Joanna

 

joanna
Joanna is in bright red.

We don’t know what her surname was at birth, or even her first husband’s name. But we do know that she was known by everyone in town as a chirurgeon (surgeon/doctor), and was recognized as such when her second husband’s probate case was in court.

 

Joanna arrived in the colonies sometime before 1640. As a wife, or a widow, we do not know. Her husband, if she had one, was not around by 1640. This we know because according to testimony regarding her 2nd husband John’s probate in 1680, she had married forty years earlier to John Smith. (I know, right. Just what I need, another bloody Smith in the family). She brought into this 2nd marriage one daughter, by the name of Elizabeth.

They were most likely married in Boston, where John had been working as a tailor/nailor*, and stayed there for about 13 years. (It is believe that he arrived in New England about 1638 with a brother, Nehemiah. This brother helped him out with a loan when the family wanted to moved to New London, Connecticut about 1653.

Joanna and John had no children, or at least not any that lived. (And John had no children when he died.)

She was a noted doctor and was skillful at healing wounds and bruises and made her own salves, which she used on the patients she tended. Her practice no doubt helped to fill the family pantry or coffers. These skills were passed on to her granddaughter Agnes, who married Thomas Pember. (It does not appear that her daughter Elizabeth was interested in learning the healing arts.)

Agnes (traditionally pronounced Inez, silent ‘g’) was an excellent student:

“Agnes studied medicine under her grandmother, Joanna Smith, became her assistant, and took over the practice when the grandmother became enfeebled. Caulkins’ History of New London, (page 355), mentions Agnes Pember, “was who was for many years famous as a nurse and doctress … Tradition related many vivid anecdotes respecting this energetic and experienced race of female practitioners… and unbounded confidence was placed in her female skills to stroke for the King’s evil (scrofula, thought to be cured the a touch from royalty), to cure cancers, alleviate asthma, and set bones.1

When John died in 1679, Edward Smith, a nephew (a son of John’s eldest brother), protested the will stating that the intent of John in inviting him to move to New England, was that he would treat him as his own son, and upon John’s death, Edward would inherit, as if a son. Probate court records indicate Joanna denied Edward the right to any inheritance, as the will never states any such thing, and all Edward could provide was heresay.

Joanna made a statement that she wished the court to consider regarding the matter of the will:

That I stand as the third person distinct from my deceased husband and Edward Smith, with a lawful conveyance of a part my husband’s estate in my hand which cannot be voided by all those former acts which they pretend to be my husband’s.

“He [Edward] is worse than an infidel that provides not for his own house. I was the proper house my husband had to provide for, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, and he could not with good conscience do less than provide well for me. I brought an estate to him: I helped in getting the estate, the bare rents my husband knew would not maintain me, who he knew he was to leave blind and sickly and aged. If he did in former times say he would do more for Edward, and less for me, it is to be supposed that those purposes were upon his view of things as they stood when I was well able to live by my chyrurgery, now I am blind and cannot see a wound much less dress it or make salves, also my husband expected better behavior from Edward: then after he found, in the providence of God altering my condition so much as for being a good help to others, but I was grown to be a great burthen, gave my husband a just call to alter his former intentions and to give me what might purchase me that respect and supply which the necessity of my condition called for, and which was his indispensable duty to provide for which he having done, if it must not be undone, then woe to poor widows when their husbands are dead, and under what doubts must all consider, tender, conscionable husbands live and die when they shall see an instance of one that did what he could to provide for his widow, but it was frustrate the law would not maintain it. But I hope for better things from the prudence and justice of this court, such as may make the widows heart sing for joy and &c. “Joanna Smith”2

The case was in court a while, but eventually Joanna received her due.

In one of the depositions in the probate case from Richard Smith of New London we learn something interesting regarding her daughter Elizabeth:

 “…Furthermore, John Smith added that his wife had been very earnest with him, to make one of her daughter’s children, his heir. But the said John Smith said he wholly declined it because his wife’s daughter was a Quaker and he could not abide Quakers, and also that her husband [George Way] did not please him.”

So apparently John didn’t care for his stepdaughter’s Quakerish ways (or her husband). A common view in New England at the time where Quakers were vilified, harassed, and even hanged for their belief.

Joanna was blind at the time of her husband’s death, which is stated several times in the depositions, and in the statement regarding her granddaughter Agnes taking over the doctoring business.

Deposition of Martha Mould: …and if that any words had passed between them in the last sickness wherein one being sick and sometimes testy and angry, and the other through age, weakness and want of sight, not able to do as formerly she could have done

Deposition of Anne Lattemore: that she was there watching in the time of his sickness, and that Joanna acted “with all tenderness and due respect as a wife could do, being in such condition as she was, in being weak, aged and dark sighted.”

The following court case is found in Connecticut court records from 1682:

“Elizabeth Way presented for not living with her husband. The Court orders her to go to her husband or to be imprisoned.” Elizabeth stated that her husband resided in Saybrook and she would remain with her mother at New London as she was the only daughter of John and Johanna Smith.

