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 McKay/Stevens Genealogy Pages

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McKay/Stevens Shared History


Military Life

Patrick Hart [SL] emigrated from Limerick, Ireland in the late 1700s. His son, Andrew, later claimed that Patrick had been a soldier under General St. Clair at the time of his memorable defeat, near the head-waters of the Wabash, in 1791, the largest victory ever won by American Indians. Patrick must have had a bit of the luck of the Irish. Of the 1,000 officers and men that St. Clair led into battle, only 24 escaped unharmed.

Capt. John Marshall, [SS] was a Captain of Cavalry, in the reign of Charles I, of England. He was a zealous supporter of the crown and of the Episcopal Church. He was born and reared in Ireland. Having raised a cavalry company, he was one of the first to offer his services to Charles, and from the battle of Edgehill until the imprisonment of the King, he was actively engaged in his support. Unwilling to live under the rule of Cromwell, Marshall emigrated, with his family, about 1650, to Virginia. Here he was employed in the Indian Wars of the colony.

In the early colonial days, many ancestors were in the local militias organized to protect the colonies from hostile natives. Samuel Keep [PR] served in the Massachusetts colonial militia with the rank of Ensign. Eleazer Lawrence, Sr. [PR] was a major in the colonial Massachusetts militia. Nathaniel Rust [PR] was a quartermaster in the Massachusetts Colony Expedition to Canada (New France) which ended with the Battle of Quebec in 1690.

Capt. Ephraim Hill [FB], about 1725, became the first settler of the then wilderness of Douglas, Massachusetts and was captain of the local military company. His son, Col. Caleb Hill [FB], also lived in Douglas, where he was a colonel of the military company. In August, 1757, he and his company were in the expedition for the relief of Fort William Henry that was besieged by French General Montcalm.

Indian Wars

Samuel Scripture [PR] served in Captain Joseph Syll's Company in King Phillips war. Thomas Sherwood [PR] served in the Pequot War.

George Colton [PR] was Quartermaster in the Hampshire Regiment, commanded by Major John Pynchon, and served in King Philip's War (see Appendix). His son, Capt. Thomas Colton [PR] fought in the Indian Wars and “is said to have been much feared by the Indians, both for his daring in attack, and from his apparent invulnerability and supernatural protection from their best-laid plans for his death or capture.”

Revolutionary War

Joseph Thom [SS] immigrated from Ireland in 1773 and four years later was at the Revolutionary War Battle of Brandywine, fought Sep 11, 1777, in Pennsylvania. The battle, which was a decisive victory for the British, left Philadelphia, the revolutionary capital, undefended. The British captured the city on Sep 26th, beginning an occupation that would last until June, 1778. Thom later served as a private in Captain White's company of the Fifth Battalion of the Pennsylvania Militia in the year 1782.

Other Revolutionary War veterans were Amos Robinson [PR], who was a private, and Samuel Craig Sr. [SS], who fought with George Washington in the Revolutionary War and was killed by Indians on the Pennsylvania frontier. John Keep [PR] entered service from Harvard as a private under Capt. Coffin, and under General Montgomery. Reuben Daniels [PR] served in Captain Pettibone's company in the battle of White Plains. Lieut. Robert Arthur McGee, Sr. [SS] was wounded by the British at Millstone, New Jersey, on June 20, 1777. Robert’s father Patrick served as well.

The list goes on. Adam Simonton [SS] served under General Rutherford in the Cherokee Expedition in North Carolina in 1776. Jonathan Norton [PR] fought as a first lieutenant in Captain Jacob Cook's company 15th or 17th London company First Berkshire Regiment. Also, he was reported commissioned May 6, 1776 lieutenant of the same company under Colonel John Ashley at the battle of Saratoga in 1777, also lieutenant in Captain Samuel Warner's company of Colonel John Brown's regiment in 1780.

Civil War and beyond

A Francis image

John Wesley Francis

Ninety years later, during the Civil War, John Wesley Francis [PR] was an officer in the Ohio 14th Battery and was wounded at the battle of Shiloh in SW Tennessee April 6-8, 1862. Francis M Stevens [SS] was a Civil War private who served Indiana Enlisted B Co. 6th Infantry Reg. Mustered out at Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 2, 1861.

