men’s Association, and of which he became president. The special circumstance which promoted the growth of this important agency in the early life of Rochester was, interestingly enough, the commission of the first murder which had ever taken place in the city in 1837. This untoward event, says O’Reilly, directed public attention to the necessity of establishing institutions for “presenting intellectual and moral attractions to counteract the vicious allurements to which (as legal examinations proved) the young men of this city were largely exposed.” It was resolved that what was particularly needed was a library and educational program, and the establishment of a center which should serve as an alternative, as O’Reilly highmindedly put it, to “eating-houses, with each a newspaper and a bar—bowling alleys, with their temptations to drinking and their temptations to belting – gaming tables with their enthralling allurements and their degrading companionships—and enticement to every vicious indulgence—diligently provided by those who excite appetite and feed passion for the sake of emolument.” Accordingly, funds were found to rent the second floor of a building on State Street, and there to provide the first public reading room and city library in the history of Rochester. There were small membership dues, and books could be taken out only by accredited borrowers – but the library itself was open to all, and the provision for taking out boolm was the first that had been made. By

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the close of 1838 the library counted more than 2000 volumes, and the membership included 139 full subscribers, and 97 others holding reading room privileges. Once started on this hopeful project, O’Reilly’s soaring imagination carried him further. He attempted to raise funds for a city library to be erected by the Association, and took an option on two lots at the corner of State and Mumford Streets with this end in view. An attempt was made to sell stock for the promotion of this project
at $50 a share, but this project failed, like so many others in which O’Reilly was financially concerned, and the energetic editor of the A41/miter had to pay $400 out of his own pocket as a result of his premature action. On the other hand, O’Reilly was more successful in securing the amalgamation of the Young Men’s Association with the Athenaeum, an earlier venture in the field of literary and educational activity. The union of the two still further enlarged the library resources of the Association, and by the close of 1840 there were over 2500 volumes available to members, and membership had risen to 409.

It would be pleasant to believe that the impetus thus given to the love of learning was permanent in its effects. Unfortunately, the facts are otherwise. After O‘Reilly’s removal from the city the activities of the Association declined. But the work that was done in this early period was not in vain. It served, no doubt, as an inspiration to the efforts of the late forties, when an attempt was made to pump new energy into the educational current of Rochester. And, wholly apart from its practical results, it is highly characteristic of O’Reilly himself. His generous impulses, his democratic instincts, and his intellectual energy all contributed to make him feel keenly the necessity of an educational advance. In taking the position that he did, he was acting in the most elevated spirit of his own time.

The Local Historian

The year 1838, which saw the establishment of the Young Men’s Association, was also the year in which O’Reilly published his Sketcbes of Rochester, the first important descriptive work published in and with regard to the city on the Genesee. The occasion for this work the author describes in his preface. In 1856, in response to a request from the city corporation, O’Reilly had published some statis-

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tical data on the community in which he lived in pamphlet form. The success of this venture emboldened him to go further. He was encouraged by Everard Peck and Thomas Kempshall to carry his project through, and these two men assisted him in securing a publisher. In the winter of 1858 the committee which had the work in charge travelled by the only conveyance then possible, the stage-coach, all the way to New York, taking five days to do so, “with good sleighing,”to put in the hands of Harper Brothers the manuscript of this important work. When it was published it sold at the price of $1.50, or $1.25 when ten copies were taken by a single subscriber. The first edition was quickly sold; but-—quite characteristically, O’Reilly realized little financial profit from his venture. He had made the work more elaborate and more costly than had been originally proposed.

It would he extravagant to contend that the Sketches of Rochester was a great piece of literature. But it is fair to say that very few communities have enjoyed, in the early stages of their development, the services of a more conscientious or thorough chronicler. It is impossible to write the history of our city Without frequent reference to O’Reilly. His work is invaluable as a contribution to local history. It is a mine of information on the economic and social development of a frontier community. And, in the life of a busy editor, and active citizen, it represents no inconsiderable achievement.

The year 1838, which connects with so many of O’Reilly’s activities, must now be connected with one more. The editor of the Advertiser, as we have seen, had always been interested in politics. He had acquired a small political oflice in 1832. He had run for the state Assembly-—unsuccessfully—in 1837. In 1838 the postmaster of Rochester resigned. The friends of the man who must by now have been one of Rochester’s most prominent Democrats, perhaps the most prominent Democrat, rallied to present him for the vacant office. O’Reilly himself was absent in New York at the time, and does not seem to have bestirred himself particularly. But on May 24, 1838, his Presidential commission came through, and from that time forward until his removal from Rochester, he performed the duties of this important office. It is difficult to arrive at any clear evaluation of his service in this regard. He is said to have done great work in reducing the number of robberies in the mails. He certainly became well known to many influential Democrats, and established connections which were useful

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to him in the future. But it may be also that in accepting the position of postmaster, he gave unnecessary hostages to fortune; the work may well have been distracting; and it exposed him, of course, to prompt political reprisal when the Whigs came into office in the elections of 1840. These were the days of the very perfection of the spoils system. There could be only one answer to the question of what to do with postmasters who had the bad judgment to belong to the opposite political party, and that was to get rid of them. O’Reilly, in common with others of his political creed, was soon made to walk the plank; and it seems probable that his dismissal from the post-mastership had something to do with his removal from Rochester at the end of 1842, or in the very beginning of 1843.

But the editor and author of the frontier was so constituted, at any rate while in his thirties, that he could not be long without a cause; he must always he promoting something; and the cause that now caught his eye, and that offered also an opportunity to earn a living, was the cause of constitutional reform. The constitution of New York state had undergone revision in 1821; but in many respects it was still archaic in 1842. Unlike the constitution that preceded it, it had provided for a procedure by which it might be amended; but somehow or other this procedure, with a single exception, had failed signally to function in practise. There were a number of respects in which, from the view-point of the liberal forces of the time, changes  were indicated by the beginning of the forties. It was thought, for example, that the judiciary should be made elective, rather than appointive; it was thought that the terms of members of the legislature ought to be shortened; and still more, the disturbances which had broken out in the Hudson Valley, where a semi-feudal system of landholding still persisted, seemed to call for a drastic alteration of the
existing law.

The Albany Years

The revamping of the constitution was just the kind of a cause that Henry O’Reilly enjoyed serving; and it must have been in his mind when he left Rochester in 1842, for he then accepted the editorship of the Albany Atlas, a journal which advocated constitutional reform. But journalism was not enough. In 1843 O’Reilly started the

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organization of what was called the State Constitutional Association. He became a member of its Executive Committee; he persuaded one of the most powerful Democratic politicians in the state, Michael Hoffman, to accept the post of leader; and he initiated an agitation for the calling of a constitutional convention. This agitation bore fruit in the legislative action of 1845, in an overwhelming popular vote in favor of a convention, and in the constitutional convention of 1846. The reforms which have been mentioned above were adopted, and O’Reilly had the satisfaction of seeing the work of the convention accepted by the people at the polls. But before this day had come the ebullient Irishman had made another dtange of base. When he had transferred his activities from Rochester to Albany, he seems to have indulged the hope that, since the Democrats were in power, he might secure the state printing. By this time he was thoroughly familiar with the mixing of business and politics, and had, indeed, almost continually held some office such as was dealt out in the thirties to deserving members of the party. But something slipped; the Democrats, badly divided into factions, could not unite on the Irishman as their candidate for printer; O’Reilly belonged quite clearly to the radical wing; and it is probable that in this as at other times he took very little pains to moderate his opinions or to express them other than with vehemence. The warring groups in the legislature united upon a compromise candidate; and O’Reilly, after only a brief period with the Atlas, transferred his energies to the New York State Agricultural Society, and became its Recording Secretary. But here again the pickings apparently were insulficient and after a short time in this post O’Reilly, like many another American, turned from the slim rewards of daily labor to the glowing opportunities of successful promotion.

His Telegraph Ventures

The middle forties mark a very decided change in the personality of this interesting man. The impulse for reform, the zeal for causes, the political ardor, never completely deserted him; indeed he was usually able to rationalize his conduct in terms of some great popular  good. But after 1844 O‘Reilly became interested in making money in a big way. He had certainly been conspicuously unsuccessful up to

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this time; he had left Rochester in debt; he had not demonstrated any extraordinary business capacity at any time; but perhaps these very facts tempted him to some kind of scheme for easy and rapid accumulation; his temperament made it easy for him to see immense possibilities for the future in a new invention; and the year 1844 was the year of the first American telegraph. As is well known, on the 24th of May of that year, Samuel F. B. Morse, having persuaded Congress to appropriate the funds for an experimental line from Washington to Baltimore, had sent the famous message, “What hath God wrought ?” over the wire. A new era of communication was thus ushered in.

There were those, in 1844, of course, who did not think so. Morse offered his invention to the federal government for the modest sum of $100,000; and it is interesting to reflect upon the acumen of the Postmaster-General of that day, who reported that he was uncertain that the revenues from the telegraph could be made equal to the expenditures. Disappointed by this rebuff, Morse turned to private capital, and early in the story of the development of his invention, Henry O’Reilly appears upon the scene.

How came it that he was projected into this new field of endeavor? The answer lies in his friendship with Amos Kendall, who had been Postmaster-General of the United States under ]ackson and Van Buren. Kendall had been selected by the Morse patentees, (there were four of these), to represent them as their business agent. In June of 1846, he signed a contract with O’Reilly, calling for the “construction of a line of Morse’s Electro-Magnetic Telegraph to connect the great seaboard line at Philadelphia, or at such other convenient point on said line as may approach nearer Harrisburg, in Pennsylvania, and from thence through Harrisburg and other intermediate towns to Pittsburg, and thence through Wheeling and Cincinnati, and such other towns and cities as the said O’Reilly and his associates may elect, to St. Louis and to the principal towns on the lakes.” Here, so it seemed to the former Rochester editor, was a princely grant indeed, little less than the concession of a great telegraphic empire in the most rapidly growing part of the country, the booming middle West.

