Thursday, December 18, 2014

Royal Relatives


James Madison
For many genealogy researchers the goal is finding the connection to royalty. Although I haven't found any crowns in the closet, I have stumbled upon the American equivalent: a relationship to not one but two Presidents.
       My mother was a Coleman.  Last year I found a document that filled in a lot of blanks in the history of the Colemans. I discovered my earliest Coleman ancestor shows up in Virginia in 1638.
         I also discovered that the Colemans were neighbors of John Madison II, great-grandfather of President James Madison. My ancestor, Robert Coleman Jr., and John Madison attended St. Stephens Parish in New Kent County, VA. They were both listed in a petition in 1688 to replace the vestrymen at the church. In 1714, Robert's brother Daniel Coleman and John Madison were granted 2,000 acres as co-tenants in King William County.
        Robert's grandson, my ancestor Joseph Coleman, married one of John Madison's daughters, Eleanor. Her brother, Ambrose Madison, was the grandfather of the future president. Ambrose had a plantation called Mount Pleasant on the property that would eventually become Montpelier, President Madison's home. In 1755, when the future president was just a toddler, Joseph was godfather to his baby brother, also named Ambrose Madison.  In 1764, when the future president was just a boy of 13, his father James Madison was a witness for Joseph's will.
       This week, as I was digging a little deeper into the documentation and deeds involved, I discovered that the 2,000-acre property that became Montpelier was a gift to the wife of Ambrose Madison, Frances Taylor, from her daddy, Col. James Taylor Jr.
        Now here's the genealogy jackpot of the day: Frances had a brother named Zachary. He wasn't the Zachary Taylor who would become president in 1849. Nope. That was Zachary's  grandson Zachary.
Zachary Taylor
        In other words, Col. James Taylor Jr. was the great grandfather of two presidents: James Madison in 1809 and Zachary Taylor in 1849! I'm sure this relationship has been well noted in presidential genealogy circles, but I never knew it. Obviously  the Bushes were related,  and the Roosevelts and the Harrisons. But I never guessed Madison and Taylor. The presidency really is a family dynasty.
          Through  gggggggreat grandma Eleanor, I have a blood relationship to the Madisons. But my relationship to Zachary Taylor is strictly "in-law." He's one of the relations that shows up at the Thanksgiving dinner table and you call him cousin Zach but you don't share any DNA.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Traitor or Patriot?

For my second installment of remarkable relatives I turn to good ole Uncle Ben who was hung for treason in1771.
        Captain Benjamin Merrill was a farmer, gunsmith and captain in the Rowan County Militia in North Carolina. He lived on the Yadkin River in an area called Jersey Settlement. Like most of the people in that area, Ben had come from New Jersey where he watched the Royalist Supreme Court take away his family's property saying the proprietors that sold it to them didn't have rights to the land and  the deeds weren't properly registered. High school history books make it sound like the colonists revolted against the British over the cost of tea, but my ancestors tell me the the British abuse of power was much more severe.
          Ben flourished for 15 years in the backcountry of North Carolina. He was a deacon in the Jersey Baptist Church. He built a waterwheel to power the machinery in his gun shop. But in the 1760s Ben became involved with the Regulator movement to "regulate" the corrupt local officials.Thousands of men banded together to protest corrupt practices and defend people whose property was taken by unscrupulous officials.But from the government's point of view, the Regulators were outlaws.
          In  1771 Governor William Tryon announced he would hold court in Hillsborough to deal with the Regulators. He arrived in May and set up camp on the  Alamance Creek with about 1500 troops. About 2,000 regulators showed up but most of the men were unarmed. They didn't come to fight. They thought they could meet with the Governor and explain their grievances. But when they sent a representative to meet with the Governor, Tryon personally shot and killed him and ordered his troops to attack. After a few hours of fighting, Tryon claimed victory. Nine of his troops had been killed and 16 injuried compared to 20 of the Regulators dead and more than 100 wounded. One account says the troops set fire to the woods where the Regulators were hiding so the wounded had no chance to get out alive. In his "Neglected History of North Carolina" (1905), historian W.E. Fitch called the Battle of Alamance the first battle of the Revolution.
         Good ol' Uncle Ben, who would have been 40 at the time,  was enroute with about 300 militia to help the Regulators, but he got sidetracked by a confrontation with another British General Hugh Waddell. He was still a day's march away when he heard how Tryon had beat back the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance. Ben and his troops returned home. On June 1 Ben was arrested at his home and dragged in chains with about 30 prisoners as Tryon toured the backcountry burning homes and crops and forcing people to take an oath of loyalty to the British Crown.
          Fitch's history says Tryon's troops camped at Ben's place and let their horses graze, hanging a bell around the neck of each animal so it could be found later. In the dark, some of the pillaging soldiers knocked over a bee hive in Ben's apiary. The swarm of bees stung soldiers and horses who came stampeding back into the camp with the clanging of 100 bells and Tryon thought the devil himself had attacked.
          In June, a trial was held at Hillsborough. Twelve men were charged with treason. Six of them, including Benjamin, were hanged on June 19. The exact sentence was the traditional British sentence for treason: "That the prisoner should be carried to the place from whence he came; that he should be drawn from thence to the place of execution and hanged by the neck; that he should be cut down while yet alive; that his bowels should be taken out and burned before his face; that his head should be cut off, and that his body should be divided into four quarters, which were to be placed at the King's disposal, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul."
           We have no indication that the prisoners were actually drawn and quartered but we know they were hung. My ancestor, Daniel Merrill, would have been a 16-year-old boy watching his uncle's execution.
          Fitch reports that Ben professed his faith in Christ and sang a psalm before his execution. He said he had converted 15 years before and felt he was freely forgiven and ready to die. He asked only that his estate be spared for his wife and eight children.
        "I entreat that no reflection be cast upon them on my account" he said. Supposedly  one of Tryon's soldiers was heard to declare that if all men went to the gallows with a character such as Captain Merrill's, "hanging would be an honorable death."
         Tryon offered amnesty to all Regulators who would lay down arms and submit to authority. Within six weeks he had received 6,409 requests for pardon.

