Rendered Fat Content


John Bunyan:
The pilgrim's progress, frontispiece (1684)

"Time exclusively moves in both tiny and enormous increments."

William Seward and his wife Grace (Norton), my eighth great-grandparents, arrived from England in what would become Guilford, Connecticut, in the late summer of 1639. They were genuine pilgrims and pioneers. They slowly built a town that eventually spread beyond the land they'd initially purchased from the female chief of the local natives. Tensions built over time. They and their son John survived King Philip's War, a two-year tangle between colonists and local natives that left a thousand colonists dead and more than two thousand natives killed or enslaved. In 1682, the second generation of native North American-born Sewards arrived, John, Jr. He would start a migration further North. My fifth great-grandfather, Aaron, John Jr's tenth child, would marry Elizabeth Clark in Granville, MA, in 1757, then serve in the Revolutionary War, father nine children, and end up in Kortright, New York. I suspect he received a land grant for his service in the war.  The matriarch Grace's headstone remains legible, built into a fine wall constructed in Guilford when the original burying yard and town square were repurposed. They had prospered.

I used to believe that my Sewards were somehow related to President Lincoln's Secretary of State because that Seward also hailed from upstate New York, but I was mistaken.
My mistake—more of an aspiration, really—seems a common one among wannabe genealogists. We want to find evidence that we come from greatness, and we're prone to project based upon little actual evidence, evidence being subject to interpretation after a few generations. My Sewards were in no way related to Seward's Folly. They achieved their greatness in the old-fashioned way.

Aaron's son and sixth child, Sylvanus, my fourth great, was born in Connecticut in 1770. He would marry Anna Clark in 1795 in Kortright, New York, and father my third great-grandfather, Luther, in 1809. Luther would leave the Northeast for what was then wilderness, marrying his bride Nancy Tyson George, who had been born in North Carolina in 1845, in, of all places, Gadsden County, Florida. Florida had initially belonged to Spain. Andrew Jackson chased out a British garrison early in the War of 1812, and the United States took possession of it in 1821. Still, it would be another twenty years, following the Seminole Wars, that it became somewhat suitable for settlers. Luther and Nancy were apparently looking to settle somewhere, but whatever attracted them to Florida didn't hold them there long. By 1848, they were in Washington County, Texas. A decade later, they were settled in San Anders, Texas, where both Luther and Nancy would die, reportedly from Cholera. This orphaned my second great-grandmother, Maria, at age nine.

Maria and her eleven-year-old sister were adopted by Luther's brother, Lester, who had by then moved to Illinois. Six years later, Lester would die at Vicksburg, one of the majority of casualties on both sides felled by Yellow Fever. Lester's death would leave his widow with two orphans and no prospects, so when fifteen-year-old Maria approached her with the hair-brained idea of marrying a Union soldier mustered out due to the effects of rheumatic fever he'd contracted on a long march, she quickly consented. (That note is in one of those trunks landlocked in my sister's basement.) Maria married that soldier and left with her older sister for Oregon on horseback since they lacked the money for a wagon and proper supplies. I don't want to get too far ahead of this story because her young husband's history needs exploring before we can move beyond their convergence.

These Pilgrim's Progress played out over decades transformed into centuries. From the 1630s into the 1860s, two hundred and thirty years later, those transplants from Guilford, Connecticut, took to The Oregon Trail. The distance between those two dates approximates the distance from today back to the end of our American Revolution. Time exclusively moves in both tiny and enormous increments.

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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