Whoever reads carefully the contract that I have just quoted can readily appreciate what troubles lay in its vague and wholly unlawyerlike phraseology. Amos Kendall, it is clear, believed that he was giv-

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ing to O’Reilly merely a right of construction in a telegraph system which should remain under a single and undivided ownership and control. He believed, furthermore, that he was conferring on the other party to the contract nothing more than a commission to construct telegraph lines, not the right to manage them, or to become a kind of telegraph baron with a dominating interest in any of them. But O’Reilly had a wholly different view of the matter. What he did was to start the organization of a whole series of companies, independent of one another, and extending over — and finally beyond — the great area in which the contract gave him the right to operate. Nor was he without the desire to play a part in the management of the lines. He hoped to use his position to secure wide stock interests. Those interests would carry with them, of course, a very substantial measure of control over the companies which he was successful in organizing.

The difference of opinion that soon developed between O’Reilly and the Morse patentees goes to the heart of some very interesting problems of business organization, as those problems presented themselves in the decades of the forties and fifties. It is tolerably clear to us today that the telegraph is a natural monopoly, and that the consolidation of the telegraph lines of the country has been, on the whole, a highly desirable consummation. But a hundred years ago, the feat of monopoly was keen. The nation had not long before expressed a decisive opinion on the question of the concentration of financial power in the Bank of the United States. It had emphatically supported Old Hickory in his war on that institution. Now there loomed the possibility of another monopoly, monopoly of a new and potentially significant means of communication. What could be more dangerous? In taking a contrary view of the problem, in organizing many local companies, and eventually in his fight with the Morse patentees, O’Reilly appeared in the characteristic role of the champion of the people and the foe of special interests. He was probably never more widely known, and never more popular, than in the late forties and early fifties; and there is little doubt that he gloried in this popularity, and pictured himself, (while engaged in the most fat-teaching plans for personal gain), as the hero of a great fight for the common man.

There is another aspect of this question that ought to interest us. O’Reilly, in his energetic organization of telegraph companies all over

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the country, undoubtedly performed a yeoman service in awakening the interest of local capital in what has become one of the great industries of the country. Where, indeed, in the late forties, was the capital to be found, except in the communities to be served? The country had not yet developed to the point where vast stock issues could have been floated in New York. The only practicable method of approach to the problem of securing funds was to go out and get them in the areas which were to be opened up. O’Reilly did just this. His methods were the methods of his time. That they aroused a tremendous interest in the new means of communication, and that, despite the final collapse of his hopes and of his fortunes, these efforts were by no means wasted, is clear.

O’Reilly’s financial methods look peculiar and by no means prudent from the angle of vision of 1944. The funds raised by the sale of stock were used for the construction of the lines. The companies which O’Reilly organized were apt to begin business with a large part of the money which had been raised to set them off already expended. But, however imprudent this may appear today, it was not regarded as foolish in 1845. The unlimited optimism of the American temperament in the period before the Civil War is difficult for us to understand today. But it made possible business practices that would now be universally condemned as unsound.

None the less, we must not, in our understanding of O’Reilly’s motives and view-point, attempt an apologia for him. The judgment of James D. Reid, who had been his assistant in the post-oflice at  Rochester and whom he brought into the telegraph business, does not seem an uncharitable one. “Henry O’Reilly,” he wrote in 1879, “was in many respects a wonderful man. His tastes were cultivated. His instincts were fine. He was intelligent and genial. His energy was untiring, his hopefulness shining. His mental activity and power of continuous labor were marvelous. He was liberal, generous, profuse, full of the best instincts of his nation. But he lacked prudence in money matters, was loose in the use of it, had little veneration for contracts. . . . He formed and broke friendships with equal rapidity, was bitter in his hates, was impatient of restraints.” This characterization is sound. And the criticism which it contains will be found to be amply justified by the history of O‘Reilly’s telegraph companies.

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From the beginning, of course, O’Reilly, in his fulfilment and elaboration of his contract with Kendall, had many difficulties to contend with. He was reasonably successful in securing the funds for the construction of the Pennsylvania line as Jonathan Child, Samuel L. Selden, Hervey Ely, Alvah Strong and many others are found amongst the subscribers. But his contract called for the completion of the line within six months of the signing of the agreement. O’Reilly and those associated with him had, of course, not the slightest experience in constructing telegraph lines. They were the pioneers, working without the technical knowledge that could only be gained in that day from experience. They had no models to follow. As winter came on, their troubles multiplied. At the end of November a storm broke their wire (which they had drawn tightly in the belief that transmission was aided by a taut line) in a hundred places. When the 13th of December arrived, the line had not been completed. The contract of O’Reilly with the Morse patentees was by any strict construction, null and void.

Of the patentees, however, (and there were four of them) only one, the villain of the piece in most accounts of telegraph history, F. O. ]. Smith, was anxious at this time to take advantage of O’Reilly’s predicament. Morse and Kendall, the business agent, were willing to be generous. O’Reilly had worked hard. His difliculties had been great. He might still he a very effective helper. Why not let him go ahead? During the year 1846, in fact, the line between Philadelphia and Pittsburg was made ready for business. Time was to show that it was flimsily constructed, and some of it had to be rebuilt as early as the fall of 1849. But at the outset of the telegraph era in 1846 no one could know this.

Meanwhile O’Relly went ahead with other projects. A line was constructed between Boston and New York; another was started to run west from Cincinnati to Pittsburg and Louisville. Often the difficulties seemed almost insuperable. ln one night a storm in New England produced 170 breaks in a stretch of 50 miles. The ambitious Irishman was in financial difliculties. His files for the winter of 1847 are full of duns and protested notes. He had to plead with Rochester merchants for more time for his grocery and clothing bills, and even to beg credit for a ton of coal for his home.

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There seems little doubt, moreover, that he had gone beyond his powers, as defined in his contract. In order to get his companies started he issued stock which, it was alleged, represented an interest in the patents themselves. His organization of separate companies was directly contrary to the desires of Kendall and of the patentees. In addition, F. O. J. Smith managed to persuade his associates virtually to hand over to him the control of the patent interests, and by this time Kendall, concluding that O’Reilly was not to be trusted, went over to the opposition. The patentees began to construct competing lines; they sought to close the lines they did construct to O’Reilly business. Though a temporary injunction restraining O’Reilly was denied them in 1847, they went ahead making more and more trouble for him. Efforts at compromises were blocked by the dominating personality of Smith. The struggle waxed hotter and hotter.

In the popular view O’Reilly was the hero of this bitter battle. He had had the vision to propose lower rates on telegraph service for newspapers than his rivals, and he also hit upon the sound principle of lower rates for quantity service. He was the gallant David directing his sling against the burly giant Goliath.

“The steed called lightning (says the Fate)
Is owned in the United States.
‘Twas Franklin that caught the horse.
‘Twas harnessed by Professor Morse.
With Kendall’s rein the steed went shyly,
Till tamed and broke by H. O’Reilly.”

So chanted the friends of the fighting Irishman.

But unfortunately O’Reilly never knew when to stop. There might have been some color of right in his activities in the region north of the Ohio, There could be none whatever when he sought to construct lines south of the river, and he knew it. In order to make his case stronger in this region, he bought the patents to a telegraphic instrument described as the Columbian, and that has been described by Alvin F. Harlow as the “most absurd imitation and infringement of the Morse system that supposedly sane men ever tried to get away with.” The only excuse that can be given for him is that he was so ignorant of mechanisms as not to realize how bald a fraud this was. But naturally the Morse interests rook advantage of the situation. In

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1848 the District Court declared against 0’Reilly. His instrument was declared to be an infringement of the Morse patent. Of course O’Reilly appealed. But the years of litigation that followed naturally did not help his financial situation. And in 1855, the Supreme Court, in a decision rendered by Chief Justice Taney, dealt the interests which O’Reilly represented what was virtually a death blow. After this time the ebullient Irishman appears only infrequently in connection with the history of the telegraph. Some of the lines which he had built virtually disintegrated; others were developed by other men into powerful agencies of communication. But none owed anything of their further growth to him. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he had strayed into fields in which his talents were not conspicuous, and, indeed, in the years that followed, he was to be a rather pathetic figure, never attaining success, from time to time seeking once again to capitalize his talent for popular controversy, and for popular causes,but rarely doing so with any profit to himself.

It is curious that O’Reilly, in this decade of the fifties, never took any important part, so far as can be discovered, in the slavery controversy. The probable explanation lies in his close affiliations with the Democratic party. One might have thought that such an issue as this would decidedly appeal to him. But O’Reilly was a partisan Democrat, and it may well be that he hesitated to cut loose from his old associations. At any rate, at no time does he appear as a militant foe of the extension of slavery, let alone of the “peculiar institution” itself, and his migration, as a chronic officeseeker, from the Democratic into the Republican party was not successfully effected until somewhere around 1869.

