"It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life"

The Internet is a tremendous--if perilous--resource for research, genealogy included. But there is much to be learned by venturing out, and something especially satisfying about visiting actual places that connect with your family history. With the rain coming down outside today, giving me an excuse to stay in and blog, I will set down some of the genealogical outings I've made in the last couple years.

While researching a maternal 3x great-grandfather on my grandmother's side, Frederick D Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), about whom I have written often, I came across mention of a book, The Schooner La Petite: Journal of Captain Oscar B. Smithreprinted from "Inland Seas" in 1970. La Petite was one of the ships Grandpa Ketchum built. 

I found and purchased a copy--online--and promptly read it through, eagerly looking for bits about Frederick Ketchum. Alas, although he built the eponymous schooner, he does not figure into the book itself, a reprint of journals Capt Smith kept for several years during the late 1870s. Capt Smith (21 Sep 1835 - 14 Aug 1916), a longtime Huron, Ohio resident, does mention many other relations of mine, however, including George Cherry Ketchum (Frederick's oldest son); Minnetta Amelia Ketchum (George's daughter); James Vance Bennett (husband of Frederick's oldest daughter, Frances Mathilda, known as "Fannie,"), who owned docks on Mackinac Island; and even the Huron Lighthouse, run for many years by Minnetta's great-uncle, Richard Lloyd Mansell. 

"Inland Seas," the magazine that reprinted Smith's journal, was established in 1945 by the Great Lakes Historical Society. I figured a visit to their National Museum of the Great Lakes was in order. I emailed first, letting them know my particular interest in the museum and familial connection to the lakes. I was thrilled to receive a reply that said

Did you know we have the capstan cover to a ship named for Mr. Ketchum on display at the Museum of the Great Lakes? It might be something you are interested in. There is a also a small section about his involvement in Toledo shipping, etc. 

"Might be..."? How exciting! And Toledo? That was definitely new information about Frederick Ketchum. It was time to hit the road....

At the museum, excited about seeing Grandpa K's capstan.

Alas, when I got to the Museum, the aforementioned capstan cover was named for a different Ketchum--in fact, a Mr Ketcham. Toledo surprise, indeed. These near misses are becoming their own kind of family tradition....

Anyway. The museum is lovely, and we spent a couple very entertaining and informative hours admiring the exhibits.

Although the capstan cover was a disappointment, I was all the more surprised, then, to see they did have an interactive exhibit about La Petite, taken from Capt Smith's journal. The journal had led me to the museum, so it seemed the circle was complete, as round as a capstan cover, no matter to whomever it belonged. 

Different virtual bookmarks led to different pages; 
this one featured a picture of the ship.

Before leaving Toledo, we also stopped at the Toledo Botanical Garden, which was gorgeous, despite some rain. I got a picture with a symbolic family tree to commemorate the outing.

Your humble blogger with "Monument to a Tree" (1994) by Carl Floyd.

Inspired by seeing second-hand information about my family, I wanted to see if I could get a bit closer. A few months later, another Road Trip was ready to roll. Next stop, Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

I began my trip at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library. It was a large, wonderful facility, but I did not learn a great deal there of note, in part because I wanted to move on and see sites associated with my family.

I headed out to Lindenwood Cemetery, to pay respect to my 1st cousin, 3x removed, Minnetta Amelia Ketchum (2 Jul 1865 - 25 Aug 1953) and her husband, Frank Bursley Taylor (23 Nov 1860 - 12 Jun 1938). You may remember her name from a few paragraphs ago. She is Frederick Ketchum's grand-daughter, and features in Capt Smith's journal; she was a playmate of his daughter.

Besides being buried in Fort Wayne, the Taylors lived there for many years, when not exploring the geology of the Great Lakes, which you can read more about here. Frank Taylor's parents moved to Fort Wayne in 1859, and soon became one of the prominent families. Robert Stewart Taylor (22 May 1838 - 28 Jan 1918) was first a lawyer, and later judge. The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne (B.J. Griswold, 1947) referred to Judge Taylor as "the dean of the bar of Allen County." He introduced a bill to bring streetcars to Fort Wayne, and ran--unsuccessfully--for Congress twice; in 1881 he was appointed by President Garfield to the Mississippi River Commission. 

