The Cider House, Part 1

This is not a wreck. This is what remains of an old distillery operated by Alexander Higgins, who owned the farm from 1856 until his death in 1905.

The Cider House

When we first bought the farm there was a family of turkey vultures living in it. The baby finally grew up and left. Now the dogs keep them away.

A previous resident

We have two clues to the age of the cider house. One is the 1877 Hunterdon County map where the distillery appears at its current location next to the house.

Hunterdon County 1873 Beers, Comstock & Cline

The other clue is a “date door” (there’s no date stone) inscribed “AHMSWERER 1867” which I have made every effort to interpret as “Alexander H Higgins” to no avail. However the structure appears to have been cobbled together from other older ones so there may not be a definitive date.

“Ahmswerer 1867”

I’ll leave the technical description to Michael Cuba who is helping Virginia restore the cider house. I’ll just give you my impressions.  Here they have removed the floor boards to allow for adding supports for some of the joists. You can also see the scaffolding that takes the weight off sills that will be repaired or replaced.

Here you can see the support added to joists

This sill had extensive water damage from the door above it. Part of it has been replaced. The completion of this requires some delicate hand work.

Repaired sill

Virginia is doing the handwork to make pegs to pound into holes to hold the whole Jenga tower together. She’s also making shavings for kindling.

Making pegs

With all the pieces in place Virginia uses a leather mallet to pound the pegs into place. Michael supervises.

Pounding pegs

This giant sill is being held up by this rigging until it can be replaced. This sill provides a very wide span in the lower level. Such a large open area may have been needed for a press if it was driven by a horse or steer walking in a circle. We just don’t know.

Damaged and supported sill

This stone wall at the back of that large area in the lower level had collapsed eons ago and Virginia has partially rebuilt it. It will eventually go up to support the sill above it when that timber is replaced.

Repair of collapsed wall

Virginia dug a trench outside the rebuilt wall to divert the rainwater. You can see the support taking the weight off of the damaged sill.

Drainage trench

Virginia is placing more stones and lime mortar on the wall. She has also rebuilt the section of wall behind her to restore support to the repaired sill.

Rebuilding collapsed wall

Here Virginia has rebuilt an entire corner of the foundation. 

Restored foundation corner

This rigging takes the weight off that corner of the foundation so it could be rebuilt.

More rigging

There is still a lot of stone work to do to repair the lower level stone foundation. Virginia does all of these repair with lime mortar to prevent further damage to the stones.

Up next: The new sills and joists arrive. Somehow Michael and Virginia will move them around to the other side of the cider house and lift them into place. I think I’ll find some place else to be that day.

Off to the Races

Once everyone got acquainted, they were eager to prove their mettle. First they practiced on the mountain outside their shed. Stirling immediately tried to assert his dominance. Nougat was having none of it. Then Nougat, Toffee and Pepper played Merry-Go-Round.

Someone must have told them they were bunnies. They romped like this for days.

Then they were ready to head for the big field. We had had a wash out from the heavy rain and I had put some dams across it to prevent more erosion. This made a great steeplechase course. The lambies enjoyed it immensely.

Eventually, that was all they wanted to do; that, and eat grass.

Meanwhile, Edith was being bottle fed and becoming a real pet. She’s a few days old here and I’m determined to teach her her name.

And she learned her name really well.

Venturing out of the Barn

As the lambs ventured out of the barn, I tried to get videos but Pepper was so shy that Sterling got the starring role. Since we had to put his mother in a headlock to get her to stand to let him nurse, he quickly started associating us with good feelings. Here he is meeting Lizzie, the flock matriarch.

Stirling Meets Lizzie

Ella can’t decide how she feels about Stirling. She won’t let him nurse but she clearly dotes on him.

Ella is Uncertain

Finally, Stirling meets Pepper.

Stirling Meets Pepper

In desperation, Stirling will nurse on anything and becomes quite a pet.

Stirling Becomes a Pet

Pretty soon, Pepper and Stirling were joined by this little Mini Me, Dubble Stuff.

Dubble Stuff

Adventures in Genealogy Myth-Making

Now that I have traced Edmond J. Gifford’s lineage back to Quakers of Massachusetts and the pilgrims of the Mayflower, it’s time to explore some other lines in my family tree. Recall that Edmond J. Gifford married Nancy Ann Renfro in Rock Island, Illinois in 1858. Her ancestry is very interesting but a bit tricky to follow. First of all, they couldn’t agree on the spelling, using Rentfrow, Rentfroe, Rentfro and those variations without the “t”. And, as one of my father’s correspondents wrote, “[u]forntunately, the Renfros had large families, and tended to name the children without much originality.” To make things worse, Renfros tended to marry cousins as a rule, rather than an exception.

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

My Renfros hail from Virginia, Kentucky and Illinois. But they, and other American Renfros, do not descend from Scottish royalty. It is generally asserted among amateur Renfro genealogists that American Renfros are direct descendants of “Baron James Renfrew” of Scotland, an illegitimate son of King James V. Beginning in 1404, the title of Baron of Renfrew was bestowed on the heir-apparent to the Scottish crown. There was a James Stuart, not Renfrew, who was an illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland. Being illegitimate, he was ineligible to inherit the throne and so never was Baron of Renfrew. Instead, his half sister Mary Queen of Scots became queen. He was a fascinating man and worth reading about, but his children were Stuarts, not Renfrews, and even if he changed his name to Renfrew, he only had daughters anyway. That’s it. No connection American Renfros.

So instead we will start with William Rentfro, who was born in 1702 in James City County, Virginia. James City County was first settled at Jamestown in 1607 and is one of only six original “shires” still in existence in Virginia. It includes Williamsburg and is too rich in history to go into much detail here. 

We are interested in one of the many William Rentfros who had a son who was one of the many James Renfros. One of them made a bit of a splash in Kentucky, the Virginia county and the future state, though only one person seems to remember why. To get to what and why, let’s first look at some history of colonial place names and boundaries.

Before the Revolutionary War, each of the 13 colonies claimed quite a bit of territory in the “frontier” east of the Mississippi River. The Colony of Virginia included what became the states of Kentucky and West Virginia. These territorial claims were ceded to the new Federal government partly in return for the assumption of the states’ Revolutionary War debts. 

In 1776, the new state of Virginia created Kentucky County, which looked a lot like the State of Kentucky today, which become a state until 1792. Then four years later, this county was broken up into three new counties, one of which was Lincoln County, named for Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, a military commander in the Revolutionary War. Too early for old Abe. However, Abe Lincoln was born only two and half hours away (by car).

It was here that our story of the Renfros begins. William Rentfro married Elizabeth Cheney in 1726 in Botetourt County, Virginia and they had ten children, including James. The Cheneys had been extensive land owners in Virginia, but little else is known about them. In a “History of the Renfros”, by Delores S. Willey, we are told that the “Rentfros” were important people in Virginia, owning land and serving as “Mayor, Officers in the Militia, Superintendent of Elections”, surveyors, sheriff’s and magistrates. Willey goes on:

The Baird family ancestry tradition tells us that the farm of William and Elizabeth Rentfro was located next to that of the Washington family. That young George Washington and young William Rentfro, the 6th child of William and Elizabeth, played together as children; fishing and hunting over the farms. Both wanted to become land surveyors and learned the trade from William’s older brother, James.

“William Renfro, 1734-1830: Some descendants, relatives, and allied families,” by Josie and Delila Baird, 1973.

The Washington farm mentioned here is “Ferry Farm” (its modern name) where young George grew up. It is across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia and about forty miles south of Mount Vernon. If this is true, then theRenfros would have lived near the Washingtons along the Rappahonnack River during George’s childhood between 1738, when Augustin Washington acquired the farm there, and 1751 when George surveyed land with Lord Fairfax.

The map below was made between 1736 and 1746. The Washington farm was next to the Ball farm that belonged to Martha Ball Washington’s family. There are no Renfros on the map and there is no other documentation for this claim, either.

A map of the Northern Neck in Virginia : according to an actual survey begun in the year MDCCXXXVI, and ended in the year MDCCXLVI

A map of the Northern Neck in Virginia : according to an actual survey begun in the year MDCCXXXVI, and ended in the year MDCCXLVI

However, James Renfro would have been a good surveying instructor. Later in life, James’ skill as a surveyor was officially acknowledged:

JAMES THOMPSON appointed Surveyor, Jan 1782. JAMES RENFRO was appointed deputy Surveyor Feb. 1783, and DANIEL BOONE Aug. 19, 1783. From 1780 to 1787 Surveyors were in great demand because of the immense amount of bodies of land taken up. These were among the first surveyors.

History of KY, Lewis Collins (typescript) Court Order Books, Lincoln Co.

James made good use of his surveying skills by moving further west into Lincoln County which was still part of Virginia. History books would have you believe that the only way for James to get to Lincoln County from James City County was along the Wilderness Trail blazed by Daniel Boone from 1769-71 through the Appalachian Mountains. West of the Cumberland Gap, the trail became the Wilderness Road. Whether James was a part of Boone’s expedition is not known because no records seem to exist concerning the other members of the party. 

However, there is strong evidence that a number of pioneers had created settlements in the future state of Kentucky long before Boone blazed the famous trail. James Renfro’s marriage to Lydia Harris in 1761 and the birth of his son James Renfro, Jr. in 1768 both took place in Kentucky County. These events predate Boone’s expedition. Although there is some controversy about who and when and where the trail was blazed, it happened because of the demand of settlers to move into rich land that had already been discovered and settled by a number of earlier pioneers. 

Unfortunately, I know very little about Lydia, James’ wife, except that she died young, at age forty. She bore James seven children and died in 1780, three years after the last one was born. They spent their nineteen years together in Lincoln County.

However, I found a typescript document in my father’s Renfro file containing excerpts from “Renfro Valley: Then and Now” written by John Lair in 1959 and printed in “History of Renfro Valley”. The excerpts focus on the role of James Renfro in this history. The description of the terrain and roads are illustrated in the map below, which I was amazed to find somewhere. Lair tells us:

The original Renfro Valley settlement had it’s beginnings in Feb. of 1791, with the building of the first cabin on Renfro creek. Although the cabin was built, and lived in for many years, by John and Lulu Renfro, neither the creek nor the valley were named for them. Old land grants to James Renfro, show, in 1788 the stream as a boundary line, and is written in as Renfroes Creek. Little is known of James Renfro, beyond the fact he was a busy speculator in Kentucky land for some years following the Revolutionary War.… Local folklore has it that this James was struck by lightning and killed, while searching for Swifts silver mine, this mine is a well known legend in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

John Renfro, probably secured his land from James, what relationship, we do not know. John had come into Ky. through the Cumberland Gap with a large group of settlers, he dropped out of the party to visit relatives there at that time.… [In] 1790, John Renfro set out with a man named Lavender, they followed a well marked trail to the Hazel Patch, and there the trail forked, one path leading up Roundstone Creek, and on towards the Boonesboro settlement, crossing the mouth of Renfro Creek, at what was later known as Langsfords Station. The other fork was the old Wilderness Road, which crossed Rockcastle River and went towards The Crab Orchard, passing by the big cave at the head of Little Renfro. At the forks of the trail, they were on land belonging to James Renfro, and from time to time crossed other tracts of his, regardless of which route they took. To have followed Boones path toward Boonesboro would have made easier traveling, once they had cut through the dead brush hell. This route was less traveled and less likely of Indian attacks, but was more thinly settled, and they would find themselves without a nearby station if they should be set upon by savages. To choose the Wilderness Road meant they must travel through the Rockcastle Hills, a stretch of country, where in even that day, when all of Kentucky was a wilderness, was known as The Wilderness. The Wilderness was the most dread part of the whole journey, to and from the settlements in the interior. Less then 14 miles from where they stood, was Stephen Langfords Tavern or Station, which is present day Mt Vernon, Ky. and not more then 2 mi. from the head of Little Renfro. Between Langfords station and the Crab Orchard, the road was patrolled by Col. Wm. Whitley. Farther along, they came to other James Renfro holdings, lying along the Wilderness road, and extending to the big cave, following down the stream, they came to the site of an ancient encampment and battle ground of the Shawnee Indians, from which the creek got it’s first name, soon they came to a larger Renfro Creek stream, they followed it and in the early afternoon of a late summers day, they came to a place where the valley opened out to it’s greatest width–here they settled and this is present day Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

This fork in the road is clearly visible on the map. Apparently, James Renfro owned land all along and between these roads.  At the fork in the Wilderness Road, John Renfro stood on James’ land and no matter which fork he took he would cross more tracts of James’ land. 

