Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Workday Wednesday - The Ogden Family: Stone Church Builders - Gard Line

In 1640, the immigrant brothers John and Richard Ogden from Bradley Plain, Hampshire, England, arrived at the port of Southampton, Long Island. This particular John Ogden (b. 1609) is referred to in history as John “the Pilgrim” Ogden to differentiate him from his cousin, also named John Ogden, and pilgrim indeed he was.

William Ogden Wheeler, a descendant of John Ogden and author of the book The Ogden Family in America, says this about John the Pilgrim: “It is true that a close study of the ‘good old times’ reveals the presence and doings of many selfish and unscrupulous men, and the Colonial period thus loses much of its pristine fascination; yet the sturdy, self- poised, resolute, and godly Pilgrims and Quakers, whose righteous principles and lives were interwoven in the American fabric of civil and religious liberties, are to be held in the highest veneration by their numerous descendants. To this class belonged John Ogden, the Pilgrim . . . .”

John Ogden and his son after him, David Ogden, were stone church builders. At the time of Ogden’s arrival on this continent, New York was a Dutch colony called New Amsterdam. Like many of the early Americans, the Dutch immigrants were members of the Reformed religion, that is, they followed the teachings of John Calvin (much like the Presbyterians of Scotland). One of their early needs, therefore, was the construction of a church. To this end, they employed John the Pilgrim to build a stone church in New Amsterdam. The image above right depicts the church the Ogdens built, rising above other buildings in Fort Amsterdam, while the plan of New Amsterdam (below right) shows the sizable area given over to the church and churchyard in the southwest corner of the town.
Wheeler provides these details about the church's construction: “A contract was drawn up in May, 1642, setting forth an agreement between Governor William Kieft, Gisbert op Dyck, and Thomas Willet, of New Amsterdam, Church-wardens, to build a stone church in the fort, 72 ft. by 50 ft. and 16 ft. above the soil, for the sum of 2500 guilders (about $1000), to be paid in cash, beaver or other merchandise; if the work was done ‘in a workmanlike manner’ 100 extra guilders were to be paid the contractors, John Ogden and his brother Richard, both of Stamford, Conn. It was stipulated that the latter should be allowed the use of the company's boat to ferry the stone ashore near the fort, the wardens agreeing to carry the stone from the shore to the fort, and to furnish the lime with which to lay them.”

The old stone church of Fairfield Township, New Jersey (left), which still stands, is of the type that David Ogden built. Though the style was influenced by the Quaker churches of the era, this was a Presbyterian church. Interestingly, the graves of numerous Ogdens are in the churchyard.

A resident of Newark, New Jersey, David Ogden (b. 1639), son of John the Pilgrim, was also a stone church builder. Wheeler notes that the Newark Town Records of 1670 state that “nearly all the trades and callings necessary to the convenience and comfort of the colony were represented”; among them is mentioned “a stone church builder, David Ogden.”


Wheeler, William Ogden. The Ogden Family in America, Elizabethtown Branch, and Their English Ancestry: John Ogden, the Pilgrim, and His Descendants, 1640-1906.

© Eileen Cunningham, 2013



Friday, February 22, 2013

Travel Tuesday - Rena Travis: World Traveler, 1959 - Travis Line

            On September 26, 1956, Miss Rena Alice Travis, who had turned 63 just a few weeks earlier, boarded TWA Flight 937/25 at Rome's brand new Fiumicino International Airport and headed for Geneva, Switzerland, on a journey to visit her mother’s birthplace in Canton Berne.  This is the first of Rena’s overseas trips that has surfaced in documents on, but it was by no means her only international sojourn.
            Rena was born in Nemaha County, Kansas, in 1893.  In the first decade of the twentieth century, when all of her sisters, were getting married and starting families, Rena experienced the tragic loss of her fiancé to an accidental drowning.  In later years, her sister Lissie, my grandmother, explained that Rena had been very much in love with her fiancé and made a vow at the time of his death that she would never marry another man.  He had been the love of her life and would always remain so.

            In the summer of 1920,  Rena, age 26, enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  The university catalog, which lists her as an enrollee, does not indicate what course or courses she was taking that summer, but it does list her as a student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  There is no indication that Rena was degree-bound at the university, but she was apparently taking courses that would help her advance her life as a single woman. 