Friday, December 5, 2014

It's all relative!

My latest project is compiling a narrative genealogy for my family. I've been combing the Internet looking for ancestors with stories to tell and I've found some doozies. I thought it might be fun to share some of these tales on my blog.
      The accomplishments of male ancestors are often recorded in land deeds and military records, but it's harder to find documentation for female ancestors. That's why I was particularly pleased recently to discover my ninth-great-grandmother survived an Indian attack,  raised 10 kids and helped start New Jersey's first Baptist church in her kitchen.
        In 1640, Penelope Van Princis was a blushing bride of 18. She was immigrating from the Netherlands  to New Amsterdam (later known as New York) when her ship ran aground near the point that would become. Sandy Hook, New Jersey.  Evidently the other passengers headed out on foot for New Amsterdam leaving Penelope and her feverish husband on the beach. Indians attacked, killing the man (John Kent in some versions of the tale) and leaving Penelope for dead. She  had a skull fracture and was partially scalped. Her left arm was mangled and her abdomen so badly slashed  that her intestines were exposed. She crawled into a hollow tree where she survived for several days. An older Indian found her and patched up her wounds  with a fishbone needle and vegetable fiber thread according to some accounts. .

       She lived in the Indian village about a year learning the Indian language and ways, until some white men came and took her to New Amsterdam. She married Richard Stout there in 1644. Stout started exploring the the area in New Jersey where Penelope had been shipwrecked.In 1648, he and eleven others purchased a large area in East Jersey from Gov. Nichols. The area became Monmouth County.
      One day the old Indian who had saved Penelope came to warn them that an attack was being planned. Penelope and the other women packed up their children in canoes and left. Richard gathered the other men to prepare for battle. The Indians attacked at midnight but because the settlers were prepared and armed with guns, the Indians soon retreated. Richard and the Indians hammered out a peace treaty and on January 25, 1664, the settlers paid the Indians for the land. Gov. Nichols issued the Monmouth Patent guaranteeing them religious freedom.
        In 1668, Richard and Penelope, along with other families, organized the state's first Baptist Church in Penelope's kitchen. Richard and his oldest son John were among the 18 charter members.  They built a log cabin to house the growing congregation in 1688.
        Richard lived until 1705. According to some records, Penelope died in 1712 but most records claim she lived until 1732 which would have made her 110. (see dates on commemorative coin.) Family legend says Penelope always wore a cap to cover the scar from nearly being scalped and she had no use of her left arm.
        Penelope's grandaughter, Penelope Stout Jewell, married my seventh great grandfather, William Merrell, about 1729.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

D-Day is here!

D is for disaster! That's what my room looks like as i try to select what I'll wear over the next four months. I simply have too much stuff. Remember Little House on the Prairie when Laura  Ingalls had two dresses?  Somewhere along the line our lives got a whole lot more complicated. Packing for me means trying on clothes and jewelry, trying to work out the best mix and match possibilities for the most variety. D is for decisions!

