Wednesday, July 4, 2018

1776: AARON THOMAS, Continental Soldier

5th Great Grandfather: Aaron Thomas (1754 Preston City, CT-1825 Dearborn, MI)
Continental Colors 1776

"Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."
(14 June 1777, Continental Congress)

In late 1775, young Aaron Thomas answered the call to arms, enlisting in the Continental Army only months after “the shot heard round the world” was fired at Lexington and Concord. The Revolutionary War of Independence had begun. As a soldier in the 10th Regiment of the Connecticut Line, Aaron helped to found a new nation, no longer identified by the Union Jack, but not yet identified with thirteen stars and stripes.

Our family can trace its heritage back seven generations to the birth of this new nation, with a number of Revolutionary soldiers as great-great-great-great-great grandfathers -some of whom were already fourth-generation Americans, like Aaron Thomas -father of Michigan pioneer, Alanson Thomas.

As we celebrate our country’s road to independence, paved by people like Aaron, let us not forget that generations of our family defined and defended the freedoms we enjoy today. Although only a few details of Aaron’s life are revealed in the following requests for a military service pension, it does suggest that his life was fraught with hardships, necessitating repeated applications to the government for financial assistance based on the Revolutionary Claim Act of 1818. In 1820 he was granted a monthly pension of $8.

(Transcript of documents below)

Territory of Michigan
County of Wayne

On this 18th day of July 1820, personally appeared in open Court, being a Court of record for said County, Aaron Thomas, aged sixty seven years, resident in Detroit in said County, who being first duly sworn according to Law doth on his oath declared, though that he served in the revolutionary war, as follows, that he enlisted in a Company commanded by Captain Ebenezer Brewster, in the Regiment commanded by Col. Parsons, in the Connecticut line, in December, 1775, & that he continued in the Service until December 1776, when he was discharged; that his original declaration, for a pension, under this act of Congress of the 18th of March, 1818 was dated the 20th day of March 1819; that he has received as pension certificate, under the act aforesaid numbering 14894.
And I do solemnly swear, that I was a resident citizen of the United States, on the 18th of March 1818, and that I have not, since that time, by gift sale or in any manner, disposed of my property or any part thereof, with intent thereby so to diminish it as to bring myself within the provisions of an act of Congress, entitled “an act to provide for certain persons, engaged in the Land & naval Services of the United States, in the revolutionary war,” passed the 18th Day of March, 1818 and that I have not, nor has any person, in trust for me, any property or securities, contracts or debts due to me, nor have I any Income, other than is contained in the Schedules hereunto annexed.
To wit, Two Cows, one ass, one hoe, one scythe, one rake, & one pitchfork. (signature) Aaron Thomas.

I also declare, and state, that my occupation is that of a Farrier, that from infirmity, I am unable to obtain as livelihood by it, that my family consists of myself and wife.

(by different hand) I Aron Thomas declare and state, that I was born in Preston in the State of Connecticutt -that I am now and always have been a citizen of the United States- that on, or about the first day of January 1776- I enlisted into a company in the Continental Army of the Revolution, commanded by Capt. Ebenezer Brewster, in Col. Parsons Regiment, in which company I continued to serve for the term of twelve months, and was discharged in the State of New Jersey-
I have now no written discharge to exhibit- I never received any pension -am Sixty Six years of age, in reduced circumstances and stand in need of support from my Country- I have no other evidence now in my power, of the aforesaid service—
Detroit 23d March 1819~ (signature) Aron Thomasse

Territory of Michigan
Detroit 23d March 1819
I James Witherell, one of the Judges in and over the Territory aforesaid do certifie that Aron Thomas signed and made oath to the above declaration as containing the truth, according to his best recollection before me— and I further certifie that I well know him to be indigent circumstances the annexed is the Seal of the Supreme Court of the Territory--- (signature) J.Witherell
Pension details for Aaron Thomas

