Thursday, March 11, 2010

She's a Witch! She's a Witch! Burn 'er!

This past week, NBC started a new series called "Who do you think you are?" The first episode featured Sarah Jessica Parker who they traced back to ancestors that were accused during the Salem Witch Trials. Luckily for Sarah's ancestors they escaped the hysteria and survived. For more info on the series go to
Who Do You Think You Are?

Well this got me thinking, I know I had family that were in the Salem area in the 1600's but I never really paid attention and put it all together. So this past week, I dug into my records and did some searching. Turns out that I had many family members in Salem during that time period, and some were definitely affected and not in a good way.

My 9G-Grandmother was Rebecca Towne Nurse, wife of Francis Nurse. On March 23, 1692, a warrant was issued for her arrest based upon accusations made by Edward and John Putnam. Upon hearing of the accusations the frail 70 year old Nurse, often described as an invalid, said, "I am innocent as the child unborn, but surely, what sin hath God found out in me unrepented of, that He should lay such an affliction on me in my old age."

There was a public outcry over the accusations made against her, as she was considered to be of very pious character. Thirty-nine of the most prominent members of the community signed a petition on Nurse's behalf. At age 71, she was one of the oldest accused. Her ordeal is often credited as the impetus for a shift in public opinion about the validity of the witch trials.

Her trial began on June 30, 1692. By dint of her respectability, some testified on her behalf including her family members. However the young Ann Putnam and her siblings would break into fits and claim Nurse was tormenting them. In response to their outbursts Nurse stated, "I have got nobody to look to but God." Many of the other afflicted girls were hesitant to accuse Nurse.

In the end, the jury ruled Nurse not guilty. Due to public outcry and renewed fits and spasms by the girls, the magistrate asked that the verdict be reconsidered. At issue was the statement of another prisoner "[she] was one of us" to which Nurse did not reply, probably because of her loss of hearing. The jury took this as a sign of guilt and changed their verdict, sentencing Nurse to death on July 19. She was hanged that day, July 19th, 1692.

Many people labeled Nurse "the woman of self dignity", due to her dignified behavior on the gallows. As was the custom, after hanging Nurse's body, she was buried in a shallow grave near the gallows, along with other convicted witches, who were considered unfit for a Christian burial. Nurse's family secretly returned after dark and dug up her body which they interred properly on their family homestead.

On September 22, 1692, Rebecca's sister, Mary Towne Easty, was hanged as a witch. This was my 9th Great Aunt.

The father-in-law of my 8th Great Uncle, Thomas Very, was John Proctor. John Proctor was accused of being a Wizard (male Witch), and was hanged on August 19th, 1692. His wife, Elizabeth Proctor, was accused and sentenced but escaped death due to her pregancy. Apparently they would not kill a woman who was pregnant. She was imprisoned and gave birth to John Proctor III in January 1693, and both were released from prison in May 1693.

I have searched and to the best of my knowledge none of the extended family were accusers, jury or witnesses against the accused. It was definitely a sad time in our country's history.

My Vary/Very/Verry family lived in Salem at this time also. It was my 7th Great-Grandfather, John Very, who married Rebecca Nurse's grand-daughter, Hannah Nurse. John Very was the Grandfather of Samuel Very, who is discussed in an earlier blog "Marital Conflict, Pt 1" Somehow the Very family was not embroiled in this hysteria.

Hopefully we have learned our lesson, and know not to rely on false accusations to determine if someone is a witch or not, but rather to properly compare their weight to that of a duck!

Respectfully submitted,

Derek Green

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oh, if only they hadn't sold that!

Do you have any ancestors that may have owned a valuable item or land at one time and through the course of happenstance either sold or lost it?

Well, I have several instances of this...........

Take my 10th Great-Grandfather on my father's side, for instance. Lambert Van Valkenburg came to New Amsterdam about 1644. On May 15, 1649, twenty-four morgens (48 acres) of land was granted by Director General Peter Stuyvesant to Lambert van Valckenburch. This land was south of the Fort on Manhattan Island. -- It embraced what are now nine city blocks on the west side of Lexington Avenue from 29th to 35th Streets, and extended, westward, across what are now Park and Madison Avenues beyond Fifth Avenue from 31st to 33rd, and included the corner of the present 33rd Street and 5th Avenue, on which stands the iconic Empire State Building, once the highest building in the world. Hmmm, how much would that land be worth today??? A couple billion, I bet.

