Back From the Future – Part 2


 A Quote from the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, June 2014:

Christopher Columbus never reached the shores of the North American Continent, but European explorers learned three things from him: there was someplace to go, there was a way to get there, and most importantly, there was a way to get back. Thus began the European exploration of what they referred to as the “New World”.

A Quick Recap

  • So, we left 21st Century Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America (1607). Today, it is a living history of the 17th Century Jamestown Colony.
  • We resurrected and boarded the massive customized 300-ton English merchant sailing vessel, The Sea Venture–the same Virginia Company-owned ship that had 153 travelers and crew aboard and was to deliver the third supply to the Jamestown Colony in 1609.
  • We paused for a time to look back upon my 11th great grandfather, John Rolfe and others devastation, about 661 nautical miles short of their intended Jamestown destination.  This “tempest,” or hurricane, as we might call it today, was nearly the end of all of them.  But, they prevailed over the course of 4-days through their never-ending and tireless fight for their lives and the rescue of their ocean water-hemorrhaging ship. They finally steered the ship onto the surrounding reef to prevent its sinking then landed ashore on “Devil’s Isle.”  Bermuda, with its subtropical temperatures soon became a paradise to them and they replenished their souls and spirits.  The food, in fact, was plentiful because the island had an abundance of wild pigs, birds, and fish, tropical fruits, and even a freshwater lagoon.
  • When we last left our castaways, a year had nearly elapsed and it was springtime. Twenty-four-year-old John Rolfe’s wife, Sarah Hacker, had recently passed; his infant daughter, Bermuda, passed shortly thereafter.  Bermuda had been the first baby born there and Reverend Bucke performed the first marriage there, too. Today many go to Bermuda to marry or honeymoon.
  • I also learned that at some point before leaving Bermuda, John Rolfe may have grabbed up and secretly pocketed some tobacco seeds; possibly from an area today called Tobacco Bay on St. George’s Island, Bermuda.
  • The castaways are once again setting out to complete their voyage to Jamestown, but not before there are five separate mutiny attempts.  In general, some of the castaways questioned authority of their leaders in Bermuda and had fallen in love with the islands.  They weren’t willing to risk unknown hardships in little known Jamestown.   This time the remaining Jamestown-bound passengers and crew numbered only 138.  Eight had already left in a small boat never to be seen again; three died of natural causes; one sailor was murdered; one Indian was murdered; and one castaway, Henry Paine, was executed for sedition.  That left 138 to board the two ships they had built from salvaged steel and wood from the Sea Venture. And, these ships were named: Patience and Deliverance–How very understated yet so very appropo!
  • May 24, 1610 – Our English seafaring ancestors, headed by Sir Thomas Gates, now aboard the Patience and Deliverance, arrive at Jamestown–They find only sixty survivors of a winter famine, known as “the starving time”.

Onward to Heacham

We are journeying on, as well.  We are headed ENE, crossing further up the North Atlantic Ocean from our Bermuda latitude and longitude coordinates: 32.299507, -64.790337. Our destination once again: the time when John Rolfe’s family lived in Heacham, Norfolk, England (Latitude: 52.92 Longitude: 0.48), and where John and his father, Johannes Eustacius Rolfe, both were born–another 3,244 nautical miles.

The year is now 1585.  We have come to Heacham to learn more about John Rolfe’s family life and his early beginnings to better understand his quests.

But first, we need to learn more about the Heacham Village from which John Rolfe emerged.  Our 21st Century Heacham is a thriving village community and popular Norfolk coastal holiday resort situated three miles from Hunstanton and eight miles from Sandringham Village in Norfolk, England.  It is lit by breathtaking east coast sunsets and surrounded by glowing and aromatic purple lavender and scarlet poppy fields. Residents and visitors alike relish in Heacham’s sloping beaches and the soft rolling West Norfolk countryside, which has remained unchanged over time.  In fact, archeologists have discovered that Heacham has existed as far back as the stone age.  And that running water with fertile surrounding lands made Heacham an ideal location for early man to settle. What we know for sure is that there were inhabitants in Heacham around the 5th century when the Anglo-Saxon invaded present-day East Anglia.

lavender-and-poppy-fieldsHeacham–the home to the Rolfe family–History tells us that John Rolfe came from a farming family. For generations they farmed the land and traded on the nearby shores of the Wash.   Quite possibly, it was fields of lavender or poppies that they farmed.  Interestingly enough, Lavender is a plant rich in its own history and myth. With its roots going back to ancient herbalists, it’s properties as a disinfectant and antiseptic, lavender’s reputation grew throughout the centuries.  Lavender became known for its ability to even ward off the plague. And it’s popularity with English royalty also helped anchor it as a cosmetic herb. Queen Victoria had used it as a tonic for her nerves.

Heacham Hall before it burned down in 1941

Heacham Hall before it burned down in 1941

Sadly, Heacham Hall (the family home of the Rolfes) burned down in 1941.  My genealogical research traces the Rolfe family line back as far as 1455 when my 14th great grandfather, Robert Rolfe, also was born at Heacham Hall. But, it was October 17, 1562, when Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe, father of John Thomas Rolfe, our subject, was born there.  John Eustacius at the age of 20 married local Heacham, Dorothea (Dorothea/Dorothy) Mason on her 20th birthday, on Friday, September 24, 1582. Together they had five children in 10 years. Unfortunately, John Eustacius died two months after his 12th wedding anniversary. He was 32 at the time of his death, leaving John, age 8, and his other four siblings, with a 32 year-old widowed mother.

It is disappointing, to learn that not much more is known about John Thomas Rolfe’s childhood or education.  We do know, however, that his mother Dorothy Mason Rolfe, married a Dr. Robert Redmayne, LL.D. (Doctor of Law), on March 9, 1595, just a little over three months after John’s father’s death! Despite Robert’s preferred spelling of his last name “Redmayne,” he descends from Bishop Redman, whose family first settled in Cumberland, and then in Lancashire.  John Rolfe’s mother Dorothy, his stepfather, Robert Redmayne, and his father, John Eustacius Rolfe, are all buried in Heacham at Saint Mary the Virgin’s Church.

So, we can safely assume that John Rolfe’s skill, farming interests, and former family status in Heacham are likely the bases for his drive and desire to create a marketable crop in Jamestown.

We also know that John Rolfe and his second wife, Pocahontas, in April 1616 return from Jamestown to visit his family.

Much more history in John Rolfe’s life continues . . .

 

 

From The Future Back . . .


Destination: England’s 16th Century Rolfe Family

sea-venture-and-consorts

“Historic Voyage, Sea Venture and Consorts at Sea 1609,” a 1984 oil painting by Deryck Foster, was exhibited courtesy of the Bank of Bermuda Foundation in the Jamestown Settlement special exhibition, “Jamestown and Bermuda: Virginia Company Colonies.”

Absent any DeLorean or maverick scientist like Emmett Lathrop “Doc” Brown, we’re headed from the future back to a time before there was this great country known as the United States of America.  But, “Holy Scott!,” we’re crossing the Atlantic Ocean, departing from 21st Century Jamestown, Virginia, aboard a 300-ton merchant sailing vessel, known as the Sea Venture, (England’s first dedicated emigration ship), that we resurrected from her maiden voyage back in 1609. We are embarking on 16th Century Plymouth, a city on the south coast of Devon, England, about 37 miles (60 km) south-west of Exeter and 190 miles (310 km) west-south-west of London between the mouths of the rivers Plym and Tamar.  We are en route to Heacham, England–the home of John Eustacius Rolfe and his wife Lady Dorothea Mason, parents of John Thomas Rolfe.

