Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Orphaned and Widowed, Part I

Margaret Meredith Palmer was my husband's great-great grandmother.   She was born around 1823 in Lancaster County, Virginia to Capt. John Meredith and Ann Currell Lee, married James A. Palmer on May 16, 1842 in Baltimore, Maryland and died in Northumberland County in 1889.

That skeletal outline of her life suggests many things.  She lived, as they say, in interesting times.  I have imagined a Tidewater version of Margaret Mitchell's Ellen O'Hara, the penultimate Southern Lady, without the wild Irish husband.  And there is a morsel of truth there.   She was born on one plantation, raised as a devout Catholic, and became mistress of another plantation upon her marriage.  Unlike Ellen O'Hara, she survived her husband and the Civil War.

My image of her changed when I sifted through papers belonging to her uncle, Thomas Meredith, a Baltimore merchant and, much to my delight, a hoarder.  He kept letters from his siblings, nephews and Margaret.  Much of my family history involves documents where ancestors scratched out an X.  It was a thrill to find first person accounts of their lives.   Far from glamorous, Margaret's first 40 years were filled with loss and struggle.

Her father, John Meredith was a cash strapped farmer and slave owner.  In 1822 he married Ann Lee Towill.  It was a second marriage for each.  He was a widower with a son, Thomas James, known as James.  She was a wealthier widow with four children.  Together they had Margaret and a son Thomas William, known as Thomas.  Margaret's mother died when she was a young child and her father married again in 1828 to another widow, her mother's cousin Ann Steptoe Brent.  They had a son William Vincent, known as, well, who cares at this point?

A brief digression - need I say how much I have regretted John's stunning lack of originality in choosing wives and naming his sons?  One of the great joys of those letters was that they clarified the tangled relationships and names.

Margaret's childhood seems to have been rather simple, and sweet.  Her father sent a note to his brother in Baltimore full of family news, money woes, gossip and closed with the note "Margaret & Tho sent you & sister a large potatoe each -- did you get them?" The potatoes were entrusted to a ship captain traveling back to Baltimore.  No word on whether Uncle Thomas got the spud.

Her life changed radically when she was about 12 years old.  Numerous letters refer to the ill health of her father and step-mother.  He died in February, 1834.  A year later her step-mother was dead.

From then on, Margaret's care and upbringing was shared amongst her tight-knit Meredith family.  Her brother James, a merchant in Richmond County, moved his three younger siblings to his home there, where they were cared for by their aunt, Caroline Meredith Shearman.  James and his aunt Caroline doted on the orphans.  Letters refer jokingly to young Willie's (alright, he was known as Willie) crush on a neighbors' daughter and concern that the children maintain ties to Lancaster County where Margaret and Thomas had inherited  property through their mother.  They were sent back to board for school at Col. Edmond's house where, her brother James wrote, "they have an excellent teacher there for the year - Mr. Emmanuel".   Her uncle in Baltimore assumed financial management of her affairs, arranged for her further schooling at St. Joseph's Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland when she was older and served as her father figure for the rest of his life.  But in 1838, another anchor in her life, her aunt Caroline Shearman died.  James wrote his uncle in Baltimore that fall, "I hardly know what poor Margaret will do -- however she will not leave school till July, before only which time providence may make a provision".

To be continued.

Sources:  Letters from John Meredith, T.J. (James) Meredith, Joseph Meredith, Hannah Meredith Yerby,  Caroline Meredith Shearman (all of Virginia) and Sist. Margt Tre_st. of St. Joseph's Academy to Thomas Meredith. The letters are part of the Thomas Meredith Papers (MS1795) at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.  All the letters, save an 1840 letter from Sister Margaret, are in Box 1 of the collection.  The letter from Sister Margaret is in Box 2, Folder 1.    

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Gentleman's Proper Education

I am feeling poorly educated.  I have been reviewing a prospectus for Georgetown College dated August 1835.  It's of particular interest because my husband and I both attended Georgetown many, many decades later.  I doubt we could have managed the 19th century curriculum (not that I would have been given the opportunity).

The school year ran from September 15th to July 31st which, while sparing the students Washington D.C. in August, still exposed them to it's wretched summers.  Fr. Mulledy, the school's president, wrote of the College's location on the Potomac river as "particularly healthy" and of the "distance between the College and the Capitol being only an ordinary walk".  The Capitol and school haven't moved,  but not many of us would consider the four plus miles an ordinary walk - especially considering the four mile return trip slopes uphill.