Years of Discouragement

In the intermediate years between 1853 and 1869 he interested himself in a number of unsuccessful ventures. He started a project for the improvement of the Des Moines River, in Iowa. But before lung he fell to quarreling with his associates, was kicked out of the company which he had helped to form, and had to content himself with the meager satisfaction of exposing some of its irregularities before the lowa legislature. In 1859, returning to New York, he engaged in a more congenial and more successful battle, a battle to pro-

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tect the canals of New York State against the hostility of the railroads. But the victory which he won in a campaign for the further enlargement of the canals left him once more without employment. Two years later we find him president of a concern called the American Terracultor Company, located in Rochester. This company was organized to manufacture a machine which would supplant the plow, and which, instead of turning the soil, dug up the ground and pulverized it by means of forks attached to endless chains, cutting a strip of land forty inches in width and ten inches in depth. But matters did not go smoothly here, either, and in addition the period of his connection with the terraculror was saddened by the death of his son at the battle of Williamsburg. In 1863 we find him acting as Secretary of an Association for promoting Colored Volunteering, and acting in conjunction with Peter Cooper to see to it that such volunteers would be authorized and credited to the quota of New York State. In 1867 we find him once more attacking his old foe, the railroads, and becoming Secretary of the National Anti-Monopoly Cheap Freight Railway League, which had as its fantastic object the construction of railway lines which should be open to free competition for the transportation of freight and passengers, but which is interesting as an early expression of the popular resentment against the growing power and arrogance of the railway systems of the country. On this project O’Reilly got exactly nowhere, and his own compensation in connection with it was so small that it did not meet his living expenses. During all this time, it would appear, he was constantly in debt, dependent often upon the generosity of his creditors.

In 1869, however, O’Reilly secured an appointment in the New York Customs House as store-keeper. This job, which could hardly have been particularly lucrative, he attempted to supplement by editorial work for one or another of the New York papers, forming a temporary connection with the World and with the Tribune. But his old flair for editorial writing seems to have deserted him, and he could give satisfaction neither to Manton Marble nor to Horace Greeley, the editors of the sheets in question. He was busy during this period with his Memoirs, and with the arrangement and collection of his historical papers; but the first of these two tasks he never completed.

In 1878, moreover, misfortune befell him. Rutherford B. Hayes, elected President in 1877, was one of the first Presidents to put into

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practise, and against strong opposition, the principles of civil service reform; and the Presidential axe was soon whetted for Alonzo B. Cornell, the Collector of the Port of New York, to whom O’Reilly had owed his appointment as store-keeper. Ar the age of 72, then, O’Reilly was removed from office. He continued to live in New York till 1884, when he returned once more to the scene of his youthful successes, the city of Rochester. There he died, in St. Mar’y’s Hospital on the 17th of August, 1886, and was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, the site for which he had been instrumental in selecting nearly fifty years before. He had, at one time, lapsed from the Catholic faith, but in these last years of his life he returned to it, and before his death received extreme unction, according to Catholic ritual. The career which we have thus been analyzing was certainly nor, from the worldly point of view, a successful one. O’Reilly was devoid of the qualities that make for achievement in the business world. He was improvident, rash and by no means easy to deal with. To the eye of the hyper-critical, he might well appear as one who had a professional interest in controversy, in stirring up trouble, in which he generally found himself brilliant and inextricably involved. But any such judgment would be not only partial, but far too severe. O’Reilly was a man of very generous impulses, of very substantial Capacities, and of some measure of successful achievement. In particular is this true of the period that he spent in Rochester. He identified himself during that period with a number of important causes, with the development of the Erie Canal, which (it must never be forgotten) played a fundamental role in the growth of the stare down to the Civil War, and on which the prosperity of this city depended, with the establishment of a great step forward in the system of public education,with the first feeble steps towards the maintenance of a public library, with the development of a newspaper which has had a continuous existence since 1826. On a larger scale his activities seem, in retrospect, to be futile and ill-judged. Perhaps they were. But here too it must not be forgotten that he was a popular hero to many Americans in the early part of the fifties, and that, crude as were his methods, and wrong as were many of his decisions, he expressed something that needed to be expressed in his opposition to unrestricted monopolistic control of an important industry. The remedy for such control was emphatically not the remedy that he envisaged. It was not competition, but

23

regulation, that was finally to be judged necessary in the telegraph industry. But it would have been difficult for an American of his period to have foreseen this. After all, the era of regulation was to come after O’Reilly was in his grave. No one contends that here was a great man. But surely here was an interesting man, a man towards whom a charitable judgment is easy, a man whose generous impulses command respect, and whose life was not devoid of service to his fellows.

Biographical Note: This effort to present a full length picture of Henry O’Reilly in brief compass has been greatly facilitated by a master’s thesis written by Sister Miriam Monaghan at the Catholic University of America. A typed copy of her study, Henry O’Reilly: Journalist and Promoter of the Telegraph, has generously been made available by a gift to the Rochester Historical Society. In addition to his own published works, cited in the paper, the fat volume by James D. Reid, The Telegraph in America (Albany, 1878), and Carleton Mabee’s The American Leonardo: A Life of Samuel F. B. Morse (New York, 1943), have proved useful.

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The image above links directly to the original document. You can access sources, data, images and documents for these and other individuals, by clicking on the name link, or searching the Blythe Genealogy database site using the surname search link and the ‘All Media‘ search link in the left sidebar.

It is recommended to search using both methods as the results can differ greatly due to a glitch in the software that doesn’t connect all images from the bio.

All data for this and numerous others on this site is available for free access and download.

 

 

 

Journey through centuries: An ancestral doppelganger is discovered!

My biggest fascination with my genealogy research is finding old photos of the people – especially any rare ancestral doppelganger to current family members.
An ancestral doppelganger is discovered!
Marshall Matthews Blythe (Mark’s father) c. 2004.
An ancestral doppelganger is discovered!
Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky, c. 1812 – An ancestral doppelganger!

These images bring some life to the profile created by the fact finding of my research and brings these characters closer and makes them more relatable and understandable.

A while ago, while I was researching the Shelby family which included the original Welsh Quaker immigrant Evan Isaac Shelby (8th great grandfather to my father-in-law), his son Brigadier General Evan Shelby (7th great granduncle) and Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky (1st cousin, 8 times removed, and born in 1750),

I was immediately struck by the resemblance between my father-in-law and Governor Isaac Shelby.

Considering this relationship spans seven generations, it is quite amazing!

In another instance, I was doing some research for a friend who was curious about what happened to one mysterious great great aunt who had a past around which there had been rumours. Upon researching, I discovered that she was actually the birth mother of a girl who was raised by another family member, believing this person was her own aunt.

At the time of the child’s birth, this woman worked as a domestic in the home of a wealthy entrepreneur in the late 1800’s and became pregnant, having the child out of wedlock.

Knowing how often the domestics were taken advantage of by the men of the house, I looked into it further, believing he might be the baby’s father. I was sort of surprised (but not too much) to find a picture of this gentleman’s grandson and great-grandson – and there was a definite resemblance! In this case it was not quite as striking, but was there nonetheless around the mouth and eyes.

William B. Coon – Soldier in the War of 1812

In a previous post, I told the story of David Coon, the fourth great grandfather to my children Erin and Stuart, and his service and death in the Civil War.
His father, William B. Coon (about 1789 to August 25, 1854) was also a soldier, but in his case he served in the War of 1812.
William was born in Beekmantown, Clinton, New York and was the son of Joseph Coon.

 

War of 1812 Minor's Claim to Bounty Land for William B. CoonWar of 1812 Claim to Bounty Land by William B. Coon, page 1.

War of 1812 Minor's Claim to Bounty LandWar of 1812 Claim to Bounty Land by William B. Coon, page 2.

Zebulon Pike
Colonel Zebulon Pike

In 1813, at the age of 24, William enlisted as a Private with the 36th Regiment of the New York Militia under Captain Fillmore at Plattsburgh, New York.

On January 4, 1851, William B. Coon swore an affidavit before John Kilborn, Justice of the Peace in Canada West, United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, in support of his claim to bounty land in compensation for his service in the War of 1812. According to the affidavit, he, along with his horses and sleigh, were pressed into service March 1, 1813 by Colonel Pike’s 15th Infantry Regiment to go from Plattsburgh to Sackets Harbor, serving seventeen days.

Subsequently, he enlisted August 25, 1813 at Beekmantown, Clinton County, New York, as a Private in Captain S. Fillmore’s Company of the militia commanded by Major John Roberts. He was honorably discharged about December 1, 1813. During this three month period of service, they defended the town of Plattsburgh during the burning of the newly promoted General Pike’s encampment, under command of Colonel Thomas Miller.

War of 1812 Minor's Claim to Bounty LandWar of 1812 Minor’s Claim to Bounty Land, page 2.

War of 1812 Minor's Claim to Bounty LandWar of 1812 Minor’s Claim to Bounty Land, page 1.

A supporting “Declaration on Behalf of Minor Children for Bounty Land” of August 3, 1869 by Harriet (Hattie) Laplaint of Beekmantown, Clinton County, New York states she is the child of William B. Coon, who had been married to Elizabeth Hicks. She further states William B. Coon had died August 25, 1854 and that Elizabeth had predeceased him on September 26, 1842. She was the only child of William and Elizabeth listed and as there were other children by both of his marriages, it appears she was the only claimant for the bounty land. This declaration is witnessed by her half-brother Samuel C. Coon and one Joel Cudworth.

Bounty Land Claim signed by Hiram Southwick.Bounty Land Claim signed by Hiram Southwick.

The “Bounty Land Claim” document signed by Hiram Southwick proves the previous marriage of William B. Coon, although his first wife is not named, stating he was the half-brother of Hattie in support of her claim. William’s first wife Clarissa Haskill had previously been briefly married to Ebenezer (Eben) Southwick and had two sons by him, Hiram and James.

