I am going to cheat a little for this post and talk about one of my husband’s ancestors, Hans Michael Hold, Sr., and his involvement with the Hebron Lutheran Church. The Hebron Lutheran Church is located in Madison, Virginia, the original building built in 1740 is still standing, and the church itself is the oldest Lutheran church still in use in America.
Hans Michael Hold is the 8th great grandfather of my husband, and I have just recently researched this line and am proud to say that I have complete documentation in place from my husband to Hans Michael. This is often hard to accomplish when living far from the states where the records exist, but I have managed it this time!
Hans Michael has a very compelling story, and we are fortunate that 1) the American records are readily available 2) the church records in Germany are in tact and 3) there is a whole society dedicated to the research and preservation of the settlement where Hans Michael lived after newly arriving from Germany.
Hans Michael was baptized on 30 Dec 1696 in Stetten am Heuchelberg in Baden, Germany, the youngest child of Martin Hold and his second wife, Anna Maria Brückmann. Martin Hold died in 1710, and 7 years later, his widow, her new husband, and son Hans Michael attempted to immigrate to Pennsylvania with other Germans with the same religious convictions. However, their ship captain sold the passengers on board as indentured servants to Alexander Spottswood (a governor of Virginia) to clear his debts. Not speaking any English, the Germans, including Hans Michael and his family, were trapped.
They served out their terms of seven years at the Germanna settlement in Virginia where Spottswood ran an iron works. An amazing part of this story is that the site has been preserved and can be visited! (Put that on my list of genealogy relate sites to visit.)
Understandably, after Hans Michael finished his servitude, he moved his family to the Robinson Valley in present day Madison, Virginia. While there, Hans Michael joined the other German families in a new Lutheran congregation called Hebron. The congregation needed funds to build a church large enough to house the 274 worshipers, so in 1734, Hans Michael and two other members, Reverend Johann Caspar Stoever and Michael Smith, traveled to London, Germany, and Holland, to raise the funds. They raised the money, but Hans Michael and Stoever had an argument during the trip and Stoever died on the return journey to Virginia. The church was built in 1740 and originally measured 50 ft by 26 ft but several additions have been made to the structure over the years.
This beautiful church my husband’s ancestors helped build and where they worshiped is still an active place of worship. We are both hoping to visit the church and the area in the future. It’s always such a treat to be able to step into a place where ancestors lived and breathed; it somehow provides a special connection to them that isn’t attainable when looking at records. I think this is particularly true for this church and Hans Michael. His Lutheran faith was obviously so important to him and his family that he left Germany for it and later willing returned to Germany and London (where his future as an indentured servant was sealed) in order to provide a house for his religious community. A meaningful place to him will be a meaningful place to us.
Well…it has been a LONG time since I last wrote a blog post for 52 Ancestors. This year, like every year I suppose, has been very hectic, and some unexpected medical problems dominated the second half of 2019. So, I will be playing catch up with these prompts for a while.
Today’s topic (or rather last April’s topic) is DNA. I will confess that while I have taken the Ancestry.com DNA test (and forced the rest of my family to do so as well) and the Nat Geo test to find out my maternal haplogroup, I have not really taken advantage of DNA as much as I should have. But, from what little I have done, I have found some “new” cousins, shared and received great information and photos, and have learned about my deep roots.
I originally tested with Ancestry.com back in 2014. There have been several updates since, so over the years I have gained, lost, and regained regions. As of 2020, My ethnicity regions are: Great Britain/Northwest Europe 85%, Ireland/Scotland 12%, and Germanic Europe 3%. No surprises here, in fact this is very expected. The majority of my tree is dominated by people of English descent, with plenty of Scots and Irish, and quite a few German lines as well. In fact, I did expect the German to be a larger part of my DNA results, but some of that is probably reflected in the Great Britain/Northwest Europe category.
Over the years, I have made some great connections through the DNA feature. I met one cousin who was able to supply me with a photograph of William Althauser, one of my very favorite ancestors, as well as a deposition in which he gave an account of his life for his naturalization application. I met another cousin who helped me find William’s mother’s family in Cincinnati. I also found a DNA connection to two of my friends at work, which was pretty incredible.
So far, I have not found any big surprises or crazy stories like some people have, but honestly, I am happy just to see that the records seem to match the science.
NAT GEO Results
After taking the Ancestry.com test, I read The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes, and that inspired me to take the Nat Geo DNA test so that I could find out my maternal haplogroup. I was so curious! Which of the seven daughters would I be descended from??
The answer: none of them. Instead, I am a part of the Ulrike group, which is a subgroup of Ursula, one of the seven daughters. So, it seems I am a descendant of Ursula, but when a mutation occurred, then Ulrike was produced. My haplogroup is U4c1a, so if anyone is a part of this group, let me know! U4 is relatively rare in modern populations and is most often found in Scandinavia and the Baltic states. I have not traced anyone on my mother’s direct line to either of these areas, so this line may have migrated to Scotland or Ireland with the Vikings, which is really fun to consider.
DNA results have been fun to see and learn about, but I really do need to take advantage of the resources I have to help my genealogical research. Hopefully I will have more time this year to devote to studying DNA!
Oh, so many brick walls, so few records. My battle with them make sgenealogy both exciting yet frustrating. I have conquered several of my brick walls over the past few years. Sometimes once I smash through, the records are plentiful and I can keep researching. Others are met with another brick wall or two immediately after my success.
But, there are others, like Sarah H. Hill, who just refuse to yield their secrets, leaving me stuck (at least, at the moment). I know quite a bit about Sarah, but not enough to be able to place her in a family group with certainty.
Here is what I know about Sarah’s background, family, and origins:
Sarah was born in 1827. This date is on her tombstone.
Sarah was born in Tennessee. All of the census records agree on this point.
Sarah’s maiden name was Hill. The death certificates of her sons, Lyndol and Richard, and daughter, Addie, both give her name as Sarah Hill. This is also supported by her marriage record Nathan C. Davis. Her name is recorded as Sarah H. Hill.
Sarah was possibly married twice. There is a Sarah H. Hill who married Alvin A. Johnson on 17 September 1844 in Marshall County, Tennessee. Oddly, if this was indeed her first marriage, I would think that her name would be Sarah Johnson in her marriage record to Nathan, rather than Sarah Hill.
Both of Sarah’s parents were born in North Carolina. Unfortunately, many Hills in Marshall County were born in North Carolina, so this is helpful but it also doesn’t really narrow down anything.
