Part Three: Tearing Down Brick Walls – Spence Family Mystery

Finally a Breakthrough?

My Spence line has been a challenge.  Going into my research on this line I had very little knowledge about this branch of my family.  My Grandmother, my connection to this line is still alive and her mind is intact even at 89 years old, but sadly there just isn’t a lot of family knowledge about her father’s family.  Although my Grandmother reports that her own mother was very interested in genealogy and loved history the passion was not passed down to her only daughter so much information was lost to time.

I have spent hundreds of hours scouring records trying to find the pieces that fit the puzzle I had been given.  Most of my sessions have ended in frustration and more questions than answers.  Finally I think I have had a possible breakthrough in my hunt.

The basic facts I started with were sparse.  I pulled the few details I could out of each record and tried to put together a picture of the events.

Evaluating Evidence

My first basic facts started at the cemetery.  I know where my Great-Great Grandfather is buried without a doubt.  He is buried in a small rural cemetery on land that according to my Grandmother was donated by him prior to his death.  He has a marked grave with his name, birth and death dates all clearly legible[1].  Starting with this information I tracked down every census and vital record I could locate and conclusively determine was the correct James Spence and began extracting further clues.

James was married at least twice although records for only one marriage have currently been located.  He was head of a household with Emily Spence in 1880 census in Ottawa County, Ohio[2].  His oldest two children (Emma and William) report Emma Jane Davis as their mother through life on legal documents.  His second marriage was to Anna Dorman, who his youngest four children report as their mother on legal documents.  Of note, Harry Spence, 3rd child of James Spence was born prior to the marriage of James and Anna so is likely the child of Emma.

I have currently only located two documents recording the possible identity of James’s parents.  One is his marriage record to Anna[3].  He records parents James Spence and Jane Davidsen.  There are no parents recorded for Anna.  The other document is the death record of James Spence[4], his daughter Emma is the informant and she provides a name of John Spence and no mother’s name.  In reconciling these contradictory documents I have given more evidence to the parents recorded by James himself as opposed to secondhand information provided by Emma about an event that happen before her birth and involved people she did not apparently know.

Summarizing the Clues

James Spence is buried in the North Brinton Cemetery in Isabella County, Michigan.  His grave is marked and his headstone is legible, he died in 1940.  His date of birth was 1853 and he was born in Canada.  His parents were James Spence and Jane Davidsen, both of Irish birth.  He was married at least once and had children with two women, Emma Jane Davis and Anna Dorman.  He had six known children, 3 with Emma Davis named Emma Jane Spence, William J Spence, and Harry Spence;  with Anna Dorman he had Mary Ann Spence, Margaret Ellen Spence, and Thomas Spence.

James and Jane Spence of Simcoe County, Ontario

After countless hours of fruitless searches I finally had what I think is a huge breakthrough in research.  At least it is currently the strongest lead found and I haven’t yet located information to rule it out.  Starting on the 1851 Canadian census[5] I locate a couple of Irish birth named James and Jane Spence living in Simcoe County, Ontario.  By the time of the 1861 Canadian census[6] this James and Jane Spence also record a son named James born in 1854.  The 1871 census[7] shows the family again, with James still in the home.  The 1881 census[8] shows an elderly James and Jane Spence still in the same place, son James is no longer noted in the area.  This would correspond with my ancestor being located in Ohio in 1880.  Currently, my assumption is that this James Spence is my ancestor.

Looking Closer…

The demographics of this Spence family match up with my James Spence but there are smaller clues that also help point to this being a successful match.  James and Jane Spence had several children, one of which was named Thomas Spence.  Thomas Spence later went on to settle in the United States…in Michigan, the same place where James later settled when he came to the United States, although they settled hundreds of miles apart in different parts of the state.  Another detail of note regarding Thomas Spence is that my James Spence named one of his sons Thomas.

Only DNA Can Tell For Sure

Are James and Jane Spence my Great-Great-Great Grandparents?  Currently my guess is yes.  I am going to continue researching this family and hope that at some point I can conclusively declare that yes these are indeed my ancestors or no they are definitely not my ancestors.  At this point it may take DNA testing of living members of the family to give the evidence needed to successfully answer this question.