Unfortunately, Lambert sold that land to Claes Martensen van Rosenvelt, the direct ancestor of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. He then moved to Beverwyck (Albany) and was an early settler there as well.

Then, I have my 9th Great Grandfather on my mother's side, Jan Snedeker. He came to New Amsterdam in about 1640. Jan Snedeker's patent, dated July, 1645, was for a double lot south of the fort on Manhattan Island, this is where the US Customshouse now stands. A shoemaker by trade, he owned a tavern in New Amsterdam, for which in December, 1642, he was complained of for selling beer of short measure. I wonder how close Jan's lot was to Lambert's? Jan finally settled in Midwout as one of the original patentees (renamed Flatbush by the British, and today part of Brooklyn, New York City), where he resided in 1654, and owned and cultivated a farm. Based on the typical lots in Midwout, he would have had at least 100 acreas and perhaps more. In 1851 this land was turned into Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY. Several famous people are buried there such as "Gentleman Jim" Corbett, Jackie Robinson and Mae West.

Another relative, my Great-Grand Uncle on my father's side, Daniel Norman Williams (See Canadian Blacksheep Blog), besides being a convicted murderer, apparently had amassed a fortune in gold. He went to the gallows without disclosing the whereabouts of this fortune. The "TreasureQuest" message board, "A bucket of gold coins is located in a ruined log cabin a few hours horseback ride from Dee. The cabin was discovered in 1932, then could not be relocated."

A Great-Great-Grand Uncle on my mother's side, John Laurence Jensen, came over from Denmark and established a hotel and pineapple plantation on the Atlantic Coast in Florida in 1881, naming the town Jensen. He went through several boom and bust periods with the pineapple business. The town eventually became known as Jensen's Beach, Florida. He sold his businesses in Florida and moved to North Carolina. After several years, he wanted back into the pineapple business. He sold his brick business in NC and invested in lands in Cuba which were subsequently lost during the Revolution of 1903.

Respectfully Submitted by

Derek A. Green

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Marital Conflict pt 2... Blue vs. Gray

As mentioned previously, both my wife and I have families that have been in the Americas since the 1600-1700's. While my families were from the Northeast, my wife's families were all settled in North Carolina. See Marital Conflict pt 1 for the interesting Revolutionary War stories of our families.

As the United States found itself struggling with the questions of State's Rights and Slavery, our families were on the opposite sides of the conflict based on geography.

My 4G-Grandfather, Daniel Blackford, enlisted in October, 1862 with Company D, 19th Ohio Infantry. He served until June 1863. Based on the timeframe, Daniel may have participated in the March to Nashville, Tenn., October 16-November 7, and duty there till December 26. Advance on Murfreesboro, Tenn., December 26-30. Battle of Stone's River December 30-31, and January 1-3, 1863. Duty at Murfreesboro till June. Middle Tennessee or Tullahoma Campaign June 22-July 7. Liberty Gap June 22-24.

I have no other direct relations that served, although many Great-Uncles that served such as 3G-Grand Uncle, James Miller Reed, who served in the Civil War with Company I, 134th Pennsylvania Volunteers, with brother Joseph Gilmore Reed. James Reed contracted typhoid fever and died 01 Dec 1862 at age 20 in Falmouth, VA.

My GG-Grand Uncle, Conrad Bockmier, at age 15 enlisted on October 11, 1861 from Cattaraugus County, NY and was mustered into the United States service at Elmira, NY as a private for a term of 3 years in Company K, 64th Regiment, New York Infantry under Captain William Fancher and H.N. Hunt, and Colonels R.Y. Parker and O.G. Bingham. The Regiment was attached to the 1st and 4th Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac and Conrad Bockmier shared the fortunes of his regiment in all its movements, operations and engagements during his stay with the Regiment, including the siege of Yorktown, April 16 to May 4, 1862, Battle of Fair Oaks or Seven Pines, May 31 to June 1, 1862. He was wounded June 1, 1862 by a gun shot wound in the left side, was treated first in hospital at West Philadelphia, PA. Sent to convalescent camp and rejoined the regiment in September 1862 just prior to the Battle of Antietam. At the Battle of Antietam, he spent most of the time in the wounded tents convalescing as he was made very ill by the long march and poor food after having just recovered from his earlier wound -- it was here that Conrad Bockmier met President Abraham Lincoln. After recovery, he served in the following battles: Chancellorsville - May 1-4, 1863; Gettysburg - July 1-3, 1863; Auburn and Bristoe - Oct. 14, 1863; Mine Run - Nov. 26-28, 1863; Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864; Spottsylvania - May 8-21, 1864; Po River - May 10, 1864; Assault on the Bloody Angle - May 12, 1864; North Anna River - May 23-26, 1864; Barnunkey River - May 26-28, 1864; Tatapomey - May 28-31, 1864; Before Petersburg - June 16-18, 1864; Welden Railroad - June 22-23, 1864; Deep Bottom - July 27-28, 1864; Strawberry Plains - Aug. 14-18, 1864; Reams Station - Aug. 25, 1864; Hatcher's Run - Oct. 27-28, 1864.
After an arduous service, he was Honorably Discharged on November 18, 1864, Front of Petersburg expiration term of service.