In 1880, a Betsy Glenn is living with Nathan and Sarah. She is recorded as Nathan’s sister-in-law. None of Nathan’s siblings married a Glenn, and like Sarah, both of Betsy’s parents were born in North Carolina. It is possible that Betsy is Sarah’s sister.
As you can see, there are many clues to her origins but so far, those clues haven’t produced information about her parents.
Wills in Marshall County, Tennessee
Unfortunately, few Hill family members left wills in Marshall County. The five wills written in 1909 and before were of particular interest to me – John Hill, Richard Hill, Emily Hill, A. W. Hill, and John F. Hill – but sadly, none of them contained any reference to my Sarah Hill or Sarah Davis.
I did, however, find who I believe are the parents of the Betsy Glenn living with Nathan and Sarah in 1880. In 1857, Samuel Glenn wrote his will, naming wife Frances Ann and daughters Elizabeth M. Glenn, Mary N. A. Glenn, and Susan S. A. Glenn. His son, Samuel A., and son in law David Nix, husband of Samuel’s daughter Frances, were named administrators.
Like the Besty Glenn living with Sarah and Nathan, she was born about 1819 or 1820 in Tennessee, she never married, and both parents were born in North Carolina. After looking at the evidence, Betsy Glenn and Elizabeth Glenn, daughter of Samuel, are definitely the same person. Going back to the 1880 census, it seems that the label of “sister-in-law” in relation to Nathan Davis is probably incorrect. Betsy Glenn was not Sarah H. Hill’s sister, and so far, I have not been able to find a connection between the Glenns and the Davis family. However, I have not yet had the chance to research deeds and court cases in Marshall or Lincoln Counties as of yet. These records often reveal familial relationships when wills are missing or vague.
Possible Hill Relatives
Often, when I do not know where to turn, I look at the names of a couple’s children for inspiration. Sarah and Nathan had six children: Richard E., Steel C., Albert E., Richard Lee, Addie E., and my ancestor, Newton Harrison. Of all of these names, Steel was the most unusual.
I began searching on Findagrave.com using the names Steel and Hill, and I found a family cemetery in Lewisburg in which was buried the family of Isaac H. Hill and Margaret (Steele) Hill. At first, I was very hopeful that this Isaac and Margaret Hill might be my Sarah’s parents.
My Sarah named one of her sons Steel, which was Margaret (Steele) Hill’s maiden name.
Isaac and Margaret Hill’s children were born in the 1820s and 1830s, making them the correct ages for Sarah’s siblings.
Their last name was Hill, and they lived close to the Davis farm.
Isaac Hill’s father’s name was Richard, and two of Sarah’s sons were named Richard.
Sadly, this hunch was also wrong. Isaac and Margaret did have a daughter named Sarah, and like mine, she was born in 1827. However, that Sarah Hill married Andrew Bryant, and their family is well-documented. I was so close!
So far, my investigation into Sarah H. Hill Davis has been fruitless. Every time I believe I have made progress, I find documents that prove just the opposite. I suppose that failure is also progress because failure helps to eliminate possible immediate family members. I still believe that even if Sarah doesn’t fit into the Isaac/Margaret Hill family as one of their children, she might be related to them in another way.
At this time, I am optimistic that records in Marshall County that I have not yet perused might provide some answers. I suppose I need to plan another genealogy trip!
When searching for immigrant ancestors who came through New York, I have found that checking The Evening Post for ships lists sometimes gives additional information about the ship, its progress, and its passengers. The marine lists in later papers tend to be more detailed, but that doesn’t mean earlier ones should be forgotten!
My 5th great grandparents, Martin Krieg and Barbara Mörch, left their home in Opfingen, Baden to begin a new life outside of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1837. Martin and Barbara sold their house, land, and moveable property to pay for the passage of themselves, 5 of their children – Barbara, Johann Georg, Salome, Johann, Johann Jakob – and their 2 grandchildren – Eva and Johann Martin. The family made the journey from Opfingen to the French port, Le Havre, where they boarded the ship Magestic in late June and early July.
Below is the Marine List printed in The Evening Post on 14 August 1837.
This small article reports what ships left and arrived from the Post of New York on that day. The ship that concerns my research is in the section “arrived since our last.” It reads:
Ship Majestic, Purrington, of Bath, from Havre, 2d July, in ballast to C & J Barstow. 33,000 francs to T & G Patton of Bath. Left, ships Equator, Bisson, of Boston, for New York in 5 days: Havre, McKown, for Baltimore or New York the 10th, and others before reported. 150 passengers.
This article tells us a few things. The Majestic carried 150 passengers, of which the Krieg group was a part. However, if you read the entire passenger manifest, there are actually 156 people recorded.
The ship was originally from Bath, England. As the ship was traveling “in ballast,” it likely means that the only passengers were on board and no cargo. Ballast, or heavy material like stones, brick, slate, or flagstones, was used to weigh the ship down and keep it balanced. So, when the ship Majestic reached its destination, it dropped the passengers in New York, and the ship’s master, Joseph H. Purrington, traded their weight and the ballast for actual cargo that would be then transported back across the Atlantic.
The article also gives the departure date – 2 July. It took about 6.5 weeks for the Majestic to reach New York. This is a very long time for a family to be stuck on board with 148 other passengers plus crew. Fortunately for the passengers on this ship, no deaths were reported and all of the Kriegs arrived in New York safely.
Below is another article that appeared in The Evening Post on 15 August. It gives some information about the prices of certain goods sold in Le Havre, including cotton, coffee from Havana, Indigo, and copper from Peru. Products like cotton could have been collected in New York to be sold in France on ships like the Majestic.
Before the passengers could disembark, the master of the ship, Purrington, had to record the name, age, gender, occupation, former place of residence, and destination of each passenger. Sometimes the master wrote down incorrect or vague information rather than obtaining details from the passengers that genealogists would deem very important. Everyone is listed as a laborer, from Baden, and going to Ohio. Here is a partial list showing the Krieg family:
Listed are: Martin and his wife Barbara, daughter Salome, Jean, Jean, Jean, Eva, Martin, and Barbara. Jean of course is the French version of Johann, the three boys being Johann Georg, Johann, and Johann Jakob. After disembarking, the family left New York and made their way to Cincinnati and Martin and Barbara’s oldest son, Martin, who was already living in the U.S.
