All I Know

Welcome to my world

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Potpourri

What were you wearing?

I actually posted earlier in the week but felt I owed my readers more, so here goes.

The Question

At this time of the year, the school where I work mounts a display or show called “What She Wore.” It never fails to stop me in my tracks as I walk through our Commons. Pinned to the wall are various outfits, jeans and t-shirts, pretty dresses, shorts with sweatshirts, bathing suits. Beside each outfit is a written account of the outfit in the actual words of the subject who wore that outfit, because, for some strange reason, that’s a question that is always asked of a rape victim: “What were you wearing?”

I will admit, I’ve seen some pretty inappropriate outfits, but I don’t recall any that would indicate a woman (or a man) should be attacked and damaged in the many ways that rape can destroy a victim. Experts tell us that the act of rape is often more about control than about sex. If that’s the case why do we care so much about what a victim was wearing?

It may be that the question is more relevant in the case of what we call date rape, but I have a difficult time imagining that any woman (or man) dresses to invite abuse. And I also believe that most rapists don’t even see their victims as people…only as vulnerable “others” to be overpowered.

Investigation

I’ve been struggling to learn who and why visitors to my website are…well, visiting my site. I write because I want to write, but I have to admit, it means a lot and is encouraging to know that people read because they want to read — what I write.

Recently I installed a new “helper” to help me see more about my visitors. Don’t worry, it doesn’t track you individually, I still don’t know your names or anything about you other than generally where you come from and the pages you view.

Here’s where you come from — China. Apparently, the majority of my visitors are from (in this order): China, the US, and Alaska. Yes, I know Alaska is the US, but it shows up differently on the map I’m shown, so I list it.

I hope I know who my Alaskan visitor is (here’s to you, Nina) and I’m comfortable with the US visitors probably being friends and family, but I’m a little confused about the China visitors.

There’s a little more information in the report I get, and that is that my security software has rebuffed some 900 malicious login attempts and 24 spam comments.

I’m thinking those are all coming from China. I read the news. I just can’t figure out why I’m such a target.

Or if those login attempts and spams are NOT coming from China, the country, how do I have so many fans in China?

It’s a mystery.

And Finally:

Just read a lengthy article on the study of reading comprehension that found students learned better from printed text than electronic.

To quote the article: “Students said they preferred and performed better when reading on screens. But their actual performances tended to suffer.”

Another observation: “It would be wrong to assume that students will automatically be better served by digital reading simply because they prefer it.”

Now, I’m not going to go into all the details here, but I thought it was interesting that while you can read online text faster, you comprehend actual printed material much better. (Thanks to Barbara H. who posted it for me to find.)

If you want to read the entire article, it is on the businessinsider.com website and is written by Patricia A. Alexander and Lauren M. Singer. You can find it at printed text vs. digital

So, what I want to say here is…if you have trouble understanding what I’m writing, you might want to print this out and read it slowly.

Just sayin’.

 

Review

Early map of the 1700s.

Let’s review my story.

We have William Edward Collings who may or may not have come to America from Germany with five brothers named Crist in 1738.

If we take Nicolaus Crist’s journal as absolute truth, it would appear that William Edward was born and raised in Germany; however, the records we can find indicate that William Edward Collings was born in the colony known as Pennsylvania, the son of Zebulon Collings, also born in Pennsylvania.

By many accounts we have seen, Zebulon may have been the son of Anthony Andrew Collings of Cornwall, England. On the other hand, some reports of Anthony Andrew Collings do NOT show a son named Zebulon.

Am I English or German? My DNA says I am both, but the ratio is about 50% English/Wales/Northwestern Europe and only 16% Germanic Europe. Since I know I’m of German descent from my Nicholas ancestors, that would seem to indicate that it’s more likely the Collings were English.

Having doubts about the Crist version of how my family came to America, I tend to have better confidence in the remainder of the journal account of the friendship between the Crist family and the Collings family due to records of the intermarriage of the two.

I also know that court records and other official papers have the Collings and Crist families living as neighbors in more than one location. It’s also clear that they moved westward and through time together.

One official record in 1747 documents the registration of William Edward and his wife Anne (who was born Elizabeth Anne Elston), as members of the Scotch Plains Baptist Church. This church was founded in August of 1747 in the Province of East New Jersey “under the dominion of the King of Great Britain.”