 

 

[1] http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=15977253&ref=acom

[2] Year: 1880; Census Place: Danbury, Ottawa, Ohio; Roll: 1056; Family History Film: 1255056; Page: 441C; Enumeration District: 069; Image: 0382 Ancestry.com

[3] Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952 Ancestry.com

[4] Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950 Ancestry.com

[5] Year: 1851; Census Place: York, York County, Canada West (Ontario); Schedule: A; Roll: C_11760; Page: 121; Line: 23 Ancestry.com

[6] Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1072 Ancestry.com

[7] Year: 1871; Census Place: Gwillimbury West, Simcoe South, Ontario; Roll: C-9960; Page: 39; Family No: 141 Ancestry.com

[8] Year: 1881; Census Place: Gwillimbury West, Simcoe South, Ontario; Roll: C_13250; Page: 72; Family No: 336 Ancestry.com

Matriarch Monday: Cassandra Burnell Southwick Persecuted Quaker

Well it’s Monday so it must be time for a Matriarch Monday post.  I have been researching more into the lines of my paternal 3rd Great Grandmothers, sisters Harriet Cornell Eckler and Cornelia Cornell Ashley.

Cassandra Burnell Southwick

While researching their lines I discovered the tale of a woman by the name of Cassandra Burnell Southwick.  Cassandra Burnell Southwick was the 5th Great Grandmother of the Cornell sisters and my 10th Great Grandmother twice over.

Cassandra Burnell was born in England in 1598.  She married a man by the name of Lawrence Southwick and together with their children they immigrated to the American colonies in 1638.  They set up home in Salem, Massachusetts where Lawrence was one of the first glass makers in the new world.

A Dark Page in Salem History

Most people recognize the name Salem, Massachusetts for its dark history involving witch trials in the late 1600’s but Salem has a dark and tragic history of crazed persecution that dates back even farther than the witch trials.  Long before Rev Cotton Mather’s name became famous another dark man terrorized the people of Salem.  His name was John Endecott, he was the Governor of Massachusetts, and his victims were the Quakers.

The Puritans came to America to escape religious persecution but that did not create compassion for others suffering the same fate.  The Puritans were known for harsh treatment of anyone who did not follow the strict doctrine of their faith.  The Quakers were a frequent target of Puritan ire.

Quaker Persecution

During the year 1657 Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick were living in Salem and were found to be associating with Quaker preachers, a crime in Puritan Massachusetts.  Lawrence and Cassandra were both arrested.  Lawrence was released but Cassandra was imprisoned for 7 weeks and fined for possessing a paper written by the visitors, a heretical act under Puritan law.

In 1658 the Southwicks were once again found to be breaking Puritan law for being Quakers.  Lawrence, Cassandra, and adult son (my ancestor) Josiah were all arrested and sentenced to serve 20 weeks in jail.  The family’s personal property was confiscated to pay for the fines levied on them and their younger children still at home were left penniless with no livestock or goods to sustain them.

Sold into Slavery

The following year, 1659, the youngest children of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick, a daughter named Provided and son Daniel, were ordered sold into slavery in Barbados to pay outstanding fines related to the families Quaker activities.   The children were hauled up to the auction block but no ship captain would agree to transport them forcing Gov. Endecott to rescind that part of his punishment.  The tale of Endecott attempting to sell the children into slavery led to the Ballad of Cassandra Southwick written by John Greenleaf Whittier which details the experience from the perspective of daughter Provided.

Exile

In 1660, Endecott managed to finally get rid of his problem with the Southwick family of Quakers.  After the failed attempt to sell the Southwick children into slavery he had the family banished.  Lawrence and Cassandra were both in their 60’s at the time and their physical condition was no doubt much deteriorated after their long ordeal which involved being whipped and starved during their imprisonment.  The family sought refuge on Shelter Island in New York where Lawrence and Cassandra died in the spring of 1660.

lawrencecassandrasouthwick

Inscription on the memorial placed in 1884 at the Sylvester Manor Burial Ground on Shelter Island, New York.

“LAWRENCE AND CASSANDRA SOUTHWICK
Despoiled, imprisoned, starved, whipped, banished,
Who fled here to die.”

The Ballad of Cassandra Southwick

                By John Greenleaf Whittier

To the God of all sure mercies let my blessing rise today,
From the scoffer and the cruel He hath plucked the spoil away;
Yes, he who cooled the furnace around the faithful three,
And tamed the Chaldean lions, hath set His handmaid free!

Last night I saw the sunset melt though my prison bars,
Last night across my damp earth-floor fell the pale gleam of stars;
In the coldness and the darkness all through the long night-time,
My grated casement whitened with autumn’s early rime.