This week, I took some inspiration from the “10” prompt from 2018, which featured my 10th great grandfather, Nicholas Spencer. So here is “12,” a post about my 12th great grandmother, Dame Anne Gostwick.
Connection to Nicholas Spencer
Going back 12 generations is a very difficult task, especially early in the colonial period when records in certain places are now somewhat scarce. I have managed to go back this far for a few family lines, and the Spencer line is undoubtedly one of my favorites, not least because it is full of fascinating characters. This line is special to me because not only did I research stateside, but I also had the opportunity to research it in England. That experience was unforgettable!
I have written several posts about the Spencer/Ariss/Moss/Swift family for this challenge, but the one with the most relevance to Dame Anne is the post about Nicholas Spencer. At the beginning of that post, I gave some information pertaining to Nicholas’s family background. His most distinguished line came through his mother, Lady Mary Armiger, whose parents were Sir Edward Gostwick, baronet, and Dame Anne Gostwick, nee Wentworth. Dame Anne Gostwick, therefore, is Nicholas’s maternal grandmother.
Dame Anne Gostwick was born Anne Wentworth to John Wentworth, Esquire and Cecily Unton.  Anne’s mother, Cecily Unton, had a quite impressive pedigree. She was the daughter of Sir Edward Unton and Lady Anne Seymour, Countess of Warwick.  Last year, I wrote a post about Lady Anne Seymour, which can be found here. She was the daughter of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and his wife, Anne (Stanhope) Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. Both were descended from Edward III. Queen Jane Seymour was Edward’s sister, and Queen Catherine Parr was his sister-in-law. This made Edward and Anne Seymour’s children, including daughter Anne, first cousins of King Edward VII. Lady Anne’s first husband was John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, turning Lady Anne into a countess.  Dudley died young, and her second husband was Sir Edward Unton, a gentleman from a well-established family in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, though the marriage was a lowly connection in comparison to the Seymours and Dudleys.  Lady Anne and Sir Edward Unton’s oldest daughter, Cecily, married John Wentworth, Esquire of Gosfield Hall in Essex in 1580. 
The Wentworth family was situated in Gosfield, Essex. John Wentworth was his father’s heir, and on his death in 1588, he inherited Gosfield Hall. John was a descendant of the De Spenser family, as well as the Boleyns. His great grandfather was Queen Anne Boleyn’s second cousin. 
John Wentworth and his wife, Cecily, were the parents of Dame Anne, the subject of this post.
Early Life and Clandestine Marriage
John and Cecily Wentworth’s oldest daughter, Anne, was born at her father’s estate, Gosfield Hall, Essex, and was baptized on 3 March 1589/90.  Anne had two older brothers, John and William, one older sister Mary, and four younger sisters, Diana, Cecily, Elizabeth, and Catherine.  Anne and her siblings grew up at Gosfield Hall, a beautiful house built in 1545 which had hosted Elizabeth I on several occasions. The Hall is still standing, has been added onto over the years, and is now a wedding venue.
Where and how Anne met her husband, Sir Edward Gostwick, is a mystery. Sir Edward was the son of Sir John Gostwick and his wife Dame Jane Owen, herself a descendant of Edward III, Owen Tudor, the Woodville family, and the Dukes of Stafford.  Sir Edward attended Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1606, though he only remained at the college for a year. Likely, he attended to make connections. He was subsequently knighted at Whitehall Palace in 1607.  As Willington, Sir Edward’s home, and Gosfield, where Anne was born, are rather far apart, it is quite likely that the two met in London. In fact, Anne’s sister Diana married in London in May 1608 and Cecily married there in 1609.
The marriage of Anne Wentworth and Sir Edward Gostwick was laballed a “clandestine” marriage, according to the entry in the Gosfield Parish records. Here it is in Latin:
D[omi]nus Edwardus Gosticke, Miles, duxit [in] uxorem Annam Wentworth, filiam Joh[ann]is Wentworth, arm[ige]ri, 11 die Aprilis, clandestine in aedibus dicti Joh[ann]is Wentworth, Thomas Banbridge, p[res]bitero, dictum matrimon[ium] celebranti, 1608. 
Master Edward Gosticke, Knight, took to wife Anna Wentworth, daughter of John Wentworth, armsbearer, 11 of April, surreptitiously in the said house of John Wentworth, Thomas Bandridge, priest celebrating the marriage.
At first, this sounds quite scandalous, but what did “clandestine” mean in the 17th century? A clandestine marriage was one that was missing several elements of a typical marriage: banns were not read, a marriage license was not obtained, the marriage did not take place in one of the parishes from which the bride or groom was from, and/or the marriage did not take place in a church. The only requirement that could not be neglected was that the couple was married by an Anglican priest.
In Edward and Anne’s case, it seems it was deemed “clandestine” because they were married at Gosfield Hall rather than at the parish church. I wonder why they chose to do this? Gosfield Hall was of course Anne’s home and it is absolutely beautiful, but why would they choose a clandestine marriage over a traditional one in the local church?
One of the main reasons for clandestine marriages was to avoid parental consent issues. As Edward and Anne were married at Gosfield Hall, does that mean that it was possible Edward’s parents, Sir William Gostwick, Baronet, and Dame Jane Gostwick, did not approve of his marriage to Anne, whose father was not titled though he bore his family’s arms? I suppose this is quite possible. Even though his parents were titled, Anne’s family was impressive.
Another reason for clandestine marriages was to hide a pregnancy. Again, this is another possibility for Edward and Anne. However, I have not seen any evidence that this was an issue.
I may never know why they chose a clandestine marriage, but it adds something very unique to their story!
Baronetcy and Children
Sir Edward had been knighted by James I before his marriage to Anne, but he did not succeed to the Baronetcy until 19 September 1615 when his father died. By then, his three oldest children had been born. 
Anne gave birth to at least 8 children who grew to adulthood: Elizabeth, Mary, Edward, William, Thomas, Anne, Jane, and Frances. The children were named in her will, and her monument in Willington Church recorded that she had 3 sons and 5 daughters.
