Slaymaker

Summer 1904 cemetery photos of family marking the placement of the headstone for Wm Sargent Jr. & Sarah Jane Bowley graves

While going through my grandmother Zillah Trewin’s photo album, I came across these images taken in Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, NJ, during the summer of 1904 at what I presume was a small gathering to mark the placement of the gravestone for William Sargent (1861-1896) and his wife Sarah Jane Bowley (1849-1904) who died earlier that year, in January. What’s most interesting to me is the fact that the tiny elderly woman in the photo may actually be Mary Bowley Pitt, older sister of Sarah Bowley and second wife of William Sargent (Zillah’s grandfather and my 2nd-great-grandfather; 1st wife was Mary Wills, daughter of George and Mary Wills of Northamptonshire, England). You may recall the post where it was revealed that father and son (both named William) married sisters Mary Bowley Pitt and Sarah Bowley! Based on 1880 census records, Mary Bowley (1st marriage to ? Pitt) was born in 1839 in England; in 1904 she would have been 64, and I am trying to figure out if the mystery woman pictured could be around that age.  Thoughts anyone?

sargent_wm_grave_4

Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, NJ. new headstone for Sarah Bowley and William Sargent, 1904

sargent_wm_grave_1904_1

Elizabeth Sargent Trewin (b. 1854) at grave of her brother William Sargent and sister-in-law Sarah Bowley, 1904

sargent_wm_grave_2

Zillah Trewin (left) at grave of her uncle William Sargent

sargent_wm_grave_3

Unknown woman (left) and Elizabeth Sargent Trewin standing behind gravestone of her brother and sister-in-law, 1904

Categories: Elizabeth, Union Co., Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, NJ, Hillside Union, New Jersey, Sargent, Slaymaker, Trewin | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Circa 1906: Two Trewins in support of immigration

Trewins_immigration_play

‘Aliens or Americans’ – cast members from a church play? Elizabeth, NJ, circa 1906

Leafing through my grandmother’s photo album, I came across this group photo showing my great-grandmother Elizabeth Sargent Trewin standing in the back on the right, and her daughter (my grandmother) Zillah Trewin in the rear on the far left, partially obscured by a gentleman’s hat. On the back, Zillah had written Mother’s class in [???] ‘Aliens or Americans.’ I was intrigued. I scanned it at high resolution to read what was written on the rear left door:

A million immigrants!
A million opportunities!
A million obligations!

Interesting! My great-grandmother, a devout Christian, was evidently a proponent of immigration (not the least bit surprising since she was an immigrant herself—from England in about 1870).

The quotation on the door appears to come from a book called Aliens or Americans (by Howard B. Grose) which was published in 1906 by the Young People’s Missionary Movement, New York. I think this is about the time this photo was taken (Elizabeth’s hair has still not gone the gray that appears in photos from the 1910s).  The peak year of European immigration was 1907, so immigration was a very hot topic at that time, and the photo may be from a play that was performed in their Elizabeth, NJ, church (St. James Methodist) to highlight the church’s duty to engage in mission work by assisting newly arrived immigrants in the resettlement process.

I’ve pulled the author’s preface and Josiah Strong’s introduction to Aliens or Americans and have included them below to give a sense of what my great-grandmother and grandmother may have been experiencing and responding to. The book is available online through The Project Gutenburg (click the link in the previous paragraph). I have not had time to read it (it’s several hundred pages long), but glancing at the table of contents, it looks like it gives plenty of interesting insight into immigration at that time, the Ellis Island experience, etc. Anyone with ancestors who immigrated in the early 1900s may find something of interest here.

Have a good day, all. As always, thanks for stopping by.

PS: For interesting info and images of immigrants from that period visit: A Look at The People Coming Through Ellis Island, 1906 – Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives Website

***************************************************

Preface

new_americans

Image from Aliens or Americans, published 1906

It is not a question as to whether the aliens will come. They have come, millions of them; they are now coming, at the rate of a million a year. They come from every clime, country, and condition; and they are of every sort: good, bad, and indifferent, literate and illiterate, virtuous and vicious, ambitious and aimless, strong and weak, skilled and unskilled, married and single, old and young, Christian and infidel, Jew and pagan. They form to-day the raw material of the American citizenship of to-morrow. What they will be and do then depends largely upon what our American Protestant Christianity does for them now.

Immigration—the foreign peoples in America, who and where they are, whence they come, and what under our laws and liberties and influences they are likely to become—this is the subject of our study. The subject is as fascinating as it is vital. Its problems are by far the most pressing, serious, and perplexing with which the American people have to do. It is high time that our young people were familiarizing themselves with the facts, for this is preëminently the question of to-day. Patriotism and religion—love of country and love of Christ—unite to urge thoughtful consideration of this great question: Aliens or Americans? One aim of this book is to show our individual responsibility for the answer, and how we can discharge it.