Power of Attorney re land claim.Power of Attorney re William B. Coon’s land claim.

William B. Coon was married about 1818 to Clarissa Haskill at Beekmantown. Their children were: John Williams Coon (1819-1842); David Coon (1824-1864); Samuel Churchill Coon (1824-1903); and Clarinda Coon (1826-1870).

The fate of Clarissa is unknown at this point, but it is assumed she had died sometime between 1826 and 1840, as William married a second time in about 1840 in Ontario, Canada to Elizabeth Hicks. Their children were: Mary Eleanor Coon (born circa 1840) and Harriet “Hattie” Coon (born circa 1841).

Military Bounty Land Warrant Certificate - William B. CoonWilliam B. Coon’s Military Bounty Land Warrant Certificate.

William died August 25, 1854 in Alexandria, Licking County, Ohio. Unfortunately, this was before he could receive his 40 acres of bounty land in Wisconsin, which then went to his son David, who relocated there with his family prior to his own service in the Civil War.

Keep checking back as I will soon write a post about my children’s other fifth great grandfather, Alanson Adams, the father of David Coon’s wife, Mary Ann Adams. Alanson also fought in the War of 1812, having enlisted along with his brother Gardner in 1813.

Sources:

  1. Emily Bailey, “David Coon and Family Background,” e-mail message to Christine Blythe, 19 Nov 2006.
  2. Emily Bailey, “William B. Coon Family,” e-mail message to Christine Blythe, 20 Nov 2006.
  3. Coon, William B.; War of 1812 Service File.
  4. Act of Sept. 28 1850 Land Warrant Card – Coon, W.B. and Coon, David.
  5. Military Bounty Land Warrant Certificate – Coon, William B.
  6. Military Bounty Land Location Record – Coon, William B.
  7. 1851 Canadian, Lansdowne Township, Leeds County; Ontario GenWeb; http://www.geneofun.on.ca/ongenweb/.
  8. “Genealogy Genforum,” database, Coon Family (http://genforum.genealogy.com/coon/messages/1961.html).

 

Edward “Longshanks” I, King of England

 

Edward “Longshanks” I, King of England was born 17/18 June 1239, eldest son of Henry III, King of England (1207-1272) and Eléonore de Provence (1223- ), in Westminster Palace, London.

 

Edward I, King of England
Edward “Longshanks” I, King of England

Edward was created Earl of Chester and granted the Dukedom of Gascony on 14 February 1254, after arriving in France.

Leonore de Castile
Leonore de Castile

Edward’s father arranged his  marriage to Infanta doña Leonor de Castile y León (1240-1290) with an eye to preventing the barons obtaining help for their rebellion from Castile. What started as an arranged marriage on 18 October 1254 at Abbey of Las Huelgas, Burgos, Castile, Spain, later became a love match. Leonore was born to Infante don Fernando, III, de Castilla y León, King of Castile, Toledo and Extremadura from his second marriage to Jeanne, de Dammartin, Comtesse de Ponthieu.

Their children were:

Eleonore (1264-1297)
Joan, of England ( -1265)
John, of England ( – )
Henry, of England (1267-1274)
Julian (1271-1271)
Katherine of England (1271- )
Joan D’Acre, of England ( -1307)
Alfonso, Earl of Chester (1273-1284)
Margaret (1275-1318)
Berengaria, of England (1276-1276)
Mary, of England (1278-1332)
Alice ( – )
Isabella (1279-1279)
Elizabeth (1282-1316)
Edward, II, King of England (1284-1327)
Beatrice (1286-1286)
Blanche (1290- )

Edward initially supported the rebellious barons under Simon, de Montfort, Earl of Leicester (26th great grandfather to Mark). He later changed to support his father, served and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Lewes on 14 May 1264 by Simon de Montfort’s rebel Barons, but escaped after only 12 days on 16 May 1264. With the objective of making peace and ending the war, Edward gave Simon de Montfort the Earldom of Chester on 24 Dec 1264. The Earldom of Chester was restored to Edward after he killed Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham, on 4 Aug 1265.

Although originally planning to join Louis IX, King of France (27th great grandfather to Mark) in Tunisia in the summer of 1270, his plans were changed upon hearing the news of the King’s death when he arrived in Africa. After spending the winter with King Charles in Sicily, he sailed for Acre, Palestine,  to join the seventh crusade, landing on 9 May 1271.

Lacking resources against the Mameluk Sultan Baibars, he and the Sultan signed a peace agreement at Caesarea on 22 May 1272.

In an assassination attempt, Edward I was stabbed him with a poisoned dagger. Although he survived, the effects of the poison left him incapacitated until he left Acre to return to England 22 September 1272. He succeeded his father as Edward I, ‘Longshanks’, King of England while stopped in Sicily during his return from the Crusade.

He returned to England just prior to being crowned King of England on 19 Aug 1274 at Westminster Abbey in London.
Edward turned out to be a strong king and managed to increase the power and influence of the crown at a high cost to the Barons.

Caernarvon Castle
Caernarvon Castle

In 1277, Edward initiated a war with Llewelyn ap Gruffydd (25th great grandfather to Mark), ruler of Wales, and husband to Eleanor de Montfort, the daughter of Simon de Montfort, after Llewelyn he refused to submit to the English crown. As a result, the dominions of Llewelyn were halved. In 1282, Llewelyn’s brother David rebelled. Llewelyn joined him in the revolt but was soon killed in a small foray. With no leader remaining, Wales became annexed by England in 1284, and soon after, Edward saw several large castles built including Caernarvon, Harlech and Conway, to prevent any further revolt. Edward resided in Caernarvon Castle, Caernarvonshire, Wales, where his own son Edward II, future King of England, was born in 1284.

Edward Longshanks I presiding over parliament.
Edward I presiding over parliament.

In 1290, the same year Edward I lost his wife Leonore, the royal line of Scotland ended, and Edward agreed to arbitrate the negotiations with claimants to the throne of Scotland on condition that he was recognized as overlord of Scotland. In the end, the Scots acted against him, allying with France. To support his efforts to resolve the situations in Scotland and Wales, Edward formed the ‘Model Parliament’, the forerunner to following parliaments. Buoyed by this support, Edward was able to quell the Welsh rebellion in the field, conquering northwest Wales and ending the rule of the native Princes of Wales, naming his own son Prince of Wales. After his invasion and conquest of Scotland in 1296, he named himself King of Scotland and began a rather brutal, ruthless rule. In 1298, he was again called to invade Scotland to suppress a new revolt under Sir Walliam Wallace. Although victorious at the Battle of Falkirk, he was unable to win the war.

In 1299, peace was made with France and Edward married Marguerite de France (1275-1318), daughter of Philippe III, King of France (son to Louis IX above, and 26th great grandfather to Mark) and his second wife Marie de Brabant, on 8/9 September 1299 at Canterbury Cathedral.

Free of conflict with France, he again attempted to conquer Scotland in 1303. Sir William Wallace was captured and executed in 1305, only for another revolt to start up, this time successful and culminating in Robert Bruce’s coronation as King of Scotland.

Edward once again sought to subdue the Scottish, but before he could, he died 8 July 1307 near Carlisle and was buried 28 October 1307 at Westminster Abbey in London.

John Fines, author of “Who’s Who in the Middle Ages” describes Edward Longshanks I, King of England as:

Son and father of weak and ineffectual kings, Edward I had many fine qualities which seem to make nonsence of heredity. He was tall and strong, a fine horseman and a doughty warrior. A great leader of men, he was also able to lead to success. He was interested in government and law in a very genuine way. As a personality he was pious, but easily provoked to rage and often vindictive. He was fond of games—so passionately did he love his hawks that when they were ill he sent money to shrines to pray for their recovery. He was generous to the poor, and often a gay companion: he played chess, and loved music and acrobats; once he bet his laundress Matilda that she couldn’t ride his charger, and she won! Every Easter Monday he paid ransom to his maids if they found him in bed. He loved his two wives, and fussed over their health and that of his children with a pathetic concern—sometimes threatening the doctor with what would happen to him if his patient did not recover. His people feared, respected and remembered him.

Sources:

  1. Kings and Queens of England – The Plantagenets, The Royal Family online [http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page58.asp].
  2. Gary Boyd Roberts, The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants, (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983).
  3. T. H. Owen, Compiler, Cross Index of Ancestral Roots of 60 American Colonists and Supplement (Supplement by Frederick Weiss,). David Faris, The Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth Century Colonists (English Ancestry Series, Vol. I, Second Edition; New England Historic Genealogy Society, 1999).
  4. John Fines, Who’s Who in the Middle Ages (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1995).
  5. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Th.D., The Magna Carta Sureties, 1215, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc.), 5th Ed., c1999. George Smith, Dictionary of National Biography, Vols. 1-21 (: Oxford Press, 1885-1990).
  6. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came To America Bef ore 1700, 8th Edition (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2004).
  7. The Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth Century Colonists. Directory of Royal Genealogical Data, Brian Tompsett, Dept. of Computer Science, Hull University online [http://www.hull.ac.uk/php/cssbct/genealogy/royal/].
  8. Ernst-Friedrich Kraentzler, Ancestry of Richard Plantagenet and Cecily de Neville (Selp-published, 1978).
  9. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdon, Extant, Extinct or Dormant (G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I.).
  10. Sir Bernard Burke, LL.D., A Genealogical History of the Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited and Extinct Peerages of the British Empire; New Edition, 1866; London, Harrson, 59, Pall Mall; Bookseller to her Majesty and H.R.H. the Prince of Wales..
  11. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, online [http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/ENGLAND,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm#HenriIIdied1189A].