Looking for the three homes the Taylor families owned in Fort Wayne over those years, I discovered that one was under a parking lot, ditto another, while the third was now just a vacant lot surrounded by houses. If nothing else, I wanted to imagine the tree was from their time, so I gave it a solemn pat and headed home.

Erstwhile Taylor home, and possible family tree.

My elusive ancestors.... I felt like I was getting closer, but still at a remove. Displays and empty lots are all well and good, but can't provide much context or elicit much feeling.

Itching to get on the road again, but not knowing where, a little digging in another branch of the family tree, ancestors of my maternal grandfather this time, led me back to Indiana, this time to the magically named Spice Valley.

My Conley kin came here from Ireland, the first to emigrate being my 6x great-grandparents, John Conley, Senior (28 Jun 1744 - 24 Jul 1798) and his wife, Sarah Wilson (16 Apr 1746 - 12 Jun 1824), although they probably did not marry until they were in the US of A. I know little about them (whether they met here or in Ireland, for example) until after they arrived, when, like a good many Scotch-Irish, they settled in North Carolina.

Son John Conley, Junior (30 Aug 1776 - 31 Jan 1853) was born in North Carolina, where he married Catherine Miller (15 Oct 1782 - 5 Aug 1845) on 7 Mar 1799. Eighteen years--and eight children--later, following brother Josiah Connelly [sic] (21 Aug 1783 - 20 Feb 1870), they had left North Carolina for Indiana, landing in the nascent Lawrence County in 1817. 

The Conleys/Connellys, along with allied families, among them the Maxwells, Isoms, and Tollivers (all of whom are my ancestors), were a strong presence in the early years of the region. Josiah was the first constable of Spice Valley, others holding posts such as Overseer of the Poor, and School Superintendent. Another brother, Elijah Connelly (7 Jul 1779 - 28 Sep 1831), was the first deacon of the Spice Valley Baptist Church, established on 1 June 1822. The congregation met first in the barn of William Maxwell (1765 - 1832), a 5xgg, before a church was erected a few years later. Although the current church building is the third on that site, being built in 1888, the original cemetery behind it is filled with Conleys and Isoms.

It was fitting that I met my fifth cousin, twice removed, Susan there; she is descended from my ancestor John Conley's brother, the deacon Elijah Connelly. My excitement upon meeting her was tremendous, not just because I had driven around lost for an hour, but because she is the first relative I have met face-to-face through genealogy research, rather than knowing all my life.

We clicked instantly, and shared family stories, both pulling out charts to better see our connection. Then came the real treat: I followed her a few miles up the road to the farm that has been in our family for two hundred years.

Conley farmland, Spice Valley.

The current farm is on land originally owned by John and Elijah's brother Joel Connelly (10 Mar 1788 - 8 Jun 1853). Although the Conley/Connellys and their in-laws owned much of the area, this parcel is the last to have stayed in the family, despite many of the pioneer Connellys deciding in the late 1830s to move further west to Clay County, Illinois. Family lore has it that the Connellys and their kin, always clannish, felt that too many newcomers were moving into their valley; that side of my family--down to myself--have always been a mix of gregariousness and the desire for near-hermitic privacy.

Anyway. Cousin Susan gave me a tour, of the property, which has been given a Hoosier Homestead Farm designation by the state of Indiana. 

[I was so excited, I did not get a picture of their sign on property;
this image--from a different farm--came from the web.]

We passed by a charming cabin, built in comparatively more recent years as a sort-of playhouse for the many boys in the family.

It had been raining, so we did not venture to the natural spring, but did pause for a picture by one of the barns.

I was captivated walking through fields that my family has walked for two hundred years. Pictures, exhibits, and stories are all wonderful, but there is something so forceful about really being there. Amidst a whirl of emotions, we reached our final destination, a small hilltop that is the resting place of many of our family. 

Although weathered with age, here was the headstone of our six-times great grandmother, Sarah Wilson, who came from Ireland to America in the 1700s, joined her family on their pioneering move to Indiana in the early 1800s, and finally came to rest here, in Spice Valley, in 1824.

Several other generations of Connellys join her on the hillside. I have visited grave sites before, but this was special, knowing that the view I had in all directions was one they had shared. 

Looming clouds and a long drive ahead meant it was time to say goodbye. Susan recommended I visit the  Connelly Cemetery in nearby Marion Township, but I decided to save that for next time.  We stopped and ate some windfall persimmons from an ancient-looking tree as the sky darkened. After a big hug from Susan, I got into the car, taking a few persimmons home with me. 