The Day: June 2 

Our plans have us traveling about 3,800 nautical miles over a period of about two months.  While the average temperatures on land and at sea will be in the mid-50’s to 60’s over the next two months, we also know that the Atlantic Ocean and England will receive about 2-1/3″ of rain over the course of 12 days just during the month of June.  And, based upon weather history we know that we must be ever cautious and vigilant traveling by sea during these particular two months.  The period June 1 to November 30 is the time when others who traveled this route before us have nearly died or succumb to their deaths in the Northern Atlantic Ocean’s waters due to violent tropical winds and rain historically known as tempests!  In fact, a huge storm on July 24, 1609, that lasted four days, tossed the original Sea Venture ship about on the open ocean and she became separated from the rest of her fleet of nine vessels. The force of the hurricane battered this massive ship, causing multiple leaks to start flooding her hold. Most of her passengers and crew believed they were doomed. Still, all the men aboard worked hard to save her and themselves, by pumping out water and throwing traveler’s possessions and ship’s cargo overboard.  On the fourth day, it was Admiral Sir George Somers (founder of Bermuda) who spotted this island. Captain Christopher Newport (an English privateer {AKA sanctioned pirate}, ship captain, and adventurer), sailed the battered ship next to the island’s fringe and wedged her between two large rocks. Everyone (about 150 on board), survived the wreck and escaped to Bermuda’s land known back then to the English as “The Devil’s Islands.”

Also among those aboard the Virginia Company’s Sea Venture had been Sir Thomas Gates, my 11th maternal great uncle, who would serve as Governor of Virginia in 1610 and then as Lieutenant Governor from 1611 until 1614; William Strachey, future secretary of the Virginia Company in Jamestown; my then 24 year old and 11th paternal great grandfather, John Rolfe, with his wife Sarah Hacker, also 24, who was about two months pregnant at the time of their departure from England. Sarah gave birth in February 1610, while a castaway on the Bermuda Isle.  Hence, they named their little girl, Bermuda.  History says that Sarah passed away in the Spring of 1610, and sadly, that Bermuda also passed away on June 2, 1610–just 23 days after the 150 survivors set sail again for Jamestown aboard their two new ships, the Patience and Deliverance, constructed by them over the course of 10 months from the wood and materials they salvaged from the Sea Venture. I can only wonder if Sarah might have passed as a result of unsanitary living conditions or child-birthing practices which were common causes of infections that led to the deaths of so many women and infants in those days.  And little Bermuda, without her mother’s breast milk, would not have received antibodies that infants require to thrive.

If you are questioning signing on to this adventure across time and 3,800 nautical miles across the Atlantic from Virginia to England, I am leaving you with excerpts from TimeMaps™ History Atlas that I hope will help us all better acclimate ourselves to the two hundred year period 1453-1648 AD:

north-america-map-1453-1648-ad

europe-map-1453-1648-ad

—To Be Continued—

 

John Rolfe – Just One of My Family’s Immigrants . . .


The Early Modern Period

John Rolfe Painting 1850Over the next twenty-eight days, we will be revisiting my 11th paternal great grandfather’s story once again.  It is a story that dates back to 1585–the 585th year of the 2nd millennium, the 85th year of the 16th century, and the 6th year of the 1580s decade.  Although much has been written about John Thomas Rolfe and especially his third wife, Powhatan Princess Pocahontas, there’s still new stories and insights unfolding in our 21st century–some 400+ years later.  And, yes, he was probably among a handful of my ancestors who were among America’s first immigrants!

To put his story into greater context, Great grandfather Rolfe, in the 16th century would probably have stood only about 5’ 7” and the women of his day, just 5 feet.  From a worldwide perspective, historians say “The Early Modern Period” (in which John Rolfe was born and lived for 37 years), can best be defined by its globalizing character; i.e., the new explorations and colonizations of the Americas and the rise of new and enduring commerce between previously isolated parts of the world.  To have become a prominent figure of the times, most likely required more drive and early maturity than our 21st century youth could possibly fathom.  After all, man’s average lifespan in the 16th century was a mere 47 years–compared to today’s 74-80 years.  Many people were stricken with smallpox, measles, malaria, scarlet fever, and chickenpox due to poor sanitation and died even younger than 47.  

Greater Understanding and Appreciation

Quite honestly, until my more recent research with a fellow history enthusiast (who just happens to live in John Rolfe’s family’s hometown of Heacham, England), I really didn’t truly understand or appreciate his life in the early modern period or the extensive role this small statured young man played in England’s colonizing America and saving the people of Jamestown with his entrepreneurship and his marriage to Native American Princess Pocahontas.

This is just day one of the next 27 where we will delve more deeply into the adventure and entrepreneurship of John Rolfe (1585-1622).

John Rolfe Letter to Governor Thomas Dale, 1614


marriage-of-john-rolfe-and-pocahontas

Wedding of John Rolfe and Princess Pocahontas,  April 5, 1614

Continuing to further document and understand the lives of our earliest ancestors – emigrants from England to Jamestown, Virginia, I have included below, the 1614 letter  (transcribed and updated to today’s word usage and spellings by me–I made no changes to word choices or punctuation and kept present day English spellings).  My  11th great-grandfather, John Rolfe, (English Explorer), penned this letter to Sir Thomas Dale, then Governor of the Jamestown Colony.  In this deeply moving and revealing letter, John Rolfe asks permission to marry Princess Pocahontas, daughter of Indian Chief Powhatan, who presided over the Powhatan Empire until his death in 1618. If you would like to see the online letter with 400 year-old English words and spellings, please visit  “Virtual Jamestown’s” site .

Honourable Sir, and most worthy Governor:

When your leisure shall best serve you to peruse these lines, I trust in God, the beginning will not strike you into a greater admiration, than the end will give you good content. It is a matter of no small moment, concerning my own particular, which here I impart unto you, and which toucheth me so dearly, as the tenderness of my salvation. Howbeit I freely subject myself to your grave and mature judgment, deliberation, approbation, and determination; assuring myself of your zealous admonitions, and godly comforts, either persuading me to desist, or encouraging me to persist therein, with a religious and godly care, for which (from the very instant, that this began to root itself within the secret bosom of my breast) my daily and earnest prayers have been, still are, and ever shall be produced forth with as sincere a godly zeal as I possibly may to be directed, aided and governed in all my thoughts, words, and deeds, to the glory of God, and for my eternal consolation. To persevere wherein I never had more need, nor (til now) could ever imagine to have been moved with the like occasion.

But (my case standing as it doth) what better worldly refuge can I here seek, then to shelter myself under the safety of your favourable protection? And did not my ease proceed from an unspotted conscience, I should not dare to offer to your view and approved judgement, these passions of my troubled soul, so full of fear and trembling in hypocrisy and dissimulation. But knowing my own innocence and godly fervor, in the whole prosecution hereof, I doubt not of your benign acceptance, and clement construction. As for malicious depravers, and turbulent spirits, to whom nothing is tasteful but what pleaseth their unsavory palate, I pass not for them being well assured in my persuasion (by the often trial and proving of myself, in my holiest meditations and prayers) that I am called hereunto by the spirit of God; and it shall be sufficient for me to be protected by yourself in all virtuous and pious endeavours. And for my more happy proceeding herein, my daily oblations shall ever be addressed to bring to pass so good effects, that yourself, and all the world may truly say: This is the work of God, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

But to avoid tedious preambles, and to come nearer the matter: first suffer me with your patience, to sweep and make clean the way wherein I walk, from all suspicions and doubts, which may be covered therein, and faithfully to reveal unto you, what should move me hereunto.

Let therefore this my well advised protestation, which here I make between God and my own conscience, be a sufficient witness, at the dreadful day of judgment (when the secret of all men’s hearts shall be opened) to condemn me herein, if my chief intent and purpose be not, to strive with all my power of body and mind, in the undertaking of so mighty a matter, no way led (so far forth as man’s weakness may permit) with the unbridled desire of carnal affection: but for the good of this plantation, for the honour of our country, for the glory of God, for my own salvation, and for the converting to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, an unbelieving creature, namely Pocahontas. To whom my hearty and best thoughts are, and have a long time been so entangled, and enthralled in so intricate a labyrinth, that I was even wearied to unwind myself thereout. But almighty God, who never faileth his, that truly invocate his holy name hath opened the gate, and led me by the hand that I might plainly see and discern the safe paths wherein to trade.

