Sunday, July 15, 2018

Wisner Cemetery in Elmira New York

In the year 1877, the old Wisner Cemetery rested in the heart of Elmira New York, “deteriorated, and appearing as though it had no care for many years.”  The citizens of the town had determined that it was an eyesore, and were ready to repurpose the land for a community park.  The town council evaluated the situation, and prepared to remove the bodies to the town’s newer Woodlawn Cemetery.

Several descendants of my 8x-great-grandfather Peter Mathews had originally been buried in the Wisner Cemetery, mostly during the 1830’s.  It was in the years 1876 and 1877 that their bodies were removed to other cemeteries in the area, either by family members, or by the city of Elmira.  

Researcher Joyce Tice gives an excellent account of the Wisner Cemetery at her Tri-Counties Genealogy and History website.  It includes a history of the land originally owned by the Wisner family, the establishment of the cemetery in 1802, and details of the removal of bodies in 1877.  It also includes a newspaper article, published in Elmira’s Daily Advertiser of 20th October 1875, with the title, and sub-titles – AMONG THE DEAD; The Story of the Tombstones; The Wisner Park Burying Ground; The Bodies of Those Buried There to Be Removed; Some Account of the Spot and the names of Those Who Therein Do Lie.

The “Tri-Counties” website also includes a list of the two hundred and seventy-seven headstones in the Wisner Cemetery that were inventoried before the removal:

Before all the headstones were removed, Ausburn Towner, a local historian, newspaperman, and writer, copied the inscriptions the best he could, and the data was published in the local newspapers.

The list, as published at the “Tri-Counties” website, also includes bracketed notes, and identifies “markers which were found on August 27, 1973, at the Woodlawn Cemetery, Elmira, New York, by Doris Boyd.”

In reviewing this list, I have identified ten persons who are descendants (or spouses of descendants) in our Mathews family, and I wanted to follow-up here with their burial story:

Matthew Carpenter, Major General; 26 Sep 1759 – 6 Oct 1839; 79y 12m 10d; Revolutionary War Soldier. Died in the 81st year of his age.
Note: Matthew Carpenter, husband of Catherine Mathews.
[Towner 1875; to Woodlawn 1876; Boyd 1977; FindAGrave 2012 – Woodlawn, Elmira]

Catherine Carpenter; 1764/65 – 28 Oct 1830; 65y; Wife of Major General M Carpenter.
Note – Catherine Mathews, daughter of James Mathews and Hannah Strong.
[Towner 1875; to Woodlawn 1876; Boyd 1977; FindAGrave 2012 – Woodlawn, Elmira]

Robert Lawrence, Esq
Note – Robert Lawrence, husband of Catherine “Locky” Carpenter. This is a shale tombstone which contains no data. Trinity Episcopal Church records show a Lawrence as being buried 19 May 1834.
[Towner 1875; to Woodlawn by City of Elmira 1876; Boyd 1977; FindAGrave 2017 – Woodlawn, Elmira]

Locky Lawrence; 20 Nov 1785 – 13 Dec 1817; 32y 23d; In Memory Of, Wife of Robert Lawrence.
Note – Catherine “Locky” Carpenter.  Carpenter Family Bible records states that her name was “Catherine”, and she was the daughter of Matthew and Catherine Mathews Carpenter.
[Towner 1875; to Woodlawn by City of Elmira 1876; Boyd 1977; FindAGrave 2012 – Woodlawn, Elmira]

Fletcher Mathews; 19 July 1775 – 16 Feb 1814; 38y 6m 28d; In Memory Of.
Note – Fletcher Mathews, son of James Mathews and Hannah Strong.
[Towner 1875; FindAGrave 2012  - Maple Grove, Horseheads]

Peter Mathews; 11 May 1789 – 24 Oct 1826; 37y 5m 13d.
Note – Peter Mathews, son of Selah Mathews and Mary Strong.
[Towner 1875]

Selah Mathews; 1761/62 – 9 Nov 1833; 71y
Note – Selah Mathews, son of James Mathews and Hannah Strong. Appears in a list of burials for Maple Grove Cemetery in Horseheads, Chemung county, New York.
[Towner 1875]

Thomas Mathews; 5 Sep 1786 – 16 Jun 1836; 49y 9m 11d.
Note –Thomas Mathews’ parentage is uncertain, but he may be the man who married Rebecca Mathews, daughter of Vincent Mathews and Juliana Strong.  Trinity Episcopal Church records state he was buried 18 June 1836 by Rev Richard Smith. 
[Towner 1875]

Robert Mathews; Sep 1809 – 28 Aug 1835; 25y 11m.
Note – Robert Mathews, son of Selah Mathews and Mary Strong.
[Towner 1875]

Amira Thompson; Jul 1801 – 20 Oct 1839; 38y 2m; Wife of R H Thompson.
Note – Amira Carpenter, daughter of Matthew Carpenter and Catherine Mathews.
[Towner 1875]

For more details on the people listed here, visit their pages at the Markham of Chesterfield website.