Transcription: Biography of William Fitzalan.

 

Biography of William Fitzalan, from the Dictionary of National Biography.

 

William Fitzalan BioFITZALAN, WILLIAM (d. 1160), rebel, was the son and heir of Alan Fitzflaald, by Aveline or Adeline, sister of Ernulf de Hesding (EYTON, Shropshire, vii. 222-8). His younger brother, Walter Fitzalan (d. 1177), was ‘the undoubted ancestor of the royal house of Stuart’ (ib.) His father had received from Henry I, about the beginning of his reign, extensive fiefs in Shropshire and, Norfolk. William was born about 1105 and succeeded his father about 1114 (ib. pp. 222, 232). His first appearance is, as a witness to Stephen’s charter to Shrewsbury Abbey (Monasticon, iii. 519) in 1136. He is found acting as castellan of Shrewsbury and sheriff of Shropshire in 1138, when he joined in the revolt against Stephen, being married to a niece of the Earl of Gloucester (0KD. VIT. v. 112-13). After resisting the king’s attack for a month, he fled with his family (August 1138), leaving the castle to be defended by his uncle Emulf, who, on his surrender, was hanged by the king (ib.; Cont. FLOE. WIG-. ii. 110). He is next found with the empress at Oxford in the summer of 1141 (EXTON, vii. 287), and shortly after at the siege of Winchester (Gesta, p. 80). He again appears in attendance on her at Devizes, witnessing the charter addressed to himself by which she grants Aston to Shrewsbury Abbey (EITON, ix. 58). It was probably between 1130 and 1138 that he founded Haughmond Abbey («A. 286-7). In June 1153 he is found with Henry, then duke of Normandy, at Leicester (ib. p. 288). With the accession of Henry as king he regained his paternal fief on the fall of Hugh de Mortimer in July 1155. He is found at Bridgnorth with the king at that time, and on 26 July received from his feudal tenants a renewal of their homage (ib. i. 250-1, vii. 236-7, 288). His first wife, Christiana, being now dead, he received from Henry the hand of Isabel de Say, heiress of the barony of Clun (ib. vii. 237), together with the shrievalty of Shropshire, which he retained till his death (Pipe Molls, 2-6 Hen. II), which took place in 1160, about Easter (ib. 6 Hen. It, p. 27). Among his benefactions he granted Wroxeter Church to Haughmond in 1166 (EYION, vii. 311-12), and, though not the founder of Wombridge Priory, sanctioned its foundation (ib. p. 863). He was succeeded by William Fitzalan the second, his son and heir by his second wife. By his first he left a daughter, Christiana, wife of Hugh Pantulf.

[Ordericus Vitalis (Société de l’Histoire de Prance):; G-esta Stephani (Rolls Ser.); Florence of “Worcester (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Monasticon Anglicanum, .new ed.; Pipe Rolls (Record Commission and Pipe Roll Soc.); Eyton’s Hist, of Shropshire.]

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Dame Emma Albani (Emma Marie Louise Cécile Lajeunesse) of Chambly, Québec

Emma Marie Louise Cécile Lajeunesse (known professionally as Dame Emma Albani), was a world-renowned soprano for most of the 19th century and into the early 20th century.

 

Featured image: Dame Emma Albini (4th cousin 3 times removed) on her tours of Europe and North America, where she sang for Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm I and Csar Nicholas.

 

Emma Marie Louise Cécile Lajeunesse (Dame Emma Albini) at five
Emma Marie Louise Cécile Lajeunesse (Dame Emma Albini) at five years of age in about 1852.

She was also a harpist, pianist and teacher. Her birth date is commonly believed to be November 1, 1847 , although some believe she was born in 1848 or 1850. Emma was my fifth cousin, twice removed, as she was the fourth great granddaughter of my 7th great grandfather, Jean Jacques Labelle (1682-1748) of Île Jésus (Laval), Québec, Canada.

Chambly, Quebec
Emma’s birthplace, Chambly, Quebec.

In her own memoirs, Emma states her birth was in 1852 in Chambly, Québec, Canada to Joseph Lajeunesse (1818-1904) and Mélina Rachel Mélanie Mignault ( -1856).

Emma was the first Canadian singer to become internationally known and sought after. She performed operas composed by Bellini, Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti and later, Wagner. Her audiences included such luminaries as Queen Victoria, Csar Alexander II, and Kaiser Wilhelm I.

Emma Lajeunesse’s parents, both musicians, recognized their daughter’s wonderful talent very early. Although she studied first with her mother, her father took over her tr

Royal autographs.
Autograph of Queen Victoria and other royals from Dame Emma Albani’s autograph book.

aining when she turned five. He was a great musician in his own right and was skilled with the harp, violin, organ and piano. Her practice schedule was very busy and strict, in which she dedicated up to four hours a day. In 1856, shortly after his wife died, Joseph Lajeunesse was hired to teach music at the Religious of the Sacred Heart Convent in Sault-au-Récollet (Montréal), where Emma and her sister Cornélia (nickname Nellie) were boarders.

Emma attended from 1858 to 1865, and her talent was evident to the convent’s nuns, who were forced to bar her from the convent’s musical competitions so other children had a chance of winning.

At eight years old, Emma performed her first concert on September 15, 1856 at the Mechanics’ Institute in Montreal. The critics were amazed, and recognized her as a prodigy. She also sang in Chambly, Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), L’Assomption, Sorel, Industrie (Joliette), and Terrebonne, all in Québec.

Dame Emma Albani
Dame Dame Emma Albani in costume for her role as Amina.

Unable to finance a musical education in Quebec, where singing and acting were considered unsavory careers for a woman, Joseph Lajeunesse attempted to raise sufficient money to send her to study in Paris.

In 1865, Emma’s family moved to Albany, New York, stopping at several towns, including Saratoga Springs and Johnstown, where Emma and her sister performed. She became a popular singer in New York, and managed to save enough money for her studies.

Emma Albani in costume for Violetta
Dame Emma Albani in costume for Violetta.

In Albany, Emma was hired as soloist for the parish church of St Joseph, where she worked three years singing, playing the organ, and directing the choir. She also worked at composing scores, as well as musical pieces for harp, solo piano and two pianos.

With her father’s savings and financial assistance from well-wishers and parishioners, Emma was able to go to Paris to study at the ‘Paris Conservatoire’ with Gilbert-Louis Duprez, the famous French tenor. Not long after her lessons with him began, Duprez was heard to say about Emma, “She has a beautiful voice and ardor. She is of the kind of wood from which fine flutes are made.”

At the suggestion of her elocution instructor, Signor Delorenzi, she changed her name to the simpler Emma Albani, which sounded more European and happened to be a very old Italian family name. The closeness in sound of her new surname and ‘Albany’ in New York pleased her, as she had been treated so well there.

Emma continued to study in Milan, Italy for a year and with the assistance of eminent voice teacher Francesco Lamperti, she learned solid technique and, along with her rigid discipline, was able to maintain good vocal health. These techniques enabled her to perform a range of roles from light to dramatic.

Emma Albani in 1899.
Dame Emma Albani in 1899.

Emma’s funds diminished, and although she was not yet finished her training, she began to look for work during the 1869-70 season to help support her schooling. She found a position in Messina, and her operatic debut was on March 30, 1870, playing Amina in Vincenzo Bellini’s La Sonnambula. Her debut performance was very well received and she later stated, “I was literally loaded with flowers, presents, and poetry, the detached sheets of which were sent fluttering down in every direction on the heads of the audience; and among the numberless bouquets of every shape was a basket in which was concealed a live dove. They had painted it red, and the dear little bird rose and flew all over the theater.”

From the time of her debut in Messina, she realized that to portray historical characters, it was not enough to sing well and made a point of visiting museums and reading extensively.

She returned to Milan after her contract in Messina had expired and resumed her instruction with Lamperti. Meanwhile, more work offers began to pour in, including a role she accepted in Rigoletto, which was being performed in Cento. Other roles followed in Florence and Malta, with parts in Lucia di Lammermoor, Robert il Diavolo, La Sonnambula, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and L’Africaine.

After performing in Malta in the winter of 1870 to 1871, she auditioned for Frederick Gye, manager of Covent Garden in London. He was so impressed with her abilities, he signed her to a five-year contract. Before her London contract was to start, she returned to Italy to complete her studies with Lamperti.

Albani arrived in London in the spring of 1872 and her first performance under her contract was on April 2, 1872 at the Royal Italian Opera (the name taken in 1847 by Covent Garden in London) and was a great success. She was the first Canadian woman to perform in this opera house and would perform there until 1896.

Emma continued to perform in various roles and venues throughout Europe, Russia and the United States over the next five seasons. Her performances included that of Ophelia in Hamlet and the Countess in ‘The Marriage of Figaro’.

Queen Victoria later requested a private performance from Albani, who traveled to Windsor Palace in July, 1874 to perform “Caro Nome” from Rigoletto, “Ave Maria”, “Robin Adair”, and “Home, Sweet Home”. This was the first of many occasions on which Albani would perform for monarchs and other dignitaries, but it was also the beginning of a friendship and the two women would visit each other regularly until Queen Victoria died in 1901. Albani would also sing at the funeral of Queen Victoria.

Letter from Queen Victoria to Dame Emma Albani.
Letter from Queen Victoria to Dame Emma Albani.

Emma Albani toured the United States in the fall of 1874, visiting Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Chicago and Albany.
In November 1874, Emma went on tour in the United States, where she performed her first role in a Wagner opera as Elsa in “Lohengrin” at New York’s Academy of Music. Her repertoire grew over the years.

