I Remain in the Thicket, Hoping to Learn from our Children


Victoria Prooday

Just one month ago this week, I began writing this post about a two-month-old article I came across that was written by Victoria Prooday, an internationally-known educator, motivational speaker, registered Occupational Therapist, and founder and clinical director of a multidisciplinary clinic.  It speaks to a silent tragedy that is affecting our very own children all around the globe!  It interested me because I remain deeply concerned about our children and the futures and legacies being left for their generations to come; i.e., what we are teaching them and what healthy and helpful lessons are we leaving behind.  Are we truly building time-honored and loving relationships, generously sharing our wisdom, experiences, special stories, and the family histories and traditions that generations before us created to help make our lives easier, happier, emotionally and physically healthier as members of their families and communities so they can prosper? Ironically, life rudely interrupted my daily, somewhat uninspiring routine, and thrust me head first into this thicket of young people’s realities in the twenty-first century.  I guess the lesson for me was to experience up close and first-hand their daily routines, struggles, stresses, and yes, even some small successes along the way.

Even as I write today, I remain in this thicket of underbrush.  I consider myself a woman of the world, well-read and wise on so many topics.  Yet, I find I have been so un-under informed about this century’s daily and toxic demons that lay in wait to consume our children’s lives.  These amusing babysitting gadgets and high-tech “social media” lifestyles rob them of this world’s simple everyday joys that are around them and cheat them out of warm and loving connected family dynamics where they could share mutual trust, love, support, and respect for one another.  And when did this all start?  Was it World-War-II’s silent generation, the baby-boomer generation, the women’s rights movement? Regardless of when or why this estrangement from family unity and the lure of “anti-social” high-tech instant gratification, I agree with Victoria’s findings that the impact of modern-day parenting and high-tech lifestyle’s on our children’s nervous systems is a tragedy on life and society.  In fact, in the short two months, since Victoria released her article (that follows), 10 million people have already read it and the numbers of readers keep growing.  Every parent who cares about the future of his/her children and wants to keep informed on this subject will want to read it and weigh its message and tools for themselves. Victoria says if you follow her recommendations at the end, you will see positive changes in your child’s life and be further proof that the problem she describes is real and should be close to all parents’ hearts.   Please take a read.

“The silent tragedy affecting today’s children . . .”

There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in our homes, and it concerns our most precious jewels – our children. Through my work with hundreds of children and families as an occupational therapist, I have witnessed this tragedy unfolding right in front of my eyes. Our children are in a devastating emotional state! Talk to teachers and professionals who have been working in the field for the last 15 years. You will hear concerns similar to mine. Moreover, in the past 15 years, researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:

 

How much more evidence do we need before we wake up?

No, “increased diagnostics alone” is not the answer!

No, “they all are just born like this” is not the answer!

No, “it is all the school system’s fault” is not the answer!

Yes, as painful as it can be to admit, in many cases, WE, parents, are the answer to many of our kids’ struggles!

It is scientifically proven that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself through the environment. Unfortunately, with the environment and parenting styles that we are providing to our children, we are rewiring their brains in a wrong direction and contributing to their challenges in everyday life.

Yes, there are and always have been children who are born with disabilities and despite their parents’ best efforts to provide them with a well-balanced environment and parenting, their children continue to struggle. These are NOT the children I am talking about here.

I am talking about many others whose challenges are greatly shaped by the environmental factors that parents, with their greatest intentions, provide to their children. As I have seen in my practice, the moment parents change their perspective on parenting, these children change.

What is Wrong?

Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood, such as:

  • Emotionally available parents
  • Clearly defined limits and guidance
  • Responsibilities
  • Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
  • Movement and outdoors
  • Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom

Instead, children are being served with:

  • Digitally distracted parents
  • Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
  • Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
  • Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
  • Sedentary indoor lifestyle
  • Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments

Could anyone imagine that it is possible to raise a healthy generation in such an unhealthy environment? Of course not! There are no shortcuts to parenting, and we can’t trick human nature. As we see, the outcomes are devastating. Our children pay for the loss of well-balanced childhood with their emotional well-being.

How to fix it?

 If we want our children to grow into happy and healthy individuals, we have to wake up and go back to the basics. It is still possible! I know this because hundreds of my clients see positive changes in their kids’ emotional state within weeks (and in some cases, even days) of implementing these recommendations:

Set limits and remember that you are your child’s PARENT, not a friend

Offer kids well-balanced lifestyle filled with what kids NEED, not just what they WANT. Don’t be afraid to say “No!” to your kids if what they want is not what they need.

  • Provide nutritious food and limits snacks.
  • Spend one hour a day in green space: biking, hiking, fishing, watching birds/insects
  • Have a daily technology-free family dinner.
  • Play one board game a day. (List of family games)
  • Involve your child in one chore a day (folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table etc)
  • Implement consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child gets lots of sleep in a technology-free bedroom

Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t over-protect them from small failures. It trains them the skills needed to overcome greater life’s challenges:

  •  Don’t pack your child’s backpack, don’t carry her backpack, don’t bring to school his forgotten lunch box/agenda, and don’t peel a banana for a 5-year-old child. Teach them the skills rather than do it for them.

Teach delayed gratification and provide opportunities for “boredom” as boredom is the time when creativity awakens:

  • Don’t feel responsible for being your child’s entertainment crew.
  • Do not use technology as a cure for boredom.
  • Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, malls. Use these moments as opportunities to train their brains to function under “boredom”
  • Help them create a “boredom first aid kit” with activity ideas for “I am bored” times.

Be emotionally available to connect with kids and teach them self-regulation and social skills:

  • Turn off your phones until kids are in bed to avoid digital distraction.
  • Become your child’s emotional coach. Teach them to recognize and deal with frustration and anger.
  • Teach greeting, turn taking, sharing, empathy, table manners, conversation skills,
  • Connect emotionally – Smile, hug, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, or crawl with your child.

We must make changes in our kids’ lives before this entire generation of children will be medicated! It is not too late yet, but soon it will be…

Does Art Imitate Life or Life More Often Imitate Art?


In recent years, several excellent historical drama series have emerged that depict the life and times of ancient peoples and cultures.  We sit back comfortably in our chairs, on our couches, or even lay back on our bed pillows and watch in high definition color on our flat screens as peoples’ thirsts drive them forward at any and all costs in their quests for political and social stature, and even designs of world dominance.  And, whether dramatic art or in the reality of our own world today, we see individuals and groups wrestling for social and political power and world sovereignty.  I’d like to know who was right;  Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher (384 BC – 322 BC), who viewed art as an imitation of life; or the author from Ireland, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), who believed that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.  These series like The Tudors, Reign, Marco Polo, Medici-Masters of Florence,  Hell on Wheels, The Hatfields and McCoys, West Wing, and House of Cards, in fact, have inspired my subsequent research into the real stories behind them and to root out the naked truths.