Elizabeth: Baptized 17 March 1611 in Willington, Bedfordshire 
Mary: Baptized 26 December 1612 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) 
Frances: Baptized 19 February 1615 in Bisham, Berkshire 
William: Baptized 12 September 1616 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) 
Jane: Baptized 20 October 1618 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) 
Edward: Baptized 30 March 1620 in Gravely, Hertfordshire 
Thomas: Baptized 3 July 1621 in Gravely, Hertfordshire 
Hannah: Baptized 9 December 1622 in Gravely, Hertfordshire 
Anne: Baptized 12 August 1624 in Gravely, Hertfordshire 
William: Baptized 17 October 1630 in Willington, Bedfordshire 
As a second William was born in 1630, the older William must have died young. Hannah was not mentioned in her mother’s will, which means she is not one of the 5 daughters referenced on her mother’s monument. All of the above children’s baptismal records listed Edward Gostwick as the father, but only the baptisms that took place in Norton also listed Anne.
Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s Deaths
Much of Dame Anne’s adult life was probably spent moving around the Gostwicks’ property, giving birth to her children, raising them, and then helping with their marriages. Sadly, Sir Edward died on 20 September 1630 at the age of 42, 15 years to the day of his father’s burial.  He was buried in Willington Church in the Gostwick Chapel. A beautiful monument affixed to the wall exhibits statues of him, his wife Anne, their 5 adult daughters, and 2 of their sons.
One of the saddest parts of this story is that Sir Edward died a month before his youngest child, William, was baptized. It is possible that he met his son before his death, but it is equally as possible that he missed his birth and baptism. This would have been such a difficult thing for Dame Anne to endure.
Dame Anne only lived another three years. She died on 6 July 1633 and was buried with her husband. The most remarkable part of their deaths and burial is their burial monument. The inscriptions give such a sweet glimpse into their personal lives. Here is the first inscription:
To the memories of Sir Edward Gostwyke Knt. and Baronet, and Dame Anna his wife, eldest daughter of John Wentworth of Gosfield in Essex, Esqr., by whom he had issue 3 sonnes and 5 daughters. (They lived vertuously and died religiously). Shee in her widowhood like a true Turtle never joying after his departure till her dyinge Day.
Here is the second inscription:
On the death of Sir Edward Gostwyk Knight and Baronet. Chronogram. – Edward Gostwyk died 20th September, 1630, aged 42.
On the death of the most select Lady. Chronogram. – And the wife hastens to join her husband 6th July, 1633, Aged 42.
As a bright example of fidelity and social love, this marble is inscribed with the name of Gostwyk. They lived equal in piety and second to none. The one was quite wrapt up in the love of the other. He first yielded to fate, that she might not yield. She, however, was not a whit behind her husband in love. He, when he had numbered both thrice and four times six years (42), said, ‘O Anna, I have lived out my days,’ and fell asleep. She, when she had completed the years of her beloved husband, said, ‘O Edward, I have lived out mine,” and fell asleep. Thus they lived alike in mind, husband and wife; thus in life and mind alike they fell asleep. 
Isn’t that just beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful? They must have been truly in love with one another, and it was quite apparent to whoever commissioned the inscriptions.
A Few Observations
– The “turtle” mentioned in the inscription is actually a reference to a turtle dove, known for “the constancy of its affection.” Another sweet testament to their love.
– Thinking back on their clandestine marriage, the inscriptions shed a new light on the circumstances. I would be willing to assume that Sir Edward and Dame Anne were quite in love with one another, and perhaps the his parents in fact did not approve of their marriage. Whatever the reason, they were definitely in love and were ready to get married.
Dame Anne’s Will
Sir Edward did not leave a will, but Dame Anne did. I am always thrilled when I find a will for any family member, but for me, it is incredibly special when I find one for an ancestress. For many women, it is one of the few places where their voices can truly be heard. Even better, Dame Anne left a will in 1633. 1633! That is 386 year ago!
Below are a few of the most important or genealogically interesting sections of her will:
In the name of God Amen, The fifteenth day of May in the year of our lord God according to the computacion of the Church of England one Thousand five hundred therty three I Ann Gostwicke widdowe late wyfe of Sr Edward Gostwicke of Willington in the County of Bedford beinge att the the time in reasonable helth and perfect Remembrance for which I doe blesse and praise Allmighty God…
I bequeath my soule to Allmighty God…
My body I committ to the earth from where ytt came to be privately buryed in the Parish of Willington in that Church so neare my dear husband as…will permitt and appoint my beloved Cosen Mr William Ashwell Gentleman and Merchant of London to bee my sole Executour…
I doe bequeath to Mr Hoyvill Preacher of Gods word in Willington the summe of fforty shillinges to Mr Cookson Minister twenty five shillinges to Mr Rydings Minister twenty two shillinges to my Cosen Panmer minister twenty two shillinges to buy them gold Ringes wth deathes hands
I doe bequeath to my sister…my ringe sett wth greene stones and three other ringes I have allready given wth my owne hands
the rest of my Jewells I doe give my Daughter Elizabeth and Ffrancis Gostwicke to bee equally devided
I doe bequeath my sister Katheryn Wentworth a silver porrindge of forty shillinges
I doe bequeath my dahter Mary Spencer my two silver candlesticks
I doe bequeath to my sister [Diana] Bowles fowre children twenty two shillinges a peece
I doe bequeath to my Gentlewoman Mary Payne my gowne and petticote of black satten and the summe of Tenn poundes of lawfull English money
all my other apparell I doe bequeath to my fowre daughters Bes Ffrank Joane and Anne to be distributed Bes to choose first then Frank
I doe bequeath all my child bedd linen…to my house of Willington and all damaske and diaper and all sets of table linnen whatsoever all holland sheetes and pillow…to be safely kept to remain to the house as long as they will endure wth carefull usage
and for all the ordinary howshowld sheets I doe bequeath to my two daughters Bes and Ffranke to bee equally devided but not to bee given them till they bee maryed
I doe bequeath to my servant Ffrancis Reade the summe of forty shillings and to my servant Masson twenty shillinges and to my two Chambermaydes each of them twenty shillinges and to the rest of my yearly servants tenn shillinges a peece and to the poore of Willington yf I bee buryed there fforty shillinges yf I die in London forty shillinges to the uphowldinge of that Parish Church in which God called mee all the rest of my estate whatsoever I doe bequeath to my Executor performinge my will as for the goods I tooke to my owne use I can owne — money uppon them consideringe I have kept all my Children in meate and apparell even since the diparture of their deare ffather…
Signed Anne Gostwick 
Dame Anne’s Will – Observations
What an amazing will! There are so many points to discuss!
After reading through the will again after writing about the burial monument, the sincerity of her use of “dear husband” or “deare ffather” really struck me. It seems that she was very much in love with him, and her request to be buried as close to him as possible was very sweet.
