Saturday, July 4, 2015

Musings on Independence Day

America’s birthday is a great thing to celebrate.  In years past, I always made it a part of my day to read the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution.  I always marveled at the determination of the founders to be a separate people when the outcome, if they lost, would be very grim indeed.  For the past several years, I’ve focused on genealogy and this year in particular for no discernible reason I’ve been thinking about the Tories and the Patriots and the ones who were neither.  I heard somewhere that one-third of the people of the 1770s desired to be free of Britain, one -third wanted to remain British subjects and one -third weren’t bound up with political changes.  I am sure there were divisions among families then, too.  That must have been extremely stressful.  

I’ve identified some ancestor Patriots:  Ephraim Lindsey of Marshfield, Mass who died at White Plains, NY;  Capt John Dearborn of Hampton, NH, who was a member of the coastal Militia; Jeremiah Philbrook of Vinalhaven, Maine who suffered depradations during the British raids on the islands in Penobscot Bay; and Increase Leadbetter, Sr. also of Vinalhaven who also suffered the same depradations.  I knew little about the Penobscot Expedition (1779) or about the building of the improvements to the fort by the British at Bagadeuce, now Castine, Maine until I came across these ancestors.  Many people who were islanders in Penobscot Bay tried to remain in their homes on the islands but were harried by the British who would confiscate all the food and animals they had been raising. Once the Penobscot Expedition ended in a tremendous defeat for the fleet from Massachusetts “the greatest part of {the islanders} were obliged to abandon their possessions to the Mercy of the enemy who came on to the Island and burnt their houses… .” (History of Vinalhaven, pg 9)  The ships’s crews who did the collections were so efficient their vessels were called shaving mills as they left a place bare.  Men and boys were impressed for labor and many found themselves building the British fortifications in unhealthful and inhumane conditions.   

By 1785, the returning residents of Vinalhaven which was comprised of the former Fox Islands (now the towns of Vinalhaven and North Haven)  petitioned Massachusetts for the legal right to be their own town.  They were rebuilding from nothing and wanted to own their own places in the new Republic.  The petition and the signers are found on pages 8, 9, and 10 of  A Brief Historical Sketch of the Town of Vinalhaven, (Rockland, ME 1900).   The list of signers looks like a family gathering to me:  Calderwood,  Leadbetter,  Philbrook,  Coombs,  Brown, Burgess,  Robbins,  Eames,  Dyer,  and others, and very interestingly, three Carvers – Israel, 45 years old, Thaddeus, 34 years old, and Caleb III, 23 years old.  Thaddeus was one of the earliest settlers to the Fox Islands – his cousin Israel and family came at about the same time.  Caleb was Israel’s nephew.  In doing my family genealogy I labelled the various Caleb Carvers so I could tell them apart.  This was important as Caleb III’s father, Caleb II, was a Loyalist.  This is why seeing Caleb III’s name on the petition was so interesting.  This evidently is an example of a divided family at the nuclear and extended levels.  

I knew that Caleb II and his son Melzar Carver were Loyalists because they were proscribed and banished from Boston.  This formal proceeding enabled the revolutionary government of Massachusetts to confiscate their goods and properties even if they had re-located.   There are other names of extended family members on other similar documents:  Tilden, Decrow, Bonney and Sherman.   A few of them were under house arrest for the duration of the war only being allowed to go to the meetinghouse on Sundays; a few of them left before the banishment was published like the Carvers, father and son.   Melzar actually evacuated with the British troops March 17, 1776.  His father, Caleb Carver II was a master mariner and owner of a schooner which re-supplied the British.  Caleb II was awarded 195 acres in Kings County,  New Brunswick after the war which became his home.  Melzar was also awarded land but by the time he was banished (1778) he was already a land owner in Norwalk, Conn.  

These are not the only Carvers who were impacted by these divided loyalties because it was a very large family.  The descendants of Robert Carver of Marshfield are vast in number but these are the ones who are closest genealogically to me.  Israel Carver and his brother Caleb II are both 6th great-grandfathers.  You see, Israel’s daughter Lydia married Caleb’s son Caleb III and their daughter Margaret continues the line to me and my siblings (and I supposed hundreds of other people but I haven’t tracked them all down yet).  

Well, the Pops are finished.  It was another fine birthday for America.  There’s just enough time left to read the Declaration again. 

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