Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy Patriot's Day: a Salute to our Lexington Ancestors

"Let it be known unto Britain, even American daughters are politicians and patriots, and will aid the good work."  --Mercy Otis Warren
Dara, Liz, and a trio of Lexington Minutemen ~ July 2010

Last summer, as I walking in my second Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure throughout the western suburbs of Boston, it seemed absolutely and cosmically appropriate that I should stop in a park in Lexington and pose with these three Minutemen, above, fully regaled in traditional Colonial militia-dress, with all the accouterments of battle, honor, and pride.  (That's my friend, Dara, to my right).  If I had had the time, I might have asked them what they knew about my ancestors, the Parkers and the Munroes, who were as intertwined by marriage and duty as they were by loyalty to the cause of the Revolution.  But those 60 miles were calling, and after a few quick pics, Dara and I were on our way again.  As we marched past the Battle Green, I took in the spot where my 6th great grandfather, Jonas Parker, was one of the first to fall on that fateful day of April 19, 1775.  We walked past the statue of Captain John Parker, Jonas' younger first cousin, who gallantly led the militia during the Battle of Lexington to launch the Revolutionary War, and onward out through the center of Lexington, where so many of our ancestors lived and worked as farmers and tavern keepers and fought for our freedoms.  As we walked through the 23+ grueling miles on our second day of this epic Walk, I couldn’t help but think of the spunk of Jonas Parker, and was glad that his energy seemed to be infusing every step of mine with some of his own special brand of gutsy fortitude.  

"By The Rude Bridge That Arched The Flood,
Their Flag to April's Breeze Unfurled,
Here Once The Embattled Farmers Stood,
And Fired The Shot Heard Round The World."
We all know the opening lines, above, to the Concord Hymn by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which paid further tribute to the events of the early morning hours on April 19, 1775 forever immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow--however inaccurately--in his poem, Paul Revere's Ride.  While the first shots were fired on the Green at Lexington in those early morning hours amidst chaos and confusion and despair, it wasn't until later, when the gathering storm of American colonists had faced the British down at the North Bridge at Concord, that the Minutemen received their first official orders to shoot in the War's first official acts of treason.  The Battles at Lexington and Concord have been heralded as the first of the American Revolution, when farmers and carpenters came together within their local militias, took to arms and met the British regulars on the road from Boston to Lexington to Concord and back, putting their experience fighting against the Indians in the French and Indian Wars to good use, taking aim from behind stone walls and thick trees, cracking open the linear regiments of the Redcoats, and sending them running for their lives back to Boston.  It's famous for its many heroes: Paul Revere, most notably, as well as the other biggies, John Hancock, Sam Adams, and John Adams, the lesser-known commanders like Captain John Parker, and, of course, the often nameless, faceless militia and Minutemen, who, like Jonas Parker, proved that they could be ready in a minute's time, to fight with all their heart and valor, lay everything on the line, and take that leap into the unpredictable, chaotic world of war against Mother England.

The struggle at the North Bridge
If you're lucky to live close enough to visit Minuteman National Park, you've no doubt experienced first hand the chills of taking in the morning fog rising up over the river by the North Bridge, walking the Battle Road still shadowed with the stench of fear and blood, and touring some of the historic houses, where ghosts of tavern keepers, farmers, and militia men and their families still roam.

Here in Massachusetts, and just north in Maine, to celebrate all the heroes of the Battles at Lexington and Concord, we observe Patriot's Day, which always falls on the Monday closest to the 19th of April.  This year, Patriot's Day is today.  Happy Patriot's Day, everyone!  Woot!

An engraving of the battle.
Patriot's Day is a great little holiday; I like that it is understated, that there are no supermarket aisles devoted to Patriot's Day merchandise, that kids don't expect their parents to lavish Patriot's Day candy and toys on them--chocolate Minutemen, gummy Lobster Backs, and chewy rifles--that it is there for the taking, without the hard sell.  Public schools are closed, the iconic, wonderful Boston Marathon is run, and in Concord and Lexington, the "first shot heard around the world" and the beginning battles of the American Revolution are commemorated, with dawn salutes, re-enactments, and parades.  It's fitting that in Massachusetts, where history hides in every street corner, cobblestone, and battle road, Patriot's Day is such a celebrated civic holiday.  In 1894, Patriot's Day was officially established, a compromise between the town of Lexington's wish to call it Lexington-Concord Day and the town of Concord's wish to call it, you guessed it, Concord-Lexington Day.  The Governor at the time, Frederic Greenhalge, diplomatically settled on the name of Patriot's Day.

When my kids were little, we went to Concord one Patriot's Day weekend for the festivities, and they did not disappoint; my older son, Luke, who was four at the time, managed to wake himself up (and my mother, who had agreed to go with him) before 5 am in order to go to the Dawn Salute at the North Bridge.  Dominick, just a baby at the time, was much disturbed by the loud canon blasts and gunfire that skittered throughout the skies that day, but loved the bright pageantry of the parade.  At the time, we had no idea of our own family connection to the incredible events of April 19, 1775.  Since then, however, as we have delved deeper into our past and unearthed some of the more fascinating stories, we've become more enchanted with not just our own family history, but with American History as well, and Dominick, despite his early upset around the battle sounds at Concord and Lexington, has become quite a family historian.  In recent years, particularly when we were homeschooling, we have gone back several times to explore our own personal history that is so deeply and intricately entangled in the region's broader history that it is hard to find a passage during that time that we are not personally connected to.
The blaze of redcoats in the distance.
One of the best stories we've discovered is that of Jonas Parker.  It is not one that most people have heard.  He was not immortalized in any poems nor hymns, but was remembered for the pure, unique firebrand of moxie that must have come from his ancestral past--from all those years of living through unimaginable and heartbreaking loss, physical hardship and suffering, and building strength and resilience--and that he displayed on the early morning of April 19, 1775, when he refused to run from the British, even after being wounded, and stayed to finish what he had started off to do.  It was this spirit that has been captured in the painting "The Battle of Lexington," which hangs in the Lexington town hall.  Jonas Parker stands as the central figure in an erect position, awaiting the British charge, "the look of determination is well depicted on his handsome face."

Jonas Parker's story is just one of many hidden, untold tales from the time, of heroic deeds and dramatic displays of valor.  I'd like to think that some day I could tell his wife Lucy's story a little bit more, after all, the women of the Revolutionary Era were truly the unsung heroes, women like Jonas' wife, Lucy Munroe Parker, who were forced to take strong political stands and actions, and to make great personal sacrifices and struggle alongside their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.  Jonas' devotion to the cause often no doubt meant that Lucy, like other women of her time, was taking care of more than the usual domestic responsibilities at home--children, animals, farms, cleaning, sewing, cooking, spinning, weaving, hauling--while at the same time finding time to mend uniforms and bandages, boycott tea and British goods, melt down pewter for ammunition, bring water to the soldiers on the battle fields, tend to injured soldiers, often, take up arms to protect their families.  As Martha Washington, who was well known and respected for her humility and hard work, said, "Whilst our husbands and brothers are examples of patriotism, we must be patterns of industry."  These women often took up the cause alongside their husbands, and yet, it is their stories that for the most part remain undiscovered.    I am determined to more fully flesh out the stories of these ancestral women--for now, I offer a Patriot's Day tale full of drama and grit...