Wherever he was born and however he came to be in America, William Edward’s son William Elston Collings may or may not have traveled to Kentucky as a part of the Low Dutch Settlement…which some accounts report wasn’t actually Dutch, but German and for the most part were early Quakers who branched off into the Shakers who founded Pleasant Hill, KY.

On the other hand, some accounts say the Low Dutch Settlement Company was most assuredly descendants of early immigrants from Holland. I’m still working on that side road.

William and his wife were members of an early Baptist church, but the community of Scotch Plains was a settlement founded in the late 1600s by a group of Scottish Quakers. Scotch Plains is approximately 15 miles northwest of the bay and town of Perth Amboy where many travelers to the New World landed in the 1600s

So are my Collings ancestors English or German, Baptist or Quaker?

I can find no further record of their lives in that area until they petitioned the Scotch Plains Baptist Church for a letter of Dismissal due to their move to Virginia.

Moving to Virginia would seem a simple matter, but that state had many boundary changes over the early years of its existence. Their move could have taken them into what we now know as Maryland or Virginia or Pennsylvania.

When settlers first came to America, they were just happy to leave the rocking ships and therefore settled on any dry land up and down the east coast of North America. Settlers in the area known as Virginia were hampered in any westward movement by the Appalachian Mountains which formed a formidable barrier to a class of people who merely wanted to claim some land, plant some crops and settle down near the ocean that could carry any commercial goods back and forth between European markets.

For over 100 years, the population of the country living along the Eastern seaboard grew and prospered. Settlements grew into towns, towns into cities.

In the mid to late 1700s, a decision to move to Virginia, meant moving farther inland, and “Virginia” could have been any location as far north as the southwest part of the state of present-day Pennsylvania or as far south as the border between the current states of Virginia and North Carolina.

I’ve found records of my family in a county called Yahogania, named for a river that branched off the Monongalia River and flowed south below present-day Pittsburgh. Claimed by Virginia, the county of Yahogania was located in an area long disputed between Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In the 1780s, when the boundary disputes were settled by extending a line that came to be known as the Mason-Dixion line, Yahohania County was dissolved into three other counties in the newly formed “official” states of Pennsylvania and Virginia which later became West Virginia.

It may have been the uncertainty over boundaries and allegiances to states that triggered my ancestors to act on the lure of the Kentucky territory. Or it may have been the possibility of land grants due to war service. Or it may have been the desire to see new lands and experience new situations. Or it may have been the memory of the fertile lands that the men of the family had seen during their time in the West with George Rogers Clark.

Whatever the reason, the Collings, the Crist, the Biggs, the Richey families along with several others made the fateful decision to pack up all their worldly goods and venture into the newly opened territory of Kentucky.

There were two paths taken into the Kentucky territory by those early pioneers, the Wilderness Road and the Ohio River.

The Wilderness Road was originally a narrow footpath, an Indian hunting trail that led through the mountains via the Cumberland Gap. As more and more travelers sought to travel this path, it was gradually widened to accommodate wagon travel, but the way west over this road was long, over 700 miles, and hard.

Those who did not relish this challenging route chose to build or buy flatboats and travel down the Ohio River. This route also had difficulties and dangers but was quicker and perhaps a little more comfortable.

I can’t be sure, but I believe my family came to Kentucky by way of the Ohio River. I have no proof of this, but I do know that William Elston Collings and two or more of his brothers had traveled to Kentucky with George Rogers Clark during the Revolutionary War. I imagine they knew and rejected the conditions and hazards of a 700-mile journey, on foot, on a path so narrow they could only walk single file.

I also know that while George Rogers Clark was dealing with the English, the Spanish and the Indians in the years of the Revolutionary War, he came to appreciate the rivers and the ability to move his men and supplies from place to place quickly and with less physical effort.

For these reasons and the lessons they had learned during their time in the territory, I feel that the men in my family decided on the river route to their family into this new territory.

Just Wondering…

Random thoughts today…

I love to read Wired Magazine, but because I like to read it cover to cover and because I want to really digest some of the articles, I run a little behind on my reading. I currently have about 10 months of Wired Magazine on my “to read” stack.

I just finished an article in the March 2018 issue about Amazon’s attempts to train their Alexa to “chat” with people.

I have so many thoughts on that article and that goal, but first I also need to describe a Facebook video that appeared on my feed immediately after reading that article.

