Sunday, December 5, 2010

Meet Samuel Lewis, youngest son of John Lewis of Westerly, R.I.

 We now venture into the life of Samuel Lewis.  He is born in 1672 and is the youngest son of John Lewis, who you have met previously.  Samuel grows into manhood in Westerly, Rhode Island where in the year of 1689 he marries Joanna Crandall.  He is building his wealth largely by purchasing and selling land. In 1692, Samuel deeds one-hundred acres to Jane Babcock, wife of Job Babcock, who declares that he gives his wife full power to purchase land and disowning any right for himself. On June, 28, 1709, we witness Samuel acquire even more land; this purchase will be known as the "Shannock Purchase". This is the second largest land grant of the Rhode Island colony during the division of the vacated Indian lands in 1709.  The Naragansett (we have met them already through John Lewis and the negotiation of Misquamicut, today known as Westerly) and Niantic Indians agree to sell the land in exchange for permanent possession of land in the town of Charlestown.  The Shannock Purchase encompasses a large part of what is now known as Richmond.  A committee is put in place to organize and oversee the "Shannock Purchase":

"Know all men by these presents that we Weston Clark, Randall Holden, Richard Greene, Philip Tillinghast being a committee appointed and fully empowered by the Government and Company of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations to dispose and make sale of the vacant lands in ye Narragansett County for and in consideration of the sum of 486 pound 2 shillings currant money of New England well and truely paid unto us who receive ye same in behalf and for the use of ye Governor and Company afore sd of and at the hand of William Gibson, Nicholas Utter, Samuell Tift, fransis Colgrene, George Babcock, George Foster, William Knowles, Samuell Clark, John Eanos, William Clark, Thomas Parker, James Deny, Daniel Wilcocks, Daniel Tenant, Samuell Lewis, William Utter, John Witter, Peter Tift, Jeremiah Crandall, Eber Crandall, Samuell Perry, Joseph Brown, Weston Clark, John Tift and Nicholas Utter, Junior, all inhabitants of Westerly Kingstown and Newport."
Map of the Shannuck Purchase

Samuel and Joanna are not only very prosperous land owners, but also the proud parents of two sons and two daughters. Samuel, born 1689; Jonathan, born 1690; Joanna, born 1692, who marries Benjamin Tanner; and Sarah born 1694, who marries James Fordice. Unfortunately, some time before August of 1734, Sarah passed away, a sad day indeed. Overall though, life has treated the Samuel Lewis household very well.

It is the fifth day of August 1734 and we watch Samuel take a seat at his old heavy bureau, lay out a sheet of paper, dip the pen in the ink pot and begin to put forth his last will.  We know it is rude to look over his shoulder and read what he has to say, but we can't help ourselves to at least catch a glimpse of his written word. And we read:

"To wife Joanna 5 pounds yearly for life which I promised to give her for signing a deed to land sold Henry Knowles, and 400 pounds to be laid out of estate for her to have the interest of for comfortable maintainance.  To son Samuel 5 shillings he having had.  To son Jonathan 5 shillings.  To daughter Joanna Tanner 5 shillings. To dauther Sarah's son John Fordice 100 pounds to lay out in lands by executor.  To son Samuel's children, son Jonathan's children and daughter Joanna Tanner's children the rest of estate at the ages of twenty-one and eighteen and at deceaseof wife they to have what is left of household goods and 400 pounds."  

We watch him sign his name, date the document and place his seal on it.

The unfortunate day of Samuel Lewis' demise is upon us, this first day of February, 1739.  Joanna, due to age, is forced to give the position of executor to her son Jonathan. In a letter she writes:" To the Honorable Town Council of Westerly these lines are to desire you that your honors would be pleased to give my son Jonathan Lewis ye letter of Administration upon his fathers estate for I myself are not capable of riding and doing of business by reason of age, and in doing of which you will oblige yours to serve." (Witness: John Maxson and Benjamin Burdick).  Samuel's inventory is worth more than 2800 pounds.  He is laid to rest at the Lewis Cemetery in Westerly [the one mentioned in my previous post], where his parents were buried before him.

We will now follow the mentioned son of Samuel and Joanna, Jonathan Lewis, born in 1690.  What say you, are you ready?

 And just for fun and an interesting read, i am including the publication of Keith G. Lewis for your reading pleasure:  (you can even use the scroll bar and search feature !!!)

