Sunday, February 21, 2021

Matthew Spady, The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families who Shaped It (New York: Fordham University Press, 2020)

 Over the last several years there has been a reemergence in the recognition of the role and influence that George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938) had on the preservation and conservation of the American West, on native avian species and the buffalo, and the recording of the stories recounted by members of several of American Indian nations.  These themes have resulted in the rise in publications concerning Grinnell and his activities by authors such as Michael Punke (Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West, 2007), Carolyn Merchant (Spare the Birds!: George Bird Grinnell and the First Audubon Society, 2016), John Taliaferro (Grinnell: America's Environmental Pioneer and His Restless Drive to Save the West, 2019), Thom Hatch (The Father of American Conservation: George Bird Grinnell Adventurer, Activist, and Author, 2020), and  Hugh Grinnell (The Father of Glacier National Park: Discoveries and Explorations In His Own Words, 2020).  All of these publications point to Grinnell’s interest in the natural world as originating from his

up-bringing and the instruction of Lucy Bakewell Audubon, the widow of John James Audubon, who was his childhood teacher and neighbor in New York’s upper section of Manhattan Island, now the densely populated neighborhood of Washington Heights.  Consistent with my pre-occupation to learn more about this high-profile member of the extended Grinnell family, I pick up a copy of Matthew Spady’s book, The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families who Shaped It (New York: Fordham University Press, 2020), as a way to learn more about the relationship GBG had to his community and neighbors. 

Audubon Park was a large parcel of land purchased by John James Audubon in the 1840s as a place to make a home for his family following their return to North American after living in Great Britain during the completion of his massive and influential publication and prints of the Birds of America.  The property was placed in the name of his wife and truly his financial rock, Lucy. It consisted of an untamed natural environment several miles north of the center of New York Cities bustling and expanding business and residential metropolis.  It wouldn’t take long before the Audubon’s found the need to share their wilderness enclave with others and constructed several other houses and cottages on the property to generate badly need cash in the form of rent payments.  The rental property attracted the likes of the growing family of George Blake Grinnell and Helen Lansing Grinnell. George Blake, emerging as a successful businessman and Wall Street broker, desired a place to raise his family of four sons and two daughters that was rural, but in enough proximity for his business dealings in the city. Minnie’s Land, as the Audubon’s called it, was an ideal spot.  Here, George Bird Grinnell, George and Helen’s eldest son, would grow up surrounded by trees, birds, the Hudson River, and all the wildlife that would delight the fascination of the young man who would become one of the nation’s well-known naturalists.  GBE would live in Audubon Park for five decades.

Eventually, George Blake Grinnell would acquire a significant portion of the Audubon property and it would become known as Audubon Park.  In the last four decades of the 19th century, Audubon Park would attempt to stave off the expanding metropolis.  But ultimately, there were many completing interests and with the growth of community intuitions (congregations), mass transportation, industrialization, and many other factors, the bucolic Audubon Park would slowly disappear into the fabric of urbanization.  Eventually, real estate investors expanded the residential population with the construction of apartment buildings and new highways that promoted movement through the area with ease and the former suburban community would become a central part of the urban city.  For a time in the 20th century, the now named Washington Heights neighborhood would experience decay and crime that would only be reversed by the actions of the residents and their dedication to recreating communities within the early 20th century apartment buildings and learning to work together.  This led to recognition of their shared experiences and heightened interest in the historical legacy to the built environment and those that came before, namely – the Audubon's, the Grinnell's, and several others.  Today, this section of Washington Heights is home of the Audubon Terrace Historic District and the Audubon Park Historic District.

Spady weaves together a compelling story of urbanization of a small, yet diverse, area of Manhattan.  He examines the lives of many of the early residents, their often conflicting interests in maintaining a rural space, yet having effective access to the city center.  He brings the community to life by humanizing it.  Understanding the needs of daily life and how those change over time, you witness how a community comes together over needs for clean and usable water, their political voice over placement of mass transit and the priorities for maintaining roadways, their needs for institutions that instill the feeling of community and much more.  Spady’s book reflects many intersections of interests for me:  community development, neighborhood stories, religious institutions, and cultural memory.