A little quirky habit of mine that allows me to sneak on to Facebook from time to time at work is that I watch most Facebook videos with no sound which can be pretty funny at times. So keep in mind, I watched this video with no narrative.

This video that I watched was a split screen video. On the left side of the screen, someone was demonstrating how to solve the math problem: 35 x 12. She began by breaking the problem down into components such as 30 + 5 x 10 + 2 and went on to illustrate how that worked by drawing boxes and diagrams and arrows and creating at least 5 other problems.

In the meantime, on the right side of the screen (see what they did there…the “right” side?), someone quickly did the math the “old” way then made a pot of coffee.

While Other Side person was still drawing boxes and explaining how to turn this math problem into many problems, Right Side person (probably someone about my age) solved the problem, went to the coffee maker, measured out water and coffee, hit the brew button, waited on the machine, poured a cup and was happily having their morning fix while Other Side person finally wrapped up all the little problems created from the original problems and happily produced the same answer Right Side person had calculated several minutes before the coffee was ready.

I do understand the new way of doing the math that has developed over the years is to help students learn to break down a problem into all its components to be able to explain that problem to a computer thus “train” the computer by programming it to solve the problem in logical steps.

I understand that.

But wait…keep that video in mind and turn with me to my rant about teaching machines to “chat” with us.

Amazon has determined that we want our machines to do more for us than turn on the lights and play music and select books for us. Amazon has decided that we want to be able to carry on a conversation with the machine, just a casual chat like we would have with a friend.

The article talks about dumping all kinds of information into Alexa’s machine mind, giving her(?) access to even more information and training her to access that information randomly to keep a conversation going for at least 20 minutes.
And they are almost there. In the admittedly one-year-old article I read, Amazon held a competition in which three groups won a total of over a million dollars in prizes to reward their ability to create a program that could allow a machine to talk to a human for nearly 20 minutes.

Stay with me for just one more leg of this rant.

Consider this…in a world where Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone has made a dramatic comeback on TV, in a world where a simple math problem can take a page of paper and 10 minutes to solve, in a world where machines can casually chat with us for 20 minutes…in that world, are we training computers to think like people, or are computers teaching us to think like machines?

Just wondering.

All About the Land Part 2

Early map of the 1700s.

In 1768, after tough negotiations, the Cherokee Indians and the British government finalized the Treaty of Hard Labor to establish a western boundary beyond which the Indians had full rights and the American settlers had none.

The Treaty of Hard Labor relinquished the rights of the Cherokee to most of the territory we now know as West Virginia. The Indians would own the land west of the Ohio River and white settlers (and land speculators) would be able to claim, sell and improve the wilderness in nearly the entire area we now know as West Virginia.

A month later a different set of British negotiators met with the Iroquois and finalized the Treaty of Fort Stanwix which set a different boundary pushing the Indian lands farther west, leaving them the areas that later became Kentucky and Tennessee as their “forever hunting grounds.”

While these treaties opened vast areas of new territory for settlement, government officials had actually given to the Indians territory that early land speculators such as Jacob Hite thought they had already purchased from individual Indian tribes.

You will remember that Jacob Hite, upon learning that his land purchase was voided faced losing everything he owned to settle his debts. He responded by packing up his household goods, slaves and livestock and fleeing to the disputed land he felt he owned.

The British treaties that set these boundaries also set the stage for legal battles with men whose names have become synonymous with Revolutionary patriotism. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, in particular, had been seeking to purchase land in the area now ceded to the Cherokee Indians. And of course, Jacob Hite was nearly destroyed financially by the treaties and the British insistence that settlers abide by the new boundaries.

The British had their motives. If they could establish certain boundaries to the satisfaction of the Indians, settlers could safely and legally move into new lands and the British would not be called upon to protect those settlers from the Indians who would happily hunt and live in the land further west.

That was the plan, anyway. There were two problems with that plan: 1) no words on paper could stem the flow of those early pioneers who were hungry to claim land of their own, and 2) the entrepreneurs seeking to claim and then sell the land had no intention of letting the British thwart their dreams of wealth.

Jefferson, Washington and every member of the Virginia House of Burgesses felt that the British were imposing impossible limits on the economic growth of their state and, more importantly, on their wealthy citizens. They petitioned the British to revoke the treaties and to allow the state (or colony) of Virginia to annex the areas further west including what we now call Kentucky.

The friction between Indians and settlers, and between British and Americans truly began to smolder towards an explosive situation with the signing of these two treaties.

