........ Conjecture, noun, the formation of judgments or opinions on the basis of incomplete or inconclusive information. Source: Encarta Dictionary

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Penelope Prince, a runaway from Kent Island, Maryland?

The text below is a letter written by Nora James (please identify yourself) to the website WeRelate, where people work to "build a unified family tree containing the best information from all contributors." See  http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person_talk:Penelope_Kent_(1)

"After many years (approximately 10) of obsessive research about the identity of the person known in legend as Penelope Van Princis/Van Princess/Kent and Thomson before deciding that I needed to get on with actual life on this here Earth, it is my strong opinion that her name was Penelope Prince; that she was English, that she came to Kent Island (note, "Kent" Island) in the Chesapeake under indenture by Robert Vaughan (note the similarily in pronunciation to the "Van" in one version of the legends about her; that she was the same Penelope Prince whom Robert Vaughan testified in court records in about 1656 and who ran away from her indenture in 1646-7 or so during the time of troubles on Kent Island; that she was working out her indenture in the service of William Cox and his wife Frances on Kent Island and that they lived near Richard Thompson/Thomson (note the "Thompson/Thomson" in some versions of her name) on Kent Island who was involved in a big old major way in the "Time of Troubles" that led to her running away; that another version of her surname that pops up in some versions is "Lent" and there was a man named "Lent" living on Kent Island and who figured in that "Time of Troubles." It is also very possible (though by no means proven) that she was the Penelope Prince who was born in 1629 in Stepney and baptized at St. Dunstan's.

"Penelope Prince ran away from Kent Island in 1646-7 (according to the testimony of Robert Vaughan); the Penelope who marries Richard Stout appears in the historical record as "Penelope Prince" in 1648 on Gravesend in Long Island. It is an educated guess on my part, and based on extraordinarily strong circumstantial evidence contained in the legends about her, that the Penelope Prince who married Richard Stout is the same person who was the Penelope Prince living on Kent Island from 1644-6.

"Take this and run with it or ignore it, I don't much care at this point, but anyone who wants to see this for themselves can look at Filby's at the entry for Penelope Prince which references the court testimony of Robert Vaughan in 1656, and read about the history of Kent Island during the time of troubles with William Claiborne, and read the various versions of the legends of Penelope Van Princess in all of those old histories of New Jersey, and consider how it is that legends take shape over time and names become misunderstood, and begin to understand how it might be that those who wrote down the stories of Penelope Prince many years after her death might have misunderstood how a young English girl on "Kent" Island in the 1640's, who was brought to the island by Robert "Vaughan," and who ran away during a war in which her neighbor Richard "Thompson" figured prominently as did her neighbor "_____ Lent," and might have merged all of these names into hers in print, making it almost impossible to determine her identity without careful consideration.

"At another time I will try to explain all of this and source it better, including why I believe there is a strong chance that she was the same Penelope Prince born in England, but at least for now I offer you Filby's for Penelope Prince and the Gravesend Town Records for someone of the same name. And for whatever it's worth, the records of St. Dunstan's in the East where Penelope Prince was baptized in 1629, the child of Mary Kilburn and Lawrence Prince."

unsigned User:Norajames
posted at WeRelate by administrator Jennifer JBS66 19 April 2011

On another page http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person:Penelope_Prince_(2) of the same website is written:

"Penelope Prince was born in Stepney, in what is now the east end of London, in 1629. Her mother, Mary Kilburn, was a widow when she married Lawrence Prince, a tailor, at St. Dunstan's in the East on 17 May 1629. Penelope was baptized at St. Dunstan's three months later, on 20 Sep 1629. Lawrence died in 1630 and was buried at St. Dunstan's in February of that year. See the records of St. Dunstan's church for the records of all of these, which can be viewed on microfilm at a Family History Center....