Alone, in that dark sorrow, hour after hour crept by;
Star after star looked palely in and sank adown the sky;
No sound amid night’s stillness, save that which seemed to be
The dull and heavy beating of the pulses of the sea;

All night I sat unsleeping, for I knew that on the morrow
The ruler said the cruel priest would mock me in my sorrow,
Dragged to their place of market, and bargained for and sold,
Like a lamb before the shambles, like a heifer from the fold!

Oh, the weakness of the flesh was there¯the shrinking and the shame;
And the low voice of the Tempter like whispers to me came,
‘Why sit’st thou thus forlornly,’ the wicked murmur said,
‘Damp walls thy bower beauty, cold earth thy maiden bed?

‘Where be the smiling faces, and voices soft and sweet,
Seen in thy father’s dwelling, hoard in the pleasant street?
Where be the youths whose glances, the summer Sabbath through,
Turned tenderly and timidly unto thy father’s pew?

‘Why sit’st thou here, Cassandra? Bethink thee with what mirth
Thy happy schoolmates gather around the warm, dark hearth;
How the crimson shadows tremble on foreheads white and fair,
On eyes of merry girlhood, half hid in golden hair.

‘Not for thee the hearth-fire brightens, not for thee kind words are spoken,
Not for thee the nuts of Wenham woods by laughing boys are broken;
No first-fruits of the orchard within thy lap are laid,
For thee no flowers of autumn the youthful hunters braid.

‘O weak, deluded maiden!¯by crazy fancies led,
With wild and raving railers an evil path to tread;
To leave a wholesome worship, and teaching pure and sound,
And mate with maniac women, loose-haired and sackcloth-bound,

‘And scoffers of the priesthood, who mock at things divine,
Who rail against thy pulpit, and holy bread and wine;
Bore from their cart-tail scourgings, and from the pillory lame,
Rejoicing in their wretchedness, and glorying in their shame.

‘And what a fate awaits thee!¯a sadly toiling slave,
Dragging the slowly lengthening chain of bondage to the grave!
Think of thy woman’s nature, subdued in hopeless thrall,
The easy prey of any, the scoff and scorn of all!’

Oh, ever as the Tempter spoke, and feecle Nature’s fears
Wrung drop by drop the scalding flow of unavailing tears,
I wrestled down the evil thoughts, and strove in silent prayer
To feel, O Helper of the weak! that Thou indeed wert there!

I thought of Paul and Silas, within Philippi’s call,
And how from Peter’s sleeping limbs the prison shackles fell,
Till I seemed to hear the trailing of an Angel’s robe of white,
And to feel a blessed presence invisible to sight.

Bless the Lord for all his mercies!¯for the peace and love I felt,
Like the dew of Hermon’s holy hill, upon my spirit melt;
When ‘Get behind me, Satan! ‘ was the language of my heart,
And I felt the Evil Tempter with all his doubts depart.

Slow broke the gray cold morning; again the sunshine fell,
Flocked with the shade of bar and grate within my lonely cell;
The hoar-frost melted on the wall, and upward from the street
Came careless laugh and idle word, and tread of passing feet.

At length the heavy bolts fell back, my door was open cast,
And slowly at the sheriff’s side, up the long street I passed;
I heard the murmur round me, and felt, but dared not see,
How, from every door and window, the people gazed on me.

And doubt and fear fell on me, shame burned upon my cheek,
Swam earth and sky around me, my trembling limbs grew weak;
‘Oh Lord, support thy handmaid, and from her soul cast out
The fear of men, which brings a snare, the weakness and the doubt.

Then the dreary shadows scattered, like a cloud in morning’s breeze,
And a low deep voice within me seemed whispering words like these:
‘Though thy earth be as the iron, and thy heaven a brazen wall,
Trust still His loving-kindness whose power is over all.’

We paused at length, where at my feet the sunlit waters broke
On glaring roach of shining beach, and shingly wall of rock;
The merchant-ships lay idle there, in hard clear lines on high,
Treeing with rope and slender spar their network on the sky.

And there were ancient citizens, cloak-wrapped and grave and cold,
And grim and stout sea-captains with faces bronzed and old,
And on his horse, with Rawson, his cruel clerk at hand,
Sat dark and haughty Endicott, the ruler of the land.

And poisoning with his evil words the ruler’s ready ear,
The priest leaned over his saddle, with laugh and scoff and jeer;
It stirred my soul, and from my lips the soul of silence broke,
As if through woman’s weakness a warning spirit spoke.