After the American Revolution, an act of Congress established the Land Office. Under the act, a person could purchase as much vacant land as desired for £40 for each one hundred acres. The treasurer issued a receipt, this was presented to the state auditor, who then issued a certificate. The certificate could be taken to the register of the Land Office to get a warrant authorizing any surveyor to “lay off” the amount of land specified on the warrant. You can even see digital copies of the original land patent (under British rule) or grants (under United States jurisdiction) and transfer documents. For example, below is the survey, page 3, for survey no. 6342 signed by James Renfro and James Thompson. It includes a small diagram of the tract of land. However, locating this tract of land is not as easy at it was in Illinois (see Hicks Gifford). There, the tracts were clearly labeled portions of clearly identified sections which were identified by townships and ranges. In Virginia, as in the other colonial settlements, this is not the case. Instead, parcels were, and still are, defined by meets and bounds. 

For example, the survey above says “Beginning at A an elm and ash in the line of Rentfros Survey thence South …”. I can’t make out the rest. On the little map on the document, “A an Elm & Ash” mark the beginning. Then one follows the directions and distances that make up the meets and bounds to identify the property. By following a chain of title through successive deeds one would find new surveys identifying neighboring properties. This is a complicated process and requires a visit the the county court house to dig through the deed books I’m too old for this so I gave up trying to locate James’ holdings this way. So I did a map search.

I was very confused by Lair’s description of following the Little Renfro until it meets the larger Renfro Creek. That’s because there’s a lake in the way. Then I realized why this lake isn’t mentioned in Lair’s account. IT WASN’T THERE THEN. Here’s Renfro Valley today, most of it now under water in a lake created by a dam under I 75. This reminds me of a movie, something about a lost brother.

Renfro Valley

Little Renfro Creek empties into the lake from the south and Renfro Creek comes in from the north and now trickles down from the dam along Hwy 25 and then off to the right. There is a tiny town of Renfro Valley just below the dam. But there is no longer a valley in Renfro Valley. 

But that’s not the end of the story. John Lair wasn’t just any old Kentucky hillbilly. He was a great Kentucky hillbilly. He was the founder of Renfro Valley Entertainment Center.

This is the real deal. I won’t try to write his biography here. It really has nothing to do with us except for Lair’s decision to keep the Renfro name alive in that part of the country. Just one more in a long line of Renfro myths. James lived to a very old age of 73 and died in Renfro Valley. His grave is probably under water.

James Renfro Jr. and Margaret Jackson

One of James’ sons, James Jr., was born in 1768 in Lincoln County, Virginia and moved on from Kentucky with his family to Illinois. His most remarkable recorded accomplishment is having 15 or so children. Well, they were actually his wife Margaret’s great accomplishments. None died in infancy and most lived a full life. What records we have indicate that they were all born in Lincoln County, Kentucky between the years 1782 and 1814. In 1810 James moved with his wife and many of his children to Madison County, Illinois. In my father’s files there is the following:

The family spent the winter of 1810-11 in Ridge Prairie, three miles south of Troy, a short distance from Downing’s station, a fort erected for the protection of the settlers against the Indians….

There is an account of this area of Illinois during this time. 

In 1810 there was a regular line of forts…. It was the business of those rangers to be always on the march and occasionally visit all those forts and see that everything was right. Most of the time they were kept on the frontier watching for Indian signs and whenever they discovered any signs of Indians they followed up. If they could overtake them, the rangers invariably chastised them and sometimes wholly exterminated small bands.

This is a small, sadly common commentary on Indian affairs during the settlement of the West. 

However, to say that James and Margaret lived in Madison County doesn’t tell us much. When the county was initially established in 1812 it took up the northern three quarters of the state. Then the county boundaries seemed to change annually. In the “History of Madison County”, James and his sons, especially Jesse, are described as prominent citizens in the early years of Madison County. In 1813, James was chosen as a member of a commission 

To fix the permanent seat of justice of Madison county,… to meet on the first Monday in February, 1813, — they shall proceed to designate a convenient place for fixing a county seat for the erection or procurement of convenient buildings for the use of the county….

The book also describes how James brought his family, including sons Jesse and James III, to Madison County: 

Jesse Renfro … is one of the oldest residents of the southern part of the County. James Renfro [III] removed with the family to Illinois in 1810. In the spring of 1811 his father [James, Jr.] settled in township three, range eight, and died in 1814 while on a visit to Kentucky. 

This narrows things down some. We know about townships and ranges and sections. James and Margaret settled in the area that became Collinsville. However, James Jr died shortly thereafter.

In addition to this information, my father received a letter from Eva Renfro dated 1981 in which she describes a land purchase in 1818 by James Renfro of Sec 24 T3N R8W. Since this is 2 years after James Jr’s death, this land must have been purchased by his 27 year old son James III (more of that original naming). This became the family homestead where four generations of Renfros lived. Eva, the letter writer, was the last Renfro to live on the land and the last of her line. 

The town of Collinsville sprouted nearby. This is Collinsville in 1873 “Maps of Madison County” showing Renfro land in Section 24 on the right edge two thirds of the way down. The J. J. Renfro is James’ son Joseph. Some of the original purchase had been sold.

Here is a drawing of the house, the home of James’ son Joseph J. from the same book.

After James, Jr died in 1816, his widow, Margaret, had to sue for custody of her youngest children, the “orphans of James Renfro”. Not only did women have no rights to property, they did not even have rights to their own children. Among the fifteen children of Margaret and James Jr. was their youngest son, Absalom Foley Renfro. Absalom was an infant when James Jr. and Margaret moved the family from the wilderness of Kentucky to the Great Plains of Illinois. Since James Jr. died so soon after arriving in Madison County, it is reasonable that his widow Margaret and the younger children lived with one of the older children. But before 1850, only heads of households are listed in the census. Then, in 1825, Margaret married Jesse Conway in Edwardsville, but he died in 1840. Then we lose sight of Margaret. Therefore, we don’t know where Absalom and his mother lived after his father died. But Absalom would eventually make a move that would bring the Renfros in contact with the Giffords.

Absalom Foley Renfro and Elizabeth Cormack

Once Absalom was fifteen he was probably apprenticed out, probably to a cabinet maker. In 1830, he married Elizabeth Cormack in Madison County, Illinois. Absalom was then a cabinet maker on his own. But when histories of Madison County were written, Absalom was overshadowed by his older brothers, Jesse and James, who were Baptist ministers and, thus, very well known. But Absalom and Elizabeth followed the family tradition if having a large family, thirteen children, one dying in infancy. By 1850 they had all moved to Rock Island, Illinois, a very interesting place.

Since we have come to Illinois in the mid 1800s, we have come to the impact of the Black Hawk War, which took place in 1832. It was at the future site of the town of Rock Island that Black Hawk broke the treaty of 1804 (remember, this is written by the victors, not the vanquished) by crossing the Mississippi from Iowa back into Illinois after agreeing to cede it. 

But it was the creation of Rock Island County in 1831 that provoked this return of Black Hawk to Illinois because the new county included one of the last remaining Indian villages. These two versions of wrongdoing lead to the Black Hawk War. Although it lasted only three months, it put Rock Island county in the national news. Paradoxically, white settlement increased dramatically. The town expanded from the exploding trade along the Mississippi River in the 1840s. Then came the first “iron horse” in the 1850s and the railroad’s choice of Rock Island as the site for the first bridge across the Mississippi River.

The route of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad (what’s that song?) was chosen because the Mississippi River was easiest to cross at Rock Island, where there was literally a large rock island in the middle of the river. This map, and the illustration above, shows the first railroad bridge crossing from the town of Rock Island in Illinois to the island of Rock Island and then across to Davenport, Iowa. The Rock Island line ran from Chicago to the Pacific, running through Rock Island City. It also ran from Chicago to New Orleans.

Undoubtedly, the booming economy of Rock Island was a draw for a cabinet maker like Absalom Renfro and his wife Elizabeth and their dozen hungry mouths to feed. A growing settlement meant new businesses and homes which required new furniture. This is where their second child, Nancy Ann, was born and raised and met and married A. J. Warren, who worked as a sawyer, in 1851. Shortly thereafter Absalom died, leaving Elizabeth to care for their youngest children. In 1860, she was living with the three youngest, James (again), Laura and George. One of Granddaddy’s correspondents says that Elizabeth ran a boarding house at Beaver Street near Rock River in Rock Island. 

Undoubtedly, the booming economy of Rock Island was a draw for a cabinet maker like Absalom Renfro and his wife Elizabeth and their dozen hungry mouths to feed. A growing settlement meant new businesses and homes which required new furniture. This is where their second child, Nancy Ann, was born and raised and met and married A. J. Warren, who worked as a sawyer, in 1851. Shortly thereafter Absalom died, leaving Elizabeth to care for their youngest children. In 1860, she was living with the three youngest, James (again), Laura and George. One of Granddaddy’s correspondents says that Elizabeth ran a boarding house at Beaver Street near Rock River in Rock Island. 

Meanwhile, Warren and Nancy and their infant daughter Lila moved to Bloomington, Muscatine County, Iowa in 1856 and also took in boarders. One of those boarders was E. J. Gifford, who was also a sawyer. As you know, this coincidence is critical to our story. Also in the household were A.J.’s mother, Nancy Warren, Nancy Ann’s little sister, Mary, 13 and brother Innes, 8. Here is the 1856 Iowa Census:

As you can see, both Warren and Gifford were sawyers. I have never met a sawyer or known what one was so I looked it up. Before there were electric saws and machines that could pre-cut wood to different lengths, anyone wanting to build a house, furniture, fencing, barrows or wagons, say, needed to obtain wood custom cut. Unless there was a sawmill nearby, the only way to get wood was to go to a sawyer. 

As I recounted earlier, the living conditions in Bloomington resulted in Nancy divorcing A. J. Warren and marrying Edmond J. Gifford. Their son, Edward H. Gifford would marry Netty May Roundy. We turn to the Roundys next.

Of Absalom’s and Elizabeth’s twelve adult children, 5 died in 1919, including Nancy Ann, and a sixth died in 1918. I couldn’t get any details on any of the causes of these deaths and there were no obvious disasters, except for one, the influenza pandemic, something we have all learned a great deal about recently. It began in the Fall of 1918 and spread throughout the world. Ports and railroad hubs were particularly vulnerable because the disease spread quickly among mobile populations. Rock Island was both a Mississippi River port and was located on a heavily traveled railroad. It is estimated that 675,000 Americans died of the flu from 1918-19. Nancy Ann, at 86, was the eldest of the five siblings that died during the year of the influenza and the elderly and young were most vulnerable to it.

Nancy Ann Renfro

And this brings us to the end of our story of the Renfros. They were not descended from Scottish royalty, may not have been friends with young George Washington, and lost the valley named after them. 