In Art – Let’s start with The Tudors:

The Tudors included 38 episodes over four seasons and followed the life of Henry VIII from the time of his crowning until his death. His personal and political struggles and victories.  It also detailed his paranoia, his scandalous life that included many marriages and extramarital affairs, and his changes to the Catholic Church to create the Church of England–all for his own personal benefit.

Next – there was Reign:

Reign ran for four seasons and 78 episodes. Reign followed Mary, the dainty but fierce 15-year-old from Scotland, as she re-entered French court after spending her adolescence at a convent. She was torn between her duty to Scotland and her Scottish family’s political aspirations for her to marry Prince Francis, future King of France; and her blossoming love for this man, Francis, who she was betrothed to as a child and had spent much of her childhood with him as playmates.  Yet, throughout her life, even Mary had to remain ever-vigilant due to social and political threats against her life and crown.

In Reality – Executions at Tower Hill Ordered by British Royalty

What I quickly learned from these historical dramas and my subsequent research is that everyone had to be ever vigilant.  Their harsh realities–there were few who could be trusted loyal friends and many unknown enemies who were more than willing to strike them down in whatever fashion in their attempts to get ahead–and this scenario was especially true among the royals and their “closest” associates!

I found a couple of interesting resources: 1) Capital Punishment UK and 2) British Royal Family History. I used both of them when generating this Google Sheet that covers the “Executions on Tower Hill by English Kings and Queens (1377-1820).” As you can see, it spans nearly 500 years; seven ruling families; and, 18 blue-bloods who decided who amidst them would advance within the royal ranks and who they would execute at their sole discretion because they had in some way become “inconvenient” to them rather than genuine traitors.

The majority of these beheadings were at the behest of royalty and took place at the Tower of London. It is a 900-year-old castle and fortress in central London that is notable for housing the crown jewels and for holding many famous and infamous prisoners.

It seems the history of these beheadings by British Royalty goes back to early medieval England’s Anglo-Saxon times (about  450 A.D. to 1066 A.D.) and that beheading was widely used in Europe and Asia until as recently as the 20th century.  Even today, as barbaric as it is, we still are witness to political-based and/or jihad-inspired beheadings by peoples primarily on the continents of Asia and Africa in places like Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi-Arabia, and Boko-Haram.  But among the British Royalty, beheading with a sword or axe was considered a more honorable and less painful form of death than other execution methods used at the time. (And, like hanging, it was a cheap and practical method!)

Throughout its history, the tower was used to imprison a wide range of prisoners, from deposed monarchs to more common criminals. Prisoners included Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for about a week in the 16th century before she was deposed by Mary I.

Also imprisoned there were two princes, Edward and Richard, ages 12 and 9, who were the sons of Edward IV (died 1483). They appear never to have left the tower alive and some thought they were killed by Richard III, their uncle who took the throne for himself.

Another notable prisoner was Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 attempted to blow up the House of Lords and the monarch by detonating gunpowder in the cellars below. He was imprisoned in the tower and tortured.

And, of course, King Henry VIII, one of the more notorious members of the House of Tudor, who ruled for about 38 years.  He had all but 5 his 31 “treasonous” country-men/women beheaded on Tower Hill.  If fact, he imprisoned two of his wives, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard and later executed them. It also was Henry, who turned England into a Protestant country, and in doing so had a number of his dissenting clergymen committed to the tower and later killed, including his former counselor Sir Thomas More.

In all, just within the Tower of London or on an ancient scaffold on Tower Hill, 122 people were put to their deaths–many after also spending torturous times imprisoned within the walls of the Tower.

Of those executed:

  • 94 were beheaded
  • 12 were hanged
  • 11 were hanged and drawn and quartered
  •   3 were killed by firing squad
  •   2 were burned at the stake

You also can see on my google sheet that from the years 1649-1660, that 11-year-period between the reigns of King Charles I and King Charles II, that the British parliament and government ruled the Kingdom, and even then eight persons were beheaded for various “treasonous plots” against the Royals or their armies.  Included among them was British Monarch, Charles I–the only monarch ever to be executed by Parliament, but not in Tower Hill. He was beheaded on Tuesday the 30th of January 1649 on a raised scaffold in front of the Palace of Whitehall. He had been convicted of High Treason and “other crimes” for his activities during the civil war against the Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell. An act of parliament had to be passed to set up a means to try him before a special court composed of Commissioners. The trial began on the 20th of January 1649 and the king refused to recognize the court or to enter a plea. In Charles’ case, the executioner was skilled and managed to sever his head with a single blow–unlike so many others put to their deaths by beheadings and orders of the blue-bloods.

So where does this leave us on the art imitating life or life imitating art question?  I’m not sure I am qualified to say.  If I’m to be honest (like TV personality Simon Cowell often says), we’ve each seen examples of art imitating life and life imitating art.  I guess it’s safe to say it’s like the chicken and the egg story–which came first?

 

 

Wharton’s – My Ancient Ancestors


Often when I’m researching family history, regardless of the branch, I feel a real connection and gain a greater understanding of familial traits and relationships.  Yet sometimes, especially in the ancient families’ histories, the facts seem so very surreal; especially as they unfold through the mix of aristocracies, the haughty “blue-bloods,” castles, manor houses, servants, and the underbelly of tawdry tales from historical accounts of my families’ lives and times.  So, as we continue this chapter about my paternal great-grandmother Mary Florence Wharton’s family’s branch we are exploring Scotland and England during the 12th through the 16th Centuries.  Along our way, we have learned that many of the Wharton’s descended from the family’s progenitor — Gilbert de Querton; that many became knights and amassed land as a result; and that others gained social ascension through their marriages into well-to-do families through Princesses, Kings, Dukes, etc..

The Wharton’s knighthood dates from 6 October 1292 when King Edward I granted to Gilbert de Querton “the Manor of Querton with its appurtenances.” (“Querton” was the earlier Latin spelling of “Wharton”).

On this map, I have highlighted the borderline between England and Scotland within the rectangular area that spans from Carlisle to Berwick in the East.  Many renowned families originated here.  Names like Armstrong, Bell, Carson, Graham, Hume, Irving, Nixon, Rutherford, and–Wharton.

For about 400 years (13th-17th Centuries), Wharton’s were among those who lived along this Anglo-Scottish Border region. It literally was a war zone.  Both Scottish and English families raided the entire Border country without regard to victims’ nationalities. Their heyday was perhaps in the last hundred years of their existence, at the time of their Kings:  The Tudors (1485 -1603) and The Stuarts 1603 – (1649 and 1660 – 1714 ).

Ruins of Lammerside Castle                             Photo courtesy of Graeme Dougal

Lammerside Castle existed before Gilbert de Querton (original spelling of the Wharton family name), received title to it. It was most likely built by a border branch of the Scottish Wauchope/Warcop family, who later intermarried with the Wharton family. This was part of that border region that switched back and forth several times between Scotland and England, before remaining under English control.