To you therefore (most noble Sir) the patron and Father of us in this country do I utter the effects of this settled and long continued affection (which hath made a mighty war in my meditations) and here I do truly relate, to what issue this dangerous combat is come unto, wherein I have not only examined, but thoroughly tried and pared my thoughts even to the quick, before I could end and fit wholesome and apt applications to cure so dangerous an ulcer. I never failed to offer my daily and faithful prayers to God, for his sacred and holy assistance. I forgot not to set before mine eyes the frailty of mankind, his prones to evil, his indulgence of wicked thoughts, with many other imperfections wherein man is daily ensnared, and oftentimes overthrown, and them compared to my present estate. Nor was I ignorant of the heavy displeasure which almighty God conceived against the sons of Levi and Israel for marrying strange wives, nor of the inconveniences which may thereby arise, with other the like good motions which made me look about warily and with good circumspection, into the grounds and principal agitations, which thus should provoke me to be in love with one whose education hath been rude, her manners barbarous, her generation accursed, and so discrepant in all nature from myself, that oftentimes with fear and trembling, I have ended my private controversy with this: surely these are wicked instigations, hatched by him who seeketh and delighteth in man’s destruction; and so with fervent prayers to be ever preserved from such diabolical assaults (as I took those to be) I have taken some rest.

Thus, when I had thought I had obtained my peace and quietness, behold another, but more gracious temptation hath made breaches into my holiest and strongest meditations; with which I have been put to a new trial, in a straighter manner then the former: for besides the many passions and sufferings which I have daily, hourly, yea and in my sleep endured, even awaking me to astonishment, taxing me with remissness, and carelessness, refusing and neglecting to perform the duty of a good Christian, pulling me by the ear, and crying: why dost not thou endeavour to make her a Christian? And these have happened to my greater wonder, when she hath been furthest separated from me, which in common reason (were it not an undoubted work of God) might breed forgetfulness of a far more worthy creature. Besides, I say the holy spirit of God often demanded of me, why I was created?

If not for transitory pleasures and worldly vanities, but to labour in the Lord’s vineyard, there to sow and plant, to nourish and increase the fruits thereof, daily adding with the good husband in the Gospel, somewhat to the talent, that in the end the fruits may be reaped, to the comfort of the laborer in this life, and his salvation in the world to come? And if this be, as undoubtedly this is, the service Jesus Christ requireth of his best servant: who unto him that hath these instruments of piety put into his hands and wilfully despiseth to work with them. Likewise, adding hereunto her great appearance of love to me, her desire to be taught and instructed in the knowledge of God, her capableness of understanding, her aptness and willingness to receive any good impression, and also the spiritual, besides her own incitements stirring me up hereunto.

What should I do? Shall I be of so untoward a disposition, as to refuse to lead the blind into the right way? Shall I be so unnatural, as not to give bread to the hungry or uncharitable, as not to cover the naked? Shall I despise to actuate these pious duties of a Christian? Shall the base fear of displeasing the world, overpower and withhold me from revealing unto man these spiritual works of the Lord, which in my meditations and prayers, I have daily made known unto him? God forbid. I assuredly trust He hath thus dealt with me for my eternal felicity, and for his glory; and I hope so to be guided by his heavenly grace, that in the end by my faithful pains, and christian-like labour, I shall attain to that blessed promise pronounced by that holy Prophet Daniel unto the righteous that bring many unto the knowledge of God. Namely, that they shall shine like the stars forever and ever. A sweeter comfort cannot be to a true Christian, nor a greater encouragement for him to labour all the days of his life, in the performance thereof, nor a greater gain of consolation, to be desired at the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.

Again by my reading, and conference with honest and religious persons, have I received no small encouragement, besides serena meaconscientia, the clearness of my conscience, clean from the filth of impurity, quo est instar muri chennai, which is unto me, as a brasen wall. If I should set down at large, the prohibitions and godly motions, which have striven within me, I should but make a tedious and unnecessary volume. But I doubt not these shall be sufficient both to certify you of my true intents, in discharging of my duty to God, and to yourself, to whose gracious providence I humbly submit myself, for his glory, your honour, our Country’s good, the benefit of this Plantation, and for the converting of one unregenerate, to regeneration; which I beseech God to grant, for his dear Son Christ Jesus his sake.

Now if the vulgar sort, who square all men’s actions by the base rule of their own filthiness, shall tax or taunt me in this my godly labour: let them know, it is not any hungry appetite, to gorge myself with incontinency; sure (if I would, and were so sensually inclined) I might satisfy such desire, though not without a seared conscience, yet with Christians more pleasing to the eye, and less fearful in the offense unlawfully committed. Nor am I in so desperate a state, that I regard not what becometh of me; nor am I out of hope but one day to see my Country, nor so void of friends, nor mean in birth, but there to obtain a match to my great content: nor have I ignorantly passed over my hopes there, or regardlessly seek to loose the love of my friends, by taking this course: I know them all, and have not rashly overstepped any.

But shall it please God thus to dispose of me (which I earnestly desire to fulfill my ends before set down) I will heartedly accept of it as a godly tax appointed me, and I will never cease, (God assisting me) until I have accomplished, and brought to perfection so holy a work, in which I will daily pray God to bless me, to mine, and her eternal happiness. And thus desiring no longer to live, to enjoy the blessings of God, then this my resolution doth tend to such Godly ends, as are by me before declared: not doubting of your favourable acceptance, I take my leave, beseeching Almighty God to rain down upon you, such plenitude of his heavenly graces, as your heart can wish and desire, and so I rest,

At your command most willing to be disposed of,

John Rolfe


Source:

Jameson, J, Franldin. Narratives of Early Virginia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907. (237-244)

America’s First Entrepreneur


Indian Princess Pocahontas and Husband, Captain John Rolfe

In today’s world, there still remains much curiosity and interest in the 17th century relationship between Indian Princess Pocahontas and Captain John Rolfe. It was John Rolfe’s courage, persistence, and relationships that helped change our world. Christine, my friend who lives in Heacham, England, reached out to me about two years ago regarding Pocahontas, John Rolfe, and the Rolfe family of England and Virginia. Since then, we have been comparing notes,documentation,relics, landmarks, and even new projects in Heacham, Jamestown, and Kippax to further honor and share information about this couple’s world,their lifestyles, and legacies.

Not only does Christine live in Heacham which has historic ties to Pocahontas (who married my paternal 11th great grandfather, John Thomas Rolfe, on April 5, 1614, in Jamestown, Virginia–the first inter-racial marriage approved by Virginia’s Governor John Dale and Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas’ father), but Christine also attends the 13th Century-built Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, where the Rolfe Family lived and worshipped. John Thomas Rolfe took his wife, Rebecca (Pocahontas),and their two-year-old son, Thomas, back to England to visit his family at Heacham Hall in 1616. They settled in Brentford. A year later, when John was preparing to return with Pocahontas to Virginia, Pocahontas became ill and died in Gravesend. She was laid to rest at St George’s parish churchyard. After Pocahontas’ death, John returned to Virginia with Tocomoco a priest-counselor to Pocahontas’ father, Chief Powhatan, who also was married to Pocahontas’ half sister, Matachanna. Samuel Argall (adventurer, naval officer, and employee of the Virginia Company), commanded the ship. John’s son, Thomas, was guarded by Lewis Stukeley and later adopted by John’s brother, Henry. John married Jane Pierce two years later. They soon had a daughter named Elizabeth. It’s believe that John lost his life in the 1622 Native American massacre near Jamestown. The Rolfe family home, Heacham Hall, burned down in 1941.