"Penelope Prince was an indentured servant at home of William and Frances Cox on Kent Island from 1644 to 1646. The Coxes had a tobacco plantation on Kent Island, and two small children. Penelope ran away during the "time of troubles" on that island, in 1646. See Filby's for the reference to a record of a court proceeding in 1656 wherein Robert Vaughan testifies that Penelope ran away in that year. "

This is Jim writing now. I don't know what to make of this but if an indentured servant were fleeing Kent Island in 1646-7, the logical path would be northeast to the Swedish settlement of Fort Christina (now Wilmington, DE) on the Delaware River, about 40 miles as the crow flies. The economies of both Maryland and Virginia were built on indentured servitude at that time and the authorities in those colonies were sure to enforce the law by returning runaways to the master. New Sweden was a foreign country and, as far as I know, didn't have indentured servants.
I am intrigued because of Nicholas Stillwell, another ancestor of mine. Virginia Protestants settled Kent Island in Cheaspeake Bay, east of Annapolis, and did not take kindly to their king re-assigning their home to Catholic Maryland in the 1630s . The political squabbles and armed assaults led by William Claiborne resulted in Nicholas Stillwell (among others) being banished from both Maryland and Virginia. Stillwell settled in Manhattan and joined the Gravesend group in the original settlement of 1643, did not rejoin in 1645 resettlement but purchased a lot in 1648 and was elected magitrate in 1649.

In my novel Nicholas Stillwell and his wife are major characters who help Penelope.

If anyone has more to contribute to this subject, please let me know.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Was Penelope Scalped?

The earliest reference I’ve found that claims Indians scalped Penelope was printed in 1876 by John Carroll Power in Early Settlers of Sangamon County [IL] – 1876. Springfield, IL: E. L. Merritt & Bro., Printers, 1876. pp 690-3

Even though John Carroll Power cites Benedict’s book as a source, this 1876 version disagrees in many respects with Benedict. See how many you can identify.

This garbling of a cited source suggests that the scalping was invented or at least was an embellishment of the original.

“STOUT, the origin of this family in America is quite romantic. The principal points in their history may be found in Benedict's History of the Baptists. Some of his statements are based on the writings of an earlier historian. The following embraces all that is known on the subject:

“Some time during the seventeenth century, probably about 1680 or '90, a young couple just married in Holland, embarked on a vessel bound for America. The voyage was prosperous until they were nearing the port of New Amsterdam, now the city of New York. The vessel was wrecked off what is now the coast of New Jersey, and nearly all on board drowned. The young couple of Hollanders, escaped drowning and with a small number of the passengers and crew succeeded in reaching the shore. Upon landing they were attacked by Indians, who lay in ambush awaiting their arrival. The whole party were tomahawked, scalped and otherwise mutilated, and left for dead. All were dead except the wife, from Holland. She alone survived, and although her scalp was removed and she was otherwise horribly mangled, she had sufficient remaining strength to crawl away from the scene of the slaughter, and secreted herself in a hollow log which was concealed by underbrush. She lay there a day or two, during which time her mental and bodily suffering may be imagined but cannot be described. She finally made up her mind that there was no possibility of her escaping with life; that if she remained quiet she would certainly die of hunger and thirst, and if she attempted to seek sustenance, that would expose her to the Indians, who would be sure to kill her. At this juncture, a deer, with an arrow sticking in its body, ran past where she was. This led her to believe that Indians were near, and she reasoned that it would be a much easier death to let them kill her, than to endure the pangs of starvation by remaining where she was. She then summoned all her remaining strength and dragged her body out to an open space that the Indians might see her should they pursue the deer. In a short time three of the savages appeared on its trail. Two of them rushed upon her with uplifted tomahawks, but the third one, a chief, restrained them and saved her life. It was not humanity, but gain that prompted him to this act of mercy. He took his prisoner to New Amsterdam and there received a ransom for her. That placed her in the hands of friends who gave her the proper surgical treatment and nursing as she recovered. The name of her husband is not known, neither is her own family name, nothing but her first or given name, Penelope; a name that has stood for more than twenty-five centuries, in tradition and literature, as the highest ideal of a true and loyal wife. It will readily be understood that I allude to one of the creations of Homer, the father of Greek poetry. A brief statement of the case, gleaned from his works will not be out of place here.

"When the Greeks declared war against Troy...[omitting long paragraph on  Trojan War]

“This modern Penelope had no such doubts to contend with. The death of her first husband was only too sure, having been witnessed by her own eyes. After her recovery, she became acquainted with and married an Englishman by the name of Richard Stout. They then went over into New Jersey, made themselves a home and raised a family of twelve sons. One of them, Jonathan Stout, and his family, were the founders of the Hope well settlement, in Hunterdon county, New Jersey, where Hopewell Baptist Church was afterwards constituted. Of the first fifteen members, nine were Stouts. The church was organized at the house of a Stout, and for forty years their meetings were held chiefly at the houses of the Stouts; after which they erected their first house of worship. In 1790, two of the deacons and four of the elders were Stouts. Jonathan Stout lived until his descendants were multiplied to one hundred and seventeen....