My uncle Allen Petersen [PP] served in the Navy toward the end of WWII. From Okinawa, he sailed to Hiroshima a few days after the atomic explosion. In a letter he wrote home to my grandparents, he said, “…from the top of the hospital, I counted only 15 scattered buildings that had withstood the blast.”

During World War II, my father Robert was a captain in the US Army in World War II and served in the Pacific. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his non-combat support of the invasion of Luzon in the Philippines.

Story -- Bob's Return from Japan
A Stevens image

Bob Stevens getting Bronze Star

It's late October 1945. The war in the Pacific is over and my father is finally headed home. On October 26 Bob boarded an LST for the first leg of his trip from the Philippines to Japan. His first letter on November 2 mostly describes how seasick he has been for the whole trip. An LST according to my father "has a flat bottom and consequently hits every wave." Of the meals on board, he said he "didn't miss many nor did I keep many."

By November 4 he is in Nagoya Japan and is very impressed with how modern the downtown area is but observes much destruction in the outlying sections of the city. He is very impressed with the local people he meets. "Amazing people, these Japanese."

A Stevens image

Troop ship General Haan

He is caught up in Army bureaucracy about how many points he has to have to be at the top of the priority list to return to the US. Ironically it's his job to see that the officers with more points than him get shipped home. He did get 24 letters from my mom when he got to Japan so that picked up his spirits. After being in the tropics for so long, he has a tough time adjusting to the cold temperatures in Nagoya: "I freeze constantly."

In an odd note, when he turned in his army equipment like his rifle, mosquito net, etc., they issued him a Japanese sword as a souvenir.

He spends his last week in Japan at a depot with 15,000 other soldiers waiting to head home. Finally on November 26 he boards the troopship General Haan on his way to Seattle, Camp Atterbury in Indiana, then home.


Role of Religion

Religion was a large factor in the lives of many early colonists. Catholics, Methodists, Separatists of all stripes, including Pilgrims, Congregationalists from Ireland, Anabaptists from Switzerland, Sabbatarians , Quakers, Moravians, Antinomians, French Huguenots, Ashkenazi Jews from Germany, Scottish Presbyterians , are all represented in the family tree, and religious freedom was the reason that many ancestors came to America in the first place.


Many immigrated to North America to escape religious persecution in Europe. Peter Bulkeley* [PR] was an influential early Puritan preacher who left England for greater religious freedom in the American colony of Massachusetts. He was a founder of Concord, and was named by descendant Ralph Waldo Emerson in his poem about Concord, “Hamatreya”. He was “noted even among Puritans for the superlative stiffness of his Puritanism” which is saying quite a lot.

The Puritans have an enduring reputation as moral and upright people; in many respects their reputation is well deserved. Obedience was central to their religion: children were to obey their parents, wives their husbands, and citizens the laws of their government. Yet Puritans were human, no less susceptible to temptation and error than their modern counterparts. Thomas Miller [SS] incurred the wrath of the church for his actions. Thomas and Isabel Miller moved to Middleton, Massachusetts, from Rowley, about 1652. On May 6, 1666, the couple's maid, Sarah Nettleton, gave birth to a son. The father was Thomas Miller. Thomas was about 56 years old; Sarah was 22. Within a few days of the birth, Thomas's wife Isabel died. Thomas rapidly married Sarah, but did not escape a brief imprisonment for his adultery. All things considered, the couple was fortunate to avoid the standard civil penalty of the day, which included the whipping of both or being "burnt on the Forehead with the letter A." For his sin, the church adjudged him guilty and ordered him ex-communicated, which order was publicly read, October 6, 1667. "Afterward prayer was made that God would ratify the sentence & let loose Satan on Him." Finally, in 1674, the convicted adulterer made his only trip back to Massachusetts to express his repentance, and was received back into church membership. Thomas and Sarah Miller had eight children together, the last born after Thomas's death in 1680, when he was over 70 years old.

There are many examples of Puritan strictness, particularly on moral issues. On September 1, 1640, Thomas Pinson [PR] and his wife Joan were convicted of "incontinency before marriage”: he, to be whipped, and she, to sit in the stocks. In a little under six months from their marriage, Joan had given birth to their first son, and someone apparently did the math.

Not everyone measured up to the early Puritan church standards. Joseph Kingsbury [SS] became one of my favorite relatives when, in 1638, he was not admitted to the Dedham Church because he was "too much addicted to the world."

