October 20, 2011

Something a Little Witchy for the Season

Way back in my Ordway family tree rests Susannah North Martin, my tenth great-grandmother.  For me, it’s always fun to try to find connections in family history to happenings that we have all read about in the history books.  Imagine my surprise to find that I had a relative accused and found guilty of being a witch in seventeenth century Massachusetts during the period of the Salem witch trials and witch hysteria, in general. (O.k., former students might have suspected this all along, but it was news to me.)  Tracing back from Moses Ordway’s wife, Hannah Hadley, a line can be followed directly back to my tenth great grandmother, Susannah North Martin (1624 – 1692).

Susannah North, daughter of Richard and Joan North, was born in England in 1621. After her mother died, she and her father, a new stepmother and sister, moved to America.  Susannah married George Martin, a blacksmith, and together they had eight children.  Susannah is described as being short, slightly plump, active and  “of remarkable personal neatness,” but also she was thought to be defiant in the face of authority and too outspoken for her own good.

Susannah was charged with witchcraft not once, but twice.  First in 1669, in which case she was probably acquitted because again in 1692, she is brought into court again.  She was arrested on May 2, having been accused by a group of girls who “had fits” when they were in her presence.  She was put into jail and languished there for two months.  She pleaded not guilty at her trial, but was found guilty and sentenced to hanging. 

On July 19, 1692, Susannah Martin, aged 71 and a widow, and four other women were put into a cart and driven to Gallows Hill in Salem, hung and then thrown into a shallow grave. 

The interesting part was that to make amends, the court granted compensation in 1711 to those so falsely accused, but Susannah’s family didn’t apply.  

A folk song was written about her which you can hear sung on youtube.
The lyrics to the song "Susanna Martin" are:

"Susanna Martin was a witch who dwelt in Amesbury
With brilliant eye and saucy tongue she worked her sorcery
And when into the judges court the sheriffs brought her hither
The lilacs drooped as she passed by
Ane then were seen to wither

A witch she was, though trim and neat with comely head held high
It did not seem that one as she with Satan so would vie
And when in court when the afflicted ones proclaimed her evil ways
She laughed aloud and boldly then
Met Cotton Mathers gaze

"Who hath bewitched these maids," he asked, and strong was her reply
"If they be dealing in black arts, ye know as well as I"
And then the stricken ones made moan as she approached near
They saw her shaped upon the beam
So none could doubt 'twas there

The neighbors 'round swore to the truth of her Satanic powers
That she could fly o'er land and stream and come dry shod through
At night, twas said, she had appeared a cat of fearsome mien
"Avoid she-devil,"they had cried
To keep their spirits clean
The spectral evidence was weighed, then stern the parson spoke
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, tis written in the Book"
Susanna Martin so accused, spoke with flaming eyes
"I scorn these things for they are naught
But filthy gossips lies"
Now those bewitched, they cried her out, and loud their voice did ring
they saw a bird above her head, an evil yellow thing
And so, beneath a summer sky, Susanna Martin died
And still in scorn she faced the rope
Her comely head held high

Susanna Martin was a witch who lived in Amesbury With brilliant eye and saucy tongue she worked her sorcery
And when into the judges court the sheriffs brought her hither
The lilacs drooped as she passed by
And then were seen to wither."

A number of websites have information on Susannah Martin, including this blog and here on rootsweb. 

Read the actual transcripts of the trial here, along with the depositions taken from witnesses to her witchcraft:
and drawings and photos may be seen here:

I visited Salem long, long ago before I knew of this connection.  Now it’s obvious that I need to go back again!

October 11, 2011

Moses Ordway of Tunbridge, Vermont

I guess we are now to Aaron Ordway’s father and mother, Moses and Susannah, my sixth great-grandparents.  Once one gets back this far in history, pictures of individuals are much more difficult to locate, if any ever existed.  And I have none of this generation or any before it, unfortunately.

Moses Ordway was born in Newberry, Massachusetts on 12 Feb 1738.  He married Susanna Bly, born 15 September 1813 in New Hampshire,  and sometime around 1775 – 1776, he and his family moved to Tunbridge, Vermont. 