The course of study lasted seven years, substituting roughly for our high school and college studies.  The young men studied seven years of Latin, six of Greek and six of English Composition.  They were taught Geography for five years, read the Bible, Homer, Virgil, Sophocles, Livy, and at least ten classical authors whose names never before crossed my field of vision.  The received "an hour and a quarter every day, in Mathematics" culminating in "Solid Geometry, Spherics, the use of the Globes, Conics and the Calculus", and an hour a day of French.  Bookkeeping was available as an elective.  For additional charges the gentlemen were taught Italian, Spanish or German, Music, Drawing, Dancing and Fencing.

Their lives were far more prescribed than ours.  The required wardrobe puts the modern camp list to shame.  For public ceremonies the young men had to bring white pantaloons and black silk waistcoats for summer; blue suits with black velvet waistcoats for winter.  For regular use they needed two suits, "six shirts, six pairs of stockings, six pocket handkerchiefs, three pairs of shoes, a hat and a cloak or great coat".  All activities were under the watchful eye of the prefects and students were allowed to leave the College only once a year.  Even those whose family lived nearby were only allowed brief monthly visits and none were "allowed to visit any person except his parents or legal guardian".  Pocket money was deposited with Fr. Mulledy, and doled out at his discretion.

The $200 annual tuition included "board and lodging, washing and mending linen and stockings, for the use of books, (philosophical and mathematics excepted,) pens, ink, and writing paper, slates and pencils, medical aid and medicine".

And finally, to my utter delight and amusement, each student was required to provide "a silver spoon, marked with his name".  Hoya Saxa.

Source:  "Georgetown College in the District of Columbia" dated August 1835, from the Thomas Meredith Papers (MS1795, Box 1, Folder 5), Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland.  

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: The Old Home Place

It's an awful picture, to be sure, but such a treasure.  The original photograph, faded and deteriorating, was found amongst my grandmother's papers in 1996.   Samuel Bryson McAdams, her grandfather, was born in 1845, a son of Thomas McAdams and Cynthia Stephenson.  His father was the postmaster at Locust Mount in Washington County, Tennessee.  I have driven the roads near Locust Mount trying to find the house, but it seems it is no longer standing.  I fantasize that that small white streak on the porch was a McAdams child peering out at the photographer.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coming Late to the Party

As a newbie blogger and poster of genealogical data I thought a carnival had rides and cotton candy.  I was fascinated to discover the blog versions were every bit as entertaining.  I was so moved by the Carnival of African-American Genealogy.  Unfortunately, I've missed the first theme, but look forward to others.

What motivated me about the Carnival was that it addresses one of the key reasons I've finally started sharing my research online.  It has been impossible to research my southern families without facing the role slavery and the Civil War played in their lives.

Things seemed clear when researching my husband's family.  Much loved, but clearly on the wrong side of history.  The wistfulness about the old Virginia homestead did not disguise the fact that slaves built the home, tilled the fields and crewed on the ships that carried their goods back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay. Did his family suffer greatly during the war? Yes.  But nothing like the losses suffered by those they enslaved for generations.  The right side won the war.

The stories we heard of my family, small farmers and tradespeople from East Tennessee, were of staunch Unionists with no hint of Confederate loyalties.  And there were Union soldiers, some who fought, died and came from slave owning families.  There were also those who fought and died for the Confederacy, wives and sisters who fled to the hills hoping to avoid the ravages and ravishing of the war, each side unspeakably cruel and vicious.  Any smugness I felt about my "pure" Union roots vanished as I read more about the Civil War in Tennessee and looked more closely at the census and land records.  The right side looked exactly like the wrong side.  

From this distance, I'm not sure sides matter any more.  What matters is that we look honestly at the past.  I want to know my family and those in their lives.  I have gathered information on their neighbors, kin and associates looking for those tiny details that illuminate their lives.  I know names, religions, occupations.  I know how they died, where they went as they migrated across the country.  And now I know who owned slaves.  I am making an effort to document the slaves, just as I do their neighbors and relations.  It's easier to do with the wealthier families who owned more slaves - more documentation.  But even my small town Tennessee family can provide clues.  The 1860 Washington County, TN census (Campbells district, p. 180, lines 34-35) lists a 24 year old black woman, Sarah and 3 year old Martha E. with the family of Thomas C. McAdams.  The enumerator then crossed their names out and added them to the slave census -  without names.  