Characterized by Theodore Parker in the Parker Genealogy as a "typical Lexington Minuteman," Jonas Parker was, by all accounts, strong of heart, head, and body, confident, and willing to die for what he believed in.  Given that the town of Lexington did not officially follow the recommendations of John Hancock and the Provincial Congress of 1774, and actually put together a "minute company," ready to march at a minute's notice, Lexington's fighting men were not officially "Minutemen" but rather militia, but despite the lapse by the town, were no less prepared than the Minutemen from surrounding towns.  Lexington's militia consisted of young men and old, farmers, shopkeepers, tavern keepers, grandfathers, and boys of just 16 years.  At the time of the battle, Parker was already 53 years old, making him one of the oldest in the Lexington militia.  He was married to Lucy Munroe, part of the fiery Munro Clan from Inverness, Scotland, who had deep roots in the battle tradition, as mercenary soldiers and Viking vanquishers, and who had settled successfully in Lexington, fought in the French and Indian War, and would factor big in the Battles at Lexington and beyond.  Jonas had spent his life working as a woodworker and farmer in the Parker family tradition, and was a big, strong, tall man, fit as a fiddle, and still, at 53, respected as the best wrestler in town.  When war with England seemed imminent, he was heard on several occasions to say that "be the consequences what they might and let others do what they pleased, he would never run from the enemy."  It seemed the perfect set up to what would ensue: the chance to prove himself worthy of action and not just words.

Jonas' first cousin, John Parker, happened to be the Captain of the Lexington Militia, elected by the townspeople in 1774 to serve as commander and prepare them for what now seemed inevitable: a quickly escalating,  potentially explosive confrontation with Mother England.  Both men had served valiantly in the French and Indian War.  Both were skilled "joiners" and carpenters.  Both were large-framed, strong men.  Captain John Parker, though just 45 years old in 1775, some eight years younger than his cousin, Jonas, had been recently weakened by a bout with "consumption," which was still taking its toll on his physical strength. But Captain Parker had trained his militia well, which included many Parkers and Munroes, many with extensive experience in wartime duty. 
The British Expedition and Patriot Messengers: the Road to Lexington and Concord
The intent of the British to march on Lexington and Concord was two-fold: to first arrest the rebel rousers John Hancock and Sam Adams in Lexington, and so stifle further revolt, and then, to march on to Concord in order to seize and destroy the growing cache of weapons and ammunition that could spell trouble for the Regulars.  On that fateful morning of April 19, 1775, after a fitful few hours of sleep, Captain John Parker heard the news he had been expecting: the British Regulars were marching towards Lexington and Concord to seize arms that had been stored in Concord.  Paul Revere, on his way from Charlestown with news of the British Regulars, had successfully gotten word to Hancock and Adams, who were able to flee to safety, and to Parker, who had enough warning to round up his men.  Revere would later be captured on the ride to Concord, but not before word had gotten to the town to prepare for an invasion of Redcoats.  Captain Parker sounded the alarm at two in the early morning, the night still dark and cool, the belfry on the Lexington Green and the beating of drums calling all militiamen to assemble on the common, and then to wait at Buckman's Tavern until further notice.  Some men went home to spend time with their families, while others waited out the hours inside Buckman's Tavern, which was situated directly across from the town green.  Jonas Parker, who lived in the center of town next to the home of the Patriot Minister Rev. Jonas Clark, the temporary hide-out of John Hancock and Sam Adams, and the destination of Paul Revere, might have gone home to spend some time with Lucy and his children, or perhaps stayed at the Tavern, too full of anticipation to return home.  Wherever he was, his resolve no doubt gained in strength and determination as he awaited the next command from his cousin.  Finally, at half-past four, Captain John Parker "called the roll of his company, formed the line near the meeting house, and commanded":
"Every man of you who is equipped follow me, and those of you who are not go into the meeting house and furnish himself from the magazine and immediately join the company."
A formidable force in Lexington
Upon his cousin's orders, Jonas joined in among the two loose rows of less than 100 Lexington militiamen, loaded his musket and awaited as the rows of more than 600 British troops began to draw ever closer.  600 British Regulars!  It must have been an imposing sight.  Jonas Parker stood, just one of about 80 Lexington militia, bravely facing terrifying odds.  The British required access to the road to the left of the Common, where the militia tenuously stood their ground, in order to march on to Concord, but didn't want to leave these rebels untended at their flank.   As the first three lines of Redcoats took formation onto the Green, several of the militia around Jonas Parker faltered, and Jonas's cousin, Captain John Parker, had to call out sternly: "The first man who offers to run shall be shot down."  The British marched towards them in menacing lines, and halted, Pitcairn waving his sword above his head and crying out, "Disperse, ye villains, ye rebels!"  Captain Parker had reportedly told his men "Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they want a war let it begin here," but upon seeing how badly they were outnumbered, he soon quickly ordered his men to fall back. But by now, confusion had taken over.  The British Major Pitcairn ordered his men to move forward and encircle the militia.  The gentlemanly Captain John Parker, upon seeing the decidedly less civil Pitcairn discharge his pistol and order his men to fire, tried to yell above the with more urgency to his men, "Give way, men, fall back!" At this time, someone fired a shot.  There are many differing accounts, but it is quite possible that neither a British Regular nor a Lexington militiaman triggered the chaos that ensured, but one of the many bystanders who had gathered.  Accounts differ, as one would expect.  One of the British 10th Light Infantry later said, “The Soldiery and young Officers wanted to have at the damned dogs; in their impetuosity burst out into firing ... contrary to the command."  William Munroe swore he heard Pitcairn order his men to "Fire, damn you, fire!"  And another in the Munroe Clan, Ebenezer, reported that "The commanding officer advanced within a few rods of us, and exclaimed, 'Disperse, you damned rebels! you dogs, run!--Rush on my boys!' and fired his pistol."


Regardless of who fired into the crowd, the Regulars, thinking they had been fired upon, began to shoot openly and spontaneously towards the retreating militia.  At the first round, the British had overshot, but a second volley was coming.  The militia started running this way and that, and Captain Parker urged his men to retreat. Along with a few other brave souls, Jonas Parker stood his ground, shouting to his cousin and commander, "No, sir!  Here I stay!, " before pushing his way from the rear to the center of the line to position himself better to face the incoming assault.  Once there, he reputedly removed his hat containing powder, wadding, and bullets and slammed it to the ground in readiness for the second charge. In panic, the front rank pushed through the second rank, some backing away while others hurrying off.  It was chaotic, and it was impossible to hear anyone's orders over all the noise, particularly those of Captain John Parker, whose voice was hoarse and tubercular, but Jonas Parker remained calm and utterly focused.  In the shuffle was Jonas' nephew, Ebenezer Parker, who tried to persuade his uncle to retreat.  Jonas Parker had said that he'd never run from the Redcoats, and true to his word, started shooting defiantly into the oncoming sea of redcoats, the second attack from the British deluging the small company of retreating Lexington farmers with bullets.  Our Jonas, standing face forward and in front of his retreating company, was hit.  Now badly wounded, he somehow managed to unload his cartridges into his hat, get to his knees, and ready his rifle to shoot again. 

It was not to be.

A re-enactment of Parker's end
The next moment, he was "transfixed by a bayonet upon the spot where he first stood and fell."  Poor, Jonas!  But what a way to go!  Wowza!

The British Regulars, buoyed by their seemingly simple overtaking of these Rebels, began their march to Concord, where more and more Minutemen were gathering from surrounding towns, and where they would surprise the British with a powerful face-off at the North Bridge, before chasing them back to Boston in a veritable trouncing.  The return trip on the Battle Road would not be a pretty one for the British.  The British Regiments suffered 19 officers and 250 soldiers killed and wounded. The American losses did not exceed 90 men.