Further Reading:
Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice

About the Photo: 
Trinity Church, Elmira New York; 2008 by LvKlock, creative commons.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

They are off! - A Horseracing Family Tradition

In 1878, Little Joe Adams Jr wrote an article titled Early Racing in Orange County [NY], and it was published in Wallace's Monthly: An Illustrated Magazine Devoted to Domesticated Animal Nature (Volume 4).  Below I draw some extracts related to the Mathews, Brooks and Waters families that are included in Adam’s entertaining and informative article.  For those who are interested in the topic, I highly recommend a complete reading.  Link at the closing of this blog post.

The article begins - “Horse-racing has ever been the pastime of the people of Goshen, and the major part of Orange county [New York] . . . “  Adams goes on to describe the arrival of European pioneers and their horses in New York’s Orange county.   

“Very naturally the owners of these spirited animals soon began to pride themselves on the merits of their respective blooded and highmettled pets, and friendly contests of speed and bottom followed as quickly and certainly as daylight follows the hours of gloom.”

“Although New Windsor, Newburgh, Haverstraw and Orangetown were settled long before Goshen, neither had the "lay of land" suitable for racing, excepting "Matthews' Field"*—near New Windsor, now the home of Mr. Alden Goldsmith; and as Goshen had the best horses, the first matches in this county were made in this village . . . So numerous did these contests become, that it was deemed expedient, in a few years, to construct a course outside of the public highway . . . - It was located near the village, was constructed on what was afterward, and unto this day, known as Fiddler's Green . . . This was the first race-course in Orange county. Others soon followed, and at the beginning of 1800 this county boasted of at least four noted places of meeting—Summerville, Smith's Village, Golden Hill and the Old Waters Course*, which shall form the subject of this sketch.” 

*A note on Mathewsfield and the Old Waters Course – Adams remarks on the suitability of Mathewsfield for the earliest horse racing in the county. Mathewsfield was the original home of Vincent Mathews, and was later occupied by his son Fletcher Mathews, followed by Fletcher’s son-in-law Jonathan Brooks – all who were keen horsemen.  Jonathan Brooks was married to Fletcher Mathews’ daughter Catherine Mathews.  The Old Waters Course was established by Thomas Waters, another Mathews’ son-in-law.  Thomas Waters was married to Fletcher Mathews’ daughter Bridget Mathews.

Adams carries on his story with several descriptions of Thomas Waters and his Old Waters Course:

“ . . . as the Waters' Course was superior in every respect, while the wealth and standing of its owner gave it a prestige none other enjoyed, his . .  course kept in a style then unknown in any of the Northern States,—it is more than simple justice to accord to the departed the honor of introducing and patronizing and propagating the best blooded stock in the county . . “

“As a part of the unpublished stallion history of Orange county, I will give you the names and pedigrees of the famous horses* and racers who have left such worthy progeny among us, and who figured conspicuously in the races of the above track encouraged by the patronage and influence of Sheriff Thomas Waters, who was, I believe, the first importer of horses in Orange county, and who loved a horse as he loved himself.”

*”Imported Clothier.—A bright bay, sixteen bands high, owned by Jonathan Brooks, of Matthews' Field (now Washingtonville). He was got by Old Clothier, who was by Matchem . . .
Badger.—A thoroughbred grey stallion, bred in Maryland, got by imp. Badger, out of the full-blooded mare, Sarah, who was got by Partner. He also was owned by Jonathan Brooks.”

“The Waters' Course was located about one and-a-half miles southwest of Goshen, on the farm of Sheriff Thomas Waters, which contained about six hundred acres. The old course was built in a very substantial manner, for those days, and at considerable expense. Like the Golden Hill Course, it followed the land—the first one-third of a mile on rolling hillocks, from ten to twenty feet high; then down across a stout stone bridge, spanning a brooklet which ran through the meadow, and then rose again to a level with the hillocks, turning then to the left, descended gradually down past the old Ash Spring , while the track across the meadow was level until it struck the home-stretch, then gradually ascended for a quarter of a mile to the stand.  The judges' stand was built by, and fastened to, the large oak tree standing on the edge of the back-track, and the start was made from the tree to the right, near the distance-pole . . . “

“Most of the old track is now obliterated; but notwithstanding the inroads of the plow of the farmer and the frosts of past winters, enough yet remains to prove to the incredulous that we of Goshen had a race-course long before these all-wise writers were born. In two or three places the old track can be distinctly traced: the turn above the stand, at the woods; the excavations on either side of the brook, and the embankment near the ash spring.”

