Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pass the Cream Pott, Please!

John Markham’s family is sitting around their large walnut table, on the rush bottom chairs.  It’s 1757, a cool autumn afternoon in Chesterfield county Virginia.  On this day the table is set with the Delph plates.  The Delph teapot, sugar dish and “cream pott” wait on a side table.  A corner cabinet holds a few of their finer things – “Chainie” plates, cups and saucers, six silver spoons, and a flint glass decanter with wine glasses . . .

I am imagining again!  I have conjured up this scene from John Markham’s estate inventory, found among the 1770 records of Chesterfield county Virginia.  Studying an old inventory can be an interesting occupation.  It gives us clues to the lives of our ancestors. 

Years of research on John Markham’s family has left me with the impression that they lived a comfortable, rural life, perhaps a step above the typical tidewater farmer, but not quite members of the Virginia elite.  John Markham was a large landowner, holding about eight hundred acres.  Services he offered to his community suggest that he was literate, and possibly formally educated.  Records regularly designate him as “gentleman”.  His estate inventory tells us that he had a few fine (imported) things. 

In 18th century Virginia many of the large homes were inventoried “room by room”, filling many pages in the county ledgers.  But, John Markham’s inventory comes to us as a single list, about one and one-half pages long.  Items are arranged on the list in a manner that might suggest several rooms in the home.  There must have been a separate dining area to house their large collection of tableware. Besides the “Chainie” plates, and Delph collection, they also had thirty-six pewter plates, and various serving items.  The more utilitarian cooking items appear near the end of the inventory, along with odds and ends.  They might have had a detached kitchen, a somewhat common practice of that time and place. 

The furniture listed on the inventory was simple – six beds and furniture, two tables, twenty-four chairs of various description, two old desks, and a bookcase.  The bookcase is of interest, because it probably held the parcel of Books, valued at twelve pounds and thirteen shillings. Books were expensive, and this valuation is one of the larger amounts on John Markham’s inventory, ranking up there with his Copper Still and grey Horse.     

Rosie Zagarri, Professor at George Mason University, soothed my curiosity about the nearly three dozen cups and saucers listed in the inventory,

By the mid-18th century there was a lot of imitation of English tea drinking rituals.  So if you could, you would import fancy silver goods, tea kettles, teaspoons.  Tea drinking really was the center of social ritual at the time.  Especially the women would gather together and make a big ceremony of brewing a certain kind of tea and pouring the tea and socializing and gossiping and eating little teacakes.  It was all a big way to both demonstrate your social status and connect with other members of your community.

What might we learn of John Markham himself from these inventory items – a Silver Watch, a pair of pistols and fencing foils?  The watch was valued at 4 pounds, identifying it as a valuable possession, and a mark of social standing.  The pair of pistols, at 10 shillings, must have been old and weary.  But, the fencing foils are interesting.  These were not commonly listed on the inventories of Virginia farmers in 1770.  With the value at 1 shilling, they weren’t fancy.  I wonder who John Markham found for a sparing companion – perhaps one of his sons.  Or, were the foils remnants of his youth, when he served as a British soldier in the Highlands of New York?

There are other items listed in John Markham’s inventory that might support a future blog posting.  It would be interesting to know more about how they used the warming pan, mustard pott, fire Dogs, and bullet moulds.  Did the Markham women work the Spinning Wheele?  And what makes a hair Brush valuable enough to list on an inventory?  Certainly, I would like to take a hard look at his thirteen slaves. 

   underlined items appear in John Markham’s inventory

For more details on John Markham, visit his page at the Markham of Chesterfield website.  A transcription of his inventory will be found there. 

If you would enjoy knowing more about probate inventories, visit this great website:
Probing the Past.   It includes the interview with Professor Rosie Zagarri.

About the photos: 
Posset pot, Netherlands, Late 17th or early 18th century, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.  Wikimedia Commons, photo in the public domain.
H. Angelo's Fencing Academy by Rowlandson, 1787.

Monday, July 6, 2015

I Need to Know Your Name

In the 1890’s there was a flurry of activity among John Markham’s descendants – an effort to record their family history.  George Evans Markham committed to paper the stories of his family branch, and Liddie Rivers published an extensive account of the Markham family in the William and Mary Quarterly.  Around the same time, an anonymous descendant recorded what she knew of her grandmother, Judith Markham, and it turned up as a newspaper clipping in the files of a Kentucky Historical Society.

The brief, but informative, newspaper clipping was reprinted in Kentucky Explorer Magazine in October 1995.  The original newspaper is not identified, but the article has a connection to Henry county Kentucky.  An accompanying note said, "Taken from old clippings dealing with Kentucky family history . . These clippings are about 100 years old."  I contend that the article introduces us to Judith Markham Burch, and a transcription, with explanations, can be found here.  The purpose of this blog posting is to consider who the author of the newspaper clipping might be. 

The clipping headline reads “Judith Markham”, and the article begins “My grandmother was a Markham . . . “

I suspect, but have not proven, that this is the same Judith Markham who marries Cheadle Burch and is named in the records of Amelia county Virginia as early as 1806.  By 1820 she appears, as a widow, in Giles county Tennessee.  As best I have been able to determine, Judith Markham Burch had three children, eleven grandsons, and five granddaughters, all born in Giles county Tennessee.  Possibly there are other children and grandchildren unidentified.  But – I would like to look further at the five granddaughters to see if one might be the author of this article.  The granddaughters are Mary Judith Edwards, Sarah Antoinette Edwards, Mary White, Sarah R White, and Marion A White.

The Edwards girls – Mary and Sarah - are the daughters of Dr John Edwards and Mary C Burch of Cornersville in Giles county Tennessee.  Mary Judith Edwards, born about 1827, married Thomas Burgess, merchant, and they removed to Nashville Tennessee by 1880.  Sarah Antoinette Edwards, born about 1830, married Angenol Cox, and they resided for a number of years in Pulaski Tennessee.  The 1860 census of Giles county Tennessee identifies A Cox as a methodist minister. Stories of his later life suggest that he was an interesting and successful promoter and man of business.  Sarah Edwards Cox’s bio gives more details on the Opera House he built in Pulaski.  By 1880, Sarah and Angenol Cox are found in Butler county Kansas, and they are buried there in Elmwood Cemetery.  Both of the Edwards ladies are in the running as authors for the Judith Markham story. 

The three White girls – Mary, Sarah and Marion – are the daughters of James K White and Judith Virginia Burch of Pulaski Tennessee.  They have been more difficult to follow.  The 1850 census of Giles county Tennessee shows James K White as a school teacher, but by 1860 Virginia White is a widow, practicing the art of millenery.  Daughter Mary White, born about 1834, appears with her parents in 1850, but I have lost tract of her after that.  Second daughter Sarah White is married to Joseph Marshall in 1865, following the war.  By 1870 she is a twenty – eight year old widow living in Nashville Tennessee with her brother.  She may have remarried, but I have not been successful in following her. 

Marion A White, youngest daughter of James White and Virginia Burch, proves interesting.  I am voting for her as the most likely candidate for author of the Judith Markham newspaper clipping.  Marion White was born about 1844 in Pulaski Tennessee.  In 1871, in Nashville Tennessee, she was married to Isaac D George.  He was a printer and newspaper man, and they eventually settled in Chicago Illinois, where George died in 1906 and Marion in 1912.  A few further details of their life can be found in Marion White George’s bio.  Isaac George and Marion White were the parents of three daughters.  Two of the daughters, Mary Adah George and Helen Louise George, did not marry.  I have not been successful in tracking their middle daughter, Virginia “Jennie” George, who was born about 1881. 

Identifying the author of the Judith Markham newspaper clipping could answer further questions on the identity of Judith Markham Burch and her descendants.  I think that others may be able to tell us more about this family.  Until then – I Need to Know Your Name!

For more details on Judith Markham Burch, visit her page at the Markham of Chesterfield website.  

Moving back in time:  Judith Markham, 1780 > William Markham, abt 1736 > John Markham of Chesterfield, abt 1700.
Judith Markham is my first cousin, six times removed.

About the photo:  Woman Reading The Newspaper, by Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (no date). Via, in the public domain.
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