 

In Westmorland County (now known as Cumbria County), in a civil parish near Kirkby Stephen (circled in black on the map) stands the very impressive “Wharton Hall”  with a gatehouse, internal courtyard, and outbuildings built by Gilbert de Querton for himself and his wife, Emma de Hastings.  It is about one mile from Lammerside Tower and Pendragon Castle (mentioned in my earlier post).

After construction of Wharton Hall, both castles fell into disrepair and now exist only as ruins as shown in the images.

Thomas Wharton, 1st Baron Wharton (1495 – 23 August 1568), 4th line of descent from Sir Gilbert de Querton

Thomas was born in Wharton, the eldest son of Sir Thomas Wharton of Wharton Hall and his wife Agnes Warcop, daughter of Reynold or Reginald Warcop of Smardale. His younger brother was the English martyr Christopher Wharton. His father died around 1520, and in April 1522 he served on a raiding expedition into Scotland. Thomas was also a  follower of King Henry VIII of England. He is best known for his victory at Solway Moss on 24 November 1542.  For this victory, his title of Barony was created in 1544. Sir Thomas Wharton had previously served as a Member of Parliament for Cumberland.  (The letters patent stipulated that his Barony title could only be passed on to male heirs.) It was along this Anglo-Scottish border that “Lord Wharton” led 3,000 men. The battle took place between the rivers Esk and Lyne.  Here, the Scots found themselves penned in the south of the Esk in English territory between the river and the Moss (a peat bog).  After intense fighting, the Scots surrendered themselves to the English cavalry.  

Henry de Wharton, the 5th descendant of Gilbert de Querton

Sir Henry inherited Wharton family lands in today’s Cumbria which by then included estates in Ravenstonedale, Rengill, Norton, and Kellorth. Sir Henry had two sons, Sir Thomas de Wharton and Gilbert de Wharton. Upon Henry’s death, Sir Thomas inherited the lands of his father and added Croglin (Cumberland). Sir Thomas’ line is the origin of the first Lords of Wharton Hall. Sir Thomas was also a steward in the house of Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry VII, and he fought with Henry the VIII against the Scots.

The youngest son of Henry de Wharton, Gilbert, married Joan (or Jane) Kirkby who was the heiress to the lands of Kirkby Thor. This included estates in Offerton, Dryburn, Gillingwood, Skelton Castle, Durham, and Yorkshire.

John Wharton, the 6th descendant of Gilbert de Wharton purchased Old Park (near Durham) in 1600 and from him, the Wharton’s of Old Park descended.

Lord  Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton in 1632, by Van Dyck.

Sir Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton (18 April 1613 – 4 February 1696), (7th line of descent), was an English soldier, politician, and diplomat. He was a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War.  Philip was named in honor of Philip II of Spain who married Princess Mary. King Philip himself stood as Godfather to Philip Wharton at his baptism.  He also was a Puritan and a favorite of Sir Oliver Cromwell.  After the English Civil War, Sir Philip frequently ran into difficulty with the Crown. In 1676 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and later (in 1685) fled the country when King James II came to the throne.

Sir Philip Wharton (8th line of descent), was active in the overthrow of King James II and in 1692 entertained King William and Queen Mary at Woodburn Manor. The inscription on his tomb reads “An active supporter of the English Constitution; a loyal observer, advocate, and patron of reformed religion; a model alike of good works and true and living faith.”  Lord Wharton gave much support to church ministers, particularly those who shared his perspectives. He also gave money to establish chapels at Ravenstonedale and Smarber and to provide for the ministers at both places.

Sir Thomas Wharton (9th line of descent), made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland between 1708-1710, and was appointed by King George I as Lord of the Privy Seal in 1714; given several peerages, and made Knight of the Garter. He was also named the first Marquis of Wharton Hall in 1715.

Sir Philip Wharton (10th line of descent), (December 1698 – May 31, 1731), was eccentric, witty, and gifted — writing a ballad about the Archbishop of Canterbury. Philip was made the First Duke of Wharton in 1718, but the title was later forfeited when the Duke was declared an outlaw, and his inherited titles from his father became extinct upon his death.

Philip Wharton was also a Jacobite–a sympathizer with King James II, who was a suspected Catholic. Most of the people of England did not want a Catholic as King.    Thus, Glorious Revolution of 1688, where the English people deposed him and invited his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, to rule as joint sovereigns. This couple became King William III and Queen Mary II, from whom the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, was named. Philip was definitely a colorful figure of the period. He founded and was one-time president of one of probably three Hell-Fire Clubs in London. Hell-Fire Clubs were rumored to be meeting places for “high society” and politicians who were perceived to practice socially immoral acts. As publisher of True Briton from June 3, 1723, until February 17, 1724, Philip’s writings resulted in his printer, Samuel Richardson, being tried for libel and his own self-exile to the Continent where his service for the King of Spain in the siege of Gibraltar lead to a charge of High Treason. With his estates frozen, he was living in Rouen, France when he was outlawed on April 3, 1729, for not appearing on the charge of High Treason. He died in indigence at a Bernadine convent in Catalonia, May 31, 1731.

Unfortunately, the son of Sir Philip Wharton, Thomas Wharton (the seventh Lord Wharton and second Duke) died without having any children and the line of noble Wharton’s died out.

In 1682, a different Thomas Wharton (b.1644 d.1718), commonly called Thomas “The Immigrant,” left England for America. He was the son of Richard Wharton of Orton, Overton Parish, Westmoreland.  His son, Joseph Wharton, the first Wharton born in the North America,  (1707 – 1776), became a famous Philadelphia industrialist, a successful merchant, and the owner of “Walnut Grove,” a country place on Fifth street, near Washington Avenue, Philadelphia, on which the Mischianza of 1778 was held. His house was the finest of its day near that city. It was torn down in 1862, to make room for a schoolhouse. He was called “Duke Wharton”, because of his stately bearing. And, Joseph Wharton was the namesake for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and the benefactor of Swarthmore College in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He had several brothers, one of whom was named Captain John Wharton (married to Mary Dobbins), who settled in Chester County (possibly Delaware County today) and had Quaker leanings.

As a result of Henry VIII’s “Dissolution of the Monasteries”  between 1536 and 1541, a 7,702 acre mountainous Manor known as Langdale, in the township of Orton, in Westmorland County, (once the Priory of Watton), was sold to the Wharton family and now belongs to the Earl of Lonsdale.

 

 

 

 

Ancient Wharton’s “Rocky” Ascent to Nobility


At the close of my recent post Life and Times of Edward Boling and Mary Wharton, I stated that I must dig more deeply to learn about Mary Wharton’s family’s ancient beginnings.  Our first source was the Doomsday Book of 1086, where we discovered Wharton families in towns and civil parishes named after them in Westmorland, Cheshire, and Lincolnshire Counties, England. So let’s pick up from there.