Freedom from British oppression was something every citizen could get behind, but make no mistake, controlling the land and thus the economy was the spark that triggered the American Revolution.

So, knowing all this, why did my ancestors move from their homes in western Pennsylvania to the Indians beloved hunting grounds in Kentucky?

Because they could. Following the Revolutionary War, the British treaties were no longer valid and American speculators could now officially seek ownership of the Indian land. Individual settlers in small groups could begin to claim the land a few hundred acres at a time. They could move from the smothering rules and regulations that told them what they could and could not do and into the wilderness where they were their own law and government.

Last week when I wrote about the legal problems of Jacob Hite, I thought I was just trying to set the stage for you to understand some of the economic struggles leading up to the Revolutionary War.

This week, I found that Jacob Hite’s story directly relates to my own story. I keep forgetting what a small world that world was!

Hite’s sister, Elizabeth, married a man named John Paul Froman of New Jersey and sometime before 1780, the Froman family moved to that rugged Kentucky territory that Jacob Hite wished to claim. The Froman family established a “station” or small community near Cox’s Creek in the area of the salt licks south of present-day Louisville.

This was the area that Jacob Hite had purchased from the Cherokee.
This was the area where Jacob Hite fled to avoid authorities in Virginia who had attempted to seize his personal property.

And in 1778, George Crist, writing in the Crist family journal, wrote “Me and Nicholas and Henry want to explore the land in Kaintuck that Daniel Boone keeps talking of. He says there is thousands of acres of land waiting to be claimed. Plenty of wild game and wild horses and that the land will grow anything. The Indians are worse there but we think with enough men it will be safe enough.”

We know that Henry did travel to Kentucky several times and experienced at least one adventure as his group was attacked by Indians, an attack he barely survived.

Based on the stories Henry brought back about the rich lands of Kentucky, and the stories of Danial Boone who was actively encouraging settlers, George finally wrote in 1783: “Me, Henry, Nicholas and William and our families and Besy’s parents and their families along with many more it’s about three hundred in all are going to leave in two days to go to Kaintuck.”

William in that passage would be William Elston Collings and the “others” would be his parents and brothers and their families, and that’s how my ancestors began their journey west, settling first in the area of Kentucky known as Froman’s Creek or Froman’s Station near the land of Jacob Hite.

Later, I’ll tell you what it took to make that journey.

Sidebar

No genealogy today. Just rambles, or as I like to say, freestylin’.  Instead of thinking about those long-ago ancestors, this is a week of remembering actual people in my life. Yesterday was Mom’s birthday and last week my favorite aunt’s. They’re both gone now, and I miss them.

We tend to downplay our own lives. Whenever I mention keeping a journal listeners complain that their lives just aren’t worth writing about. I found my teenage diary this week while cleaning out some boxes, and sat down to read what my young self had experienced.

Nothing.

On what must have been about 80% of the days, I wrote: “Nothing happened today.” As I thought back over those years, I remembered the days I didn’t write about.

I didn’t write about learning to drive in the Murphy’s old 1948 Oldsmobile, a tank of a car. With my older cousin directing me and my younger cousins in the back seat we roamed country roads and I learned the rules of the road and yes, several times learned what NOT to do.

I didn’t write about one night when my teenage boyfriend thought it would be cool to drive through the high water on Boatman Road. I was pretty sure it was a bad idea (actually, I was terrified).

We probably hadn’t driven more than 10 feet into the flood when the car stalled. The silence after the car died in which I could hear the water lapping on the door beside me still haunts my dreams. Thankfully, the engine re-started at the turn of the key and Steve wisely and carefully backed out of the water.

I didn’t write about the summer night I stood on a hill and saw a huge field completely covered with what must have been millions of lightning bugs. I still remember thinking to myself, “I will remember this always.”

I did mention that my baby sister was rushed to the hospital, but I didn’t write about how scared and responsible I felt as I oversaw the household and my siblings for nearly a week while Mom was gone with her.

Church family and friends brought food and one night I sat a cherry pie on top of our oil heating stove. It cooked. No one would touch the dark brown mess that resulted, but being the responsible temporary adult, I felt I had to eat it. It’s what Mom would have done.

I didn’t write any of that stuff.

I wrote that Becky liked Kenny and Susan like Sam and I liked Steve, and I wrote that “Nothing happened today.”

But it did. Life happened.

