Saturday, 6 January 2018

Military Pension Applications

Military pension applications are an excellent source of family history stories. The following declaration in support of our 4th great grandfather, Private Thomas Mellen's application for a pension for his service during the Revolutionary War. It provides numerous leads to follow up on his service as most accounts are searchable only if one knows either the military unit or the commanding officer.

This pension application file does, however, call into question an often repeated claim in various books and articles that Thomas Mellen participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill. As is evident, Thomas was at Winter Hill in 1776, but makes no mention of Bunker Hill. Could it be that earlier historians and story tellers, lacking the technology to inspect closely each word of the declaration, confused Winter for Bunker? As it turns out, Winter Hill was Colonel John Stark's headquarters during the Siege of Boston and is located about a mile north of the end of the "Red Line" subway at 191 Main Street in what is now the city of Medford, Massachusetts. I visited Winter Hill in September of 2017. The home stands today pretty much as it was in 1776, and contains a small museum, albeit much less visited than the various Freedom Trail attractions such as the Bunker Hill Monument.

As time permits, I plan to transcribe additional letters on Thomas's pension file and post them on this blob. On my next trip to Vermont, I plan to visit Mount Independence.

Captain Emerson Corliss Declaration To Judge John Holton In Support of Thomas Mellen’s Pension Application, 29 July 1819

Page 13.jpg

State of Vermont

Orange County

At Bradford in Orange County aforesaid on this 29th day of July 1819 before me the subscriber one of the Judges of said Orange County court, personally appeared Emerson Corliss of Bradford aged 61 years and after being duly sworn by me according to Law, doth, on his oath make the following declaration that he was intimately acquainted with Thomas Mellen now an applicant for a pension and now present before me, in the revolutionary war, that he said Thomas Mellen belonged to Captain George Reed [Reid] Company in Colonel John Stark’s Reg of the New Hampshire line in the year 1776 and he has no doubt but that the said Thomas performed the services he has declared to and which he was with him at Winter Hill early in the spring, at Albany, & afterwards at Mount Independence late in the fall of the year 1776, which the J. Emerson Corliss was a soldier at the same time in Captain Benjamin Manns Company in Colonel James Reeds Regiment of New Hampshire Line and almost daily saw each other and further saith not.
Sworn to and declared before me this day year aforesaid

John Holton Judge Orange Co Court

I John Holton, Judge as aforesaid do certify that the above named Emerson Corliss is a person of truth and veracity and full faith is clear to what he declares.

John Holton Judge

Transcription copyrighted by Brian Hayes, 5 January 2018

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Family Stories, Fact or Fiction Part Four

John Hawley and Abigail Sanford
Westchester County, New York

One of the challenges of writing a family history is blending a series of 200 year old facts, opinions, and speculations into a story that both informs and entertains. Posting a work in progress in a blog exposes the writer to both errors of fact and omission. In Parts Two and Three, a number of questions were raised, but not answered, regarding John Hawley's allegiance during the American Revolution. Fortunately a cousin in Michigan contacted me and generously shared her research.

As to whether John Hawley was a Loyalist or Patriot, the following deposition of his widow, Abigail Sanford, would appear to answer the question definitively. Aside from some minor spelling changes for the sake of clarity and several insertions of additional information, it is presented as it was recorded. I have avoided the temptation to punctuate what may be some of the longest run on sentences I have seen in years.

Deposition of Abigail Sanford

On the 27 September 1810, Abigail appeared before Judge Samuel Augustus Barker of Duchess County, New York where she made the following deposition:

"Personally came before me, Samuel Augustus Barker, one of the Judges of Duchess County, in and for Duchess County.  Abigail Hawley of Duchess County, who being duly sworn doth depose and say that she is the widow and relict of John Hawley deceased and mother of Henry, Samuel, Ezra, Daniel, Sally (Sarah Susan), Abigail, and John Hawley.

That she lived with her deceased husband in South Salem, County of Westchester and State of New York at the commencement of the American war, on a farm of about three hundred acres which he held in fee simple in his own right, good buildings, valuable household furniture, thirty three head of horned cattle, three good horses, between twenty and thirty sheep, fifteen or sixteen negroes and some farming utensils.

That her said husband was uniformly manifested an attachment and allegiance to his King and living in a country where the inhabitants were generally considered Rebels. He was firm and open in declaring his Allegiance which subjected him to great persecution, suffering imprisonment in Irons at Fort Montgomery a long time and after being released he was confined to his farm, meeting daily with reproaches, struck and spit upon until they ordered him under arms, put him under guard on his refusal and were carrying him to prison with a guard of eight or ten men from which he made his escape without even a hat in the month of April. In December following when on a cold day a guard came dragged her out of her house with her small children, one a suckling infant and transported to New York with but a small part of their clothing and bedding and where she met with her husband in April who had obtained his discharge from one year's service as Sergeant of the [Guides and] Pioneers, his Colonel's name she forgot but his Major, she was acquainted with by the name of Samuel Holland, after which his health being impaired in the service at Brandywine battle and at the taking of Mud Island below Philadelphia as she believes, she with him removed to Brook Haven on Long Island in April and in September 15th of the following he died of a fever.