2020 Lambing Season

Well, it has been very eventful Spring. Although we were quarantined on our little farm, we were very busy. Lambs were coming from all directions and in a variety of awkward presentations. The first arrived in the night completely unexpected. When I first saw it I thought it was one of the cats.

This is Black Pepper on the left. The cat is on the right.

The next arrival came with some advance warning, which was a good thing for this first time mother because she needed some assistance. Virginia took her maiden voyage into the birth canal in search front legs. The result was Stirling Silver.

Stirling Silver

But Ella was not done causing trouble. She refused to stand to let Stirling nurse, so he came to associate us with feeding time. Now he’s a pet.

When Annie went into labor we thought we would have an easy time since she is experienced and an excellent mother. We waited patiently. Then we waited some more. Then we got nervous. Finally, Virginia suited up again, found a nose and foot and another foot further back. But she couldn’t bring it forward.

Then she realized that the leg belonged to a second lamb that was also coming through the birth canal. So everybody had to go back in, get sorted out and then come out one at a time. We named them Nougat and Toffee.

Nougat and Toffee

With this much trouble we decided we were cursed. We watched Priss closely as she is a first timer and a little nervous. Fortunately, it was daytime again. Unfortunately, she proved to have a very narrow birth canal. After watching her straining for far too long and getting nothing but a nose, we decided it was time for Virginia to go in once again and look for feet. This was made difficult by the narrow birth canal and Priss’ screaming. I was so nervous my innards were in sympathy turmoil. Once she found them and pulled them forward the rest went smoothly.

We sat back exhausted and relieved, and watched the lamb trying to get up and nurse. Then we saw something emerging from Priss that didn’t look like a lamb or a placenta. Priss laid down and strained and groaned and the thing got larger and darker. With another ferocious push, the blob shot out and laid there. Then it wiggled and we could see something pale in the murkiness. It was a lamb, thank god. Priss turned out to be an excellent mother but the first lamb did not make it through the night.

Priss and Dubble Stuff

The next morning we found Savanna had given birth to twins during the night and everyone looked great. But then we noticed that one of the lambs was not nursing and Savanna wasn’t making it easy for her. She even butted her away. She only let the ram lamb nurse. As we tried to encourage sharing we realized that both her teats were blocked, but she still wouldn’t let the ewe lamb nurse even after cleaning and unblocking them.

The little ewe lamb was getting weak and still wasn’t interested in nursing. We put her with Priss to see if Priss would accept her as a replacement. Although Priss cleaned her, the lamb would not try to nurse. We thought about milking Priss, but she was too nervous. So we got the colostrum replacement, but the lamb was not interested in it. So Virginia sat with her and explained the importance of milk and coaxed her and cajoled her and persisted and she finally latched on and sucked.

From then on, we bottle fed Edith and put Ella in a strangle hold to stand for Stirling every four to six hours.

Edith and her pet, Virginia
Edith and her other pet

Things were then quiet for a few weeks. We had suspected that we had a happy surprise coming from when the ram got out in January. And we weren’t disappointed. Fortunately, Chewie was like a pro. Everything went smoothly. Chewie had a “Mini Me”.

Evelyn and Chewie

It’s getting close to weaning time. We’ve set up a creep feeder and they all know how to use it.

Puritans, Pilgrims and Quakers

I have speculated, with good reason, that my great-great-grandfather, Edmund J. Gifford, was the son of Hicks and Nancy (Jones) Gifford. If I am correct, then I descend from both Quakers and Pilgrims through Hick’s ancestors. Hicks’ g-g-g-grandfather, William Gifford, was a Quaker and the first Gifford to land in America. Most American Giffords are descended from him. 

Although the descendants of the Pilgrims married Quakers eventually, they didn’t always get along, to put it mildly. Both the Puritans and the Pilgrims persecuted the Quakers, from whom I get my antiauthoritarian sympathies. They all sailed from England in the early 1600s to found the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies, some of them on the Mayflower. There, because they were the only Europeans around, they intermarried, and to populate the colonies with more Europeans, they had large families. Therefore, if you are descended from one of these families, you are probably descended from several. 

The Mayflower had only about 100 passengers and half of them died in the first year. Not wanting to intermarry with the natives, the Plymouth settlers had to marry each other, even as they moved out of Plymouth into Dartmouth to the west. Then their descendants married the descendants of other early families. So anyone with one Mayflower ancestor probably has two or three. I am descended from three Mayflower families, the Whites, Warrens and Cookes. These are all ancestors of Hannah White, who was a great grandmother of Hicks Gifford

Pilgrims, Puritans and Quakers

Pilgrims, Puritans and Quakers are all Protestant faiths that began in England in reaction to the excesses of the Church of England, which itself arose out of Henry XIII’s desire for divorces which were denied by the Vatican. Protestantism itself began with Martin Luther’s initial challenge to the authority of the Roman Catholic Papacy and his successor John Calvin. The Calvinism then splintered into the Puritans and the Pilgrims. The Puritans accepted ecclesiastic authority of the Protestant Church of England but desired to “purify” it from within of its Catholic trappings and corruption. The Pilgrims, on the other hand, sought to create an entirely separate Christian Church as an alternative to both the King’s Church of England and the Catholic Church. The Quakers, such as George Fox, who had no leaders, priests, or ministers, thought everyone ought to decide for himself or herself how to worship God, and they should worship directly, not through another person. All three groups would find themselves hounded by the Church of England and crossing the Atlantic to find refuge.

Plymouth Colony, 1620 – 1691

Mayflower and other pilgrims, with a lower case “p”, were early English “planters” who did not sail blindly and boldly into the New World but were funded by private investor groups and even endorsed by European monarchies. Explorers had been treading the soil and waters of the North American continent extensively for nearly 120 years by the time of the arrival of the Mayflower, oftentimes crossing paths within days of one another. These were purely commercial enterprises. However, expanding the British Empire with permanent English settlements on the mainland of America was not even seriously considered until the growing Protestant movement of England began to erode the influence of its monarchs. It was only then that King Charles I, frustrated by political and social conflicts, realized the advantage of exporting the source of his country’s upheaval. The pilgrims would, in turn, export to England the fruits of their labor as repayment for their newfound religious freedom.

So the Puritans and Pilgrims began arriving in Massachusetts in the early 1600’s with the aid of investors bearing Royal land charters and land patents. These charters were intended as legally binding contracts agreed upon by the investor group, the King, and the “Planters”, which dictated the financial terms, the geographical boundaries of their particular proposed settlement and established ground rules of governance. In 1620, pilgrims, led by William Bradford, tried to sail to Virginia but found themselves instead stranded by weather off the shores of Cape Cod, where the original patent and its trade agreements would no longer apply. So they illegally drafted a social contract, “The Mayflower Compact,” that would later be referred to as the beginning of Democracy in America. This was the beginning of Plymouth Plantation.

Further north, in 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Company settled the Boston Bay area as a corporation for religious freedom for Puritans. With political, legal and financial supporters still in England, the corporation quickly and masterfully organized and began defying their King with new laws, agencies and trade arrangements, so that by the 1650’s the Massachusetts Bay Colony had become a successful self-governing entity.

However, life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was far more restricted than in Plymouth. Foreseeing the need for labor and specialized craft and trade skills for the building of their new homes in America, the Puritans and their investors had permitted passage aboard their ships for other people in exchange for essential skills needed to secure the success of their ventures. Those who had the means to invest hard-earned currency in such very high risk ventures were led to believe that they were purchasing entitlements that they may not have enjoyed in England. But, upon their arrival in 1630, only the most pious of Puritan men were admitted as  Free Men. A candidate was required to renounce all prior Church affiliations and swear an “oath of fidelity” towards God, the Puritan Philosophy, and most significantly, to the governing authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

So, when the Quakers began arriving, they were not well received by the Puritans. The Quakers believed that to make such an oath was contrary to Jesus’ message, but also, obligated them to other responsibilities both known and unforeseen that would require them to answer to an authority other than that of God; so, they simply and respectfully declined and were happy to continue laboring in service to what they perceived as God’s Glory. By 1657, the courts of Massachusetts Bay Colony had implemented a series of harsh laws against those who had become members of “The Religious Society of Friends”, or held sympathies towards them. 

The Quakers found the Pilgrims to be only slightly more agreeable neighbors and so tended to congregate at the base of the Cape in Sandwich. Among the these Pilgrims and Quakers were many of my ancestors. The Pilgrim families of the Whites, Warrens and Cookes came from England on the Mayflower. The Quakers William Gifford and Stephen Wing came shortly afterward to Sandwich. Then there were others that I cannot find much information on, but who were in the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies from the earliest days: Bassets, Cadmans, Hathaways and Churches. Many were Pilgrims or Quakers, none were Puritans, as far as I can determine.

The Whites, Warrens and Cooks of the Mayflower

William White and his wife Susanna arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 with their son Resolved; Susanna gave birth to their son Peregrine while the Mayflower was still anchored off the top of Cape Cod waiting for the Pilgrims to discover a place to build their colony.  Peregrin was the first “Englishman” born in America. William died the first winter and Susanna remarried Edward Winslow a few months later, the first marriage to occur at Plymouth.

“Mayflower on her Arrival in Plymouth Harbor,” oil painting, William Formsby H.alsall

Winslow was one of the more prominent men in the colony.  He was on many of the early explorations of Cape Cod, and led a number of expeditions to meet and trade with the Indians.  He wrote several first-hand accounts of these early years. In Plymouth, he held a number of political offices, as was routinely elected an assistant to Governor William Bradford; Winslow himself was elected governor of Plymouth on three occasions: 1632/3, 1635/6, and 1644.

Peregrine married Sarah Basset and they lived out their lives in the town of Marshfield.  He formally joined the Marshfield Church late in life, on 22 May 1696 at the age of 78.  His death on 20 July 1704 prompted an obituary in the Boston Newsletter–the only known newspaper obituary for anyone directly associated with the Mayflower’s voyage.

Marshfield, July, 22 Capt. Peregrine White of this Town, Aged Eighty three years, and Eight Months; died the 20th Instant.  He was vigorous and of a comly Aspect to the last; Was the Son of Mr. William White and Susanna his Wife; born on board the Mayflower, Capt. Jones Commander, in Cape Cod Harbour, November, 1620.  Was the First Englishman born in New-England.  Altho’ he was in the former part of his Life extravagant; yet was much Reform’d in his last years; and died hopefully.

Peregine’s son Sylvanus was born in Marshfield in 1667. He married Deborah Church, a granddaughter of Richard Warren, a Mayflower passenger. Their son, William White, married Elizabeth Cadman, great granddaughter of Francis Cooke, another Mayflower passenger. Elizabeth was a native of Dartmouth where their daughter Hannah was born in 1711.

Richard Warren’s English origins and ancestry have been the subject of much speculation, and countless different ancestries have been published for him, without a shred of evidence to support them.  Very little is known about Richard Warren’s life in America.  He came alone on the Mayflower in 1620, leaving behind his wife and five daughters.  They came to him on the ship Anne in 1623, and Richard and Elizabeth subsequently had sons Nathaniel and Joseph at Plymouth.  He received his acres in the Division of Land in 1623, and his family shared in the 1627 Division of Cattle.  But he died a year later in 1628.  The only record of his death is found in Nathaniel Morton’s 1669 book New England’s Memorial, in which he writes: “This year [1628] died Mr. Richard Warren, who was an useful instrument and during his life bare a deep share in the difficulties and troubles of the first settlement of the Plantation of New Plymouth.”