With this book, Spady has shown us as historical junkies of urban history how examining the microcosm of one relatively small neighborhood can reveal a great amount of understanding of how our communities expand and contract, while providing a glimpse of how successful communities come together around shared desires for sustaining livable spaces.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Hector Presbyterian Church and Alexander McCreery

 One of the books that got me hooked on genealogical research was published in 1976 and compiled by William and Laura McCreery.  It was entitled, The Alexander McCreery Clan.  It was the first time I had ever seen my own name in a printed volume and it just enthralled me to read about all these people that I was absolutely connected with -- by blood and by so many family traditions.  Recently, while on a short trip to do some genealogical research in Central New York, a friend said to me, "Lets take a ride down to the Lake." Now, I wasn't sure where we were going, but to my amazement we were in the middle of the Finger Lakes, between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. 

As we were driving along Route 414 my eyes got a bit bigger as I realized that we were traveling into the area that the McCreery's and the Collver's had settled.  As we approached the small settlement of Hector in Schuyler County -- Boom!  There it was!  The Hector Presbyterian Church one of the only remaining landmarks associated with the McCreery family still standing in this amazingly gorgeous rural setting near the shores of Seneca Lake.  So we stopped and I snapped a few pics with my iPhone and found my heart filled with excitement at this totally unexpected adventure.

Alexander McCreery and his wife Eunice and seven of their ten children migrated from Ulster/Orange County in eastern New York State to the wilds of the Finger Lakes in 1799.  They first settled in Ulysses and then in Hector in 1810.  Of Scottish ancestry, the McCreery's were probably members of the Scottish Presbyterian Church for many generations.  As they arrived in Hector, a new congregation had been organized the year before and soon the family became part of this growing fellowship of Christians.  By 1818, the congregation had matured and was able to afford the construction of a house of worship.  Today, the Hector Presbyterian Church still worships in that beautiful, yet simple structure.  Alexander was know to have become a Deacon in the congregation for eighteen years.  

Because of this unexpected adventure, I found myself a bit unprepared.  I knew from previous map and records research that Alexander's house and property was nearby, somewhere between Hector and Burdett, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember the name of the road.  So, I kept reading the road signs as we traveled down to Hector Falls, but alas nothing was sounding familiar.  As soon as I got home, I cracked the McCreery Clan book open -- sure enough, I had simply failed to remember Covert Road!  It was right there on the left as we traveled north from Hector Falls only a mile or so out of Burdett.   In 1974 Alexander and Eunice's farm house was still standing at Cover and Slattery Hill Roads.  But Google Maps doesn't have street view for that rural section.  DARN!  But that is just fine....I had such a wonderfully unexpected adventure and I couldn't be more happy.  Now, I just have to plan another trip to visit again.

Oh!  So, Alexander and Eunice first lived in Ulysses when the moved to the region.  Another great stop on this adventure was just inside the Town of Ulysses, near Cayuga Lake where we stopped at Taughannock Falls State Park, where I was able to witness one spectacular view of nature at its best....the Taughannock Falls.  It just makes me wonder how the indigenous people and the early pioneering farm families must have felt to witness such power and beauty when they first encountered these amazing sites.

The Family of Alexander McCreery (1760-1838) & Eunice Armstrong McCreery (1755-1836)

1) Margaret McCreery Brown (1783-1848) in NY
2) Isabelle McCreery Roushey (1786-1862) in NY
3) Joseph McCreery (1788 -1856) in Michigan
4) Jane McCreery Warner Lewis (1791-1875) in NY
5) Sarah McCreery (1793-1844) in NY
6) Elizabeth McCreery (1795-1875) in NY
7) Robert McCreery (1798-1817) in NY
8) Hannah McCreery Jackson (1801- aft 1875) in NY
9) Eunice McCreery Durland (1805-1877) in NY
10) Mary McCreery Thynne (1808-1886) in NY