The family at the close of the war being destitute and scattered about where charity opened places for them, she calculated to go to Nova Scotia and agreed with Stephen Hoyt, Captain of an English Ship bound with Loyalists to Nova Scotia but obtaining no assistance from her friends who were all strongly adverse to the British cause that she had no means to collect her children on board and so were left behind.

Thus as she verily believes, the family lost all and her children were brought up in different places without the smallest vestige of a father's patrimony to adjust them in beginning the world. She nor they being in circumstances to substantiate their claim in due season on His Majesties compassionate protection and patronage but through divine assistance she is favoured with health, in her old age and has no cause of complaint but that her offspring are generally honest and industrious and live well above want."

Signed by Abigail Hawley

"Be it remembered that on the 27th Day of September, one thousand, eighteen hundred and ten, came personally before me, Samuel Augustus Barker, one of the Judges of Duchess County and State of New York, Abigail Hawley, and in my presence voluntarily signed her name to the above Deposition and being solemnly sworn on the holy Evangelists of Almighty God, did Depose that said Deposition, contained the whole truth according to the best of her knowledge and Belief."

Signed by Samuel Augustus Barker

Abigail's motivation in providing this deposition is unknown. I would assume that she had sought compensation from either the US or British for her losses, however her final sentence suggests the wounds of war had healed by 1810. I have been unable to find any mention of her obtaining a pension or a land grant in the post war years. Perhaps she simply wanted to us to know her story.

Notes and Sources

1.    Original deposition held in the Archives of Canada, Ottawa

2.   Transcribed from the book, Smith Hawley and his Descendants,  Marilyn Hawley Symonds, Privately Published, Lansing, Michigan, 1961, pages 22 & 23

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Family Stories, Fact or Fiction Part Three

Daniel Hawley

Evacuation From New York

At the end of the War of Independence, we find nine year old Daniel Hawley, our 4th Great Grandfather joining his newly widowed mother, Abigail and four brothers and two sisters aboard the H.M.S. Eagle, presumably leaving the newly independent United States of America forever.

Launched in 1775, the H.M.S. Eagle was the flagship of  Vice Admiral Lord Howe, Commander-in Chief, North America Station of the Royal Navy. As an Intrepid Class 64 gun 3rd rate warship, the Eagle had just returned to New York from what is considered the last battle of the War of Independence, off  Cuddalore, India in the Bay of Bengal. Previously in 1776, the Eagle had been the target of what is probably the first attack on a naval ship by a submarine, when David Bushnell unsuccessfully attempted to attach a bomb to the Eagle's hull, using his submarine, the Turtle.

                                            H.M.S. Eagle
After a week of so at sea, H.M.S. Eagle landed at what is now Saint John, New Brunswick, in late September, 1783, carrying 240 persons, most of whom were associated with Captain John Smith's militia company. Included in the passenger manifest were 73 men, 41 women, 63 children above age ten, and 63 children under that age. The only identified members of the company were Captain John Smith' and Lieutenants Thomas Treadwell Smith and Albert Van Nostrandt. John Hawley may well have been a member Smith's company, however I have not been able to locate a muster roll to confirm this.

Early Years in New Brunswick

Abigail and her seven children were likely impoverished, as the family farm in Westchester County had been forfeited. A fourty one year old widow, she is thought to have remarried as the Hawley Record appends the surname Lyon to her record without any further explanation. (1)  Records of John & Abigail Sanford Hawley's family are scarce. The Hawley Record lists them only with four unnamed children. However, in "The Loyalists of New Brunswick" (1955), Abigail's deposition says she is the relict of John and the mother of Henry, Samuel, Ezra, Daniel, Sally, Abigail and John. The records of New Brunswick may hold the secret of what happened to her.

In 1830 a distribution was made on the estates of "Hester" and Rachel Sanford to the heirs-at-large, among them Samuel, Daniel, Sarah, John, and the descendants of Henry and Abigail, all children of Abigail Hawley, a deceased sister. It is believed Abigail died in New Brunswick sometime prior to 1830.

Similarly, two of Abigail's daughters, Abigail, born 1776 and Sarah Susan, born 1778 also disappear from both the New Brunswick and New York records. On 15 June 1803 Abigail was mentioned as daughter Abigail Hawley in the will of her grand-mother, Sarah Meeker, who died on 31 October 1803 in Redding Center, Connecticut. 

Return to New York

Abigail's sons, John, Henry, Samuel, Ezra and Daniel all appear back in New York within several years, where they marry women from Westchester and the adjacent Dutchess counties.

John Hawley Jr. appears to be the first to return to New York where he married Jerusa Abbott on 21 Feb 1785. There is no mention of his time in New Brunswick in any of the articles found to date. After a number of years in Durham, New York, John and Jerusa migrated from New York state; apparently by wagon across Pennsylvania,  then down the Ohio River by flat boat to the mouth of the Little Miami river near Cincinnati, Ohio,  arriving there on July 4 1814 part of the family settled where the town of Oxford Ohio is now situated. John, who described himself as the son of a "Tory", died at Jefferson, Preble County, Ohio on 1 Aug 1853.

