Saturday, April 25, 2020

#66 Influencers and Dividers - John Willis and Mary Kirby Willis and George F White, Firebrand

Influencer or Divider
This post is about the amazing influence of persuading people to share your opinions.

My 4th great grandmother had two sisters who were quite happy to remain as Quakers until a powerful influencer (for lack of a better word) made remaining in the Quaker fold intolerable for them.

The two sisters (Amy and Sarah) were great supporters of abolition of slavery and there were forces inside Quakerism which felt that that was inappropriate.
Their parents (my 5th great grandparents)

Father: Jacob Kirby (Son of Willets Kirby and Hannah Titus)
B 11 Aug 1765 Jericho, Nassau, NY
D 1859 Oyster Bay New York,
Mother: Mary Seaman (Daughter of William S Seaman & Mary Jackson)
B 27 Mar 1774 Nassau Co, NY
D 21 Sep 1854
Marriage -B 24 Jun 1790 in Jericho, NY

Their Children
*1 Mary Willis Kirby&
B 30 Jul 1791 D 1873
John Willis on 24 Dec 1812
2 William Kirby Born 17 Mar 1795 Died 19 Sep 1797
3 Hannah Kirby Born 1799–1827
4 Amy Kirby Born 20 Dec 1803 Died 1889
5 Willets Kirby Born September 1806 Died 1882
6 Edmond Kirby Born 1808
7 Elizabeth Kirby Born 21 Jun 1814 Died 1900
8 Sarah Kirby Born 16 Jan 1818 Died 1914

Three sisters of my 4th great grandmother (Mary Kirby) had a tumultuous time after leaving Long Island.
HANNAH:Hannah and Isaac Post married in Jericho, Long Island, NY in the early 1820s. In 1823 they moved to Cayuga County, NY.
In 1827, Hannah Kirby Post died.
AMY: In the meantime, sister Amy Kirby had moved upstate to nurse Hannah. The year after her death, Isaac Post (widower) and Amy Kirby were wed.
SARAH: In 1838 Sarah Kirby moved upstate and married 1st, Jefferies Hallowell in 1838 (d. 1844); Married 2nd, Edmund P Willis in 1853.
MARY (my great grandmother): Remained in Jericho, married to John Willis.

Both Sarah Kirby (Hallowell/Willis) and Amy Kirby (Post) were active in anti-slavery work (abolitionist movement).
They were members of the newly-formed Western New York Anti-Slavery Society in 1842, and worked on its many Antislavery Fairs (fundraising events).

There was quite an exchange of letters between the sisters in Rochester and Long Island.
One letter (which is in the Univ. of Rochester Library) is to Amy Kirby Post and is a recounting, or a reporting of a Quaker business meeting which took place in May 1842 in Westbury, and was written by Mary's husband John Willis.
He gives a report on the outcome of an appeal from a person who was to be disowned from the Friends meeting. I had believed until I read the background at that period that I understood why people were disowned.
What caught my attention was his warning to his sister-in-law at at the end of the letter.

"Father and Mother expects to make you a visit and if you want them to have an agreeable visit you must talk something besides Abolition and George F White." (for transcription, see end of post)

John Willis to sister-in-law Amy Post

John Willis warns Amy not to mention George F White
Thanks to George F White,the Genesee Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, to which Sarah & her husband belonged, was against slavery, but its ministers and elders disapproved of the aactivities of many anti-slavery advocates.

Who WAS George F White & what was the problem with speaking of Abolition?

In the 1840s George F White was a prominent Quaker minister and followed Elias Hicks' teachings (which had created a division around 1827).
Minister George F White was “anti-Anti.” He was quite persuasive; preaching that the Quakers should not come out against anything.
For example, he was against being against slavery (anti-abolitionist), but he was not pro-slavery. White strongly warned the Friends using forceful terms, against participating in antislavery and other reform movements, which were otherwise seen as advancing Quaker ideas.
He was apparently pro-George F White.
He was highly controversial figure, creating division among the Quakers.
His influence was so strongly felt that New England & New York Yearly Meetings prohibited abolitionist speeches and later on temperance and suffrage meetings in its facilities.