In 1643, Henry Glover [PR] was fined one shilling for "defect in his cock," indicating that he had not maintained his gun and was a careless militiaman. The following year he was made a freeman but was fined for keeping more hogs than was allowed, and for disorderly cutting of woods.

Henry Lennington [PR] was almost banished from the community for “evil practices unto the disturbance of Christian order and peace, and to the violation of the laws, to the great dishonor of God and to the evil example of the nations under which we live, hath solicited Deborah Sturgis.” His father-in-law Laurence Ellison [PR] stepped in and made a “promise of reformation” for Henry.

Another example comes from Josiah Stanborough [SS], a founding father of Southampton, NY, who was brought with his son Peregrine to a session of the court. The lad, having been adjudged guilty of the theft of fruit from Job Sayre's garden, has been ordered soundly whipped by his father in the presence of competent witnesses. The constable announces that the father has refused to comply with the order of the Court. He is adjudged as in contempt of court and ordered placed in the stocks. The son is sent to the whipping post.

A document from the residents of Roxbury, censuring Harvard College, bears John Polley's [SS] name and mark dated March 5, 1672. The document objects that the students: "are brought up in such pride as dosth no wayes become such as are brought up for the holy service of the lord, either in the Magistracy, or ministery especially, and in particular in their long haire, which last first took head, and broke out at the Colledg so far as we understand and remember." College students’ pride and their wearing their hair long was seen as an "evyl to be removed."


Not surprisingly, given the examples above, many found the Puritan theocracy oppressive. Some reacted to the Puritan dominance by moving to unsettled lands. They formed the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Roger Williams [SS] was educated at Cambridge University in England, he was a Calvinist minister who left England because of his disagreement with English principle of an established state church. He immigrated to New England in 1631, but rejected an invitation to pastor the Boston church because of its continuing ties with the Church of England. He served in both Salem and Plymouth Colony before being banished from Massachusetts over his disagreement with the policies of taking Indian land without compensation, and legally punishing impiety. He settled in Narragansett Bay and studied the language of the Narragansett Indians. He and his companions purchased land from the Narragansett and founded both the settlement of Providence and the colony of Rhode Island. The government of this territory featured a more open democracy than Massachusetts, including absolute freedom of religion and no established church. Williams would go on to found the first Baptist church in America before declaring himself an unaffiliated Christian "seeker," and would serve as president of the Rhode Island colony from 1654 to 1657.

Rev. Bygod Eggleston [PR] founded Windsor, Connecticut, and Rev. John Warham [PR] led the first congregation in Windsor and owned the first grist mill in Connecticut. Wareham was called "the principal pillar and father of the colony" by Cotton Mather.

Rev. Joseph Hull [PR] led 21 families to America in 1635, and they settled in what became Weymouth, Massachusetts, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hull became disaffected from the Church of England, and was expelled from the church in 1635. Apparently his "liberal views" led to his dismissal from his parish, and he moved to Hingham. He was apparently “very contentious” and apparently sided more with the Anglicans than the Puritan governor. Governor Winthrop eventually expelled Hull from the colony. After that he moved to Plymouth Colony where he soon fell into disfavor. He moved to Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and later to Accominticus (present-day York, Maine), becoming a minister there. However, a Puritan minister was sent there to replace him, and he returned to England. He remained there for a decade, when he was ejected from the parish. He returned to America, settling at the Isles of Shoals in New Hampshire, where he preached until his death in 1665.

Stephen Bachiler [PR] was a nonconformist minister who emigrated from England after running afoul of the church and government there. He went back to England late in life after running into similar problems in Massachusetts.

Rev. Thomas Hooker (an ancestor of Char’s) is considered the “Father of Connecticut” since he led many followers, including Alexander Edwards [PR], George Stocking [PR], and James Olmstead [PR], in 1636 to the Connecticut River country. Among that group was John Webster [PR] who would become governor of Connecticut. A further schism among the Hartford members took place when Rev. Samuel Stone [PR] wanted to liberalize the baptism ritual. When some in the congregation, including John Webster and Thomas Graves [PR], disagreed, they moved to Hadley, MA to start a new church.

A Quaker image

Quaker Star symbol

Quakers particularly suffered under the Puritan rule. Early Quakers were not well appreciated in Virginia. Virginia was the first permanent English colony in the New World and the Church of England was the official church of the colony. It was supported from the public treasury. Naturally, any attempt to bring about a "new religion", with strange beliefs such as healings, revelations from God and no ministers was considered heresy. American Quakers also adopted the star symbol in 1917.

