Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ugliest man in the county

Tom Jones, not quite the ugliest
man in the county
In 1903, my great-great-grandfather Tom Jones was a contestant for the title of "ugliest man" in Christian County, Kentucky. The contest was hosted by the Hopkinsville Kentuckian newspaper and was wildly popular. People voted for their favorite ugly man by buying subscriptions to the  newspaper or by returning ballots that were clipped from the newspaper.

All of the contestants, including Tom Jones, were nominated for the honor (and accepted the nominations) in March of 1903, and the race was off! The voting concluded in August of 1903.  During the 5-month election, over 25,000 votes were cast for ugly men.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) Tom Jones lost the election. Out of the 9 men who remained in the contest until the end, Tom finished second to the last with just 131 votes.  It could be said then that he was the eighth ugliest man in Christian County.

Charlie Smithson, winner of the title of
ugliest man in Christian County
The winner of the honor of Ugliest Man in Christian County was a man named Charlie Smithson, who received over 10,000 votes. His prize was a gold watch and also honor and prestige.

From what I've been able to tell, these "ugliest man" competitions were phenomenons particular to Kentucky. They went hand-in-hand with corresponding elections for "prettiest lady" (or "Most Popular Young Lady" in Christian County). For all intents-and-purposes, it seems that the goal of the election was really to elect ugly men. These men, though ugly, were supposed to be pleasant and good-natured about their appearance and were usually "jokesters" in their communities. Although the candidates were originally nominated by other people, they could not be included in the race unless they accepted the nomination. At least 5 men dropped out of the race during its 5-month duration, perhaps because their feelings really did get hurt?

a ballot and advertisement for the
election from the Hopkinsville Kentuckian
In reality, the election was a fundraiser of sorts put on by the newspaper in order to increase newspaper circulation.

"The contest is to be conducted in a spirit of pleasantry and not to hurt people's feelings. Candidates who enter the contest in good faith will be expected to furnish a photograph, if one can be taken without breaking the camera."

My descent from Tom Jones:

Thomas A. Jones md. Lee P. Whitlock
- Louetha Jones md. Newell B. Brown
-- Bettye Brown md. Paul Wadleigh
--- Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
---- Ryan Wadleigh

Saturday, July 9, 2011


an 1849 painting by Thomas Noble meant to
depict a Salem witch being arrested. Perhaps
this was similar to the scene when my ancestor Mary
Lacey, who was 18, was arrested for witchcraft
The Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 was a period of mass hysteria in colonial Massachusetts.  The outbreak began in Salem Village (now Danvers), but soon spread to other towns and villages in the colony.  Witches were accused in other towns and were brought to Salem Village for their incarcerations, interrogations, trials and in some cases, executions. 

The Witches
I have four known ancestors who were accused or convicted witches during this period:
  • Mary Lacey (18) of Andover, MA - accused, interrogated and tortured, but never tried or convicted
  • Mrs. Mary Foster Lacey (40) of Andover, MA - convicted and sentenced to death, but eventually released
  • Mrs. Ann Foster (about 75) of Andover, MA - convicted and sentenced to death, but died in prison
  • Mrs. Mary Perkins Bradbury (77) of Salisbury, MA - convicted and sentenced to death, but supposedly escaped from prison
Sometime in 1692, Mrs. Elizabeth Phelps Ballard of Andover, Massachusetts (who also happens to be my ancestor) began to suffer from a mysterious fever and illness that baffled her doctors. She eventually died in July of 1692. Considering the witch hunt going on in nearby Salem Village, her husband Joseph naturally assumed that witchcraft or sorcery was the cause of his wife's demise.  Several "afflicted" girls were brought from Salem to Andover to identify the witches that were responsible. Their identifications fell on three of my direct ancestors; a teenage girl (Mary Lacey), her mother (Mary Foster Lacey) and her grandmother (Ann Foster).