There were several people missing from her will: her sons! Not one of her sons was mentioned in her will. I suppose this is because the 13 year old heir, her son Sir Edward, would automatically inherit the majority of his father’s property. Her other two sons, Thomas and William, were both under 10 years old. I am wondering if some other provisions were made for the sons elsewhere. This will go on the list of “things to research!”
Daughters and Bequests
She was sure to include all of her daughters: Elizabeth, Mary, Frances, Jane, and Anne. I love that she used some her daughters’ nicknames rather than their full names: Bes for Elizabeth, Franke for Francis, and Joan for Jane. That brings a bit of personality and private life to a very formal document.
Both Mary and Bess were married. Mary (my 11th great grandmother) married Nicholas Spencer, Esquire on 20 January 1629 in Ravensden, Bedfordshire. Mary’s wedding was the only one attended by both of her parents.  Bess married Miles Matthews on 13 March 1632. Their license, issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is quite informative:
1632-Mch. 13 – Miles Matthews, of Bishop’s Hatfield, co. Herts, Esq., Bachr, 33, & Elizabeth Gostwicke, Spr, 23, dau. of Sir Edward Gostwick, late of Willington Herts, Kt & Bart, decd., with consent of her mother Dame Ann Gostwicke, of Willington afsd, Widow, at St. Faith’s London, or Wormleigh, co. Herts. 
This is definitely my Bess, as the parents listed in her license leave no room for doubt there. In Dame Anne’s will, she states that if she dies in London, etc., so she must have been traveling between Willington and St. Faith’s Parish in London. St. Faith’s Church is longer standing, but it was attached to the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is likely the Parish church to which Dame Anne was referring in her will. Notably, Dame Anne gave her consent for their marriage, different from her own clandestine marriage.
Mary only received silver candlesticks, but she had likely been given other items upon her marriage. Her sisters received clothing, jewels, and ordinary house linen. As the main house in Willington would go to her son, Dame Anne wanted all the best linen to stay with the house.
Bequests to Servants
Dame Anne also left items and money to her servants. This gives me just a little insight into Anne’s daily life. As the wife of a Baronet, she was constantly surrounded by servants who helped her care for her children, run her house, and run her estate.
She names first her gentlewoman, Mary Payne, to whom she bequeaths a gown and petticoat of black satin and some money. A gentlewoman, used in this context, refers to a lady’s companion. A lady’s companion was a woman of genteel birth whose social status was slightly lower than the lady whom she was serving. Mary Payne, therefore, was probably from a respectable family, and though she wasn’t a serving girl, she was not the social equal of Dame Anne. Her main duties would include spending time with Dame Anne, reading to her or with her, providing conversation, and general companionship. She would be paid an allowance, would sleep in nice rooms in the home, help entertain, and accompany her mistress to social events. It seems that Dame Anne was a bit sad and lonely after the death of Sir Edward, so Mary Payne probably helped cheer her.
Dame Anne needed other female servants to perform other tasks within the household. Francis Reade was also given money, and was simply called a servant. She was likely the woman who supervised the other servants within the house, purchased items for the house, and kept accounts. Frances could possibly be a lady’s maid, who would have been in charge or dressing Dame Anne, caring for her clothes, running errands, and taking care of any personal issues her mistress might have.
Dame Anne also mentions two chambermaids, but does not give their names. The chambermaids would have been in charge of taking care of the rooms within the house, tending the fires, changing linen, and other small tasks the mistress needed completed.
The only male servant named was Masson, and he could have been tasked with any number of things, from accounts to horses.
Dame Anne also employed an unspecified number of other servants who she engaged on a yearly basis. These servants were probably house maids, kitchen maids, grooms, and page boys. These servants could also refer to any person who worked on the estate in any capacity.
I think it is fair to say that Dame Anne lived a life that was materially comfortable. She born into some luxury, married a baronet, and had a gaggle of servants to see to her and her family’s every need. Dame Anne is a good example of a 17th-century, noble woman who lived a fairly typical upper class life.
This was such a long post, so thanks for staying with me until the end! The more research I conducted on Dame Anne, the more I came to really connect with her. I think her love story is so sweet, especially for a the 17th century, though incredibly sad at the same time. Her will is definitely a treasure, and it provided such a fantastic window into the life of a noble woman. I am certainly fortunate to have found so much information about an ancestress who lived so long ago.
1. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 30th p., Anne Wentworth baptism (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.
2. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 46.
3. Westminster Abbey, (Westminster, London, England), Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset monumental inscription, read by R. Vaughn, 23 April 2018.
4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 48.
4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 42-48.
23. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.
24. The Home Counties Magazine, Devoted to the Topography of London, Middlesex, Essex, Herts, Bucks, Berks, Surrey, and Kent, vol. 9 (London: Reynell & Son, 1907), 154.
25. Dame Ann Gostwicke will, Willington, Bedfordshire, 1633; PROB 11/163/736, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Wills and Letters of Administration, The National Archives, Kew, England; imaged at “Discovery,” database, The National Archives (https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D866438 : accessed 11 May 2019).
As everyone can probably see, I have used the past few days to play “catch up” with my genealogy posts! This spring has been surprisingly busy for me, and yesterday was the first day that I took some time to work on a project. Two of my project stars, Thomas Bills and Mary Collins, will also be the stars of this post!
Looking at my family tree, my ancestors either had very large families (I will call 8 or more large), or they had very small families (1 or 2 children). Very few fall in the middle ground, which to me is quite fascinating. Thomas and Mary Bills fall in the large family category, being the parents of at least 11 children that lived to adulthood. This definitely qualifies as a large family!
Who Were Thomas and Mary?
As I said earlier, Thomas and Mary are two stars of my most recent research project, and I find them particularly interesting because Thomas Bills was a Quaker and Mary Collins was not. Thomas’s paternal family were originally from Monmouth, New Jersey. In the 1760s, the Bills moved to a Quaker community in Surry County, North Carolina, and they eventually made their way to Maury and Marshall Counties, Tennessee. Thomas’s maternal family were also Quakers for many generations, but they came to North Carolina from Virginia.
Mary Collins is a bit of a mystery for me. I know almost nothing about her background except that she was not a Quaker. I have seen potential parents on other researchers’ trees, but as I have not been able to research her myself, for now, I will just leave that part of her story out. She was born in North Carolina between 1794 and 1799 (her ages are not very consistent throughout the census records).