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Joseph & Hannah Patterson and Chestnut Ridge Friends Meeting

Just a short comment on a new discovery....Joseph Patterson (1756-1816) and his wife, Hannah Merrimoon [perhaps even Marmon] (1753-1820) were members of the Quaker faith.  They were born in North Carolina and eventually migrated with many in their faith community to Belmont County, Ohio in the first decade of Ohio's statehood, settling south of Barnesville on "the Ridge."  They were probably members of the original Stillwater Friends Meeting, but later donated land on their property for what would become the Chestnut Ridge Friends Meeting.  While the original buildings do not exist, below is an image of the simple structure that continues as a Meeting House today.  Joseph and Hannah are reported to be buried in the cemetery, or more accurately burial ground, across the road from the Meeting House.

Looking forward to a future visit (its only an hour and half west of Pittsburgh) and a lot more research on this family line!

Chestnut Ridge Friends Meeting House

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Edward Slocum Burling in NYC (1792-1826)

I recently learned about the vast resources of the New York Public Library's Digital Collections through my friend and colleague Kristin.  With a day off from work and some time to focus on my own family research this week, I thought I might take a look and see if I could find anything related to my ancestors who lived in New York City....and Bingo! I did indeed.

Edward Slocum Burling (1741-1831)  and wife Kezia Hunt (1742-1804) (my 4x great-grandparents) lived in the city following the American Revolution.  They lived in various communities in Westchester County before residing in Manhattan.  Later they would return to Westchester.

During the American Revolution, we know that ESB was a member of the Westchester Militia under the command of Joseph Drake.  He was at Frog's Neck and West Farms during a portion of his 1776 enlistment.  This was a critical time, because the British forces occupied Manhattan, Long Island, and much of the surrounding area. (suggested reading of David McCullough's 1776) One of the only documents that confirms his service that has been found is a payroll log at the National Archives.  Even more intriguing is the fact that his brother-in-law, Charles Vincent, was providing information to the British, thus there is a loyalist in his family and probably someone we might label a "spy."  Ultimately Vincent and his wife, Hannah Burling would retreat with the British and settle in Nova Scotia. Need to do some more sleuthing on that story soon!

Immediately following the Revolution, ESB was able to purchase land that had previously been owned by Tory families that had fled. Evidence of his outlook on civic duty begins to emerge at this time as well.  He served as an assessor, elected as a supervisor and justice of the peace.  Prior to the creation of the U. S. Constitution, he would represent Westchester County in various state assemblies for New York.

Certificate, 31 May 1797, Thomas Addis Emmet Collection,
MssCol 927, Identifier: b11868616
From 1792 to 1826, ESB resided in New York City where he continued his public service.  He held the office of associate judge, customs inspector, and revenue officer.  However, it was in 1797 that we find the he was elected to represent the citizens of NYC on the City's Assembly.  A document found on the NYPL's digital collections site is basically a certification of his election, along with several other individuals.  But what I find fascinating is seeing the names of these others along side my ancestors name....including names like DeWitt Clinton and Aaron Burr.  Not to forget that the document was created and signed by then Mayor Richard Varick.  This just blows my mind to know that my ancestor would have known, worked with, and perhaps argued with these leaders that I have learned about throughout my education.  Just one more example of how family history and genealogical research can make our nations history come alive in very personal ways.

ESB and Kezia were the parents of eleven children:

-Gilead Burling (1762)
-Rebecca Burling Moriarty (1765)
-Ebenezer Burling (1766) (my direct line, whose son Henry Burling migrated to Michigan in the 1830s)
-Sarah Burling (1767)
-Jeremiah Burling (1767)
-Elizabeth Burling Waning (1769)
-Susannah Burling (1771-1778)
-Lydia Burling (1772)
-Thomas Burling (1775)
-Deborah Burling Bernard (1779)
-Anne T. Burling Bennett Pintard (1783)

Many thanks to Kristin Britanic for pointing me to the NYPL site and to Jane Thompson-Stahr for her excellently and professionally researched books entitled, The Burling Books: Ancestors and Descendants of Edward and Grace Burling, Quakers [1600-2000].