Source of Information:
-- The genealogical dictionary of Rhode Island; by John Osborne Austin;
-- Family History of Ladd J. Lewis, by Ladd J. Lewis;
-- The Ancestry of Nathan Lewis Harrison revisited nineteen years later, by Keith G. Lewis;
-- The descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island; by Nellie Willard Johnson;
-- Isaih Babcock, Sr. and his descendants, by A. Emerson Babcock
-- New England Marriages prior to 1700, by Clarence Almon Torry, Elizabeth Petty Bentley
-- The early history of the Narragansett, by  Elisha Reynolds Potter
-- New England Families, genealogical and memorial, by William Richard Cutter 
-- Lewisiana or Lewis Letters
Web site source:

** Many publications state the marriage year of Samuel and Joanna as 1695.  However, in Keith G. Lewis' book The Ancestry of Nathan Lewis Harrison revisited nineteen years later, page 240, the author gives the year 1689, which, to me, makes more sense, given the birth years of their children;
** Many list Joanna's death year as 1734, which cannot be so, as she, in 1739 gives the position of executor to his son due to age.  This shows that she died after Samuel, not before.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On our way to Westerly...

It was quite the interesting trip from England to Massachusetts, wouldn't you agree?  And we did meet quite the brave family who took that journey across the ocean, didn't we?  They impressed us with their accomplishments and achievements, haven't they?  But something just didn't sit right with me. Somehow, what was to follow did not fit.  In a way, it was impossible, really.  Months and months of research, reading through numerous publications, finally confirmed what drove me crazy for quite some time.  Edmund Lewis, no doubt a wonderful man, does NOT belong to the Lewis Family from which my Lewis and my girls descend.  Our beginning in the New World starts with a young man named John Lewis. Let us meet this John Lewis who is in his own way something of a mystery.

John Lewis of Wales and his brothers leave England some time in the 1650s making their way across the ocean, arriving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, while John leaves behind his love, his girl.  Her parents do not care much for him as they see him as a "wild blade".  She writes to him, asking him to please come back and get her, but he responds that he cannot.  However, he lets her know that if she were to take on the journey to the New World, he will be there to meet her.  The decision is made, she will pack her belongings and travel across the ocean to be with the man who owns her heart.  While she is crossing the blue sea, he is building a log home for them.  The day of her arrival is here... he makes it down to the shores of Plymouth to wrap her into his arms, and kiss her.  They don't waste any precious time and are now pronounced Husband and Wife, Mr. and Mrs. John Lewis.
old map of the region of the Narragansett
The Narragansett

John Lewis is said to have left Plymouth and went to Newport, Rhode Island. Some time before the year 1658 they leave Newport to go to Misquamicut, its Indian Name, today known as Westerly, Rhode Island. John is amongst Westerly's first settlers of some 33 people.  He knows the language of the Indian tribe known as the Narragansett, with whom he engages in negotiating the purchase of a tract of land and its settlement. The agreement for purchase is signed this 29th day of June, 1660. To finalize the agreement of the settlement, John Lewis is the seventh person to sign the Articles of Agreement on this 22nd day of March, 1661.  The Lewis family is growing, counting  Jonathan, born the same year John settles in Westerly, John II born in 1660, Daniel born in 1662, James born in 1664, and David born in 1667.

town record list of all ye freemen (only part of it)

Roger Williams, Founder of R.I.
A great day is upon us.  A day so many settlers await patiently.  On this 28th day of October 1668, John is admitted a freeman, a citizen.  Time goes by fast and not only is their son Israel born in 1669, but John's name  appears in the list of free inhabitants of Westerly.  On May 16th of 1671, a warrant is issued, requiring the inhabitants of Westerly to assemble the next day at Tobias Saunders house to see how they stand as to their fidelity to His Majesty and this colony.  John is one of 33 people to appear and to take the Oath of Allegiance to the government of Rhode Island. In 1672 Samuel is born and in 1673, the Lewis-family welcomes the first and only girl into their home and they name her Dorcas. 