The Vermont Historical Gazeteer of 1871 states in its chapter on Tunbridge:
“ The first permanent settlements in town were commenced about the year 1776, by James Lyon, Moses Ordway, Elias Curtis and the Hutchinson brothers…I think these early settlers did not bring their families with them at first, but commenced preparing  for themselves a future home.  Some small patches of land were cleared and a few rude huts, made of logs, erected in the southern part of town, were soon occupied by happy wives and playful littles ones.” (1115)

In Vermont, the word town refers to what we would call a township, but there is also the village of Tunbridge.  Another source (“On the Beginnings of Tunbridge” by Robert O’Brien) states: “There is a record of a vote at the first meeting of Tunbridge proprietors allowing Moses Ordway to pitch 200 acres where he has done his work, providing he purchase from proper owner."
 So my sixth great grandfather arrived in Vermont just before the end of the Revolutionary War.  At that time, the settlement of Royalton was already there with about twenty families and Strafford had a few settlers, as well, but in the terms of the time, Vermont was the untamed wilderness.

Families were very poor.  Another history of Tunbridge noted that shoes were so scarce that sometimes only one pair would be available for the children to share, hence only one boy could go out to get wood at a time.  The Ordway homestead was on a small hill just above the village itself. 

The big historical event of the town took place in 1780.
As the story goes, Peter Button, an early settler had just finished his first harvest of grain and was taking it to the mill, when he saw a group of Indians coming.  On October 16, 1780, approximately three hundred Native Americans under the command of a British officer, invaded Tunbridge, bent on destroying it and taking over the region for the British.  They set the houses and barns on fire.  Peter Button was speared and scalped, as were some of the other men of the town. About thirty were taken prisoners by the Indians and marched to Montreal where they were turned over to the British command for $8.00 a head.  There they were imprisoned, although many escaped and returned to Tunbridge.
Where were the Ordways?  Well, since they lived up above the valley where the attack was taking place, they heard the noise and smelled the burning. 

The Vermont Historical Gazeteer described it this way:
“Moses Ordway and family, who lived on the hill to the south, smelled the burning feathers, heard the general stampede, and the whole family hid themselves for days in the woods.  Their youngest was scarce three weeks old.  They killed a favorite dog, lest his barking would lead the enemy to their hiding place – and all escaped. (1118)

After the attack, there were few resources left in the area for the people to help them survive. Fields and homes had been burned.  Some left the town, but the Ordways stayed and raised their family of twenty-two children…still the record for number of children in a family of Tunbridge!  It is said that eighteen of those children survived and married, making the population grow quite quickly in the era before 1820.  Although large families seemed to be the norm in Tunbridge, “…Moses Ordway’s wife excelled them all in bearing burdens and became the mother of at least twenty children.” (1121)  I have not found all of them,  but one was my direct descendant, Aaron.  I’m sure some died in childbirth or in childhood, and perhaps some of those births were not recorded.

Moses and Susannah Bly Ordway are buried in the Gilley or Ordway Cemetery in Tunbridge, a place that was once part of the Ordway homestead.  Both died in 1813, Susannah first on 11 February , and then Moses on 15 September.  A very worn stone still marks their burial place and is still somewhat readable.

October 4, 2011

Mariah Ordway and her Hubby, Joel P. Ross

Aaron and Susannah Ordway’s  daughter and my ggg - grandfather Harrison’s sister, Mariah Ordway, was born on 13 August 1805 in Strafford, Orange County, Vermont.  She was the middle daughter between Tamar (born in 1800) and a younger sister, Lydia (born 1807).  Mariah was not yet sixteen when she married Joel P. Ross on 3 March 1821 in New York.  She and Joel led a long married life and both died at advanced ages, after having many children together and living out their days in Lorain County, Ohio

Thanks to some descendants of Mariah and Joel, I have these photos  and more information to share.   Here's Mariah (also called Maria in some records) ~

Mariah’s obituary was printed in The Norwalk Daily Reflector on Friday, December 21, 1894.  She had died a week early on December 15th.
“Mrs. Maria Ross, an old pioneer of this place, died December 15, at the age of over 89 years.  The deceased lived in the place over 47 years, moving from Vermont to Ohio in 1821.  She was the mother of 15 children, 47 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren and 5 great-great grandchildren.  Five of her children live to mourn her loss.  She was a true and devoted member of the Methodist church for 47 years, and she will be missed by her many friends and relatives.  She survived her husband 14 years.”