John Rolfe:  America’s First Entrepreneur

And today’s post is titled after the book “America’s First Entrepreneur,” authored by John L. Rolfe (a probable 20th generation descendant of his namesake). Here’s what the author has to say about his 2011 book America’s First Entrepreneur:

The exciting and inspiring epic adventure of America’s First Entrepreneur. A humble and astute English farmer has a vision of entrepreneurial success across the ocean in Virginia, he embarks on an epic adventure with his pregnant wife, he endures the storm of the century, the hurricane which inspired William Shakespeare to write “The Tempest,” he survives the wreck of the “Sea Venture” and is marooned on a deserted island for almost ten months when other survivors mutiny and murder, his wife gives birth to their baby on the deserted island and then the baby dies, he arrives in Jamestown to find Hell on Earth, English Cannibalism, and starvation, his English wife dies, he persists with his entrepreneurial vision and tastes success, his cash crop saves the Virginia colony financially, he converts an Indian princess to Christianity and marries her in a royal wedding, the first interracial church marriage in the Americas, his marriage saves the Virginia colony politically, and he and his Indian princess wife take a promotional tour to London as celebrities, all in just seven years. But for the contributions of America’s First Entrepreneur, the Virginia colony would have failed and the French, Spanish, and Dutch, rather than the English, would have colonized not only New Mexico, California, Florida, Canada, Delaware, and New York, but most of what is now the United States. In a very real sense, America’s First Entrepreneur is responsible for the United States being an English speaking nation, for our English common law, and for our English cultural heritage of representative government and religious freedom on which the United States of America was founded. America’s First Entrepreneur’s cash crop becomes the chief export from America for the next 150 years, and is still successful after 400 years with multi-billion dollar sales year in and year out. America’s First Entrepreneur illustrates all the important time-tested principles of entrepreneurship. America’s first entrepreneur was wildly successful within seven years using these principles after a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Purchasing Information

I’ve ordered my copy of this book to save to my ever-growing library.  Here’s the ordering information if you’re also interested:  http://www.bookdepository.com/Americas-First-Entrepreneur-John-Rolfe/9781467950817.

Christine also has kept me abreast of the newest DVD’s development and notified me that it was recently released by the Christian Broadcasting Network in Europe (CBNEurope.com).  Here is the the link to DOVE OF PEACE DVD online purchase page at CBN 700 Club at Jamestown.

https://www.cbn.com/special/pocahontas/pocahontas.aspx

“Tapp-ing” Into Lives in 19th Century Spotsylvania County


Local author, Pat Sullivan, penned and published the post that follows on Saturday, September 2014.  It is a far more intimate story of Phenie Tapp’s (my second great aunt) family than my post “Bi-racial Relationships of the 60’s–the 1860’s!”, penned May 14, 2014. My post tells about my second great-grandmother Catharine Elizabeth “Widow Tapp” Dempsey (descendent of Wicocomico Indian Nation’s Last Chief, King William Taptico), who married my second great-grandfather Lawrence T. “Larl” Boling (descendent of the Bolling aristocrats from ancient England) in 1868; and her life during the Civil War on the “Wilderness  Farm,”  when the “Battle of the Wilderness,” (Grant vs Lee) was fought killing more than 50,000 men.  This battle became known as “The Crossroads of the Civil War.”  In contrast, Pat Sullivan’s following post documents the harsh and intimate details of many of those same family’s lives in the mid-1800’s–up close and personal!
My photo
I tell the stories of some of Virginia’s richly documented historical families. Drawing on original photographs, letters and other source material, I seek to provide an intimate look at the lives of some remarkable people who lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries. My book, “No Matter What Befalls Me: Virginia Families at War and Peace,” was published in 2015. 
The World According to Phenie Tapp  
Photo enhancement courtesy of Tom Myers

For students of the battle of the Wilderness, the words “the Widow Tapp farm” evoke images of the near capture of Robert E. Lee followed by his stirring effort to personally lead the newly arrived Texas Brigade against Hancock’s advancing troops. For all that has been written about that pivotal moment for the Army of Northern Virginia, much less is known about Mrs. Tapp and the personal stories of her extended family. As we shall see, were it not for the unlucky circumstance of having this battle fought near her cabin, no one would have ever heard of her. [Please note that all images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing]

Of course, she did not enter this world known as the Widow Tapp. She began her life in Orange County as Catherine Elizabeth Dempsey about 1803, a daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Dempsey. In December 1833 she married Vincent Tapp of Culpeper County and by 1840 they had settled in Spotsylvania, where they raised their three daughters and two sons.
The Tapps were not wealthy people; far from it. They eked out a hardscrabble existence from land rented from Horace Lacy, owner of nearby “Ellwood.” They owned no slaves. Before he died in about 1857, Vincent Tapp’s name appeared on the list of Spotsylvania’s insolvents.

The Tapp house (National Park Service)

This watercolor of the Tapp cabin was painted by artist and Union army veteran George Leo Frankenstein in 1865. It is the only known image of the Tapp home. The cabin measured about 20’x30′ and housed as many as seven people at a time. The 1860 census tells us that this humble structure was home to Catherine Tapp, daughters Sarah Elizabeth, Margaret, Harriet and her husband Andrew Jackson Lewis, and son James. The other son, William Benjamin Tapp, was evidently living in Culpeper County at the time.

Shown on that census was one other person living in Catherine Tapp’s cramped cabin – a baby girl. We will return to this child shortly.

Western Spotsylvania, 1863

Across Orange Plank Road from the Tapp place was the farm of Thomas and Eliza Pulliam. In the map detail above, their property is indicated as “Mrs. Pulliam” in the lower left of the image just southeast of the uncompleted Fredericksburg & Gordonsville Railroad. To the west of the Pulliams’ house was “Mount View,” the home of William V. Chewning, whose son Absalom supervised work at the Catherine Furnace for the Confederacy. To the southeast was the farm of Eliza’s brother Richard H. Pulliam. Unlike the Tapps, who were tenant farmers,  Thomas and Eliza Pulliam were freeholders and slave owners. Living with them were their two sons, Thomas Richard (known locally as “Tom Dick”) and John James. By 1860 Eliza Pulliam shared two things in common with her neighbor Catherine Tapp. First, they were both widows. Like Vincent Tapp, Thomas Pulliam (who may have been a cousin of Eliza) died during the 1850s.

The other thing that these two widows shared was the fact that they were both grandmothers of the baby girl born in the Tapp house in February 1860.
By 1859 Thomas Richard Pulliam was having an affair with Catherine Tapp’s oldest daughter, twenty five year old Sarah Elizabeth. The child born of this relationship, Eliza Frances, is known to history as Phenie Tapp.
Thomas R. Pulliam appears to have been at the least reluctant, and even unwilling, to acknowledge his paternity of Phenie or any obligation to marry Sarah Elizabeth. As one might expect, Sarah was herself unwilling to accept this unsatisfactory status quo and she sought relief in court. The result was that Thomas Richard Pulliam was compelled to sign this bastardy bond in June 1860, in which he finally acknowledged his paternity of Phenie and pledged to provide support until she reached age 14:

Bastardy bond of Thomas R. Pulliam (CRHC)

Know all men by these presents that we Thos. R. Pulliam & [blank] are held & firmly bound unto the overseer of the Poor for the county of Spotsylvania in the Just and full sum of one hundred fifty dollars to which payment well & truly to be made to the said overseer of the poor for said county, we bind ourselves our heirs Exors. & honor jointly & severally by these presents. Sealed hereto our seals [29th?] day of June 1860 and adjudge that Thos. R. Pulliam who was thereof accused & was the father of a Bastard child of Sarah E. Tapp an unmarried white woman of the said county, did order him the said Thos. R. Pulliam to enter into bond with good security conditioned for the maintenance of the said bastard child for the term of fourteen years. Now if the said Thos. R. Pulliam shall on each and every year on the first day of May on each & every such year for the term of fourteen years beginning this day to be paid to the overseer of the Poor of said county the sum of ten dollars per annum as aforesaid for the support & maintenance of the said bastard child; then this obligation to be void otherwise to remain in full force and virtue.
                                                                                          Thos R. Pulliam (Seal)
                                                                                          Thomas C. Pulliam (Seal)
                                                                                          R.W. Carter (Seal)
1868. April 6. Cr. the above bond by seventy dollars paid this day by T.R. Pulliam which has been paid over to S.E. Tapp.
                                         R.C. Dabney

This situation had scarcely simmered down when the sons of both Catherine Tapp and Eliza Pulliam took up arms for the Confederacy. Thomas and John Pulliam enlisted in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, the same regiment of my great grandfather. William Benjamin Tapp joined Stuart’s Light Horse Artillery, while his brother James signed up with the 7th Virginia Infantry in the fall of 1862. James fell ill almost immediately and remained on the sick list for the entire time he was a soldier until he died in the summer of 1863.