“The races on the Waters' Course (which began in 1790) only took place in the fall of the year; differing, in this respect, from the Golden Hill Course, where meetings were regularly held every spring and fall: and in consequence of which the interest was gradually withdrawn from the former and transferred to the latter, until at length (about 1832) the Waters' Course was abandoned, fenced off, as we find it to-day, and surrendered to the husbandman.”

“The old Waters' homestead, and a remnant of the once spacious stables, yet remain, but weather-beaten and grey—mere wrecks of their former glory. The property has all passed into other hands, and today not a rood of the land is in possession of the descendants of the founder of the course. The main part of the old track is now included in the farm of Rev JR Staatz; while the old house and surroundings are the property of the Messrs Steward.”

“Mr. Thomas Waters dying, in 1834, at the age of seventy-four years, his property all passed into other hands, and the once famous stamping-ground of Orange county sportsmen is to-day almost forgotten by even those who once participated in its enchanting sports.”

For more details on Thomas Waters, Vincent Mathews, and Jonathan Brooks visit their individual pages at the Markham of Chesterfield website.

Further Reading: 

Early Racing in Orange County, by Little Joe Adams Jr; published in Wallace's Monthly: An Illustrated Magazine Devoted to Domesticated Animal Nature, Volume 4; B. Singerly, 1878; available online through googlebooks.

The Goshen Gallopers; Phil Pines; published in the Harlem Valley Times (Amenia, New York); 1985; and available at the Old Fulton Postcards Website.

Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, Goshen New York

Photo Credit: 
“Trotting Cracks at Home, a Model Stable”; Thomas Worth sketch for Currier and Ives, 1868; Library of Congress Collection; no restrictions.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Starting Again!

Much to my disappointment, my Markham of Chesterfield blog has stood idle for more than two years.  But, for me, that is how life “unfolds” at times.  Over the past few months I have returned to work on the Mathews branch of my family, and I am ready to post up a few more stories on this intriguing group.  My own connection to the Mathews family is through Catherine (Catalina) Mathews, who married John Markham about 1740, probably in Orange county New York.  Her parentage remains in question, but it appears most likely that she is the oldest daughter of Vincent Mathews and Catalina Abeel, of Mathewsfield in Orange county New York. 

In 2015-2016 I included several stories on this blog related to the likely ancestors of Catherine Mathews – Captain Peter Mathews, New York Governor Benjamin Fletcher, and William Fletcher and Henry Vincent of London.  More recently I have been looking at Catherine Mathews’ likely aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins.  There are some very interesting characters in the group, and I am looking forward to sharing a few of their stories. 

For more details on Catherine Mathews visit her individual pages at the Markham of Chesterfield website.

About the photo:  Woman Writing by August Macke, 1910. Public Domain.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Peter Mathews – Tavern Keeper

Peter Mathews played many roles in his lifetime!  Primarily he was a military man – beginning as quartermaster for a British company in Ireland, and advancing through several offices, to become a Captain of the King’s troops stationed in New York.  There is some evidence that he served as a secretary to Governor Benjamin Fletcher upon their arrival in New York in 1692.  In later life he worked to establish St Peter’s (Anglican) Church in Albany New York, and was among the active wardens of that congregation.  He made a trip to England in 1703 to speak for the colonial troops, and he fulfilled a term as Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1715.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that, amid all that busyness, he was also recognized as a tavern-keeper in New York City.

The soldiering life in New York was a rather dismal affair overall.  Men suffered the indignity of poor pay, and often lacked the basic essentials of food, clothing and warm blankets.  Of course, the officer fared better than the common soldier, but it was an uncertain lifestyle at best.  For that reason, many of the soldiers and officers found secondary means of supporting themselves and their families.  This may have been the impetus behind Peter Mathews’ tavern.

During his time in New York (1692-1719), Peter Mathews lived back and forth between New York City and Albany.  According to New York City’s 1703 census, Peter Mathews and his family lived in the South Ward of the City, near the Fort.  This was the oldest part of the city, and was probably the location of Peter Mathews’ Tavern.  As was the custom of the day, his “tavern” was likely to be a room, or rooms, that were a part of his principal residence.  We don’t have a name for his establishment, and we know very little of its nature.  Did Peter Mathews and his wife Bridget serve food and drink to the public? Or, was it more of a private club for Mathews’ cronies? – in which case it gave the tavern-keeper an opportunity to take a few pence from his friends. 