The grandmother, Mrs. Ann Foster (aged about 75) was the first to be arrested and taken for questioning. On July 15, 1692 she was taken to Salem and at first denied all charges of witchcraft, but then confessed. She explained that the devil had first appeared to her in the form of a white bird. Then on, July 20, 1692, her daughter Mrs. Mary Foster Lacey (aged 40) was arrested and taken to Salem, where she immediately confessed. Following her confession, an arrest warrant was issued for Mary's daughter Mary Lacey (aged 18). They arrested the younger Mary in Andover and searched her belongings for puppets, quills and rags (assumed paraphernalia of witches) and apparently found some. Once in custody in Salem, all three women were then interrogated together and separately. Some sources also indicate that they were tortured. Aside from afflicting Elizabeth Ballard, all three were accused of afflicting various other people through their witchcraft. Mrs. Mary Lacey is also accused of afflicting her husband, Lawrence Lacey.

Part of the original examination/testimony of Mary Lacey
during her interrogations for witchcraft, July 21, 1692
(Click to enlarge)

Interestingly, the transcriptions of some or most of these interrogations have survived and reveal very colorful stories. Mrs. Ann Foster confessed that on one of her broomstick rides from Andover to Salem, her broomstick broke in mid-air and to save herself she clung to the neck of Martha Corey (another flying witch), hurting her leg in the process. Both the younger Mary Lacey and her mother had no trouble in implicating each other or the grandmother. The grandmother though, Ann Foster, was the only holdout in accusing her family members. She was accused of making her daughter Mary a witch and when asked about this, she responded: "I know no more of my daughter's being a witch than what day I shall die upon."

The younger Mary Lacey was never charged or tried for being a witch and was eventually pardoned. It is not explicitly stated why, but it is inferred that it was because she was young and under "parental control." (Although she was 18 years old, the court records refer to her as being about 15 years old. Perhaps she or her family lied about her age to make her less culpable?) It was probably though because while in prison, Mary testified against a variety of other accused witches, claiming to be afflicted by them in the courtroom. She was kept in prison though until October 1692, when some neighbors put up a bond for her release. Meanwhile, both Mrs. Mary Lacey and Mrs. Ann Foster were convicted of witchcraft in September 1692 and were sentenced to death by hanging. Fortunately, the sentences were delayed indefinitely. The elderly Ann Foster languished in prison and eventually died in December 1692 in her Salem jail cell. The records indicate she had been incarcerated for 21 weeks (since July). Afterwards, her son had to pay for her upkeep before they would release her dead body to him for burial. Mrs. Mary Lacey was apparently kept in prison until she was eventually pardoned and released, probably sometime in early 1693.

The younger Mary Lacey returned home and was eventually married at the age of 29 to her cousin Zerubbabel Kemp.  Zerubbabel was also a grandson of Ann Foster - meaning I am descended from her twice. 
My descent from Ann, Mary and Mary:

Ann md. Andrew Foster
- Mary Foster md. Lawrence Lacey
-- Mary Lacey md. Zerubbabel Kemp
--- Zerubbabel Kemp md. Abigail Lawrence
---- Mary Kemp md. John Brooks
----- Nathan Brooks md. Sarah Morse
------ Mary M. Brooks md. Reuben H. Thurston
------- Irvin H. Thurston md. Lydia E. Dunham
-------- Julia M. Thurston md. Henry W. Bixby
--------- Neil F. Bixby md. Bertha Hoffman
---------- Patricia J. Bixby md. Ben T. Plymale
----------- Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------------ Ryan Wadleigh
The fourth witch in my family tree, Mrs. Mary Perkins Bradbury of Salisbury, aged 77, was   Mary's specialty as a witch was apparently taking the form of different animals, including a blue boar.  Another colorful claim was that she had bewitched a vessel that was on its way to the Caribbean and caused its butter on board to go sour the moment that a storm hit.  Many people, including her husband, came to her defense during the trial.  For unknown reasons, she was not executed with the other convicted witches in September 1692.  Some sources indicate that she remained in prison until she was pardoned and released (probably in 1693). Another source indicates that she escaped and fled to Maine. Still another source indicated that her husband bribed her jailer and fled with her to Maine, where they waited until the hysteria died down. Whatever the circumstances, she eventually returned to her home in Salisbury where she died of natural causes in 1700.  In 1711, the attainder against her was officially reversed and her heirs were paid a fee of reparation. 
A 1655 image of witches being hanged in England
brought to Salem Village where she was tried and convicted of witchcraft on September 9, 1692.
My descent from Mary:
Mary Perkins md. Thomas Bradbury
- Jane Bradbury md. Henry True
-- William True md. Eleanor Stevens
--- Benjamin True md. Judith Morrill
---- Abraham True md. Sarah French
----- Sarah True md. Josiah Tilton
------ Josiah Tilton md. Sarah Dearborn
------- Jeremiah D. Tilton md. Abigail Freese
-------- Abigail R. Tilton md. John Wadleigh
--------- Oscar S. Wadleigh md. Charlotte Winters
---------- Odin Wadleigh md. Louise Custer
----------- Paul Wadleigh md. Bettye Brown
------------ Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
------------- Ryan Wadleigh
The Accusers