Immigration may be regarded as a peril or a providence, an ogre or an obligation—according to the point of view. The Christian ought to see in it the unmistakable hand of God opening wide the door of evangelistic opportunity. Through foreign missions we are sending the gospel to the ends of the earth. As a home mission God is sending the ends of the earth to our shores and very doors. The author is a Christian optimist who believes God has a unique mission for Christian America, and that it will ultimately be fulfilled. While the facts are in many ways appalling, the result of his study of the foreign peoples in our country has made him hopeful concerning their Americanization and evangelization, if only American Christians are awake and faithful to their duty. The Christian young people, brought to realize that immigration is another way of spelling obligation, must do their part to remove that tremendous IF.

These newcomers are in reality a challenge to American Christianity. The challenge is clear and imperative. Will we give the gospel to the heathen in America? Will we extend the hand of Christian brotherhood and helpfulness to the stranger within our gates? Will we Christianize, which is the only real way to Americanize, the Aliens? May this book help to inspire the truly Christian answer that shall mean much for the future of our country, and hence of the world.

The author makes grateful acknowledgment to all who have assisted by suggestion or otherwise. He has tried to give credit to the authors whose works he has used. He is under special obligation for counsel and many courtesies to Josiah Strong, one of the modern patriot-prophets who has sought to awaken Americans to their Christian duty and privilege.

Howard B. Grose. Briarcliff Manor, June, 1906.

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Introduction

A million immigrants!
A million opportunities!
A million obligations!
This in brief is the message of Aliens or Americans?

In this country every man is an American who has American ideals, the American spirit, American conceptions of life, American habits. A man is foreign not because he was born in a foreign land but because he clings to foreign customs and ideas.

I do not fear foreigners half so much as I fear Americans who impose on them and brutally abuse them. Such Americans are the real foreigners.

Most of those who come to us are predisposed in favor of our institutions They are generally unacquainted with the true character of those institutions, but they all know that America is the land of freedom and of plenty, and they are favorably inclined toward the ideas and the obligations which are bound up with these blessings. They are open to American influence and quickly respond to a new and a better environment.

They naturally look up to us, and if with fair and friendly treatment we win their confidence, they are easily transformed into enthusiastic Americans. But if by terms of opprobrium such as “sheeny” and “dago,” we convince them that they are held in contempt, and if by oppression and fraud we render them suspicious of us, we can easily compact them into masses, hostile to us and dangerous to our institutions and organized for the express purpose of resisting all American influences.

Whether immigrants remain Aliens or become Americans depends less on them than on ourselves.

Categories: Elizabeth, Union Co., Methodist, Missionaries, Religion, Sargent, Slaymaker, Trewin | Tags: | 1 Comment

Another image of some ‘unknowns’

I’ve stared at this 1917 photo a number of times, trying to figure out who the two ladies on the left were. They are obviously good friends of my great grandmother Elizabeth Sargent* Trewin and her daughter Zillah of Jersey City, NJ, pictured on the right. Elizabeth’s husband William Trewin passed away the previous December, so mother and daughter were on their own at this point. Zillah was still single.

That hat is quite something. Its owner looks like a stern gal. I’ve wondered whether the lady second from left could be my great grandmother’s younger sister Sarah Sargent* Hemion, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. Apart from the gray hair, their facial features are quite different. Anyone out there with some thoughts, please get in touch!

*Note: The sisters were born in England with the surname Slaymaker. That name was changed to Sargent before they emigrated to the US after the Civil War.

Unknown ladies on the left, Elizabeth Sargent Trewin & daughter Zillah

Unknown ladies on the left, Elizabeth Sargent Trewin & daughter Zillah

Categories: Jersey City, Hudson Co., New Jersey, Sargent, Slaymaker, Trewin | 9 Comments

Traces of Our Slaymakers in Northamptonshire

The Northampton Mercury, 26 January 1861

The Northampton Mercury, 26 January 1861

George Wills died in 1857 and his son-in-law William Slaymaker and daughter Mary removed to Northampton to head a stone masonry business there. With them were their daughter Elizabeth (my great grandmother) who would have been six at the time the above ad appeared; son Samuel who would have been about eight (he went on to be a well-known Methodist minister affiliated with Ocean Grove, NJ); and daughter Sarah (a.k.a. Sadie) who would have been just a baby. Son William appeared in 1861, probably after this ad was placed. I’ve done quite a few posts about them already. When they emigrated to the US in 1870, they changed their last name to ‘Sargent.’ The family settled in Jersey City, Hudson Co., NJ. I’ve found a few more traces of their Northamptonshire roots and will share them in future posts.