One would think that Tom Dick Pulliam would have his hands full fighting the Union army and avoiding responsibility for his daughter. One would be wrong. During the war he found the time and energy to bed the wife of Oscar Mastin, the former Sarah Faulconer. Oscar and Sarah had married in 1859 and had a daughter together, Laura Lee. In due course Sarah’s dalliance with Tom Pulliam became known to Oscar Mastin, who sued for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Sarah married Tom in June 1869; by then their oldest son was a year old. A second son, George, was born in 1872. Third was Judson Hammond Pulliam, born in February 1876. Sarah’s youngest son, William Jefferson Pulliam, was born three years after her husband’s death.
By May 1864 the peccadilloes of Tom Dick Pulliam did not loom large in the life of Catherine Tapp. The Union Army, twice the size of Lee’s still divided forces, came pouring into Orange and Spotsylvania on May 4. By May 6 General Lee had set up his headquarters at the Tapp farm, trying to buy time until Longstreet’s Corps could join him and stave off impending disaster. General Hancock’s troops appeared at the far end of the Tapp property, with little to stop them from advancing and capturing Lee save for the artillery of William T. Poague. Some of A.P. Hill’s men evacuated the Tapp family and shepherded them across the road to the house of Eliza Pulliam. In an interview she gave to National Park Service historian Ralph Happel in 1937, Phenie Tapp recalled how “the bullets struck the dirt around them, kicking up dust like the first drops of a coming storm.”
At last the Texas Brigade, the vanguard of Longstreets’s long anticipated arrival, came just in time to save the day. What followed next was one of the most dramatic moments of the Civil War.
Despite the ferocity of the gunfire and cannonading of that day, Catherine Tapp’s home and family survived. Her surviving son William came home safely after the war and returned to Culpeper, where he lived until his death in 1876. Thomas and John Pulliam also came home in one piece. John married Melissa Chewning and established his own farm. Tom and Sarah lived with Eliza.
Whether Tom Pulliam continued his profligate ways is not known, but I am willing to hazard a guess that he was not a reformed man. In any case, his life came to an abrupt and violent end on 14 January 1876. As reported in The Fredericksburg News:

Tom Dick Pulliam was lying asleep on a sofa in his house near “Faulkners” when Tom Sutherlin struck him in the head with a piece of spoke timber, which killed him instantly. Cause, an old grudge. Sutherlin escaped. The citizens offer a one hundred dollar reward for him.

 Two weeks later, on 1 February 1876, George Washington Estes Row mentioned Pulliam’s demise in a letter written to his fifteen year old cousin, Emma Farish: Tom Dick Pulliam was murdered by Tom Sutherland a week or two ago. They were on a drunk. Sutherland has not been caught – and if you see him catch him as the Governor has offered one hundred dollars reward. Give me half, won’t you?


These were the circumstances in which Phenie Tapp was born and spent her formative years. It is little wonder, then, that the remaining sixty eight years of her life assumed the character that they did.
 After her grandmother Catherine died in May 1879, Phenie continued to live with her maiden aunt Margaret at the Tapp place. In fact, Phenie would live there for all her long life.
In June 1881 Phenie gave birth to a daughter, Madosha. Father unknown.
On 19 January 1896 Phenie traveled to Washington, D.C. with John C. Stanford, with whom she exchanged wedding vows. Their marital bliss seems to have been of short duration. During a trip to Orange they encountered one of her old flames, Isaac Jones, and all hell broke loose. From the Fredericksburg Daily Star 26 March 1896. Written in the incomparable style of Charles Henry Robey:

A Row in Orange
Two Men Seriously Injured

 Isaac Jones, of Spotsylvania, and John C. Stanford, of Fauquier, had an altercation, resulting in a desperate fight, at the house of Mr. Oscar Almond, near Locust Grove, in Orange County, Sunday afternoon about 4:30 o’clock, in which Jones received a pistol ball in his left arm and Stanford’s head and face were badly hacked and cut with a grubbing hoe. 

Both men are married men. Jones’ family living near the Wilderness Store and Stanford’s at Elk Run in Fauquier. 

The row was on account of one Phenie Tapp, living near Parker’s, in Spotsylvania, a rustic nymph du pave, whose charms seem to have enthralled both of them. She and Jones, it seems, have been friends for the past four or five years, all others being ousted in his favor, until Stanford, an itinerant sewing machine repairer, put in an appearance last fall. 

He must have made a complete conquest of the woman, for she shortly abandoned Jones to follow her new lover. 

Jones’ rage at being left in the lurch is to have been terrible. He swore vengeance on both of them, and promised to carry it out, should they come in his way. 

Stanford and the woman went to Washington, where they claimed to have been married, and came to Orange Sunday to attend some business matters that S. had left unsettled. The woman stopped at Mr. Almond’s, while the man went to the home of Constable J. L Morris. 

While he was absent, Jones put in his appearance, and when Stanford returned to Almond’s they met and the row occurred. Jones says that after some words Stanford started to draw his pistol on him, and that he used the hoe in self defense. 

Stanford’s story is that as he approached the house of Almond, Jones came out, and picking up the hoe, cursed and assaulted him. The woman who got the men apart confirms what Stanford says. 

Constable Morris who left home on his way to Orange Courthouse at the same time Stanford started for Almond’s heard the pistol shots and screams of women. 

He started in the direction of the sound, and met Stanford in an exhausted condition, and smeared with blood. 

He told Constable what had occurred, and asked to be taken to some place where his wounds could be attended to. 

Mr. Morris did this and then went to the scene of the affray. 

He found Jones and the woman there. Jones gave him his version of the affair as related above, and said that the intended to follow and kill Stanford. The woman said that but for her he would have overtaken his victim before the Constable met him, and would have surely killed him. 

Mr. Morris said he considered Jones’s wound very slight, but he thought Stanford was in a bad way. The ball struck Jones’ left hand, just breaking the skin and entering the fleshy part of the arm near the elbow. The wounded man wanted the constable to cut the ball out, in order to save him a doctor’s bill. 

Jones returned home Sunday night to have his wounds attended to, and Stanford and his alleged wife came to Spotsylvania to the home of the woman’s mother Monday morning. 

Constable Morris reported the matter to the Orange authorities Monday and the proper steps were taken to have the parties brought to justice. 

The people in the vicinity are very indignant at the occurrence and there seems to be a strong sentiment in favor of dealing severely with the law breakers. 

The phrase “nymph du pave” was unfamiliar to me, so I looked it up. Of the various definitions offered, my favorite is “a woman of extinguished morality.” It should be noted here that at the time of this altercation, Isaac Jones was sixty years old.

It is also worth noting that during this entire episode John Coffey Stanford was still legally married to Isabella, his wife of thirty three years whom he abandoned in Fauquier County in the early 1890s. A month after Stanford’s showdown with Jones, John and Isabella mutually sued each other for divorce on the basis of desertion. A divorce decree was in due course granted to Isabella Stanford.
A year after that violent competition for the affection of Phenie Tapp, a child, Mary Catherine, joined the Tapp household. On the 1900 census she is designated as Phenie’s adopted daughter, leading some to speculate that  she was actually the daughter of Madosha. In any case, the identity of the father is unknown.
Phenie’s escapades next made the news in this brief piece in the 10 July 1902 edition of the Free Lance, in which she is misnamed as “Vena Taft”:

Although acquitted of the “offense” alledgedly committed with Andrew Jackson Banks, who was black, it is apparent that he enjoyed a relationship with Phenie beyond that of his employment as her “hired hand,” as he is noted in subsequent censuses. Phenie and Jack lived together for the next forty years.

By 1910 Madosha had evidently married a James Oaks, whose occupation is variously given as “woodchopper” or “tie getter,” which I presume meant someone who hauled railroad ties. After 1910 Madosha and James vanish from the written record, as far as I can see.
Mary Catherine Tapp married Frederick Thomas Hicks on 4 January 1917. They lived with Phenie for a time before moving to Richmond, where they raised six children. Mary Catherine died in 1935; Fred outlived her by nineteen years. They are buried in the Hicks cemetery in Spotsylvania:

Phenie Tapp was an undisguised foe of Prohibition and she and Jack Banks supplemented their income by distilling and selling moonshine. This brought unwelcome attention from Revenue agents from time to time, but I find no record that they did any serious jail time for their efforts.