New York politics at the beginning of the eighteenth century was a volatile mix.  Following the Leisler Affair, the people of New York City found themselves divided into two strongly opposed factions.  Peter Mathews was allied with the anti-Leislerians.  During his years as governor of New York (1698-1701), Lord Bellomont waged a campaign to vilify his predecessor, Benjamin Fletcher.  This included attacks upon Fletcher’s “friends” - among them, Peter Mathews.  Inside Bellomont’s letters we find clues to the nature of the activities at Peter Mathews’ tavern.  In September 1698 Bellomont mentions a “clubb” (anti-Leislerians) that was probably instituted by Benjamin Fletcher. A later letter, in 1700, hints that this Club might have had meetings at Peter Mathews’ tavern. 

. . . The Jacobite* party in this towne have a clubb commonly every Saturday (which was Colonel Fletcher's clubb day). Last Saturday was seaven night, there mett twenty seaven of them, their ringleaders are Colonel Bayard, Colonel Minviele, both of the Councill, Mr. Nicolls, late of the Councill, and Wilson, late Sheriff of this towne ; there is so great a rancor and inveterancy in these people that I think it by no means proper for me to leave this province . . .
[source]  From a letter of the Earl of Bellomont to the Board of Trade, 21 September 1698. 

. . . My first Lieut's name is Peter Matthews, bred up from a child with Coll. Fletcher & 'tis at his house that the angry people of this Town have a Club and hold their cabals . . .
 [source]  From a letter of Lord Bellomont to Secretary Vernon, 18 October 1700.

*Note that the term Jacobite is probably used loosely here, to suggest that the “club” is on the opposing side to Bellomont.  To call someone a Jacobite often meant he was a schemer.

Sometime between 1709-1711 Peter Mathews moved from New York City to Albany, New York.  He probably made Albany his home until his death in 1719.  There is no indication that he resumed his tavern-keeping habit during the Albany years. 

As a personal aside, I can’t help but mention another grandfather who kept a tavern in New York City during the same period.  His name was John Hutchins, and he officiated over the King’s Arms Tavern on Broadway.  It operated on the opposite side of the political scale from Peter Mathews’ establishment, but coincidentally, from Bayles’ “Old Taverns of New York”, we learn:

Although Hutchins had been favorable to the Leislerians in Fletcher's time, he seems to have gone over to the anti-Leislerians, and had been elected alderman by the votes of that party. He had borrowed money from both Gabriel Minvielle and Nicholas Bayard . . .  These two men are named by Bellomont as ringleaders in the party opposed to him.

We don’t know whether Peter Mathews and John Hutchins were acquainted.  It seems possible!  After the passage of four or five generations, their descendants would meet, marry, and establish a home in Natchez, Mississippi.  –Another story, for another day!

For more details on Peter Mathews, visit his page at the Markham of Chesterfield website.  Peter Mathews is my 8xgreatgrandfather.

Further Reading:
Tavern Keepers and Brewers of Early America; a project at
Old Taverns of New York; W Harrison Bayles, 1915; available online through googlebooks.
History of Coffee in old New York.  Interesting account including many details of John Hutchins and the King’s Arms Tavern (Coffee House).

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The death of William Fletcher at Gloucester

Family history research on the “ordinary” people of 17th century England can prove challenging.  This blog posting is my effort to put flesh on the bones of William Fletcher of London.  I suspect, but have not been able to prove, that he is one of my great-grandfathers.   I cannot confirm, absolutely,  that all of the details below refer to the same William Fletcher (Flesher), but the pieces of this story come together well, and I hope that it will prove helpful to future researchers. 

In 1643 England was in the throes of a civil war.  The earliest fighting had taken place in the previous year – the Royalists (Cavaliers) coming up against the Parliamentarians (Roundheads) at Edgehill.  The primary question to be resolved was whether the King should govern without the consent of his Parliament.  Issues related to authority, religion, and rebellion undergirded almost twenty years of war.   