That’s what I should have written.

 

 

All About the Land

Early map of the 1700s.

In spite of the politicians and the press, wars are seldom fought for high ideals. Those advertised high principles and lofty ideals are incentives for the soldiers and the families who send the soldiers, but most wars are more often fought for economic reasons, to gain territory and power, or in retribution.

That may sound cynical but just think about it in terms of the wars you’ve known. I don’t want to get into a heated argument here, I just have some problems with wars in general, and in my genealogical studies, I’ve been reading about the Revolutionary War or the War for Independence.

The patriots who fought in the Revolutionary War, our ancestors, fought for independence from Britain, freedom from the oppressive taxes that England imposed, the ability to govern themselves and the land on which they lived. Lofty and admirable as those principles were, that war was also fought mostly because some of the prominent citizens of our country were unhappy that Britain was blocking their ability to claim and sell (at huge profits) the vast territories to the west of the settled lands of the 13 colonies.

For those of you who slept through jr. high American history, the 1700s were chaotic times in the Colonies. With Indians to the west of us and the Atlantic Ocean to the east of us, with more and more immigrants landing on our shores, owning and selling property became more and more profitable and desirable.

Some of the more well-known patriots, those men we call the “fathers” of our country early on began to look at acquiring ownership of large tracts of land to the west of the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason all were eager to acquire rights to property that lay in what we now know as Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. And they wanted those lands, not for the greater good…they intended to claim and own those lands for their personal gain.

One particular early land transaction in 1774 that sets the scene involved a man named Jacob Hite, an unapologetic land speculator in the Shenandoah Valley. Jacob’s father Jost Hite had made a great deal of money buying and selling land. Jacob aspired to build his own reputation and fortune in the same way.

Hite and a partner, Richard Pearis, conspired to acquire a large tract of land in the unsettled territories west of what is now South Carolina. This was Indian land, land the natives had hunted and lived in for centuries, but Hite and Pearis had a plan. Pearis had a son named George by a Cherokee Indian woman. Using the son’s standing with the Indians, the two men backed George to buy 150,000 acres of the Cherokee land which he then sold to his father and Hite.

It was a smart plan and should have worked to make the men rich. They would survey the land, divide it into smaller lots and sell it to settlers eager to move into the area and establish their own land holdings.

There was only one serious problem with the plan.

British officials had severe reservations about the wisdom of angering the Indians who had not been consulted or signed on to the sale of the land. The British were at that time on shaky ground as to their relations with the Indians who were attempting to form an anti-British confederation of several tribes.

In the interest of keeping the peace with the Indians, the British convinced a South Carolina court (which after all, ultimately answered to their British rulers) to void the deal.

This left Jacob Hite in severe financial jeopardy. As a land speculator, he had gambled heavily on the sale of these lands to acquire the funds to pay off debts which he now could not pay. In the domino effect often created by gambling and speculation, his creditors also had loans to pay off and at their insistence officials were ordered to seize personal property of Jacob Hite and auction off said property to raise the money to pay his debts.

Jacob was not happy about this solution to his money problems, and he vowed to stop any sale that took place. Gathering together some friends, Hite and a gang of armed men stormed the jail to take back his horses, slaves and other property. Unable to convince the jailor to turn over the keys or open the door, they chopped the door down with axes and then broke the lock on the stable door to retake his property.

Following the raid, Hite fled with his family and his belongings to the land he attempted to purchase in the Cherokee country.

Some of the perpetrators were subsequently arrested and charged with breach of the peace, but were acquitted due to sympathy by the locals for debtors who they felt were wrongly deprived of their personal property. British intervention in local business deals was an unpopular action and was already a factor in the increasing unrest in the colonies.

Following the failure of the legal system to punish Hite’s “gang,” heated verbal battles ensued as accusations flew back and forth between the sheriff, Adam Stephen, whose job it was to seize the property and Hite whose very livelihood depended on not losing his possessions.

Over the next few years Hite and Stephen carried on a bitter rivalry that involved letters in local newspapers and court cases, until in the fall of 1776 when a newspaper report stated: “…Mr. Jacob Hite, who lately removed from Berkeley county to the neighbourhood of the Cherokee country, with his family and a large parcel of negroes, were murdered at his own house by those savages, with most of his slaves, and his wife and children carried off prisoners; his son, who was in the Cherokee country, was likewise murdered.”