Thomas Bills and Mary Collins became acquainted with each other while living in Surry County, and their courtship and marriage caused some ripples through the Quaker community. The younger generation of Bills were marrying men and women outside of the faith, which resulted in their dismissal. Twelve Bills cousins were dismissed between 1794 and 1816, including Thomas.
Thomas married Mary Collins on 11 Feb 1813. His bondsman was his uncle, Gersham Bills, one of his father’s younger brothers.
On 3 April 1813, Thomas was dismissed from the Deep Creek Quaker community:
Move to Tennessee
I wonder how Thomas’s parents and grandparents reacted to his marriage. Were they unhappy? Were they shocked? Were they mad? Whatever their feelings, the whole Bills clan packed up and moved to Tennessee in about 1816 or 1817. Even if his marriage was controversial, the extended family did not split up and no visible ruptures (at least, from what I can see) happened to the family.
About three years into their marriage, Mary gave birth to their first documented child: Jonathan D. Bills. Jonathan was the only child (whose name I have found) who was born in North Carolina. The next documented child, Lucinda, was born about 1817 in Tennessee. Below is the 1820 Census:
Thomas Bills is the male between 26 and 44, and Mary is one of the females between 16 and 25. One of the males under 10 is Jonathan D., and one of the females under 10 is Lucinda. So that leaves 3 people unaccounted for: 1 male under 10, 1 female under 10, and 1 female between 16 and 25. Who are these people?
This will require some more research, but the older female could be one of Thomas’s sisters or one of Mary’s sisters (if she had any). The other two children could be the other female’s children, or they could be two of Thomas and Mary’s children who were alive during 1820, but whose names I do not know. By 1830, the mystery daughter has disappeared. If they are Thomas and Mary’s children, that means Mary might have given birth to 13 children!
Ten years later, the family had grown larger:
Thomas is the male between 30 and 39, and Mary is the female between 30 and 39. Jonathan D. is the male between 10 and 14, and Lucinda is the female between 10 and 14. That leaves 1 male between 10 and 14 whose name I do not know. He is likely the same child as the one in the 1820 census under the age of 10. The new children include: Daniel and Matthew (ages 5-9), Rachel and Annie (under 5), and William J. (under 5). This leaves 1 male between 5 and 9 who is another mystery. The count now is 14 children, 3 whose names I have not been able to determine.
After another 10 years, the household has grown once more. First, the easy ones to identify: Thomas is the male between 50 and 59 and Mary is the female between 40 and 49.
The oldest son, Jonathan D., is one of the males between 20 and 29. Again, the mystery other older son is recorded, also between 20 and 29. Daniel is one of the males between 15 and 19, and the other mystery son in the same age range is also recorded. Matthew is the male between 10 and 15, and William J. is the male between 5 and 9.
The daughters are a little easier to identify. The little girl alive in 1820 never makes another appearance, so I can assume that she died early. Lucinda and Rachel are the two daughters between 20 and 29, Annie Catherine is the daughter between 10 and 14, Mary and Sarah are the females between 5 and 9, and the youngest daughter, Alsey Mahaley, is the youngest child under 5.
And here is my large family in 1850. Immediately, I spot an issue with Mary’s age. It is listed as 35 which, of course, cannot be possible. This is just a census taker error. The newest addition is John C., born in about 1842.
Some Observations – Marital Status
After combing through theses census records, what I found most interesting was how old many of the children were to still be living at home, unmarried!
The oldest son, Jonathan D., married for the first time when he was 57 in 1873.
Sadly, I lose both Lucinda and Rachel after 1850, so either they married and I haven’t found records for them, or they both died before 1860.
Daniel W. never married, and lived with his mother, brother Jonathan, and Jonathan’s wife during his adult life.
Sarah also remained single and lived with her mother and unmarried siblings.
The other children were a bit more conventional; they married in their late teens and twenties, and had children. This large family expanded some in the third generation, but not as much as might be expected.
More Observations – Naming Patterns
The Bills family were very close, and this is possibly best demonstrated by their naming patterns. Here are four generations of the family:
Daniel Bills m. Deborah Denman, whose children were:
William, Gersham, Hannah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Isaac Newton, Rachel, Patience, Daniel, Jonathan D., John
William Bills m. Susannah Hutchins (daughter of John Hutchins and Alice Stanley), whose children were:
Gersham, Daniel Baxter, Jonathan D., John, Deborah, Thomas, Mary Jane, and Alcey
Thomas Bills m. Mary Collins, whose children were:
Jonathan D., Lucinda, Rachel, Daniel W., Matthew W., Annie Catherine, William J., Sarah H., Mary J., Alsey Mahaley, and John C.
Thomas and Mary’s children were clearly named after family members. Mary J. shares a name with her mother and paternal aunt, while William J. has the same name as his paternal grandfather. Jonathan D., Daniel, and John were all named for their paternal uncles, paternal great uncles, a great grandfather, and a great-great grandfather. Alsey was likely named for her paternal aunt and her paternal great grandmother, Alice, and Rachel for her paternal great aunt. (As you can see, everyone mentioned is named for their father’s side because I don’t have the maternal line to compare. Hopefully I will make the maternal connections in the near future!)
There are so many benefits that come from researching ancestors with large families and extended kin networks. Much of a direct ancestor’s motivations, personality, and life experiences are shaped by his or her family members. Thomas and Mary’s family are a good example of this and having 14 children certainly qualifies as large. I hope to add more information to their large family’s story soon!
Every chance I get to write about my Dixon and Cochran families, I do! As they were the focus of my master’s thesis, I am overwhelmed with interesting material about them. When I saw that the prompt for this week was “bachelor uncle,” I couldn’t think of a better example of an exciting than Robert Dixon.
So how is uncle Robert Dixon related to me? Sankey Dixon is my 5th great grandfather on my paternal side, and Robert is his older brother, making him my 6th great uncle. Robert and Sankey were the sons of John Dixon and Arabella Murray, both of Scottish and Scots-Irish extraction. John Dixon was a successful farmer in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and Arabella was the sister of wealthy merchant Robert Murray and aunt of the grammarian Lindley Murray. John and Arabella were the parents of at least 9 children: Robert, Isabella, Richard, James, Sankey, Mary, Anna, John, and Arabella.
Rumblings of Revolution
Robert was about 25 years old when on 4 June 1774 the inhabitants of Hanover gathered together to discuss the current political climate. The meeting resulted in 5 resolves in response to the oppressive “recent action of the Parliament of Great Britain.” The final resolve was the establishment of a committee consisting of 9 men from Hanover “who shall act for us and in our behalf as emergencies may require.” Robert had the great distinction of being one of the men elected to this committee.