            1925 finds Rena living in Alhambra, Los Angeles County, California, where she continued to live and work as a bookkeeper until she eventually moved into Los Angeles proper until her death in 1972. 

            Upon her retirement, Rena apparently decided to take advantage of her good health and status as an unmarried woman to travel the world.  Rena’s mother, Mary Ann [Maria Anna] Grossnicklaus, had been born in Oberried am Brienzersee, Switzerland, and had immigrated to the United States with her family in 1893 when she was 14 years old.  Canton Berne is located in one of the more beautiful areas of the world—the Swiss Alps. 

A land of mountains and lakes, where even in July the temperature rarely exceeds 75º Fahrenheit, it would have been a significant contrast to Nemaha County, Kansas, where temperatures regularly climb to the mid-nineties in July and not uncommonly to around 100º.  In an era before air conditioning, the contrast would have been stark, and no doubt Rena’s mother would sometimes reflect longingly on the beauties of her Swiss homeland. 

It is only logical to conclude that Switzerland, would have been at the top of Rena’s list of places to visit.   It is not clear, however, whether Rena actually reached Oberried that year because, on a subsequent trip in 1959, Rena sent a postcard to her sister Lissie (May 23-31, 1959), which states, “We came thru Oberrid, Mother’s birthplace, yesterday.  It is a beautiful spot.  The flowers are blooming everyplace.  Never dreamed this country could be so beautiful.”

Apparently, Rena was not traveling alone in 1959 as her postcard begins, “Our trip is wonderful [emphasis mine].”  However, whether she was with friends, family, or a tour group is not clear.  On that trip, she took a ship across the Atlantic.  Her name is recorded on the passenger manifest of the Queen Mary, which docked in the port of Southampton, England, on May 12 (pictures left and below, right).  Rena specified that she would be staying at Charing Cross Hotel (see below, left) and would be in England for four days.  Since she did not post her message to Lissie until May 23, at the earliest, she probably spent some time, after crossing the English Channel, traveling by train to Switzerland.  She mentions in her postcard message that she “saw Charlene and George and little Jeff in Frankfort,” and though I have not been able to discover who these persons were, it is obvious that Rena's route took her through Germany.  After World War II, Frankfort was inside the American Zone of Operation, so it is quite likely that “George” was an American soldier.

One final note on the 1959 trip: the records of the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company, Ltd., which owned the Queen Mary, indicate that the ship had come to Southampton from Durban, South Africa.  Though Rena boarded the ship in New York, she and her fellow travelers apparently saw more of the world than western Europe! 

About Durban, Wikipedia indicates that Durban is the largest city in the South African province of Kwa-Zulu-Natl and the third largest in South Africa behind Johannesburg and Cape Town.  Famous for being a busy port, Durban is also seen as “one of the major centres of tourism because of the city’s warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches.”  Did Rena spend some time in Durban?  It’s an intriguing question.

My personal knowledge of Rena includes the fact that at some time in the early 1960s Rena also visited the Orient.  Upon her return, she made a trip to Wichita to visit our family (my father being her nephew) and present us with gifts she had purchased for us on her trip.  I received a ring with two pearls:  one white, one grey. 

The story Rena told was that she had stopped at a restaurant for lunch one day while in Japan.  The restaurant’s special attraction was that each diner was able to select an oyster from a barrel, and if it contained a pearl, the lucky visitor was allowed to keep it.  That Rena’s had two was truly a bonus.  When I received the gift, the two pearls had been mounted on a ring. 

I have always presumed that these were cultured pearls and that the mount was not expensive, but it has great sentimental value as it stirred in me an interest in things international, including several overseas trips of my own which have always put me in mind of my forward-looking great-aunt, Rena Alice Travis.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Boyhood of Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney – Fraser Line


An illegitimate son of Scotland’s King James V, Robert Stewart (1533-1592) was acknowledged by the king and raised as a prince of the blood, along with three other illegitimate sons, John, James secundus, and James tertius (each with a different mother).  In his biography of Robert Stewart, Peter D. Anderson details the provisions the king made for Robert and the others during their boyhood. 

            One suitable path for sons of the nobility and the royal family was a career in the Church, but there was an impediment in James’s way since it was not possible for illegitimate persons to be ordained by the Church (Hallam 37).  Therefore, it was necessary to seek legitimization, and on December 30, 1534, the pope granted a dispensation so that the sons of James V could receive appointments in the Church.[1] The boys, of course, were still wee bairn at this time, but each boy received his tonsure when he reached the age of six (1559 in Robert’s case).