All of Richard Warren’s children survived to adulthood, married, and had large families: making Richard Warren one of the Mayflower passengers with the most descendants. His daughter, Sarah, married John Cooke, another Mayflower passenger. We actually know something about his origins.

John Cooke’s father, Francis Cooke, was born about 1583, probably in England. He married Hester le Mahieu on 20 July 1603 in Leiden, Holland. She was a French Walloon whose parents had initially fled to Canterbury, England; she left for Leiden sometime before 1603. What brought Francis to Holland in the first place is unknown: religious persecution of Protestants in England did not really begin until after King James took power in 1604. Francis, and his oldest son John, came on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620. He left behind his wife Hester and his other children Jane, Jacob, Elizabeth and Hester. After the Colony was founded and better established, he sent for his wife and children, and they came to Plymouth in 1623 onboard the ship Anne with the wife and children of Richard Warren.

Francis lived out his life in Plymouth. Although he kept a fairly low profile, he was on a number of minor committees such as the committee to lay out the highways, and received some minor appointments by the Court to survey land. He lived to be about 80 years old, dying in 1663; his wife Hester survived him by at least three years and perhaps longer. In 1634, their son John married Sarah Warren, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Warren. They had traveled together on the Anne eleven years previous. 

In 1707, John and Sarah Cooke’s great granddaughter, Elizabeth Cadman, a native of Dartmouth, married William White, a son of Sylvanus White. The Whites settled in Dartmouth, where their daughter, Hannah, married William Taber. It was in Dartmouth, later Westport, that the Whites met the Giffords. Hannah and William Taber’s daughter married Recompense Gifford, son of Stephen Gifford. He was the son of Robert Gifford and Sarah Wing, who were Quakers of Sandwich. 

Handy House, Westport, Massachusetts
The home of William and Elizabeth Cadman White

The Quaker Giffords and Wings of Sandwich

Robert Gifford’s and Sarah Wing’s fathers, William Gifford and Stephen Wing, were two of the earliest Quakers in America. In their efforts to flee from persecution by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony, they migrated south to Plymouth Colony only to be persecuted by the Pilgrims. 

Magistrates in both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies were alarmed by Quaker teachings that individuals could receive direct personal revelations from God. To protect orthodox Puritanism, the courts passed a series of laws forbidding residents from housing Quakers. Quakers themselves were threatened with whipping, arrest, imprisonment, banishment, or death. In 1657, Quakers in Sandwich established the first Friends’ Meeting in the New World. The monthly meeting of the Society of Friends at Sandwich, Mass., remains the oldest continuous meeting in America. In 1658, Plymouth Court ordered that any boat carrying Quakers to Sandwich be seized to prevent the religious heretics from landing.

Quaker Meeting House, Sandwich, Massachusetts

Despite William Gifford’s importance as a Quaker and family founder, nothing is known about his origins, although that has not stopped anyone from making things up. We do know that William Gifford arrived in New England sometime after 1643, as he does not appear among those able to bear arms in that year. The first record of him is in the list of debts due on the inventory of Joseph Holiway of Sandwich dated 4 December 1647: “dew from Willi Gifford” 3s. 4d. On 4 June 1650 he served on the Grand Enquest. The original deed for the Sandwich plantation was executed by Governor William Bradford 22 May 1651. It ordered that William Gifford, among others, have the power to call a town meeting.

We also know that William Gifford of Sandwich as a Quaker suffered persecution for his faith. “Little Compton Families” says “It is supposed that he was the William Gifford who in 1647 or earlier was ordered by the court at Stanford to be whipped and banished.” On 1 June 1658, he was one of a dozen men who “all of Sandwich were summoned, appeared to give a reason for their refusing to take the Oath of Fidelitie to this government and unto the State of England, which again being tendered them in open court, they refused, saying they held it unlawful to take any oath at all.” On March 1, 1658/1659 George Barlow, Marshall for Sandwich, Barnstable and Yarmouth, complained against William Gifford and Edward Perry in an action of defamation, asking damages of £100, in saying he took a false oath. The defendants were ordered to pay 50s and make their acknowledgement publicly, or else be fined £5 plus costs. As Quakers, they could not accept the verdict, and at the 2 October court William Gifford and 11 other Friends were fined £5 for refusing to take the Oath of Fidelitie. 

On 6 October, 1659, he seems to be especially persecuted. “William Gifford, being complained by Marshall Barlow, for affronting him in the highway near a bridge, over which he should have driven some cattle of the country, yet forasmuch as William Gifford affirmed that he was not directly in his way, but in an old path leading to his house, the Court suspends their judgment for the present, until the place be viewed, and so the matter be made more evident.”

One odd historical note is made in 1660. “William Gifford, for taking his wife without orderly marriage, forasmuch as there were many circumstances in the action that did alleviate the fault, is only fined fifty shillings, the Court abating the fine in the extent of it respecting the premises.”

This wife is the unnamed second wife who is the mother of our ancestor, Robert. Puritans believed that the marriage contract and ceremony was not religious but a civil matter. Because the Quakers refused to recognize the state, their religious marriage unions were not recognized by the state.

At the June 1660 court Gifford was again summoned to take the oath, again refused, and was again fined £5. In October 1660, for persisting in his refusal and for attending Quaker meeting, he was fined £57 — an enormous sum for those times. 

On 8 April 1665 William Gifford was one of the signers of the Monmouth (NJ) Patent, but there is no evidence he actually settled there; his sons Christopher and Hannaniah did, however. In a deed by his son Christopher, William was described as a tailor. There is a marker on the bike path near Allaire for the Gifford Plantation.

According to William M. Emery, in his book Honorable Peleg Tallman, 1764-1841: his ancestors and descendants “on 10 November 1670, William Gifford bought from mistress Sarah Warren of Plymouth, widow of Richard Warren, one half her share in the land at Dartmouth, Mass., which by deed of May 7, 1683, he gave equally to his sons Christopher and Robert, who therein settled.” His son Robert, our ancestor, had married Sarah Wing three years previous. Sarah was also the child of a prominent Quaker in Sandwich.

Sarah Wing’s father, Stephen Wing, arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1632 at the age of 11 with his widowed mother Deborah Wing, his grandfather, Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his brothers Daniel and John. Ironically, Stephen’s father was the Rev. John Winge, a clergyman of the Church of England. He and Deborah fled England for The Hague to escape the English persecution of the disenfranchised poor in a period of political and religious turmoil. Meanwhile, back in England, Sarah’s father, Rev. Stephen Bachiler, a political maverick who helped spawn the Puritan Revolution in England, formed the Company of Husbandmen to found a new colony in the Americas. It is possible that Rev. John Winge planned to join this expedition before his death. in March of 1632, Rev. Stephen Bachiler and his daughter Deborah Bachiler Wing, her four sons, John, Daniel, Stephen and Matthew, boarded the old wine ship, the William & Francis, and arrived at Massachusetts Bay Colony on June 5, 1632. 

However, in the midst of the persecutions of 1637 in Massachusetts Bay Colony, Deborah Wing and her sons, Daniel, Stephen, John and Matthew, travelled south from Saugus to the base of the Cape Cod peninsula to help found the new town of Sandwich in the more religiously tolerant Plymouth Colony. When Stephen started a home of his own, it was on property in Spring Hill, East Sandwich. The resulting Wing “Fort House” is now a museum.

Stephen Wing appears frequently in the official records. He took the Oath of Fidelity in 1657 but in the following year he was called into court to answer charges of “tumultuous carriage at a Quaker meeting”. In 1658 Stephen and eight other Quakers were denied the “Privileges of townsmen” and “had no power to act in town meeting until better evidence appears of their legal admittance.” due to their failure to be included in the Sandwich congregation (as church membership was a legal requirement for privileges in a many New England towns). The special quaker hunting marshal, George Barlow, reported Stephen to the Plymouth authorities in 1659 for refusing to assist him on three separate occasions in his harassment of Sandwich’s Quakers, resulting in a total of one pound in fines for that year. Stephen was on a committee in 1663 that offered support for Thomas Ewer, another Sandwich Quaker, when he was fined 18 pounds for cutting timber on Town lands. Stephen went on to be sworn to serve on a Grand Inquest in 1664 and 1671 and to serve as a Surveyor of Highways and Town Clerk between 1669 and 1674. In 1681 he and two others were empowered on the town’s behalf to make sale of a whale that was cast up on the shore.

Wing “Fort House”, Sandwich, Massachusetts

Stephen Wing’s daughter, Sarah, was born in Sandwich in 1658. Two years prior to that, William Gifford’s son, Robert, was born in Sandwich. Robert Gifford and Sarah Wing married in Sandwich in about 1680. When William gave Robert the land in Dartmouth that he had purchased from Sarah Warren, the couple moved there, where their son Stephen was born in 1687. Thus, the Gifford/Wing branch ends up in Dartmouth where Robert and Sarah (Wing) Gifford’s grandson, Recompense, marries William and Hannah (White) Taber’s daughter Susanna Taber. And the families are joined! 

Unfortunately, there’s a glitch. All the references I’ve found to William Gifford’s purchase in 1670 of the Dartmouth land from Sarah Warren, widow of Richard Warren, cite the quote I give from Emery’s book. That shouldn’t be a problem, but Emery provides no source for his information. That shouldn’t be a problem, either. But Richard Warren’s wife’s name was Elizabeth, not Sarah. However, this could be a simple error on Mr. Emery’s part, because Richard had a daughter named Sarah, who married John Cooke. But Sarah wasn’t widowed until 1698, 28 years after the purchase.

Emery goes on to describe Robert’s land as 300 acres on the east side of the “Acoaxet River”. This river is now the West Branch of the Westport River. The Westport history site says that Robert Gifford’s land was east of the Noquochoke River, “to about where Pine Hill Road is now.” The Noquochoke River is the East Branch of the Westport River. Maybe Emery meant the Noquochoke River, not the Acoaxet River.

One early native of Westport was Paul Cuffee, the son of an African father and a Wampanoag mother born in 1759. He was a Quaker sea captain, patriot, abolitionist. Cuffee provided a detailed description of early land holdings around Westport. “On the east side of the river, south side of the road was a small tract allotted to Robert Gifford which extended from the river along Old County Road to Pine Hill Road being triangular in shape. … In the 1712 appointments at the Head, Christopher and Robert Gifford received nearly four hundred acres. One track lay on the north side of the road and extended north to the Forge Road and from the river eastward along Old County Road about a mile to the brook.”  You can see these roads on the map above.

I went searching for pictures of early Gifford homes in Westport. The Westport Historical Society, lists 95 historical houses named after a Gifford. The oldest one is the Gifford-Almy house, built in 1735. 

Handy House, Home of William and Elizabeth Cadman White

The oldest house built by one of our ancestors is the Handy House. Known as the Cadman-White-Handy House (and commonly referred to as the Handy House), the 32-acre property is located at 202 Hix Bridge Road, at the intersection with Drift Road. As I described above, the house was built by George Cadman in 1710 for his daughter Elizabeth, probably on the occasion of her marriage to William White. It became the home of the White’s various descendants, and eventually the residence of Westport physicians Dr. Eli Handy (1764-1812) and Dr. James Handy (1792-1868).

William Gifford in Revolutionary War

Going on the assumption that Hicks Gifford is the father of my g-g-grandfather, Edmund J. Gifford, I will now sally forth through this portal and hope I am not fired upon. This William Gifford, a g-g-grandson of William Gifford of Sandwich, was the father of Hicks Gifford. Although William is not my only Revolutionary War ancestor, his is the only first hand account that I have found. William Gifford testified before Judge Bayliss in 1832 concerning his service in the Revolutionary War for the purposes of obtaining a pension. I have transcribed this below. Other documents include witnesses as to his identity and service and requests for the transfer of his payments to Ohio, where he moved in 1838 to live with his son, William B. Gifford. Interestingly, several of the witnesses’ testimonies were in front of this son, William B. Gifford, a Justice of the Peace. From his “signature” we can see that he was illiterate.