Now, my wife, Katherine, is from North Carolina. She is the direct descendent of several Confederate States of America service members, including several that died during the war.  5 of her 8 GG-Grandfather's served, with the other 3 being too young. And at least 3 of her 3G-Grandfather's served as well.

Her GG-Grandfather, Robert O. Devinney (Great-Grandson of Aaron Deveney from Marital Conflict pt 1), was a resident of Cleveland County when he enlisted as a Private on 26 Feb 1863 in Wake County, North Carolina. He was mustered into Co. G, 12th North Carolina Infantry that same day. The 12th North Carolina Infantry was organized on 14 Nov 1861 and assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia. During his time of military service, the 12th North Carolina fought numerous engagements, including: Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse.

As you can see, Robert Devinney and the 12th NC Infantry Regiment were at many of the same major battles as Conrad Bockmier of the 64th NY Infantry Regiment. While further research would have to be done to see if these units were across from each other on the battlefield or just in the same vicinity, our families though separated by great distance had crossed paths before.

On 12 May 1864, in the battle at Spotsylvania Courthouse, Robert and 47 other men of the 12th North Carolina Infantry were taken prisoner and confined at Point Lookout, Maryland. He was transferred on 10 Aug 1864 to the Union POW camp at Elmira, NY where Robert Devinney died of pneumonia on 2 Dec 1864. He is buried in Woodlawn National Cemetery, grave 885.
1233 of the 2917 Confederates buried at "Hellmira" were from North Carolina. Confederate dead were buried in 36 rows on a 2½ acre portion of the city cemetery (later designated Woodlawn National Cem.) by John W. Jones, an escaped slave from Leesburg, Virginia. Jones marked each grave with a wooden headboard listing the soldier's name, company, regiment and state. The wooden headboards were later replaced with stone gravemarkers.

Her 3G-Grandfather, Burrell Bossell Anderson, enlisted with Company F, 58th North Carolina Infantry, Confederate States Army on July 28th, 1862 at Bell's Bridge, TN. The 58th NC Infantry was part of the Army of Tennessee. Burrell was sent to the hospital on September 23rd, 1863 per the 10/31/1863 muster roll, 8/31/1864 muster roll says "never heard from since." His family never heard from him and he's believed to have died at the hospital.  Based on the date of the hospital entry, he may have been injured at the Battle of Chickamaunga.

Katherine's GG-Grandfather, Sidney Yoder, enlisted on July 4th, 1861 with the 1st NC Infantry and served with the Army of Northern Virginia until his capture on April 6th, 1865 at Amelia Court House Virginia (3 days before General Lee surrendered at Appomattox). He was sent to Point Lookout Maryland until he was paroled on 6/22/1865.

Another GG-Grandfather, Edgar I. Leinbach, served in I Company, 33rd North Carolina Infantry. Family lore has it that the Southern forces were tired and hungry and that the Northern forces would call out and state if you surrendered you would get food. Edgar could smell the food and eventually succumbed. He surrendered and was apparently sent to Indiana to live with Cousins under the equivalent of a house arrest. After the war he walked home from Indiana to North Carolina and the family still has his walking stick!

A fourth GG-Grandfather, Wiley Nathaniel Shamel, enlisted as a Private on 15 January 1863 at the age of 18. He enlisted in Company B, 6th Infantry Regiment North Carolina Troops on 15 January 1863. He was taken as a POW on 20 July 1864 at Winchester, Virginia. Confined on 23 July 1864 at Camp Chase, Ohio. Took Oath of Allegiance on 18 February 1865 at Camp Chase, Ohio. Wiley's father, George Shamel, was registered with the NC 7th Regiment Senior Reserves.