Henry Hawley appears next in Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York where on 17 March 1797 he marries Mary Woodin. Henry and Mary have eight children between 1799 and 1813, all apparently born in Fishkill. Henry and Mary next show up in Brantford, Upper Canada about 1813, after living in Durham, New York for several years. Henry would spend the rest of his life in Upper Canada, dying in 1826 at Bayham in Elgin County. Several of Henry and Mary's children remained in south western Ontario, while others migrated further west to Michigan and onwards to Utah.

Samuel Hawley disappears entirely from the records, other than a notation "Loyalist " in the Hawley record. However no further evidence of his support for the Loyalist cause has been sighted.

Ezra Hawley, the last child of John and Abigail  to be christened in the South Salem church, also returned to New York where he married Susannah Woodin, and a nephew, Abram Hawley, whom he had adopted, Not having any children of his own. Ezra, Susannah and Abram came to Brant County in 1810, where they located on 240 acres of land in what was known as the Johnson Settlement, purchased from a man named William Crume, who was one of Butler's Rangers, who had in turn obtained it from the Joseph Brant. As  "late Loyalists" they apparently suffered a great deal from the treachery of the Indians, who thought they were" Yankees," during the first year of their residence here, and were frequently forced to put themselves under the protection of their neighbours.(2)

Daniel Hawley, our 4th great grandfather, also returned to Westchester County where in 1795 he married Sarah Raymond, daughter of Sands Raymond Sr. and Sarah Betts.

Sands, our 5th great grandfather,  had been a 2nd Lieutenant in the Westchester Militia where he fought in the battles of White Plains and Washington Heights in 1776 which were led by George Washington. Twice captured, he was held as prisoner in the infamous Livingston Sugar House on Liberty Street in the British occupied Manhattan which used as a prison to hold as many as 800 Patriot's. The Livingston Sugar House was " a dark stone building, grey and rusty with age and a dungeon-like aspect'. Conditions were wretched as prior to Battle of Yorkton in 1782, Patriot prisoners were considered traitors rather than prisoners of war. Some were simply shot, while others were crowded into old buildings and leaking hulks anchored in various bays around New York. As many as 10,000 prisoners died. It also should be noted that several of his siblings and his step mother, Mary Gitto, as well as a number of  relatives of his wife, Sarah Betts, had relocated to Kingston, New Brunswick after the end of the war.

Whatever his feelings towards Loyalists, he apparently had no major problem with his daughter marrying the son of a Loyalist. Either the passage of almost 20 years had dimmed his memory of the sugar house, or perhaps he simply did not believe the activities of John Hawley should influence the treatment of his then two year old son, Daniel.

Return to Canada

In any event, 29 years after the original Loyalist migration of 1783, and after at least 17 years back in New York, Daniel and Sarah, and their 10 children, left New York in the spring of 1812, bound for once Canada again. No records of their trip are thought to exist, however according to the History of Brant County; Biographical Sketches,  Daniel Hawley "...was born in the United States, where he married Sarah Raymond. They came to Canada in 1812, and he was engaged in the war of that time. He died in 1844, his wife having died about 1819. He was possessed of strong frame and a vigorous constitution. " (3) Given the date, which predates both the construction of the Erie Canal and the railroad to Buffalo, it is very likely they traveled by oxcart as they would need oxen or horses to operate a farm in Canada.

 From a Hawley cousin, we find this narrative:

“ The Hawley’s moved from Durham (New York) to five miles east of Paris on Governor’s road. They moved with oxen and long sleds - not bob sleighs which were not invented until later - and the jar of the sled over the cradle knolls churned their butter as they came along. Each man got all the land he could walk around in one day and blaze the trees . Their lease was for 999 years at the cost of $1.00 to the Indians. There were three brother settled on the Governors Road Harvey, Hiram and Henry. Theirs was the Hawley Settlement."(4)

Another distant cousin, Angela Files, writes in her Stories of the Johnson Settlement and Smokey Hollow as follows:

According to the  "The Changing of Native Lands to Settlements Along the Grand River - PART III"  The "Johnson Settlement (part of Brantford Township), was named in honour of George Johnson, son of Molly Brant and first teacher in the Native settlement north-east of Brant's Ford.  This was one of the earliest settlements on the Johnson Tract, north of Cayuga Village, on Fairchild's Creek.  The early settlers were an enclave of Loyalists.  Benjamin Fairchild and Alexander Westbrook had served under Chief Joseph Brant during the American Revolution.  They moved to the Johnson area in 1788.  In 1793, Isaac Whiting leased "for 999 years", a farm on Fairchild's Creek.  Gordon Chapin, Isaac Whiting's son-in-law and David Phelps settled shortly thereafter.  Phelps acquired a lease by 1801.  On February 5, 1798, six hundred acres of the tract was sold to "Dutch Green", or Peter Green, on concession two.  A number of non-Native men had received 999-year leases from Joseph Brant, who hoped that they would teach the Native residents improved methods of farming.  The leases had not been approved by the authorities and were not valid.  Ezra Hawley, who described himself as the "son of a Loyalist", was farming in 1811.