Amy Kirby (sister of Mary Kirby Willis) during this time worked with Frederick Douglass in Rochester and invited him to speak at Westbury (Long Island) Meeting.
However, this was cancelled when some in the meeting objected to Douglass’ message. Frederick Douglass instead met with locals but did not speak at the Quaker meetinghouse.
George F White's influence was felt all over, and in Western New York (Rochester and surrounding areas), the ground shifted for the Quakers.
There, the NY (Hicksite) Quarterly Meeting refused to allow anti‐slavery lecturers in the meetinghouse, saying even though Quaker, they were paid by abolition societies. This broke the general Quaker rule against using a “hireling ministry” (paid).
Tensions grew over how to resolve the conflicts within meetings: George F White had created more problems than he had solved.
In Western NY some people, such as Amy (Kirby) and Isaac Post left Genesee Yearly Meeting altogether. Then in 1848 about 200 others formed a separate Yearly meeting.
The controversy that surrounded George F White’s crusade against reform movements eventually created fracture nearly every Hicksite Yearly meeting.

Going back to the letter at the beginning of the post:
The letter is John Willis' account to his sister-in-law is his own recollection of an appeal by James S Gibbons on his possible disownment. There were three people in jeopardy at this time: Isaac T Hopper, his son-in-law James S. Gibbons, and Charles Marriott. The problem? They had what was viewed as improper associations with nonQuaker abolitionist movements.

After over a year of deliberation, New York Monthly Meeting disowned the men in 1842.
A few (not all) reasons listed for disowning the men:
"1. Such activity implied that something was wrong with Friends testimonies. Faith should be sufficient to cause change; therefore, it was not necessary to form or participate in man‐made organizations.
2. Such activity ignored the slaveholders, many of whom were performing a moral good by making slaves morally good and happy; it also ignored the problems that abolition would bring to slaveholders.
3. Such activity employed strong language and harsh activities unbefitting to Friends.
4. Quakers belong to a religious society, not a benevolent society; therefore, slavery was not a proper issue for the care of the Religious Society of Friends."

The above list pretty much lays bare the problem changing things in society for the better; one of the great obstacles to change is overcoming inertia against change.

[The two sisters of Mary, Sarah and Amy, eventually left the Society of Friends (Quakers). Both Sarah and Amy were one of the many former Quakers who often gathered at the Anthony home on Sundays to discuss reform activities, including anti-slavery and women's rights.]
First and last page of John Willis' letter to Amy Kirby Post (transcribed)

Jericho 5th (May) 30th 1842
My much esteemed sister - [meaning sister-in-law-]
Amy Post
    We have now returned from our Yearly Meeting and feel something of a cold  otherwise all pretty well. Our Yearly meeting was large and the business that came before it was conducted in much harmony and brotherly love we had in the company of good many strangers  some from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Genessee [county] and Can`n`ady, and the subjects that thee may feel an interest in 

I will give some account of the first business take up in the second sitting was the appeal of TTH (?) ht meeting appointed four-from each quarterly, Westbury excepted which made 36 in number. I had objected to 3 of those that where appointed and they were accordingly released and 3 others appointed in their stead with which Isaac [Hopper] felt satisfyed [sic] in the commencement of the appointment Isaac requested that he might have the company of his son in law James S Gibbons to set with him, which was granted  then asked James S G. weather [sic] he intended to prosecute  appeal James said before he answered that question it would be necessary for him to make a few remarks. He said it never was agreeable to his judgement to appeal but he did so on consideration
to his friend (but I think such friends are not worth having) and to prosecute the appeal for the sake of controversy he had no wish to do and further  he had no wish to be a member of N. York monthly Meeting as he thought the regulations of that meeting would conflict with his duty's [sic] he therefore declined proceeding any further and would withdraw from the contest. he said a good deal more but the above is about the substance.
The Meeting then proseeded [sic] on with its usual business until Sixth Day morning when the clerk informed that there was
a report from the committee on the appeal on the table which was accordingly taken up The report was as follows that they had attended to their  appointment had heard the appellant and the quarterly Meeting committee in the case, and that 18 where [sic] for confirming the judgment of the quarterly Meeting 15 for reversing it, and three declined giving any opinion in the case. John (Rh)uman asked weather [sic] it would be thought....

-----------ETC -----------
I have wrote a considerable >this is the last (page?)< but I suppose it will not be very exceptable [sic] information to thee but thee must try to hear it for it does appear that moddern [sic] abbolitionism [sic] is on the dicline [sic] with us [meaning Quakers], not that the interes[t] in the welfare of the slave is on the dicline [sic] by any means, that and moddern abbolition [sic] is two very different subjects--- Father and Mother expects to make
you a visit and if you want them to have an agreeable visit you must talk something besides Abolition and George F White.

Effectionately [sic] thine -
John Willis

3 Quakers and Abolition, Edited by Brycchan Carey and Geoffrey Plank, 2014, University of Illinois Press

Saturday, April 18, 2020

#65 : An Epidemic. 100 Years Ago - Spanish Flu 1918-1919

Spanish Flu of 1918
The Spanish Flu of 1918 didn't stop on Dec 31, 1918. It naturally flowed into 1919. My great grandmother kept a diary off and on over the years. I haven’t found one from 1918, but she ‘resolved’ to keep on in 1919. 
The diary she kept starts New Year’s Day, January 1919. Their first born daughter, my grandmother, Elizabeth Tyson turned 15 in 1919.
Elizabeth had 2 elder brothers (Donald Charles 1902-1980 and Robert William 1903-1969).
In 1919 below her were seven children (in order):
  • Margaret Janet {Keefer, Bouchelle} 1906-1994;
  • Frederick Carroll 1908-1974;
  • Edwin Phillip 1909-1973;
  • Richard Stanley 1911-1987;
  • Chester Julian Jr 1912-1972 (called Jr. below);
  • Ralph Watts 1914-1998;
  • Paul F "Dix" 1916-2008
Two more children came later. When Bertha started the diary in January 1919, her two youngest children Alan Hawxhurst 1919-1993, and Norman Eugene 1921-2010 weren’t yet conceived. (Alan born at the end of 1919).
Echoes of today: 
Bertha was in 1919 a mother of 10 children, and her husband worked a large farm, and he was active in PA agricultural communities. 
Parallels to today include: 
* Sanitary habits. In January, she’s teaching her children to be more sanitary about their runny noses.
* Widespread. Even though she was in a rural farming area, there were friends and relatives who "are sick with the 'flue'” as she spelled it. 
* Isolation. This family though comparatively well-off (they had two cars and a phone), could only call people who owned phones as well. 
* Cancellations: "Meeting"—or Quaker worship—was cancelled several Sundays.
* Deaths: Several friends/relatives died 
Note: driving for pleasure was not really part of the equation. 
Esp. in winter. Then trips were mostly with a purpose.
Cars were relatively new and roads were often too bad (snow, mud, ruts, etc.) in winter to go anywhere. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was opened as a "large" paved road when my mother could remember it (it opened October 1940 and was just 160 miles long).
Below is a typewritten transcript from her diary: 
Click on picture to enlarge.
Bertha (Hawhurst) Tyson’s Jan  & Feb 1919 Diary 
(Chester is her husband. Most people mentioned are close or distant relatives by marriage).
Wednesday 1 January 1919
No sun. Rain lasted all day. Had goose stuffed with apples and prunes, good but kids not fond of it. Most everyone one around has “flue.” [flu]
All Geo Peters family but himself & (olive?), Will & Edna (Tyson) & all colored folks,etc. Read a little & sewed. Ralph [son] wants me to get him to Uncle Ralph’s, and has been leading up to it for some time. Told me Uncle Ralph has a pony & play things for him & that he ought to ____his cousins up there! 
Resolved to keep a diary!
Thursday 2 January 1919
Rain & snow in PM. No sun. Electricians here to make changes. Made doughnuts. 
All Geo. Peters  (family) all but Olive has influenza. Olive is only caretaker. Geo. kept up as long as he could. Mary cooking as much as she could.
All well here Everyone else (nearly) is sick or has sickness in family.

Friday 3 January 1919
Snowed about 6 in. Children excited. I mended & put away, etc. 
Children have learned to be sanitary about their noses. Jr. & Stan use paper & then run quickly & burn it up! 
Boys went down to Guernsey [about 2.5 miles, depending on destination] & started generator & etc. All sick down there including the colored folks. Electricians here to make changes. 
Chester [her husband] came home feeling miserably, wen tot bed right after dinner & felt better by the time I went to bed. Big boys caught up in work too___
Saturday 4 January 1919
6 °t. Robert went up for Daisy. Froze the Ford radiator & a hole developed. Both cars out of commission. Cold all day. A little coasting Too cold for a good bread. Made tarts, good. Don went to Guernsey to fix pipes & to prevent freezing. M. J. T & Don Garretson played cards all PM.

Sunday 5 January 1919
Cold ° 8 t here ° -6 at night. 
Most of the men sick so far D--? And Don and Chester went down to clean stables & etc. 
No meeting [Quaker worship] due to flue [flu]. 
Had two meals; tea & tarts (sand)__  . W.E. read & sat in my b?. 
Tired. Clothes for the boys [side cut off]  
Sunday January 12 1919
Sunny & cold. No meeting [Quaker worship] account of flue [flu].
Chester tried to fix sitting-room fireplace so it would not smoke, it was better but not without some smoke yet. We let the fire go out. 
After dinner, Chester, Fred & I went to Mapleton and looked at the cows & their m__, and the office. I wrote his [Chester’s] letters. 
Children at home, everything more or less in disorder!

Marg. Koser’s husband died very suddenly at Middletown. 
Mrs. Warren on the Annex very sick; a nurse, hardly expects her to live thru the in night.

Wednesday 15 January 1919
Cloudy in AM Sunday a little while in PM.
Chester still has a cold. Went to the office about 9:30. 
Lizzie Garretson here to mend rug & etc. Electricians here to finish but didn’t quite. 
Mended everything, took all day.
Everything running out. 
Chester not yet feeling good. 

Thursday January 16 1919
Sunny all day. Electricians still here. Will Deardorf here to repair.  Lizzie S here to mend quilts. Daisy & I cleaned 4 roosters & canned them in 1/2 gal jars. Lovely & warm. 6 eggs gathered. Cleaned lots of nice celery. 
Chester not feeling well. (he) had supper in bed.
Children called me to see a beautiful mackerel sky in the eve. I told them it would rain.
Dix [the youngest at this time] threw a spoon into the fireplace. I scolded & I found I had consented (absentmindedly) when he asked me if he could!

Friday 17 January 1919
Cloudy all day. Didn't feel good all day & accomplished nothing! Electricians here. Finishing at last. They can kill time faster than anyone else I ever saw, walk slowly & sit on their jobs.
Eliz. has been calling [little brother] Ralph "Sweetheart" & he answers by calling her "Ducky-love" but he didn't want to be called that last night but wanted "Window"! Everything he does is concerned with "States-College," he has a suitcase that is to go to States-College, and then  he is to ? send it back? Dix..___

{Jump to the following month}

Saturday 1 February 1919 
Clear & warm. So nice. 
We went to Gettysburg in PM over good roads but such stones in it! Margaret was sick in AM but went with us. Got home just before 5 and had supper of beans & hot doggies. Went to bed and asleep. Chester phoned at 9 o’clock from Harrisburg. 

Sunday 2 February 1919
Clear & warm. Ground was frozen. 
Mary Rush came over on the 10:45 train and left at 5 o’clock. A short day but well worthwhile. The clutch [on the car] is still slipping so did not go for Chester [to train station]. Elizabeth [my grandmother] is buttering up girls to join a girls’ cooking club. All enthusiastic. Had a lovely visit with Mary Rush, all too short.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

#64 - Food and Farming

Food & Farming; Growing Food at Home 
As I write this, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, people are thinking more seriously of going back to gardening--if only to have food handy and available. Eggs are scarce. We don't think about food much when the supply chain is robust and when we have jobs. But our ancestors always thought about it.
When I think of home I think of a garden. One of my earliest memories is walking with a neighbor house to 'get the cows home.' My parents had a large vegetable garden (which got bigger with time). 

Each spring we'd make the trip to nearby town. First stop: the hardware store, an old fashioned style one--all wood and windows and narrow. Second stop: a wide-mouthed barn set back from the road, and whose wide front lot was overflowing with temporary tables of plants, flowers, seedlings and seeds and all sorts of stuff for my parents (and us). The fragrance was wondrous. The final stop was wonderful too: Banta's Mill, with its odor of fresh sawn lumber.

If you don't have a farm you could have a garden, a small plot, or a patio garden.  I was reminded of that when I heard of the newly established National Society Descendants of American Farmers. .

Nearly all my on my maternal side ancestors were farmers into the 20th century. Though most of them remained near populated areas (cities) on the East Coast US, most were farmers or grew up on a farm.
I'll tell two "city boy" stories who had a lifelong love of gardens (but only as hobbyists).