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Celebrating the life of Ida Jane Galusha Hagaman

Ida Jane Galusha Hagaman (Courtesy Margie Walz)
Ida Jane Galusha was born 16 October 1856 in the small community of Woodstock, Lenawee County, Michigan.  Her mother, Sarah Ann (Sweet) Galusha delivered Ida with the assistance of Dr. Root.  Ida's dad was Giles Galusha, a farmer who was assisting his father and brother raising livestock and tending fields of their 200 acre farm in near the county boarder with both Jackson and Hillsdale Counties in lower Michigan.  Today, this is area is know as the Artisian Wells at the intersection of US-127 and US-12 with a postal address of Cement City. Ida joined her older sister Marietta and the family of four would subsist with many aunts, uncles, and cousins all living as neighbors.

Soon, the Galusha's would move into Somerset Township, Hillsdale County, where Giles operate his own farm.  The family would continue to grow with the addition of son George in 1860.

The American Civil War would cause a major scar in this family.  Towards the end of this bloody conflict, Giles would volunteer for service in Company A of the 4th Michigan Infantry.  On 4 January 1865 he would died of some communicable disease in a makeshift army hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  He would later be laid to rest in a "unknown" grave at the National Cemetery in Murfreesboro.  Giles death left his family of 4 without any means of support.  As soon as widow's were able to apply for a pension from the Federal Government, Sarah did so and it is through those documents that we know details of the births and marriages of this little family.

Within a few years, Ida would have a loving step-father come into her life in the person of Isaac Young, a veteran of the Civil War and a neighboring farmer.  Mr. Young would fill the void left by her father's death.

At an early age Ida learned to play the piano.  We know that after becoming a member of the little Methodist Episcopal congregation in the village of Somerset Center, she would play the piano in church regularly.  Probably playing many familiar hymn tunes that one might hear today in the United Methodist churches throughout lower Michigan.  Ida would pass her love of music and her talented musical abilities on to her many children.  Today, one of her great-granddaughters tenderly cares for and has preserved several instruments that were played by members of the family.

In the village of Somerset Center there was a store owned by Jacob Hagaman.  Hagaman was the father of four, one being Mr. George Henry Hagaman, who would marry Ida on 7 November 1875 at Liberty Mills, in Jackson County with the Rev. James H. Tanner of the Methodist Episcopal church officiating.  George's father had died the year prior to the marriage and the assets of the little store in Somerset Center were sold off.  But George would remain working the farm his father had purchase and continue to provide for his mother, siblings, and his new bride.

Soon, the Hagaman family would grow to include 4 daughter and 2 sons: Arminta (1876), Nina (1878), George "Dick" (1881), Verne (1888), Bertha (1891), and Hazel (1892).

By 1900, the Hagaman's had left their farm near Somerset Center and move near the communities of Leoni and Grass Lake in Jackson County.  We know that Ida had relatives in this vicinity and one could imagine that some great opportunity must have prompted them relocate closer to these relatives.

During this early period, Ida would become involved in the Leoni Methodist Episcopal church and become a leader in the Women's Suffrage movement in her community.  We know from a newspaper account that she was the Chairwomen for the suffrage organization for Leoni township. Wish we knew more about the activities of this part of her life...perhaps more will surface at a later date.

George and Ida would continue to live in the Grass Lake Area for several years, mostly on rented farms.  George would died 14 March 1934 at the age of 77 in Leoni Township from chronic kidney disease.  Ida would survive him for a few years, dying on 27 October 1939 at the age of 83 from arteriosclerosis. Her funeral services were held at the Methodist Church in Leoni and her nephew the Rev. Lynn Young, a famous radio and later television evangelist from Toledo, officiated.

The Hagaman's are laid to rest at the Grass Lake West (Maple Grove) Cemetery on Wolf Lake Road, next to many of their children, in unmarked graves.  But they have long been remembered by their many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Burling Ancestry, Quaker Heritage, & Anti-Slavery Advocate!