In 1841, it was decided to permit all Six Nations people who wished to move, to cross the Grand River and settle on the Reserve.  Before departure, they were required to collect a fair payment from any white men living on their lands, with the money being returned to the Native funds." (5)

Sarah and Daniel's original farm, comprising about 280 acres, straddles Fairchild Creek on the south side of what was the old highway #2,  several miles east of Brantford, Ontario. Both Sarah, who died 29 May 1820  after the birth of her 14th child, Daniel Jr., and Daniel Sr., who died  5 Feb 1844 are buried across the road in the Brant Cemetery.

Is the Story True?

Back to our original question, did Sarah Hawley travel by oxcart to Sarnia and did her mother daub their cheeks with red paint to scare off hostile Indians, I believe the answer is a qualified yes. Qualified in that while evidence supports the oxcart and the "issues" with less than friendly Indians, the story appears to stop in Brantford with only circumstantial evidence that Sarah Hawley may have lived in Sarnia.

The only connection  that I have found regarding Sarah Hawley and the land upon which the Lambton County Courthouse and Goal is quite speculative. On 24 March 1834, Sarah's third cousin, Benjamin Fairchild, who was a Loyalist and a crony of the ruling Family Compact, was granted 100 acres located at the North east corner of what is now Christina Street and London Road in Sarnia. There is no evidence that Fairchild ever occupied the land, however he reportedly sold the land to George Durand, who in turn sold part of it back to the government in order that the courthouse could be built.(6) Is it possible that Fairchild allowed his cousin Sarah, and her carpenter husband John Mellen, to occupy the property in order that he could perfect his interest in the land grant? Possibly, but clearly unproven.

This theory is getting ahead of the narrative as I have yet to introduce our 3rd great grandfather, John Mellen. A complicated man, his story deserves a post of his own.


    2. History of Brant County; Biographical Sketches, pp. 181
    3. History of Brant County; Biographical Sketches, pp. 572-3
    5. Selected Reprints from the Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches,"The Changing of Native Lands to Settlements Along the Grand River - PART III",,Angela E.M. Files, February 1994, Vol.6 No.1, Pages 21-22
    6. Sarnia Gateway to Bluewaterland, Edward Phelps, P.13, 22

Additional Sources:

1.       Ancestors & Descendants of Francis Marion Hawley & Louetta Wise Hawley, William Robert Hawley &     Jane Walterhouse Hawley, 1977,  page 6
2.       Smith Hawley and his Descendants,  Marilyn Hawley Symonds, Lansing, Michigan, 1961, pages 22 & 23
3.       Thomas Sanford the Emigrant to New England,  Carlton E Sanford, The Tuttle Company, Printers,      Rutland, Vermont, (n.d.), page 150

Will of John Hawley

The following transcription of John Hawley’s will is taken from "Collections of The New York Historical Society For The Year 1904", page 67, section titled “Abstracts of Wills on file in the surrogates office, City of New York.” It's Volume XIII with dates from September 3, 1784 to June 12, 1786 [Page 328 in the Volume of originals. Page 67 is the publication page.] Page  67-68

I, JOHN HAWLEY, of Salam, Westchester County, being in good helth do this 31st day of December, in the year of our Lord, 1770, make this my last Will and Testament. I leave to my loving wife Abigail one third of my house and barn and one third of my lands and of my moveables after my debts is paid as long as she shall live. The rest of my estate to my children, viz.: John, Henry, Samuel and Abigail to be divided as follows: ti John, being the oldest son, £10 more than the rest of my sons, and then for my sons to be  equal, and for my daughter Abigail to have one third as much as one of my sons, I mean that where one of my sons will have nine pounds my daughter shall have three; and my wife s thirds above mentioned to be equally divided with my sons as aforesaid, and my daughter to have one third as much as any son. If I shall have any more children by my wife, if sons, they to be equal with my other said sons, if girls, to be equal with my other said daughter. I constitute my wife sole executor.


Witnesses, Gershom Selleck, Nathan Olmsted Jr., Ezekiel Hawley, Jr.
Proved, Westchester County, November 6, 1784.
Administration granted to Abigail Hawley, New York, December 24, 1784. Page 329.

Author:   New York (County) Surrogate's Court
Title:   Abstracts of wills on file in the Surrogate's Office, City of New York (Volume XIII. Sept 3, 1784-Jun 12, 1786)
Publication Info:  Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Library
Print source:  New York: Printed for the Society, 1905

U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970
Name:        Lieutenant Sands Raymond Sr.
SAR Membership:       41408
Birth Date:                    1730
Birth Place:                   Norwalk, Connecticut
Death Date:                  20 Jul 1791
Spouse:      Sarah Betts
Children: Sands Raymond
Source Citation: Volume: 208; SAR Membership Number: 41408.
Source Information: U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Louisville, Kentucky: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Microfilm, 508 rolls.
Description: This database contains applications for membership in the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution approved between 1889 and 31 December 1970. These records can be an excellent source for names, dates, locations, and family relationships.