In part, I wanted to share some of the Conley persimmons with Stephen, who was not able to join me on this trip. But I also had another idea.... I saved some of the seeds, and planted them this spring. Who knows if I will ever get to taste my own home-grown Conley persimmons, but I can at least enjoy, no longer symbolic or supposed, my own little family tree. 

"To be in any form..."

I have written before about old objects and heirlooms, and how my family doesn't have too many in our possession. Imagine my shock when I saw that Bonhams had auctioned off a set of six "Queen Anne walnut compass seat side chairs," expected price: $30,000 - $50,000! Here's a little blurb (or whatever the fancy antique-world equivalent is called):

The Rhode Island Furniture Archive at Yale University Art Gallery identifies several examples of this form of chair, all bearing a pierced splat with distinctive scrolled ears and all attributed to Thomas Davenport (1681-1745). In his article "Lesser-known Rhode Island Cabinetmakers: the Carlisles, Holmes Weaver, Judson Blake, the Rawsons and Thomas Davenport," (The Magazine Antiques, May 1982, pp. 1156-1163), Joseph Ott suggests that the delicate scrolled ears may be a trademark of Davenport.

The cushions differ because the chairs had been left to various family members
 before being reunited and sold.

That lesser-known Rhode Island cabinetmaker, Thomas Davenport (10 Dec 1681 - 16 Aug 1745), is one of my paternal eight-times great-grandfathers. He is also sometimes known as "Captain" Thomas Davenport, although I am not sure how he received the title. It does appear on his headstone.

The Common Burying Ground; Newport, Rhode Island

According to the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission, Davenport's headstone (as is his wife's) was carved by John Stevens II, whose father founded their eponymous shop in 1705. The John Stevens Shop was known for its beautiful gravestones, and owned by Stevens' descendants until 1927, when it was taken over by the Benson family. The company is still active today, and still doing beautiful work, including the FDR, Martin Luther King, and World War II National Memorials in Washington DC.

At any rate, Thomas Davenport was born in Dorchester MA, then moved when young to Little Compton RI. There he met and, in 1704, married Catherine Woodworth (5 Oct 1673 - 1 Jun 1729). They had six children; by his second wife, Mary Pitman (1 Jan 1721 - 1782), he had two more. It was in 1737, upon his marriage to Mary, that he settled in Newport RI. Her family contained many furniture makers as well; perhaps this is how they met. Incidentally, Little Compton is also known as the home of the Rhode Island Red chicken; there is even a monument there, although both came after Thomas Davenport's time.

Perhaps not as grand as the FDR Memorial, but still of note.

The Davenport family originated in Cheshire, England, and surely have been surrounded by beautiful furnishings since then, tracing their roots back to Alfred the Great (849 - 26 Oct 899). The first use of the Davenport name came with Orme de Dauenport (believed 1046 - 1086), who is purported to be a cousin of William the Conqueror. Despite how fanciful and sketchy some of these heraldic genealogies are, there is DNA evidence that proves that Thomas Davenport is descended from Orme, at least. (Lady Godiva of--shall we say--bareback fame is believed to be some kind of distant aunt as well.)

And speaking of horsehair, yes, the word "davenport," meaning sofa is derived from another relation as well, A[lfred] H[enry] Davenport (5 Dec 1845 - 22 Jun 1905), who established a famous furniture and interior design business that operated out of both Boston and New York at the end of the nineteenth century. That Davenport worked with Stanford White, and provided interiors for the Vanderbilt Mansion and even the White House. Work by the A H Davenport Company can also still be seen in the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and elsewhere. 

Getting back to Orme, the Davenports continued for generations in Cheshire and environs, gathering land and power. So much power, in fact, that the family coat of arms charmingly includes a man with a rope around his neck (about which more later), indicating the Davenports had power over life or death. Reading through generations of Davenports, it was nice to see some Roberts along the way. 

By the 1200s, there were lots of "Sirs," and lots of advantageous marriages, including a merger with the de Bromale family, who since 1277 owned the land that is modern-day Bramhall. John de Davenport was the first to inherit Bramhall Hall, in the late 1300s. A later Lord of the Manor, beginning in the late 1400s, William Davenport, helped gain the crown for Henry VII. The property was to stay in the Davenport family for five hundred years, finally being sold off to a development company in 1877. Fortunately, the Hall and much of the land was preserved, and is still available to visit.