After 1876, Emma’s sister Cornélia was always by her side. Cornélia was also a talented pianist and had studied in Germany, later teaching music to the children of the royal family of Spain. Cornélia worked her entire life as Emma’s accompanist and companion, dying soon after Emma.

Mr. Frederick Gye
Mr. Frederick Gye, father of Emma’s husband Ernest Gye.

Emma married Ernest Gye on August 6, 1878. He was the son of the director of the Royal Italian Opera and after his father died in an accident, he took over the position from 1878 to 1885. Their son, Ernest Frederick was born June 4, 1879, became a prominent diplomat and would die in London in 1955.

In 1880, as a result of playing Lucia in “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Gilda in “Rigoletto” at La Scala in Milan, Italy, Emma suffered a setback. The audience was already hostile to non-Italian singers in this theater, but she was not in very good voice, resulting in being unable to impress her listeners. Despite this, her career continued to grow since she performed in cities she had not previously visited.

Caricature from Punch, 17 September 1881: "MADAME ALBANI. A Thing of Beauty is a Gye for ever!"
Caricature from Punch, 17 September 1881: “MADAME ALBANI. A Thing of Beauty is a Gye for ever!”

In 1883, Emma and another singer, Adelina Patti, undertook a long tour in the United States, visiting Chicago, Baltimore, New York and Washington. She also gave three recitals in Montréal, for which appearance more than ten thousand people showed up to greet her, and poet Louis-Honoré Fréchette composed a poem in her honor which he read at a reception.

She remained attached to Canada and toured nine times to perform recitals from 1883 to 1906, traveling from one coast to the other. In1890 Emma performed in two complete operas at the Academy of Music in Montréal, Verdi’s “La Traviata” and “Lucia di Lammermoor”. Albani was always generous to charitable organizations and she supported and performed in a benefit concert in Montréal for Notre-Dame Hospital.

Albani became the first French Canadian woman to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on November 23, 1891 in “Les Huguenots”. That winter, she was in several other productions at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Albani retired from the Covent Gardens opera, and her final stage performance taking place in July 1896 at the Royal Opera House. To accommodate the changing tastes of the theater’s directors and the public, Emma had to show great flexibility and perform diverse roles. Emma received the royal Philharmonic Society’s gold medal or the “Beethoven Medal” in 1897.

Letter from Dame Emma Albani
Letter from Dame Emma Albani from her memoir titled “Forty Years of Song”.

Although retired, she still sang in recitals and in 1901 she traveled across Canada, traveling from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia. She then continued to go on tour in Australia (1898, 1907), South Africa (1898, 1899, 1904), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (1907), New Zealand (1907) and India (1907). In 1906 she made her farewell Canadian tour. During this period she is said to have recorded nine titles (audio of one follows article) and some have since been remastered and are available today. Her ‘post-retirement’ career came to an end on October 14, 1911 when she gave her last public performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London. That same year she released a book a book of her memoirs, “Forty Years of Song”.

She and her husband retired to Kensington where Emma’s last years were troubled by financial difficulties necessitating that she teach and occasionally perform in music halls. Her circumstances resulted from the war and poor investments, and in concern the British government voted her an annual pension of £100. Word of her difficulties reached Montréal, where “La Presse” sponsored a recital on May 28, 1925 in the Théâtre Saint-Denis. More than $4,000 was collected. Assistance was also sought from the Canadian and Quebec governments, who declined, stating that Albani had become more of a British subject than a Canadian citizen since she had resided in London since 1872).

Postage stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dame Emma's death.
Postage stamp issued by Canada Post in 1980 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dame Emma Albani’s death.

Dame Emma Albani died on April 3, 1930 at her home on Tregunter Road, Kensington, in London and was buried at Brompton, London, England.

During her lifetime, she received many awards, including the gold Beethoven Medal (given by the Royal Philharmonic Society of London) and the Medal of Honour commemorating Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1897. In 1925 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Of two streets that were named after Emma Albani in Montréal, the first was dedicated in the 1930s, but was later removed when the road was merged with another street, and the second was named Rue Albani in 1969.

Other honors included a postage stamp issued by Canada Post and designed by artist Huntley Brown. It was released July 4, 1980 and eleven million, seven hundred thousand copies of the stamp were printed. She is also immortalized in a stained glass mural at Montréal’s Place des Arts station.

Photo credits:

Wikipedia – Dame Emma Albani, online [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Albani].

Sources:

  1. “Forty Years of Song,” by Emma Albani; Project Gutenberg Canada website; [http://www.gutenberg.ca/ebooks/albani-forty/albani-forty-00-h-dir/albani-forty-00-h.html]
  2. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7930]
  3. Les Labelles, Daniel Labelle online [http:www.leslabelle.org]
  4. Wikipedia – Dame Emma Albani, online [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Albani].

Melansons and the Acadian Expulsion

The British conquered Acadia from the French in 1710 and subsequently, the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. At this time, the Acadians and Mi’kmaq formed militia against the British and as a result of what the British viewed as the rebellious actions of some of the Acadians, British Governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council ordered the expulsion of all the Acadians. This action led to the deaths of thousands of Acadians.
The Acadian people were expelled from what are now the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island between 1755 and 1763 and were deported to Britain, France and other British colonies.

Fort Edward in 1753

Fort Edward, in what was then Pisiguit (Windsor, Nova Scotia) played an important role in the Bay of Fundy Campaign (1755) of the Acadian Expulsion. Fort Edward was one of four forts in which Acadians were imprisoned over the nine years of the expulsion (the others were Fort Frederick, Saint John, New Brunswick; Fort Cumberland; and Fort Charlotte, Georges Island, Halifax).
In the early 1760’s it was illegal for Acadians to reside in Nova Scotia. Families and individuals who had avoided capture in 1755 were imprisoned. The prison lists for Fort Edward between 1761-1762 still exist (For a list of the prisoners see List of Acadian Prisoners – Fort Edward). There was Acadian and Mi’kmaq resistance to the Expulsion. In April of 1757, a band of Acadians and Mi’kmaq raided a warehouse near Fort Edward, killing thirteen British soldiers and, after taking what provisions they could carry, setting fire to the building. A few days later, the same group also raided Fort Cumberland.

Fort Beausejour in 1755

Fort Beauséjour, (later known as Fort Cumberland) is located at the Isthmus of Chignecto in present day Aulac, New Brunswick, Canada. This fort was famous for the Battle of Fort Beauséjour, which was both the final act in the long fight between Britain and France for control of Acadia and the beginning of the final struggle between the two great empires for North America itself. Fort Beauséjour was one of several French forts erected to strengthen the French position in North America against the British.
In 1755, there was a major battle at Fort Beauséjour. It was also the site of the start of the Expulsion of the Acadians and the area was afterward subjected to the resistance of the Mi’kmaq and Acadians. On June 4, 1755, British forces and militia attacked Fort Beauséjour from their base at Fort Lawrence. After taking control of Fort Beauséjour by June 16, 1755, they changed its name to Fort Cumberland. After the capture of the fort, British forces attempted to convince Acadians of the Beaubassin region to sign the oath of allegiance demanded by the British Crown; however the Acadians refused, stating that they would rather remain neutral. Some of the captured Acadians who remained reported that they were forced to help defend Fort Beauséjour. Armed with this information, the British planned and executed the expulsion of Acadians in August 1755.
This event was the start of what would come to be known as the Great Upheaval (le Grand Dérangement) of Acadian society. It commenced with the Acadians in the Beaubassin region. British forces burnt Acadian homes at Beaubassin and the vicinity of the fort to prevent their return. Fort Cumberland became one of four sites in which Acadians were imprisoned during the nine years of the expulsion, including Fort Edward.
Pierre “Parrotte” Melanson was born in 1720 in Port Royal (later Annapolis Royal). Pierre “Parrotte” Melanson and Marie Josephe Granger (my 5th great grandparents) were married on 1 Feb 1746 in Port Royal. Marie Josèphe Granger, daughter of Laurens Granger and Marie Bourg, was born on 12 Jan 1723 in Port Royal. He and Marie Josèphe had six children: Marie-Josèphe, Jean “Janne”, Osite, Pierre, David and Dominique-Pierre. Escaping deportation during the Acadian Expulsion, Pierre, Marie Josephe and their three living children, Marie-Josephe, Janne and David (see below for more information about the children), sought refuge in the Petitcodiac region (today in New Brunswick) from 1755 to 1760. They were captured and subsequently held prisoner at Fort Edward between 1761 and 1763. They then lived as captives in Fort Cumberland, between 1763 and 1768. Their youngest son Dominique-Pierre was born in captivity at Fort Cumberland. Pierre “Parrotte” and his family lived after their release from Fort Cumberland in Minudie, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, where he died about 1791 at the age of 71. His wife Marie Josèphe remained in Minudie until her death about 1790 at the age of 67.
Marie-Josèphe Melanson was born on 4 Mar 1747 in Port Royal. Marie-Josèphe Melanson and Jean-Augustin Gaudet, son of Augustin Gaudet and Agnés Chiasson, were married about 1767 while in captivity at Fort Edward. They lived as captives in Fort Edward between 1761 and 1763, and then also in captivity in Fort Cumberland between 1763 and 1768. They had nine children: Marie-Madeleine, Isabelle, Marie-Anne “Nannette”, Marguerite, Jean, Marguerite, Pierre, Pélagie and Sauveur and they all settled in Westmoreland County, New Brunswick, Canada.
Jean “Janne” Melanson was born on 12 Aug 1749 in Port Royal. Janne lived as a captive along with his family in Fort Edward between 1761 and 1763. He lived as a captive along with his family in Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia, Canada between 1763 and 1768. Janne later died in Minudie.  Jean “Janne” Melanson and Modeste “Ursule” Forest (4th great grandparents), daughter of Charles Forest and Marie Chiasson, were married on 20 Nov 1773 in Franklin Manor, Minudie. Janne and Modeste had seven children, Louise “Lizette”, Henriette, Romain “Roma”, Apollonie, Pélagie, Rose Anne and Pierre Melanson (3rd great grandfather).
David Melanson was born in 1755 in Port Royal. He lived as an escapee with his family in Petitcodiac between 1755 and 1761. He lived with his family in Fort Edward between 1761 and 1763 and in Fort Cumberland between 1763 and 1768. David Melanson married firstly Marguerite Leblanc, daughter of Joseph Leblanc and Marie Doiron, about 1776 in Minudie, Cumberland County. They had eleven children: Pierre, Cécile, Rosalie, Dominique, Fabien, Firmin, Brigitte, Joseph “dit Magoune”, Gertrude, Romain “Roma” and François. David became a land owner from land grants in Dorchester Crossing and Scoudouc, New Brunswick. David and Marguerite both died in Memramcook, Westmorland County, she in 1810 and he in 1834. Marguerite is among those originally buried at the old Memramcook parish cemetery that were exhumed and re-interred at the new church’s cemetery (St. Thomas) when it opened in 1840.
David married secondly Anne Nanette Richard, daughter of René “petit René de Beaupré” and Perpétue Bourgeois, on 4 Feb 1811 in Memramcook, Westmorland County. They were granted dispensations for third to fourth degree of consanguinity and a third degree of affinity. She died shortly after their marriage at the age of 44 in Memramcook.
Dominique-Pierre Melanson was born in captivity in Fort Cumberland in 1765 and was captive there along with his family between 1765 and 1768. Dominique-Pierre Melanson and Anne-Rosalie Babin, daughter of Pierre Babin and Madeleine Bourque, were married on 8 Nov 1783 in Franklin Manor, Minudie. They had five children: Apolline, Isabelle, Laurent “P’Tit Laurent”, Franéçois and Anne. Dominique-Pierre died on 11 Aug 1813 at the age of 48 in Memramcook.