Daughters of the American Revolution

Ancestor #: A093757
Service Source: NARA, M881, COMP MIL SERV RECS, ROLL #759; ROBERTS, NY IN THE REV, P 207
Service Description:


Sunday, 16 March 2014

What To Do About St Patrick's Day?

Growing up in rural southwestern Ontario in the 1960's, I was surrounded by Scots or Irish who had settled Moore Township in the 1830's and 1840's. Many of us lived on the original farms that our great grand parents had carved from the forest before Confederation. Unlike the US, with their Ulster Scot, or Scotch Irish concepts, we in Ontario knew from experience that Scots and Irish were distinctly different people, often having opposing views on religion and politics, and who rarely intermarried during their first 125 or so years in Canada. However we were only vaguely aware of the long history that created, defined and perpetuated these differences. By 1968, the Orange walk on July 12th was but a distant memory of our parents, having been replaced by the Orange Parade on New Year's Day. St. Patrick's Day enjoyed only slightly more significance, but other the green beer served at the local tavern, it was largely ignored in our community.

It was not until my late teens that I learned my first real lesson in Irish history. One summer evening in 1970 I set off to Lucan in nearby Biddulph Township with three friends to explore the scene of the notorious Donnelly massacre, in which five members of an Irish family had been murdered one snowy night in 1880. Like most teenage escapades, we did no prior research, but just naively rolled into Lucan in Buck Hystead's 1962 Ford Galaxy and started asking people how to find the Donnelly homestead. The responses ranged from polite indifference to outright hostility, but no one would tell us how to find the farm. We had obviously touched the third rail of Biddulph Township's history. We drove around on the back roads for several hours, but never found the scene of the crime, returning home empty handed. Only later, after reading several books on both the local history and that of Ireland, did I discover the feud was thought by some to have had its roots in an ancient feud between the Irish Whiteboys and the Scottish Orangemen dating back to the late 17th century. The "troubles" between the ethnic Scots and the Irish in Belfast and Londonderry were in full swing by the time I went off to university in 1971, but with a name like Brian, I was more than welcome to consume green beer on St. Patrick's Day with my Irish friends.

Until very recently, convinced that Brian was an Irish name, I had always thought I must be at least partially Irish descent. I grew up knowing that my mother's paternal ancestors, the Wray's had migrated from County Cavan, Ireland in the 1830's. It didn't strike me as odd at the time that the Wray's, with their French sounding name, were devout Methodists, not a common religion in Ireland. The Elliott's, from Roxburghshire, Scotland, were predictably Presbyterian.  I wasn't entirely sure when, or from where, my father's ancestors had arrived, but I was quite content to simply assume we had some connection to Ireland as most of the family seemed less than enthralled with England in general and the monarchy in particular.

We May Be Less Irish Than We Think

However after hunting down about 9,000 names in our family tree in the past three years, I have yet to find any significant number of confirmed Irish ancestors. All the so called Irish families have, upon further investigation, have all turned out to be either Scottish Presbyterians or French Huguenots who had passed through Ireland for varying lengths of time on their way to North America. The Hayes and Pole families, which I had thought might have Irish origins, turned out to be from Somerset, in southwest England, while the Bayly's and the Willoughby's were from England. The Mellon, Anderson, McMurphy, and McCollum families from Counties Tyrone and Antrim, spent several generations in Ireland, but were all lowland Scots from Ayr or Argyle. They all left Ireland en masse 30 years after the siege of Londonderry. Any status I had as being Irish was looking pretty weak.

 A similar pattern emerged in my wife's family, where I found the Dutch Kool family had assumed the Irish sounding surname Cole upon their arrival in Canada in 1783. The Minchin's, thought to be Irish, turned out to be English. The Huffman's, recorded their origin as Ireland, but only one generation was actually born in Ireland. Prior generations name the Palatine region of what is now south-west Germany, as their place of birth.

My last defeat was suffered last year at an office luncheon. We had hired a recent immigrant, a young woman from County Sligo, Ireland on a temporary contract. Asking me if I had ever been to Ireland, I said that I had not, but that I hoped to visit one day soon as I had many ancestors were from Ireland, including two families from Sligo. She asked  "what where their names"? " Milliken and Taylor" I answered. In her delightful Irish lilt, she replied " I have lived in County Sligo all my life but I have never heard of those names". I was tempted to throw out a few more names from nearby County Cavan such as Wray and Brownlee, but realizing they were all Methodists, and as I had doubted that they had left any one behind when they emmigrated in the 1830's, I just let the topic drop.

What To Do About St Patrick's Day?

This all leads me to my current dilemma; what should I do about St. Patrick's Day, having failed to find any definitive proof of being Irish?