During the 1930s historian Douglas Southall Freeman unsuccessfully attempted to buy the Tapp farm in order to preserve it, “but found Phenie eccentric, the title clouded and funds hard to raise.” [The Wilderness Campaign, edited by Gary W. Gallagher. University of North Carolina Press, 1997, p. 194]
By the end of her life Phenie was living in the third house that had been built on the property, the original log cabin in which she had been born having long since decayed to ruin.
Eighty four year old Eliza Frances Tapp died on 31 May 1944 at the home of Calvin Macrae Jones, the son of her one time beau and a handy man with a grubbing hoe, Isaac Jones. From The Free Lance Star 2 June 1944:

Mrs. Phenie Tapp Dies at Wilderness

Mrs. Phenie Frances Tapp, 84, of the Parker neighborhood in Spotsylvania, died at the home of Calvin Jones at Wilderness.

Long a picturesque character Mrs. Tapp had an intimate knowledge of the famous battle of the Wilderness, fought over the section where she lived in 1864. She was four years old at the time of the great battle and was a granddaughter to the famous Widow Tapp, on whose farm General Lee had his headquarters and who is often referred to in accounts of the fighting.

Funeral services for Mrs. Tapp will be conducted be conducted at the grave at Oak Hill Cemetery at 3 o’clock Saturday. 

A stone for both Phenie and Madosha stands at Oak Hill:

The Free Lance Star 10 January 1950

Six years after Phenie’s death, the Tapp farm was offered for sale by her second cousin Elsie Davenport. At some point a portion of the property was acquired by Dr. Allan Mowry Giddings on behalf of the Civil War Round Table of Battle Creek, Michigan. This parcel he donated to the National Park Service in 1963. An additional fifty three acres was bought by the Park Service 1968-1972.

I wish to acknowledge the following persons whose help made possible today’s post: Diane Ballman of the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center; historian Eric Mink of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park; and my friends and fellow researchers Wil Bowler and Tom Myers. Many thanks to each of you. Any errors in this piece are mine alone.

It’s That Time of Year To Take Inventory . . .


In the Headlines

Not ready yet to leave the Christmas celebrations that honored the birth of Christ?  Me, too!  Yet, I am being rudely pushed to look back on the major stories and the deaths around the world in the headlines of 2016 before bidding it farewell–as if living through them wasn’t enough already!  This isn’t to say that I won’t welcome 2017 with open arms, because I will.  But, we can’t possibly know (or choose not to foretell) what is in store next for humankind.  And this is where I choose prayer over worry or anticipation, and to poke fun when and where I can.

Acknowledging Deaths of Notables

So let’s just chat a little about the counts and categorizations of these notable deaths of those humans who were better known than most of us because of their occupations and their lives in the limelight.  Yet for them, like many of our family, friends and neighbors, they were chosen–regardless of their age, gender, race or ethnicity, DNA heritage, wealth, or reason for notability to end their journey and stay here on planet earth.  Now this is what I call an equalizer!   Most of these notables were widely known in Hollywood and were comfortable in the various social circles in which these people congregate to celebrate life and their successes, and various media worldwide annually count and pay homage to them.

Interestingly enough though, these counts and categorizations vary depending upon the source who provides them.    For example, TV Guide’s web article sites 60; Legacy.com’s slideshow includes 93; CBS News’ slideshow has 151 as of December 28; and, one of my favorite genealogical resources findagrave.com has a comprehensive “Necrology” Page that lists people and links to individual biographies and memorial pages for those who have died during a specific time period.  Findagrave states that it lists only 75 of the most famous people who died during the year–it starts in the year 1900 and maintains famous deaths by year and occupation through the present day.  And my count of the photos totals 75.  In contrast, however, Findagrave’s comprehensive list classifies notables and spans them across a variety of 31 categories.  One would quite naturally think then that one wouldn’t find counts of as many as 76 names within a single category. Yet six of the 31 categories have 70+  deaths listed. In fact, Findagrave’s sum of their categorized listings for 2016 totaled  566 !!!  I guess I’m just being picky, or maybe Findagrave chose not to rank individual notables or their talents and skills for which they might be best known so they cross-classified them.

Below is my raw table of the 31 categories and counts of deceased with links to Findagrave’s categorized lists and associated pictures and biographies–followed by my admittedly quirky comments.

Click on any category within this table to go directly to findagrave.com’s page. choose thumbnails or list view, then click on any individual to see their full biography and memorial page.

Actors 76
Actresses 73
Animals 1
Artists & Architects 7
Authors and Writers 54
Business Magnates 3
Crime Fighters & Lawyers 1
Criminals, Eccentrics, & Oddities 1
Educators 1
Entertainers 75
Explorers & Adventurers 4
Magicians 0
Medal of Honor Recipients 3
Military Figures 5
Miscellaneous 9
Musicians & Composers 75
Native Americans 1
Organized Crime Figures 0
Philanthropists 0
Politicians 75
Relatives of Notables 0
Religious Figures 10
Royalty 6
Scientists & Inventors 9
Social Reformers 0
Sports Figures 75
Suffragists 0
U.S. First Ladies 1
U.S. Presidents & Vice Presidents 0
U.S. Supreme Court Justices 1
Victims of Crime & Disaster 0

Quirky Commentary

Let’s start with the obvious:

  • Take a look first at those table categories that were empty. These would be: Magicians–maybe there is more to this thing they call “magic,” than I realized; Organized Crime Figures–Ah ha–does crime really pay?; Philanthropists–did their gifts to charities and helping the needy buy them more time?; In the Relatives of Notables category, did Notables save their relatives just because they could?; Has society just given up and there are no more Social Reformers or Suffragists?; U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents–now there are a few who are getting up there and we all know the tolls of  being Commander In Chief;  Victims of Crime and Disasters–were there none this year, well that would be a wonder, if it were true.
  • Separate categories for Actors and Actresses?  After 1660 in England, women first started to appear on stage, the terms actor or actress was initially used interchangeably for female performers; in the 1950’s and 1960’s post-World War II period, contributions of women to cultural life in general were being reviewed and occupational titles were being updated to become unisex and universally applied to men and women.  With all the attention recently to transgenders–doesn’t a single category just make more sense?
  • Well, here’s a category that is seldom seen or heard about within notable deaths: Animals.  Let’s see, that reduces my 566 total down to 565.  In this instance, the inclusion was the 18-year-old 2001 Kentucky Derby Winner “Monarchos.”
  • Nancy Reagan’s fame became more universal when she was wife of our 40th President, Ronald Reagan and this country’s First Lady.  (But she was First Lady #39 because President James Buchanan never married!)  Nancy  Reagan was a professional actress from 1949-1956 and appeared in 11 movies and a music video.  She was also a social reformer for her “Just Say No” anti-drug abuse message.  So, Nancy’s fame was cross-classified among 3 categories:  Actress, Authors and Writers, and First Lady–But shouldn’t she also have been included within  the categories “relative of a notable,”  and “Politician?” After all, most of us know she was the woman behind the man–especially in the latter years of Reagan’s administration, during his catnaps.  So, I’ll subtract another 2 from my running count of 565 to make it 563 notable deaths of humans!
  • Now, what comes to your minds when you think “Artists and Architects?”I’m open to suggestions for one or more categories to improve upon Findagrave’s overarching category; but among the 7 notables listed, only 1 was a fine arts and sculpture artist–Marcel Barbeau; two were architects–Gertrude Kerbis and  Zaha Hadid; the remaining four notables:  1 was a cartoon films animator, another was a cartoonist and illustrator, and finally the last two included an entertainer’s costume designer, and a Paris-born fashion designer!
  • But wait, what about the 75 entertainers and 75 musicians and composers? Were the actors and actresses not entertainers, or were the entertainers who among them were Screen, TV, and music producers or directors, comedians, singers, not entertaining?
  • And finally, there also were 75 politicians listed–well, we all have heard far too much about politics and politicians this year–I will just leave this one alone.