As mentioned above, my ancestor Joseph Ballard of Andover assumed that his wife's illness and death was caused by witchcraft. After convincing the "afflicted" girls from Salem to come and identify witches in Andover, he specifically accused Mrs. Ann Foster. After she had been arrested, he then demanded the arrest of her daughter and granddaughter, Mary Lacey Sr and Mary Lacey Jr, and even put up a bond on condition that they were prosecuted against. He eventually accused a variety of other people as being responsible for his wife's death.
My descent from Joseph:
Joseph Ballard md. Elizabeth Phelps
- Elizabeth Ballard md. George Abbott
-- Uriah Abbott md. Sarah Mitchell
--- Sarah Abbott md. Josiah Stearns
---- John Stearns md. Sarah Lane
----- Ruth Stearns md. Dudley Freese
------ Abigail S. Freese md. Jeremiah Tilton
------- Abigail R. Tilton md. John Wadleigh
-------- Oscar S. Wadleigh md. Charlotte Winters
--------- Odin Wadleigh md. Louise Custer
---------- Paul Wadleigh md. Bettye Brown
----------- Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
------------ Ryan Wadleigh
Another witch accuser is my ancestor, Mrs. Hannah Chandler Bixby of Andover (aged about 35).  In September 1692, Hannah testified that an accused witch, Mary Ayer Parker, had tortured her with witchcraft.  Mary Parker was then convicted and was executed on September 22, 1692.  Hannah Bixby may have just been in a frenzy like everyone else, but it has also been proposed that her family, the Chandlers, had some kind of feud with Mary's family, the Parkers.
My descent from Hannah:
Hannah Chandler md. Daniel Bixby
- Mephibosheth Bixby md. Mary Emmons
-- Samuel Bixby md. Mary Buck
--- Manassah Bixby md. Elizabeth Dunsmore
---- Thaddeus Bixby md. Hannah Worrick
----- Henry A. Bixby md. Mary Palfrey
------ Henry W. Bixby md. Julia Thurston
------- Neil F. Bixby md. Bertha Hoffman
-------- Patricia Bixby md. Ben Plymale
--------- Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
---------- Ryan Wadleigh
Perhaps most ironically, another accuser in my family tree is Lawrence Lacey of Andover, the husband of Mrs. Mary Lacey, the convicted witch (above). Lawrence Lacey was said to have been afflicted by a young woman named Elizabeth Johnson of Andover, who apparently sat on his stomach (the inference is that he experienced some sort of unidentifiable pain and attributed it to her.) Although he apparently did not directly accuse her, others indicated that his wife Mary Lacey had also afflicted him. Because other people eventually paid for the release of his wife and daughter, it can be surmised that Lawrence might have been estranged from his family.

Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. The Salem Witchcraft Papers. Verbatim transcriptions of the court records in three volumes. De Capo Press: New York, 1977.
Roach, Marilynne K. The Salem Witch Trials: a day-by-day chronicle of a community under siege. Taylor Trade Publishing, Larnham, MD, 2002.

Monday, July 4, 2011

American Revolution patriots

On this Independence Day holiday, I decided to honor my ancestors who served in the military during the American Revolution. Most of the men below had service that is acknowledged by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) or the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). In addition to these soldiers, I also have a variety of other ancestors who had acknowledged "patriotic service" by providing various aid to the war cause.