Despite the results of my research, being too frugal too pay for DNA test, and desperate to establish a link to Ireland, I found the answer painted on a girder in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Remembering Our Old Soldiers

Periodically I discover relatives who have largely been forgotten, often for no other reason than they died before they had a family of their own to remember them. One such relative is our 1st cousin, 4 times removed, Thomas Mellen of Edgartown, Massachusetts. While this is probably a story best told on Memorial Day, there is no good reason to hold it back. Here is his story.

Seaman Thomas Mellen

Thomas Mellen. son of James Mellen and Lucy Webber and grandson of Revolutionary soldier, Thomas Mellen, was born 03 Sep 1822 in Topsham, Orange, Vermont. As a child , he moved with his family to Martha’s Vineyard, where many of his family were engaged in the whaling industry.

Shortly after the War of the Rebellion was declared, Thomas enlisted in the Navy on May 20, 1861, at New Bedford, for 1 year, as a Seaman. His prior occupation is unknown, however his service was credited to Taunton, suggesting he may have left Martha’s Vineyard  prior to the war.

Thomas initially was assigned to the receiving ship USS Ohio and subsequently the USS Massachusetts, as a Seaman.

On May 24, 1861, the USS Massachusetts was commissioned as a Union vessel with Commander Melancton Smith III in command.The Massachusetts was assigned to the Gulf Blockading Squadron which, by war's end, patrolled the Confederate coastlines of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Initially, the primary focus of the Gulf Blockading Squadron was the Florida coastline.

On June 8, 1861, the Massachusetts arrived at Key West, Florida. On June 23, Confederate blockade schooners Trois Freres, Olive Branch, Fanny and the Basile were captured by the Massachusetts, off Pass L’Outre  in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thomas was assigned as master of one of the schooners to be sailed to Key West. These vessels were sent under charge of Lieutenant George L. Selden and Acting Master Sawyer, with prize crews numbering 25 men. Lieutenant Selden had orders to report to the senior officer present, and in the event of his being the senior officer, to Judge Marvin, U.S. district judge, to whom the papers of the captured vessels were addressed.

On July 1, 1861, the flotilla was becalmed about 10  miles south of the mouth of the Suwannee River, at the Seahorse reef, off Cedar Key. The locals sent word to Colonel M. Whit Smith, the leader of the local 4th Florida Infantry Regiment, who sailed into Cedar Key aboard the steamboat Madison with two companies of infantry.

What follows next is a matter of opinion. The Union records suggest the flotilla, becalmed and heavily outnumbered, did not put up a fight. The Confederate records speak of a heavy thunder squall and shots fired. In any event, by July 3rd the Union sailors had been captured and the Confederate flag had been restored to all four vessels.

On July 6, Seaman Mellen and the 19 other prisoners were relocated to the Tallahassee jail and sent next to Charleston, South Carolina.  By July 23rd, the prisoners, now “shackled together like convicts, two by two” arrived in Richmond Virginia where they were “Marched through the streets of that city in the drenching rain” to Ligon’s tobacco factory.(1) Ligon’s would be there home for the next seven months. Seaman Mellen is thought to have been part of a prisoner exchange in late February, 1862.  His service record lists him as being discharged 27 Feb 1862.

When liberated he was a mere skeleton, and so broken that he was never able to take care of himself again. Seaman Mellen remained a patient in the Sailor's Snug Harbor at Chelsea, Massachusetts until his death in 1866.

(1) Several articles suggest Thomas was held in the notorious Libby prison, however I have chosen to accept the details as reported in the Boston Globe on March 7, 1898 and the very comprehensive January 2014 edition of Beat to Quarters!, by Chuck Veit.

Links and Sources,%20VT

Monday, 6 January 2014

Family Stories, Fact or Fiction
Part Two

In our family there is story of our 3rd grand-mother, Sarah Hawley, travelling by oxcart from New York to Canada with her family. Apparently they lived in a log cabin on Sarnia Bay. Our 4th great-grandmother, Sarah Raymond, daubed red paint on the cheeks of her children in the hopes that the local Indians would be fooled into thinking the children were infected with contagious smallpox. But is this story true? Before trying to answer this question, we need to start with what historical facts we have found to date.

Early Years in Westchester County

Daniel Hawley, our 4th great grand-father, was the second of our lineal ancestor's to be a permanent  resident of  what is now Canada, arriving in 1812 with his wife and 10 children.  According to the Hawley Record, Daniel, was born on 3 May 1774 in South Salem, Westchester County, New York, the 6th child of John Hawley and Abigail Sanford, and a 2nd great grandson of  both Joseph Hawley and Thomas Sanford, and their wives.

Joseph Hawley came to North America in 1629 or 1630 from Parwich, Derbyshire, England about nine miles northwest of Old Derby, and four miles from Ashbourne, England. The family settled first at Scituate, Massachusetts, and afterwards moved to Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut (1) . Thomas Sanford, arrived in 1630 or 1631, settling first in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and in 1639 relocating to Milford, New Haven (2)(3).    