George Wills, 1793-856, Image from private family archives. George Wills' original portrait was inherited by his daughter Martha according to the will

George Wills, 1793-856, Image from private family archives. George Wills’ original portrait was inherited by his daughter Martha according to the will

William Slaymaker (changed last name to Sargent before moving to the US in 1870)

William Slaymaker (changed last name to Sargent before moving to the US in 1870)

Elizabeth [Slaymaker] Sargent Trewin

Elizabeth [Slaymaker] Sargent Trewin

Rev. Samuel Sargent PhD (image courtesy of Frances S. Cowles)

Rev. Samuel Sargent PhD (image courtesy of Frances S. Cowles)

Categories: Methodist, Northampton, Northamptonshire, Sargent, Slaymaker, Wills | Leave a comment

Elizabeth Sargent, newly discovered photo

I recently came upon this new (to me) photo of my great grandmother Elizabeth Sargent (her family’s original surname, Slaymaker, was changed to Sargent prior to 1870), second wife of William Trewin. Seems many of us descendants are blondes/redheads, and though the photo is in black and white, I think it is fairly safe to say that her hair may have been ginger/chestnut in appearance. Her daughter Zillah’s hair had reddish tones. The photo may have been taken circa 1882 — around the time she married William.

(Image from my family’s personal collection) Elizabeth [Slaymaker] Sargent Trewin, wife of William Trewin; she emigrated to the US from Northampton, England, with her parents Mary (Wills) and William Sargent and siblings in 1870.

(Image from my family’s personal collection) William Trewin, emigrated to Canada from Woolwich, England, in 1857 with his parents, Mary Ann (Phillips) and Thomas Trewin, and siblings Emma and Thomas; they all relocated to NJ two years later.

Categories: Northampton, Northamptonshire, Sargent, Slaymaker, Trewin, Woolwich, Greater London | Leave a comment

Northamptonshire Slaymakers

William Slaymaker (changed last name to Sargent before moving to the US in 1870)

William Slaymaker (changed last name to Sargent before moving to the US in 1870)

I’m not sure where our family line’s Slaymakers fit in with others of that surname dwelling in England in the late 18th century/early 19th century and prior to that. But I did recently stumble on an 1841 Census record that provided some more clues about my 2nd great grandfather William Slaymaker (who changed his name to Sargent prior to emigrating to the US in 1870).

Funnily enough, the way I came upon the record was by doing a search of the Wills line on Family Search. Up popped a record for a “Geoe Wills”. I found that spelling odd so I clicked it open, and through findmypast.co.uk was able to view the original record. Here I found not only our 3rd great grandfather George Wills and his second wife Elizabeth living at the Stoneworks in Blisworth, Northamptonshire, but also William Slaymaker and his parents, John & Mary, and siblings–Elizabeth, John, Sarah, and a female whose name may have been Harriet. For some reason, the census taker abbreviated many of the first names: George was “Geo e”; Mary was “Ma y”; William was “Wm”, Richard was “Rich d”. Those abbreviations had the last letter input as a superscript. I guess whoever transcribed all these records for Family Search simply left them “as is”, which I suppose was the right thing to do, but it would take a lot of creativity for anyone searching to think of looking for names in such a way.

Stoneworks in Blisworth, circa 1935

In any case, William’s father John (34) is listed as a laborer; Mary is 36; William was 12; Elizabeth 10, John 8; Sarah 6; and Harriet [spelling ?] 3. All lived at the Stoneworks (mentioned in previous posts, most notably this one).

Stoneworks, Blisworth, Northamptonshire, ca. 1910

When I compared this census record with the 1851 record, I could see that John the father had remarried someone named Esther who was born in Blisworth. Son John (18) was living with them as was a son by this new marriage: Joseph, age 4. So John’s first wife Mary must have passed away in or before 1847. William was 21 and by then had married George Wills’ youngest daughter Mary; William and Mary were living with George Wills and his 2nd wife Elizabeth.

I found John and Esther Slaymaker in the 1861 and 1881 census records. In 1861 they were living with son Joseph in Boughton, Northamptonshire, a small village north of the city of Northampton. John was working as a railway gateman. In 1881, they were living in “Needles” in Litchborough, Northamptonshire, a tiny village to the west of Northampton. He was 74 and working as an agricultural laborer, poor old chap. I “googled” Needles and up popped a fancy 22-page real estate brochure on a property in Litchborough called Needles; I gather this was once a substantial estate with multiple dwellings and buildings, farmland, etc. It would seem that John Slaymaker and his second wife Esther may well have lived and worked here. The 1881 census shows a granddaughter Beatrice living with them. She was 6, born in Belgrave, Leicestershire (some 40 miles north of Northampton), and may well have been a daughter of son Joseph, who by then would have been about 34.