Out of the roughly eighty men who turned out that morning in Lexington to face the British threat head-on, fifty-two fled unhurt.  Ten more were wounded.  And out of the eight who fell that morning on Lexington Green, six had ties to the Munroe family.  Lucy Munroe Parker, Jonas' wife, and mother to their ten children, lost not only her husband that day, but her brother as well.  Robert "Ensign" Munroe (1712-1775), another veteran of the French and Indian War, was well-known for having held the banner at the Battle of Louisburg in Nova Scotia thirty years earlier.  Robert Munroe had joined Jonas Parker, his brother-in-law, on the front line, and were the first two killed by British bayonet.  Quite remarkably, Robert, the oldest man on the battlefield, was 62, Jonas 53. 

As for Captain John Parker, soon after his men dispersed from the Lexington Green, he re-organized his men to attack the British Regulars, now on a fast, chaotic retreat from Concord back to Boston, from a position up on a slight hill that ran perpendicular to the Battle Road.  With the help of the Lincoln militia, he fired upon the British column, killing Colonel Smith, and the last uninjured officer of the British 10th light foot, Captain Parsons.  Soon known as “Parker’s Revenge, this skirmish was so representative of how the militia was able to use iconic features of the New England landscape--stone walls, large, thick trees, wooded hillsides, and open meadows--to their advantage, pelting the British from hidden spots behind walls and trees along the road to flush them back to Boston.  The spot where Captain John Parker avenged the losses his militia--and his family--suffered earlier that morning is marked on the Battle Road to this day.    

A few days after the Battles, when eyewitnesses gave depositions to the Colonists to show that the British had fired at the Militia without provocation, Captain Parker would say "I immediately ordered our militia to disperse and not to fire."  Since several of the wounded and killed militia members had been shot in the backs, the deposition signed by 34 Lexington Militiamen that declared "Whilst our backs were turned on the troops, we were fired on by them, and...not a gun was fired by any person in our company...before they fired on us," rings true, and yet, the matter is still undecided today, all these years later.

Captain Parker would go on to lead a part of his company to Cambridge the following May, and was ready for action on the day when the British lost so many lives at Bunker Hill.  Unfortunately, Parker, who had been ill for quite some time, was too sick to enter the battle, so instead, took his troops to help guard the "Neck"--that narrow strip of land that served as an entry point into Charlestown--that day.

Parker died not long after, on September 17, 1775, at the age of just 46, of an epidemic dysentery that found him easy prey because of the tuberculosis, or "consumption" that had already been ravaging his body, and his family.  A startling number in the Parker family succumbed to consumption over the years.  As well, the dysentery epidemic of the fall of 1775 took not only Parker, but hundreds of others, including Abigail Adams' mother.  Abigail had contracted but survived the disease, as did her youngest son, Tommy, but her mother was not able to beat the illness.  "At times I almost am ready to faint under this severe and heavy Stroke," Abigail wrote in a letter to her husband, John Adams.  We can only imagine that Lucy Munroe Parker and Lydia Moore Parker, John's wife, felt a similar despair.  Like so many other women, though, they soldiered on.

Captain John Parker, the Lexington Minuteman
A statue, sculpted by the artist Henry Hudson Kitson as a tribute to the resolute Militia, and situated on the Battle Green in Lexington, forever memorializes Captain John Parker, who, along with his cousin Jonas Parker, epitomized the strength, valor, and sacrifice of the Lexington men who so valiantly confronted the seemingly endless lines of British Regulars.  I like that Parker stands on a fieldstone base, representing the sturdiness of both the New Englanders who fought by his side, and the stone walls from behind which the Militia fired at the British throughout the day on April 19, 1775.  John Parker's musket hangs in the Senate Chamber of the Massachusetts State House.

Soon after the Battle, the men killed on the Green that morning--John Brown, Samuel Hadley, Caleb Harrington, Jonathan Harrington, Robert Munroe, Isaac Muzzy, Asahel Porter and Jonas Parker-- were brought to the Old Burying Ground, and hastily buried.  An account by Reverend Jonas Clarke's 12-year old daughter, Elizabeth, who kept a journal at the time, describes it as thus: "I saw them let down into the ground, it was a little rainy but we waited to see them Covered up with the Clods and then for fear the British should find them, My Father thought some of the men had best cut some pine or oak bows and spread them on their place of burial, so it looked like a heap of Brush."


In an address in 1799 at the dedication of the memorial monument erected on the Battle Green to honor those who "fell on this field, the first Victims to the Sword of British Tyranny & Oppression," the famed statesmen Edward Everett captured the story of Jonas Parker in a powerful speech that lauded the courage shown by all on the battlefield that day: "History, Roman history, does not furnish an example of bravery that outshines that of Jonas Parker." 

In 1835, seven of the eight bodies were disinterred and reburied under this monument, the oldest Revolutionary War monument "commemorating rank and file soldiers."  An obelisk featuring an inscription written by the Reverend Jonas Clarke, the monument calls forth"The Blood of these Martyr's In the cause of God & their Country, Was the Cement of the Union of these States, then Colonies; & gave the spring to the spirit.  Firmness And resolution of their Fellow Citizens.  They rose as one man to revenge their brethren's Blood and at the point of the sword to assert; Defend their native Rights.  They nobly dar'd to be free!!"  Woot!

Both Jonas Parker and Captain John Parker left behind large families, and in John's case, a young family, with seven children ranging in ages from 4 to 19.  Jonas' children, mostly daughters, were taken in by different families, with some removing from town and disappearing from the records altogether.  His oldest daughter, Lucy, who was deaf and dumb, chose Joshua Mead of Waltham as her guardian, but soon after, her uncle Thomas Parker, of Princeton, took her into his family and provided her a home.  She lived there until her death in 1813 at the age of 68.  Other siblings were already married, and some married soon after their father's premature death.  My fifth great grandfather, Philemon Parker, who was just 20 years old in 1775, later married Susan Stone and moved to Princeton, MA, and later to Vermont, had a daughter Sally Parker, who married Scammel Burt, but that's a story for another day.  I wish I knew more about what happened to mother Lucy.  There is no doubt that she had assisted Jonas in his "remarkable devotion to the American cause" in many different ways, and that no matter how much pride she could take in the sacrifices she and her husband made, life would be difficult without Jonas.  To see her children scatter in all different directions must have been heartbreaking. 


Jonas Parker and Captain John Parker were first cousins.  They were not one in the same, a Captain Jonas Parker, as many web sites claim, nor was Jonas an uncle to John.  Their fathers, Andrew and Josiah Parker, were brothers, and sons of John Parker, who was the son of Lt. Hananiah Parker and grandson of Deacon Thomas Parker, the immigrant ancestor who came over from Little Norton, England in 1635.  Deacon Thomas Parker left London on the ships the Susan and Ellen in March of 1635, and soon after arriving in Boston or Lynn about six months later, he married "Amy" and promptly started having the first of what would be eleven children.  As one of the founders of the twelfth Congregational Church in Massachusetts, Parker was no doubt a Puritan, so the suppositions concerning the date of his marriage reflect the fact that as a devout religious man, his first child, Thomas, who was born sometime in 1636, must have arrived at least nine months after his marriage to Amy.  Not five.  Not three.  Not even eight.  And certainly not before--that would have been scandalous!  Ha!  Well, we know full well that this was not always the case, that first children were not always born at least nine months after marriages took place--but regardless, the assumption was taken as truth, and served to fuel speculation around birth dates when records failed.