I cried ‘The Lord rebuke thee, thou smiter of the meek,
Thou robber of the righteous, thou trampler of the weak!
Go light the cold, dark hearth-stones,¯go turn the prison lock
Of the poor hearts though hast hunted, thou wolf amid the flock!’

Dark lowered the brows of Endicott, and with a deeper red
O’er Rawson’s wine-empurpled cheek the flash of anger spread;
‘Good people, ‘ quoth the white-lipped priest, ‘heed not her words so wild,
Her Master speaks within her¯ the Devil owns his child!’

But gray heads shook, and young brows knit, the while the sheriff read
That law the wicked rulers against the poor have made,
Who to their house of Rimmon and idol priesthood bring
No bonded knee of worship, nor gainful offering.

Then to the stout sea-captains the sheriff, turning, said¯
‘Wish of ye, worthy seamen, will take this Quaker maid?
On the Isle of fair Barbados, or on Virginia’s shore
You may hold her at a higher price than Indian girl or Moor!’

Grim and silent stood the captains; and when again he cried,
‘Speak out my worthy seamen!’ no voice, no sign replied;
But I felt a hard hand press my own, and kind words met my ear,¯
‘God bless thee, and preserve thee, my gentle girl and dear!’

A weight seemed lifted from my heart, a pitying friend was nigh,
I felt it in his hard, rough hand, and saw it in his eye;
And when again the sheriff spoke, that voice, so kind to me,
Growled back its stormy answer like the roaring of the sea.

‘Pile my ship with bars of silver, pack with coins of Spanish gold
From keel-piece up to deck-plank, the roomage of her hold,
By the living God that made me! I would sooner in your bay
Sink ship and crew and cargo, than bear this child away!’

‘Well answered, worthy captain, shame on their cruel laws!’
Ran through the crowd in murmurs loud the people’s just applause.
‘Like the herdsmen of Tekoa, In Israel of old,
Shall we see the poor and righteous again for silver sold ?’

I looked on haughty Endicott; with weapon half-way drawn,
Swept around the throng his lion glare of bitter hate and scorn;
Fiercely he drew his bridle-rain, and turned in silence back,
And sneering priest and baffled clerk rode murmuring in his track.

Hard after them the sheriff looked, in bitterness of soul,
Thrice smote his staff upon the ground, and crushed his parchment-roll.
‘Good friends,’ he said, ‘since both have fled, the ruler and the priest
Judge ye, if from their further work I be not well released.’

Loud was the cheer which, full and clear, swept round the silent bay,
As, with kind words and kinder looks, he bade me go my way;
For he who turns the courses of the streamlet of the glen,
And the river of great waters, had turned the hearts of men.

Oh, at that hour the very earth seemed changed beneath my eye,
A holier wonder round no rose the blue walls of the sky,
A lovelier light on rock and hill and stream and woodland lay,
And softer lapsed on sunnier sands the waters of the bay.

Thanksgiving to the Lord of life! To him all praises be,
Who from the hands of evil men hath set his handmaid free;
All praise to Him before whose power the mighty are afraid,
Who take the crafty in the snare which for the poor is laid!

Sing, O my soul, rejoicingly, on evening’s twilight calm
Uplift the loud thanksgiving, pour forth the grateful psalm;
Let all dear hearts with me rejoice, as did the saints of old,
When of the Lord’s good angel the rescued Peter told.

And weep and howl, ye evil priests and mighty men of wrong,
The lord shall smite the proud, and lay His hand upon the strong.
Woe to the wicked rulers in his avenging hour!
Woe to the wolves who seek the flocks to raven and devour!

But let the humble ones arise, the poor in heart be glad,
And let the mourning ones again with robes of praise be clad,
For he who cooled the furnace, and smoothed the stormy wave,
And tamed the Chaldean lions, is mighty still to save!

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_and_Cassandra_Southwick

https://archive.org/stream/essexinstitutehiv16esse#page/2/mode/2up

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=6783049&PIpi=48313012

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ballad_of_Cassandra_Southwick_(poem)

I Visited Geronimo’s Grave…Maybe?

Cemetery Tourist

It seems as if frequently genealogy and a love of cemeteries go hand in hand.  Visiting old cemeteries seems to be a natural part of most genealogists’ hunt for old ancestors.  My own personal love of genealogy was born in an old family cemetery.