I patched together a synopsis of the battles he fought in. Most of them took place in New Jersey. Although he doesn’t mention all of them, these are the battles that Lippitt’s Rhode Island State Troops fought in from the Fall of 1776 to January 1776. William re-enlisted three more times and served until he married in 1780.

I had to do a bit of searching to understand William’s silence on the Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River to surprise the Hessians at Trenton. Lippitt’s Rhode Island State Troops were under the command of Lt. Col. Cadwallader. Three Colonial forces were to cross that night, Washington’s, Ewing’s and Cadwallader’s.

A little background first. In his deposition, William Gifford claims to have served with Col Lippitt during the first of his four enlistments. At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, Christopher Lippitt was chosen Lieutenant Colonel of the Rhode Island regiment and of the minutemen, which defended the Rhode Island ports from British warships. In the fall of 1776 his regiment joined the Continental Army on George Washington’s orders and went to Harlem Heights, New York. This is where Washington’s army had retreated to after the route at Long Island and the silent crossing of the East River to escape the overwhelming British forces. Lippitt commanded a regiment at the Battle of White Plains. 

New Jersey in the Revolutionary War

The Battle of White Plains was fought on October 28, 1776. British General William Howe landed troops in Westchester County, intending to cut off Washington’s escape route and end the war. Alerted to this move, Washington retreated further, establishing a position in the village of White Plains. Howe’s troops drove Washington’s troops from their position and Washington ordered a retreat further north. 

Because of the defeats New York, Washington and his troops were forced to cross the Hudson River and retreat to New Brunswick and then continue on towards Princeton. The British, however, were in close pursuit. Needing a quick escape, Washington ordered all boats within a 75 mile stretch of the Delaware River to be procured in preparation for the retreat over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. This was the first of four “crossings of the Delaware” that would take place over a few days. After all, Washington had to cross the Delaware into Pennsylvania before he could cross back into New Jersey for the Battle of Trenton.

After crossing the river into Pennsylvania, the boats and a 25 mile stretch of the river were guarded so that the British could not follow. Morale in the army was low. Desertions were high and re-enlistments nonexistent. The troops were so poorly provisioned that some did not have shoes and left a trail of blood in the snow.

To compound Washington’s problems, the enlistments of the majority of the militias (including Rhode Island) under his command were due to expire at the end of December and the troops return to their homes. Washington had to do something and quickly. To save his army, Washington devised a plan to cross back over the Delaware River into New Jersey and attack the Hessians, who were fighting for the British, garrisoned at Trenton.

Washington Crossing the Delaware

Washington’s plan was to cross the Delaware at three points with a force commanded by Lt. Col. Cadwallader with a Rhode Island regiment, including Lippitt’s, some Pennsylvanians, Delaware militia and two guns, a second force under Brigadier Ewing of militia and the third commanded by himself which would cross the river above Trenton and attack the Hessian garrison in the town. This second crossing is “The Crossing of the Delaware”. And as you can see by the painting, George was on his horse. They also had to take guns and dry powder and more horses on the boats. 

At around 11:00 pm a windy storm began with snow, sleet and rain. The river was icy and the crossing proved dangerous. Two detachments were unable to cross the river.  After successfully crossing his light forces, Cadwallader discovered that river ice prevented crossing his artillery. He then returned the rest of of his column to the Pennsylvania side, including Lippett’s Rhode Islanders. This we know from the diary of Sgt. John Smith. General Ewing was also unable to cross that night. This left Washington and the 2,400 men under his command alone to land on the opposite bank of the river. After reaching the New Jersey side of the Delaware River, these troops marched 9 miles south to Trenton. 

The adverse weather had lead the Hessians to believe that they would be able to spend Christmas day leisurely feasting and getting drunk, which they did. The Hessians had so lowered their guard, thinking they were safe from the American army, that they did not even post a dawn sentry. The Hessian commander Colonel Rahl had been ordered to construct defense works around the town but had not troubled to do so. On the night before the attack Rahl was at dinner when he was brought information that the Americans were approaching. He ignored the message which was found in his pocket after his death.

After their Christmas feast, they slept soundly, while the crossing took place in the early hours of the morning of the 26th. Startled out of their slumber, they were quickly overpowered at daybreak, too hungover and surprised to mount a defense. Washington’s forces caught them off guard and, before the Hessians could resist, they were taken prisoner. 

The Battle of Trenton significantly boosted the Continental Army’s flagging morale, and inspired re-enlistments. Despite the battle’s small numbers, the American victory inspired rebels in the colonies. With the success of the revolution in doubt a week earlier, the army had seemed on the verge of collapse. Appealing to their patriotism and offering a $10 bounty, Washington succeeded in convincing most of those whose enlistments would expire on the 31st to remain for another six weeks.

Then, on the night of January 2, 1777, Washington evacuated his position, circled around General Cornwallis’ army, and went to attack the British garrison at Princeton. Some of the Continental troops were overrun and Washington sent some militia to help them. The militia, on seeing the flight of the troops, also began to flee. Washington rode up with reinforcements and rallied the fleeing militia. He then led the attack on the British troops, driving them back to Trenton.

In Princeton itself, Continentals forced British troops who had taken refuge there to surrender, ending the battle. After the battle, Washington moved his army to Morristown, and the British, with their third defeat in 10 days, evacuated southern New Jersey. With the victory in the Battle of Princeton, morale again rose in the ranks and more men began to enlist in the army. The battle was the last major action of Washington’s winter New Jersey campaign. Washington’s Army was saved to fight again the next Spring.

William Gifford’s testimony for his pension is frustratingly terse, which may be due to his age or to his reluctance to speak of battle. However, I like his description of the method used for thoroughly cleaning a house that had served as a small pox hospital. And he has a habit of falling in company with men of dubious character. My comments, corrections and guesses are in [brackets]. 

State of Massachusetts

County of Bristol } s.s.

On this 30th day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, personally appeared in open court before Hedijah Bayliss, Judge of the Court of Probate for the County of Bristol, now sitting, at Dighton in said County of Bristol. William Gifford of Westport in the County of Bristol and State of Massachusetts, aged seventy seven years in November last, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain[?] fit of the act of Congress passed June 7, 1832.

[I en]tered the service of the United States under the[?] named Officers and served as herein stated.

Firstly That early in the year seventeen hundred and seventy six I enlisted in the service of the United States, at New Port, for one year, I think it was in the month of March, cannot for a certainty tell the day – That I enlisted into a company of soldiers or troops – (they were then called Rhode Island State troops) under the command of Capt. John [Carr]the Lieutenant’s name was Thomas [Noyes] the ensign’s name was [Brenton Bliss] and the Regiment Commanded by Colonel Christopher [Lippitt] the firstp lace that I remember of being stationed after enlistment was at Currentins [Coddington?] Cove or [Coasters?] Harbour, and after staying a while at [Coasters?] Harbour, we were marched to the Island of Conanicut, and after remaining a while at that place, we marched to a place called Kings Bridge in the State of New York, and after remaining a time at Kings Bridge, we was marched to the White Plains, and was at the White Plains at the time of the battle fought there between the Americans and British, after the battle as aforesaid we was marched to a place called Pitts Kill [Peekskill], and there crossed the river, and marched to Princeton and after remaining there a while we was marched back to Pitts Kill and there discharged

I have no recollection of receiving a written discharge, if I did have one it soon got lost. On being discharged as aforesaid I returned home to Tiverton in the State of Rhode Island, being the Town in which I was born and the Town in which I lived until after the Peace Seventeen Hundred and Eighty Three. Some time Since the peace I Moved into Westport in the County of Bristol and State of Massachusetts, and have lived in Westport ever since. I have no record of my age, but one of my sisters keeps a family record, on which my name & birth is recorded, & in frequent conversations with her upon the subject enables me to say I was born in November 1754.

And the said William further declares, that soon after his return from the West, at White Plains & Pitts Kill, he again enlisted into the Army of the United States. (he cannot recollect the day or month but it was early in the year Seventeen Hundred and Seventy Seven thinks it was April) he enlisted at Howlands Ferry in the Town of Tiverton aforesaid into the Company of Captain ChristopherManchester, into what was called fifteen months Service, thinks he was enlisted for fifteen months, in Colonel [Archibald Crary’s] Regiment, after my enlistment as aforesaid we was Quartered at Howland’s Ferry, from the[re] marched to Bristol in the State of Rhode Island, and remaining at Bristol for some time, Capt. Manchester Company in which I belonged was ordered to Popersquash, we went to Popersquash and after remaining there for some time, the small pox broke out among some of the troops and those who were taken sick with the Smallpox was put into an old house on the Island for a Hospital, and after the troops had recovered from the Small pox some of our Company was ordered to go & clean the house, and I remember they gave it a thorough cleaning for they set fire to it and burnt it down 

some time after this I was taken sick, and the sickness increased to such a degree that I was void of common reason, and as I was afterwards informed was carried home, and before I recovered of my sickness as aforesaid the term for which I had enlisted expired and therefore I had no discharge from Capt. Manchester

according to the best evidence I have I was not able to be in the Service again until the Spring of Seventeen Hundred and Seventy nine, when I left home and went to Killingsly in Connecticut I think this was in March 1779 – there I fell in Company with a man, who was drafted to go into the service. (I cannot now recollect the name of the man) but he hired me to take his place, I did take his place and went to New London as a substitute, was rec’d and Served six months, was stationed down below the Town of New London during the Six months aforesaid on the Farm belonging to John D. Sharon. 

After this term of six months had expired and before I engaged in any other business and in the fall of the year Seventeen Hundred and Seventy Nine a man came to me (his name I cannot recollect) and hired me to take his place in the service for three months I agreed with him, took his place as a substitute and went to old Stafford in Connecticut was rec’d as a substitute and served my three months during which time I was stationed at a House belonging to a man by the name of Curtis 

after this last ment’d term of three months had expired I left the Service of the United States – went to Lime in Connecticut and in the month of April 1780 – was married – I cannot recollect the names of any of the Officers that I was under while a substitute in the two last mentioned terms of service and I know of no person now living whose testimony I can procure, who can testify to the two last mentioned Services.

The said William hereby relinquishes every Claim whatever to a pension or anuity except the present and declares that his name is not on the pension Rolls of the agency of any State. 


William X Gifford


Sworn to [???] the day of year aforesaid – 

N. Bayliss, Judge of Probate

Williams testimony is followed by a certificate of the Pension, summary of service, record of pension payments, a request to transfer pension payments from Massachusetts to Ohio, a sworn statement by son William as to the identity of his father William, a letter describing “old gentleman Gifford” as “nearly blind and entirely attenuated”, another pension agent attesting to the fact that Wm Gifford is a pensioner, Thomas Wilcox’s testimony of William Gifford’s service, William Cook’s testimony, William the father attesting to William the son, who is a Justice of the Peace in Ohio, that he is who he says he is, and finally, clerk Pearson swears that Judge Ira Johnson is in fact a Justice of the Peace. With all of that settled, William Gifford received his pension.

Eureka! Edmond J. Gifford’s Father

Once the Internet became a useful source of information, I started to try to help my father find more information about Edmond J’s parents. I became completely hooked on solving the mystery. However, my father had been very thorough. I seldom found anything that he did not already have in his paper files. It was still a mystery when he died in 2004.