NOTE: land purchase: Aaron Thomas 1754-1825 (son of Aaron and Zipporah) purchased 437.60 acres of land from the US Government in 1808 in the River Rouge/Dearborn/Detroit area of Wayne County, Michigan. (source record to be verified)
Page 1 Pension Application 1820

Page 2 (top) Pension Application 1820

Pension Request 1819

Friday, June 15, 2018

THE WINSOR CONNECTIONS: William Jennings Bryan

1915 William Jennings Bryan & wife Mary Baird
Sometimes you just never know what might fall out when you start shaking the family tree! This is especially true with our female ancestors, whose family names sometimes get lost through marriage. The surname of Winsor, however, has endured. Look at what I found when I traced that branch leading back to a shared lineage:

"The Great Commoner"
He was the youngest Presidential nominee of a major party in U. S. history. William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, a former Congressman, ran as the Democratic nominee for President in 1896. Only 36, he was one year older than the minimum age requirement.  (He won the Democratic party’s nomination three times: 1896, 1900, 1908.)
·         William served as Secretary of State for U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.
·         He was called “The Great Commoner” –‘In 1896 William Jennings Bryan, a young man with a golden voice and the air of a Victorian tragic actor, rose into prominence as the champion of the distressed American farmer. Candidate of the Democrats and the Populists, he polled only 14,001 votes too few to win the Presidency of the United States, and he did this by campaigning as a progressive and a reformer against the vested interests of Eastern financiers.’ (George Woodcock, History Today, 1957)
"Daybreak" by Parrish, Kitty reclining
Ironically, his granddaughter “Kitty” Leavitt Owen married one of those ‘Eastern financiers,’ Robert Lehman, CEO of one of the top three investment banks in the U.S. at that time, Lehman Brothers. In the 20’s, Kitty modeled for a number of Maxfield Parrish’s well-known paintings and Life magazine covers. Kitty’s daughter “Kaywin” Winsor Meeker’s middle name honored her great-great-great grandmother -my great-great-great grandfather's sister- Mehitabel Winsor*.
Ruth Baird Owen
William and Mary’s daughter (and Kitty’s mother) Ruth Baird Owen was appointed the first female chief of mission as head of the U.S. Embassy for Denmark and Iceland in 1933. (Prior to that, she was elected as Florida’s first female U.S. Representative.)

·         Mehitabel*, or “Hitty,” is our family’s link to the family connection with William Jennings Bryan: from Mehitabel Winsor who married Darius Dexter, to their daughter Maria “Lavina” Dexter who married John H. Baird, to their daughter Mary E. Baird who married William Jennings Bryan.

·         Author L. Frank Baum satirized Bryan as the Cowardly Lion in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. Baum had been a Republican activist in 1896 and promoted Bryan’s opponent’s bid for the presidency.
  As counsel for the prosecution in the celebrated 1925 Scopes case (known as the ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’) Bryan successfully defended the right of the State of Tennessee to forbid the teaching of Evolution. On Day 7 of the trial, council for the defense Clarence Darrow changed tactics by calling prosecutor Bryan as a witness. The deal was that Bryan, in turn, would get to do the same. Attempting to undermine Bryan’s stance on biblical versus evolutionary history, a scathing inquisition by Darrow’s select experts resulted in the judge deeming the heated debate irrelevant to the case, and ordering it expunged from the court record. Thus, Bryan never got a chance to question Darrow on the witness stand. Although the case was later appealed and found constitutional, it was overturned on a technicality. William Jennings Bryan died suddenly, five days after the trial's conclusion. His body lay at state in the courthouse where, only days before, he had vigorously argued the Scopes case.  
·         William Jennings Bryan was buried, as he had wished, in Arlington National Cemetery. He earned the rank of Colonel in the 3rd Nebraska Volunteer Infantry while serving in the Spanish American War. Mary, “wife and helpmate” was also buried with him there.