Thursday, August 11, 2011

Here's to Good Olde Yarmouth

As I sit down to write today's post I haven't a clue what's going to be written. Ordinarily I have an idea, usually inspired by something I have discovered while researching the half dozen or so family trees I work on regularly. But the past two weeks have been a little busier than most this summer and I haven't been doing much research nor have I found any one thing "large" enough to turn into an entire post. And the truth is that once I start writing, I have no control over what I tell you all, anyway. It just lands on the page and at times I am surprised at what I get. So, for today, I thought I'd just start writing and see what washes ashore, so to speak.

I am winding down my stay on Cape Cod where I feel compelled to do research on Ed's family tree. One side of his family descends from the immigrant John Crowe  who came from England in the 1630s via Charlestown. The 11 generations of ancestors that came before Ed, not only compels me but makes me feel somewhat obligated to write about them while I am here in this old historic little town.
Bass River Bridge courtesy Descendants of Yarmouth FB page

The Crow (Crowell) family in England is believed to have come from Kent, then moved to Wales before the immigrant John Crowe (Crowell) came to Charlestown in about 1635. One account I read said they were descendants of Sir Sackville Crowell. (I just stuck that little tidbit in there because I thought the name was funny.) John's wife, Elishua was here even before John arrived because her name appears in the church records at Charlestown in 1634 and she bought a house there from Mr. William Jennings that same year. So, evidently, John sent her ahead to work with the Realtor. Both John and Elishua were born in 1592. After 4 years, John sold the home in Charlestown and they moved to Old Plymouth Colony. They had 5 children, among them John and Thomas, who were among the first of any to be born in Yarmouth.

John and two others, Messrs. Thacher and Howes, went to Yarmouth, when Governor Bradford and the Old Colony Court granted them land there, known as Mattacheese at the time. These three were the land committee given the task of surveying, mapping and extinguishing the Native American titles, as Governor Bradford was still in the process of purchasing the land from them. Then, they were to divide the land up among inhabitants according to their estate and "quality". But, you can't please all of the people all of the time and there were jealousies and arguments among those who received the apportioned land making it necessary for Governor Bradford to step in. He added four more men to the committee and he assigned an objective party to mediate the whole fiasco: one Miles Standish.

Miles, always the diplomat and certainly a well respected fellow, cleared up the differences, or at least quieted the whiners and brought peace to the early families who lived there, although the whole issue wasn't completely put to rest for a good 10 years. Probably not unlike today's political debates and municipal machinations. Having retired from municipal government, the motto is always "Things take time."
Main Street -courtesy Descendants of Yarmouth FB Page

Meanwhile, John and Elishua's son Thomas,  who was Ed's 8th great grandfather was growing up in Bass Ponds, later to be called Crow Town and what is now West Dennis. (Dennis didn't break off from Yarmouth until 150 years later.) Thomas married Agnes and they had two sons, one called  John and one called Thomas, just to make things more confusing for the genealogists that were to be tearing out their hair 375 years later.

John of Bass Ponds married Sara O'Kellia, another name that changed with time. Crowe was changed to Crowell about the 3rd generation from what most documents show, but in many documents they would  make a note that this was an alias for Crow. Even when they spelled it as Crowell, for many years, it was pronounced Crow.  The name O'Kellia went back and forth between O'Kellia and Kelly, settling down as Kelly sometime along the way. There are many Kelly families in Yarmouth's history. John and Sara Crowell had eight little Crowells, among them, of course were a John and a Thomas.

Courtesy Descendants of Yarmouth FB page

This latest John Crowell married Experience Higgins from Eastham. He would be the last of the Johns and Thomases in Ed's line. They had five children, one of whom was Abner, Ed's 5th great grandfather whom I have mentioned before as to having perished aboard a British Prison Ship in Newport Harbor. I have found one account that says Abner's father John also perished with him, although John would have been 83 at the time and I am not sure he would have been on board any ship at that age. That deserves a little more research at some time in the future.