The Wharton’s are descendents of Norseman who conquered the province of Normandy around 900 and settled near Caen in present day France. The first Wharton in England was an officer with William the Conqueror — Gilbert de Querton (as it was originally spelled) — who arrived in 1066 with the Norman invasion of England and married into the Hastings line.

Ruins of Lammerslide Tower (Photo courtesy of Graeme Dougal)

In 1292, Gilbert de Querton had proved title to the Manor of Querton, Appleby, Westmorland County. This manor was located in the southeastern corner of the county, less than a mile east of Kirkby Stephen. It consisted of a tower called Lammerside, and overlooked the village of Querton. The Eden River ran through the estate, which was bordered on three sides by high mountains.

 

In the early 15th century, Wharton Hall was constructed which the family made its official residence, vacating Lammerside.

Ruins of the 14th Century Pendragon Castle

Pendragon Castle

The image of today’s “Ruins of Pendragon Castle,”  shows what remains of the original castle where legendary King Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, (King of Camelot), was poisoned by Saxons.  The ruins stand in today’s most northwestern Cumbria County (formerly Westmorland), in England that borders Scotland to the north and the Irish Sea to the west.  This region centered around Ravenstonedale and Kirkby Stephen and retains the rich history in which the Whartons were featured prominently.  Note, however, that the stories were not always flattering with regard to their social achievements and business successes.

For instance, Lady Anne Clifford’s father was Lord Henry Clifford.  Lord Henry was one of Henry VII’s great lords. Unfortunately, he was a man of many mistresses.  His daughter, Lady Anne, even complained about his shameful extra-marital relations. It was Lord Henry’s second and much younger wife, Lady Florence, Marchioness Pudsey, that history has recorded.  She was considerably younger than Lord Henry, and the couple obviously had a turbulent relationship.  So bad, in fact, that they were estranged in 1521, ten years after they married.  Lady Florence then sued Lord Henry for conjugal rights.  (This may be the period when he fathered his illegitimate son, Anthony Clifford, Esquire.) In turn, Lord Henry publicly accused Lady Florence of adultery for the period of 1511 to 1514, and with who of all people?  With his trusted officer Roger Wharton, who at that time had charge of his nursery.  This was a serious accusation because it put doubt on the paternity of his children. During the years in question, Lord Henry had been in his late fifties, he kept his young wife away from him for long spells while he participated in the Battle of Flodden.  So, the ecclesiastical lawyer questioned Roger Wharton.  Roger repeatedly told the court what he said he had already told to Lord Henry.  That, it was a rather lame excuse and response to Lord Henry’s wife’s charges.  He then went on an said in so many words that although he would never deny it; “…for a man may be in bed with a woman and yet do her no harm.” Next, Roger added, that “And your lordship may ask Jayne Brown and she can tell your lordship all together.”  And this innuendo by Roger appeared to be enough for the court to kill Lord Henry’s counter-case of adultery.

There also seems to have been a long running feud between the Clifford’s, the Wharton’s and the Wauchopes/Warcops regarding estate boundaries.  All three families laid claims to large areas in the region. Lady Anne Clifford (1590–1676), had Pendragon Castle rebuilt and refurbished in 1660 as a Summer retreat.  Her ancestors used it as a hunting lodge, but, the security she had built into it was to make sure that local families, like the Wauchopes/Warcops and the Wharton’s, could not re-enter uninvited.

Lady Anne Radcliffe married Thomas Wharton (1520-June 14, 1572), who would later become the 2nd baron Wharton, after Anne’s death.  Thomas and Anne’s children were Philip (June 23, 1555-March 26, 1625), Anne (b.1557), Thomas, and Mary (b. 1559). Anne was part of the household of Princess (later Queen) Mary before 1552. She is mentioned as such in the 1551 will of one of her fellow gentlewomen, Margaret Pennington Cooke. She is also featured in an unverified yet often repeated story about Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane is supposed to have visited Princess Mary at Beaulieu when, upon seeing Anne genuflection in the chapel, she made several rude remarks about Catholic practices.

It is my hope that this post gives you just enough ancient history with  some mishaps and melodrama along the way to paint an accurate picture that illustrates family life and relationships always has its ups and downs, rocky roads, and sometimes smooth sailings. Discovering the Wharton Family is obviously going to take more than just a couple of posts.  Until next time . . .

 

 

“We Live, We Love, We Let Go!”


A Harsh Reality

This week our church family was once again struck by a harsh reality–that we live, we love, and then we must let go.  That is, we should never take life, family, friends or God for granted.  We always should live our lives as though today might be our last.

Love God, Love People

Last Saturday, our dear friend and church elder was doing just that–Loving God, loving people–his everyday way of living. As usual, he was among his fellow elders, meeting and greeting visitors old and new in our church lobby before services. Right there, our heavenly father called this young and lively 56-year-old man home to be with Him.  In an instant all our lives changed.

Let Go

We are now in that time where we must learn how to graciously let go and move on once more with our living and loving knowing that  that time will inevitably come again.

The good news is our friend’s life and dying exemplified His faith in God and people. He openly taught and shared his gifts for living with others.  And, it showed when his amazingly strong family made him and all of us proud as son, daughter, and mother each rose and spoke of their love and respect and even comedic times with their loved one and friends.

Celebrate Life

As funerals go, it was a true celebration of life and a tremendous way for us to begin the process of letting go and moving on, satisfied that our friend lived his life on earth to the fullest and that we always will miss his presence on earth, and will continue loving and remembering him fondly.

Thanks, Dan, for sharing your love and life with us.

Life and Times of Edward Boling and Mary Wharton


Background

Recently, I updated a surname report to cover all 12, 495 persons in my ancestral tree, which has grown from 10,772 since I produced my first post on surnames in 2014. Based upon my analysis of surnames, it turns out that my father’s family was much larger than my mother’s.  And, the gender ratio among all surnames is 1.05 males for every female–very similar to the gender ratios that I found in the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.

Top 50 Ancestral Surnames

My word cloud to the right represents today’s top 50 family surnames in my tree. The larger the word appears, the more people within my tree who had/have that surname.

And, the larger appearing names affirm why many of my blog posts to date have focused on my paternal Bolling, Chambers, and maternal Lathrop families.

Introducing Mary Wharton

In this post we will take a first look at the Wharton family branch that begins with my paternal great grandmother Mary Florence “Flossie” Wharton Bowling (1878-1928). Mary Wharton was born and lived her life in the now infamous area known as “The Wilderness,” in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County, Virginia.  Mary died at the age of 50 on January 1, 1929.  My father, her grandson, Frank Burton Boling was born just one month earlier on December 7, 1928.  The loss of the family’s mother possibly explains why we know only what I have been able to piece together through my personal research.  You see, typically the women in the family hand down the family stories through the generations.  In this instance, neither my dad’s paternal grandmother or his natural mother were a part of his life.