Truly, 2016 was a year among years to be remembered–not because it was great in so many ways.  But rather, because it was so painfully hurtful and outright unbelievable in far too many categories–You know, all lives matter! We all should conduct ourselves mannerly and respectfully.  We also should ask ourselves today what legacies do we think we will leave behind, and what will we be remembered for by others when its time for our names to be listed?

Happy 2017 Everyone!

A Christmas Pause During “The Great War” (1914 – 1919)


“No Man’s Land” is the term used by soldiers to describe the ground between the two opposing trenches. Its width along the Western Front could vary a great deal. The average distance in most sectors was about 250 yards (230 metres). However, at Guillemont it was only 50 yards (46 metres) whereas at Cambrai it was over 500 yards (460 metres). The narrowest gap was at Zonnebeke where British and German soldiers were only about seven yards apart.

No Man’s Land contained a considerable amount of barbed wire. In the areas most likely to be attacked, there were ten belts of barbed wire just before the front-line trenches. In some places the wire was more than a 100 feet (30 metres) deep.

The group “Celtic Thunder” sings the story of this World War truce. The German soldiers take a spontaneous pause to sing Christmas Carols and from across “No Man’s Land the allied troops joined in before returning to their fighting in the morn . . . This heart-wrenching music video tells that story.

Christmas Traditions in Our Nation’s Capital


One of my former colleagues posted this article from a pamphlet he picked up at the Mary Surratt House Museum titled, “Christmas of Yesterday: A History of Our Treasured Traditions and Holiday Customs.” (If you recall, Mary Surratt was an alleged member of the Abraham Lincoln assassination conspiracy, and holds the dubious distinction of being the first woman executed by the U.S. government. She was hung for treason in July 1865.)

Some of us who are natives or have lived in and around Washington, D.C. (Congress on July 16, 1790, declared the “District of Columbia” as our nation’s capital). may already be familiar with some stories about Christmas traditions just because of our close proximity to The White House.  Others, maybe not so much.  So this post is intended especially for those of you who may be interested in Christmas traditions  in our nation’s capital during the Georgian (1714-1837) and Victorian (1837-1901) Eras.  I added parenthetical and bracketed information to further clarify the times covered within the quotes from the Surratt Museum pamphlet.

[Our second president {1797-1801} and first vice president {1789-1797}], John Adams, inaugurated the custom of holiday parties at the White House. The Oval Room was decorated with greens, and the tables were laden with cakes, punch, and other refreshments, while the children sang, danced, and played with the Adams’ grandchildren.

“Under Thomas Jefferson [President from 1801-1809],  Christmas parties became adult affairs where his guests feasted on imported cheeses, preserved fruits, and other delicacies and where vintage wines accompanied the meal. His six grandchildren wandered among the dignitaries, Congressmen, and Ambassadors, an informality which shocked many in Washington society.

“When Andrew Jackson came to the White House in 1829, he was in mourning for his wife; but his family put up a stocking on a White House mantel and the morning found it stuffed with small presents – including a corncob pipe. His nieces and nephews also had stockings filled with cakes, candles, nuts, and fruits.

“Because President Jackson had been raised as an orphan, he threw a party for other orphans. Among the treats were ices shaped like apples and pears to eat, and snowballs made of starch-powdered cotton to throw.”

“The first Christmas Tree entered the White House in the 1850s during the administration of Franklin Pierce (1853-1857). This official presidential sanction helped to popularize the custom in America.”

Our 16th president’s young son, Tad, reportedly rounded up street waifs during his father’s administration (1861-1865), and brought them home for turkey dinners.”

“By 1885,  President Grover Cleveland (1885-1889) had added new-fangled electric lights to the White House tree.”

“The tradition of Christmas season receptions spread throughout the area into homes not so grand as the White House.”

“On New Year’s Day, our early Presidents generally held an open house in the best democratic tradition. It was open to all, no matter the political and social differences.”

Even the simplest of homes in nearby Southern Maryland (where I grew up and still reside), could be simply decorated with pine, cedar, crowsfoot, running cedar, laurel, bay and holly from the nearby woods. Ivy and rosemary were, surprisingly, the most prized Christmas decorations of the Victorian era. Fresh fruits from the Washington Markets, abundant osage oranges, and pine cones and pods could all be added to the arrangements. Some accounts of the period refer to cedar boughs being dusted with flour to achieve the ‘snow’ effect that we spray on today.

“Mistletoe, shot from trees, abounded. New Englanders had to pay for mistletoe for it grows only in warmer climes, but Marylanders found it abundant in neighboring woods.”

“The proper Victorian was not too staid to enjoy a stolen kiss! And there was a proper way to kiss under the mistletoe. As the man kissed the lady, he was obligated to pluck a berry from the branch and present it to the lady. This practice continued until the berries were gone. The mistletoe then lost its power of love, and no more kisses could be had.”

Huh. That seems to be the Victorian version of the expression, “if you snooze, you lose.”

“Many a Christmas romance started under the mistletoe and led to a Christmas wedding the next year. The season was a popular time for weddings because family and friends traditionally gathered at Christmas and it was easier to get everyone together. The night before the wedding, a party was held at the bride’s house. The next morning the wedding procession began. The days following the wedding were filled with parties, for the bride and groom of the early and mid-19th century did not take honeymoon trips.”

“But, back to our customs…In the nearby hearth burned the traditional Yule log – or Christmas log as it was called in the south. This had been an English custom, and the Southerners stuck with their English ties.” [The Yule Log was believed to bring beneficial magic and was kept burning for at least twelve hours and sometimes as long as twelve days, warming both the house and those who resided within. When the fire of the Yule Log was finally quenched, a small fragment of the wood would be saved and used to light the next year’s log. It was also believed that as long as the Yule Log burned, the house would be protected from witchcraft. The ashes that remained from the sacred Yule Log were scattered over fields to bring fertility, or cast into wells to purify and sweeten the water. Sometimes, the ashes were used in the creation of various charms…to free cattle from vermin, for example, or to ward off hailstorms.]

“One practice on the plantations called for the Master to allow a Christmas rest for the slaves. The holiday lasted as long as the Christmas log burned, so slaves were often caught sprinkling water on it to keep it burning slowly.”

“A Victorian Christmas was bright and cheerful, and the decorations and parties were as simple or as elaborate as the people cared to make them.”

But, no matter the year, where you live, or how you and yours celebrate this season, let us all not forget, the true meaning and its reason!

Wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

Animated Map Shows Two Centuries of U.S. Immigration: 1820-2013


Emigration and immigrants have been a worldwide political hotbed issue in recent years, (especially in the United States during the 2016 Presidential Campaigns), because millions of people have migrated from their homes to other countries. Some migrants have moved voluntarily, seeking economic opportunities. Others have been forced from their homes by political or religious turmoil, persecution or war and have left their countries to seek asylum elsewhere.  Does this scenario sound familiar to those of us who have studied our ancestry?  Sure it does.

Fifteen years ago, on February 28, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly adopted December 18th as International Migrants Day, so I reached out to a couple of credible fact finders to provide us some key findings on the topic.  Hopefully, the information that follows will clarify at least some of the issues in and around the topic of immigration, emigration, and international migrants.

Max Galka graduated from The Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania:

This millennial entrepreneur from New York City, is fascinated by data visualization and the ways that data are transforming our understanding of the world–past, present, and future (like me).  I first got into data visualizations about 5 years ago but never went as far with them as I would have liked. Max’s accomplishments in this arena quickly made him one of my idols and I keep up with him primarily on social media.

Max’s map below animates the numbers who emigrated to the United States since 1820–just 30 years after the first Census of the United States which recorded about 4 million people.  Max has the following to say about his animated map:

“Since 1820, a total of 79 million people from around the world have emigrated to the United States and become lawful permanent residents. The animated map below displays them all. The brightness of a country corresponds to its total migration to the U.S. during the time periods shown.”