This incident was just one example of how important and life-altering ownership of the wilderness land to the west could be to individuals in Colonial America and how anger at the British style of government was simmering.

Next week, I’ll tell you how our patriotic forefathers were involved in similar schemes leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Angry

My happy place today, the Bartholomew Co. Library.

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t been around for a couple of weeks. I’ve been a little angry, for no reason that really matters or can be explained here, but I thought writing while angry might not be a good thing.

Today, though, I decided that NOT writing while angry was definitely a bad thing.

So here I am.

Have you ever noticed how when you are angry (or depressed or sad or anything but happy and oblivious) how little things just make it worse? Today I want to write about some of the little things.

Like cereal…I like breakfast food with fruit and/or other additives such as nuts and granola clusters. The cereal I poured out today was advertised as containing cranberries and almonds. I believe cranberries make everything better…I eat them in salads and for snacks. They’re not just for Thanksgiving anymore. Anyway, buying this cereal was a no-brainer. So, this morning I pour out my breakfast, and I find a total of two cranberries in my bowl.

Yep, made me a little angry.

And drivers. They make me angry. Why would a pickup truck pulling a rather long trailer pull out in front of me this morning when there was NO ONE behind me?

That made me angrier than if he had just pulled out because there was a decent space for him in a line of traffic.

Politicians almost always make me angry. Just hearing the names of some politicians or seeing their faces can make me angry. You can put any names here you want because I’m not saying who…just that some of them make me very angry.

People who hurt kids or animals or anyone or thing that is weaker make me very angry. Very angry.

Getting old makes me angry. This is supposed to be the prime of our lives because we’re smarter, not exactly richer, but more together financially, calmer, more respected. For the most part, I’m in a good place with my age, yet sometimes it’s hard to forget that being older means we may not get to enjoy all this “better” we worked for all our lives. That makes me angry.

This anger I’m feeling now isn’t about any of those things that I’ve talked about though. I can’t even tell you what it’s about, where it came from or why no one really noticed. Like a headache, I can’t point to the spot that’s causing the pain, it’s just there. Not all the time, but there.

And I realize talking about anger isn’t the way to cure it, so here are some of the things that make me happy:

Today I went to a little Amish (or Mennonite) deli in my old neighborhood and loaded up on meats and cheeses and home baked bread for a visit to my brother. That stuff may not be healthy for us, but it made me happy, and I think my brother will like it, too!

Tonight the Northern Lights may be visible as far south as central Indiana and I plan to go out and look for them which will remind me of the time my mom woke all of us kids up (on a school night, no less) so we could view the rare sight of Northern Lights in the southern Indiana sky. That memory alone makes me happy, but if I see the Lights…that will be icing on the cake.

And I’m writing this as I sit in my local library. It’s a neat building, the people who work here greet me by name and I’m surrounded by books and people who love books. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies where I can park myself with my laptop and just write. That makes me happy.

And one more thing that makes me happy, on the way home from the market I passed a farm where they have alpacas. I love alpacas, they always make me smile. They have such cute faces and every one is unique. Yes, I know they spit, but when you’re that cute, and people just annoy you…well, you know…I can relate!

Freestylin’

Declaration of Independence

I haven’t written for a while, and I have no excuse. Life happens. Since I don’t have anything prepared for this post, I’ll probably ramble…or, as I call it: freestyle.

The weather report for the next few days contains more cold and snow, but it’s March, so there is that. At this point, any nasty weather only sticks around for a couple of days. We even had sunshine a couple of days. I know it’s a sort of joke, but sitting in a restaurant a couple of days ago, the sun streaming in the window was reflecting off a laminated menu, and I heard a lady actually ask, “Where’s that bright light coming from?” I’m pretty sure she was serious!

This has also been one of the windiest winters that I can remember. The wind is something you can’t see, but it can wear you down mentally and emotionally…the roar of it surrounding your home as it tries to get in through windows and doors; the sound of twigs falling from trees all around, the quick gusts that try to slam every door you open and rip your coat, your scarf or hat from your body. The wind wears you down because you are always walking against it or being blown forward by it. And now it’s nearly March, traditionally the windiest month of the year. Oh, joy.

One of the things I have been doing this winter is reading a lot of history to help me understand what my ancestors were going through in the early days of our country. I’m currently going back and forth between two books, one about a major earthquake and one about the land speculators who were more or less responsible for the states of Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois.