            The next step in the process was to find each boy a source of revenue, so in keeping with the Church career that he was planning for the boys, King James eyed Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. Though Holyrood is known to many generations of tourists as the site of the royal palace, at this point in Robert’s life, the adjacent Holyrood Abbey (now in ruins) was still an Augustinian monastery. On December 16, 1538, James approached Pope Paul III to secure Holyrood as a benefice for Robert, who was now five years old, and on August 18 of the following year, Robert became commendator (holder of the benefice) at the ripe old age of six. 

            Next after the tonsure and the benefice came education.  Accordingly, Robert and his brothers were enrolled as “scolares” in the diocese of St. Andrews in 1534 (again considerably in advance of the usual age for such a thing, Robert being only one year old at the time).  In June 1540, when he was seven, he actually arrived in St. Andrews to begin his education.  Educated probably at the priory or by the cathedral clergy, young Robert was assigned servants, cooks, and (somewhat surprisingly) a minstrel.  His personal servant was named Thomas Carmichael.

            Robert now began to receive grants from the royal treasury, no doubt to support him while he was away from the court.  Details of the lad’s wardrobe expenditures have survived, and they included the following:

            a.  a doublet of black fustian (coarse, sturdy cloth of cotton and linen) – 16 shillings

            b.  two coffers in which the clothing could be contained during transport (one possibly for his brother John) - £5

            c.  clothing distributions in December 1539, June 1540, and February 1541 - £65

            d.  a “magnificent coat of red velvet, lined with yellow and faced with gold, with matching bonnet and shoes” in 1539 - £21.8

            When James V died late in 1542, the job of providing for the boys fell on the shoulders of James Hamilton, 3rd Earl of Arran, who was regent for their infant half-sister, Mary, Queen of Scots.  Robert is listed as attending parliament in August 1546 (age 12).  On March 20, 1547,  Robert’s “year of maturity,” a letter was drawn up in Mary’s name, requesting the King of England allow Robert and his escort, John Hamilton, bishop of Dunkeld, free passage through England as young Robert made his way to France to further his education.  However, this venture never came to fruition, and Robert did not embark for France until July 1548 when he departed from Dunbarton with Mary, as she left to be raised at the court of France in accord with her marriage contract.  Robert is described as being “of fervent desire and mynd to exerce his youtheid studying in lettiris, in gude maneris” (Anderson 8). 

            In the boy’s retinue in France were two of his half-brothers; John Carmichael, parson of Inbernochy; David Carmichael, vicar of Dunrod; Andrew Callendar; Robert Carmichael, chamberlain to the commendator; and James Stewart, son of the former abbot of Dryburgh.  In France, Robert was probably instructed with his brothers by Peter Ramus, a well-respected humanist scholar [right].  Returning to Scotland in 1551 (age 18), Robert surfaced at meetings of the privy council at Stirling and at Perth (1552 and 1553, respectively)—his boyhood behind him and young adulthood ahead.


Anderson, Peter D. Robert Stewart: Earl of Orkney, Lord of Shetland, 1533-1593.  Edinburgh: John Donald, 1982.

Hallam, Henry.  History of Europe during the Middle Ages. New York: Colonial, 1899.  Online. Accessed 18 Feb 2013.









[1] Anderson indicates that it was Pope Clement VII who granted the dispensation on 30 Dec 1534; however, it is more likely to have been Pope Paul III since Clement had died in September of that year.

Amanuensis Monday - Jacob Dobkins' Revolutionary War Service - Lanham Line

  • Information is taken from Jacob Dobkins' application for a military pension in 1832. The spelling and some punctuation have been modernized to aid in readability. This is a partial transcription. Note that the writer slips back and forth between third person and first person as the narrative goes along.

Jacob Dobkins, aged 81, . . . states that he has not attended any Court of Justice in fifteen years. . . .and that he is very infirm and decrepit and about fifteen years ago he met with the misfortune of having his shoulder and collar bone broke [sic] which has greatly disabled him from getting about. He also states that he is much afflicted with the pneumatic pains.