When I travel to new places I enjoy visiting historic buildings and old cemeteries.  Over the years I have visited such notable graves as Doc Holiday, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, and Calamity Jane.  During my travels I have visited old Confederate cemeteries full of unknown dead soldiers and even a cemetery full of nothing but mules, donkeys, and goats who served as base mascots for Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.

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Mascot Cemetery Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Recently one of the cemeteries I visited was the Fort Sill Indian Agency Cemetery in Oklahoma.  The cemetery, also called the Beef Creek Apache Cemetery, is noteworthy for containing the graves of Apache prisoners of war, including the grave of Geronimo and several of his family members who were held at Fort Sill.

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Beef Creek Apache Cemetery, Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Geronimo’s Grave

Geronimo has a large headstone easily spotted from the road of the cemetery.  It is in the shape of a pyramid with an eagle standing with spread wings on its top.  A closer inspection of the memorial reveals countless items left on and around it.  Feathers, coins, tobacco, all little pieces of tribute left for the great chief by visitors to his grave.  The large stately grave of Geronimo stands out among the sea of simple stones that fill the cemetery.  It seems like a peaceful final resting place.

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Tributes left at Geronimo’s Grave

More to the Story

There is more to the story of Geronimo that goes beyond the date of his death in 1909.  The grave of Geronimo has been the subject of more than one conspiracy story indicating all or part of his body has been removed from his Ft Sill grave.  During more recent times there have been fights to exhume his remains and remove them from the Army base by Native American groups looking to honor his final wishes.  Even in death it seems it’s hard for Geronimo to stay put.

Skull and Bones

The first and probably most well known story involving the removal of Geronimo’s remains involves a prestigious secret society at Yale, the Skull and Bones Club.  According to lore several club members, to include Prescott Bush, stole Geronimo’s skull as part of a club ritual during World War I.  This story has been disclaimed by both members of the club and officials at Fort Sill but still remains a source of mystery.

Elk Mountains

The second story is less known and has less evidence to support its credibility but still bears mentioning.  In 2009 a man from Wichita, Kansas told a story to a reporter, Amanda Warner, of the Times Record News that indicates the body of Geronimo may have never been there for the club to steal.  According to Gene Keeler, a Comanche descendant, the body of Geronimo was secretly moved by a group of men that included his Grandfather, Samuel Dave Cerday, shortly after his death.  According to details relayed to Keeler the body of Geronimo had been moved to the Elk Mountains near Indiahoma, Okalahoma to unmarked grave to remove him from Army control.

I Visited Geronimo’s Headstone

Does Geronimo truly rest under that elaborate stone?  We may never know.  So far efforts by his descendants to have his remains moved have been unsuccessful.  Short of actually exhuming the remains to see if some or any are contained in the grave there is little chance of finding out.  One thing is for certain even over a century after his death; the countless tributes left in his honor indicate he left a lasting mark on the world that lasts long beyond his life.

 

Sources:

http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/comanche-descendant-geronimo-not-buried-at-fort-sill-ep-433460263-335546011.html

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=387

Tombstone Tuesday

P.A. Shuck Cemetery White Oak Rd, Fayette County, WV

For Tombstone Tuesday it seems only proper to begin with the place where my love for genealogy was born, the P.A. Shuck Cemetery.  The P.A. Shuck Cemetery gets its name from the man who set aside the land for the cemetery in his 1917 will[1], Perry Addison Shuck, my Great-Great-Great Grandfather.

Perry Addison Shuck

Perry Addison Shuck

The cemetery sits behind a horse pasture, property still owned by members of the original Shuck family, at the end of a narrow right of way.  A simple fence surrounds the small cemetery and the many headstones are placed randomly around the enclosure with few defined paths.

Some of the stones are simple and handmade, rough etchings sometimes barely legible.  Many of the stones belong to veterans, still proudly proclaiming military service long after death.  One bears my own first name, the stone for the woman for who I was named.  Some belong to babies and young children sad reminders of a family tragedy.  A lot I know through memory or stories, while others still are unknown.

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It’s a sacred place, that old mountainside.  You can feel it in the air as you walk among the stones.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&GRid=84981968&CRid=2437579&

[1] Will Books, 1832-1969; Author: West Virginia. County Court (Fayette County); Probate Place: Fayette, West Virginia Title West Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1978 Author Ancestry.com Publisher Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Publisher Date 2015 Publisher Location Provo, UT, USA