29 August, 2014

Edward Sturgis, Early Yarmouth Settler

I've begun writing up little biographies of ancestors as information comes to light during my research. This little bio is about Edward Sturgis, my maternal 9th great-grandfather.

Edward Sturgis

Edward Sturgis (sometimes spelled Sturges) was most likely born in January 1613 in the
village of Woodnesborough, Kent, England. His parents were John Sturges of Sturry, Kent and Margaret Austin of
Woodnesborough, Kent, England (photo by Nick Smith)
Tilmanstone, Kent. This couple had married in November of 1608 in Tilmanstone.

Edward was left 40 shillings by his grandfather (also Edward Sturgis), upon his death in 1623, to be given to young Edward at his 18th birthday. This amount would equal approximately $485 today. (Isn't the internet a wonderful thing?)

In 1634, when Edward was 21 years old, he made the decision to come to the American colonies. He appears to have made the trip by himself, as none of his siblings (Margaret, Elizabeth and Andrew) are mentioned in colonial records. What his dreams and ambitions were can only be guessed at, but he would prove a competent and enterprising young man and an asset to his chosen home town of Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

Prior to making Yarmouth his home, Edward arrived at Charlestown and received a grant of four acres of land there in the same year of his arrival. Little is known of Edward's time in Charlestown, but he did not find a wife there, and perhaps decided to move on to greener pastures. For whatever reason he removed to the newly settled town of Yarmouth on Cape Cod in 1640 where he met and married Elizabeth Hinckley in 1642. There were only 25 families in Yarmouth at that time, among them that of Giles Hopkins Mayflower passenger and son of Stephen Hopkins of the Mayflower, and also Antony Thacher, one of the co-founders of the town. Edward Sturgis settled to the eastern side of the town near the meetinghouse and was a near neighbor to Reverand Marmaduke Matthews, the pastor of Yarmouth.

Edward was one of the first to keep an “ordinary” or tavern in the town of Yarmouth. In those early colonial days, individuals could obtain a license to serve liquor, usually from their own homes. Later they would build larger accommodations, often including rooms for travelers, but initially the “ordinary” was simply the hospitality of the homeowner and a little something to warm the belly.
Colonial Ordinary

Edward evidently made a positive impression on the Yarmouth settlers, for they made him constable of the town in 1641. In 1643 he was judged “able to bear arms” and named a freeman of the town. He later served as selectman and as deputy to the General Court as well as serving on a number of committees governing the town. His occupation was listed as “innkeeper” and “husbandman” in later records, so he evidently expanded his “ordinary” at some point and kept a substantial farm.

His family grew rapidly, adding to the rolls of the newly formed town of Yarmouth four daughters and three sons. His childrens' names were Edward, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Hannah, Sarah and Thomas. (Sarah was the Thacher family ancestor.)

Edward left this life in October 1695 at the age of 81 years, dying in the town of Sandwich on Cape Cod. Though Edward Sturgis was considered one of the wealthier residents of early Yarmouth, he somehow died with substantial debt, leaving his second wife, Mary, in somewhat of a bind. Evidently she settled the estate for a sum of 23 pounds, leaving the rest to Edward's surviving son, Thomas.

14 August, 2014

From Wadhurst to Hamilton - Baker Mystery Solved

We'll get back to the Reid saga later. For today I have an exciting development to write about! A few posts ago I wrote about Arthur Baker, my only great-grandparent who remained a mystery. I had developed a theory of who his parents were and was working with that. Unfortunately, I did come across a death date for the Arthur Baker who I thought he was... in England.
Wadhurst, East Sussex, where Arthur was born
So, it was back to square one in the search for Arthur's origins in England. I began searching on Friday evening and spent hours on Saturday and Sunday chasing down every clue I could think of on ancestry as well as the web. Several possible families surfaced, but none panned out. I did find his grave on findagrave which confirmed his birth year as 1866 and gave me a death year of 1943.

Then I decided to take a careful look at the information that I DID have about Arthur and see if there was perhaps a clue that I had overlooked before. I noticed that, in each census report, Arthur reported his occupation as "farmer" or "dairy farmer"... except for one! In one instance he reported it as "gardener". I thought this rather strange and wondered if it could be a clue.

So I went back to ancestry search form and plugged in Arthur's name and birth year and "gardener" as a keyword. Bazzzoooom! Up comes an Arthur Baker in Salehurst, East Sussex as a 15 year old in the 1881 census and his occupation was listed as "under-gardener/ dom." I assume the dom means that he was a "domestic" or laborer for a wealthy household. In fact, his father, Jacob Baker, was listed as "gardener".  This Arthur's mother's name was Sarah Paine and he had a sister Emma. Arthur would name two of his daughters Sarah and Emma. My hopes were raised! 

I was further encouraged when this Arthur didn't appear in the following census, though his parents and siblings did. Then I discovered his paternal grandparents, John Baker and Mary Hubbard. When I searched for census reports on this couple, don't they turn up in the 1870 United States census in.... Hamilton New York!! The same city Arthur would reside in from 1925 to his death, after spending several years in nearby Lebanon. EUREKA!! These must be his grandparents!! 
Hamilton, New York - home of the Bakers in USA

I still do not know when Arthur came to the U.S. but he had to have come after that 1881 census and before his marriage in 1892. His year of immigration is different on every census report, as is his year of naturalization, so it's very hard to know. However, I now think that the Arthur Baker who arrived in August of 1888 is probably NOT my Arthur, since it seems to indicate that his occupation in England was "miner".

So, maybe the story about Arthur getting stuck in the great blizzard of Feb. 1888 is true! There is still so much to discover about Arthur and his family, but I am 96% sure that I have found his family of origin in England, at long last! So sweet is victory.

Addendum: I have since figured out that Mary Hubbard is not the wife that John came with to America. Evidently Mary Hubbard died and John married a woman by the name of Mary Ann, in England, whose surname I have not been able to verify as of yet. There seem to be no children of this marriage.