As you can see from the below family tree, John Slaymaker, who was my 3rd great grandfather, had siblings named Sarah and Thomas. There were probably others, but these are the only ones I have found so far. All were the children of Thomas and Elizabeth Slaymaker who were probably born in the late 1760s or thereabouts.

So that’s a bit of a glimpse into our Northamptonshire Slaymaker line. We surely have numerous Slaymaker cousins out there in the UK and beyond; hopefully they’ll stumble upon this blog someday and drop us a line! Anyone new to this blog can find more posts on the Wills line and Slaymaker / Sargent line by searching under the relevant surnames in the Categories section (right side of blog; you may have to scroll down a bit; best to read them in chronological order).

Slaymaker Family Tree – 1st three generations
(View the Sargent line by going to the S-U tab above)

1-Thomas Slaymaker
+Elizabeth
|—-2-Sarah Slaymaker c. 20 May 1792, Weedon and Floore, Northampton, England
|—-2-Thomas Slaymaker b. 3 May 1803, c. 6 Jun 1803, Weedon and Floore,  Northampton, England
|—-2-John Slaymaker b. 19 Apr 1807, Weedon Beck, Northamptonshire, England, c. 21 Jun 1807,
|——-Weedon and Flore, Northampton, England
|——+Mary b. Abt 1805
|———3-William Sargent b. 2 Sep 1828, Weedon Beck, Northamptonshire, c. 10 Dec 1829,
|———–Weedon and Flore, Northamptonshire, England, |————d. New Jersey, United States
|————+Mary Wills b. 11 Nov 1829, Wolverton, Buckinghamshire, England, d. 6 Dec 1877,
|————–Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey
|———3-Elizabeth (Betsey) Slaymaker b. 11 Oct 1830, c. 30 Nov 1830, Weedon and Floore, Northampton
|———3-John Slaymaker b. Abt 1835
|———3-Sarah Slaymaker b. 1836, Weedon, Northamptonshire
|———3-Harriet Slaymaker b. Abt 1838
|——+Esther b. Abt 1814, Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England
|———3-Joseph Slaymaker b. Abt 1847, Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England
|———-+Unknown
|————-4-Beatrice Slaymaker [daughter of Joseph?] b. Abt 1875, Belgrave, Leicestershire, England

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, Boughton, Northamptonshire, England 1841, England 1851, England 1861, England 1881, Jersey City, Hudson Co., Litchborough, Northamptonshire, Northampton, Northamptonshire, Sargent, Slaymaker, Weedon and Floore, Northamptonshire, Weedon Beck, Northamptonshire, Wills | Leave a comment

George Wills (b. 1793): Last Will and Testament

Image from private family archives. George Wills original portrait was inherited by his daughter Martha according to the will

Image from private family archives. George Wills original portrait was inherited by his daughter Martha according to the will

Thanks to Tim Laker, a George Wills descendant, for discovering George’s Last Will and Testament on file at the UK National Archives. It dates back to July 1857 and was proved in London on November 14, 1857. Among other things, this document reveals what happened to George’s business when he passed away. My past posts on the matter had been inconclusive, but here we find out for certain that George did indeed split his business between his son Jabez and his son-in-law William Slaymaker. (William Slaymaker was married to George’s daughter Mary. William and Mary Slaymaker changed their surname to Sargent before immigrating to the US in 1870.)

Son-in-law William Slaymaker inherited George Wills' business in Northampton

Son-in-law William Slaymaker inherited George Wills’ business in Northampton

Jabez inherited George’s business in Wolverton, while William inherited George’s business in Northampton. The will is very difficult to read, but here is what I have gleaned so far. Dots indicate text I was unable to decipher and in many cases I have made a “best guess”:

This the Last Will and Testament of one George Wills of Northampton in the County of Northampton Mason made this second day of July in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty seven in the following … viz … I will that all my just debts be payed and my burial expenses be paid … I give and … to my son Jabez Wills my house and premises at Wolverton in the County of Buckingham. I give and bequeath my business at Northampton house yard and premises to to my son-in-law William Slaymaker. I give and bequeath to my daughter Mrs. Phoebe Simpson of Roade in the said County one Cottage. I give and it bequeath to my Daughter Martha Capon Gasgoine [spelling?] of …. in the County of Warwick one Cottage, also I give and bequeath her my portrait (viz/ the said Martha Capon Gasgoine [spelling?]). I give and bequeath to my late Daughter Ann ??’s [Spelling of married name hard to decipher; I’d always thought it was “Grear,” but this looks different] four children one Cottage. I give and bequeath to my Granddaughter Zillah Simpson one Cottage. The Cottages are situated in what is … St. Siz [?] Street Northampton. I will that the whole of my … debts and …. be sold and the money be applied for payments of my … at my … I will that the Bibel presented to me by the ……….. of Ashton in the said County be given to William Slaymaker. Lastly I make and constitute and appoint my …. Mr. George Wills of Broad Lane Northampton Builder and my daughter Phoebe Simpson of Roade in the County as … my Executor and Executrix of this my last Will and Testament and I hereby empower them to collect all monies due to me in … bills or otherwise at my … and to retain and pay themselves all that is due to them and all expenses related to their said Trust in which hereof I have hereunto set my hand this day and year first as above written ——–GEORGE WILLS —-Signed sealed published and delivered by the herewith Testator as and for this his Will and Testament in the presents of us who at his request and in his presents and in the presents of oath and oath other have have subscribed our names as witnesses hereto————Witness Samuel Pasenall —— John Parbery