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Making census of the Hamptons 1850 Washington County, TN

Hampton Census Analysis Part II

In 1850 there were 12 Hampton heads of household in Washington County. Additionally, 6 Hamptons are recorded as members of other households.
Family # Name Head of household Born Occupation Value of RE Place of Birth

858 And Hampton x 1832 farmer NC
889 R Jesse Hampton x 1790 farmer TN
890 R Wm Hampton 1828 trainer TN
890 R Robt Hampton 1827 trainer TN
1000 John Hampton x 1797 farmer NC
1167 R Wade Hampton x 1818 farmer 1140 TN
1264 Wm Hampton x 1786 Hammermaker (?) NC
1270 Thos Hampton x 1820 Hammermaker (?) NC
1282 Russa Hampton x 1811 TN
1345 John Hampton x 1825 train 300 NC
1407 David Hampton x 1825 farmer NC
1431 W Wm Hampton x 1826 shoemaker SC
1676 R Nancy Hampton 1788 TN
2100 Jeremiah Hampton x 1811 farmer TN
2111 R Hiram Hampton x 1811 farmer 1300 TN

The Robert family includes his son Jesse (#889), Jesse’s sons William and Robert (#890), Robert’s daughter-in-law Nancy (#1676, widow of Robert, Jr. who died before 1850) and her sons Wade (#1167) and Hiram (#2111). These relationships are established by estate and property transactions following the death of the younger Robert.

Winny/Winey is probably enumerated as Vienna Hampton in the household of Wm Hampton (#1431). Supporting this is the fact that Peleg Rigsby, who married Eliz. Hampton, was enumerated next to Winny Hampton in 1840. In 1850 they are still nearby (#1397). In 1860 this William and his family are enumerated in Claiborne County, TN. Living nearby are Peleg Rigsby and Isaac Tapp, who married another Hampton female. Winey/Winny/Vienna is no longer listed. It should also be noted that William Hampton’s occupation is recorded as shoemaker. Years earlier, in 1794 a James Hampson was bound out to an Alex McKee learn shoemaking. This James may have been related to William Hampson, whose estate was inventoried in 1793.

It is unclear who the hammermaker Hamptons are. Though indexed as Hamilton, I read their names as Hampton. They may be related to the Thomas or William who were listed in 1840, though the Williams are clearly not the same men. There was a Col. Wm. Hampton enumerated in 1830 Wilkes, NC census who was the same age as this William.

It is also unclear who And Hampton (#858) and David Hampton (#1407) are. An Andrew Hampton, age 18 and a tanner appears on the 1850 mortality list.

The Jeremiah Hampton family (#2100) was enumerated in Gilmer County, GA in 1860. This apparently the Jeremiah who married Sela Laws in 1829 in Wilkes County, NC. He may be the Jeremiah enumerated in the 1830 Jefferson County, TN census.

One further relationship becomes clear when comparing the 1850 and 1860 census data. The John Hampton families #1000 and #1345 are living next door to each other in Cocke County in 1860.

What is clear is that many of these Hamptons have links to the Laws family, to Carter and Cocke Counties in TN and to Wilkes County in NC.  What is still not clear is how - or if - the Robert and Winny Hampton families found in 1830 relate to the new families found in 1850.  Sigh...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Catholics in Virginia

When I began researching 19th century Merediths in Lancaster and Northumberland Counties (VA) I was frustrated by the dearth of marriage records for some family members.  For people of some financial means they seemed cavalier about marrying according to the laws of Virginia.  And then I found this letter.  

Transcription of Letter from Thomas Meredith to Revd. Mr. Dzeroyinski at Georgetown, 16 Sept 1830.  (Collection:  Maryland Province Archives, 62:16., Georgetown University Library, Washington, DC)