Clothes are just the beginning. I have to decide what kitchen implements I can't live without like my garlic press and my zester. This year I added a rolling pin in case I want to make pie or cookies. In previous years I have slathered grease and flour on a wine bottle and pressed it into service rolling out dough.  I also need to decide what to do with the remnants of food. And what medical or financial records I might need over the next four months. And all the bug balms I've collected over the years, (Not that anything works).

Finally! The fridge is empty and wiped clean. The van is packed. The leftovers have been dropped at Ryan's. D is for done.

Better go to bed and catch a few winks.Steve will want to hit the road early tomorrow morning. We have three long days of driving ahead of us. By the third day it will be t-shirts and shorts.D-lightful!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Countdown crazy

Yes, folks, this is the same tree that just a few weeks ago was in flaming color. Now it's almost lost in the flurry of flakes. And the countdown to winter it going off like an alarm clock.

 Time's up!

Technically we still have two weeks before we leave for Florida but winter is pushing us out the door. That doesn't mean I'm ready. This is the week for the final paperwork. Finish all the tasks I promised at church, put AT&T on vacation hold, get the mail forwarded and  submit the final payrolls for my freelance work.

It's also the last hurrah for book sales. I need to check with all the stores that carry my books to be sure they have the necessary supplies to carry then through the winter. Then I finish the week with two big sales events. Friday night is our second annual Holiday Book Bash at Seven Steps Up in Spring Lake. That was a great party last year and features even more authors this year. Then Saturday we are scheduled at the Muskegon Farmer's Market.

The hectic holiday season is about to begin.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A storm is brewing

      A cloudy sky framed the bare tree yesterday as I took my walk. Even the most stubborn leaves had been torn from the branches. Winter is almost here.
      If you've been following my weekly updates on this particular tree, you know the count is down to three weeks from today. That's when we leave for Florida. But that final week I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving at my mother's house so there's really only two weeks left to get ready for Florida.
      Like the winds that have picked the tree clean, I have been picking away at the home tasks, trying to get this life in order before I move on to my Florida life. I've made amazing progress. My bathroom redecorating is finished. It looks a little like purple grape juice has stained one wall, as well as towels and shower curtain.I even cleaned out the linen closet yesterday, a job I have been putting off for years.
      The kitchen cabinet cleaning that I have been postponing just as long moved to top priority when the silverware drawer fell out again. It's too heavy and the hardware pulls right out of the screw holes. I stuff broken toothpick pieces in the hole -- Daddy used to use wooden matches but I don't have any of those -- to make the screw tight again. The drawer is back in place for another year, but cleaning it out made me consider a lighter arrangement for that drawer, new homes for the less used pieces.
       Once the kitchen is back in order, it will be time to concentrate on this week's tasks: The first preparations for Florida. I need to renew the insurance policy on my convertible which is in storage in Florida and pick up license plates. While I'm at it, I need to change my supplemental health insurance.
      It's also a week of celebrations. My son Ryan and his wife Angela celebrate their 10th anniversary on Tuesday with a Vow Renewal party. Then next weekend we'll squeeze in a quick Christmas celebration.
      I'll close the week by reviewing "Mary Poppins" at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, my final review before Florida.
      I can almost smell the snow. It's coming!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Countdown continues!

      Yes, this is the same tree that was so beautiful two weeks ago. Now only a handful of stubborn leaves remain.
       And as of today only four weeks remain until we leave for Florida. Naturally I have added projects to my to-do list. With leaves falling all around outdoors, I decided to bring fall indoors and have been stripping wallpaper in my bathroom. The leaves fall much more effortlessly, I can assure you. My blue sky and angel decor, which I installed 10 years ago on top of the original pink stripped paper,  is going right down to plain paint. That means scoring and spraying and scraping, and scoring and spraying and scraping the next layer. Then washing down the walls to get off the paste residue. After a week of bursts of work each day, I finally have smooth, white walls which will become "Hazelnut Cream" and "Plum Good"  tomorrow.
        But the other projects to prepare for leaving have been taking a back seat to the bathroom project. So I still need to prepare the church library for my winter replacement. Give my final speech in the Competent Communicator book at Toastmasters, vote, review a couple of plays, (did I mention vote?) feed my son's cats while he's on vacation and rake some of his leaves. And vote, of course!