PROVED at London 14th Nov. 1857 before the Judge by the Oath of George Wills and Phoebe (in the appointment written Phoeby Simpson, Widow, the Daughter, the Executors to whom …. was granted to having been first sworn by common duty to administer

Phoebe Wills Simpson, co-executor of George's will

Phoebe Wills Simpson, co-executor of George’s will

Zillah Simpson (1843 - 1920), George Wills' granddaughter

Zillah Simpson (1843 – 1920), George Wills’ granddaughter


Yew Tree Cottage, Roade, Northamptonshire--home of Zillah Simpson circa 1910; presumably inherited from her mother Phoebe, who presumably inherited it from her father George Wills

Yew Tree Cottage, Roade, Northamptonshire–home of Zillah Simpson circa 1910; presumably inherited from her mother Phoebe, who presumably inherited it from her father George Wills

The will leaves me with some questions and general thoughts:

  • I’d always had George’s year of death listed as 1856, but obviously it was 1857.
  • My date of death of daughter Ann Gadsden Wills Grear [last name correct?] must also be wrong (d. 1 Nov 1858); she obviously predeceased her father George.
  • Daughter Martha Capon inherited George’s portrait. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a photo of the full-color original? Of course, it’s fantastic to at least have the version in tones of gray; I don’t have any information on Martha’s descendants, and perhaps one of them still has this portrait. Maybe they will find us through this blog someday.
  • William Slaymaker is mentioned as inheriting a Bible. I have no idea what happened to that Bible. If it was taken to America when the family relocated, it must have ended up with someone other than daughter Elizabeth, my great grandmother; we’ve never seen it or heard of it prior to this.
  • Lastly and most interestingly, who is this George Wills the executor? I can’t make out the word before his name. George had a son on 10 Mar 1827 who was named George Sampson Wills. Our records always showed that this son died the following year, but perhaps not. Any thoughts on whether this was indeed George’s son, George?

I’ll close for now, but please feel free to share your ideas and knowledge on any of the above! Many heads are definitely better than one!

Categories: Capon, England, Gadsden, Gasgoine, Last Wills and Testaments, Northampton, Northamptonshire, Roade, Northants, Sargent, Simpson, Slaymaker, Wills, Wolverton, Buckinghamshire | Leave a comment

“Wills” Family – Some Important Updates

Image from private family archives. George Wills original portrait was inherited by his daughter Martha according to the will

Image from private family archives. George Wills original portrait was inherited by his daughter Martha according to the will

Today I am posting an update to some of the previous Wills family posts for which I subsequently discovered new information. The posts in question are as follows:

The Fate of Mary Wills, Part I
The Fate of Mary Wills, Part II
George Wills’s Son-in-Law & Granddaughters
Some Photos Related to George Wills and Descendants

The Wills family story passed down to us by my grandmother and her mother was reflected in the above posts. But shortly after I’d written them, I discovered a few details that made me question that account. Some of those details came from the GSV Wills self-published memoir**. (I’d misplaced the book right after posting the first post on GSV Wills, and found it only after I’d made the other Wills family posts.) Other things in general were just not adding up. I was finally forced to admit that the story passed down to us was full of inaccuracies. The whole series of discoveries left me feeling quite deflated and wanting to cool off on the Wills family line for a while, which is why it has taken me this long to do an update. On the other hand, it does feel good to get the story straighter, even though many gaps remain. Where to begin? Rather than take you through the order in which I made my discoveries, it’s probably best to go down these Wills-related posts one by one.

The Fate of Mary Wills, Part I

First, about William Slaymaker being an orphan, well—-I found his birth record! According to England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, posted on the Family Search website, William Slaymaker was born on 2 September 1828 to Mary and John Slaymaker of Weedon Bec and Flore, Northampton, England. (These are neighboring villages 11 miles northwest of Blisworth). He was christened on 10 December 1829, according to England and Wales, Non-Conformist Record Indexes (RG4-8)–also posted on the same LDS site. Discovering William’s birth and christening records was a huge shock to me since I’d always believed, hook, line and sinker, that William was a complete orphan whose origins were unknown. So, so much for our previous family history as it had been written down.