Amy Parker is the perfect example of the Puritan woman.  The very "ethic of submissiveness to divine will that was the underpinning of the Puritan way of life" not only silenced her but erased her as well.  We don't know her surname, where she was from, when she was born.  We do know what life might have been like for her.  These New England Good Wives--who had to create lives out of nothing--bore excessive numbers of children, and endured often appalling living conditions, epidemics, a high infant mortality rate, and a life of hard physical work (despite the male observation that it was just "righting up the house").  Many were used to single mothering.  Most were illiterate.  Women were forbidden to speak in church except to confess a sin or to sing.  They were silenced on most matters of faith, politics, and even family.  And when a woman married, she ceased to exist legally.  Her husband, head of household, had all the rights, owned all the property and made all the financial decisions, while she became a "femme covert," with him representing her interests, as he saw them, to the world.  A married woman could not sell or purchase land, make a will, sue or be sued, or sign contracts.  "Her children, her earnings, and even her body did not legally belong to her. (Women Making America, Hemming/Savage)  No wonder Amy vanished.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, in her book The Pearl of Orr's Island (another ancestral home and haunt), wrote, "In the old times, women did not get their lives written, though I don't doubt many of them were much better worth writing than the men's." Amen, sister.

Amy's husband Thomas Parker, listed as a "farmer" on ship records, became a freeman in May of 1635, which enabled him an allotment of 40 acres of land in Lynn Village, making him one of the first to settle the town of Reading, as it is now called (though the Parker homestead is now officially part of the town of Saugus).  He was, by all accounts, active in the church, serving as "Deacon of Redding"  for many years, and as Selectman in 1661, and off and on again for the next five years.  Parker died in August of 1683, his widow, in January of 1690.  Parker, in a weakened state just days before his death, did not have the strength to sign his will, and could only make his mark, thereby granting his house, homestead and lands--which he described as "Bear Medow," "Saw Mill Medow," "Reedy Medow," "the Slodge of Medow Leying near Bursham Medow," "the Great Medow,"  "My Ceador Swamp," and "Wet Swamp"--to his "Dear wife Amy" and sons.  His daughters, as was custom, received some money, but only after "the decease of their mother."  As well, he made provisions for his grandchildren, Samuel and Sarah Parker, but only upon the conditions that they "live with their grandmother."  Samuel also received his grandfather's "gunn" and "Reste," which I can only imagine meant a rifle rest.  Aside from the usual "Bibols and other Bokes" (which clearly did not teach him much in the way of spelling), "featherbeds," and "Cattle & Swine," Parker had no debts to his name.

The Old Burying Ground in Lexington
Thomas Parker's second son, Hananiah Parker, would serve as the "full and sole executor" of his father's will.  At the time of his father's death in 1683, Hananiah was 46 years old, living in Lynn on land that bordered his father's property with his wife, Elizabeth Browne Parker, from Reading, and their children, John, Samuel, Elizabeth, Mary, and Ebenezer.  Like so many other couples at the time, they had already mourned the loss of three children: Sarah, who was less than a year old when she died in 1673, little Hananiah, who was less than three, and most recently, a second Hananiah, who died at just a few months of age, just two years before his grandfather would die.  

Hananiah Parker had been a freeman since 1679, when he with two others were given charge of building a new Meetinghouse, and belonged to Reading's military company, of which he was chosen ensign in 1680, and lieutenant in 1684.  According to the Parker Genealogy, at the time of his father's death, Hananiah was well established in the affairs of the town: "In addition to the great work of changing the primeval forest to a fertile far, he performed the duties of selectman, town clerk, and representative, each for a long period."  Hananiah's wife Elizabeth died on February 27, 1697.  He married for a second time on December 12, 1700, Mrs. Mary (Bursham) Bright, and soon after, on May 20, 1703, he wrote and signed his will.  Despite calling himself "aged and weak in body," Hananiah Parker was not only able to sign his name (rather than just make a mark, as his ailing father had been forced to do), but also use elegant, eloquent phrasing, with incredible detail, and with much better spelling than his father was able to muster in his.  He lovingly writes of "Mary, my well beloved Wife," as receiving "the use of the west End of my house from the top to the bottom with the back Lean to and Cellar with the use of Buttery and also a sufficient garden Spott to be kept well fenced and in good manner for he ruse as she shall see cause to improve it for planting of roots beans squashes and also the keeping on a Cow Summer and Winter during her life or so long as she shall remain my Widow, also an horse to Ride on when she shall have occasion, also the going of one or two swine summer and winter is she see cause and also a liberty keep fowls." 

Whew!  Despite the show of better spelling, the juxtaposition of the lack of commas, the randomness of capital letters, and preponderance of run-on sentences is curiously endearing.  I love, too, the observation here that Mary can think for herself--"if she cause"--along with the inclusion of "so long as she shall live and remain my widow."  Sorry, Mary, dear, but if you die or marry someone else, you no longer will have access to that "sufficient garden Spott."  Hananiah's provisions for his wife are extensive and vividly detailed, and include "firewood sufficient to be brought ready cut for her use and laid conveniently near her door by my Executor (who?)", "so many apples as she need to lay in for Winter; also one barrel of Cyder to be placed in her cellar annually."  Any more than one barrel and she might risk getting bit by a barn weasel, or go on a bender, and forget to tend to her roots, beans, and squashes.  He's taken good care of her, and with much tenderness, set it up so that she will be taken good care of in his absence, with a lifelong supply of firewood, apples, and Cyder, "her gardens and part of housing be kept in good Repair and all taxes lawfully set thereon and demanded to be paid by my second Executor."
Only One Barrel of Cyder for Mary
AT the time of his death, on March 10, 1724, at the age of 86, Hananiah Parker had been living in his father's home for some time.  In his will, he "gives and bequeaths to (his) son John Parker and to his heirs and assigns forever that house and land that was his Grandfather Parker's, which is that housing and Lands that he now occupieth and liveth upon..."  John was his oldest son, born in Reading on August 3, 1664, and now eldest to seven siblings.  He would go on to launch the Lexington Parkers, of which Jonas and John were born.

Theodore Parker's Parker Genealogy describes the time that John Parker lived as a time that covered the "period of the early growth of the colonies, the hardships, wars and rugged life of the times."  By 1724, John had been married to his wife Deliverance Dodge (one of my favorite ancestral names!) for 35 years, and had been living in Reading where they had soon settled after their October 2, 1689 wedding, on part of "the original Deacon Thomas Parker place in the center of the town, his farm adjoining that of his father, Hananiah."  Deliverance was the daughter of Lt. John Dodge and Sarah Proctor of Beverly, MA.  John was constable of Reading, serving as a deputy sheriff of sorts, having been chosen by the townspeople, for his "integrity, force of character, and popularity."   In the midst of serving his community and tending to their growing family, quite tragically, by 1724, when John's father Hananiah had died, John and Deliverance had already buried five of their children.  Their first child, Sarah, lived just four days.  Their sixth child, a boy named John, died as a baby as well, in 1696.  Two daughters, Mary and Edie, both died in 1709, at the ages of 14 and 12, respectively.  There must have been an epidemic of sickness ravaging families in the area at the time.  Consumption, perhaps?  This was a disease that hit the Parker family particularly hard--and perhaps explains the weakness of lungs amongst the women in my family.  Most recently, in 1711, while on service of Queen Anne's War, while in the Annapolis, N.S. Expedition, their oldest son, Hananiah, born October 10, 1691, and a "promising lad of 18", had succumbed to an illness that was sweeping through the troops, and of which he had just written to his parents:
"Ever Honored father and mother after my Deuty Remembered to you and to my Grandfather and Grandmother: and my Love to all my brothers and all my friends--Hoping theas few lines of my Love Will find you in as Good health as I am at this present Writting, Blessed be God for it.  And this is to let you understand that I Recived youer Second Letter, and that is a verey sickly time with us and we have Lost above Three Scor men that belong to New England and thear is above fifty men sick.  Barnabas Cook is sick; Daniel Dove is sick; William Hopkins is sick; Benjamin Johnson is amost well of his wounds bu the has had a verey bad sweling upon his thigh above his wounds but we hope he will doe well."
Sometime during the course of delivery of the letter to his parents, Hananiah took ill and, like so many of his fellow soldiers, died while still in the garrison, awaiting the time when "Governur (Samuel Vetch) coms hear (and) Sir Charles (Hobby) sayes he will carry us home."  