Barking Abbey, Barking, Essex, England where the Burling family resided.

Several years ago I wrote about the discovery of Mary Elizabeth (BURLING) REAMS’ (b1845-d1918) ancestry.  It was a huge revelation because I had spent years working hard to discover the names of her parents, both of whom died while she was yet a baby.  At the time, I was so overwhelmed by the facts of so many new generations to record in my genealogical software that I could scarcely absorb the significant family history connected with Mary.  Mary’s BURLING ancestors were Quakers in England and in North America and they had strength of spirit.

Mary (BURLING) REAMS (1845-1918), daughter of:
Henry BURLING (1803-1848) and Charlotte Wilburgher WILSIE (1812-1845), he was the son of:
Ebenezer BURLING(1766-1824) and Eve BLOOMER (1765-1843), he was the son of:
Ebenezer Slocum BURLING (1741-1831) and Kezia HUNT (1742-1804), he was the son of:
Ebenezer BURLING (1717-1758) and Mary LAWRENCE (1718-aft 1776), he was the son of:
*William BURLING (1678-1743) and Rebecca SLOCUM (1682-1729), he was the son of:
*Edward BURLING (1638-1697) and *Grace NORINGTON (?-1715) , he was the son of:
Edward BURLING (c1613-1677) and Katherine BOWLER (?-1678) of Barking, Essex Co., England

*denotes the ancestors who emigrated from England to North America.

We learn from the amazing thorough and well sourced genealogy and family history by Jane Thompson-Stahr (The Burling Books, Vol, 1 & 2, 2001), that the first three generations of Burling’s were members of the Quaker faith and practiced it at a time of religious intolerance in England.  In fact, both generations of Edward BURLING’s were imprisoned for practicing their faith.  Neither of which would pay the fine, though they were presumably wealthy enough to do so, and be freed from their jail cells.  They stood on their principles in the Borough of Barking, which is now part of the City of London.  Clearly that principled streak was inherited by son and grandson William.  We have learned from no less than four sources on Quaker history that William BURLING of Flushing, NY was an early member of the Friends faith to embrace the view that slavery was a sin.  During much of the 17th and 18th century in Colonial America, Quakers were known to be slave holders and slave traders in New England and the Mid-Atlantic.  Many today find this surprising because of the popular notion that Quakers were some of the most outspoken advocates of abolitionism in the antebellum period; therefore it’s somewhat hard to believe that they were ever involved in the holding of others in bondage. But many did!

About 1718, William BURLING spoke out against the sin of slavery.  His words are somewhat difficult for our 21st century reading, but I have confirmed through multiple sources that indeed, William BURLING was talking about slavery when he wrote the following, which had reprinted in several book since 1734.

(William Burling’s Anti-slavery text, published in 1718 and quote in Benjamin Lay’s 1738 book.)

TITLE: “An Address to the Elders of the Church, upon the occasion of some Friends compelling certain Persons, and their posterity , to serve them continually and arbitrarily, without Regard to Equity or Right, not heeding whether they give them any thing near so much as their Labour deserveth.”