 Another source, Walter Gunn’s letter to Lewis Hayes:
“Mrs. Maria Ross, my great grandmother, was born in Vermont, 13 Aug. 1805 and died at her home in Brighton, Dec. 15, 1894, at the advanced age of 89 years, 4 months and 1 day.  She was married to Joel Ross, March 3, 1821.  They moved from New York state to Ohio about 65 years ago.  They moved to Brighton 47 years ago, where she lived ever since until death relieved her suffering.  She, with her husband, united with the M. E. church about 47 years ago, where she has been a faithful and devoted Christian, ever since her husband precedingher to his future home some thirteen and one half years ago.  She was the mother of 15 children, eleven that became grown up.  Mrs. Anna Jeffrey of Hartland, Joel Ross of Wakeman, Mrs. Fannie Fletcher of Wakeman, Mrs. Angeline Moon, and Mrs. Charity Gunn of Brighton and a large circle of grandchildren.  She was a faithful wife and a kind and loving mother.  They children wises to return their sincere thanks to the friends and neighbors for their kind assistance during sickness and death of our dear mother.”

Joel P. Ross, Mariah’s husband,  was born on 5 March 1799 in Groveland in Livingston County, New York.  The Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio has a sketch about Joel P. and Mariah’s son, Joel II  that really gives a good historical account of his father’s life, as well.

It first speaks of the son, Joel Ross II:
“This well-known influential farmer and stock raiser of Wakeman township first saw the light March 12, 1828, the locality of his birth being the same farm where his father was born March 5, 1799 in Groveland township, Livingston County, New York.

Joel P. and Maria (Ordaway) Ross, parents of the subject of this sketch, had a family of thirteen children; of whom are living the following: Anna (Mrs. William Jeffries), a widow, living in Hartland; Fannie Jane, wife of William Harrison Fletcher, living in Wakeman, Ohio; Angeline, wife of John Moon, and Charity, wife of Melvin Gunn, both residents of Brighton, Lorain County; and William, a farmer of Michigan.  When our subject was about eighteen months old, he came down the Ohio river on a raft with his parents, and his father moved to Scioto county, Ohio, afterward coming to Lorain county, dying in Brighton, March 9, 1881, at the age of eighty-two years; for some time prior to his death, he had resided in Florence township, Erie county.  He was a lifelong farmer, politically, he was a Republican, and he was a member of the Methodist church, as is also his widow, who is yet living in Brighton, Ohio, now in her eighty-eighth year.

Joel Ross II, whose name opens this sketch, received his education at the common schools of the vicinity of his home, at the same time assisting his parents in the work of cultivating and improving the farm.  When he was nineteen years old, he commenced working away from home by th emonth, and, saving his money, paid for fifty-three acres of land in Brighton township, Lorain county.  After five years, he went to California, where for four and one-half years, he was engaged in mining, driving team, etc., saving his money with judicious care.  Returning to Huron county, he bought 150 acres of wild land in Wakeman township, and leased the fifty-three acres in Brighton to his father, who lived thereon to the time of his death.  Clearing the land, our subject sold the timber, built himself a comfortable log house, barn, etc., and prospered.  He now owns 150 acres and successfully carries on general agriculture, including stock raising.”

The sketch goes on to tell of Joel Ross II’s marriage to Miss Ann Haines in 1859 and of their five children.  Joel II served as a school director and in other “offices of trust” in his township.

Mariah Ordway was my great-great-great aunt.  Quite a looker, don't you think?