Bramall Hall 

Tours are given of Bramhall Hall, and one can admire, along with the other beautiful rooms and furnishings, a number of tributes to the family crest: busts of men with ropes around their necks, including these fellows flanking one of the fireplaces:

Cosy. But Bramhall Hall is not the only Davenport residence to survive. Far away from that precious stone set in a silver sea, far indeed, in the U S of A's deep South is another structure, sitting on Columbus Square in Savannah GA. It too is open to the public, as the Isaiah Davenport House Museum.

Isaiah Davenport (3 Nov 1784 - 16 Oct 1827), is a second cousin, seven times removed of mine. To make it clearer, he was descended from grandpa Thomas Davenport's oldest son, Eliphalet, while my line goes through another son: Ephraim.

Isaiah, like many of his relatives, studied carpentry. Indeed, one sees numerous Davenports across several generations engaged in work as chairmakers, cabinet-makers, joiners, masons, housewrights.... After apprenticing in New Bedford, MA, Isaiah moved--for reasons unknown--to Savannah in 1808, and a year later married Sarah Rosamund Clark (22 Feb 1788 - 7 Aug 1869). They had ten children, and their large home was built, in part, to house them all.

Besides designing and constructing private homes and public buildings, Isaiah served as an alderman, constable, and was even selected to give the toast when President James Monroe visited the town in 1819. Isaiah Davenport died during the Yellow Fever epidemic that swept Savannah in 1847. Maybe that's why they say the house is haunted. Isaiah was just forty-three. It is interesting to imagine what "Savannah's Master Builder" would have created had he lived longer. He would have been pleased to know, I'm sure, that the preservation and restoration of his home in 1955 led to the creation of the Historic Savannah Foundation, which has been crucial in keep the town both historic and vital.

So many grand homes, so many beautiful designs. An old saw has it that "there are more Davenports than dogs' tails." Indeed. The Presidents Bush are descendants of Thomas' sister Hannah Davenport (23 Dec 1686 - 26 Jan 1769), while William Howard Taft (who employed his distant cousin A H to design furniture for the White House, although their connection was enough generations earlier they may not have known they were related) had Thomas' uncle John Davenport (20 Oct 1664 - 21 Mar 1725) as a direct ancestor.

Kings and presidents, manors and museums. As I have mentioned before, too often to link, I am adjacent--and even sometimes tangent--to greatness in my family's history. (I haven't even mentioned another Davenport relation and distant cousin, inventor Thomas Davenport [9 Jul 1802 - 6 Jul 1851], who received U S Patent #132, the first for an electric motor, in 1837 [!], the model of which resides in the Smithsonian. He wanted to invent an electric car.)

Well, I guess now I have mentioned him. But to return to the other Thomas, my eight-times great-grandpa.... He wasn't a lord, or a hobnobber with tycoons, or a revolutionary tinkerer. But he made really nice chairs.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Kinnane, Sakonnet Furniture Makers

Thomas Davenport was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on 10 Dec 1681, third son of Jonathan Davenport (6 Mar 1659 - 11 Jan 1729), a carpenter, and Hannah Manners / Maynard / Warren / Warner (1660 - 14 Jan 1729); he was the grandson of "Thomas Davenport of Dorchester," the first of this branch of the Davenports to reach America. On 20 Jul 1704, he married Catherine Woodworth (5 Oct 1673 - 1 Jun 1729), daughter of Thomas Woodworth (1636 - 13 Feb 1718) and Deborah Damon (25 Apr 1645 - Feb 1718), in Little Compton RI, Joseph Church, Justice officiating. They had six children. After her death, he married Mary Pitman (1 Jan 1721 - 1782) on 22 Jul 1737, in Little Compton, at the 2nd Congregational Church. They moved to Newport RI, where they had two children. Thomas Davenport died 16 Aug 1745, in Little Compton. He was buried in the Common Burying Ground, in Newport RI. On 25 Sep 2013, at the Bonhams auction, the Queen Anne chairs sold for just $12,500.

From the Card File of American Craftspeople, 1600-1995. The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum 

For more on the early Davenports and Bramhall Hall:

For more on Rhode Island furniture:

(search for Davenport)

For more on Stephen Kinnane and continuing the tradition of fine furniture:

For more on the other Thomas Davenport and his electric wonders: