Friday, October 27, 2017

Daniel Llewellyn, a knight and militia captain - 1600 - 1663

and his wife
Anne Baker Price Hallom Llewellyn (1603 - 1666)
Daniel Llewellyn Sr1  Daniel Llewellyn Jr.2  Elizabeth Angelica Llewellyn 3,  Llewellyn Epps4, Ann Eppes 5 Reuben Nance 6  Sarah Nance 7 Enos Philpott 8  Rebecca Philpott 9  Lula Jane Johnson 10  Charles Mabry Copeland  11 Charles Thomas Copeland, Sr. 12 Charles Thomas Copeland, Jr. 13

       He was born in Chelmsford, a small but thriving town in Essex, England with seemingly its only claim to fame being that King Henry VIII had built Beaulieu Palace nearby for his second wife, Anne Boleyn,  who eventually lost both his favor - and her head. 

            Although record keeping during the late 16th century wasn't always accurate, whatever records there were confirmed that Daniel was the child of Sir John Llewellyn (a knight of the realm who died when the boy was only 15 years old), and Lady Carole Larson (who died at age 50).  Their early deaths resulted in a very young Daniel inheriting both the estate and his title as a knight (an honor passed down through the male Llewellyn line).

      While managing the estate and caring for his mother, Sir Daniel probably dreamed of the day when he would be financially able to experience the world outside his tiny home town. Although his daily expenses were probably covered through selling or trading cattle and produce from his properties, the only real cash he had was a stipend he earned as the Sheriff of Chelmsford.  In fact, it wasn't until three years after his mother's death that he was finally in a position to turn his plans for making the long trip across the sea into reality.  Those plans included recruiting neighbors and relatives to manage the estate while he changed hats from lord of the manor in England to an indentured slave in America.
    Finally after all the necessary arrangements and plans had been made, 33 year old Daniel signed a life-changing contract with the captain of a ship preparing to sail to America. The contract stated that in return for his passage, he would allow himself to be sold to Captain William Perry, a former indentured servant himself, for a specified period of time.
The trip itself was long and arduous, but it was only after he reached his destination that his dreams crashed into an even worse reality!  How could this former lord of a manor have ever imagined that he would be marched off a ship in chains and pushed into a line being formed to march to Buckland Plantation in Gates County, North Carolina (the aging and deteriorating mansion still stands today)?

oldest surviving tombstone in Virginia

     And so it was that Daniel Llewellyn began his new life in a new country -  not as Sir Daniel,  but as a slave, or "headright" (a system created to deal with the constant demand for workers to tend the newly emerging tobacco fields. Although, it was often considered a form of slavery, it also provided hope for desperate people who had arrived in America with no resources, while addressing the growing labor crisis.)
Buckland Plantation
    It was only four years after arriving at Buckland that Captain Perry died and his son, Henry, became Daniel's new master.  During his years with the Perrys, one has to assume that he used his time wisely by taking every opportunity to learn about the advantages of settling in Virginia vs North Carolina and  best vs worst planting methods.

    Now that he was in his early forties, Daniel realized that time was not his friend.  So, after finally completing his obligation to the Perrys and acquiring both the patents for 856 acres of land and money owed him, he was free to head north to Virginia where he believed endless opportunities awaited him.
Shirley Plantation
     The area he chose was located near the Shirley Plantation on the "upper branch of Turkey Island Creek" in Charles "Shire", Virginia (a term created by King Charles 1 of England, who ordered that eight "shires" be created to serve as a system of governance in the colony.  After proving their effectiveness, the "shires" eventually became self-governing "counties" and - many years later - the foundation for what is now the United States.

       During those first years in Virginia,  Daniel had come to treasure his deep friendship with Robert Hallom, a man who had also begun his life in America as an indentured servant and who, by 1636, had acquired 1,000 acres of fertile land.  Ironically, that acreage was adjacent to land already being cultivated by John Price, whose wife, 21 year old Anne, and their three children had traveled to America on the same ship as Robert Hallom in 1620.
     Since Robert was considerably  older than Anne, she probably had felt comfortable talking with him and accepting his non-threatening friendship during that long voyage. He might have even assured her that since he would be living nearby, he would be there for her if she ever needed help.  Neither of them could have known that only four years later, her husband would die and she would be forced to call on Robert's friendship and support.  Especially scary for 25 year old Anne must have been the realization that if she failed to maintain what her husband had started, she would be forced to sell everything and return to England.

      The next few years had to have been  arduous and, at times, scary for the  widow and her children.  But she wasn't totally alone.  She had her neighbor and long-time friend, Robert Hallom, who always came through when she needed him.  Despite their age difference, they had a deep and lasting friendship which eventually led to marriage and three more children. 

    But tragically, the couple had very little time together before 41 year old Robert's health began to deteriorate, thus forcing him to spend most of his time in bed and unable to care for either his family or their property.  Although he and Anne did have a son,  all their children were too young to do much more than play with their toys (as a matter of fact, their son, Robert Jr., was sent to England to live with his aunt and her husband after his father's death).
Upon learning about how desperate life had gotten for Robert
Turkey Island Creek
and Anne,
Sir Daniel Llewellyn made an offer the Halloms couldn't – and wouldn't – refuse.  He offered to take over the management of both the Hallom and Price properties which were located near Turkey Island Creek in Henrico "Shire". They probably didn't have to think very hard before accepting his generous offer, since he had already proven himself over the years to be a capable, responsible and honest man -  and the alternative was a complete loss of everything for which they had worked and sacrificed.

     It probably came as no surprise to anyone in the neighborhood that only a couple of years after Robert's death, Daniel and Anne married and added three children to the six that Anne had given birth to in her previous marriages.  Probably life on three plantations instead of one didn't change all that much for Daniel who continued to manage not only the plantations in Charles City County and Henrico County, but also the Virginia interests of a number of  Halloms  till living in England.

Adding to those responsibilities, this man who originally had answered to the name Sir Daniel Llewellyn, eventually became known as Sir Captain Daniel Llewellyn, thanks to his service in the militia. No one would have ever claimed that he was lazy, especially after reviewing his resume which showed that he had served as a:

  • justice of the peace with the authority to handle minor civil and criminal cases, as well as administering the local government on behalf of the English Crown;
  • member of the local militia which was often called upon to defend the local population from Indian attacks
  • member of the House of Burgesses (the first legislative assembly in the American colonies in which only white men who owned a specific amount of property were eligible to vote during its sessions); first serving in Henrico County (where his wife's property was located) from l642 to 1644; and then Charles City County in 1646, 1652, 1654, 1655 and, finally, December, 1656.
  • sheriff of Charles City who was appointed to the position on April 3, 1656.

     Although seeming to have had a very full life in America, Daniel would occasionally return to Chelmsford, England to check out his family home, see old friends and deal with any problems that had arisen during his prolonged absences. One can't help but wonder if his robust health was already beginning to fail at that time and, although he might have kept his suspicions to himself, he had been driven to put his estates located in England and Virginia in order. 

     It was during one of those trips that he sickened and died at age 64, leaving behind a very detailed will which granted specific sums of money and treasures to family and old friends. Some of the specific bequests in the will directed that:

  • Upon his death, his wife, Anne, would become the sole owner of his extensive properties in Virginia;
  • His son, Daniel, Jr., was to care for his mother, Anne, until her death when he would take ownership of all the Virginia. properties. In addition, he was to be given several of his father's personal treasures, which included – among other items - his best hat which featured a silver hat band;
  • His and Anne's daughter, Martha Jones, was to be given two of his prime servants;
  • His other daughter, Margaret, and her husband were to be given enough money to buy special rings which were to be worn in memory of her father;
  • He also granted money to Robert Hallam, Jr., whom he listed as a son-in-law but was probably his step-son.(there was no other mention of his wife's children by her first marriages).

Chelmsford Cathedral
The will went on to request that the funeral service be held in the Chelmsford Cathedral (already 400 years old when Daniel was born) and that his body was to be interred in the chancel area near "the reading desk". (Because of damages to the church incurred during its 800 year history - including the roof falling in on one section - it is impossible to identify specifically where Daniel's body was buried. However, it is possible that the "reading desk" could have been moved from the chancel area to the upper floor which now houses a renowned library containing medieval theological books and beautifully decorated manuscripts which had been donated to the church about 10 years after Daniel's death in 1677).


  • Daniel's wife, Anne, died two years after her husband at age 63 and was buried in Virginia.
  • Daniel's son, who carried his father's name and died in 1712, re-patented the land originally patented to his father after he had completed his period of indenture in 1666. His will was less generous than his father's and only mentioned one grandson, Lewellen Eppes, and Richard Jones, his sister Martha's son.
  • Daniel's daughter, Martha, was married to Pastor Richard Jones of Charles City County. Her son, Richard Jones, Jr. was both a captain in the militia and an Indian trader.    
  • Daniel's daughter, Margaret,  married Captain James Crews of Henrico County, a participant in the famous Bacon's Rebellion (which involved local men trying to defend the colony against Indian attacks despite orders to desist issued by the Governor). For his actions he was singled out at a court-martial hearing as a "most notorious Actor and Assistor in the Rebellion", and hung for treason against the king. 
For more detailed information about this fascinating couple, you might enjoy checking out:  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Queen Dickerson Franklin - Part III - memories of a very long life

Part III 
(Family lineage: Queen Rebecca Dickerson1; Edna Bethel Franklin2; Judith Ann Hayward3)
1891 – 1998

Nellie Ferguson Baker, Oliver Baker and Queen Dickerson 
1910 in West Fork, AR

As noted in the two previous posts detailing her life,  this woman could not be crammed into only one post (actually this is the third of 3 parts and was previously published in April of 2014). Her natural talents were many, including oil painting, poetry, a  prestigious memory and story-telling ability.

Some of those memories were captured in her autobiography written on September 23, 1985 when she was "only" 94 years old  and entitled “Life as lived on Greenbrier Creek – My West Virginia Childhood Home”.   

A year later, she recruited one of her granddaughters to help her move from Indianapolis to Venice, Florida so she could be closer to her adult  “kids”. She never regretted that move.  For the rest of her long life she was surrounded by her family, enjoyed the warm Florida weather, and loved to watch the oranges grow from seedlings on her daughter's fruit trees.

It is impossible to include all the poems and stories she wrote over the years or show even a small percentage of her paintings.  But the following is  a sampling of her artistic talents before she became what she called “too old to remember” (that never happened!).  

The following poem set the stage for her  autobiography:

Summer is past, October's here; the loveliest month of all the year.
Bumblebees, daubers and other pests – - like weeds and grasshoppers have gone to rest.
Likewise, Spring, Summer, and gorgeous Fall - must come to each of us – one and all;

Spring season, to me, is like childhood - with tears and laughter, bad and good.
Summer, like youth, unresponsive and gay - with Fall, we've traveled three-fourths of the way.
Have our lives been - as Winter draws nigh – useless like weeds which live and die?

May we live as seasons come and go – lives useful and clean, like pure white snow.
We cannot travel this way "a-gain" -  let us leave a “mark but not a stain”.
Queen R. Franklin 

 She continued to philosophize as she described the reason for her various paintings.

"Boys only" swimming hole in a hollow tree
"The idea for my painting of a fire in a hollow tree came from memories of my childhood when the boys would go 'possum hunting and build fires in trees – as hunters of earlier times had done. The technique of girding or burning  trees was taught by the Indians and involved cutting a shallow ring around the tree with an ax.  After the sap was cut off, the tree would die. I have linked  imagination with love and a paint brush, which works wonders!"
Queen's painting of the family farm
When I was a small child, most of our neighbors would let their livestock run free. Fencing was only erected around the fields which were tilled. The cows and sheep wore bells and knew where to go for milking or feeding. We children had the task of rounding up our particular family's cows by listening for different bell tones."
Queen's painting of a sorghum mill with mother Emarine and children working
"Threshing machines were hauled from one farm to another on flat-bed wagons drawn by horses or mules, as were sorghum mills.  After processing the cane, the machines were moved over mountains, with the men walking on the ground above while holding rope rings to prevent the equipment from flipping over. The roads zigzagged up the steep mountain-sides, always climbing upward until the summit of the mountain was reached or crossed.  Then the men changed sides as they started back downhill.  If a farm couldn't be reached by this method, the grain was hauled by sled to a pen which was made of poles or logs. Underneath the floor was placed canvas to catch the grain as it fell through the cracks."
I have one horrible memory of sorghum making.  I was only six years old when I heard
my ten year old brother, Boyd, who was feeding cane into the grinder, cry out in pain. Men ran to him and backed the horse up to reverse the mill and free Boyd's hand. The men carried him to the house; and his twin, Floyd, jumped onto a horse and rode across two mountains to get the doctor.  His hand was saved but Boyd's thumb remained stiff at the joint for the rest of his life."
"After my sister and one of my brothers bought some sheep and brought them home, my mother sheared them of their wool.  Later that year, we all sat around the fire in the evening with papers on our laps to catch the falling dirt and burrs as we picked the wool apart little by little - until it was free of loose dirt.

Then Mother carefully washed the wool in warm sudsy water to make it white and fluffy, followed by gently combing the fibers until they were straightened. The wool was then shaped into rolls which were piled into a huge basket.  The rolls were spun into yarn threads about the size of a course sewing thread and wound onto “shuttles” ready to be woven into blankets."
Emarine Bartram Dickerson
"I was 13 when I was finally allowed to sit on the rear of the loom and hand Mother threads one by one, until there were enough to make blanket material one-yard wide. I still have one of the blankets. I treasure it more than I did when I was so tired from handling those threads. Some of the wool was spun into heavier threads which Mother knitted into stockings and mittens. Knitting was always done at night or while resting from heavier work.”
Queen's autobiography continued to tell the stories of her life, including her life after meeting and marrying Fred Franklin. 

She lived fully and well, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. She may have been tiny but she was strong - so strong in fact that she bowled until she was 103 and lived 107 years before dying in Venice, Florida with her daughter, Edna, and sons Evert, Paul and Carthel around her bed.

Sadly there is no record of the person who typed up Queen's story as she dictated it, but my thanks to whomever you are - it was quite a project, but well worth the effort and very much appreciated!


If you'd like to learn more about the Dickerson family you might enjoy reading the Legends of the Family posts featuring Hiram Dickerson, William Smith Dickerson, Emarine Bartram Dickerson,  Sarah Mounts, Anne Sapcote, William David Stewart and two more stories about Queen Rebecca Dickerson's life

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mary Ramage Dillard - wife, mother and soldier in the Revolution


1757 - 1795

Granddaughter of Joseph Adair, Sr. (featured in earlier post), daughter of Jean Adair Ramage, wife of James Dillard
"Sarah Dillard's Ride: A Story of the Carolinas in 1780" by James Otis
     According to stories passed from generation to generation,  Mary Ramage Dillard was petite, beautiful - and very brave.  Not only did she live up to everything expected of a woman of that time (i.e. raising her children and tending the home), but she could well have won an award for persistence and bravery even today.  

     By the time she reached the age of 23 in 1780, she had been married for six years to James Dillard, a captain in the Little River Militia Regiment, whose duties often took him away from home, and was the mother of two toddlers (the oldest of whom was 4 year old John who usually accompanied his mother wherever she went).  Her answer to dealing with her husband's frequent absences was to join him on almost every campaign, bivouac, drill and battle including King's Mountain, Cowpens and the Siege of Ninety Six.
     Despite their travels, James and Mary somehow managed to find time to  build a large home, across the Enoree River from the Musgrove Mill Plantation where British troops under the command of General Banastre Tarleton were bivouacked and preparing for war. 

       Little did she know that on November 18, 1780,  her life would change forever, thanks to being unable to accompany James on his mission for some reason. 

Colonel Elijah Clark
      Early that day, Colonel Elijah Clark and his troops had stopped by the Dillard's home on their way to Blackstock's Plantation.  It wasn't a social call!  His troops had left their homes before dawn and badly needed something to eat and a little rest before continuing on their way Mary welcomed them but explained she could only feed them milk and potatoes, which they gladly accepted.  A short time later they were on their way again.
     But her day had only just begun!  Before she could clean up the dregs of the previous meal, General Tarleton, the dreaded commander of the British Light Cavalry, and his officers, Commanders Ferguson and Dunlop, spotted the large house with its expansive grounds and thought it would be an ideal place for their troops to take a break before attacking General Thomas Sumter at Blackstock's. 

   As they barged into the house, they couldn't help but notice the telltale signs of recent guests and demanded that she tell them exactly how many she had fed, who they were, when they had left and where they were going. 

     Understanding that she could easily get caught out in a lie if she denied having had visitors, she explained that she had indeed fed some folks who had stopped by the house earlier.  However, they hadn't stayed very long and she had been too busy cooking and taking care of her children to listen to their talk.

     She must have been a good actress because, after hearing her report, the British commanders decided it would be safe to stop off there for a brief rest and a meal.  During the next few hours, the officers made themselves comfortable in the house and ate whatever food she had left, even giving the remaining slabs of bacon she had been saving for her family to their soldiers.

      While discussing their plans, they didn't worry about being overheard.  After all, Mary was “just a woman” who, they were sure, wouldn't understand anything they were discussing.  And even if she did, what difference would it make since they "knew" that a mother would never leave her children  at home alone, and even if she did, she wouldn't be able to handle a fast moving horse on rough roads in the dead of night.  
     They couldn't have been more wrong!   Mary might have been
physically small, but nobody had ever said she was dumb or cowardly!  While moving among the diners, she had been absorbing everything being said,  and had come to the reluctant realization that she was probably the only American who could stop the massacre scheduled to take place before dawn the next day.  But she had to act quickly!

     One of her biggest challenges was figuring out what to do with her children. She was pretty sure that the worse thing that could happen to the baby would be a nasty diaper, but her little boy, John, was a whole different story since she knew she could neither take him with her nor trust that he would be OK alone in the house.   

Her remedy was creative, to say the least. After placing the sleeping child on the floor, she managed somehow to lift up her bed and then lowered one of the heavy bedposts onto  her son's nightgown, thus guaranteeing that even if he awoke, he wouldn't be able to get hurt or into mischief while she was gone.

     With night rapidly approaching, her uninvited guests finally left the house – taking their plans and secrets with them. Now that she knew what devastation was awaiting the patriots who were planning for the upcoming battle to be waged at the wrong time, she slipped into the stable, bridled a young horse (but was in too much of a hurry to lift and strap a saddle onto his back) and managed to mount up.
     After checking to make sure the road was clear, Mary and her steed raced the 20 miles to Blackstock's Plantation without being spotted. Her arrival must have shocked General Thomas Sumter and his aide, Colonel Clark, who had been preparing for the battle they erroneously believed wouldn't begin until the next day.

It wasn't until after the war ended that Mary admitted that despite the

action she took that night, she had been very sure that the
enemy would be too strong for her friends and they would lose badly.  She had simply hoped that her warning would give enough time to General Sumter and Colonel Clark to get their soldiers into hiding  before the enemy struck. 
      You can imagine how she must have felt when she saw 200 mounted English soldiers approaching the plantation under cover of darkness that night.  Thankfully she had already informed General Sumter of the British plans she had overheard, one of which was to use mounted soldiers as decoys in order to keep the Americans distracted until the rest of Tarleton's troops arrived by foot. 
     Early in the battle, General Sumter had been badly injured by a musket ball which passed through his right shoulder and into his backbone. 

     But instead of giving up after their commander was injured, his troops seemed to gain new life and energy.  As a result, the English troops not only suffered serious physical injuries but their morale was severely wounded as well, since they could no longer justify their belief that the British army had a firm hold on South Carolina.

      Interestingly, not long after the battle ended, previously unbeaten General Tarleton was heard to comment  that he had seen "a woman on horseback riding among the trees bordering his march and he believed she had reported him to Sumter." Perhaps the most bitter pill Tarleton was forced to swallow was that he wasn't omnipotent after all.

       Ironically, General Sumter was given the title "Carolina Gamecock" because of his fierce fighting tactics which weren't affected by his injuries.  As a matter of fact, even General Tarleton was heard to comment that Sumter "fought like a gamecock" and, years later, General Cornwallis commented that the "Gamecock was his greatest plague". 

     But Mary Dillard's bravery didn't end with her long ride that night. As the battle heated up, the British were forced to concentrate their efforts on fighting and beating the Americans - not on the young woman who was calming down their horses which  had been tethered to a long rope strung between two tall trees.  

     They certainly didn't notice until it was too late that she had somehow managed to slice the rope and was boldly leading her charges across the river and into the eager hands of a Virginia militia unit, most of whom - until then - had to fight the enemy on foot. As a result, after the British soldiers lost both the battle and most of their horses, they were forced to retreat on foot, leaving behind their canons, supply and munitions wagons, tents, etc. - all of which proved to be treasures for the previously under-equipped Americans.   

   Mary's family also had to pay a price for her actions. Before she had returned home, the retreating angry soldiers broke into her house and - after freeing screaming little John from under the bedpost - took the children to the neighbors and then set fire to the house. One can only imagine the horror Mary felt when she first saw that her lovely home was no more. But - even worse - until she was assured that they were safe, believed that she had also lost her children. 

      But the story of Mary's bravery didn't end there. A few months later, after having settled into their second home, the young wife and mother couldn't help but notice all the British activity taking place on the road running in front of her house. So, being Mary, she immediately started counting how many units of soldiers were passing and then figured how many soldiers there were in each unit. Not surprisingly the troops didn't pay much attention to the little woman who was perhaps even waving at them as they passed by.
      As soon as she had all the information she needed,  she managed to get it to James, who immediately took it to the commander of his local militia.  Thanks to learning exactly how many enemy soldiers were heading his way, the commander was then able to plan his counter-attack much more accurately. 

  The only "reward" the Dillards received for that action was having their second home burned to the ground by the angry, frustrated Tories!  (But her efforts did earn her a special place in history.  In fact, she is listed in the South Carolina Archives as having received seven pay stubs which verified that she had earned a private's salary during the war.)

      Mary Ramage Dillard was only 38 years old in 1795 when - after giving birth to her 7th child - a daughter - she died shortly thereafter.  Three years later, her widower, who had been promoted to a major in his militia, married another Mary, with whom he had seven more children.

     Documentation of Mary's adventures even after death has been both interesting and confusing.  First, the date of death carved on her headstone is 1797, but should have been 1795.  However, that pales when compared to the fact that her headstone was placed in the Pleasant Hill Baptist Cemetery in Pickens County, SC over the grave of James' second wife, Mary Puckett Dillard, who had died 45 years later in 1842.

    Possibly the confusion arose because James did not differentiate between the two Marys when telling stories.  Or perhaps few people even realized  he had been married before, and assumed that the Mary they knew was the woman who  had fought beside him during the Revolution.


    And there is the possibility that Mary Ramage Dillard's headstone memorializing her service wasn't engraved until long after the war ended because there were so many that had to be carved and placed. More troubling was the fact that after the discovery was made of the mix-up, the hero soldier's casket was never found.

          After discovering the mix-up,  James' children (including the ones raised by Mary Puckett after their mother died) agreed to have Mary Ramage Dillard's headstone moved to its proper place in the Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Laurens County, SC.  It was there where she was finally honored for her service to her country as she joined her fellow Revolutionary soldiers (and many relatives named Copeland, Blakely,Adair and Ramage).   
James and Mary Puckett Dillard graves
     At the same time, the correct tombstones for Mary Puckett Dillard and James Dillard and Mary Puckett were placed next to each other in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery where - altough somewhat tilted - they remain to this day.

       Although Mary Ramage's  coffin has never been discovered, her  monument honoring her life and service to her country still stand with the inscription reading: 

"Mary Ramage D'illard hero of  Blackstock's Plantation 
and a lady of grace from a grateful nation."

   Duncan Creek Presbyterian 
Cemetery,  Clinton, SC

For more information on this fascinating woman be sure to check out:

"Genealogy of Mary Ramage Dillard's Family (Life Story)"  https//"
"Honoring a Revolutionary War Heroine", Stanley A. Evans, Sr., Former Vice President General, South Atlantic District (1996-97) SAR Magazine Magazine
 "Adair: History and Genealogy, Chapter XVI, page 267, American Adairs, Mrs. Adair",

If you'd like to know more about the fascinating Adair family, you might enjoy reading the Family Legends featuring Joseph Alexander Adair, Sr. and Patrick Adair

Sunday, July 9, 2017

George Fairbanks - A Branch on the Fairbanks Tree

1619 – 1682
Family Lineage: 1 George Fairbanks, 2 Dr. Jonathan Fairbanks, 3 Jonathan Fairbanks, 4 Lt. Joshua Fairbanks, 5John Fairbanks, 6Theophilis Fairbanks, 7Elizabeth Fairbanks,8 Sarah Elizabeth Lane, 9Estella Elizabeth Foss, 10Harold Victor Hayward, 11Judith Ann Hayward

     Being a child of his time, it is unlikely that 12 year old George was asked how he felt about the earth-shattering life changes being considered by his parents, Jonathan and Grace Fairbanks.  Whether he disagreed or agreed with their decision to leave their home in England, however, the fact is that by the time he turned 14, the family had sold most of their possessions in order to pay for their passage to America, with hopefully enough left over to buy land and get a new start when they reached their destination.

And so it was that in 1633, the Fairbanks family finally bade farewell to life as they had known it and their loved ones in Sowerby,Yorkshire, England (aka “muddy/sour ground' or "sewer") and set sail for America, (aka "The New World").   

One can only imagine how they felt as they breathlessly watched the ship that would become their home for months unfurl its sails, an event that guaranteed that there would be no turning back.  What was guaranteed was that it would be a very long and dangerous journey and that they might not live through it.

     Fortunately, the family did survive the trip and arrived intact on the shores of a territory called Massachusetts (meaning "great hill" in the language of the Algonquin Indians who populated the land). 
Algonquin family
    But unfortunately, those same Algonquin Indians had no intention of giving up their land or their lifestyle to strangers – and would fight to the death to preserve their lifestyle.  

      After being warned that they could easily be in danger from the Indians as they moved inland, the potential settlers had agreed that it would be best to build their homes close to each other so – in case of attacks – they could come to each other's defense. It soon became apparent that the rumors of Indian aggression had not been exaggerated and the threat was real.  After all,  those Indians also had homes to defend and took exception to the plans being made by strangers for their lands. 

     But despite the lack of welcome from the Indians, the stubborn settlers officially incorporated their town in 1636 and chose to name it "Contentment", which wasn't well received by the Massachusetts General Court.  So, after a great deal of argument and discussion, they finally agreed on "Dedham" (named after a town in England where several of the original inhabitants had been born). 
The Fairbanks House in Dedham, Mass.
     Fortunately for historians,  Dedham was one of the few towns founded during the colonial era that preserved extensive records of its earliest years.  Those records confirm that George's father, Jonathan Fairbanks, built the family home which  has been designated as the oldest wood-frame house still standing in North America.*          
Those first years in America were both challenging and work intensive, with little time left over for love.  But despite all the challenges, 27 year old George Fairbanks fell in love with 21 year old Mary Adams, the daughter of Henry Adams (a man eventually honored as an influential founder of the nation)**.  The couple married shortly after they met and became the parents of seven children.  
        It wasn't until after their seventh child was born that the family packed up all their belongings and moved 15 miles to Sherborn    (an area eventually split into Medway and Millis, but at that time was a primitive area populated solely by Indians and wild animals).  Today that distance would seem no more than a sneeze, but for people of that time it was a long rough journey full of danger and rough ground over which to travel. There was no house with a warm fire waiting for them,  and their only means of transportation was their wagons, horses and oxen.

     Thanks to his reputation for honesty and courage, within two years of making the move, George was appointed Captain in the "Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts".  He took his duty as protector of the population very seriously - a necessity in light of the constant Indian attacks which threatened the population.

    In response to those threats of danger constantly surrounding them, George and Mary enlisted their neighbors to help build a 65 x 70 foot, two story stone house/fort on the northern border of Bogistow Pond.  The building featured a double row of portholes on all sides which were lined with oak planks flaring inward so that they could direct their fire to every point of the compass without danger to themselves. The upper story was assigned to the women and children, and there was even a room partitioned off for the sick and injured. 

      By 1674,  George had become a prominent and highly esteemed leader in the community. 

Thankfully, the garrison/stone house also proved its worth every time it survived an Indian attack, one of which involved a cart filled with burning flax which was pushed toward the house.  As it gained momentum it was "miraculously" stopped from reaching its goal by a huge rock which had "somehow" appeared in its path (good thinking on someone's part!).

     Finally, the simmering anger on both sides erupted in 1676, resulting in half of the houses and barns in Medfield being burned to the ground and 17 persons killed.  Once they had bandaged up their wounds, the survivors decided they couldn't take this constant fear and harassment any longer, and this time did the attacking.  After killing the invaders still creating havoc in the town, they turned their attention to the ones who had been lurking in the woods near the stone house. As a result of the fierce fighting, the Indians finally became convinced that they were never going to regain their land, and faded back into the woods, never to return.

     George was obviously a strong but opinionated man.  And those opinions were not always popular with his fellow townspeople, especially when he refused to join the local church because of the "taxes" they collected.  It was even more irritating when he claimed that he often traveled back to Dedham to worship in his family's  church.  

     Finally, after it became apparent that he would never willingly pay the taxes he owed, he was sentenced to be admonished in front of his peers in open court and would have to pay charges for the prosecution and fees of the court.  Again, he refused to pay.  "Ancestry of Eva Belle Kempton, part III, page 140 - 142

    He felt so strongly about what he perceived to be tinkering with his life and beliefs that he called a meeting of the selectmen and offered to turn over all his rights and interest in Sherborn for forgiveness of his debt.  Although his solution seemed fair to most, the constable seized George's property and even a horse that the court felt should be given as payment to the minister of the church. 

     But before George and the town had arrived at an acceptable settlement, tragedy struck when 62 year old  George drowned on January 10, 1681 -  presumably in the nearby Charles River.  It seems likely that since it was the dead of winter in Massachusetts - he must have fallen through a soft spot in the ice.  Why he was crossing the river at that time is unknown, perhaps it was to visit someone on the other shore.  He certainly wasn't swimming at that time of year!

    His sudden death was a severe loss to the new settlement and widow, Mary, who lived another 20 years.  Several of their children became leaders in the community and the "New World" which their parents had adopted many years before.  There is nothing left of the stone house today.  It is believed that the stones became souvenirs for people who had heard the stories and carried them off to their own homes since the house was no longer occupied)..  

(Their son, Jonathan, was the first physician in town,  a selectman for several years and the town clerk. who continued to live in the old stone house on Bogestow Pond until, ironically, 17 years after his father's death, when he too fell through the ice while attempting to cross the Charles River on Dec. 19, 1719, supposedly on the way to care for a patient).

Old South Cemetery where George and Mary are buried

Fairbank Memorial Stone in the cemetery with the inscription:
"The Most Ancient Burying Ground, On the West bank of the Charles River, Established by the Settlers of the Boggestowe Farms before 1660. Here rest from their labors. The Founders of Sherborn, Holliston, Medway.
Erected by the Historical Societies of The Three Towns, 1915."  


For more information on this fascinating family see:
Worcester County, Massachusetts Memoirs, Volume !-!!
Dedham, Massachusetts history 

If you'd like to read more about this fascinating family check out the stories in "Legends of the Family" featuring  "The House that Fairbanks Built" , Henry Adams and Joshua Fairbanks