“The Stouts very justly take pride in their family history, and being mostly Baptists, they take pride in their Baptist history also. When they meet a stranger by the name of Stout, who manifests a disposition to claim relationship, they apply one test only in their family history. They do not ask him to pronounce the word Shibboleth, but ascertain if he has any knowledge of PENELOPE, and if he knows nothing of her, they know nothing of him. In other words, they do not cultivate his acquaintance, in the direction of relationship, any further.”

The same passage (minus the long-winded paragraph about the Trojan War) also appeared in PORTRAIT & BIOGRAPHICAL ALBUM OF SANGAMON COUNTY, ILLINOIS , Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1891  p 493 and in PAST AND PRESENT OF THE CITY OF SPRINGFIELD AND SANGAMON COUNTY ILLINOIS by Joseph Wallace, M. A. of the Springfield Bar (The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL 1904).

The novel ideas in this passage are
Voyage about 1680 or 1690
A mention of New Jersey but not Sandy Hook
Indians lay in ambush at time of shipwreck
Tomahawked and scalped
Three Indians rescued her
Twelve sons

However, I do like their method of distinguishing Stouts who are relatives from non-relatives.

If anyone knows of an earlier scalping reference, please let me know.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Often Heard about her Adventures When He Was Young

The previous blog entry discussed Therese Walling Seabrook. Among some hand-written letters to Therese found in the Vera Conover collection at Monmouth County Historical Association by Kathleen Mirabella is the one below from Joseph Harrison West, of Mercer County, NJ, a local politician and historian and genealogist as well as descendant of Penelope. The content under discussion is obviously the account of Penelope’s experiences, presumably similar to what Mrs. Seabrook published in the Midget (circa 1891) and what John Stillwell published in 1916.
What I find interesting are the memories of the writer’s father, Joseph L. West, who “never saw or read an account of Penelope Stout.” Mr. West, Sr. had heard many of stories but not the scar story.

“Hamilton Square, NJ July 8, 1886
“Cousin Therese:

“I venture to call you cousin, although we are beyond the third degree of consanguinity.
“I have been much pleased in reading your letter, and have read it two or three times. The tradition, as you have it, reads very much like the account in Smith’s, 1765, history of New Jersey, excepting the part which speaks of Penelope’s allowing her grandson, John, to pass his hand over the scar. There is no doubt but what it is all true, though I never heard that part before. Penelope must have lived to 1730, as John Stout was probably a young man about that time; and though I have doubted, a little, that she lived to be 110 years old, yet according to your accounts, it must have been a fact.

“My father, also, never saw or read an account of Penelope Stout, yet when I read to him the story as published in 1790, he said he had often heard about her adventures when he was young. I am a grandson of Annie Stout West. In her father’s bible it is spelled Anne and in the West bible Anna. It is likely that I am the youngest of all the great grand children of John Stout. My father was her youngest son, and I am his youngest.
“Grandmother was born in 1755, my father in 1798, and I in 1847.”

[skip sections]

“And now I come to grandmother Anne, who married William West, a son of Bartholomew, who was of the Monmouth Wests. I suppose you saw my “West” article in the Monmouth Democrat last April. William and Anne had nine children. They have all passed away. My father died in 1876, and he the next youngest, William S., died last spring aged 90 years and some months. Grandmother died in 1814.”
[no closing; missing page(s); but we know it is from Joseph West from the contents as well as from other complete letters in this handwriting and with his signature.]

The genealogy of Joseph H. West is as follows:

Richard Stout + Penelope
John Stout (-1724) + Elizabeth Crawford
Richard Stout (1678-about 1749/50)+ Esther Tilton
John Stout (1701-1782) + Margaret Taylor (about 1711-)
Anne Stout (1755-1814) + William West (-1850)
Joseph Lippet West (1798-1876) + Hannah Hammell (1804-)
Joseph Harrison West (1847-) + Mary Reed Appleton (-)

Thus Joseph H. West and Therese Walling Seabrook were 2nd cousins, one generation removed.

It’s nice to know that the various stories passed down through the generations in New Jersey substantially agree and that Penelope herself wanted her descendants to remember her adventures and survival. Next time, a family tradition that seems somewhat garbled.