By the early 18th century, many descendants of Joseph and Thomas were participating in the westward expansion of America, They were prominent citizens in a number of towns in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. Realignment of the boundary between New York and Connecticut resulted in ceding the "Oblong" to New York. The Oblong was a small section of land on the border between Connecticut and New York that  had been disputed ever since the Treaty of Hartford in 1650. As a result, our  Hawley's "moved" to New York without ever having had to leave home

There is little evidence of what Daniel's early life shortly before the outbreak of the American revolutionary war was like, however the following passage from The Westchester County History describes life in Westchester County quite well and sets the tone for what follows.

The Revolution in Westchester County

"By 1775 Westchester was the richest and most populous county in the colony of New York. It was still almost entirely farmland, dotted with small villages at crossroads and on the waterways. Westchester farmers did not riot over taxes as their neighbors in the New England colonies did; British markets and protected prices for agricultural products were of more importance to them.

Once the revolution began, however, Westchester saw more fighting and suffering than any other area in the country. From 1776, when Washington and his troops retreated through Westchester after their defeat on Long Island, until 1783, when the British were finally expelled, the county was a battleground. For Westchester, the Revolution was truly a civil war, as families were often divided between patriot and loyalist sympathies.

After the Battles of Pelham and White Plains in October 1776, the main American headquarters was at Continental Village, just north of Peekskill. The British headquarters was in New York City. Westchester became the war, "Neutral Ground" between the two camps. During the entire course of the farmers and townspeople throughout Westchester were subjected to raiding, pillaging, and destruction by both British and American irregulars.

The capture of Major John Andre`, the British spy, by three Westchester men, was an important factor in America's ultimate victory, for it saved West Point, the fortress protecting the Hudson River, from seizure by the British. Westchester also saw the French troops, commanded by Rochambeau, pass along its roads as they came from Rhode Island to help Washington's army defeat the British at Yorktown in 1781.

In 1783, after seven years of suffering, Westchester's countryside was devastated and its population depleted. Recovery from the war would take time and hard work." (4)

In addition to traditional military battles, the war in Westchester County was fought economically as well. The so called "Neutral Ground" created attractive mercantile opportunities to entrepreneurially inclined residents. One of the more famous residents was James DeLancey, the Sherriff of Westchester County. James, the nephew of Oliver DeLancey organized the Westchester Chasseurs, a troop of 60 horsemen, also known as DeLancey's Refugees or DeLancey's Cowboys who were active in securing cattle, hogs, flour and other supplies to provision both the British soldiers, but also the residents of  New York City, both of whom were cut off from food supplies by Washington's Continental Army.

John Hawley; Loyalist or Patriot?

Daniel's father, John Hawley is thought to have supported the British during the Revolution, although no hard evidence to confirm any formal military service, or possible activities as a "cowboy",  have been found. Here is what we know, and what we do not know, about John Hawley.

Shortly before the Revolutionary War, a mission of the Church of England was organized in Salem. A church was built on land near the roadside leading from South Salem to Ridgefield. The congregation was apparently unable to pay the contractor, who converted it into a tavern, The church was subsequently dismantled in 1796. According to records of the South Salem Presbyterian Church, only the first five of John and Abigail's eight children were christened in the Presbyterian Church, begging the question;  did John and Abigail join the Church of England? This is considered significant as Church of England congregations tended to support the loyalist cause, while Congregationalists and Presbyterians tended to support the patriot cause. (5) I have not been yet been able to identify where Daniel and his two younger sisters were christened.

Trudy Hawley, genealogist of the Hawley Society, comments on John Hawley as follows in a 2009 e-mail to a distant cousin:

"Most of the Connecticut Hawley family genealogy was compiled in The Hawley Record, published in 1890. Unfortunately, some branches of this large group were omitted from publication, due to lack of contact with descendants who had earlier migrated away from New England. [John Hawley] was evidently a Loyalist who went to Canada during or after the Revolution, and later generations crossed back into Ohio at some point. If they didn't go to Canada, they probably moved as far west as possible (Ohio) to evade a government with which they had differences. In this particular circumstance, John Hawley (the direct ancestor) had died, his property confiscated, and his widow Abigail Sanford appealed to the British government in Canada for a pension, as her family had been dispersed, she know not where." (6)

John Hawley's first public problem occurs early in 1776 when he was listed as a "Suspected Person" by the Westchester County Committee of Conspiracies. This list included both "British Prisoners of War" and those alleged to be disaffected. As some suspects were proven innocent and allowed to remain in Westchester, appearance on this list was not always a badge of dishonor, as viewed from the American perspective. Very few names on this list were thought to be actually members of an organized British Army regiment (7).

Next we find John Hawley's name on a accounting of "British Prisoners of War" dated 13 August 1777 that had been removed from New York to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania in October of 1776 (8).  This is the last official fact we have for John Hawley. No further details on his activities have been found. The Provincial Congress also passed a law that required the wives of those who had fled, and their children aged 12 or under, to depart New York or go to the British lines in New York City and Long Island (9).