So, on down the tree we go as Abner married a girl named Sara O'Kellia. Sound familiar? Abner's grandmother was also named Sara O'Kellia. Now we know he didn't marry his grandmother, but believe me it caused me to double and triple check the records when I saw that name come up again. Sara and Abner had 8 children before she died, leaving Abner to remarry months before his demise. You may remember in an earlier post that Abner married the Widow Ruth Hinckley Nickerson whose husband had been murdered at sea by a cousin. They had that one son, Simeon who I have also written about.

The son of Abner and Sara who would be Ed's fourth great grandfather was Judah. He married Rhoda Philips of Harwich. Judah was, like all of his forefathers, a lifelong resident of Yarmouth. By the time Judah's son Heman had a family in Yarmouth there were 16 Crowell families in the little Cape Cod town. They all had lots of children and many of them married people who had the same last name.

Clarence Crowell 1869-1949
Another Heman came along in Ed's tree and then Clarence, Ed's great grandfather;

Uriah Benedict Fisk Crowell 1892-1977
followed by Uriah, his grandfather;

and Ed's mother, Phyllis was born in 1922. There was a brother Edmond who died young and produced no heirs. So, the Crowell name in this line did not continue.
Phyllis Crowell Eaton 1922-1993
Ed's older sisters Karen (1945-1992) and Gail (c1946-1947) whom I never met.
Ed and his siblings are the 11th generation descending from the Crowell immigrant, all who lived here. Ed's sister and her children, generation 12, are the only ones still living here now. We are just summer folk. Ed's niece's Joanna's significant other is a member of the Crowell family from Harwich, another Cape Cod town down the road a piece. I haven't gone back to figure out where his tree and hers split but we could probably find it without too much trouble. Chances are, though, they are related in more than one branch.
Ed and his siblings 2009
Carlene (1960-2010) Bob, Ed and Kathy

It really is fairly unique to find a situation anywhere in the country where so many families who began a town remained there for almost 375 years. But the Cape is the next thing to being an island, a remote location causing its inhabitants to refer to any other place as "off Cape". Separated by the Cape Cod Canal from the "mainland" it really is very much like a little island and provides an interesting provincial feel despite the millions of folks who visit here each year, crowding the roads and beaches.

Ed and I have had a 'discussion' over the past few years as to where we will be "planted" when our time comes. I have roots in Sudbury where I grew up, where my ancestors came and left and came back again over a few centuries, but nothing like Ed's family who never left. And Sudbury is where I always thought I'd be buried one day, perhaps in Wadsworth Cemetery the resting place for my mother and my grandparents and great grandmother and my fourth great grandparents.

I always thought that was where I belonged.

But, Ed wants to go to Pine Grove, the little cemetery in South Yarmouth, just this side of Bass River, the place where some of his ancestors rest and a place I've become more familiar with over the years, visiting often and exploring the older stones for names I've found in Ed's ancestry. A friend of ours, John Sears who I have mentioned before is the consummate expert on local history here in Yarmouth and someone who has helped me to really get the feel of this old town. His family on both sides goes back as far as you can go here in Yarmouth and Dennis next door. Both his paternal Sears line and his maternal Baker line are legendary around here, the names appearing on street signs and schools and the like everywhere you look. John can point out all along Old Main Street where different ancestors of his once made their homes, all of them surrounding his own home. He is fascinating to talk with and I enjoy telling him about some of the interesting stories I've found doing my Cape Cod family research. He always has more to add to what I find.

John has his place all picked out and ready there in Pine Grove and it's just a short walk from where Ed and I would be if we end up there with Ed's grandparents and great grandparents. John and I have talked about it when he was conducting a little cemetery tour for me one day a couple of weeks ago. If I do end up there with Ed, John said he'd come over from his spot and visit and that we were welcome to do the same. Maybe we'll invite Ed's sister Kathy and her husband George over. They'd be just a short walk in the other direction from John's place. We could play cards or just kick back and talk over old times. And I am sure John will introduce us to others there. I guess if I know some of the neighbors it might just be a nice place to end up some day.

Reworking that old Harvard Toast about Boston Brahmins, completely tongue in cheek, I might add...

And here's to good olde Yarmouth,
Home of the gull and the Cod,
Where the Crowells speak only to the Sears's
And the Sears's speak only to God!

or Bakers, or Halletts or Chases or Howes, or... 

No comments: