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). 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Peter Mathews – Searching for Ancestors

Peter Mathews’ ancestry remains a mystery for me!  I’ve had some success in piecing together the story of his lifetime, but, despite a hot pursuit, his parents and grandparents have remained out of sight.  Or, if they are in my research pages, I don’t recognize them yet. 

Dublin as published by John Speed in 1610

Peter Mathews was probably born between 1660 and 1670, perhaps in Ireland or England.  He first appears in military records in 1691, when he is assigned as quartermaster in Benjamin Fletcher’s regiment of foot, serving in Ireland.  Shortly after, in 1692, Peter accompanies Fletcher to New York.  Benjamin Fletcher acted as New York colonial governor and chief commander of the military from 1692, until 1696. During the Fletcher tenure, Peter Mathews served as Fletcher’s personal secretary, and as a Captain of the British troops at Fort William Henry (later Fort George).   There is evidence that Peter Mathews was related to Benjamin Fletcher, possibly being his nephew or younger cousin. 

Considerable effort has been expended to try to identify the ancestors of Peter Mathews.  A number of Mathew, Mathews, Matthews individuals and families have been examined.  To better define that research, various individuals have been placed in the Markham of Chesterfield database under a collective entry - "Mathews Ancestors ZCollector".   At present there are fifteen candidates vying for the position of Peter Mathews’ ancestors.  A list of these candidates, with links, appears in the sketch titled Peter Mathews – Ancestral Possibilities.

This blog post introduces a few of the more interesting “ancestral possibilities”.  More detail can be found in their individual entries in the database. 

Irish Commemorative Stamp, 1991
The first, and most promising, of the candidates is Benfletcher Mathews, who appears in a 1691 burial record at St Michan Church in Dublin, Ireland.  A check, and recheck of this name suggests that it is spelled correctly.  The burial information gives an intriguing clue:  Benfletcher Mathews, who was driven out of Athlone; buried 7 Apr 1691.  Comments on what was happening in Athlone in the winter and spring of 1691 can be found in the sketch titled Athlone Ireland 1690-1691.  It is also intriguing to note another burial in Dublin’s St Michan Church five years later in 1696 – Elizabeth, wife of Vincent Mathews.

John Mathews, quartermaster of Dublin, might also prove of interest.  In records he is styled as a gentleman, and he and his wife Margaret reside on Francis street in Dublin.  John and Margaret Mathews both die in 1660, making them questionable as parents for our Peter Mathews.

Other Dubliners caught my eye - John Mathews and his brother Henry.  They appear among the masters and wardens of Dublin’s Goldsmith’s Guild in the early 1700s.  Several things suggest that they might be descendants of the Dublin quartermaster mentioned above.  The Christian names used in this family do not hint at a connection for our Peter Mathews.  But, for several reasons, they continue to be of interest.

It is likely that Peter Mathews’ family came to Ireland from England in the mid-17th century.  Benjamin Fletcher was born in London in 1640; his father and grandfathers being local and international merchants.  Did the Mathews family also belong to the London merchant class?  I have come across a very interesting Peter Mathews (1617-1677) in London.  He was the son of Baldwin Mathews, a London cloth merchant, and his wife Anna Regoot.  The Regoot family came from the Netherlands to London in the 16th century, and had extensive family and business connections across the English Channel, and also in New Netherlands (New York).  Their family story is interesting!

The search for Peter Mathews’ ancestors will continue.  All clues are welcome.  For more details on Peter Mathews, visit his page at the Markham of Chesterfield website.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Finally – the Mathews Family!

After nearly eight months of hard work, I am finally ready to share my research on the Mathews family at my Markham of Chesterfield database website.   John Markham, my immigrant ancestor, married Catherine Mathews around the year 1740 in Orange county New York.   

The City's First Exchange - from a Souvenir Postal Card
To date, I remain uncertain as to whether Catherine Mathews is the daughter or granddaughter of Peter Mathews, a captain of His Majesties troops at New York.  This question is discussed at several points in the database, and it will be the topic of an upcoming blog post.  For now, try the sketch titled – A Wife for John Markham.

Catherine Mathews’ family is an interesting group.  Her aunts, uncles, and siblings are involved in some of colonial America’s most fascinating stories – Indian treaties, pirates, the Leisler Rebellion, merchant doings of New York City, establishment of the English church at Albany, and Tory intrigue. 

Identifying Catherine Mathews’ ancestors has been a struggle!  I have gathered a long list of clues, but no firm evidence.  Further discussion can be found in the sketch titled – Peter Mathews: Ancestral Possibilities.  The strongest clue lies in Peter Mathews’ relationship to Benjamin Fletcher.  Fletcher served as Colonial Governor of New York from 1692 – 1698.  Peter Mathews was probably a nephew or cousin of some sort to Benjamin Fletcher, but proof of the exact relationship is still lacking.  Fletcher’s ancestral line has also been added to the online database, with the hope that it will eventually provide answers for the Mathews search.  It includes such interesting characters as William Fletcher (father), Henry Vincent (grandfather), and Dorcus Charke (grandmother).  To read more about the possible relationship between Mathews and Fletcher try - Peter Mathews and Benjamin Fletcher: What’s the Connection?

Some branches of the Markham family hold to the theory that Catherine Mathews was a daughter, or granddaughter of Richard Coote, Lord Bellomont, who served as Colonial Governor of New York following Benjamin Fletcher.  My research draws this idea into question, and is discussed in the sketch titled - Our Colonial Governor: Three Theories.

It is my hope that the introduction of the Mathews family to the Markham database will prompt discussion, and eventually lead to answers to the questions surrounding Catherine Mathews.  I would enjoy hearing from others who are interested in their stories.

For more details on Catherine Mathews, Peter Mathews, or Benjamin Fletcher, visit their individual pages at the Markham of Chesterfield website.

Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "Theatres -- U.S. -- N.Y. -- New Amsterdam" The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
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