I had been posting queries on various genealogy websites for a several years but never received any useful leads. The main problem with my paternal line is that my father was the only son of an only son of an only son. It’s often difficult to know the names of the mothers, unless written records were kept, in a bible, for example. So there were few genealogists that who would be following my Gifford line. Then one day I received an amazing reply from a familiar name among Gifford researchers, and a possible distant cousin. I’ll call him Steve. Steve was intrigued by the puzzle and said that he thought he had found Edmond’s father. This took him only a couple of days because Steve thought outside of the box, literally. Well, almost literally. He thought outside of the square.

Since Edmond claimed to have been born in Utica, New York, in 1830, Steve had checked all the Giffords in Utica in 1830 but found, as I had, no father with an infant son. Then he realized that Utica is near the Oneida county border. So, being an intelligent man, Steve looked outside the Oneida County box into Herkimer County. He found that there were several small towns near the county line that had been home to Giffords in 1830. But only one of these men had a newborn son in 1830. His name was Hicks Gifford, living in the town of Schuyler (not to be confused with the county). Unfortunately, before 1850, the census listed only the name of the head of the household, no one else. So we can’t know the name of this infant.

In the 1840 Coles County, Illinois census, Hicks Gifford appears with his wife, two sons and two or three daughters. One son is about 10 years old, as was Edmond in 1840. In 1837, Hicks had purchased 40 acres of land in what would later become Douglas County. Then, in the 1850 Census which would have listed the names of any children still living at home, Hicks is nowhere to be found. If Hicks died between 1840 and 1850, then his youngest son, who would be twenty in 1850, would be on his own, as Edmond was, at school.

1820 Bethel, Vermont Census

Edmond J’s claims in census records that his parents were born in Vermont and/or Massachusetts can now be explained because Hicks was born in Massachusetts and lived in Vermont for a period of time before moving west to New York. The name “Hicks” as a given name was very unusual. So we can be confident that the Hicks Gifford that appears in this 1820 Bethel, Vermont census is our Hicks and likely the father of Edmond J. Gifford. 

However, Steve went on to tell me that Hicks’ daughter Harriet Corletta Gifford had a son named Edmond. In addition, Harriet lived very near Edmond over the years until her death in 1874, despite his tendency to wander from Indiana to Iowa to Michigan to North Dakota (Well, she didn’t go that far). Furthermore, Hicks’ wife was Nancy Jones, which may tell us what Edmund’s middle initial stood for. For genealogists, this is enough circumstantial evidence to declare Edmond Gifford’s father to be Hicks Gifford.

Wow! I thought the puzzle was solved and that I would soon be able to document this relationship between Hicks and Edmond J. Gifford. However, there is no record of the names of Hicks children on the most popular genealogy websites. I tried to find Edmond’s birth record, to no avail. I have also failed to find Hicks’ death record or any record of his interment. I even searched the history of Coles County for any mention of Hicks as a pioneer in Illinois. Illinois was very much on the frontier in 1840, so the lack of death records is not surprising.

However, moving right along, I can trace Hicks’ ancestry to “William of Sandwich”, who arrived in Massachusetts in the mid 1600’s and is the ancestor of most Giffords in North America. So being a descendant of his is really no big deal. The most authoritative account of William Gifford of Sandwich can be found in the New England Historical & Genealogical Register. It’s an interesting, and brief, account of a man who, as a Quaker among Puritans, seemed to be constantly butting heads with the authorities. 

William of Sandwich gave his sons Christopher and Robert some land in Dartmouth, Massachusetts in 1670. Robert left his land to his son, Stephen, who, in turn, left it to his son, Recompense. Recompense, however, sought adventure and so, in about 1750, he sold the farm and headed west, 15 miles to Tiverton, Rhode Island. Recompense’s first born son, William, was the father of Hicks and so this is our connection to William of Sandwich, assuming that Hicks is the father of Edmond J.

William, Hicks’ father, was born in Tiverton, Rhode Island, in 1754. He served in the Revolutionary War, first in a Rhode Island State Militia with Washington’s army and then by reenlisting three more times. The details of his war experience are so interesting that I have put his account of it in a separate essay. He retreated with Washington’s army after the Battle of White Plains, crossing the Hudson, or North, River, climbing up the Palisades, then marching south through the new state of New Jersey and across the Delaware River near Trenton to the safety of Pennsylvania. Shortly after the “Crossing of the Delaware”, his enlistment ended and he returned to Rhode Island. That alone should have been enough, but after returning to Rhode Island, he continued to serve until the end of the war. His account of the last three enlistments would be comical if they were not so perilous. 

After the war, William married Susannah Brown and their son Hicks married Nancy Jones in 1815 in Providence, Rhode Island. There is no record of her parents, her date of birth or birthplace. However, parents often use a mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name when naming their children. Hicks and Nancy may have named one of their sons “Edmond Jones Gifford” and he in turn may have named one of his sons Edmond Hicks Gifford. Pure speculation, but this would explain the middle initials. By 1820, Hicks and Nancy had travelled to New York on their way to Illinois.

Having hit a brick wall in New England trying to connect Edmond to Hicks, I decided to investigate the land purchase Hicks made in 1837 to see if there was any information there. In 1840, Illinois was sparsely settled. The Indians had left Illinois shortly after the Black Hawk War in 1832. The first thing I had to understand was that Coles County included Douglas County until 1843.  So the land purchased by Hicks was in Coles County at the time of purchase, 1837.

The official description of Hicks’ purchase is SE quarter of the SE quarter of section 13 in township 15 North of range 9 East. The original document is even available. However, this tells me nothing about Hicks’ family. But by this time I had became obsessed with finding this plot of land (I had retired and had lots of time on my hands). To find the 40 acres that Hicks purchased I had to understand land plat maps.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 created a rectangular survey system for the western public lands of the United States. This allowed for the sale of public lands to settlers. The same principle was used to facilitate the “settlement” of Manhattan Island north of Houston Street by creating “the grid”. You can’t own land unless its perimeter can be defined. Where grids had not been created, as in colonial America, ownership of land is defined by “meets and bounds”. Hand drawn plats like the one below show the landscape as it was before the settlers arrived. Sometimes, to help identify the sections, man-made features, both Indian and European, are drawn. 

My husband loves to recount the story of the surveyors crossing the Kansas prairie in a wagon full of large stones and placing them at appropriate intervals to identify the corners of the sections. However, when the surveyors were chased by hostile Indians, they threw out the stones as fast as they could to reduce the weight of the wagon and that is why some sections are, still today, not quite square.

I managed to find some old maps that helped me to locate the land that Hicks purchased. By this time, I have completely lost the purpose of this whole adventure, so don’t worry if you are a little confused as to why we going down this road. I just wanted to see the land today, even if it tells me nothing about Edmond. 

Douglas County

Here is a historical map of the land plats in Douglas County. The Township numbers are along the left hand side and the Range numbers are along the top. A township and a range define a square. Within each of these squares are numbered sections. And then to confuse everyone, there are actual “townships”, like Boudre, that don’t correspond to the numbered townships and ranges. 

The map below is from the first hand drawn maps of Coles County. It shows Township 15N and Range 9E. For section 13 we are fortunate to have the convergence of two rivers to help us locate the section on a modern map. These rivers would have been an important source of water for the settlers.

Section 13

If you go here on Google Earth, you can walk up and down the street to see present day buildings. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty boring stroll. Just a plain house, some farm buildings and fields.

It’s possible that if Hicks ever did get to live on his land and died there, then he may be buried in one of the nearby cemeteries. There are two old cemeteries nearby, Gill and Antioch.  There are websites for both Gill and Antioch but no evidence of any Giffords. In a very detailed History of Coles County, Illinois there is no mention of any Giffords. Hicks apparently did not leave a mark there.

A death record may have provided useful information. If Hicks died on his land before 1843, then the land was still in Coles County. Also, if he stayed in Coles County until his death, then any record would be there. But Coles County did not keep death records before 1878. If Hicks died on his land after 1843, then his death record could only be obtained from Douglas County. Records are available only to authorized family members. But I’m trying to establish that with the death record. The state of Illinois has death records only after 1916. The Illinois Genealogy website is in the process of listing death records, but does not yet have pre-1916 death records for Cole or Douglas Counties. A state-wide search for Gifford shows no Hicks Gifford or even Hicks Giff… To write to a county clerk for a copy of a pre-1916 death record, the record must be on the Illinois Genealogy Website. Now we are going in circles.

It might help to find the names of Hicks’ other children. But these names would not be listed on the pre-1850 census and Hicks does not appear anywhere after 1840. Neither does his wife, Nancy. There are only four Nancy Giffords of her age in the entire country.  Then there is the last recourse: Google it. But Googling “Hicks Gifford” only returns my own queries. Again going in circles.  The Douglas or Coles County Clerk would have the records of all the owners of the land going back to Hicks. Maybe his other son, whose name I do not know, inherited it. Having that name would give me a new direction to go. But by this time I was tired.

So, was Hicks’ son who was born in 1830 near Utica, New York named Edmond J (perhaps for Jones)? If he was, after Hicks’ death Edmond was sent to school in East Lima, Lagrange County, Indiana. This actually makes sense because Hick’s daughter, Harriet, married William H. Walker in 1844 in Lagrange County, Indiana. Edmond may have lived with her after their father’s death. If Hicks was the father of Edmond, then my Gifford line can be traced back to one of the first Giffords in North America, just like almost every other American Gifford. Not only that, but Hicks’ father, another William Gifford, was a descendant of some the earliest Europeans to settle in North America, including passengers on the Mayflower. More on that later. But more importantly, now we have a story of how Edmond J. Gifford arrived in East Lima, Indiana in 1850.

So I tend to agree with Steve that, despite the lack of hard evidence, there is enough circumstantial evidence to conclude that Hicks was the father of Edmond J. Gifford, my great-great-grandfather. Sometimes that’s the best you can do. And besides, there are no other suspects. My father and I have investigated them all. 

The Horse Thief

After my grandmother died in 1971, we discovered an old family tree with a dead end. The parents of my g-g-grandfather, Edmond J. Gifford, were not identified. We found out that his parents’ identities were a mystery, maybe even to some of his own children from whom he was estranged. There was no birth certificate or any record of his parents. However, my father was determined to discover Edmond’s parents and in the process learned a lot about Edmond. And this was in the days before computers and the internet. As we learned more about, him some in family started referring to him as the “horse thief” because he always seemed to be on the run.

1850 Indiana Census

Edmond makes his first official appearance at age 20 in the 1850 census when he was living with Rufus Patch, Superintendent of Lagrange Collegiate Institute, East Lima, Lagrange County, Indiana, and attending school there. The records of the school cryptically list his home as Greenfield (Indiana? New York?). By 1852 he had moved on to Bloomington, Muscatine, Iowa, where he worked as a sawyer.

1856 Muscatine, Iowa Census

In the 1856 Iowa census, there is a household headed by an A. J. Warren in Muscatine, Iowa, with his wife Nancy and daughter Lila. In the same household lived Nancy’s sister Mary Renfro and brother George Innis (“Eunice”) Renfro and a 26 year old E. J. Gifford. Nancy Warren may be Nancy’s mother-in-law. Both A. J. and E. J. worked as sawyers. Although E. J. Gifford is listed as born in Michigan, this most likely is our man.

This is because two years later on May 7, 1858 Edmond J. Gifford married Nancy Ann Renfro Warren in Nancy’s home town, Rock Island, Illinois. I can’t find a record of Nancy Ann’s divorce from Warren. He turns up in Arkansas in 1880 with a new wife and three children, but not Lila. She would have been 25 in 1880 and probably married.

When she married Edmond, Nancy was pregnant by, apparently, her previous husband, A. J. Warren. Nancy gave birth to a son five months later, who was “adopted” by Edmond J. and named William D. Gifford. However, given the previous living conditions, William may have been Edmond’s biological son. We will catch up with William again later.