After John Hawley's estate was confiscated by the Commissioners of Sequestration, most likely between 3 March 1780 and 10 July 1781, his wife, Abigail Sanford, and their eight children were forced to leave Westchester County and take refuge behind the British lines in Brook Haven, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. Much of Suffolk County, including Brook Haven, was the home to many Loyalists during the Revolution. Lloyd's Neck, about 10 miles from Brookhaven, was the departure point for many of the Loyalists who left America after the war ended in 1783.

The next fact we have is the passenger list of the HMS Eagle which sailed from Huntington, Long Island on 15 September 1783 for New York City and onward to St. John, New Brunswick . The Eagle is believed to have been Sir Henry Clinton's flagship during the Revolutionary War. The manifest lists the widow Abigail Hawleys (sic) of Long Island, and five unnamed children as well as her oldest three sons Henry, John Jr. and Samuel, all listed as farmers from Westchester County, New York. I assume Patriots were not allowed to board the HMS Eagle,  but as of yet there is insufficient evidence to confirm John Hawley Sr.'s allegiance. (10)

I have not been able to find any further mention of John Hawley's time in prison, his release and when he was reunited with his family in Suffolk County. John does not appear in the Eagle's passenger list as he died on 15 September 1783 at the age of 44. His death occurs on the very same day as his family boards the HMS Eagle  to leave New York for Nova Scotia.  I have yet to confirm the cause of John's death; was it a war wound, disease, or was he simply murdered by a disaffected Patriot? All are possible given the date, the circumstances of his move from Westchester to Long Island, his unproven allegiance during the revolution, his wartime experience in prison, as well as the general state  of lawlessness that may have occurred in Suffolk County during the revolution. Suffolk County was the mirror image of Westchester County; deeply divided between support for Britain and the revolution. The major difference was that it was the Patriots who were exiled, while their farms were occupied by Loyalists. Many Patriots returned from Connecticut, only to find their farms in shambles, with their livestock, fences and woodlots gone, having been carried off the New York City to feed and keep warm the thousands of Loyalist refugees that jammed the city. It is not difficult to imagine that significant tensions developed between the returning Patriots and the departing Loyalists. Did John just make one too many enemies in the last days of the war?

The upcoming AMC miniseries, Turn, based on the book, Washington's Spies by historian Alexander Rose, may provide an interesting insight into life in Suffolk County during the revolution.

Notwithstanding the circumstantial nature of the evidence, and given that there were numerous Hawley and Sanford Loyalists who relocated to Nova Scotia and Upper Canada, it seems reasonable to assume that both John and Abigail were both Loyalists as well.  Most of John and Abigail's brothers are recorded as Patriots in both the Daughters of the American Revolution databases.  John's older brother, Ezekiel, was not only a Lieutenant in the Westchester Militia, but he was also Chairman of the Westchester County Committee of Safety. As such, he would have not only been directly involved in the forfeiture of his brother John's farm, but also that of his own son, Ezekiel Hawley Jr.(11). Truely a divided family.

Most of Abigail's children are best described as "flip flop" or boomerang Loyalists. Scattered as paupers after the death of their father, there is a 5-10 year gap in their records between their departure to New Brunswick in 1783 and when before most of them show up back in Westchester County, New York in the 1790's. Three of John's sons subsequently returned to Upper Canada with their families in 1810 to 1812, settling in the banks of the Fairchild Creek near  Brantford. His oldest son John Jr. traveled by oxcart to Pittsburgh where he and family purchased a boat which they used to float down the Ohio River to Cincinati. Abigail, who was 41 years old when she left Long Island, appears to have remained in Kingston, New Brunswick more or less permanently as she disappears entirely from the US records, with the exception of a reference to her administering John's will in 1784. She may have remarried as some records, most notably The Hawley Record, append Lyon to her name (i.e. Abigail Sanford Lyon). The source of this notation remains a mystery.

Next: Daniel Hawley's Return to New York and his second emigration to Canada

1.       Title: Smith Hawley and his Descendants
Author: Marilyn Hawley Symonds
Publication: privately printed, Lansing, Michigan, 1961
Page: pages 18 & 19
2.       Title: Thomas Sanford the Emigrant to New England
Author: Carlton E Sanford
Publication: The Tuttle Company, Printers, Rutland, Vermont, (n.d.)
Page: page 116
3.       Title: The Hawley Record
Author: Elias Sill Hawley
Publication: Press of E H Hutchinson & Co, Buffalo, New York, 1890
Page: HR #2, page 2
4.       The Westchester County History - Westchester County New York, website, prepared by Susan Cochran Swanson and Elizabeth Green Fuller in 1982,
5.       Records of the Church of Christ in Salem, Westchester Co., N.Y
7.       Title: New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, Volume II. Albany, New York, J.B. Lyon company, 1904 p. 231-232
8.       ibid, p. 238-239
9.       ibid, p. 229
10.     Manifest of the Loyalist Transport Vessel Eagle, New York to Saint John, New Brunswick, September, 1783.
11.     History of The County of Westchester Vol. I. 60, P. 474