How sad!  There is something wonderfully endearing about the way young Hananiah starts the letter, addressing his parents with such love and respect, and including his grandparents, as well.  Clearly, this young man has been raised well, and most likely further humbled by the cycle of death spiraling out of control around him, he has taken the time to try to put his family--and perhaps himself--at ease.  It must have been so horrible for his family to get word of his death, and so soon after receiving his letter that declared his present good health, despite everyone, it seems, being sick and dying around him.  What they endured is unimaginable: oh, the stuff our ancestors were made of!  (Which means, of course, that despite those pesky lungs, we are made of the same stuff--tough, resilient, fueled by love of family, hard work, and hope).

I've seen it over and over again, how the tragic death of a child in a family can cause the family to pack up and leave their home, go elsewhere, find some peace.  It seems that it would be no different for the Parker family following the heartbreaking loss of their son.  In the spring of 1712, John Parker sold his property in Reading--the farm that had been in the family for so long--and moved his family--his wife, Deliverance, and their three surviving sons, Andrew, Josiah, and John--to Lexington, which was then called Cambridge Farms, and where John would purchase the homestead that would stay in the Parker family for nearly two centuries:
“John Parker, Senr, Joiner, of Redding, purchased in Cambridge Farms” one small Mansion house and sixty acres of land, bounded southwesterly on Watertown line, Elsewhere by Daniel White, John Stone and Thomas Cutler, and of Thomas Cutler. He bought “a certain messuage or Tenement lying and being scituate in Cambridge, In the Farms, containing one mansion house, barn, and about one hundred and ninety acres of land.”  
John Parker wasted no time settling into his new community, and was soon chosen fence viewer and tythingman, and given one of the coveted spots in the meeting-house reserved for the most esteemed members of the community.  If you are wondering just what a fence viewer and tythingham did, please click here for a full description of what some of the old New Englanders were up to.  The general gist of fence viewing was to make sure a line fence was "hog tight and horse high."  As we all know, good fences have always made for good neighbors, and good neighbors make good fences, and back when John Parker was responsible for making sure everyone's fences were on the up and up, everyone had livestock, and good, neighborly fences were essential to getting along.
I don't know if the iconic stone walls of the old New England landscape were included in the fence viewing or not.
John was, above all, a New England farmer, and as most men of the time did, worked a secondary occupation.  As the deed above states, John was a "joiner" by trade, a skilled woodworker who might have made farm implements, furniture, cabinets and other useful things, all without the use of nails. He opened a small shop, and taught his trade to his sons, who in turn passed on their expertise to their own for many generations, so much so that the "Parkers became noted for their expert craftsmanship."   Just a few years after moving to Lexington, Deliverance would die, on the 10th of March, in 1717 or 1718, at the age of 55.  John would remarry, to a woman named "Sarah."  No marriage records have been found, and they would have no children together. John lived out his life working in his shop and on his farm and tending to his wife, his sons and their families.  He died in Lexington on January 22, 1741 at the age of 78.

John and Deliverance's son Andrew Parker became the oldest son after young Hananiah died in 1711, when Andrew was just 18.  He was 19 when he "removed" to Lexington with his parents and brothers in 1712, and learned his father's trade in carpentry and joinery while growing into a strong young man.  The Parker Genealogy speaks of how he was "favored with a sound and vigorous training in his youth....and was well bestowed physically for the mammoth task of the early pioneer, and he entered into the work heartily."  Sarah Whitney, daughter of Isaiah and Sarah Whitney of Lexington, no doubt took notice, and married Andrew, who was 27 to Sarah's 17, on August 2, 1720. Andrew, a "husbandman and woodworker," was, by all accounts, "energetic and industrious...a man of strong physique, as tradition claims that he was of very large size and powerfully built.  He was a kind father and was attentive to the physical and spiritual needs of his large family."  He and Sarah had twelve children together, several of whom died young.  Like his father, he was chosen fence viewer and constable of the town, two positions that were "of much higher dignity and social standing then than now."  True, true.  I'm not sure we even have a fence viewer anymore.  

His wife Sarah died at the age of 70 on December 18, 1774.  He died at the age of 83, on April 8, 1776, in the midst of the Revolution, and incredible changes sweeping through the colonies.  The Parker Genealogy puts his life in wonderful perspective:
 "Andrew Parker lived in the reigns of five English sovereigns, was seven years of age when the year 1700 came, and yet lived to see the first armed expedition of British soldiers against the colonists put to rout at Concord and Lexington, June 19, 1775, and this accomplished partly by his own family."
The image of Andrew Parker, who was a father to 12, grandfather to dozens more, and great grandfather to over "a score," or more than twenty, during those fateful early days of the Revolution, when his own son, Jonas Parker, his brother Josiah's son Captain John Parker, and many other family members were taking up arms against the British in defense of their liberties, their families, their country, gathering his brood "at the old homestead around the open fireplace filled with blazing logs," to tell the ancestral stories about the "hard struggle for existence, but final development of the colonies together with that of their own allied families,"  is a powerful one, indeed. 

Andrew's son, Jonas, was born February 6, 1722, and when he died on April 19, 1775 at the Battle of Lexington, his father Andrew was still alive, but would die the following year.  How sad to think that Andrew would lose yet another son in his lifetime. No doubt he was exceptionally proud of his son, and of the indomitable spirit he displayed on the battle field.  Jonas took after his father in many ways--spirit, physique, trade.  He was, by all descriptions, "tall, well built, and possessed great strength."  And when Jonas married Lucy Munroe of Lexington in the summer of 1743, he gained a father-in-law who could no doubt match him in strength and spirit.  Lucy, a "lady of ability and independence," was the youngest of nine children of "Sergeant George" Munroe and Sarah Moore, both of Lexington.  Given her bloodlines, I have no doubt that Lucy was strong and spirited, and ready for anything.  Sergeant George was the son of William Munro from Alive, Inverness, Scotland, who had come to Massachusetts with three other Munros--Robert, John and Hugh--on the ship called the John and Sarah, after being captured by Oliver Cromwell during the Battle of Worcester in 1652, and banished to America.  A little ironic, don't you think, that these Munroes, who fought for hundreds of years in battle after battle, defeating Viking invaders, Scottish Lowlanders, and other invading armies; who earned the name "the Invincibles" in recognition of their prowess as one of the most valiant clans of the north, with a strong military traditions going back to the 11th century, when they came from the River Roe in Ireland to settle in Scotland; who, after becoming disillusioned with the English Parliament in 1651, supported the Royalists instead, were banished from their native land for fighting in the King's interest, Charles I, only to have their descendants be among the first to make a stand and fire the first shot on the morning of 19 April 1775 in the American Revolution?  Oofta.