But how did William get to Blisworth? Interestingly I discovered a John Slaymaker, “agricultural laborer,” living in Blisworth at the time of the 1851 census. William, 21, was also in Blisworth living with George Wills, “stone mason and builder,” and wife Elizabeth, and Mary (George’s daughter) who is shown with the Slaymaker surname; that fits with our records that the young pair had married in 1850. The 1851 census records confirm William Slaymaker’s birthplace as Weedon, Northamptonshire. John Slaymaker was living with a wife named Esther and two sons, John and Joseph, ages 18 and 4. Could Esther be a second wife? Could this John be William’s father? I believe the answer to those questions to be “yes.” The same census record shows that John (44) was also born in Weedon Bec as was his first son, John (18). However Esther (37) and younger son Joseph (4) were both born in Blisworth. Perhaps John Sr., John Jr., and William Slaymaker relocated to Blisworth after 1st wife Mary’s death, and there John Sr. met Esther and had son Joseph. The Slaymakers had in common with George Wills an involvement in the non-conformist movement. Perhaps George Wills took William under his wing as a worker in his stone masonry business. Blisworth was a very small town (The 1841 census showed about 880 people living there.)

On a complete side note, the 1851 census record mentions George’s 2nd wife’s birthplace as Cambridge. I have made a mental note to research “Elizabeth” further since my grandmother and her mother never documented the fact that George remarried. The 1851 census record shows she was 61, three years older than George at that stage.

‘Old Stone House,” Blisworth, Northamptonshire (the Stoneworks)

Now about the story of George raising William and his own children in Old Stone House, Blisworth, a house he supposedly build for his bride Mary Capon. Well that story turned out to be full of holes too. I figured this out through the blisworth.org.uk website and some correspondence with the site’s manager Tony Marsh, whom I’d contacted in order to offer him a 1913 photo I had of the Old Stone House. To get to the point quickly, Old Stone House in Blisworth was really the Blisworth Stoneworks, built around 1840; it served as headquarters for a limestone quarry that was in existence on the site since the early 1800s, and was part of the Grafton Estate. George and 1st wife Mary married in 1812, so there is NO WAY in the world that he built that particular structure for Mary. If George built Mary an “old stone house,” and he probably did, it was in Stony Stratford or nearby Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, where the pair spent their early married life. So “adios” to the yarn passed down that George owned and built the Stoneworks house for Mary. However, we do know that George was in Blisworth at the time of the 1841 Census living at the Stoneworks with 2nd wife Elizabeth. He is listed as “builder.” Now, since Mary (George’s 1st wife) died in 1839, he must have married Elizabeth around 1840, about when he was participating in the construction of the Stoneworks. So, I think it is highly possible that recollections of George’s children or grandchildren were of him building that big stoneworks house for 2nd wife Elizabeth, which was not really the case, but children don’t know all the details of what’s going on in the world around them, so in their young minds it may have appeared that George was building that home for Elizabeth. George’s youngest daughters, Martha and Mary (14 and 10, respectively, in 1939) may have perceived it that way. The only Wills child known to be born at the stoneworks with relative certainty was Samuel, firstborn child of William Slaymaker and George’s daughter Mary.

Now, about the Duke of Grafton being patron of the Wills family (this is written in GSV Wills’s memoirs), at the time of Sampson Wills’s death (George’s father), George was living on Tottenham Court Road in London. Tony Marsh commented that “George would have been  building townhouses less than a 1/4 mile from some of Grafton’s houses in the Euston Station area.” Whether they had any association there, however, we don’t know (yet, anyway). When Sampson died, George, wife Mary, and their three children who existed up to that point (Ann, Phoebe, and Jabez), had to move back to Stony Stratford to carry on the family business. Though the distance was just 50 miles, it took them three days traveling by wagon with all of their possessions including a cat with kittens.

Photo by Stephen McKay. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 Generic License*

On another side note, per the GSV Wills memoirs of 1899, Sampson Wills, was a renowned builder, whose family was based in Stony Stratford for generations. He was not involved in the non-conformist movement as was son George. Sampson’s 1st contract was to erect mile-stones along the road from Stony Stratford to Bletchley. He constructed the bridge that spans the Ouse at Cosgrove. Cosgrove is just a mile north of Stony Stratford as the crow flies. I looked the bridge up and, if I guessed correctly about which one it is, it is now referred to as “Solomon’s Bridge”–perhaps in the mists of time, “Sampson” changed to “Solomon”?  GSV Wills says the bridge was referred to as “Sampson’s Bridge” even in the late 1890s. For views of the bridge, click here, here, and here!  You can also catch a glimpse of the bridge on this interesting  YouTube video (at about the 50 second mark). The Cosgrove Village website has posted a PDF document about the bridge. They say that the story goes that “a certain Colonel Solomon’s, ‘Lord of the Manor’, agreed to the cutting of the canal on the condition that he was allowed to erect the necessary bridge.” Perhaps, officially it became known as Solomon’s Bridge, while locally, those who were familiar with Sampson Wills’s involvement referred to it as Sampson’s Bridge.