Sources:
1. Michael B. Melanson, Melanson – Melancon: Genealogy of an Acadian and Cajun Family (Dracut, Massachusetts: Lanesville Publishing, 2004).
2. “Baptism Records of St-Jean-Baptiste, Port Royal, Acadia,” database, Nova Scotia Archives (http://www.novascotia.ca/nsarm/virtual/acadian/Default.asp).
3. “Marriage Records of St-Jean-Baptiste, Port Royal, Acadia,” database, Nova Scotia Archives (http://www.novascotia.ca/nsarm/virtual/acadian/Default.asp) .
4. “Baptism Records of St-Jean-Baptiste, Port Royal, Acadia,” database, Nova Scotia Archives (http://www.novascotia.ca/nsarm/virtual/acadian/Default.asp) .

Transcription: Obituary for Major General George Burges Cadwalader

Transcription of an obituary for Major General George Burges Cadwalader.

 

Obituary; General George Cadwalader— General George Cadwalader died in Philadelphia, on Monday afternoon, in the seventy-third year of his age, from an attack resembling apoplexy, with which he was seized on Sunday night. He was a brother of Judge Cadwalader, who died on Sunday week, and was the last of the five sons of General Thomas Cadwalader. The deceased was born in Philadelphia, in 1806, engaged in mercantile business, and filled the position of President of the Mutual Insurance Company for a third of a century. He served gallantly in the Mexican War as well as in the Slaveholders’ Rebellion, and distinguished himself in both position. His record is one of the best which he can safely leave behind as a grand inheritance to his family and friends.

 

Source Image: Bucks County Gazette article, , Bristol, Pennsylvania , 6 Feb 1879, Col. 3

 

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It is recommended to search using both methods as the results can differ greatly due to a glitch in the software that doesn’t connect all images from the bio.

All data for this and numerous others on this site is available for free access and download.

 

This homebody wishes to be part of an Acadian trip to France.

 

Of all of the numerous branches in our family history, there are two of which I am almost obsessive in my interest – and research.

 

Those are my mother’s Acadian roots and my father-in-law’s Welsh Quaker ancestry.

Featured image: La grande derangement (Acadian Expulsion)

 

A few years ago, we had the amazing experience of visiting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for a prolonged camping trip to take in the sights and sounds (and smells) of the lands originally settled by the French Huguenot exiles in the 17th century.

I came across an article on the Daily World website describing a trip to be taken by a group of Acadian descendants from Canada, Louisiana and other US locations. These families had relocated to diverse areas as a result of the Acadian Expulsion (la grande dérangement) at the hands of the British under authority of the king in retaliation for the Acadians’ refusal to swear allegiance to the British king.

La Rochelle, France in 1628.
La Rochelle, France in 1628.

This trip is an amazing opportunity to see and experience the lands from which the original Acadian settlers came.In our family’s case in particular, it would be great to have a chance to visit archives, churches and other repositories to try to trace the origins of our Melanson ancestors.

The couple who originally settled in Acadia were Pierre dit Laverdure and Priscilla Mellanson, as well as their sons, Pierre, Charles and Jean.

It is widely believed that although they traveled from England, Pierre was originally a Huguenot exile from the La Rochelle area of France, who married Priscilla in England, later traveling to Acadia with his family.

Researchers in the past have been unsuccessful in locating documentation proving Pierre’s origin, and I would love a chance to explore the possibilities in France.

Then again, a tour  may not be the best way as a great deal of personal freedom to explore and time to research would be necessary. Perhaps one day, in our retirement, our dream of traveling Europe will come true and I will have my opportunity.

 

Cadwallon ap Cadfan, King of Gwynedd.

 

My children’s 40th great grandfather, Cadwallon ap Cadfan (also Cadwalader, Cadwallon, Caedwalla, Caswallon, Caedwalla, or Catgublaun), King of Gwynedd (presently north Wales), was born about 600 in Gwynedd, and is just one of their many Welsh Quaker ancestors.

 

Cadwallon ap Cadfan's Kingdom of Gwynedd

He was the son of Cadfan (Cadvan) ap Iago, King of Gwynedd (570-625) and Afandreg “Ddu, the Black” ferch Cynan Garwyn (580- ). Cadwallon ap Cadfan was the namesake ancestor for the Cadwallader lineage which continued down through Evan (Dhu) Isaac Shelby, ninth great grandfather of Erin and Stu. and the original Cadwallader descendant who immigrated to Pennsylvania, USA to escape religious persecution.

In 614, Cadwallon ap Cadfan married Alcfrith of Mercia (600-   ), who was only about 14 years of age and the sister of King Penda. Their only child, a son, was St. Cadwaladr (Fendigard, The Blessed) ap Cadwallon, King of Gwynedd, who was born about 630 and died at 52 years of age in 682.

King Eadwine of Northumbria
King Eadwine of Northumbria

It is speculated that Eadwine (later to be King of Northumbria) may have attended with Cadwallon, where animosity grew between them, laying the foundation for hostilities in later years that turned to war. Meanwhile, a deadly rivalry had long existed between Gwynedd and Northumbria. Aethelfrith, the (Fierce, Destroyer), had soundly defeated the Britons in battle at Chester in 613 and after Eadwine left the royal Gwynedd court, he was able to succeed Aethelfrith to a united Northumbrian crown with the intervention of King Redwald of East Anglia in 616.

About 625, Cadwallon ap Cadfan succeeded his father as King of Gwynedd.

Cadwallon ap Cadfan's father's gravestone at Llangadwaladr Church, Anglesey.
Cadwallon ap Cadfan’s father’s gravestone at Llangadwaladr Church, Anglesey.

Afterward, Eadwine began to work toward expanding his kingdom, conquered the kingdom of Elmet (now Yorkshire). and then after Cadfan’s death, went after Gwynedd, Ynys Manaw (Isle of Man) and Ynys Mon (Anglesey). Having experienced several defeats at Ynys Mon, Cadwallon ap Cadfan was forced back to Ynys Lannog (Priestholm) in about 629, where he was further attacked for weeks before he escape to Ireland. After his escape to and brief stay in Ireland, Cadwallon formed an alliance with Penda, King of the Mercians in about 632 and they invaded Deira to defeat Eadwine’s army and killed Eadwine and his son Osfrid in the battle of Heathfield (Hatfield Chase) on October 12, 633.

Despite Cadwallon ap Cadfan being a christian and Penda being a notorious and merciless pagan. Cadwallon’s own viciousness was indeed worse than Penda’s. It is said he worked toward his ambition to eliminate the Anglians from Britain with no limits on his actions, not hesitating to subject women and children to torture and ultimately death. This is, however, believed to be an exaggeration of what actually occurred.

Eadwine had been converted to Christianity by Paulinus, who later retired to Kent. In his retirement, Paulinus was accompanied by the Queen, her daughter, son and grandson, Osric (Eadwine’s cousin) and Eaufrith (Aethelfrith’s son). They renounced their christianity with the hope of recovering the kingdom of Deira and Bernicia, and to win favour with the Mercians. Their efforts were short-lived though, as they were defeated and killed by Cadwallon within the next year.