He also states that he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein stated. That in the year 1779 and in the month of May in said year he resided in Kentucky at Harrodsburgh where he enlisted in the service of his country under Capt. Todd, which said company was attached to the troop commanded by Colonel Bowman. Colonel Bowman shortly afterward marched to the Chilicothe towns against the Indians and the company to which this applicant belonged to [sic] commanded by Capt. Todd was left to guard the fort at Harrodsburgh where he remained until the spring 1780 and this applicant states that he was then transferred to a company commanded by Capt. McGarvy [?] and we marched to the falls of the Ohio with the view of guarding the artillery up the river which we accordingly did and joined the troops commanded by General Clark. Sometime in the month of July in the year 1780 we were then ordered by General Clark to march up the river with a view to kill provisions for the army [hunt?]. We accordingly marched up the river to the mouth of the Kentucky River where we attempted to cross the river to join the main army who were camped on the other side of the river. The Indians made an attack upon us and in the engagement we lost ten of our men. We then marched up the river to Cincinnatti where we joined the troops commanded by Colonel Logan. We then built a block house and stationed a guard and the whole of the balance of the army mached to the Chilicothe towns and the Indians evacuated the towns and would not give us battle. We then pursued them to the Pickway towns where we arrived in the month of August in said year. We then found the Indians collected together and we had a very severe battle which lasted about three hours and a half. We killed a considerable number of them, and I think our loss was about 28 men. This applicant states that he did not receive any wounds in the battle but that there was [sic] several bullet holes through his clothes and applicant states the whole of the army then marched back to the Shawnee [?] Springs where this applicant was stationed until the month of May [unclear] 1781 and during which time we had no general engagements, that a great portion of our time was spent in skirmishing parties through the country. Said applicant states that he actually did serve in the army of the United States putting the whole together more than two years. Applicant states that he does not remember that he ever did receive a discharge and if he did he has lost or mislaid it so that he cannot produce it. He states that he has no documentary evidence of his services nor does he know of any living testimony by whom he can prove his service. He duly relinquishes every claim to a pension or an amount equal to [unclear] and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of any agency of any state whatsoever.

[The court at Claiborne County accepted the testimony and granted the pension.]
 National Archives and Records Administration.
Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-19Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sir James Douglas: The Good, The Black (Pt 1) - Fraser Line

It was an age of the nom de guerre.  The Scotsman Sir William Douglas was called “the Bold” or “the Hardy,” and his son, Sir James, “the Good” or (due to his swarthy complexion) “the Black.” Their great enemy, King Edward I of England, was earning his own moniker, “The Hammer of the Scots,” when the twenty-year-old James appeared on the scene, returning from exile in France after his father’s imprisonment and death.  

King Edward had confiscated the Douglas lands and given them to Sir Robert Clifford, an Englishman whose title Lord Warden of the Marches gave him the authority to treat all Scots with impunity.  Therefore, despite the best efforts of  William Lamberton, the Bishop of St. Andrews—who accompanied young Douglas to meet with the king during the siege of Stirling—it should come as no surprise that Edward gave a “nothing doing” reply.  He kept the lands for Clifford, that is sure, but he earned for himself a formidable enemy, as will be seen anon.

          Bishop Lamberton played a fine game, keeping lines of communication open with the English but giving his true allegiance to Robert the Bruce.  Once the Bruce was accepted as the King of Scotland, Lamberton read out to his congregation a letter from the king, calling on all Scots to re-dedicate themselves to their homeland, and young James, hearing the plea, responded.  Laden with money and supplies from the bishop, James set out for Annandale to meet up with the new king and his train, as they headed to Scone for his coronation, which took place on March 27, 1306.  From that time on, Douglas remained in Bruce’s service in all of his wanderings in Scotland and Ireland, subduing English sympathizers and bringing them round to Bruce’s side.  The tide began to turn, and various English invasions ended in defeat.

            Then, in 1307, Douglas began to earn a singular reputation as a stalwart and crafty leader.  The English commander Sir John Mowbray had passed into Scotland and was making his way northward on the west coast of Ayrshire with 1,000 soldiers, mounted and armed. Greatly outnumbered with only 60 men, Douglas devised a clever stratagem by which he might succeed.  Knowing that the English would have to pass sooner or later through the area around Kilmarnock, he chose to hide in ambush around a narrow pass, both sides of which were lined with marshy bogs that were pure treachery for men on horseback. 

As the fourteenth-century Scottish poet John Barbour told it in his epic poem The Brus:

        Thai baid in buschement all the nycht,
               And quhen the sone was schynand brycht
               Thai saw in bataillyng cum arayit
               The vaward with baner displayit . . . .