  • Today’s population according to the U.S. Census Bureau is estimated at over 325,000,000. In 1820, the year the animated map begins, the population of the United States was less than 10 million. It goes to show, we are all immigrants.
  • Initially, the bulk of immigration comes from Western Europe (Ireland, Germany, and the U.K.).  And, over time, the largest source of immigration follows a clear trend through the world.
  • 1880 starts the next wave from further east in Europe (Italy, Russia, and Hungary).
  • Throughout the 20th Century, most of the Immigration arrives from the Americas (Canada and Mexico).
  • And finally, the last few decades have seen a rise in immigration from Asia (China and the Philippines).

You also may be interested in Mr. Galka’s latest project Blueshift.  Blueshift delivers a tool for designing dynamic maps, like the one that he created, above. (I’m hoping this is my opportunity to take my data visualizations further, too.)  And Max also runs FOIA Mapper, which aims to open up “hidden” government databases using the Freedom of Information Act.

From Pew Research Center’s Fact Tank Reports:

Fact Tank is Pew Research Center’s real-time platform dedicated to finding news in the numbers. Launched in mid-2013, Fact Tank is written by experts who combine the rigorous research and quality storytelling for which the center is known to help readers understand the trends shaping the nation and the globe.

5 Facts about Illegal Immigration in the U.S.–according to Pew Research Center’s December 15, 2016 Fact Tank Report:

How many international migrants are there? Where are they from? Where do they live?
If all of the world’s international migrants (people living in a country that is different from their country or territory of birth) lived in a single country, it would be the world’s fifth largest, with around 244 million people. Overall, international migrants make up 3.3% of the world’s population today.

 

International migrants are dispersed from across the world, with most having moved from middle-income to high-income countries. Top origins of international migrants include India (15.6 million), Mexico (12.3 million), Russia (10.6 million), China (9.5 million) and Bangladesh (7.2 million).  See: International Migrants by Country

Among destination countries, the U.S. has more international migrants than any other country. It is home to about one-in-five international migrants (46.6 million). Other top destinations of migrants include Germany (12.0 million), Russia (11.6 million), Saudi Arabia (10.2 million) and the United Kingdom (8.5 million).

But absolute numbers don’t tell the whole migration story. For example, while the U.S. has the most immigrants in the world, only 14% of the country’s population is foreign born. This immigrant share is considerably lower than that in several Persian Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, where three-in-four or more people are international migrants. Moreover, top destination countries like Australia (28% foreign born) and Canada (22% foreign born) have much larger immigrant shares of their total population than the U.S.

Interactive: Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, 1990-2015.Interactive: Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, 1990-2015.

Is international migration increasing?
It has increased substantially in terms of absolute numbers, but less so as a share of the world’s current population. The absolute number of international migrants has grown considerably over the past 50 years, from about 79 million in 1960 to nearly 250 million in 2015, a 200% increase. So by population size, there are far more international migrants today.

But the world’s population has also grown during that time, rising nearly 150% from about 3 billion to 7.3 billion. As a result, the share of the world’s population living outside their countries of birth has increased some during the past 50 or so years. In 1960, 2.6% of the world’s population did not live in their birth countries. In 2015, that share was 3.3%. As a share of the world’s population, the 0.7-percentage-point increase in the world’s migrant share is hardly insignificant. Nonetheless, the vast majority (nearly 97%) of the world’s population has not moved across international borders.

What have been some of the major pathways for international migration?
The impact of migration has been large for counties that are part of some of the world’s most-used migrant corridors, particularly when it comes to pathways between a single origin country and a single destination country.

For example, the Mexico-U.S. migration corridor has been one of the world’s most heavily traveled in recent decades. Today, about 12 million people born in Mexico are living in the U.S. This number has declined in recent years as net flows have reversed, with more Mexican immigrants leaving the U.S. than entering it. Also, the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants in the U.S. has declined by 1 million between 2007 and 2014, even as the total number of unauthorized immigrants has stabilized at about 11.1 million.

While migration of Mexicans to the U.S. has been decreasing, Mexico is an important transit country for other U.S.-bound Latin Americans. U.S. border apprehensions of families and unaccompanied children have more than doubled between fiscal years 2015 and 2016, with most coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. A rising number of Cubans have also entered the U.S. via Mexico.

As of 2015, nearly 3.5 million Indians lived in the UAE, the world’s second-largest migration corridor. Unlike the Mexico-U.S. corridor, the number of Indians living in the UAE and other Persian Gulf countries has increased substantially during the past decade, from 2 million in 1990 to more than 8 million in 2015. Most have migrated for economic opportunities in these oil-rich countries.

The Middle East has the fastest-growing migrant population. When counting both international migrants and displaced migrants within their own countries (internally displaced persons), the number of migrants in the Middle East doubled during the past decade, from 25 million in 2005 to 54 million in 2015.

How many among the world’s migrants are refugees? Are they increasing in number?

Refugees are persons who cross international borders to seek protection from persecution, war and violence. Their total number has also increased from 50 years ago. Not including Palestinian refugees, there were about 1.7 million refugees worldwide in 1960, and about 16 million in 2015, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The number of refugees in 2015, however, is slightly less than the early 1990s following the fall of the Berlin Wall. As of 2015, refugees account for only about 8% of all international migrants.

Refugees are a subset of displaced persons worldwide. The latest UN estimates suggest that more than 60 million, or nearly 1 in 100 people worldwide, are forcibly displaced from their homes, the highest number and share of the world’s population since World War II. As of 2015, nearly two-thirds (63%) of the world’s displaced population still lived in their birth countries.

The Syrian conflict has dramatically increased the number of displaced people since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. About one-fifth of the world’s displaced, or 12.5 million, were born in Syria. Colombia, meanwhile, has more displaced people than any other country: nearly 7 million, most of whom are internally displaced because of the country’s decades-long conflict.

5 Facts about Illegal Immigration in the U.S.–according to Pew Research Center’s November 3, 2016 Fact Tank Report:

There were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014, a total unchanged from 2009 and accounting for 3.5% of the nation’s population. The number of unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population.

The U.S. civilian workforce included 8 million unauthorized immigrants in 2014, accounting for 5% of those who were working or were unemployed and looking for work, according to new Pew Research Center estimates. The number was unchanged from 2009 and down slightly from 8.2 million in 2007. The share of unauthorized immigrants in the civilian labor force was down slightly from 2009 (5.2%) and 2007 (5.4%). Compared with their 5% share of the civilian workforce overall, unauthorized immigrants are overrepresented in farming occupations (26%) and construction occupations (15%). In all industries and occupations, though, they are outnumbered by U.S.-born workers.

Mexicans made up 52% of all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, though their numbers had been declining in recent years. There were 5.8 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. that year, down from 6.4 million in 2009, according to the latest Pew Research Center estimates. Meanwhile, the number of unauthorized immigrants from nations other than Mexico grew by 325,000 since 2009, to an estimated 5.3 million in 2014. Populations went up most for unauthorized immigrants from Asia and Central America, but the number also ticked up for those from sub-Saharan Africa. Increases in the number of unauthorized immigrants from other countries mostly offset the decline in the number from Mexico.

Six states accounted for 59% of unauthorized immigrants in 2014: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. But some state populations had changed since 2009, despite the stable trend at the national level. From 2009 to 2014, the unauthorized immigrant population decreased in seven states: Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina. In all of them, the decline was due to a decrease in unauthorized immigrants from Mexico. In six states, the unauthorized immigrant population rose over the same time period: Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. In all of these but Louisiana, the increases were due to growth in unauthorized immigrant populations from nations other than Mexico. In Louisiana, it was an increase in Mexican unauthorized immigrants that drove the overall increase in the number of unauthorized immigrants.

A rising share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for at least a decade. About two-thirds (66%) of adults in 2014 had been in the U.S. at least that long, compared with 41% in 2005. A declining share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for less than five years – 14% of adults in 2014, compared with 31% in 2005. In 2014, unauthorized immigrant adults had lived in the U.S. for a median of 13.6 years, meaning that half had been in the country at least that long. Only 7% of Mexican unauthorized immigrants had been in the U.S. for less than five years in 2014, compared with 22% of those from all other countries.