Many ancestors became Quakers in England while others converted in the colonies. Thomas French [SS] was Quaker that immigrated to New Jersey in the early 1680’s due to persecution in England along with John Buzby’s [SS] family. Quaker ancestors George Brickhouse [SS] and Nicholas Waddelowe [SS] settled on the Virginia Eastern Shore.

New World Quakers paid a price for going against the established church. Zaccheus Gould [PR] was fined and whipped for "entertaining Quakers," his nephew Daniel having converted to that religion.

Elizabeth (Carrier) Hooten [SS] was an early follower of Quaker founder George Fox and was greatly persecuted for her beliefs. Her story is told in detail here.

Farther south, Virginia was having its own religious tolerance issues. For several years prior to 1650 many Virginia settlers became more and more dissatisfied with the way their religious freedom was being infringed upon by the Virginia authorities. These people had become known as "Independents." Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, desired to attract more colonists to Maryland and offered encouragement to these dissenters by stating in law that "no person or persons whatsoever within this province . . . professing to believe in Jesus Christ shall from henceforth be in any ways troubled, molested, or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion, nor in the free exercise thereof...." Peter Porter [SS] was one of these dissenters.


Sarah Good

A surprisingly large number of our ancestors were caught up in the witch trial hysteria in late 17th century Massachusetts. Sarah Pool Good, daughter of John Solart [PR], was hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692. She never confessed and “showed no remorse” at her execution. She is said to have declared at the scaffolding, "You are a liar. I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink."

Sarah Averill

So was Sarah Averill, wife of John Wildes [PR], hanged, also in Salem in 1692. Sarah (Averill) Wildes was wrongly convicted of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials and was executed by hanging. She maintained her innocence throughout the process, and was later exonerated. Her husband's first wife was a member of the Gould family, cousins of the Putnam family, the primary accusers, and court records document the family feuds which led to her persecution.

Sarah had a reputation as a nonconformist in Puritan Massachusetts, with prior offences which may have made her an easy target for accusations of witchcraft. She was considered glamorous and forward as a young woman. She was sentenced to be whipped for fornication with Thomas Wordell in November 1649, and later, in May of 1663, charged with wearing a silk scarf.

Because she married John so soon after his first wife's death (about 7 months later), John's former in-laws held something of a grudge against her. Over the years a number of other instances of friction between Sarah and Gould amily occurred On 21 April 1692, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin ordered Sarah, along with others to be arrested on "high suspicion" of witchcraft.

Her examination took place the following day. Sarah Bibber is specifically named in the court records as having had a fit, claiming to see Sarah's specter "upon the beam", and the other accusers followed suit. Sarah stated her innocence, going as far as to say she had never even seen the accusers before. During her own examination, Deliverance Hobbs claimed that Sarah's apparition, along with that of Mercy Lewis, had previously "tore [her] almost to peices [sic]" as she lay in her bed. She continued that Sarah recruited her to attend a black mass, and offered to cease tormenting her and reward her with clothing in return for her signing of the devil's book.

Sarah Wildes was condemned by the Court of Essex County for practicing witchcraft. She was executed on July 19, 1692 by hanging at Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts, along with Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Sarah Good, and Rebecca Nurse.

Mary Reeve

Mary Webster (Reeve) [PR], the so-called “witch of Hadley” was tried as a witch in 1683 and acquitted. But her neighbors were not satisfied and “dragged her out of the house, they hung her up until she was near dead, let her down, rolled her sometime in the snow, and at last buried her in it, and there left her; but it happened that she survived.” Why were the citizens of Hadley so sure Mary Webster was a witch? In the 17th century the concept of a "natural" death from disease was unthought-of. If someone died from unexplainable causes, the culprit must be the Devil.

Mary Perkins

In 1692, John Perkins’ [PR] daughter Mary Perkins Bradbury was placed on trial for witchcraft in Salisbury, Massachusetts. She was convicted on September 9, 1692, and sentenced to be executed. Her husband and friends broke her out of the Ipswich jail. She fled to Amesbury, where she died two years later.

Mary Sherwood

Another ancestor, Mary Fitch Sherwood [PR] was associated with the witch trial in New Haven, Connecticut, of Good Dame Knapp. Mary was a witness at the trial and walked to the gallows with the condemned woman, where she prevented the desecration of the body.