In 1861 back in Muscatine, Iowa, Edmond J. and Nancy had a second son, Edmond (Edward) H. Gifford. That same year Edmond J. enlisted in the 1st Iowa Infantry for three months. This was in response to the first call for volunteers by President Lincoln after the attack on Fort Sumter. The enlistments were for only three months because, without congressional authorization, the president could only call up the militia. It may also indicate some optimism about the anticipated length of the war, but actually, that was the maximum amount of time that militia could be called on to defend the country. An army would have to be raised after that.

Edmond enlisted on the 7th of May 1861 in Company A, 1st Infantry Regiment Iowa and was discharged on August 20. His unit was in the battle at Wilson’s Creek, near Springfield, Missouri on August 10, the second battle of the war, after the first Battle of Bull Run, or Manasses as Southerners called it, both of which the Union lost. 

The Union force lost 24 percent of its command in the battle, while Confederate losses totaled 12 percent. On Bloody Hill, where the heaviest fighting took place, there were over 1,700 total casualties — some 20 percent of the men who fought there. … During the brutal fighting [General Nathaniel] Lyon was struck by a bullet to the chest, becoming the Union’s first general killed in the war. …Wilson’s Creek also underlined a point that Bull Run had first made clear: that the war would not be easy or quick, and that for all the lofty rhetoric on both sides, the reality was that the war would be agonizingly brutal.

Randall Fuller, Professor of English at Drury University, Springfield, Missouri, “We Bled in the Corn”, Disunion in the New York Times, August 9, 2011.

Edmond J. survived the battle, obviously. In an irony of war, another of my ancestors, actually my grandmother Eveline Bonorden’s uncle, Herman F. Döllinger, died in a disastrous fire on aboard the steamship General Lyon in the Spring of 1865.

Her passengers consisted of discharged and paroled soldiers, escaped prisoners and refugees, among whom were about thirty women and twenty-five small children. Two negroes were also among the refugees.

New York Times, 1865

There was talk of sabotage by Southern sympathizers, even though the war was over. We’ll catch up with him later, too.

Edmond J.’s whereabouts after the war are unknown. Nancy Ann had taken their sons, William and Edward, to Davenport, Iowa, where she worked as a seamstress. This is surprising since Nancy Ann’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Cormack Renfro, lived across the Missouri River in Rock Island. There may have been a rift between mother and daughter, but Elizabeth would later take in Edward’s brother William. In 1871 or ’72, Nancy Ann procured a divorce from Edmond J. in Davenport where she remarried and apparently lived until her death.

Finally Edmond J. resurfaces on 7 August 1873, when he married Josephine Johnson Westcott in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They had a daughter, Una (Annie, Mia) V. Gifford in 1874 and a son, Willie in 1876, who died four months later. By 1880 Edmond J. was living in Petoskey, Emmet, Michigan with his wife, Josephine. In the census he says that both his parents were born in Vermont and that he worked as a grocer. However, he later says that his parents were born in Massachusetts. Others in the household are Una V. Gifford (age 6) and Edwin R. Westcott (age 17), Josephine’s son from her marriage to Randall Westcott.

I recently discovered a photograph of Edmund online. This must be Josephine with him, as he appears to be wearing a war medal.

Edmond and Josephine

Although he enlisted in Muscatine, Iowa, Edmond was a member of the the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) in Petoskey. Memorial services were held by local G.A.R. veterans over the years and around the northern states. His trips to these meetings are often reported in the Bismark Daily Tribune where he is referred to as “Captain” Gifford, although his highest rank was private.

In the 1889 Edmond J. and his wife and daughter are still living in Petoskey. By this time, he was a very successful businessman. But, by 1890, Edmond J. had moved to Bismarck, North Dakota, where he invested in dry-land wheat farming and lost everything. According to the Bismarck Daily Tribune (August 23, 1900) Edmund often went to visit friends in Petoskey, Michigan.  Josephine, who was in poor health, remained in Petoskey with her daughter Clarissa until her death.

However, Edmund J. seems to have been a very kind man and devoted husband. The following is an excerpt from an essay written by the granddaughter of Edmund’s wife Josephine, from her marriage to Randall Westcott.

“…Josephine left New York at this time [the death of her first husband, Randall H. Westcott in 1864] and went with her two children to live with her family….Her family thought that perhaps she should go back to the young ladies’ seminar and teach. She tried this, but was not well enough and she began to cough which made them afraid that she might have tuberculosis. After a while her mother offered to care for [her children] and she was sent to the pines of Michigan to get well….

“Later [Josephine] married a Mr. Gifford in Petoskey. He was smart – a lumber inspector, engineer and had a real estate office….He owned the flatiron block where Rosenthal’s was, etc….

“Just as property was getting valuable in Petoskey, Mr. Gifford decided to go to Bismarck, N. D. and invested his money in wheat land. After several dry years, he lost all his money he invested in farming. He got a job overseeing a group of men who cared for a big railroad bridge at Bismarck. He also surveyed and sold real estate. One day [Josephine’s daughter Clarissa] received a letter from Grandfather Gifford saying that [Josephine] was not well and that he was going to take her to St. Paul for an examination. He wanted [Clarissa] to meet him there. [Clarissa] went and found out that [Josephine] had a cancer and that it would be best for her to come back to Petoskey and live with us. Grandfather [Gifford] went back to Bismarck to sell out. We children had heard something about Grandmother [Josephine] not being well and we expected that she would look very ill, but she was so pretty and looked so happy. She had very black hair and beautiful violet eyes….

“Finally, [Josephine] was not well enough to be up and she was in bed most of the time. Grandfather Gifford sent his entire bank account here to [Josephine] so she could have anything she needed. He paid all her church dues in her Bismarck church as long as she lived. Dr. John Reycraft cared for her. He never let her suffer….

“Grandfather Gifford did not get here before she passed on. She had seemed so fine and passed so suddenly. We had not sent for him. He was trying to settle his affairs in Bismarck….”

Josephine’s obituary tells another story.

Mrs. E. J. Gifford, after a long and painful illness, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. C.J. Pailthorp, yesterday morning. Mrs. Gifford came to Petoskey many months ago from their home in Bismark, N.D., to be near her children, Mrs. Pailthorp and E.R. Wescott and for better medical attendance and has never been well enough to return. Her husband arrived from Bismark Sunday and was with her at the end. Mr. and Mrs. Gifford were among the first comers to Petoskey in 1874, and at one time owned the whole of what is now the flat-iron block. About twelve years ago they removed to Bismark. Mrs. Gifford was a woman of fine Christian character and a devoted member of the Methodist church. She leaves a husband [Edmond J.], and three children, all married….

Petoskey Record, 22 May 1895

Well, maybe he was with her in the end. Edmond returned to Bismarck to live out his days as a watchman on the Northern Pacific Railroad bridge over the Missouri River. It’s doubtful that his experience with railroads had anything to do with his son and future grandson choosing to build them. Who knows? However, it is probably at this time that Edmond acquired a pocket watch that I still have.

Edmond’s pension applications shed some light on his years as a widower. He first applied for a military disability pension in 1890, at age 60. Based on his doctor’s description of his disabilities, he seems to have been suffering greatly as a result of his three months service in the Civil War. The doctor describes his chronic diarrhea and heart ailments as the main causes of his disability, as well as mental derangement. Remember, he was only 60. In 1903, when he applied for a pension increase, he had “two teeth in the upper jaw and two in lower, all loose and puss extruding from sockets”. 

In the brief interview in his application, he was asked a few questions about his residences and family, which are infuriatingly brief. When asked where he was living before enlisting he says “In the West, from 1852 Muscatine, Iowa.” No mention of where he lived before age 20, which I suppose he believed to be irrelevant. But we do learn that his eyes were blue, his skin was light, and his hair by this time was gray. He stood 5 feet 7 ¾ inches tall and weighed 165 pounds. So he was rather small, but this may be average for his generation. When asked about his children, he remembered the birth dates of Edmond H. and Una, but does not mention William. He describes his son Edmond H. as “may be living. I have received no letter from [?] since 1885.” That’s 18 years.

Edmond J. died at age 73, in Bismarck, North Dakota, 30 November 1903 while still a watchman on the bridge over the Missouri River. His body was returned to Michigan for burial. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Petoskey, Michigan.Bismarck Daily Tribune 30 Nov 1903:

At St. Alexius hospital at six o’clock this morning occurred the death of Mr. E. G. [sic] Gifford, long a resident of Bismarck. For many years he has been employed as watchman of the Northern Pacific bridge across the Missouri River and has lived in the watchman’s residence there. A number of days ago he was taken ill and his condition became such that he was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Mr. Gifford was well and favorably know in Bismarck, where he lived with his family for many years. His wife died several years ago and he leaves one daughter here, Mrs. C. N. Hendrix of Steele. He leaves also a son and daughter in Petoskey, Mich. from which state he came to this city.

Mr. Gifford was seventy one years of age at the time of his death and was a native of New York state. He was a veteran of the civil war and a member of the local G. A. R. It is probable that his remains will be taken back to Michigan for interment.

Funeral services will be held at the Methodist church tomorrow afternoon at one o’clock. The remains will be taken to Michigan for interment.

Bismarck Daily Tribune 30 Nov 1903

Mrs. Hendrix is Edmond’s daughter Una. There is no mention of Edward. Since there were no “son and daughter” in Petoskey, this may refer to his stepchildren. But that is still a nice obituary for a watchmen.

Death of E. J. Gifford

The remains of E. J. Gifford, one of the pioneer settlers of Petoskey, are expected to arrive tomorrow for interment by the side of his wife in Greenwood. In 1875 Mr. Gifford was one of the energetic pioneer business men of this tiny village. He owned the three cornered piece of land on Lake and Howard streets called the flat-iron block, and built a house where the department store of S. Rosenthal & Sons now stands. He also owned other pieces of property now very valuable, but in the early 80’s he disposed of his Petoskey interests and moved to Bismarck, S. D. [sic], where he has since resided. Mr. Gifford was the step-father of Mrs. C. J. Pailthorp of this city, and E. R. Westcott of Big Rapids, and leaves one child of his own, a married daughter living in Steele, N. D.

Petoskey Record on 2 Dec 1903:

Mrs. Pailthorp is Josephine’s daughter Jessie.  Again, no mention of Edward or William.

The body of E. J. Gifford was brought to Petoskey Thursday afternoon for burial. The funeral precession went from the station directly to the Greenwood cemetery where a brief service was read by Rev. H. H. Shawhan. Mr. Gifford was a step-father to Mrs. C. J. Pailtrop of our city and E. R. Westcott of Big Rapids. He has a daughter, formerly Miss Una Gifford whose home is in Steele, N. D. Mr. Gifford was a former resident here and extensive property holder in the early days of the village. He moved to Bismarck, North Dakota years ago, and has since made that place his residence. The six pall bearers were old pioneers of the city and friends of the deceased.

Petoskey Evening News on 4 Dec 1903:

None of the obituaries mentions Edmond’s sons Edmond (Edward) H. or William D. from his marriage to Nancy Ann Renfro. Not only was Edmond J. estranged from his own father, but he seems to have been estranged from his two sons as well. However, he was not a horse thief, but actually a well regarded businessman and devoted husband, the second time around any way. Nice to know.

The following are buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Petoskey, Michigan:

Edmund J. Gifford, father, b 1829, d 11/30/1903 Josephine A. Gifford, mother, b 1839, d 5/21/1895 Willie Gifford

There are also three vacant plots in the lot, perhaps purchased for Edmond’s other children, Edward H., William D. and Una. Maybe they weren’t forgotten.