So, Elizabeth up and left her husband to take care of her aged, blind mother. As her only child, and a devout Quaker, I would imagine that she felt she had no other course but to do her duty, as both. Maybe she was even glad to get away from the old ball and chain for a while. George certainly didn’t seem inclined to be reasonable about the matter, as shown by his bringing her to court to insist that she return home.

The court order was disregarded by Elizabeth.

Joanna died in 1687, aged about 73, but not before passing on her doctoring knowledge to her granddaughter Agnes, who was also well know for her skills. Joanna’s estate was inherited by her daughter Elizabeth, who was now living in Lyme, Connecticut. At no time does the maiden name of Elizabeth appear in the records, so we still do not know who her father is.

I am imagining a tradition of strong, intelligent women in Joanna’s family passing down these doctoring skills to the next generation. All of them, in their time, a vital part of their community. Just reading her statement to the probate court, in trying to get her just due from her husband’s estate, some of that strength comes through.

Joanna is an ancestor in my Dad’s Cross line. Joanna’s lawyer, representing her in the probate case, was William Pitkin. William is an ancestor on the Shaw side of the family, (through Charlotte Hatch). Ensign Clement Minor, an ancestor on mother’s Shepard side, testified against the nephew, Edward in the case. It’s a small world in the 1600s.

*Naylor is written in the records, some believe that to be a typo and he was a tailor, others think it meant nailor. Which sounds like a very weird job to me, what, you just nail all day. Hey, sir, you need anything nailed today. Hmmm. Doesn’t sound likely.

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Sources:

  1. John Pember: The History of the Pember Family in America, Compiled by Mrs. Celeste Pember Hazen; 1939: self published.
  2. A genealogical history of the descendants of the Rev. Nehemiah Smith of New London County, Conn.: with mention of his brother John and nephew Edward. 1638-1888, by Smith, Henry Allen, 1889; Albany, N.Y.: J. Munsell’s Sons.
  3. Connecticut Way Family, compiled by C. Granville Way. Original manuscript in possession of Mary Elizabeth Way, Martinez, California. Loaned to the public library of Fort Wayne and Allen County, May 1978.
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What’s in a tree..

 

The_Charter_Oak_Charles_De_Wolf_Brownell_1857
The Charter Oak by Charles De Wolf Brownell in 1857.

Most families have tall tales regarding an ancestor or two, some ghoulish, some funny or in this case kind of heroic.

In the year 1662 King Charles II granted the Connecticut Colony a large degree of self-rule in its charter. So they were accustomed to running things the way they liked. But in 1686 when James II took the throne, he decided that he wanted better control over the running of these colonies. So in his infinite wisdom he decided to combine several colonies together in what was called the Dominion of New England. [That has such a Deep Space Nine ring to it.] To oversee this change in policy he appointed Sir Edmund Andros as the new governor-general, and indicated that his appointment nulled and voided the colonies previous charters, after which Andros proceeded to visit each colony to collect their original charters, this was to be more of a symbolic gesture to emphasize the change in policy.

Andros’s visit to Hartford in October of 1687 was as unwelcome as his visits to the previous colonies. According to local stories, when Andros demanded that the document be handed over, the local leadership produced the charter but, shortly thereafter, the lights were doused. The charter was then ‘spirited out a window and thence to the Oak by Captain Joseph Wadsworth’. The man who doused the lights is said to have been his good friend Cyprian Nichols.

Andros was overthrown two year later in the 1689 Boston revolt, therefore dissolving the Dominion. The tree that the charter was hidden in became known as the Charter Oak. 

According to a diary in the Wadsworth family Joseph told family:

I returned to Hartford on Friday and the following night removed the Charter from the hollow oak and concealed it in a candle box which was fitted into the stone foundation of my house.

According to the Cook family of Harwinton, Connecticut:

Captain Wadsworth and Captain Cyprian Nichols, of Hartford, agreed that they would try to save the charter; that Wadsworth gave Captain Nichols the choice of whether he would undertake to extinguish the candles or hide the charter. Nichols chose the former, and upon receiving a prearranged signal, personally and by others extinguished all of the lights in the Council Chamber, and that Captain Wadsworth seized the charter, secreted it in the oak, coming back as quickly as possible. Late that night, or very soon thereafter at the dead of night, Captain Wadsworth brought the charter to his own house with the intention of secreting it there, without anyone knowing of that fact. Upon his arriving home, to his dismay, he found that his wife had been suddenly taken ill with the colic, and he had to impart to her or some other member of the family the nature of his employment, and thereupon the charter, placed in an old candle box, was secreted in the corner of Captain Wadsworth’s cellar, and the earth replaced in such a way as to thoroughly conceal it. His injunctions to the person to whom his secret had to be disclosed were that if anything should happen to him, they should communicate to Captain Cyprian Nichols the secret of its hiding place.

Family tradition says that Joseph told this story to his daughter, Hannah, who told her grandson Allan Cook, who repeated it to R. Manny Chipman, who wrote History of Harwinton.