Mary Bliss

Mary Bliss [PR] was charged and imprisoned as a witch, and found not guilty.

There was another family connection to a witch trial. Katherine Harrison worked as a servant to Captain John Cullick [PR] of Hartford. One of her strongest accusers was Michael Griswold [PR] whom Katherine called a “liar” and his wife whom she called a “savage whore.” On October 12, 1669, she was brought before a jury and found guilty of witchcraft. Despite the guilty finding, the court was hesitant to have her executed. In the end, Katherine was released with the understanding that she leave Wethersfield for her own safety. To appease the townspeople, her property was seized by her neighbors. In the end, all that Katherine was probably guilty of was being an outspoken non-conformist.

Edward Griswold [PR] served on a jury in Hartford in 1650 that returned a verdict of guilty against John Carrington and his wife for witchcraft, and in 1662 he was on a jury that found Rebecca and Nathaniel Greensmith guilty of the same offense. Richard Treat [PR] was one of the Magistrates who sat in the Greensmith trial. Nathaniel and Rebecca were convicted and executed in 1662 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Well before the witch trials in Salem and Hartford, in 1671 in Groton, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Knapp [PR], a 16 year-old at the time, was "possessed by the Devil" on and off for a period of three months. Her story is told in detail here.


Occupations of early colonial ancestors

Most of the early colonists were farmers, and many were servants, but many others had specialized skills and trades.

Chimney viewer: an officer of the town appointed to inspect chimneys to insure that owners obeyed the law regarding regular cleaning thereof; e.g., Thomas Spencer [MM]

Cordwainer: maker of shoes, e.g., John McCurdy [MD] and Robert Royce [PR]

Currier: a craftsman who treated animal skins with oil or grease, e.g., Augustine McKay [MM]

Fellmonger: leather seller; e.g., Robert Hicks [MM]

Fence Viewer: a town or city official who administers fence laws by inspecting new fence and settling disputes arising from trespass by livestock that have escaped enclosure, e.g., John Stebbins [PR], John Francis [PR]

Haberdasher: a person who sells men's clothing, e.g., Thomas Sisson [FF]

Malster: produces malt from barley which is used in the production of beer, e.g., Henry Howard [PR]

Mercer: Cloth merchant, e.g., Joseph Weld [SS]

Ordinary Keeper: innkeeper; e.g., Joseph Hawley [MD]

Privateer: a private person authorized by a government to attack foreign vessels during wartime, e.g., John Hawkins [SS]

Surveyor: one who determined the boundaries, area, or elevations of land; e.g., Thomas Howlett [FB]

Tucker: a step in woolen cloth manufacturing which involves the cleansing of wool cloth to get rid of the natural sheep oils, dirt, and other impurities, and then milling the wool to thicken it or fulling it, which matts the wool fibers together to give it strength; e.g., Thomas Wolcott [PR]

Victualler: a person providing or selling food or other provisions, or a person who is licensed to sell alcoholic liquor, e.g., Thomas Skinner [MD].

McKay/Stevens Shared History

The Phantom Ship

A surprising number of ancestors died in one ship disaster. In the early 1640s, seeing their estates shrinking fast in the New World, the merchants of New Haven Colony formed a last-ditch partnership to build and stock a trading ship that could bypass the large ports (and of course, fees) of Massachusetts Bay, and trade directly with England. The ship called The Fellowship was poorly built, but in January 1646, it set out from New Haven with George Lamberton [FF] as the master, loaded with wheat, beaver pelts, hides, and other goods valued at £5,000, which would be worth perhaps US$645,000 today. Because this was the coldest decade of the Little Ice Age, the ship’s master had to break through three miles of harbor ice to get out to Long Island Sound. The ship disappeared forever.

Many of our ancestors were involved. John Wakemen [MD] and Richard Miles [FF] were involved in the construction. Along with George Lamberton, Thomas Gregson [FF] and Mary Goodyear [MD & PR] were also lost on this ship.

The story goes that in June of the next year, the residents of New Haven saw what many claimed to be a vision of the ship returning to port. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called The Phantom Ship that included the lines:

When, steadily steering landward,

A ship was seen below,

And they knew it was Lamberton, Master,

Who sailed so long ago.

And the people who saw this marvel

Each said unto his friend,

That this was the mould of their vessel,

And thus her tragic end.

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