The facts I  assembled show that Mary Wharton was 20 years old when she married Edward “Bud” Vincent Bowling (May 9, 1898), in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.   It could be that Edward and Mary married in Eley’s Ford Baptist Church on Eley’s Ford Road in Fredericksburg, near the Chancellorsville Battlefield, where they and their families had lived and attended church there for generations.

Eley's Ford Baptist ChurchWe first visited Eley’s Ford Baptist Church in the Fall of 1981. Many of the graves in this churchyard have Bowling,  Bolling, or Boling surnames on their headstones  (including my great grandparents). Many other headstones, as we later learned have different surnames but are relatives through neighbors marrying neighbors.  What’s interesting about Mary Florence’s (or “Flossie,” as her husband called her) is that her surname is spelled “Boling,” instead of “Bowling” as her surname was spelled on most records about her.  This tells me that one of her seven living children at the time who spelled their surnames as “Boling,” filled out the request for the headstone.  Further, the year of her death was inscribed as “1928,” instead of “1929” as appears on her death certificate–this could have been the stone writer’s error because she died on the first day of the new year.

Mary and her husband Edward had eight children (5 boys and 3 girls) during their 30 years of marriage.  Their eldest child was Evelyn Barber Bowling (1899-1919).  She married Varian Mansfield Chewning when she was just 16.  Two years later in Chancellorsville, Evelyn gave birth to their son, Leslie Varian Chewning, who remained in Fredericksburg throughout his 83 years on this earth.  Evelyn was just 20, when she took sick with the flu.  It developed into pneumonia and she passed in the cold of winter on January 26, 1919.

003My paternal grandfather, Jesse Burton Boling, was Mary and Edward’s second child and firstborn son.  At age 26, sometime in the year 1928, Jesse moved away from Virginia and married Helen Louise Chambers.   They moved to the District of Columbia and a few years later crossed the District Line and moved into Maryland.   Jesse’s mom, Mary, was 50 years old when she passed away on January 1, 1929 in Chancellorsville.  Just as her daughter had done in January ten years earlier, Mary developed a flu that turned into pneumonia and she succumbed to it.

Jesse was a farm hand as a boy, and thus had only a second grade education.  He probably learned carpentry and cabinet making from his father, Edward.  Yet, we don’t know anything about their relationship or Edward’s relationship with his other children. Death records show that widower great grandfather Edward died of heart disease and congestive heart failure at age 74 on July 11, 1946–18-1/2 years after his wife Mary had passed.  His death fell just one day shy of a week after my parents Frank Boling and Norma Ford eloped to Ellicott City, Maryland, to marry.  Edward Vincent Bud BolingEdward’s headstone is next to Mary’s and one of 131 other interments in Eley’s Ford Baptist Churchyard Cemetery.  Most of them probably relatives.

I asked my dad today if he had ever heard or known any stories or facts about his grandparents. He said his dad, Jesse, never talked about either Edward or Mary.  I asked if he had ever visited them in Fredericksburg where his dad grew up. He said he remembers only one visit.  Dad and grandfather Jesse took a train from Union Station in the District of Columbia to Fredericksburg to visit his father Edward.  At the time, my dad said this visit must have taken place when he was a young teen because it occurred before my dad met my mother at age 15, which would have made it somewhere around 1942 or 1943, I’m guessing.  The only memory that sticks out in dad’s mind about this visit is that his grandfather was chewing tobacco.  He made only a couple of other visits there during the 1950’s and 1960’s to attend family funerals (probably his uncles). And, this is when I first learned what little I know about Fredericksburg and Eley’s Ford Road.

With so very little to go on regarding Mary Wharton’s Family, I  have started digging deeper.  From The Doomsday Book of 1086, The Wharton family’s earliest origins were found in towns and civil parishes named after them (located in Westmorland, Cheshire, and Lincolnshire, Counties, England). And this is where I will pick up in my next post.

Just maybe, over time and among my blog readers, a Wharton relative may pop up and give me some more detailed stories about Bud and Mary’s children and their lives together.

 

 

 

It’s Graduation Season – Whatever Happened To The Class of ’65?


Paying Homage to a Graduate for a Job Well Done! 

This Sunday, we went with our daughter and two of our teenaged grandchildren to a high school graduation party to honor an outstanding senior from our church family whose parents have every right to be very proud of her scholastic accomplishments, God-given talents and exemplary citizenship skills like: honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage.  She is entitled to hold her head high because she worked hard and has earned this privilege.  She is one of a select few young people these days who has survived and even thrived despite our badly broken world and need for positive and productive role models.  She aspires to be a civil engineer and leaves home to go out into the world on her own for college in just a short two months.  We wish her much continued success.

Reflecting Back to my Graduating Class of 1965 

Yes, this graduation party for this young prospering person drove me to reflect backwards 52 years to 1965–to my high school days, my friends, our talents and skills, and to our world and aspirations for life when we were 17 and 18 and graduating from high school.

Looking at the changes in our culture, I can readily see

Where our world and society during the last 35 years of the 20th century was definitely experiencing growing pains.  There was:

  • Widespread civil unrest
  • Women were leaving their homes and children to become part of the professional workforce
  • People were unhappy about “an unnecessary war that we didn’t belong in.”
  • There were equal rights movements;
  • More sexual freedom and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Draft card and flag burning demonstrations;
  • Socially acceptable drug use was on the rise;
  • There was rioting in the streets, sit-ins to fight racism and other inequalities;
  • College kids shooting other college kids on campuses.
  • And, yes, the Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917, was active.  Kids straight out of high school were drafted and within a few short weeks after graduation sent to Asia as soldiers to fight a war that many Americans didn’t understand.

Today’s youth are in the midst of a culture that includes:

  • Different family structures; many are broken or more dysfunctional;
  • Increased lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender freedoms have some youth confused
  • Sedentary, isolated youth have become obese because of their fast-paced, fast foods lifestyles and addictions to today’s electronic devices;
  • A society that promotes materialism where youth are taught by example to measure their successes and happiness in life by how much stuff they have;
  • Alcohol and drug abuse are at crisis levels;
  • Youth having to deal with adult issues far too early in their lives;
  • Bullying, shootings, stabbings, fighting, suicides, and gangs–all begin as early as elementary school;
  • Today’s kids stress over schedules where their time is over-committed–they are involved in competing activities, while feeling the need to succeed in all areas of their lives;
  • Differentiation between “good” and “bad” or “real” and “fake”news is difficult to discern with all the media spins and political mudslinging in today’s world?
  • And, quite frankly, too many Americans are simply overworked, underpaid, and isolated from the rest of the world and from each other, chasing pipe dreams that may never come true, while ignoring other priorities in their lives.