Sampson’s business spanned from 1780 to 1830(?). He worked on the Calverton Church and died attempting to fix the pinnacle; he lost his balance and fell. If you click on the link for Calverton Church in the previous sentence, you’ll see what a precarious maneuver he must have been undertaking. If he did die in 1830, he would have been 63 at the time. In addition, two sons died in service to King George III. I say 1830 with a question mark because Sampson’s books ended in 1830, so I assume that is when he died. GSV Wills stated that Jabez Wills descendants were in possession of Sampson’s original books. That was in 1899, of course, so who knows where they may be today. It would provide clues about the Cosgrove bridge, no doubt.

Now it must have been around late 1830s that the Duke of Grafton asked George to consider relocating from Stony Stratford to Blisworth (10 miles away) to oversee the stoneworks project. According to the GSV Wills book, George agreed because by then his daughter Phoebe had married John Simpson, and Simpson was prepared to carry on George’s business at Stony Stratford. Incidentally, it was in Blisworth that Jabez Wills met Mr. Hickson, the local chemist, who was “twice married and blessed with 21 children.” Jabez married Catherine, one of Mr. Hickson’s daughters, and the couple settled in Roade (3 miles away). There, Catherine gave birth to GSV Wills in 1849.

The Fate of Mary Wills, Part II

Son-in-law William Slaymaker inherited George Wills' business in Northampton

Son-in-law William Slaymaker inherited George Wills’ business in Northampton

The only part of this post that needs updating is with regards to sentence #2–that before emigrating to America, William Slaymaker sold his share of the business to John Simpson. The family yarn passed down to us was that when George died in 1856, he left his Stony Stratford stone masonry business to sons-in-law John Simpson and William Slaymaker.

Well, for William to have sold John his share on the eve of emigrating to America would have been quite a feat because I discovered that John Simpson died in 1861, roughly 5-7 years before the Slaymakers changed their name to Sargent and moved to the US. Another deflating moment! According to the little GSV Wills book, Jabez Wills moved to Stony Stratford to take over the business when John Simpson died. I found the 1861 census records for the Slaymakers–the family was living in Northamptonshire at 2 Mason’s Yard in the parish of St. Sepulchre. William is listed as a mason and builder employing four men. Daughters Elizabeth (6) and Sarah (3) are listed as having been born in St. Sepulchre, which means that the Slaymakers must have moved to Northamptonshire in roughly 1855. Perhaps what really happened was that when George died he left William a share of the business, but William sold it to Simpson straight away and relocated to Northampton where he perceived business to be more lucrative. And when Simpson died, the business transferred to Jabez.

Some Photos Related to George Wills and Descendants

The above text correcting information about the stoneworks should replace details in Paragraph 1 of this post. Also with regard to the information about the Gardiners, evidently while Gardiner may have managed the so-called “Wait Estate,” Simpson’s daughter Mary would not have been involved with the Estate for that length of time since she and Gardiner married in 1875 and he died in 1897. He was 30 years her senior! Also, Tony Marsh who is mentioned above, believes that the “Wait” Estate is probably the Wake Estate. Tony forwarded a couple of links about the Wake Estate, but I have not yet had a chance to review them: http://www.blisworth.org.uk/images/Articles/Wakes-history.htm and http://www.blisworth.org.uk/images/Lyrical/Wake-memoirs.htm.

George Wills’s Son-in-Law & Granddaughters

George Wills's descendants, Northamptonshire, no later than 1897

George Wills's descendants, Northamptonshire, no later than 1897

Now, with regards to this post, the question is obviously: “Who is that man seated in the chair on the left?” It can’t be John Simpson since he died in 1861. In the wheelchair is Phoebe and John Simpson’s daughter Zillah Wills Simpson (29 Jul 1843 – 10 Apr 1920). We know that for sure since she was disabled. Based on the age gap between Mary Simpson and husband William Gardiner, I believe it is William Gardiner who is seated in the chair; he would have been in his mid-eighties at the time, an age that seems to fit this gentleman. The other two ladies are probably identified correctly: Standing in the rear are the elder Simpsons’ daughter Sarah German Simpson Caswell (30 Mar 1849-8 Jan 1929). Seated on the right is the elder Simpsons’ daughter Mary (2 Feb 1839-6 Feb 1917), Gardiner’s wife. (I must admit she looks older than her late 50s to me.) But, now, who is the man standing in the rear? I think it is probably Sarah’s husband, Henry Slee Caswell.  Time will tell–let’s hope someone reads this blog and can give us some clues.