John departed this earth some time before 1690 and as tradition has it, he is laid to rest at the south eastern corner of his property.  Today, we find the Lewis Cemetery near the road leading to Watch Hill and on the east side of the Highway. In later years, we learn that at least 7 generations have been buried here, including John's wife, who survived him by 15 years.  The burial ground is unfenced and has only but a few head stones, all without inscriptions.  Later yet, more relatives find their final rest in this ground, which in the mid 1940's was purchased for the purpose of building a tennis court.  Over the years, the head stones are slowly removed, and the Westerly newspaper reports of human remains being unearthed. 
 The plans for the tennis court are realized and concrete is poured over what is the final resting place of a man and his family who deserve better recognition of a city to which he was one of the first settlers.  Some family members have protested and won the argument, to which the concrete had to be removed.  Today, this little unfenced burial ground is flattened and still of no recognition.  A new owner of the land, George D. Cross, who placed his big company building right adjacent to the grave site is planing to build and the fight to keep John Lewis'  memory alive continues to this day.
picture of the Lewis house and burial ground, by P. Lewis
While we certainly keep our attention to the matter of future land developments on this sacred site, we shall not hesitate to now follow the youngest son Samuel.   Ready to meet the next generation?
IN ADDITION:  I was asked to explain what drove me crazy and in the end to the conclusion that Edmund does not belong to John Lewis, as it clearly states that Edmund brought over a 3 year old son and as far as timing is concerned, it could be the same John Lewis.   So here is my answer to that and please feel free to correct me or ask any questions :   For one, there are two prominent clashing stories, one starting with Edmund which continues with the story of John having left behind his love in England.  As a three year old, pretty sure, even at that time, one does not have a girl-friend, let alone fiance, as she is also referred to, depending what publication one reads.  For the other, him having come over with his brothers also makes more sense to me as non of John's children or their children where named Edmund. But let's assume, John is the John of Edmund, there are no mentions of him traveling back and forth to England, where he could have met this young lady.  I sat and read through numerous volumes of the Lewisiana or Lewis Letters and then it hit me...  [the Lewis Letter is a Family letter which collected ancestral information from various Lewis-lineages.]  Any Lewis-Family member was asked to send in their family history and updates which then was sent out in the form of a little booklet to those Lewis' and others who subscribed.  Each different lineage received their own book number to keep things organized, and our John Lewis of Westerly is book VIII, whereas Edmund Lewis of Lynn, Mass. received book XXXIII.  Historians involved in those letters would make sure to join those books together, which show later to be the same lineage.  Edmund was never joined with the books of John Lewis of Westerly.  Although, looking through those different lineages and the names of their offspring feels as if one reads different alternate realities.  There are sooooo many John Lewis', yet not all belong in the same lineage.  Most of those John's had several children named Samuel, Jonathan, John, James...  it's easy to get confused.  But I strongly believe that I got my story sorted out correctly ;-)

Source of Information:
History of Washington and Kent Counties, Rhode Island, including their early settlements and progress...; by J.R. Cole
Narragansett Tribe of Indians. Report of the committee of investigation; A historical sketch and evidence taken, made to the House of Representatives, at its January Session, A.D. 1880 ; E. L Freeman & Co., Printers to the State
Lewisiana or Lewis Letters, Vol. 1 
The Family history of John Ladd Lewis, by John Ladd Lewis; pp. 9-11
The Ancestry of Nathan Lewis Harrison revisited nineteen years later; by Keith G Harrison
The New England Historical and Genealogical register...; by William B Task
American Ancestry: embracing lineage from the whole of the United States; by Thomas P Hughes, Frank Munsell
Pioneer Lewis Family, by Michael L Cook
Babcock & Allied Families, pp 62-63
Westerly (Rhode Island) and its witnesses; by Frederic Denison
Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, Volume III, edited by John Russell Bartlett, Secretary of State

* nobody to this day knows for sure where John Lewis came from.  Whether he came by himself or with brothers.  The numbers of brothers mention VARIES from 3 to 4 brothers.  John Ladd Lewis explains in his book that the Lewis name is a traditional Welsh name and for the time and area, it would only make sense that John Lewis originated from Wales.
* Not all publications agree on where John came from prior to settling in Westerly, however, there is strong belief but little supporting evidence of him having come from Newport to Westerly. Or even that he was in Plymouth, Massachusetts prior.
* A name of John's wife cannot be found.  Some claim the name to be Mary Button (of which there is no proof), others claim it to be Ruth (also no evidence available, at least not for this John Lewis)
* Most publications argue John's arrival around 1650 A.D., a couple publications state his arrival around 1640 A.D.
* His exact date of death cannot be determined, but is believed to be before 1690 or some time in 1690.  
* In the Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England,  Page 68, it shows a list of people who had to give the oath of allegiance, counting 33 people, not 21 as is  mentioned in other publications

Monday, October 25, 2010

On our way to The New World from Ipswich, England

It is the 10th day of April in the year 1634 A.D.  We find ourselves in the midst of the "Great Migration" brought on by the growing influence of Puritan ministers, which forced many to remove themselves from East Anglia. Others just join their migrating families, and yet others find their reasons in a failing economy, overpopulation, spreading of disease and food shortages.  After taking the Oath of Allegiance to England, we step aboard the Elizabeth in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, traveling alongside Mr. Edmund Lewis, his wife Mary and his two children John, 3 years of age, and Thomas, only 9 months young.  Our names are checked off from the passenger's list as we are greeted by the ship's Master William Andrewes.  We hurry along to get to the cabin and await the departure to the New World; to a wonderful new start.  The Elizabeth casts off and we are eager to arrive in a little over a month from now at our destination: Massachusetts Bay.