Might I just  mention here that I think it hilarious and wonderful that I have ancestors who came from Inverness.  As a former Rugby Goddess, this makes me laugh out loud.  "Four and twenty virgins Came down from Inverness And when the ball was over There were four and twenty less..."  There really should be a verse about Pitcairne.
The Munroe Tavern

Lucy's grandfather, William Munroe, settled in the northeasterly part of Cambridge Farms, or Lexington, around 1660 in a part of town that was then called "Scotland."  With his first wife, Martha George, he had many sons, and it is said that his old house "looked like a rope walk, with so many additions made to accommodate his sons, as they settled in life"--a recreation of Clan Munro, clearly. The Munroes established a tavern in Lexington in 1695, which, during the Revolution, was owned by William Munroe, great grandson to the banished William, and an Orderly Sergeant in Captain John Parker's Minuteman Company.  The Tavern, as did other taverns of the time, served as a meeting spot for colonials and rabble-rousers, and later, as a a field hospital by Lt. Gen. Hugh Percy for retreating British soldiers, who tried to burn it down on their retreat.  William would rally his Munro Clan that day, to summon their Scots warrior roots, and fight at the Battle of Lexington Green with those equally as Plucky Parkers.  Together, the Munroes and the Parkers accounted for a huge number of those that fought at the Battle of Lexington and Concord.  In fact, there were eight Munroes fighting on the Green that day, and later that day, as troops from surrounded towns arrived, 17 came from Reading who bore the name Parker.  Deacon Thomas Parker and William Munroe would be proud.  I know I am!

Another Depiction of the Battle of Lexington


Deacon Thomas Parker b. 1609 Little Norton, England; d. 12 Aug 1683, Reading, MA.  m. “Amy” in 1656, Reading, MA.  11 children.  Deacon Thomas Parker was the immigrant ancestor, coming over from London on March 11, 1635, on the ships the Susan and Ellen, and arriving at Boston or Lynn about six months later.  Listed as a “farmer, Parker married “Amy” in the early part of 1636.  He was one of the first settlers in the town of Reading, which was then known as Lynn Village.

Lt. Hananiah Parker b. 1638, Lynn, MA; d. 10 Mar 1723/24, Reading, MA.  m. Elizabeth Browne 30 Sept 1663, Reading, MA. 8 children. 

John Parker b. 3 Aug 1664; d. 27 Jan 1740/1, Lexington, MA.  m. Deliverance Dodge 7 Oct, 1689.  8 children.

Andrew Parker  b. 14 Feb 1693, Reading, MA; d. 8 Apr 1776, Lexington, MA.  m. SarahWhitney, 2 Aug 1720, Lexington, MA.  12 children.  Andrew’s brother Josiah’s son was Captain John Parker, commander of the Lexington Minutemen and leader of the first militia to fight the British on April 19, 1775 at the Battle of Lexington.  Parker would lead the Lexington militia to send the British running back to Boston with their (red) tails between their legs.  He died of tuberculosis, or “consumption,” a short time after the war, in September of 1775.

Jonas Parker b. 6 Feb 1721/2, Lexington, MA, d. 19 Apr, 1775, Lexington, MA.  m. Lucy Munroe, c. 1742.  10 children.   Jonas was the hero of the Battle of Lexington—a 53-year old who happened to be well respected as the finest wrestler in town, Jonas told everyone he would never run from the British if given the chance, and so, on the morning of April 19, 1775, Jonas moved forward when his fellow Minutemen started falling back, he stayed to fight after being given the order by his Captain—and cousin—to “give way,” he fired into the British even after he was shot and seriously wounded himself, and geared up to shoot another run before being bayoneted and killed by the rushing British troops.  He and his wife’s brother, Andrew Munroe, were the first two killed that day.

Philemon Parker b. 1757, Lexington, MA; d. 1829.  m. Susan Stone, 26 Oct 1780, Dudley, MA.  2nd wife: Rhoda Bump, 1814.  He d. Feb. 7 1829, AGE 74.  11 children with Susan Stone.

Sally Parker b. 1 July 1785, Chester, VT; d. 14 Jan 1877, Peru, VT.  m. Scammel Burt, 3 May 1807, Princeton, MA. 10+ children.  AGE 92.

Mary Ann Burt b. 1833, Peru, VT; m. Charles Lewis Tozier (as his second wife), Nov. 30, 1853, Lawrence, MA; daughter Rebecca Morrill named after Charles‘ first wife, Rebecca G. Morrill, m. June 17, 1849, Waterville, ME and d. Feb. 26, 1852; Mary Ann Burt Tozier, “mother of Rebecca, died when Rebecca was 11,” Jan. 1, 1867, Methuen, MA; Charles remarried for a third time to Henrietta F. Woolson, on Nov. 20, 1867)  AGE 34.  There’s a mystery about Mary Ann, but we’ll get into that on another day.

Rebecca Morrill Tozier, b. June 5, 1855, Methuen, MA, and named after her father’s first wife, Rebecca Morrill, who died at a young age; m. Francis Augustus Shove, July 1882, Salem? Malden?; d. May 10, 1937, Malden, MA)  1 child.  AGE 82.

Martha Frances Shove b. Sept. 8, 1887, Malden, MA; m. Harry Franklin Damon, Sept. 8, 1913, Malden, MA; d. Aug. 14, 1989, N. Conway, NH.  Lived Malden, MA and farm in Tamworth, NH.  5 children. AGE 102.

Katharine Damon b. July 30, 1916 Malden, MA; m. Carroll P. Reed Dec. 18, 1937; d. 1999, N. Conway, NH  3 children.  AGE 83.

Rooster Pooster

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mother May

Happy, as ever, for the reminders that family history is always a work in progress, that by sharing what information we have, we invite additions and revisions to the stories.  It's always a bit of a guessing game as to what information might be correct, what might be "real" and what might be fabricated, or simply erroneously copied, drummed up, or imagined.  But it's well worth the effort to make a stab at getting to the truth--it's a nice way to dignify a life. 

I heard from my Great Uncle Mase regarding my story on Agnes Dunn, and he was able to fill in some of the gaps.  His mother had extensive notes which she got from her mother, Eliza May Mason Gardner, whom Mase and my grandfather called Mother May.  Mase is also going to send me the family tree that he put together after his Aunt Arlene went to England and Scotland and went sleuthing in graveyards and public records offices.  It sounds like it was a fruitful expedition.  I am excited to put more of the pieces together!  And when I do, I'll revise Agnes' tale yet again--though I am certain it will not be the last time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Where art thou, Agnes Dunn?

Perhaps Agnes played at this castle.
Agnes Dunn is just one of the many women in my ancestral past who is a complete mystery.  There are many women like her--including her daughter, Janet Caroline Bettridge, and granddaughter Eliza May Mason--who have been practically erased, left alone to languish in the dusty depths of their unrecorded, forgotten lives, to perish, again and again.  And yet--herein lies the excitement for me: a chance to unearth a life, put some flesh and blood on the bones, imagine what she might have been like, and what life might have been like for her.  Wonderful stories abound, just waiting for someone to discover them, to listen, and bring them back to life.  And it seems the farther I go in following her trail, the more interesting it gets: like a giant puzzle, the pieces start to come together from far off scattered places to form a more complete picture of a person who lived at a time when Great Britain was still trying to assert its world dominance through the colonization of New Zealand and the continued rule in Australia, and when the US was reeling from its own polarizing policies on slavery that had left the nation in a splintered, factious mess.