So you decide.  Were our twentieth century times safer, easier, or better than those of teenagers graduating today, or were they just different or equally challenging?

In many respects, all people’s lives are more chaotic, stressful, and plainly more difficult than in the 1960’s just because of readily available media and technology; and more global awareness of, and differences in and interactions between economies, social, and governing cultures.

Yet, still preying heavy on my heart and mind are my family, friends, and fellow classmates who went straight from graduating high school into a war torn country over 8,000 miles away–many of whom had never been away from home before.  And many who didn’t understand and didn’t volunteer to serve, but rather, they were drafted.  And, too many who gave their all only to never return home again.  And all who gave some, including those who suffered physical wounds, loss of sight or limbs, and even their minds and/or peace of minds from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, first said “War is hell.”

Findings About PTSD From the 2015 National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study

Approximately 271,000 Vietnam theater veterans have current full PTSD plus subthreshold war-zone PTSD, one-third of whom have current major depressive disorder, 42 or more years after the war. These findings underscore the need for mental health services for many decades for veterans with PTSD symptoms.

The following video was made from the song titled “19,” and published in 1985 (20 years after the fighting began in what is now known as the Vietnam War).  It was written by: Paul Hardcastle, William D. Couturie, Michael Gordon Oldfield, and Jonas Mccord.

 The lyrics follow and perfectly depict those times and sentiments: 

In 1965, Vietnam seemed like just another foreign war but it wasn’t . . .
It was different in many ways, as so were those that did the fighting
In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26
In Vietnam he was 19
In-in-in Vietnam he was 19
The shooting and fighting of the past two weeks continued today
25 miles west of Saigon
I really wasn’t sure what was going on
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni-19 19In Vietnam the combat soldier typically served
A twelve month tour of duty
But was exposed to hostile fire almost everyday
Ni-ni-ni 19, Ni-ni-ni 19
Hundreds of thousands of men who saw heavy combat
In Vietnam were arrested since discharge
Their arrest rate is almost twice that of non-veterans of the same age
There are no accurate figures of how many of these men
Have been incarcerated
But a Veterans Administration study
Concludes that the greater of vets
Exposure to combat the more likely it could affect his chances
Of being arrested or convictedThis is one legacy of the Vietnam WarAll those who remember the war
They won’t forget what they’ve seen
Destruction of men in their prime
Whose average was 19De-de-destruction
De-de-destruction
War, warDe-de-destruction, wa, wa, war, wa, war, war
De-de-destruction
War, warAfter World War II the men came home together on troop ships
But the Vietnam vet often arrived home within 48 hours of jungle combat
Perhaps the most dramatic difference between
World War II and Vietnam was coming home
None of them received a hero’s welcomeNone of them received a heroes welcome, none of them, none of them
Ne-ne-ne, ne-ne-ne, none of them, none of them, none of them
None of them received a hero’s welcome
None of them received a hero’s welcome

According to a Veteran’s Administration study
Half of the Vietnam combat veterans suffered from what
Psychiatrists call
Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

Many vets complain of alienation, rage or guilt
Some succumb to suicidal thoughts
Eight to ten years after coming home
Almost eight hundred thousand men are still fighting the Vietnam War

De-de-destruction
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni19 19
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni-19 19

When we came back it was different, everybody wants to know
“How’d it happened to those guys over there?
There’s gotta be something wrong somewhere
We did what we had to do

There’s gotta be something wrong somewhere
People wanted us to be ashamed of what it made us
Dad had no idea what he went to fight and he is now
All we want to do is come home

All we want to do is come home
What did we do it for?
All we want to do is come home
Was it worth it

America’s Wars: U.S. Casualties and Veterans

The table below has information about the total number of service members, battle deaths, and non-mortal woundings in wars from 1775 to 2012; such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and II, Vietnam, and more.

American Revolution (1775-1783)
Total servicemembers 217,000
Battle deaths 4,435
Nonmortal woundings 6,188
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Total servicemembers 286,730
Battle deaths 2,260
Nonmortal woundings 4,505
Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)
Total servicemembers 106,0001
Battle deaths 1,0001
Mexican War (1846-1848)
Total servicemembers 78,718
Battle deaths 1,733
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 11,550
Nonmortal woundings 4,152
Civil War (1861-1865)
Total servicemembers (Union) 2,213,363
Battle deaths (Union) 140,414
Other deaths in service (nontheater) (Union) 224,097
Nonmortal woundings (Union) 281,881
Total servicemembers (Conf.) 1,050,000
Battle deaths (Conf.) 74,524
Other deaths in service (nontheater) (Conf.) 59,2972
Nonmortal woundings (Conf.) unknown
Spanish-American War (1898-1902)
Total servicemembers 306,760
Battle deaths 385
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 2,061
Nonmortal woundings 1,662
World War I (1917-1918)3
Total servicemembers 4,734,991
Battle deaths 53,402
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 63,114
Nonmortal woundings 204,002
Living veterans 0
World War II (1940-1945)3
Total servicemembers 16,112,566
Battle deaths 291,557
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 113,842
Nonmortal woundings 671,846
Living veterans 1,711,0001
Korean War (1950-1953)
Total servicemembers 5,720,000
Serving in-theater 1,789,000
Battle deaths 33,739
Other deaths in service (theater) 2,835
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 17,672
Nonmortal woundings 103,284
Living veterans 2,275,000
Vietnam War (1964-1975)
Total servicemembers 8,744,000
Serving in-theater 3,403,000
Battle deaths 47,434
Other deaths in service (theater) 10,786
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 32,000
Nonmortal woundings 153,303
Living veterans 7,391,0001,6
Gulf War (1990-1991)
Total servicemembers 2,322,000
Serving in-theater 694,550
Battle deaths 148
Other deaths in service (theater) 235
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 1,565
Nonmortal woundings 467
Living veterans 2,244,5831,6
America’s Wars Total (1775–1991)
Military service during war 41,892,128
Battle deaths 651,031
Other deaths in service (theater) 308,800
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 230,254
Nonmortal woundings 1,430,290
Living war veterans 16,962,0004
Living veterans 23,234,000
Global War on Terror 5
Total Servicemembers (Worldwide) (as of Sept. 2011) 1,468,364
Deployed to Iraq (Operation New Dawn) (as of Dec. 31, 2011) 0
Deployed to Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) (as of June 2011) 45,000
Battle Deaths 5,078
Other Deaths (In Theater) 1,378
Non-mortal Woundings 48,104
1. Estimate based upon new population projection methodology.
2. Estimated figure. Does not include 26,000-31,000 who died in Union prisons.
3. Years of U.S. involvement in war.
4. Total will be more than sum of conflicts due to no “end date” established for Persian Gulf War.
5. October 7, 2001 through May 29, 2012 (unless otherwise indicated). Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn.
6. Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) estimate, as of 4/09, does not include those still on active duty and may include veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Source: Department of Defense and Veterans Administration.