When the Revolutionary War began, at least 4 of the Dixon brothers enthusiastically enlisted to fight. Robert, Richard, and John joined Captain Matthew Smith’s company in June 1775, followed by Sankey who joined the Pennsylvania Line a year or two later. The Dixon boys were quite famous in Lancaster County for their eagerness to fight the British. A neighbor, Robert Strain, made a shot pouch for Richard with “Liberty or Death” inscribed on the front. The brothers’ passion and courage so impressed Strain that he recalled “the whole of the four brothers of the Dixon family were in the service until the war was ended, and were the truest kind of Whigs and Patriots.” Although four of the Dixon brothers were well known for their service, it was the oldest brother, Robert, who acquired early fame as the “first martyr of the Revolution” as result of his participation in the Quebec Campaign.
I was very fortunate to find that a friend of Robert Dixon’s, John Joseph Henry, kept a journal during the Quebec Campaign and later published it with clarifying notes and remembrances. Robert features in two anecdotes: crossing the Dead River and his death in Quebec.
Crossing the Dead River
The Quebec Campaign was notably led by Benedict Arnold, and the march from Pennsylvania to Maine to Quebec was arduous. Desertion was common especially as the frequent river crossings in leaking boats spoiled food and ammunition. Robert and his companions reached the Dead River, a tributary of the Kennebec River in Maine, in October 1775. The soldiers climbed the hills next to the river while boatmen polled and rowed the boats against the current. The river was already fast, but when it rained heavily on 19 October, the waters rose dangerously, the land became boggy, and the water fetid. Below is John Joseph Henry’s account of the disaster that awaited him, Robert, and the other soldiers on 23 October when they crossed the Dead River: (Please excuse spelling; original spelling has been kept)
Oct. 23 – When morning came, the river presented a most frightful aspect: it had risen at least eight feet, and flowed with terrifying rapidity. None but the most strong and active boatmen entered the boats. The army marched on the south side of the river, making large circuits to avoid the overflowings of the intervale or bottoms lands. This was one of the most fatiguing marches….But having no path, and being necessiated to climb the steepest hills, and that without food, for we took none with us, thinking the boats would be near us all day….Alas! all the boats of the army were on the opposite side of the river….We sat down on the bank sorely pinched by hunger, looking wistfully towards our friends beyond the torrent, who were in possession of all the provisions, tents, and camp equipage, convinced that the most adventurous boatmen would not dare the passage for the sake of accommodating any of us. We were, however, mistaken. There were two men…who had skill and courage to dare it….
The river was about 150 or 200 yards in breadth, counting on the increase of water by the rains. The force of the central current naturally formed considerable eddies at each side of the river….Quick, almost in a moment, Simpson was with us. He called in his loud voice to Robert Dixon, James Old, (a messmate,) and myself to enter the boat. We entered immediately. He pushed off; attempting the start by favor of the higher eddy, which was the main thing, we failed. Returning, to the shore, we were assailed by a numerous band of soldiers, hungry and anxious to be with their companions. Simpson told them he could not carry more with safely, and would return for them. Henry M’Annely…jumped into the boat; he was followed by three or four older inconsiderate men. The countenance of Simpson changed; his soul and mine were intimate. “O God,” said he, “men we shall all die.” They would not recede.
Again we approached the pitch; it was horrible. The batteaux (boat) swam deep, almost ungovernable by the paddle….Simpson, with his paddle, governed the stern. The worthy Tidd in the bow. Dixon and myself, our guns stuck in the railing of the batteau, but without paddles, sat in the stern next to Simpson. Mr. Old was in the bow near Tidd. Henry M’Annally was adjoining Mr. Old. The other men sat between the stern and bow. Simpson called to the men in the bow to lay hold of the birch bushes: the boat struck the shore forcibly; they caught hold…but…their holds slipped at the only spot where we could have been saved; for the boat had been judiciously and safely brought up. Letting go their holds, the bow came round to the stream, and the stern struck the shore.
Simpson, Dixon, and myself, now caught the bushes, but being by this time thrown into the current, the strength of the water made the withes as so many straws in our hands. The stern again swung round: the bow came again ashore. Mr. Old, Tidd, and M’Annaly, and the rest, sprung to the land to save their lives. Doing this at our cost, their heels forced the boat across the current. Though we attempted to steady it, the boat swagged. In a moment after, at thirty feet off shore, being broad side to the current, it turned, borne under, in spite of all our force, by the fury of the stream. The boat upsetting, an expression, as going into the water, fell from me, “Simpson, we are going to heaven.” My fall was head-foremost. Simpson came after me….The art of swimming, in which I thought myself an adept, was tried, but it was a topsy-turvey business….We should have there died, but for the assistance of Edward Cavanugh….
Lying on the earth perhaps twenty minutes, the water pouring from my mouth, a messenger from the camp came to rouse us. Roused, we went in. But all eyes looked out for Dixon, all hearts were wailing for his loss.It was known he could not swim, but none of us could recollect whether he had dropped into the water or had adhered to the boat. After a while we had the inexpressible pleasure of Dixon in our company. He had stuck to the side of the boat, which lodged on a vast pile of drift wood some miles below, and in this way he was saved.
Arriving at camp, our friends had a large fire prepared, particularly for our accommodation; heat, after such an occurrence, is most agreeable. My two friends in distress (Robert and Simpson), whose clothing was principally woolen, felt none of my private disaster.
Quite the story! Luckily, Robert survived the ordeal as well as his friends, despite the fact that he could not swim!
The Quebec Campaign in 1775 was particularly disastrous for the patriots, and the meddling of a French spy about a month before the Battle of Quebec cost Robert his life. Below is the account given by John Joseph Henry, Robert’s friend and comrade:
Nov. 16th – In the afternoon a distressing occurrence took place here, notwithstanding our vicinity to [the nunnery]. Towards the evening the guard was relieved. Lieutenant Simpson commanded it. This guard was composed of two-and-twenty fine fellows of our company. When the relief-guard came, a Frenchman, of a most villainous appearance, both as to person and visage, came to our Lieutenant with a written order from Colonel Arnold, commanding him to accompany the bearer, who would be our guide across the river St. Charles, to obtain some cattle feeding beyond it, on the account of government. The order, in the first instance, because of its preposterous, was doubted, but, upon a little reflection, obeyed.
