Everybody loves Wednesday, right?
The week's half over. The weekend is on the way.
What's not to love?
Each Wednesday, I want to share something with you
that I absolutely love and can't live without!
For those who love genealogy, few things are more frustrating than a lack of focus. Rabbit trails are everywhere. It's easy to get lost chasing one, but much harder to find your way back to the main road. I struggle with my research strategy. Some days, I determine to stay on path and follow a surname: child to father to child to father, etc. Other times, I decide to research in what I call a "generational wave pattern", where I focus on my four sets of grandparents or eight sets of great-grandparents or 16 sets of great-great-grandparents. Which can be really overwhelming. Frustrated, I will go back to direct lines. Which is where I was yesterday, when I made a neat historical discovery. My 8th ggf saved the colony of Connecticut! Single-handedly! Well, sort of. Here's the story...
Joseph Wadsworth was born March 17, 1650, in Hartford, Connecticut. (I know, a Yankee. But we had to start somewhere, right? Stay with me...) He was the son of William Wadsworth (1594-1675) and Elizabeth Stone (1621-1682).
In 1662, King Charles II of England granted a charter to those who lived in the Connecticut Colony. It basically assured the citizens the right to self government, including a governor, deputy governor, twelve assistants and other officials elected as needed by the colony "freeman". They were to meet twice a year. The charter also guaranteed the full rights and privileges of the British citizenry to all those born is said colony. Full rights and self-government. Sounds great, doesn't it? It was. Until a new king came into power.
James II, grandson of King James I (of KJV Bible fame), didn't think so. He appointed Sir Edmond Andrus as governor of ALL of New England, and instructed him to pull Connecticut's charter. Happy to oblige, Andrus marched into Hartford on October 31, 1687, with his plastic pumpkin-shaped basket on his arm, planning to snatch the charter from Connecticut as if he were taking candy from a baby, thus making him the first Trick or Treater in U.S. history. OK - so I made that up. Some of it. He did arrive on October 31st, and he did mean business, but, boy, did he have another thing coming.
Everyone knew why Andrus was there, including Joseph Wadsworth, who was a captain in the train-band (local militia). Andrus met with colony officials at Moses Butler's tavern. It was night and the room was lit with candles. Andrus demanded the charter amidst pleas from officials, including Governor Treat. At some point in the argument and confusion, the candles were extinguished. When they were relit, the charter, which had been placed on a table, was missing! Joseph had grabbed the charter in the chaos and fled the building. He went directly to the home of Samuel Wyllys, a colony magistrate, and hid the charter in the hollow of a large oak tree.
Some believe that the charter used that night was just a copy, because the colonists didn't dare lose the original to Andrus. Regardless, Andrus asserted his power, even without the charter, but his government was overthrown a couple of years later in Boston.
The tree was believed to have been several hundred years old, and unfortunately, fell during a storm in 1856. However, the wood was salvaged and used to make the desk used by Connecticut's governors, as well as chairs for the state's speaker of the house and senate president.
The charter oak even made it to the back of the Connecticut quarter in 1999.
In doing more research on this event, I came across a book called Wadsworth, or The Charter Oak by William Henry Gocher. It was published in 1904 and is now in the public domain, so I was able to download it for free!
(Side note here - since we have started homeschooling, I have become familiar with a number of American History texts that were written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Far from being outdated, these books are fascinating. Most are written in narrative style, and all of them are replete with wonderful stories of patriots. They are written from the perspective that America was established with God in mind and by men and women who fiercely believed in the will and providence of the Almighty. And the most exciting thing is, many of these books can be found online for free!)
Here is my ancestral line from Joseph Wadsworth.
Captain Joseph Wadsworth (1650-1729)
Jonathan Wadsworth (1687-1739)
Captain Samuel Wadsworth (1716-1799)
Hannah Wadsworth (1750-1801)
James W. Hilyer (1797-1870)
Franklin Carter Hilyer (1821-1864)
William Alvin Hilyer (1859-1937)
James Edmond Hilyer (1881-1961)
Lucien Hilyer (1909-1998)
Billy Dwight Hilyer (1944- )
Melissa LaKay Hilyer (1969- )
On it's own, this is a wonderful example of America's determination to self-govern. The fact that my ancestor was involved is just gravy. Yummy, historical, genealogical gravy.
I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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