My Dearly Beloved Friends, and Elder Brethren, whom, as it behoves me, I would entreat as Fathers, a weighty Concern from the Lord, is and hath been at times for many Years on my spirit, in consideration of this unchristian Liberty, being indulged in the Church, for it is in itself none of the least of the World’s Corruptions, [ no, say I, but the greatest, that ever the Devil brought into the Church in America;] and indeed the Lord by his Spirit, manifested the Evil to me before I was 12 Years of Age, and since from time to time, I have had drawings in mind to reproved and testify against it,  nor have I been altogether silent, altho’ much discourag’d by reason of it’s being practiced by so many Friends, yea Elders too, and tho’ I have formerly thought it strange, that the Church did not exclude it, by her discipline, and fix the Judgment of Truth upon it, yet now I am sensible such a thing is not easily done or accomplished, there being so strong opposition in many, that it cannot be brought to the Test, and Judgment brought forth into Victory in the cause at present, without danger of much strife and disorder in the Church, which is generally hurtful where-ever it prevaileth; therefore to be carefully avoided; however I hope was are all unanimous in our judgement, that whatever Friend hath any thing from the movings of the Spirit of Truth to communicate to his Brethren, either by word or writing concerning this or any other matter, ought to be allowed and received in his Testimony, and borne with by his Brethren, so long as he keeps to the counsel and direction of the Holy Spirit, and therefore delivers nothing but what is according to Truth, altho’ it happens to be never so contrary to the interest or inclinations of the Readers or Hearers.
Now I would such Friends as Practice or Pleas for the abovesaid Sin, Evil or Liberty, to consider solidly what Hardship the impose on such as are concern’d to bear Testimony against it; for while so many Friends continues in said Practice, no one can reproved it, and give it that deserved Character, which is agreeable to it’s nature, without implicitly condemning many of his Brethren, [Ministers and all say I, for they are the worst Enemies in this case the Church has to War with, or that Hell itself, or Devil can procure in this case. (This is very pinching,  B. L.  canst thou prove thy Allegations?) if not, what will become of thee? Never fear, Friend; Fear suprises, thou knows who; but the Truth is stronger than all the Powers of Hell.  Blessed for ever is the God of Truth, the Truth of God, the Truth which is God: So be it, faith my Soul.

Brethren and Elder Brethren, as Transgressors in this Thing, which is very hard to do, yet if the Lord require such a Thing or Testimony of any Friend he is necessitated so to judge his Brethren, or quench the Spirit in its Motions, in his own Heart; for the case admits of no medium. Again I intreat those who slight and disregards the Testimony of any whom the Lord concerns to appear against this flebly Liberty, to consider whom they oppose, and withstand; and the inspired Apostle speaking concerning the Lord’s Instruments, whom he was pleased to make use of, faith I Thess. iv. 8. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not Men, but God, who hat also given unto us his Holy Spirit.  O! That I could prevail so far with all my dear Brethren, that none would any more plead for or endeavor to defend the aforesaid unjust Practice; neither endeavor to shield it from the judgment of Truth.  We may do well to remember, the Devil is the Author of all Sin, and Sin is the Transgression of the Law.

It gives me great pleasure to know that at least one of my ancestors was outspoken on such a moral and ethical issue, especially when it was not popular to hold such a position.  So, today in our world that is filled with much divisiveness over our national legacy concerning race relations, I draw on the strength of my ancestor, William Burling to help guide me.

-Drake, Thomas E. Quakers and Slavery in America, 1950, pp.36-37

-“Early Anti-Slavery Advocates --  William Burling.” The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journals, November 24, 1855, Volume 29, Number 11, page 85.

-Lay, Benjamin.  All Slave-keepers that keep the Innocent in Bondage… Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin, 1738, pp. 6-8.

-Maxwell, John Francis.  “The Charismatic Origins of the Christian Anti-Slavery Movement in North America, “ Quaker History, Volume 63, Number 2, Autumn 1974, pp. 108-116.

-Thompson-Stahr, Jane. The Burling Books, 2001

A popular 19th Century Anti-Slavery image.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

United Congregational Church of Little Compton

I recently purchased this watercolor by Julie A. Shoen of the United Congregational Church of Little
Compton, Rhode Island on Ebay.  The congregation was organized in 1704 and this building was constructed in 1832 and is situated on the southeast corner of the Commons.  My 6th Great Grandparents, Jonathan Grinnell and Abigail Ford Grinnell were members of the congregation in the 1740s.

This site is one of my favorite spots to visit when I travel to Little Compton.  Several years ago on one of those visits, the church was hosting an open house and I was able to view the interior which is spectacularly simple and beautiful.  There is a second level gallery, with access through narrow stairway, which the entire room can be in full view.

The burial ground outside of its walls are filled with the remains of so many early colonial settlers, including many Grinnell's.  It is one of only two "New England" styled towns which includes a commons in Rhode Island.  It is worthy of a visit.