Knowing the danger, our worthy Lieutenant also knew the best and only means of executing the enterprize. The call “come on, lads,” was uttered. We ran with speed from the guard-house some hundreds of yards over the plain to the moth of the St. Charles, where the ferry is. Near the ferry there was a large wind-mill, and near it stood a small house resembling a cooper’s shop. Two carts of a large size were passing the ferry heavily laden with the household-stuff, women, and children of the townsmen flying from the suburbs of St. Roque….The carts were already in a large scow or flat-bottomed boat, and the ferrymen, seeing us coming, were tugging hard at the ferry-rope to get off the boat, which was aground, before we should arrive. It was no small matter…to outdo people of our agility. Simpson, with his usual good humor, urged the race, from a hope that the garrison would not fire upon us when in the boat with their flying townsmen. The weight of our bodies and arms put the boat aground in good earnest. Simpson vociferously urging the men to free the boat, directed them to place their guns in my arms, standing on the bow. He ordered me to watch the flashes of cannon of the city, near palace gate.
Jumping into the water mid-deep, all but Serjeant Dixon and myself, they were pushing, pulling, and with handspikes attempting to float the scow. One of the carts stood between Dixon and myself – he was tugging at the ferry rope. Presently, “a shot,” was called; it went wide of the boat, its mark. The exertions of the party were redoubled. Keeping an eye upon the town, the sun about setting in a clear sky, the view was beautiful indeed, but somewhat terrific….Out boat lay like a rock in the water, and was a target at point blank shot about three-fourths of a mile from palace gate, which issues into Saint Roque….It was plainly observable that many persons were engaged in preparing the guns for another discharge. Our brave men were straining every nerve to obtain success. “A shot,” was all that could be said, when a thirty-six pound ball, touching the lower edge of the nob of the cart-wheel, descending a little, look the leg of my patriotic friend (Robert) below the knee, and carried away the bones of that part entirely. “Oh! Simpson,” he cried, “I am gone.” Simpson, whose heart was tender and kind, leaped into the boat: calling to the men, the person of Dixon was borne to the wind-mill. Now a roar of triumph was heard from the city, accompanied by some tolerably well directed shots. The unfortunate man was borne at a slow and solemn pace to the guardhouse – the enemy every now and then sending us his majesty’s compliments, in the shape of a 24 or 36 pound ball. When the procession came into a line with the town, the guard-house, and nunnery, the firing ceased. At the time we were most busily engaged with Dixon, at the wind-mill, the vile Frenchman, aghast and horror-stricken, fled from us to the city. If his desertion had been noticed in time, his fate had been sealed; but the rascal was unobserved till he had run several hundred yards along the beach of the bay of St. Charles. He turned out to be a spy, purposely sent by government to decoy and entrap us, and he succeeded but too easily with the vigilant Arnold.
Dixon was now carried on a litter to the house of an English gentleman, about a mile off. An amputation took place – a tetanus followed, which, about nine o’clock of the ensuing day, ended in the dissolution of this honorable citizen and soldier. There are many reasons for detailing this affair so minutely to you. Among these are, to impress upon your minds an idea of the manners and spirit of those times: our means and rude method or warfare; but more particularly for the purpose of introducing to your observation an anecdote of Dixon, which is characteristic of the ideas and feelings then entertained by the generality of his countrymen. Before we left our native homes, tea had, as it were, become an abomination even to the ladies. The taxation of it by the Parliament of England, with design to draw from us a trifling revenue, was made the pretence with the great body of the people, for our opposition to government. The true ground, however, with the politically wise, was that that law annihilated our rights as Englishmen….Hence it was, that no male or female, knowing their rights, if possessed of the least spark of patriotism, would deign to taste of that delightful beverage. The lady of the house, though not one who approved of our principles of action, was very attentive to our wounded companion; she presented him a bowl of tea: “No, madam,” said he, “it is the ruin of my country.”
Uttering this noble sentiment, (Nov. 17th), this invaluable citizen died, sincerely lamented by every one who had the opportunity of knowing his virtues. Dixon was a gentlemen of good property and education, though no more than the first sergeant of our company. His estate lay in West Hanover township, in the county of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was an agriculturist, which, in the vagueness and and uncertainty of our language, is called “a farmer.” In fact he was a freeholder, the possessor of an excellent tract of land, accompanied by all those agreeables which render the cultivator of earth, in Pennsylvania, the most independent, and, with prudent economy, the most happy of human beings.
The following morning, Simpson was the first to give me an account of Dixon’s death, which affected us much. His corpse received the usual military honors. Duty compelled my absence elsewhere. The blood of Dixon was the first oblation made upon the altar of liberty at Quebec, and Merchant was the first prisoner. The latter (Merchant) was a brave and determined soldier, fitted for subordinate station; the former (Robert) was intuitively a captain.
According to the tale told by one of the Dixons’ former tenants, William Darby, an express rider delivered a letter to his father, John, informing him of Robert’s death. John was inconsolable.
I know that I quoted quite a bit from each story, but I wanted to include as much as possible to provide some context to the anecdotes. The river crossing story sounded just terrifying; it just shows how dangerous being in the army in the 18th century truly was, even when they weren’t in battle. Traveling from place to place had its own problems, including food shortages, weather, and malfunctioning equipment. Fortunately, Robert survived the river crossing, though he would not live much longer.
Robert’s death is such a tragic story. Not only did the actions of a spy directly lead to his death, but he sustained a horrendous wound and suffered through an amputation and infection before he finally died. The fact that he received full military honors at his burial has been commented on by historians. Although he was a non commissioned officer, he was treated like one. Some speculate it was because of he wealth or standing in his community, or because he was the earliest casualty of the campaign.
For me, however, the most amazing part of these anecdotes is the inclusion of personal details about Robert. For one, he couldn’t swim! I thought this was incredible, as his father’s land bordered a river, at a place called Dixon’s Ford. But perhaps the river was not very deep and he had no need to learn to swim. If Robert couldn’t swim, then I assume his younger brother Sankey couldn’t swim either. Henry also included details about Robert’s background – from a wealthy family, well-educated, and an “agriculturalist.” These details are supported in other documents and other sources, but it is so amazing to read the words that a contemporary wrote about a close relative. I am sure he was quite a character, and his actions and character left such an impact on Sankey that he named one of his sons “Robert” in his brother’s honor.