Agnes was my great, great, great grandmother, my father's father's mother's mother's mother.  Little bits of Agnes live on in me, and I am infinitely curious about her, this woman from Scotland who lived in England, New Zealand, and Australia, before coming to the US, where she died in Brockton, Massachusetts, a place where the Bettridges and the Masons and the Watts and the Gardners came together in the 19th century to spawn Gardner Brothers and WB Mason and a whole host of offspring.  Agnes, like most women of her time, it seems, is ever elusive in the mix.
Dundee, Scotland, 1821 survey

A few records show that she might have been born on March 10 or 11 in 1808 in Dundee, Angus, Scotland, where the habitational surname of Dun and Dunn (named with Gaelic dun, meaning 'fort') originated in Angus, spreading into the far corners of the world, and littering the Howff Graveyard of Dundee with Dunns of all kinds.  Some of these Dunns might have been Agnes' parents--John Dunn, for instance, the "scavenger," who lost a baby daughter Ann to "teething;" or a different John Dunn, the "labourer," whose daughter Mary Ann died of "convulsion fits" at the age of three months, and whose wife, Mary, seems to have died just two years later, of "consumption;"; or perhaps Thomas Dunn, the "shipmaster" whose daughter Mary died of "water in head" as a young tot.  Life, no doubt, was harsh.  Graveyard records are filled with premature deaths from things that we can manage quite well today--asthma, teething, influenza, fevers and inflammation--or which have been thankfully eradicated--smallpox, cholera, measles.  There are a few oddities amongst the causes of death--"chincough," which, after a little research in Webster's 1828 English Dictionary, I discovered is just another name for whooping cough;  "heamoptosis," which is the act of coughing up blood; "synochus," or continuous fever, and "bowel hive," which I don't even want to think about.  There are very few people who have died of "old age," and they are all women: Ann, at 84, takes the prize for longevity.  Some of the other elder Dunns died of things like "worn out constitutions," "asthma," and "lung complaints."  But truly, it is the babies, that take center stage, and their anguished mothers and fathers, that make your heart ache, and the Dunns experienced more than their fair share of loss.  It must have been brutal.

Whether Agnes' parents were John and Ann, or some other pair, I don't think I'll know until I head to Dundee and do a little research there. For now, it is interesting enough to explore and imagine the possibilities.

There is some evidence that Agnes first married John Hamilton from Glasgow. Five years her elder, he might have been the father of her daughter, Agnes, but no other information is known.  John Hamilton died in 1873 in Glasgow, so if they were married, the circumstances of her departure are circumspect.
ca. 1835, Robert Creighton, engr. J. & C. Walker for Lewis' Topo Dictionary

All we do know is that at some point, Agnes found herself in Salisbury, England, and married Arthur Robert Bettridge, who was from Salisbury or even possibly New Zealand,on September 27, 1841, in Saint James.  Agnes was now 33, and Arthur might have been (quite) a few years younger.  Go, Agnes!  Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire, England, sitting at the confluence of five rivers, and the crossing point between two major railway lines, making it a regional interchange.  Salisbury is known for the stunning Salisbury Cathedral, its bountiful, historic markets, held regularly since 1227, and its proximity to Stonehenge, which stands about 8 miles northwest. At the time of Agnes and Arthur's marriage in 1841, Salisbury had grown to be the most important Wiltshire center, long framed by the prosperity of its Medieval marketplaces and backed by its deep traditions in leather crafts, boot and shoe manufacturing, and parchment makers.  As well, the 19th century introduced new crafts and businesses to the area, including straw hat making, metal working, and general engineering services.  Its industries were already well on the decline in the early 1840's, when they made the decision to leave.  Salisbury had become predominantly a market town and shopping center for the surrounding villages.

What would have led Agnes to go to Salisbury is unknown, but given the general challenges brought on by the industrial age in the UK, it seems like a time when many ordinary folks were struggling to make ends meet and to find a better way.  Those who had a little bit of moxie in them took the leap that led them and their families to new opportunities elsewhere.

It is apparent that Arthur and Agnes followed the wave of migrants from Salisbury, which resides in Wiltshire, a southwest county of England that was rich in copper and tin mining at the time, to Auckland, New Zealand, where their first child, a son named Arthur J. Dunn, was born two years later, on May 24 1843.  It could be that the depression in the 1840's in Wiltshire, brought about partly by a reduction in the mining, forced them to find a better life somewhere else.  Or perhaps they were intrigued by the promise of a new life, and bought into the marketing blitz made by the New Zealand Company, who was eager for new settlers. About half of all the 19th-century English immigrants to New Zealand came on assisted passages, mostly through the New Zealand Company, who were recruiting heavily in the Wiltshire area for farm labourers and craft workers who could provide the necessary skills to recreate English society and culture in New Zealand.  Between 1839 and 1850, over 85% of those who emigrated did so with close family members.  And Auckland's land grant scheme, which awarded immigrants land orders based on family size, further encouraged these greater family and chain migrations.

I don't know whether Agnes and Robert migrated with any other family members, but they seemed to have settled in fairly quickly, having Arthur, Elizabeth and Ann in Auckland over just a couple of years (Elizabeth may have died in infancy).  There is more than one indication that Arthur, their first son, may have been born in Dublin, Ireland, but it doesn't seem to make much sense.  The only reason why I mention it at all is that their daughter Janet Caroline Bettridge, my great great grandmother, was born not in Auckland, like her brother and sisters, but rather in Sydney, Australia, on October 4, 1846.  The Australia Birth Index from 1788-1922 lists a Caroline J Betteridge born in 1846 to Arthur Betteridge and Agnes in New South Wales.  Not sure if the spelling difference is indicative of a change the family might have made during one of their relocations, or just a typo (see below: Bettridge is obviously and indeed a variation on Betteridge).  Just what did her father do for a living that brought them from England to New Zealand to Australia (and later, back again)?  Was he a mariner or in the military?  A younger brother, Robert W. Bettridge, was born in 1849 in Auckland, indicating that the family had returned after a possible longer stint or short excursion in Sydney.  It gives some credence to the notion that Arthur could have been born in Dublin, if they were doing a lot of moving around or traveling at the time.

As well, if Arthur the father had been in the military, it was frequent policy for British soldiers to be assigned to different posts in not only New Zealand but Australia as well, and this could explain why some of his children were born in Auckland, while Janet was born in Sydney.  The Harriet Affair of 1834, when a group of British soldiers of the 50th Regiment from Australia were sent by Governor Bourke from Sydney to rescue the wife and children of Jacky Guard, infamous whaler and trader, in Taranaki, NZ, and punish the kidnappers, and ended up being criticized for excessive use of force, illustrates well the use of British military from one British colony--Australia--to quell unrest in another British colony--New Zealand.

Arthur Robert Bettridge, the father of Janet, would die just three years after his youngest son, Robert, was born.  And quite fittingly, he would die not in Auckland, where Robert was born, but in Merton, New South Wales, Australia, on August 3, 1852.  The Bettridge family, then, appears to be living in Australia during this time.  Eldest son Arthur would emigrate to the US in 1860, just at the start of the Civil War.  Just one year into his new residency, he sought to take part in a historic war that would redefine the country that would later become his family's new home.  In 1861, he enlisted Company 1, 12th Massachusetts division of volunteers, and after a year, transferred to the Navy, where he would serve until 1864.  He would spend the next four years at sea, another indication that his father, perhaps, had been a mariner, military man, merchant, or seaman of sorts.