So that’s the update–for now, anyway. Things are bound to change but certainly not nearly so dramatically. Now it seems more like a question of filling in the gaps.

PS: To muddy up the works slightly, I did discover a “Haymaker” family living in Blisworth at the Stoneworks in 1841, at the same time George and Elizabeth Wills were there. Whether these Haymakers were Slaymakers remains to be seen. If I make any progress on that, I will report on it.

*Creative Commons Share-alike 2.0 Generic License

**A Jubilee Souvenir. The Works of George S. V. Wills and The Westminster College of Chemistry and Pharmacy. Stratford: Wilson & Whitworth, Ltd., Printers, Broadway, 1899.

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, Census Records, England 1841, England 1851, England 1861, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, Roade, Northants, Sargent, Simpson, Slaymaker, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, Wesleyan Methodist, Wills | 2 Comments

The Fate of Mary Wills (1829-1877), Part III

Altogether William and Mary  had 12 children including 2 sets of twins. Only four of the children survived to adulthood. These were the children who had traveled with them from England: my great grandmother Elizabeth Sargent (a twin), a brother Samuel who became a Methodist minister (his portrait once hung in a chapel in Ocean Grove–it may still be there), Sarah (nickname “Sadie,”) and William Jr.  Samuel married Ella Tunison and they had two children: Vivian Sargent, who married into the Packard family (the automakers), and a son Norman Vincent Sargent, who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Methodist minister.

William Sargent (Sr.) remarried, how long after Mary’s death, I do not know, but it was within the space of a few years. His second wife was a wealthy widow named Mary Bowley Pitt who had a son named William Pitt. This Mary Bowley Pitt also had some connection lineage-wise with prime minister William Pitt. With the financial backing of his second wife, William got into the spring bed business (as a salesman) and the family’s financial position improved.  The 1880 Census shows the newly blended family living in Jersey City: Wm. Sargent (51), Mary (41), Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) (24), Sarah (“Sadie”) (21), Wm. Jr. (19), and Wm. Pitt (17). By then Elizabeth was near to being married to William Trewin, and Samuel may well have been married.

Elizabeth Sargent

Elizabeth Sargent, circa 1881

I do not yet know what became of Sarah and William Jr., e.g. whether they married, had children, etc. Sarah died at age 45, and William died at age 35. I have no record them ever marrying, and I think my grandmother would have mentioned that. Elizabeth, Sarah, and William are all buried in the family plot at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, NJ.  As for William Sargent Sr., I do not yet know when he died or where he was buried. Perhaps in time, I will make those discoveries.

Elizabeth Sargent Trewin and daughter Zillah, 1919

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, Census Records, England, Jersey City, Hudson Co., Methodist, Roade, Northants, Sargent, Slaymaker, US Federal 1880, Wills | Leave a comment

The Fate of Mary Wills (1829-1877), Part II

The lure of fortune in America was too much of a temptation for William. He sold his share of the business to John Simpson and decided to emigrate to the US in roughly 1868, shortly after the Civil War when the country was at its lowest, with Mary and three  of their four children: Elizabeth (14), Sarah (9), and William Jr. (7). The oldest son, Samuel, remained behind to finish school and lived with one of his aunts; eventually he left for the US as well.

Prior to leaving for America William had the family’s surname changed from Slaymaker to Sargent. We have no idea what prompted that decision or why he chose “Sargent”. Mary’s sisters were very much against the idea of Mary, who was pregnant at the time, leaving them, and argued with William about it. Mary, in her mid-thirties my then, did not want to go, but William was adamant. The family set sail across the ocean and ended up settling in Jersey City, New Jersey. The child Mary was carrying died shortly after they arrived.

Jersey City, NJ, marked with the red balloon

William Sargent went into the mason contracting business in Jersey City in a big way and lost everything he had including his sizable inheritance from George Wills. For some time the family was in dire straits, living off welfare with the oldest children, Samuel and Elizabeth, forced to find work of any kind. I believe Elizabeth worked as a household servant.

Mary died in 1877 at just 48 years of age. Elizabeth converted William to Christianity at that time–the lowest period in his life, a time when he had truly lost everything.

 

12/14/2011: Please see the update to this post.

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England, Jersey City, Hudson Co., Roade, Northants, Sargent, Simpson, Slaymaker, Wills | Leave a comment

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