Saint Oswald of Bernicia
Saint Oswald of Bernicia (Northumbria)

Having proved his prowess as an oppressor, Cadwallon ap Cadfan claimed that his forces were invincible. He was proved wrong, however, when Eaufrith’s young brother and Eadwine’s cousin, Oswald, promised to defeat him. Very soon within the same year, he rallied his army and proceeded to Heavenfield (Hevenfeith), which was situated on a hill north of the Roman wall near Hexham. Here he helped his army erect a cross and they knelt and prayed “to the living and true God, who knew how just their cause was, to save them from their fierce and haughty foe.” With a new-found resolve, they attacked and defeated Cadwallon’s force, driving Cadwallon ap Cadfan into the valley where he was killed in 634 at “the Deniseburn”. Speculation is that this was a creek that flowed to the Tyne.

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The image above links directly to the original document. You can access sources, data, images and documents for these and other individuals, by clicking on the name link, or searching the Blythe Genealogy database site using the surname search link and the ‘All Media‘ search link in the left sidebar.

It is recommended to search using both methods as the results can differ greatly due to a glitch in the software that doesn’t connect all images from the bio.

All data for this and numerous others on this site is available for free access and download.

photo credits: Wikipedia.org

Sources:

  1. Early British Kingdoms; David Nash Ford.
  2. Dictionary of Welsh Biography; Sir John Edward Lloyd, D.Litt., F.B.A., F.S.A. (1861-1947), Bangor.
  3. Wikipedia;  Cadwallon ap Cadfan.
  4. Ancient and Medieval Wales and the Cadwal(l)ader and Quaker Traditions; Anna Baker.
  5. Llywelyn ap Iorwerth Ancestor Table, Rootsweb.com online (http://www.rootsweb.com/~medieval/llywelyn.htm).
  6. Dictionary of National Biography; George Smith, Vols. 1-21 (Oxford Press, 1885-1990).
  7. Ancestry of Cynan Tyndaethwy; Ancient Wales Studies.
  8. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy.

 

Records and Documents from the Past Paint a Picture

Edward VII at Balmoral Castle

I’m a visual thinker.

Every record I find provides information that helps to inform of the living conditions, financial circumstances,  physical health and social times of the people concerned. The more informative the record is, the more vivid is the picture it paints in my mind.

The best example of this I’ve ever seen are the Valuation Rolls of Scotland. I discovered them on ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk.

The one for Balmoral Estate was particularly interesting. I always thought of the estate as just a castle and its grounds but there was much more to it.

According to the 1915 Valuation Rolls, not only was the estate home to the royal family, but to the families of servants, merchants, farmers, gardeners, tradesmen, police officers and a doctor with responsibilities at the estate. To house all of these people and their families, the estate consisted of at least 38 houses and cottages. There were also other amenities present including stables, woodlands, gardens, a deer forest and grazing, a dairy farm, golf course, curling club, sanatorium (if you can call this an ‘amenity’), and there must have been telephone service, or at least plans to install it, as ‘telephone wire’ is listed.

It appears to have operated as its own little ‘town’. The only thing missing on the Rolls is the ‘mayor’ and council, and what town would need them with the royal family present?

In Remembrance.

 

Being from a dedicated military family, this is a somber time of year for us, in remembrance of those in our families who have served, or worse yet, who we lost during military service.

 

The relationships to our children, Erin and Stuart, are in italics following the excerpt.


Remembering those we lost in battle:

 

Coon, David 1843

  • Elisha Cadwallader (1840-1862) – Civil War (4th cousin, 7x removed)
  • Private Joseph Turmaine (1889-1916) – First World War(great granduncle)
    • The 27th Battalion, Winnipeg Regiment left at 2 pm, September 14, 1916 for brigade headquarters, arriving at 5 pm. They then left brigade headquarters at 9 pm and proceeded to the front line to take up position in assembly trenches, which was delayed due to congestion of the trenches…

 

Pte Joseph Philias Albert Emery


Veterans in our family who later passed away:

 

 

Cadwalader, General John Cadwalader (Revolutionary War)

  • General John Cadwalader (1742-1785) – Revolutionary War (3rd cousin, 11x removed)
  • Nathan “Hoppity-Kickity” Porter (1742-1815) – French and Indian War (7th great grandfather)

 

Portrait of Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky.

  • Governor Isaac Shelby (1750-1826) – Revolutionary War, War of 1812 (1st cousin, 8x removed)
    • With a sword presented to him by Henry Clay as voted by the legislature of North Carolina for his gallantry at King’s Mountain 32 years before, Shelby assembled and personally led 4,000 Kentucky volunteers to join General Harrison in the Northwest for the invasion of Canada
  • Private John Jaquish (1753-1845) – War of 1812 (6th great grandfather)
  • Quartermaster Joseph Shelby (1787-1846) – Indian Wars (5th great grandfather)
  • James Shreve (rank unknown) (1754-1839) – War of 1812 (6th great grandfather)

 

Cadwalader, Gen. Thomas.jpg

  • General Thomas Cadwalader (1779-1841) – War of 1812. (3rd cousin 10x removed)

 

Jaques, William H

  • William Henry Jaques (1820-1913) – Civil War (4th great granduncle)
  • Laurent Jude Melanson (1820-1914) – Fenian Raids (3rd great grandfather)
  • Alfred E. Melanson (c. 1847-?) – Fenian Raids (2nd great granduncle)
  • Private Robinson Coke “Boby” Jones (1822-1897) – Mexican War (4th great grandfather)
  • Private William Seth Cadwallader (1825-    ) – Civil War (4th cousin, 7x removed)
  • John Mumby Blythe (1831-    ) – Civil War (3rd great granduncle)
  • Private Francis Elmer Keefer (1839-1863) – Civil War (3rd great granduncle)
  • Charles George Blythe (1840-1914) – Civil War(3rd great grandfather)
    • …his descendants remained in the Louth and Somercotes areas of Lincolnshire until the emigration of his great grandson Thomas Blyth and Thomas’  sons Charles George (3rd great grandfather to Erin and Stuart), John Mumby and Robert to America…

 

Keefer, Lenard Scott 2 (maybe) proof needed

  • Leonard Scott Keefer (1841-1916) – Civil War (3rd great granduncle)

 

Wedding of Elam Dennis Matthews St.

  • William Dennis Matthews (1875-1940) – Spanish American War(2nd great grandfather)
    • Bip, Fred, White and I went down to the armory this evening The Governor’s (Tanner) order, for all Illinois regiments to move to Springfield was read and great applause followed. Came home about 9 o’clock and packed up my belongings…
  • Clayton William Blythe (1883-1943) – First World War (2nd great grandfather)
    • The following men, registered with Selective Service Local Board No. 1, are classified as suspected delinquents. Any person whose name appears upon the list should report immediately to this board, for correction of records.
  • Wesley Elmer Blythe (1890-1977) – First World War (2nd great granduncle)
  • Hervé “Hervey” Turmel (1894-    ) – First World War (4th cousin, 3x removed)

 

Luther Gummeson

  • Private Luther Gummeson (1895-1934) – First World War (great granduncle)
    • Before enlisting for military service on December 10, 1917, he was a Lutheran and a farmer in Vancouver, BC. Rumour had it that his early death was attributed to being gassed during WWI. Before his death, Luther was living in the Peace River area…
  • Joseph Antonio Tumel (1896-    ) – First World War (2nd cousin, 4x removed)
  • Alfred Turmel (1896-    ) – First World War (2nd cousin, 4x removed)
  • Chester C. Blythe (1908-1995) – General Service (great grandfather)
  • Doyle Clement Cadwallader (1925-1944) (6th cousin, 5x removed)
    • “In the midst of life we are in death.
      In the moment that ye think not,
      In the twinkling of an eye,
      The Angel of Death may appear.”
    • The foregoing quotation seems to me very fitting for Doyle Clement Cadwallader, whose death was caused by an automobile accident while he was returning home on September 30, 1944…

 

Dad, c. 1955.


Veterans in our family who are still living:

 

Marsh-at-Night-at-Cabin-Small.jpg

 

Mark and I with my Mom and Dad at our wedding.

 

For more facts and dates about the above mentioned individuals, check out our family’s extensive genealogy database linked in the menu bar above.

What was there?

 

What was there is a website that provides comparative photos of a location in the present day with archived photos from history.

 

My favorite part of genealogy is finding treasured images relating to people, places, events and things in my genealogy research. All of this information provides the color to our ancestors’ stories.

 

So I took a look at “whatwasthere.com” and although the quantity of content is somewhat wanting the premise is ingenious and the images that have been uploaded to the site are wonderful.

Sault Ste. Marie ArchThe “Friendly City Gateway” in Sault Ste. Marie of the 1940’s.

The purpose of this website is to provide a map-based database of locations for which registered users can upload images they hold related to that location.

Since a great deal of my research into my husband’s ancestry is in Pennsylvania, this is where I concentrated my efforts to see what I could find – and I was pleasantly surprised! There were dozens of images available, mostly of historic buildings and landmarks, as well as some background information for each image.

I also checked out Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, which is where I currently live, and the results weren’t nearly as numerous.

Vancouver, on the other hand, about one hour’s drive away has several images uploaded. It appears the larger city centers have the most available. I guess this isn’t so surprising when one really thinks about it.

One feature of this site that I love is the street view. It’s a comparison view where a continuous image is created by combining the uploaded vintage image and a current image next to it.

I performed this function for an image in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario showing the entry sign near the Michigan border crossing.

The vintage image is transparent enough that part of the skyrise in the current image can be seen where it would have been located at the time.

Sault Ste. Marie is the birthplace of my father. He lived there with his parents until he joined the Canadian Armed Forces about 1957. His father worked in the Algoma Steel Mill and actually died on shift in the plant.

This site as I feel it has the potential to be one of the most valuable available to genealogists and history buffs.