               They waited in ambush all the night
               And when the sun was shining bright
               They saw in battlements come arrayed
               The vanward with banner displayed . . . .

Remaining quiet and allowing Mowbray and some of his men to pass through as if nothing was afoot, they suddenly attacked, soon filling the narrow passageway with dead Englishmen and their horses.  This effectively obstructed any retreat on Mowbray’s part and forced the flight of those who had been separated from him. In the melee, Mowbray managed to escape and make his way northwest to Inverkip:

Richt till the castell that ves then
Stuffit all with yngliſh men.

Right to the castle that was then
Stuffed all with English men.

 No doubt he was glad to reach safety, but that was small comfort to a leader of 1,000 who had just been routed by a band of 60.  Barbour immortalized this rout of the English, thus:

       Syne till a strait place gan he ga
               That is in Makyrnokis way,
               The Edirford it hat perfay,
               It lyis betwix marrais twa
               Quhar that na hors on lyve may ga.
               On the south halff quhar James was
               Is ane upgang, a narow pas,
               And on the north halff is the way
               Sa ill as it apperis today.

               Then to a narrow place did he go
               That is in Makernokis way,
               The Ederford it is called indeed
               It lies between morasses two
               Where that no horse alive may go
               On the south half where James was
               Is a slope, a narrow pass,
               And on the north half is the way
               So evil as it appears today.

Though fun to read, the lines are a bit frustrating as they do not tell exactly where this confrontation occurred.  I have been unable to turn up any map of Scotland that shows the location of Edirford (spelled variously as Edyrford and Ederford ).  George Eyre Todd, one of Barbour’s “translators,” speculated that Makynokis Way could refer to the “Maich and Garnock Way,” a reference to two streams that flow into Kilbirnie Loch. Apparently, there was an old ford, he said, across “Maich Water among the marshes at the loch” [see illustration]. 

It is a pity some enterprising Douglas, like a Schliemann looking for Troy, does not follow the clues and raise a statue in Ayrshire to his doughty ancestor, Sir James—the Good, the Black.



Barbour, John.  The Brus. Ed. A. A. M. Duncan. Online.
Accessed 17 Feb 2013. 

“The Exploits of the Good Sir James.”  Electric Scotland. Online.
Accessed 17 Feb 2013.

Fraser, William, Sir. The Douglas Book. (1885) p. 160.  Online.
Accessed 17 Feb 2013.

Old Roads of Scotland.  Online.
Accessed 17 Feb 2013.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Crisscross Kin #1 (Gard and Cunningham Lines)

We’ve all heard the maxim about “two ships passing in the night,” which, as it turns out, has a great application in genealogical research.  When you first begin working on the family tree, it doesn’t take long to realize how many hundreds and even thousands of direct ancestors you have.  But at the same time you realize that the world’s population was much smaller in bygone eras than it is now.  The farther back you go, the fewer people there were.  So it’s just a matter of time until you see that ancestors from your family tree had interactions with those of, say, your spouse’s family tree. 


The most recent example I ran across involved some ancestors in Cheshire, England.  I was working on my husband’s family tree at the time with a special focus on the Venables (or De Venables) family who held lands in Cheshire.  They had come over to England with William the Conqueror back in the eleventh century and had been given the title Baron of Kinderton, Kinderton being a small portion of what is now Middlewich, Cheshire, as I understand it.  I followed the Venables family through time to the fifteenth century when suddenly I noticed a marriage between Elizabeth Venables (1416-1470) and a fellow Cestrian, Sir Adam Bostock (1412-1475).  A little bell went off in my brain as I remembered having worked on the Bostock line on my own family tree some months previous.  So, I began back-tracking in my father’s line until I found him: Adam Bostock from the town of Bostock in Cheshire.  Turns out Adam was not a direct ancestor. calculated that he was my second cousin 18 times removed while Elizabeth Venables was my husband’s second cousin 16 times removed!  So, I like to imagine Adam and Elizabeth enjoying a stroll in the Cheshire countryside in the spring of the year, totally oblivious to the fact that their DNA would appear in another couple strolling hand in hand 500 years into the future in a distant land not even known to them.  Amazing.

Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney and Lord of Shetland

Robert Stewart (1553-1593) Robert Stewart, Earl of Caithness and Orkney (1553-93),  was a natural son of King James V of Scotland by E...