With all this information, all we know about Edmond’s parentage is that he was born in 1830 in Utica, NY and his parents were born in Vermont or Massachusetts. But that may be enough.

My Ancestors: Highlights

Except for one line, all of my father’s ancestors that I can document can be traced back to the northern colonies and end up in Rock Island/Davenport area. My mother’s ancestors, except for one line, all trace back to the southern colonies, mostly South Carolina, and in one case, 12th century Scotland, and end up in Falls County, Texas. And the two non-colonial lines come more recently from Prussia and Germany. This post is a preview of some of the highlights of my family’s history.

My Father’s Ancestors

My father’s ancestors include early Quakers in Massachusetts in the 1600s (Gifford), pioneers in Virginia and Kentucky (Renfros), a possible personal guard to George Washington (Roundy), an imminent German biologist (Bonorden) and others fleeing the Revolution of 1848 in Prussia (Döllinger and Meyer). They primarily lived in the north, except for the Renfros, who migrated north from Virginia and Kentucky in the early 19thcentury. Their descendants eventually settled in Rock Island/Davenport.

Despite decades of genealogy research, my father was unable to find the father of his great grandfather,Edmond J. Gifford. It was only after my father’s death that a fellow genealogist took up the challenge that I had posted and found Edmond’s father in two days. With that I could then trace the Gifford line back to the “first” Gifford, who was born in England and arrived in the American Colonies around 1643. Most Giffords in America can trace their lines back to this William Gifford, who had many children himself. So that’s not a very big deal.

Edmond’s grandfather, William Gifford, was born in 1741 and served in the Revolutionary War, enlisting in Rhode Island in 1776 and joining Washington’s army at the Battle of White Plains. In his pension application he describes his service in a somewhat lighthearted manner. He traipsed along with Washington down through New Jersey to the Delaware River, after which time his enlistment ended. Then he signed up for three more, serving as substitutes for draftees who paid him for his service. On one campaign his unit was ordered to clean a house that had been used by the army as a small pox hospital.“I remember they gave it a thorough cleaning for they set fire to it and burnt it down”.

William’s son, Hicks Gifford, took his family west to land he purchased on the Embarrass River in 1839 in Coles County, Illinois. However, except for a daughter, his entire family disappeared from the records after the 1840 census. Hicks’ son, Edmond J. Gifford, after serving in the Civil War, was a successful businessman in Petosky, Michigan. He ended his days as a watchman on the Northern Pacific Railroad bridge over the Missouri River in Bismarck, North Dakota. His son Edmond H. Gifford would build railroads, as would his son, Porter William Gifford.

Legend has it that the farm of William and Elizabeth Rentfro was located next to that of the Washington family across the Rappahonock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Young George Washington and young William Rentfro, the 6th child of William and Elizabeth, played together as children; fishing and hunting over the fields. Both wanted to become land surveyors and learned the trade from William’s older brother, James. Young George was trained by James Renfro Sr. to be a surveyor at Ferry Farm along the Rapphannock River. However, this is probably fantasy. But there is documentary evidence that James was a surveyor with Daniel Boone in 1783.

James Renfro Jr. took his pregnant wife Margaret Jackson and fourteen children from Lincoln County, Kentucky to Madison County, Illinois, a short distance from Downing’s station, a fort erected for the protection of the settlers against the Indians. Then James died, leaving poor Margaret with fifteen children. Their granddaughter would marry Edmond J. Gifford in Rock Island, Illinois.

The Roundy family has been extensively research all the way back to Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s. According to his widow’s application for a widow’s pension, Uriah Roundy was a member of General Washington’s “Life Guards” and he fought in some of the battles that William Gifford and William Reuben Briant fought in. Uriah’s son Shadrach was instrumental in the establishment of the Mormon Church.

Another of Uriah’s sons, Daniel Roundy married Ruth Beard, the daughter of another Revolutionary veteran, in 1821. They were first cousins. Daniel served in the war of 1812. Although the lawyer for her application was a former pension examiner himself, her application was rejected numerous times for various reasons. She died in 1894, at the age of 94. 

Daniel and Ruth’s son Porter Wallace Roundy was born in Spafford, New York in 1829, about 90 miles from Utica, where Edmond J. Gifford was born in 1830. Porter’s daughter Nettie May would marry Edmond’s son Edward in Scot, Iowa, in a double wedding with Edward’s brother William. Like Edmond, Porter enlisted at Lincoln’s first call for volunteers and reenlisted as a hospital orderly on March 30, 1864 into the 37thInfantry Regiment Wisconsin in which his brother Daniel Curtis Roundy served as Regiment Surgeon at City Point, Virginia, near Petersburg, where he was a witness to the siege.

Like his grandfather, Hermann Friedrich Bonorden served as a military surgeon in Prussia but was also a renown medical researcher. Hermann Friedrich studied and published articles on several diseases, including syphilis. His scientific work won him a professorship at the Friedrich Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. He was so highly respected that he is considered one of the most outstanding physicians of all times in all countries. 

Two years after arriving in America from Prussia, Hermann’s son, Herman Frederich Bonorden, was drafted for three years as a bugler in Company E, 2ndIowa Cavalry. But war did not suit Herman. On May 10, 1862, Herman was put on “extra duty clerk in Q.M. Dpt.” This lead to a career as a Pension Examiner after the war. Herman settled in Davenport, Iowa after the war and married Emma Auguste Döllinger, who had also come to America from Prussia with her family, including her brother, Herman Gustav Döllinger, who kept a detailed diary of the many battles he fought in during the American Civil war.

Thus, my father’s grandparents have converged in Iowa.

My Mother’s Ancestors

My mother was ninety-nine proof Southern stock. Except for the Buttes, who are relatively recent arrivals from Germany, all her other ancestors trace back to the southern colonies, mostly South Carolina. Her ancestors include tavern owners, missionaries and ministers, murderers and law professors, witnesses to the intimidation tactics of the early Klan and large land owners who used enslaved people to work their fields. And, of course, Revolutionary War and a couple of Civil War veterans, but this time on the side of the Confederacy. Although the details of many of her female lines are lost to history, others have left colorful stories. And somehow their descendants end up in, or near, Falls County, Texas. Here is a brief account of a few of them.

The son of a German immigrant, George Charles Felix Butte, after accumulating a number of post graduate degrees, ran for governor of Texas on what some called the “Klan Party”. He heard the news of this on his return from Europe. His opponent, “Ma” Ferguson, charged that, failing to find anybody on land, the “Republican – Ku Klux” crowd had “finally jumped on one poor ignorant professor away out in the middle of the ocean and thrust upon the poor devil for the Republican – Ku Klux nomination for Governor.” Ah, Texas politics.

Meanwhile, George’s brother, Charles Felix Butte, bludgeoned his wife to death, but agreed to give her one last wish to “kiss me goodbye-I’m dying”. Although George was Dean of the Law School at the University of Texas by this time, he did not come to his brother’s defense, perhaps because there was none.

George Butte’s wife, Bertha Woodfin Lattimore descended from Davis Stockton, who, with his friend, Michael Woods, set out into the wilderness west of Charlottesville, Virginia in about 1740 to the lands they had obtained from King George. When they had to part company to travel in different directions, Davis literally marked the occasion by carving his initials, D.S., into a tree. The tree became known as the D.S. Tree and was used as a landmark for decades. It even appears in orders from the Goochland County Court for building roads.

Bertha’s grandfather, Samuel Stockton Lattimore, was born in 1811 and married Francis Ann Compere, the daughter of Lee Compere, one of the most eminent and controversial Baptist missionaries. As a member of the Baptist Mission Society, he served as a missionary among the enslaved people in the British colony of Jamaica. Lee and his wife continued their missionary work with the Creek Indians in Alabama, but then became embroiled in the struggles between white and Creek slave owners and the issue of Indian removal. However, when a request was made for funds to support Lee in his old age, the response was feeble, possibly due to his opposition to slavery.

Samuel Stockton Lattimore joined his father-in-law as a Baptist minister, traveling throughout the antebellum South. A favorite of the Choctaw, Samuel was accused of imbibing. But before anything could be done to help or sanction him, S.S. Lattimore “fell dead in the pulpit”. 

Samuel Stockton Lattimore’s son, Rev. John Lee Lattimore, enlisted as a private in the confederate army and was promoted to 2ndSargent of Company B, 37thMississippi Infantry Regiment which was in Vicksburg during the siege by Union forces. The men served continuously in the trenches, exposed to the scorching midsummer sun and often to chilling nights. 

After the surrender of Vicksburg Rev. John Lee Lattimore came home after being exchanged, and was “subjected to scrubbings and hair cutting, all his clothing burned, before he was allowed to come into the house” by his wife, Catherine Obedience Woodfin. Catherine’s roots can be traced back to 12thcentury Scotland. Her great great grandmother, Catherine Kaidyee Blaikley, was an eminant midwife in colonial Williamsburg.

Katherine Obedience Jones married William Hawthorn Kirkpatrick in South Carolina. Her great grandfather Benjamin Jones was a member of the Long Cane Settlement when it was attacked by Cherokees on February 1, 1760. The details of the Long Cane Massacre were recounted by another survivor, Patrick Calhoun, father of the future Congressman and secessionist, John C Calhoun. Benjamin’s son, Adam Crain Jones, was a representative in the South Caroline legislature when the vote to consider the constitution was only 76 “ayes” and 75 “nayes”, which means that the Constitution came close to not even being considered. 

Before the Civil War broke out, William Hawthorn Kirkpatrick took his family from South Carolina to Texas. It was so rainy and wet that the family, with six children and six “Negros” and six mules, was trapped in Arkansas for two years before they could continue the trip to Texas. We know quite a bit about this trip because William’s son Addison wrote a book about it.

William’s son James Richard Kirkpatrick married Elizabeth Eller King in Texas. He was 35, she 17. There are heartbreaking letters between Lizzie and her brother Wilson in which he expressed his fear of never again seeing his “dear sister”. He wished the War of the Rebellion to end so he could come home. There are also a number of equally heartbreaking, if a little comical, letters from Lizzie’s father, Jefferson David King, who asked for money to come to Texas. He wrote wondering “what kind of a place is Texas ant there no money there”.

William Reuben Briant, born in 1741 married Sarah Tolleson 1762 in South Carolina. The Tollesons operated a tavern at Buzzards Roost. The tavern was the place to go for food, voting, getting liquored up, catching the stage coach, cock fighting, horse racing, and boxing. And Sarah’s father Major John Tolleson made sure people could get there, and pay for the pleasure, by improving the roads, naming them after himself and charging tolls to use them.

William Reuben Briant served in the Revolutionary War. According to the pension application submitted by his wife, William served with General Washington’s army at Pennsylvania and was part of the effort to “cross the Delaware River”, but his unit, as well as others did not make it to Trenton. That makes three ancestors who served at the same time and place, including William Gifford and Uriah Roundy.

Many years later two of William Reuben Briant’s twelve children, William and Reuben, testified before the U.S. Congress Joint Select Committee to Inquire Into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary Statesin 1871 about their experience with and observation of the original Ku Klux Klan. The Committee declared the Ku Klux Klan to be a terrorist organization. 

Another son, Joab Bryant and his wife, Mary Stewart, managed to sit out the War of the Rebellion and had twelve children instead. One of them, John Wesley Bryant, took his wife, Sarah Ann Lively, a first cousin, to Texas to raise eleven children. As with the Kirkpatricks and the Lattimores, there was not much left of South Carolina and other confederate states. Sherman drove a wide swath of destruction from Atlanta to Savannah and up through Columbus, South Carolina, which was entirely destroyed. And Texas promised fortunes to be made.