See also Post-Vietnam Combat Casualties.

 

 

“Operation Rolling Thunder”


Skip Jack Chapter - 05-28-2017 Pentagon Parking Lot

North Pentagon Parking Lot,  5/28/2017

For many Vietnam War veterans, the hostile reception they received when they returned home from this war remains vivid in their hearts and minds. This past weekend, my husband Bob, now a spry 73, and a former Marine from the Vietnam War Era  (February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975), was just one of about 900,000 motorcycle riders (statistic from: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/gallery/2017/may/29/30th-rolling-thunder-ride-in-pictures), who paraded in the “Ride for Freedom,” through the streets of Washington, DC. on Sunday, May 28, 2017 as part of the annual Rolling Thunder Demonstration Ride.

“Operation Rolling Thunder” was the title of a gradual and sustained aerial bombardment campaign conducted by U.S. and the Republic of Vietnam Militaries  against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) during the Vietnam War (from March 2, 1965 until November 2 1968). Who knows, this might have been the origin for this now 30 year old gradual but sustained demonstration held annually in Washington, DC on the Sunday before Memorial Day each year.

Bob2Motorcycle06-04-2017I usually don’t write about Bob in my posts, but I thought I would say a little something about this 30-year-old commemorative ride because it is so near and dear to his heart. In fact, at least one of his motorcycle riding buddies (from the Skipjack Chapter of the Nam Knights of America Benevolent Organization), has ridden in this parade every year since 1988–the first year of the “Rolling Thunder” demonstration ride. Further, the Nam Knights Motorcycle Club formed in New Jersey in 1989 just shortly after  New Jerseyan and 1968 Bronze Star Medal recipient Ray Manzo (a combat engineer from Company B, 7th Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division), first visited Washington, DC to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.   There, Ray experienced an all-consuming drive to right an unfathomable wrong–Our country had reneged on its sacred vow to its warriors “to leave no man behind”.

 The Rolling Thunder Concept: 1987

Ray Manzo_edited

Ray Manzo

In September 1987, Manzo heard about a Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club prisoners of war, “POW Vigil,” being held in Asbury Park, N.J.  And, there, in Manzo’s mind, he crystallized a concept for a massive demonstration by thousands of bikers to stir the country to not forget about POWs and MIAs left behind in Vietnam.  Ray went home and wrote hundreds of letters to military and veterans organizations, congressmen, senators, newspapers and magazines, and a handful of biker magazines.  Then, on Memorial Day in 1988, Manzo’s dream of  thousands of bikers assembling in the Pentagon Parking Lot, crossing the Arlington Cemetery Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, riding past the White House and Capitol and then back to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall became a reality.  On that Sunday before Memorial Day in 1988, there were an estimated 2,500 bikers who had been inspired by Manzo’s call.  By 1992 there were over 40,000 bikers and now 30 years later–there were one million bikers and spectators!

2002

Staff Sgt Tim Chambers 2016

Staff Sgt Tim Chambers 2016

In 2002, Tim Chambers, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. (retired), first wore his dress blues to the Rolling Thunder demonstration. “I was going to go around, shake some hands, tell these veterans ‘Thank you,’ he told Vietnam Magazine. “Then I saw all these vets zooming by on motorcycles. I popped out and started saluting.” He’s been the “Saluting Marine” at Rolling Thunder, and other events, ever since, holding his salute for the approximate four hours as bikers roll by.  And, in 2016’s event, he married his bride right where he has stood and honored fellow veterans for the past 15 years, and together they stood there until the last biker had passed them.

Now Rolling Thunder has evolved into an emotional display of patriotism and respect for all who defend our country.

Another MIA Just Returned . . .

william-ryan

1st Lt. Willam (Billy Ryan)

On May 10, 2017, just days before this now infamous motorcycle riders’ demonstration to keep the memories of our Vietnam warriors ever present, my husband Bob and nearly 100 fellow bikers proudly escorted the remains of Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. William (Billy) Ryan, of Bogota, N.J.,  from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where he arrived back in America to Arlington National Cemetery.  

The Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency had conducted DNA tests to confirm his identity.  On May 11, 1969, the day Ryan’s plane crashed while he was on board during a combat mission in southern Laos near the Vietnam border, Ryan was just 25 years old.  This day was also just one day after his baby son Michael had celebrated his first birthday, 48 years ago. Lt. Ryan’s aircraft was pulling out of a bombing run when it was hit by enemy fire. The pilot bailed out and was rescued. According to military investigators who went to the Laos crash site in 1990, they found and identified Ryan’s plane seat. Investigators went back to the site six more times from May 2012 to January 2016 continuing their search for Ryan’s remains.  And in April 2017, they identified Ryan’s remains through DNA tests and notified his son Michael immediately. Unfortunately, the next day Ryan’s widow, Judith, was diagnosed with stage-4 stomach cancer.  But, finally on May 10th, 2017, on the eve of the 48th anniversary of his plane’s crash, Billy Ryan was returned back to his country’s land and was finally laid to rest–one soldier less who had been left behind!

After 30 years, progress has been made but the mission endures for Rolling Thunder . . .

Soldiers of Wars Still Unaccounted for:  82,545

Soldiers of War Unaccount For 05-23-2017

Source: http://www.dpaa.mil/Our-Missing/Past-Conflicts (5/23/17)

WWII: 73,057
Korea: 7,747
Vietnam: 1,610
Cold War: 126 
Gulf Wars: 5
El Dorado Canyon: 1

Names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC: 58,318
(As of Memorial Day 2017)

–Source: http://www.vvmf.org/FAQs

“Jury Finds Mary Bliss Parsons Not Guilty of Witchcraft”


Mass Moments is a project of Mass Humanities, whose mission is to support programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life throughout the Commonwealth. Mass Humanities receives support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as private sources. This project is funded in part by a grant from the “We the People” Initiative at NEH. Mass Moments project launched its electronic almanac of Massachusetts history—on January 1, 2005.  I subscribe to their  posts because many of my ancestors emigrated to Plymouth aboard the Mayflower ship and contributed to the development of New England.  In this historic instance, however, my ninth great maternal aunt, Mary Bliss Parsons, finds herself, not once, but twice, accused of being a witch!  Today’s Mass Moments article (below) expands on some of my earlier posts.

On This Day . . .