Wadsworth is suppose to have kept the duplicate charter until 1698, when he presented it to the ruling Governor and Council, at which time he was told to keep it until otherwise instructed.

 The original at that time was in the hands of Samuel Wyllys…From May, 1698, to May, 1715, the duplicate charter lay in its box in the cellar. Over twenty seven years had elapsed since it was taken from the Council Chamber, and as almost all of those who participated in those stirring incidents had passed away I deemed it advisable to return it to the Governor and General Court, which after a conference, passed the following  resolution: “The resolution in the original paper is thus endorsed by the clerks: … Their agreement, viz.: twenty shillings to Capt. Wadsworth for the services mentioned in the Resolution…”

Both of the main characters of this heroic tale, Joseph Wadsworth, and Cyprian Nichols are related to me. Joseph is an ancestral uncle, and Cyprian is my 9x great grandfather.

Historically, the white oak tree that housed the charter for a short time has become the focus of the tale. But it is Joseph Wadsworth who deserves all the credit for putting it there in the first place.


Sources:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_Oak
  2. http://colonialwarsct.org/1687.htm
  3. https://connecticuthistory.org/hiding-the-charter-images-of-joseph-wadsworths-legendary-action/
  4. http://www.hartfordhistory.net/charter_oak.html
  5. Wadsworth: Or, The Charter Oak, By William Henry Gocher; google books

Just another Smith…

Stratford_upon_Avon_church_SWAbout a month ago I received my American Ancestors magazine in the mail and last weekend I decided to finally get it off my reading pile. The magazine is part of my membership in the NEHGS (New England Historical and Genealogical Society), along  with The Register. It is very rare that any surnames of interest to my particular research ever pop up in these publications. So imagine my surprise when I am reading along in the ‘Genetics and Genealogy’ section, when the combined surname and location they are writing about starts bells dinging in my brain. I pulled out my trusty iPad, loaded my ‘Reunion’ app, and searched away. Sure enough there they were, exactly as I thought.

Once again Esther Newell brings some cool factoids to the Shaw line.

As I have mentioned before to my reader, we have at least four ancestral Smith lines in my family, (maybe even five, I keep losing count). The particular Smith line I was reading about in this article was in regards to the Smiths of Hartford and Farmington, in Hartford County, Connecticut.

Esther Newell’s mother was Abigail Smith. Abigail’s parents were John Smith and Abigail Wadsworth, and it appears that this John Smith was the great grandson of the Quaker emigrants Christopher Smith and Agnes Gibes who had emigrated and settled in Rhode Island.

In my own research on this particular line I could only find as far back as William Smith b.1617 who married Elizabeth Stanley[?] in 1644 in Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut. This new information gave me another generation and place of origin, proven by DNA and church records. Hence the title of the article I had been reading ‘Genetics and Genealogy.’

Of course none of that is the really cool part. It appears that these Smiths came from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. If the place seems familiar, how about this – Shakespeare anyone? In fact, Christopher and Agnes were married on the 1st of May, 1616, in the same church that William Shakespeare had been buried about a week prior.

Warwickshire, Stratford upon Avon, Trinity Church
Church in background where the Christopher and Agnes were married.

So what was this article about? The focus of the article I was reading was connecting two Smith families, the Hartford Smiths of Connecticut and the Providence, Rhode Island Smiths. Were they related? And if so, how? There is a SmithConnections Northeastern DNA Project found at FamilyTreeDNA that is trying to sort out the many different Smith lines that show up in New England. Christopher’s line is labeled NE18 in this database, and it appears that 23 different participants match his yDNA. The descendants of the Hartford Smiths match each other, and Christopher’s yDNA, so Christopher must be of some kinship to the Hartford matches. It was assumed he was a cousin.

This is where documentation comes to save the day. One of the authors of the article had learned of the marriage record of Christopher and Agnes found in The Registers of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the County of Warwick Marriages, 1558-1812, and it was online. They proceeded to check on the baptisms and burials in the book and found two of the known children of Christopher and Agnes, so no surprise there. But then was shocked to find all the Hartford Smith names listed in the book too, as children of Christopher and Agnes.

Their eldest child, William Smith, bap. 1627 in Stratford-upon-Avon, is our line of descent from Christopher and Agnes. (William’s sister Mary married a Partridge, and his sister Susanna married a Wilkinson, both surnames that are also in our tree.) So the mystery of the connection of the two families was solved.

Apparently, the most curious question about the family, that hasn’t been answered to anyones satisfaction, is why were Christopher and his wife Quakers, and none of their children had any such affiliation. Well, that and the fact that the two generations appeared to have separated, with no documented connections appearing in the records in America. Maybe their religious differences split them up.

I guess there will be more to read about this family in a future publication. I look forward with great anticipation to reading it.

Source:
Genetics and Genealogy: William Shakespeare and the Christopher Smith Family, by Kathleen Cooper Smith and Christopher Child; American Ancestors, volume 17, no. 1, page 50-53.