The New World is promising and the Lewis' settle in Watertown, Massachusetts, the largest settlements of its time.  We witness Edmund's participation in the first great division of lands and he is granted a total of 46 acres.  [It makes one think of the movie Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, where he immigrates from Ireland and takes part in the land division in Oklahoma... different time, different place, but it puts into perspective how it might have been for our Mr. Edmund Lewis.  As far as we know, Edmund just simply purchases the land without having to ride his horse, armed with a stake, ready to thrust it into the land he wishes to claim as his own.] All in all, they are off to a good start.  His homestead is on the east side, now known as Lexington Street. There, a new brother to John and Thomas is born the 11th day of November... first born in this new world... this new life.  They name him James.

The day has finally come on which our successful Edmund Lewis is admitted a freeman, this day of May 24, 1636 - a full citizen of the New World. He is allowed to hold public office and vote in town meetings, which is exactly what he does.  Just a short time thereafter in 1638 he is elected a Selectman. October 14, 1638, he is one of the committee chosen "To lay out the farmes as they were ordered, near Dedham line."  The Lewis-Family welcomes another son to their family on June 25, 1639, who is named Nathaniel. Unfortunately, only a couple of years later, Edmund and Mary lay to rest the body of a 20 day old child on this 6th day of November,  1642.  

The same year, we pack up our belongings and move to Lynn, Massachusetts, joining Edmund, Mary and their children, yet again, in a new beginning.  He settles on the Eastern part of the town, on what is now Lewis Street. Just a few years later, in January of 1650, Edmund passes away.  In his will he states that he wants his land in Watertown to be soled and that his eldest son John shall receive double portion, while the rest of his children, namely his five youngest, receive a like-portion of his estate.  Edmund also states for his dear and loving wife Mary to receive a third of his whole estate.  Interestingly, he makes sure that his wife receives a cow from his son John, and from his son Thomas half of his sheep for the upbringing of Edmund's youngest children.  Mary died on the 7th day of September, 1658.

Now, we shall pack our bags and travel to Westerly, Rhode Island, in the year of 1661; Person of interest (it feels as if he is a subject of stalking, really): John Lewis, son of Edmund Lewis.  Ready to be a first settler and make a deal with an Indian tribe? 

Source of Information:
Edmund Lewis, of Lynn, Mass., and some of his descendants ; by George Harlan Lewis
A genealogical dictionary of the first Settlers of New England... ; by James Savage
The Wilson Family; by Wendell E. Wilson
Watertown ; by Fred G. Barker
Genealogies of Lynn, Mass. ; by Henry Bond
History of Lynn, Mass. , by Alonzo Lewis

Source of Images:
Map of Watertown, Mass., by Henry Bond
Map of Lynn, Mass., by Alonzo Lewis

*Alonzo Lewis believes that Edmund Lewis was admitted a freeman on 25 May 1636
*Alonzo Lewis believes the year of removal to Lynn, Mass. is 1639, whereas Henry Bond believes the year to be after 1642, and James Savage believes the year to have been 1643.  
*numerous claims have been made that Edmund Lewis originated from Glamourganshire, Wales, however, there is no proof to confirm or deny this claim.
*Some believe, that the wife of Edmund Lewis is Mary Carey, born in 1602, Norfolk, England... I have yet to find proof of that...
*George H. Lewis reports the birth year of James as 1635-6
*Some claim Edmund's ancestry back to the early 1300's to a Madock Lewis, born 1325, Wales, and others trace it as far as 314 A.D. to a Tegin, in a region of Wales.   I have yet to find anything to confirm either claim.  However, all those claims make for an interesting read.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Digging Up Roots

I promised Lewis that I would use his suggestion of a blog-name for my first blog as i didn't feel naming my blog "Digging Up Roots".    So finally, I've made it... after sticking my toes into the cold water, the current grabbed me and pulled me in.  My office could be mistaken as a stalker type person's living space and the sticky notes only amplify a thought of craziness.  But I would like to think that there is order to my madness.  When I packed up my suitcase filled with pencils and paper, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I wonder, if anyone knew exactly of what's coming when hopping onto the train to the past.  I thought, besides it being interesting, it has to be quite easy.  Oh silly me !!!  I should have performed a hair-count as I am sure, there is a lot less of it on my head now. 

It is amazing what you get to see on this journey though.  As frustrating as it can be, it is just as rewarding.  For me, anyways.  As you, or most of you, know, I started this trip really to find more information about the person who called himself "father" in regards to me.  I know very little of him, and actually, as it turned out, with what I know, it can be classified as "I don't know anything at all".  So my own bloodline remains at 7 people.  Lewis, on the other hand has a huge family.  His family took me on a trip through American History.  I found myself studying the Revolutionary War as well as the Civil War along the way.  I am taking on the Lewis Family (I giggle every time I say it...  if Lewis'  surname still would be Lewis, he'd be Lewis Lewis...  no, you didn't get a giggle out of that? ) 

The Lewis-surname is from Lewis'  mom's maternal ancestral lineage.  Yes, I even learned the difference between an ancestor and a relative. 

The year is 1634 A.D., Lynn, Massachusetts...