Case One:
My father, John Victor Higgins (1929-2015). He was born and raised in Washington Heights (Harlem). He lived in a tiny apartment and his neighborhood was the typical assortment of poor immigrant Irish, Italian, Puerto Rican and the (non-immigrant) black families or individuals. My dad didn't speak much about his childhood (or I forgot).  But I remember this: his absolute astonishment  at encountering agricultural life.
He was born in 1929, year of the Great Stock Market Crash & the beginning of the Great Depression. An era when the middle class lost jobs, housing and were hungry. His parents were children of recent immigrants from Ireland. I do believe he spent his New York City years dreaming of food, I believe.

Then, when he was a youth, his family moved 100 miles away to Sullivan County, NY as his father had a job at a state prison. He recollected finishing a good & filling meal that first day they were there. I believe they were at a boarding house of someone who was to be a neighbor.
For dessert she served either berries or a cobbler with berries. Possibly seeing this boy scarf down food, the woman suggested he go outside and if he'd like more, he could find them on a bush. The light bulb went off in his head: I don't need to be hungry if it grows freely.

The impact of City vs Country made a huge impression. Later he'd tell of how he tailed  a local man and neighbor who was a subsistence farmer, Mr. Kortright.
And it made such an impression on him that we always had a garden.
~ He had career opportunities that had to be done in the city and he got his PhD, but something kept him close to the country. It was the land.
~When my parents sold their house after a flood & they moved 7 miles away, they cut down the hemlocks, and he tilled the (poor) soil and gardened even though he was in poor health.

John Higgins' house & garden, his wife, and Elizabeth Tyson Tilon going to pick from it.
~ January was a good month for mail for my father. He eagerly awaited the delivery of catalogs whose pictures promised him gigantic tomatoes, delicious corn and beans.  He had those catalogs well into the summer--just to look at the photos, I think. :)
Farming was a matter of life and death, of health and illness, of good economic management and poor management. He was a farm convert.

Case Two:
My mother's father was born and raised in Butler PA. Charles Tilton's father was a clerk, his mother raised him. He was good in studies but he had no money. He called his family, the "genteel poor." For reasons I don't know he decided his love was in horticulture/horticultural design before college. He liked being outside (his father William Henry Tilton was an avid hunter and fisher) but liked working with plants.

The Tyson family's bumper crop of apples (Adams Co PA)
He attended State College but majored in management of dairy farms. Why not horticulture? Because they offered him a full scholarship in dairy management.

After college for a short time he managed a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. Then he got a job in Tarrytown, NY at a nursery. This was more his style. He was there for less than two years and moved to another nursery outside of Philadelphia, in Jenkintown. Things were going well, as they tended the 'main line' in Philadelphia.

Then, again, the Great Depression hit.  And he, and millions of others were out of work. He spent most of the Depression--my mother's youth-working as a salesman (not his love) but not making money. Desperate after the beginning of World War 2, he finally joined as an officer. He needed money.

At this point his wife, Elizabeth (Tyson) moved with the three children and his widowed mother back home in Adams County PA (n of Gettysbury). The Tyson family had a large apple orchard business. Elizabeth as well as my mother and her sister helped out with the orchards from time to time. And they always had a garden. My mother tells me of the delicious tomatoes they grew.

C J Tyson's Flyer 

This property was owned, lost and re-owned by the Tysons.
Once Charles was shipped back to the US,  he and Elizabeth worked hard at establishing their own nursery business.
But it was too early--the country was still suffering in a post-war recession. And they were located in Adams County where there were too few clients to make it work.
Then the Air Force invited him to participate in NATO and the rebuilding of Europe (after WW2), so he left his failing business and rejoined.
He was shipped off to Germany and then Italy in the 1950s, ending his career at the Pentagon in the 1960s.
While he hated the work and the pace of life in DC, he thoroughly enjoyed his own garden in Virginia.

I briefly refer to Elizabeth's family in Pennsylvania. Her maternal ancestors on Long Island were also farmers. Her maternal grandmother, Marianna Hicks, was the descendant of Isaac Hicks. Who started a nursery on Long Island which today (2020) is still owned by a descendant of one of her brothers.
More about the Hicks Nursery here (Stephen Hicks the  Hicks Nursery President is a direct descendant, my distant relative)