January 15, 1848, at Edwardes-street Chapel, by the Rev J Long, William, eldest son of Mr Wm Mason, to Janet Caroline, second daughter of the late Mr Arthur Bettridge, of Whiteparish, Wilts., England. [NZ'er 63rd Regt May 1848]

During this time, Arthur's sister Janet, our Janet, married the dashing (he must have been) William C. Mason, who had been born in Hastings, England on March 11, 1840, and had come to Auckland with his family as part of the same wave of migration that had spurred Janet's family to leave their home, move to a new continent, and embrace a new beginning.  Despite what the above passage backed in gray says, Janet was just 18 when she married William on January 15, 1864, (not 1848, which would have put her at three years old!)--and they were married not in Auckland, New Zealand, but in Sydney, Australia, where it seems Janet, her mother Agnes, sister Ann and brother Robert were still living after their father had passed away in 1852.  It is possible that the oldest son, Arthur, was somehow supporting the family at this time.   What's curious about the bit in gray is that despite getting the date wrong (the January 15 is correct, of course), the rest of the information seems to be accurate--and quite helpful.  Janet's father was, apparently, a military man, a "New Zealander of the 63rd Regiment" in 1848. English colonization of New Zealand set off the inevitable battles for sovereignty between settlers and natives, and Bettridge may well have taken part in the skirmishes of these New Zealand Wars that began in 1843 and began to wind down with Titokowaru's War in 1869.  In any case, Arthur Robert Bettridge died in 1852 at a young age, quite possibly of illness or of injury, battle or otherwise.  He left behind his wife, Agnes, and four children, who would soon be busy with offspring of their own.  How did Agnes cope? 

Great Uncle William's company logo
Sometime after their wedding in 1864, Janet and William--and for all we know, Agnes, Ann and Robert, too--moved back to Auckland.  In March of the following year, 1865, William Betts Mason was born in Mount Saint Mary, Auckland, which at this point I can only decipher as being either a Catholic college in Auckland, a parish, or a neighborhood also known as St. Mary's Bay.  William Betts, incidentally, would go on to found the rubber stamp company in Brockton that grew into the WB Mason Office Supply Company, and it is perhaps his mustached face that adorns their logo, plastered on company vans and advertisements throughout New England, most iconically, at the Green Monster at Fenway Park.  Sometimes, especially driving around Boston, I see his face everywhere.  Hello, Uncle!

A daughter, Sarah Agnes Mason, followed WB in December of 1866, and in 1868, Uncle Arthur returned to New Zealand, and worked with the Revenue Service until 1870.  On January 28, 1869, his sister Janet, still at Mount Saint Mary, would give birth to my great grandmother, Eliza May Mason, who would be joined by a younger sister, Edith Winnifred Mason, on November 17, 1870.

Sometime in 1870, Uncle Arthur returned to the US, settling in Brockton, Massachusetts and working as a carpenter for five years. Five years later, he would move to Pettis County, Missouri, marry Rebecca Jeffries, and then make his way back to Brockton, where he would end out his days, dying on August 17, 1896.

There are some clues as to when the rest of Arthur's family might have come over, but a lot remains buried.  Agnes must have come over once her son Arthur had settled in, or perhaps, they came together, but there is greater evidence to suggest that she came sometime between January of 1871 and 1873.  When she died, in Brockton, at the age of 65, on December 29, 1873, she had outlived her husband by more than twenty years.  Agnes also outlived her son-in-law, William C. Mason, who tragically died at the age of 31 on January 28, 1871, in Auckland.  If this is so, Janet must not have come to Brockton until after his death in 1871.  Her children would have been so very young--6, 5, 2, and 1--and I can't imagine that her mother left her at this time to go to Brockton without her, or before her, so it makes sense that Agnes must have stayed in Auckland to help Janet with her children before they all came to the US sometime after January of 1871.  Difficult times often bring families together; perhaps Janet's older brother Arthur offered assistance at this time, and the family followed him to Brockton.

City Directories and Census reports would tell me a whole lot more, and I'll get on it, but for now, I am too cheap to pay the monstrous subscription prices at that would allow me to research such places from the comfort and convenience of my home.  I suspect that all the Masons and Bettridges might have come over to Brockton and lived close by, if not with each other.  I would imagine that Agnes, mother of Janet, and grandmother of Eliza May, most likely lived with Janet and her family.  After all, both women were widowed, and it must have been awfully difficult to get along without each other.  It is no wonder that WB went on to become such a successful businessman, driven as he was by his circumstances of most likely having to provide for his family at a young age.  In fact, the 1880 census shows that Janet was heading a house on Ford Street, her four children living with her.  Her son William B., at the age of 15, is already working full time as a clerk in a clothing store.  His mother, Janet, is working as a seam stay maker.  Sarah (13), Eliza May (11), and Edith (9) are all "at school."  The census also serves to confirm the birthplaces of everyone, as well as their parents. In this five-some, Australia, England, Scotland, and New Zealand are all represented, a veritable British empire.

The Mason-Five in 1880

Agnes Dunn Bettridge died on the 29th day of December in 1873, in Brockton, Massachusetts.  She was, as I've said, 65.  She had lived in five countries on four continents, gave birth to as many as six children, and watched them grow and prosper and have children themselves.   

Her granddaughter, Eliza May Mason, went on to marry Emanuel Washington Gardner, son of Eliza Watt and Silas Gardner, who had come over from Stockport, England in the early 1800's to make his way in the fruit and vegetable business, which his two sons, Silas and Eliza's husband Emanuel, eventually took over and named Gardner Brothers.  Eliza Watt was the daughter of Robert Watt and Elizabeth Malcolm, both from Scotland.  Eliza May and Emanuel married on November 14, 1888, and lived in Brockton, where they had several children, including my grandfather, Donald Watt Gardner.  In 1898, WB Mason started his rubber stamp company.  His mother, Janet Caroline Bettridge Mason, died on September 12, 1915 in Brockton, at age 69.  Janet's daughter, May would die on January 26, 1938, while visiting her daughter in Marblehead, three years after her husband, Emanuel, had died. 
A few interesting surname tidbits:  In Scottish, Dunn is a nickname from the Gaelic, donn, meaning brown.  In English, it was a nickname for a man with dark hair or a swarthy complexion, from the Middle English dunn, meaning dark colored.  In Irish, it is a reduced Anglicized form of Gaelic Dun:
Ó Duinn, Ó Doinn ‘descendant of Donn’, a byname meaning ‘brown-haired’ or ‘chieftain’.  More likely, Dunn is the Scottish habitational name from Dun in Angus, where Agnes was from, named with Gaelic dùn‘ fort', meaning a heap, hill, mount; a fortress, a castle, fastness, a tower.

Bettridge is indeed the reduced form of Betteridge, as in I am better than you.  That's a joke--just all that phony British enthnocentricity talking.  It's actually from the Old English personal name Beaduric, composed of the elements beadu ‘battle’ + ric for ‘power’.  Huh.  Battle power.  I guess I am better than you. ;) 

Mason is of course an occupational surname.  Somewhere in our past we've got an ancestor who made things, and in particular, worked with stone to make things, cool things no doubt, given the importance of stone masonry in the Middle Ages, when the surname originated. It comes from the Old French maçon (of Germanic origin, connected with Old English macian to make).  The Masons, incidentally, come from northern England; as well, there was, in 1891, a fairly high number of Mason families in Angus, Scotland, too.

Watt is from the Scottish and the English, from an extremely common Middle English personal name, Wat(t), a short form of Walter. 

And as for my last name--Gardner--well, let's just say that my great grandfather Emanuel and his brother Silas were carrying on the family traditions when they operated Gardner Brothers fruit and vegetable wholesale and retail market in Brockton.  Not only had their father, Silas, sold fruit and such on the streets as a huckster, but their grandfather, also named Emanuel, was from Timperley, England, which served as a market garden for Manchester.  And still, it goes on long before that.  Gardner is a form of Gardener, from the Anglo-Norman French gardinier, meaning gardener, as in, a cultivator of edible produce in an orchard or a kitchen garden.  Sounds a whole lot like me!  Off now, to pick some raspberries and tend to the overflowing vegetable garden in the back yard.  Happy sleuthing!  ~ ESG