I will not talk politics here. I don’t discuss politics with anyone because it is one of the least productive and most troublesome subjects that can ever come up between two or more people. I can’t convince anyone to think as I do and while I am always willing to listen to reason and “adjust” my opinions, I won’t do that based on one heated conversation, so what’s the point?

But I do have to say that my generation or the one before us or the one before that did not invent greed, deceit, prejudice or shifty, cunning trickery. I’m not saying any earlier politicians or other bad actors were worse than those I see operating now, but they were certainly as diligent and dedicated to the pursuit of profit and power as anyone you can name in the news today.

I’ve been very interested in the “why” of my ancestors moving westward. Not only that, but I’m interested in why they stopped where they did…and stayed. Once they arrived in Indiana in 1809 or so, for the most part, they never left. Of course, over the next couple of hundred years, some branched out into other directions. I have distant relatives to the south and west and even, probably, back east and north, but in the main, those who moved here stayed here.

That question is how I came to be reading a book called Forced Founders, subtitled Indians Debtors, Slaves & the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia by Woody Holton.

I’ll probably go into more detail later, but primarily, what we think of as the great American fight for our freedom, was as much about land ownership and profits as it was about the higher ideals of liberty and justice for all.

I’m not saying this is bad. One of the arguments of the Declaration of Independence was that we moved here and at great cost increased the value of this land…but that Great Britain was profiting more from that sacrifice than the people of America were.

All this research led me to search out and read the actual Declaration of Independence (it’s on the internet) with particular attention to why those early citizens of this new country thought they should separate from Great Britain and why they felt so strongly that they were prepared to die to accomplish it. I have to say, the list of grievances made against the overbearing King of Great Britain are striking in their relevance to current events.

I encourage you to look it up. It’s a fascinating read and that’s all I have to say about that!

Why

A bark or barque was a small vessel of coastal or inland waters.

The Elston’s are one branch of my family that came to the New World very early, in the mid to late 1600’s. How they got to Indiana on that fateful day in 1812 is a bundle of stories and interesting history. This is the history we thought was boring in grade school, but it’s not so much about dates and battles, it’s about the fundamental need for meaning and personal growth.

It’s about owning your place in life.

If you’re going to follow my story, you are going to have to endure a review of the early history of our country. If you see some similarities in current attitudes and ambitions, well maybe there are some lessons to be learned.

When the first Elston landed on the shores of what was then called the New World, the scope of that world was a narrow band of land at the water’s edge. Everyone settled on the shore. These were the walls of their lives, the ocean on one side and the dense forest on the other.

One of the earliest members of the Elston family who traveled to the New World, came as a servant or indentured worker, someone who’s passage was paid by a person who expected years of service in return for that investment.

This ancestor, John Elston, was a “waterman.” He operated a small boat belonging to his benefactor, possibly a man named Mr. Craddock. From this boat, John Elston and two crewmen fished and provided transportation of goods and passengers from one settlement to another.

According to passage in Annals of Salem, Vol. II, P210, Joseph B. Felt wrote, “A small bark of Salem, of about twelve tons, coming towards the bay, John Elston and two of Mr. Cradock’s fishermen being in her, and two tons of stone and three hogsheads of train oil, was overset in a gust, and being buoyed up by the oil, she floated up and down forty-eight hours, and the three men sitting upon her, till Henry Way his boat, coming by, espied them, and saved them.”

Being a waterman or fisherman was probably a pretty important job in the days of the infant settlements because fish was a major source of food for the population. The waterman’s family could be assured of eating well. Life was probably good for John and his family…but they didn’t own the boat, they didn’t own the house they lived in and they didn’t own themselves. All the work was towards buying back their freedom, repaying their passage fee. No matter how important the job of waterman…John was owned by, and worked for, “the man.”

But humanity isn’t programed to live by boundaries and limitations. As the forest was pushed back and crops were planted and harvested and animals that were brought from the Old World multiplied to provide milk, butter and meat, land became a valuable resource for the settlers and everyone who came to this country sought their fair share of it.

People came to the New World for two things…freedom from oppression and to own something they could not own in the Old World…land which gave them the means of their survival, not dependent on someone else. They came not to be owned, but to own their future and the future of their families. Owning land was the path to that end goal.

Ownership of land was one of the most important freedoms in this New World.

Why did our ancestors continually move west? No question…to acquire and protect their future and the future of their families.