Most of England’s cities stood with the Parliamentarians throughout the war, and in 1643 the Earl of Essex called out two of London’s trained bands to follow him to “the relief of Gloucester” – that city being then under siege by the Royalists led by King Charles.  William Fletcher, a young gentleman of London, met the call.  William was probably in his early 30’s, husband to Abigail Vincent, and father to at least two sons, William Fletcher and Benjamin Fletcher (future governor of New York).  Records style William Fletcher (sr) as a gentleman, a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clothiers.  He lived in the parish of St Lawrence Jewry, and his armorial bearings are recorded as - Sa a cross flory betw four escallops ar quartering Vincent, viz, az a chev between three quatrefoils slipped ar.

London’s trained bands were established during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  The British Civil War Project website houses very helpful information on these militia regiments.  From their site:

In the absence of a regular army, the Trained Bands were the only permanent military units in England when the Bishops' Wars broke out in 1639-40 and the First Civil War followed in 1642. The popular view was that the Trained Bands were inefficient, poorly equipped and badly disciplined. With a few exceptions, this was generally true of the provincial companies. The London Trained Bands were of better quality thanks to enthusiastic societies of citizens who met regularly during the 1630s to practice their drill, hiring expert soldiers to instruct them. In 1642, the Common Council increased the four regiments of the London Bands into 40 companies of 200 men each, organized into six regiments and distinguished by their colours: Red, White, Yellow, Green, Blue and Orange.

William Fletcher likely belonged to the “Blew (Blue) Regiment”.  More specifically he probably served with the Blew Regiment’s Auxiliaries, led by Sir William Springate (Springett).  London’s Red and Blue Regiments accompanied Essex to Gloucester in September of 1643.  On the 5th of September the Parliamentarian forces gathered outside of Gloucester on Prestbury Hill.  They would shortly prove such a threat to the Royalists that they would abandon the siege, and march off toward Bristol. 

The Parliamentarians met with success, but William Fletcher never returned to his family in London.  Was he the victim of an unfortunate turn of events?   One of the earliest records I located in connection with William Fletcher was a reference to his funeral entry, found in Burke’s Armory (1884):

1643; William Fletcher slain before Gloucester and buried at the Collegiate Church there; Funeral Entry Ulster Office from St Lawrence (Jewry?), London England.

I suspect that this funeral entry relates to an account I recently came across in the aptly named “Bibliotheca Gloucestrensis: a collection of scarce and curious tracts relating to the county and city of Gloucester: illustrative of, and published during the civil war, with biographical and historical remarks, Volume 2”, compiled by John Washbourn, 1823.  In his book Washbourn publishes an account written by Sgt Henry Foster with another lengthy title – “A true relation of the severall passages which have happened to our army, since it advanced towards Glocester”.   Henry Foster was an officer in London’s Red Regiment, under Col Harvey.  He gives a detailed account of the experiences of his regiment, and includes the story of their arrival at Prestbury Hill outside of Gloucester.  Apparently the weather was formidable, and the officers and men made a rather confused and desperate descent of the hill, to seek shelter in the nearby villages.  Here is the story that Henry Foster tells:

. . . the army marched for quarter to severall villages adjacent, Colonell Harveye's foot, the London redcoats, and Kentish regiment, drawing off towards Southam, a little village not farre from the foot of the hill, sidewards, which when we were within two or three bow-shoots of my Colonell  himselfe, with colonel Sir William Springate, Major Shepheard, and his owne cornet, with myselfe and some few others, out-marcht the foot, the rather indeed that my colonell might (according to his wonted vigilancy) view the avenues before the darknes of the night should overtake him; which while he, with Major Shepheard, were about, Major Bourne and Captain Buller with their troops (mistaking us for cavaliers) dismounted at our quarter, and by a pistol shot (before we could make them understand who we were) wounded sorely, we fear mortally, Cornet Flesher, and we strongly presumed had pistolled more of us had not my colonell seasonably returning, made knowne himselfe, and so rescued us.

Cornet Flesher (Fletcher) likely died on the same day the Royalist troops marched away from Gloucester.  Due to the chaos of the situation, it was probably deemed best to bury him at Gloucester Cathedral (Collegiate Church), rather than escort his body back to London.  A sad story indeed!

For more details on William Fletcher, visit his page at the Markham of Chesterfield website.

Further Reading:
Numerous accounts have been written of the Gloucester Siege.  One I particularly enjoyed was Jon Day’s, “Gloucester & Newbury 1643: The Turning Point of the Civil War”, published by Pen and Sword in 2007.  It includes the account of Cornet Flesher. 
The Blew Regiment of the London Trained Bands website

About the Photo:
Preparation Sketch for “The Setting Out of the Train Bands from London to Raise the Siege of Gloucester”, by Charles West Cope, about 1865, from the Parliamentary Art Collection (Palace of Westminster). 
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