                                                                                                Baltimore Sept. 16. 1830
Revd. Sirs
            The Archbishop has informed me of your kindness in so promptly consenting to Revd. Mr Du Buson’s visiting Lancaster County in Virginia, my native place, to perform the marriage ceremony for my niece, when at the same time I hope an opportunity will be afforded him of doing much good by explaining the Catholic doctrines & preaching a few sermons for them – The Revd Father Besithe (sp?) told me he expected Revd Mr. DuB. would be in Geo Town by the latter part of last week, but the archbishop informed me he had not come, on Sunday last & you had written for him.   My niece is living with an elder brother of mine, who has not informed when the marriage is to take place, by his last letter he intimated that he was making arrangements to come to Balto. not knowing that a Priest could go down, if that arrangement has not been concluded before my letter informing him of Revd Mr DuB’s willingness to go, reaches him, I think it will take place at his house on 30th [NW or possibly Nov.].  You will lay me under an additional obligation if you will be so kind as to inform me of the arrival of Revd. Mr DuB. at Geo. Town as soon as is [ou???] or ask him to do it, that I may address him on the sugject so soon as I get decisive information from my brother.  In the mean time would inform him that the Steam Boat leaves Baltimore on Wednesday at 10 oclk A.M. & arrives at my brother’s before sunrise on thursday morning.  If the marriage should take place on thursday evening would that be allowing him time enough before the ceremony?
            Thanking you very sincerely for your kindness in so eadily granting me the great favor asked & begging that you will excuse me for troubling now.  I am Revd. & Dear Sirs with the highest respect & veneration
                                                                                       Your obliged & able servt
                                                                                               Thos. Meridith

Transcription of letter in reply.

                                                                                    GeorgeTown College Sept. 18th 1830
Dear Sir:

I received yesterday your of 16th[??]  Last week I wrote to Father Dubuisson who is [?????] at [????]town [??] St. Marys County to go to Baltimore to see you and arrange every thing respecting the marriage in question.  He will probably see you this week.  Should you receive an answer from your Brother before he sees you, you can direct him accordingly.  I am glad to be serviceable to you in any way as you are so zealous in promoting the greater glory of God. 
                                                                                    Respectfully Yours

Far from cavalier, they were Catholic.  Though legally allowed to practice their faith following Jefferson's 1786 Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, they had no pastor or church available.  A Catholic church was not established in Lancaster County until 1885 when a Meredith descendent donated land in Kilmarnock.  I  have since found some of their marriage records in Maryland and Washington, DC.  And it seems some marriages may have been performed by visiting priests and never recorded in Virginia.  Now if I could only identify the mystery bride... 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Making census of the Hamptons 1830-1840

As part of my ongoing effort to sort through the Hamptons of Washington County, TN I have compared census information, marriage and estate records.  The census records were examined online using Ancestry.com.

There are at least two, possibly three, distinct Hampton families recorded in the 1830 Washington County, TN census.  It is unknown what, if any relationship they have to the earlier Hamptons in Cocke County, Hosea and Job or the Hamptons found in Carter County.  Jesse and Robert Hampton were brothers, sons of the Robert Hampton whose will was recorded in 1796.  Winey Hampton was a female head of household with two males under 10, and four females 5-20. Additionally, Isaac Mulkey and Samuel Bayless had Hampton wives whose parentage is unknown.  Mulkey and Bayless were, however, closely associated with the family of Robert Hampton.   

In 1840 Robert appeared again.  His brother was not enumerated, but his son Hiram was listed as a head of household.

Winny Hampton was enumerated with one male, 15-20 and one female, 15-20.  She lost 3 females of marriageable age.  Existing marriage records for Washington County list four Hampton brides during the 1830s.  Elizabeth Hampton Duncan was a daughter of Robert Hampton.  Mary Hampton Cunningham was a daughter of John (another son of the Robert who left a will in 1796) and Anna Bayless Hampton according to information received from one of her descendants.  The other two are possible daughters of Winny Hampton. 

Washington County Hampton brides for 1830s

Hampton, Mary
Cunningham, John

Hampton, Elizabeth
Duncan, John

Hampton, Elizabeth
Rigsby, Peleg

Hampton, M
Tapp, Isaac

William L Hampton was enumerated.  He was 30-40 years old, too young to be another son of 1796 Robert.  It is unclear how or if he is related to the Robert or Winny families. He may, however be the William L Hampton enumerated in Carter County in 1830.  That William (aged 20-30) was listed with households headed by Thomas Hampton, Lucinda Laws, Mary Hampton and Elizabeth Laws.

Anna Hampton was enumerated, age 30-40, with three children.  It is unclear how of if she is related to the Robert or Winny families.  But she is probably the woman enumerated in 1850 as Ann Hutchings, w/ John b. Hampton living there.  Wash Co. Marriages record a Hampton/Hutchins marriage.

Thomas Hampton was enumerated, age 20-30, a single man living in what may have been a school, hotel or boarding house.  It is unclear how or if he is related to the Robert or Winny families.   He is too young to have been the Thomas enumerated next to William L. Hampton (above) in the 1830 Carter County census.