Respectfully Submitted by

Derek A. Green

Posted 2/28/2009
Updated 7/7/2012

Marital Conflict pt 1...The Redcoats are coming!

Both my wife and I have families that have been in the Americas for quite some time. I have family lines that came to New Amsterdam and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600's and lived throughout the Northeast. My wife's families all ended up in North Carolina by the mid-1770's (can you see Marital Conflict pt 2 coming?).

Most people don't know that the American Revolution wasn't universally embraced by the inhabitants of the colonies. Some estimates put it at 1/3 pro-American; 1/3 pro-British; 1/3 Leave me out of it!

Well this is where the conflict begins. I have 2 different family lines that were pro-British and 2 lines that were pro-American. My 5G-Grandfather, Samuel Very, joined the British Army. He was later arrested because of this. Samuel's arrest bond is dated October 1777 in the amount of 500 pounds. He was arrested because of his allegiance to the British rule. These bond papers state that he used his house and lands as collateral with a promise to pledge allegiance to the State. However, this arrest did not deter Samuel Very! On 13 Feb 1778 British Army Commission papers, we find Samuel rejoining the British 2nd Battalion Regiment of Militia in the Manor of Rensselaerwyck Proper in the County of Albany. He was a 2nd Lieutenant under Captain Ichobod Turner. With Samuel's in your face attitude, I wonder if Hannah, his wife, had nightmares about the sheriff showing up to seize her home, because of the bond being ignored by Samuel!! There's only 4 months passed from the arrest bond stating he would not associate with the Brit's and his rejoining the British army. Samuel stayed in New York after the war where he died in 1807 in Stephentown, NY. Interestingly, Samuel's son, William Thomas Vary, was a Lt. Colonel in the Genesee, NY militia during the War of 1812. He fought in the Batavia area and was in the area when Buffalo was burned by the British. William was the founder of Varysburg, NY but later moved to Canada!

On another family line, my 6G-Grandfather, Isaac Van Valkenburg, was a Private in Butler's Rangers during the Revolutionary War. This was a British Loyalist regiment. The Corps of Rangers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Butler was raised in 1777 and served until the general reduction of the British Army in North America in 1784. The Rangers were headquartered at Fort Niagara, first living in garrison, and then in barracks on the west side of the Niagara River. While the Corps fought as a major unit at Wyoming, Cherry Valley, Chemung, on Sir John Johnson's and Major John Ross's raids, most of the expeditions were mounted by company or company plus sized units. A key factor in the successes of the Rangers was the close co-operation of the various Indian nations with which it served. The Corps fought in what is now New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan. It has been described by military historians as the most active and successful Provincial Corps in the Northern Command during the Revolution. After the war he moved to Canada as a United Empire Loyalist (U.E.L.).

On the pro-American side,  my 5G-Grandfather, David Rife, served in Captain Huey's 7th Company of the 1st Battalion of the Lancaster County Militia in Pennsylvania. Although his son later moved to Canada and his Grandson, Joseph Rife, married Isaac Van Valkenburg's Great-Granddaughter, Elizabeth Follick.

My 4G-Grandfather, Reuben Mickle, enlisted in 1780 in Colonel Shreve's 2nd New Jersey Regiment in the Continental Army.  He was a Corporal in Cyrus D. Hart's Company.  He saw action at the Battle of Springfield (NJ) and the Siege of Yorktown (VA).