 May 13, 1675, a Boston jury reached a verdict in the case of Mary Bliss Parsons of Northampton: they found her not guilty of witchcraft. In seventeenth-century New England, virtually everyone believed in witches. Hundreds of individuals faced charges of practicing witchcraft. They were women, or sometimes men, who had “signed the Devil’s Book” and were working on his behalf. Their wickedness was blamed for calamities ranging from ailing animals to the death of infant children. While most of the accused never went to trial or were, like Mary Parsons, acquitted, not everyone was so lucky. Six Massachusetts women were hanged as witches in the years before the infamous Salem witch trials, which claimed 24 innocent lives.

Background . . .

Colonial Massachusetts has a well-deserved reputation as a litigious culture; fortunately it was also a record-keeping one. County courthouses are full of 300 year-old documents — depositions, trial transcripts, judges’ orders — that allow historians to reconstruct the stories of the people accused of witchcraft. One of the best documented, and most unusual, is the case of Mary Bliss Parsons of Northampton.

Mary Bliss and Joseph Parsons married in Hartford in 1646. After several years in Springfield, the Parsons family, which now included three children, moved to Northampton, a brand new settlement some 20 miles up the Connecticut River.

Joseph Parsons soon became one of Northampton’s leading citizens. A successful merchant, he served as a selectman and on the committee to build the first meetinghouse. Since the Parsons also owned the first tavern in town, they were right in the thick of things.

Another couple, Sarah and James Bridgman, followed a similar route but had a very different experience than the Parsons. They also wed in Hartford, moved to Springfield, and then onto Northampton, where a feud developed between the two families.

Soon after arriving in Northampton, Mary Parsons gave birth to a son, the first English child born in the town. That same month, Sarah Bridgman had a baby boy. When he died two weeks later, she claimed it was the result of Mary’s witchcraft. Rumors began to swirl about the town. Joseph Parsons decided to go on the offensive. He charged James Bridgman with slander for spreading rumors about Mary Parsons’s alleged witchcraft.

Even though juries usually sided with the plaintiff in such cases, Joseph Parsons was taking a risk by bringing rumors to the attention of officials. Authorities might decide there was merit to the accusations, and the plaintiff could suddenly find herself the defendant.

The case was heard at the Magistrates’ Court in Cambridge in October 1656; 33 depositions were given. Almost half of Northampton’s 32 households sent a witness; a few others came from Springfield.

Sarah Bridgman related her tale of how in May 1654 she heard a “great blow on the door” and immediately sensed a change in her newborn. Then she saw “two women pass by the door with white clothes on their heads.” The women disappeared, and Bridgman concluded her son would die because “there [was] wickedness in the place.”

Such testimony was the norm in witch trials. An argument took place, and when something went awry later, people attributed the problem to witchcraft. One Northampton woman testified that the yarn she had spun for Mary Parsons ended up full of knots. Since the yarn the woman spun for others had no knots, she concluded that Mary’s witchcraft was the cause. Another woman blamed Mary Parson when her daughter fell ill shortly after she had refused to let the girl work for Parsons. One man stated that the day after “some discontent[ed] words passed” between himself and Mary Parsons, he found his cow in the yard “ready to die,” which it did two weeks later.

A number of people testified in Mary Parsons’s defense. Three women described Sarah Bridgman’s baby as “sick as soon as it was born.” A neighbor stated that the cow in question had died of “water in the belly.” The court ruled in favor of the Parsons. The Bridgmans were given the choice of paying a fine or making a public apology. They paid the fine.

The feud and Mary Parsons’s ordeal resumed 18 years later, in 1674, when the Bridgmans’ son-in-law filed a new complaint. He “strongly suspect[ed] that [his wife] died by some unusuall meanes, viz, by means of some evell Instrument.” The instrument he had in mind was Mary Bliss Parsons.

On January 5, 1675, the county magistrates summoned Mary to appear before them. Women searched her body for “witch’s teats,” unexplained (to seventeenth-century eyes) protrusions where “imps” were said to suck. The record is silent as to what they did or did not find, but in March the Court of Assistants in Boston sent Mary Parsons to prison to await trial. The records from this trial do not survive, but we know that on May 13, 1675, a jury found her not guilty.

The Parsons returned to Northampton, but in 1679 or 1680, they moved back to Springfield, perhaps to escape the rumors that continued to dog them. Mary Bliss Parsons was in her mid-80s when she died in 1712.

Although Mary Parsons occupied a far more secure social position than almost all of the other women charged with witchcraft in early New England — after all, she was the wife of one of the richest, most respected men in western Massachusetts — her experience fit the norm in other ways. Middle-aged women were the most likely to be accused of witchcraft. The issues of jealousy, personal animosity, and family feuds that were so evident in her case would fuel the Salem witch hysteria of 1692 as well.

The horror that began in Salem Village (present day Danvers) and spread to almost every town in Essex county saw women, children, and men, including the former minister of Salem Village, hauled before magistrates. At one point some 170 accused witches were being held in jails in Ipswich, Salem, Boston, and Cambridge. Between June and September of 1692, authorities hanged 19 people and pressed one to death; four more died in prison, awaiting trial. In 1693 the madness ended. There would be no more convictions and executions for witchcraft in New England, although it would be another century before the belief in witches lost its hold on the people of the region.

Sources

A Delusion of Satan, by Frances Hill (Da Capo Press, 1997).

Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, by John Putman Demos (Oxford University Press, 1982).

“The Goody Parsons Witchcraft Case: A Journey to Seventeenth-Century Northampton.” Available online.

A House, A Mouse, And Antics of a Grandchild


This video of a cute little live “Ratatouille” rat.  It brings back memories of what was supposed to be a funny joke and a memorable family story. Well, it was memorable, but not because it was funny.

There we were, a close knit family–the patriarch, the matriarch, their three children, and all nine of their grandchildren.  It was a typical Sunday, which in the 1980’s meant the parents hosted family time and dinner for the children and their grandchildren.  Our son, Jeff, was about 12 or so. Jeff  as usual had found an animal.  This time, it was a field mouse and he brought it into Mammaw’s house to share his find with the rest of the family.

As a joke, Jeff placed the mouse on the end table next to the chair where she always sat. And, when she sat down, Jeff said something like “Hey, mammaw, don’t be a-f-r-a-i-d–and don’t look to your r-i-g-h-t, but there’s a m-o-u-s-e–.” Mammaw instantaneously reacted with fear and panic as soon as she saw Jeff muttering the word “afraid,”  which triggered a seizure and in no time she was laid out on the floor, passed out, and recovering while her body was still tremoring.  And, it wasn’t until then, that the family advised Jeff that mammaw was deathly afraid of mice and that any startling situation might lead to a seizure.

Despite all the things that mammaw can no longer remember, I think she still remembers this incident.  And, in fact, she has never forgiven Jeff for one of her most embarrassing moments in her life.  She still believes his actions were mean and intentional vs. just another funny antic from her preteen grandson.

If only Jeff had placed this poor defenseless mouse near someone else’s seat.  Then, we probably would have partaken of a scene similar to the one in the video, above.