The following is an alphabetical listing of 41 of my direct ancestors who had known military service in the American Revolutionary War:

James Barkelow - was a private and fifer out of New Jersey in 1776 and 1777. Was a member of the "flying camp" (acknowledged by SAR)

Jonathan Bell - was a private out of Pennsylvania (acknowledged by DAR)

Thaddeus Bennett Sr - was a captain of a "train band" out of Connecticut and defended New York City against the British in 1776 (Battle of Long Island). He died in 1777 after his first campaign was over, apparently of an illness contracted during the campaign (his ranks were apparently decimated by dysentery). (acknowledged by DAR)

Thaddeus Bennett Jr - was a private out of Connecticut from 1776 to 1779, first under his father and then under a variety of other commands. (acknowledged by DAR)

Manassah Bixby - served with his brothers as a sergeant in 1777 out of Vermont (acknowledged by DAR)

John Brodie - was a surgeon/doctor to troops out of Virginia (acknowledged by DAR)

Joseph Cannon - was a private out of Massaschusetts between 1775-1777. Was a minuteman in 1775 and later in 1777 was on a "secret mission" to Rhode Island. (acknowledged by DAR)

Arnold Custer - was a private out of Virginia (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

Jonathan Custer - was a private out of Pennsylvania (acknowledged by DAR)

Jeremiah Dearborn - was a corporal out of New Hampshire in 1775 (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

Anthony Dibrell - said to have been a fifer out of Virginia

Johannes Faust (John Foust) - was a private out of North Carolina (acknowledged by DAR)

John Ferguson - was a private out of Virginia and North Carolina between 1777 and 1781, was at the Battle of Camden (1780) and Battle of Eutaw Springs (1781) (acknowledged by DAR)

Robert Field - was a soldier out of  Pennsylvania

Andrew Freese - was a soldier out of New Hampshire (acknowledged by DAR)

Matthew French - was a private out of Virginia, was at the battles of Wetzell's Mill and Guilford Court House (both in 1781) (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

Diskin Grant - was a soldier out of Virginia

James Grant - was a soldier out of North Carolina (acknowledged by DAR)

David Halliburton - was a private out of Virginia between 1781 and 1784, was at the battle of Yorktown (1781) (acknowledged by SAR)

Andrew S. Hatfield - was a captain out of Virginia (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

Isaac Hatfield - was a soldier in the Virginia militia (acknowledged by DAR)

Isaac Huyck - was a soldier out of New York

Thomas Jameson - was a private out of Virginia (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

Michael Jones - was a private out of Virginia (acknowledged by DAR)

Amos Merriman - was a private out of Connecticut in 1779 (acknowledged by DAR)

Daniel Morse - was a private out of New Hampshire (acknowledged by DAR)

John Owen - was a private out of Connecticut between 1775 and 1777, was involved with the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga and apparently in a variety of other battles (acknowledged by DAR)

Ambrose Ross - was a private out of Kentucky and Virginia (acknowledged by DAR)

Nicholas Seilhamer - was a private out of Pennsylvania between 1777 and 1781

John Stearns - was a private out of New Hampshire between 1778 and 1780, and served in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. He began service when he was 16 years old. (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

Thomas Sthreshley - was a captain, then major, of the militia out of Virginia between 1776 and 1782 (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

Christopher Strother - was a soldier out of North Carolina (acknowledged by DAR and SAR)

Johnathan Taylor - was a private in New Hampshire (acknowledged by DAR)

Josiah Tilton - was an ensign in New Hampshire (acknowledged by DAR)

Moses Thurston - was a private in New Hampshire in 1775 and 1777, was at the Siege of Boston in 1775 (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

Peter Thurston - was a private in New Hampshire, was said to be at the Battle of Lexington in 1775

John Turner - was a private out of Virginia (acknowledged by DAR)

James Wadleigh - was a private and corporal out of New Hampshire in 1777 and 1778, was at the Battle of Saratoga (acknowledged by SAR and DAR)

John Allen Wallace - was a private out of Virginia

Joseph Wheless - was a private out of North Carolina between 1777 and 1779, served in Georgia and South Carolina and was at the Battle of Stono Ferry (1779)

Jesse Worrick - was a private out of Massachusetts, in 1775