Now my wife's family were the Patriot's. Her 5G-Grandfather, Aaron Deveney Jr., had moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania in 1772. At the onset of the war, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1775 by Col. William Graham and assigned to Capt. Robert Rankins Company of the Tyron Militia. Throughout the fall and winter of 1775-76, the company was sent out on scouting parties, protecting the frontier settlements from Indian attacks and raids by Tories. In 1776, his home was plundered and burned by Tories. In 1777 he was ordered to take charge of the fort at Montford's Cove. When Capt. Rankins left the county, Aaron was elected Captain by his company, and later commissioned to that rank by Colonel Andrew Hampton. He was ordered to bring his Company to Gilbert Town, where Tories were causing trouble. They were successful in capturing several Tory prisoners, including their Captain. While the Tory captain's name is not listed, the record does state that he was later hung. In 1780, Aaron was ordered by Colonel McDowell and Colonel Hampton to bring his Company to the South Fork of the Catawba, where they were placed under the command of General Griffith Rutherford, and participated in the Battle of Ramsour's Mill. Shortly after that battle, Aaron's company was ordered to the head of Cane Creek to intercept British Major Patrick Ferguson's troops. Aaron started out to contact and warn the Burke Co. militia, and in the process was captured by three of Ferguson's spies. He was held prisoner 13-14 days, during which time his wife Sarah pleaded with Colonel Ferguson to release her husband. When she eventually resorted to tears, Ferguson gave in, exclaiming that he would 'rather see 20 dead men than one woman in tears.' Aaron and some other captured patriots were paroled, after taking an oath not to again take up arms against Britain. While some of those paroled later pursued Major Ferguson to King's Mountain (where he was killed in battle), Aaron kept his oath and returned home, where he was put in charge of forts at Montford's Cove to defend against Indian raids. In addition, Aaron's brothers, Andrew and William, back in Pennsylvania, were both officers in the Bedford Rangers, Pennsylvania Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Another 5G-Grandfather, Robert M. Patton II, was a Captain in the Revolutionary War. At times he served as an Indian spy under Capt. Morrison. He was at the Battle at Monck's Corner, SC, which was fought against the British Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton (Commander of the Dragoons portrayed in the movie The Patriot). He fought at the Battle of Ramsour's Mill on 20 Jun 1780. Robert Patton II served as Captain of Cavalry at the Battle of Kings Mountain on 7 Oct 1780. Robert served under Colonel McDowell in the Wilmington Expedition and in Cherokee raids of 1782.

Robert Patton's father-in-law, James Dysart, my wife's 6G-Grandfather, was a Captain during the Revolutionary War and served at King's Mountain. This is not the "famous" Colonel James Dysart, but believed to be his uncle. Both Captain James Dysart and his son, William, were killed at the Battle of Cowan's Ford on 1 Feb 1781. They gave the ultimate sacrifice to the birth of a new nation.

Respectfully Submitted by

Derek A. Green

Originally Posted 2/28/2009
Updated on 7/4/2012

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Canadian Black Sheep - Daniel Norman Williams

Well here is my Canadian Black Sheep story...........

Daniel Norman Williams, born in Canada, was convicted of murder and hanged in Oregon in 1905.

My Great-Grand Uncle, Daniel Norman Williams, was born in Sombra, Ontario in 1856. His older sister, Mahala Teresa Williams Green was my Great-Grandmother. Daniel is listed in both the 1861 and 1871 Census with parents John Williams and Zereda Mable Moran Williams and siblings Mahala and Mary Cecilia, living in Chatham, Kent, Ontario. The family moved to the US sometime between 1880-1884.

Daniel first ran into some trouble in Iowa and was sent, instead of prison, to a State Institution due to the fact that he had seizures. The family later moved to Nebraska where Daniel again ran into trouble. He was incarcerated in the Nebraska State Prison from 28 Apr 1891–05 May 1894 for attempted rape.

Then in May 1899 he moved to Oregon, bringing out a fiancĂ©e from Iowa. They married on July 25, 1899 and his mother-in-law moved out there in October 1899. In the Spring of 1900, his wife, Alma Nesbitt, and mother-in-law, Louisa, both went “missing”. There was much questioning and investigation by authorities and the siblings of Miss Nesbitt. It took a few years for the District Attorney to put together a case against Daniel. Their bodies were never found, although an excavation on Daniel’s property in 1904 found human hair mixed with blood. He was ultimately indicted for the two murders in April 1904 and was found guilty in May 1904. After an unsuccessful appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, he was hanged on 22 Jul 1905 outside the Wasco County Courthouse in The Dalles, Wasco County, Oregon, USA.

This was the last county-run hanging in the State of Oregon - all future hangings were done at the State Penitentiary. This case is somewhat famous as it set some legal precedents and is still frequently cited in court cases across the United States as prior to this time, if there was no body there was no crime – "corpus delecti". Also this was the first case in Oregon that used forensic evidence to obtain a conviction.

In addition to the murders, there is evidence that Daniel may have been married up to six times and may not have always gotten a divorce from his previous marriages.

Link to the Oregon Supreme Court case that provides many additional details:
State of Oregon v. Daniel Norman Williams

This case was also a featured chapter in a book about Oregon hangings called "Necktie Parties" by Diane L. Goeres-Gardner, excerpts shown:
Necktie Parties: Legal Executions in Oregon 1851-1905

Submitted Respectfully by

Derek A. Green