This branch of my family came from Massachusetts to New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Maryland to Virginia to Kentucky to Indiana hoping that their steps west would be a step up.

Along the way, other family stories melted into this family…the Crists, the Richeys, the Phegleys, the Craigs, the Nicholas clan, Donahues and Wells and Bridgewaters and…

John Elston’s great, great granddaughter Anne Elizabeth married William Edward Collings, and she was mother to William Elston Collings, who was father to Sichy Collings Richey who was mother to…well, you see how this goes. Families just go on and on.

Past as Present

Fire as execution method in the 1600’s.

I thought I would share with you some of the rabbit holes that open up to those of us who go searching for ancestors.

I recently received a long note from my niece that illustrated all of the problems I have already detailed…women’s records are difficult and spotty, common names like Jane and John and William are hard to wade through, families often switch between references to first and middle and then compound names (Michelle, I’d suspect that Sarah Jane actually could be the full name for someone referred to as Sarah and/or Jane).

There is the frustrating use of junior and senior, which in the old days did not necessarily indicate father and son (or mother and daughter) but rather meant older and younger closely related family possibly living in the same house or neighborhood.

Then there’s the rabbit hole of a good story possibly unrelated to your family. I went down that rabbit hole yesterday.

One of my ancestors had a unique middle name. In researching his father, I found that I had two choices for his mother, both with the same first name, but one with the last name that matched my ancestor’s middle name. That was a pretty good clue as to which possible mother I should track, so I began to look for that surname which was Elston.

I casually scrolled down several pages of search results, finding several probable new relatives when I was struck by one result that read “A Warning for Bad Wives or The Manner of the Burning of Sarah Elston Who was Burnt to Death on Wednesday the 24th of April 1678 For Murdering her Husband….”

Wait…what?

I had no indication that where were any ancestors named Sarah or Thomas Elston in that generation of my Elston line, but how could I pass up a story like this? I couldn’t.

It was a most controversial case, raising all the questions that we struggle with in this day and age. On the bare facts of the case, Sarah’s crime would appear to be a matter of self-defense. During a heated argument, Thomas had beat Sarah severely with a fire shovel and was reaching for a frying pan to continue the abuse when Sarah stabbed him in the left chest with a pair of scissors.

An editorial note here: a frying pan would not have been a lightweight, one-egg Teflon pan like we use today—it would have been a large, cast iron skillet and would have probably resulted in a totally different outcome for Thomas and Sarah.

The story does, however, include much testimony from neighbors and paints a picture of regular marital strife including violent arguments, physical altercations and loud and public threats of future revenge and even death.

Neighbors told of Sarah’s threats on her husband’s life and how her drunkenness and profligate spending had driven him to try “to beat her out of this wicked course, and to that end [he] did sometimes chastise her with blows…”

Thomas was described as “troubled and disturbed” by his need to use violence on his wife, violence that included throwing her down the stairs on the night of the final argument.

Witnesses heard Thomas “wish himself dead, or that he had been buried alive that day he was married to her” and Sarah’s threats that at one time or other she would kill him.

Historian J.M. Beattie, PhD. is a professor in the History Department of the University of Toronto, and he wrote extensively about crime and law in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He commented on this case, and I’m sure many will be upset by what he says, but remember, he is telling it like it was in the 1600’s.

He says the “self-defense plea was inappropriate in the context of husband-murder” because “in law, wielding a knife or pair of scissors against a man who used mere bodily force or a blunt instrument indicated excessive retaliation,” not legitimate self-defense.

Bottom line, Sarah was found guilty and burned at the stake for her crime. At the stake, before her sentence was carried out, it was reported that she said, “notwithstanding all his Abuses,” she still felt that “she had done very ill in lifting up her hand against her Husband, and offering to revenge her self of him.”

My guess is that all law enforcement officers would recognize these events back in the 1600’s as exactly the kind of domestic situations they find themselves called out on in this day and age.

You see how I get involved in this research and end up being late to work or unable to eke out time to write or forget to go to bed at a reasonable time!

Once again, I must say, schools should teach history this way, with genealogical research. The problems, the relationships, the issues, the hopes and dreams of the past are all present now in the lives we live every day.

Probably some of the truest words ever spoken are George Santayana’s: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Yes, Winston Churchill said something like this, but Santayana said it first.)

I think I might add that those who can’t understand the past will never understand the present.

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