Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Friday, August 31, 2018

BEFORE THERE WAS ME THERE WERE FAMILIES -- WILSONS

 WILSONS
Wilson is another name of great popularity. Apparently, this maternal side of my mother’s family was from Scotland, although I am not totally certain of the fact. My first cousin, Horace Dunlap Wilson, did a historic manuscript of the family, but it ended with a William Wilson, born in 1795 in Delaware. He was married to a woman named Susan. This Wilson died in about 1865. But you can see with so many William Wilsons about I have not been able to verify who came earlier.

The surname Wilson apparently came from Vikings who settled in Scotland during the Middle Ages. My DNA does contain Scandinavia traces.

What is absolutely certain is that my great great grandfather, William Frederick Wilson I,  married Esther Helen Bicking;

although, not so certain is the date of the wedding. Esther Bicking's family immigrated from Winterburg, Westphalia, Germany sometime in the mid-1700s. Her father, Frederick, managed one of the several paper mills started by the family in and around Milltown, Pennsylvania, which later became known as Downingtown. The family continued in the paper business through several generations not ending until the retirement of Frank Park Bicking in 1992. Frank was the great-grandson of S. Austin Bicking, who sold his share in the Dorlan’s Mill to open the first paper mill in Downingtown in 1880. (On the right is Ronald Tipton standing by the ruins of the Dorlan’s Mill in 2004, my photo.)


William and Esther begat six children and here lines began to entangle. Their third child was a daughter named Emma Bicking Wilson. In 1866 Emma married Benjamin Franklin Meredith I. Benjamin and Emma are my Great, Great Grandparents on my father’s side.  


William and Esther’s fourth child, Emma’s brother William II, married Anna Margaret Dunlap on March 25, 1879. Anna was the third child of James Evans Dunlap and Rachel Supplee Boyer (James is pictured on the left; Rachel is pictured on right). William and Anna are my Great Grandparents on my mother’s side. 

This means William II is also my Great Uncle and Emma is my Great Aunt. My mother and father are Second Cousins.6

 William Frederick Wilson II went by the name Fred (He is the middle rider in the photo.). He was a busy fellow. He owned a  great deal of land in Uwchlan Township, which he called Marchwood, where he farmed and raised dairy cattle. He sold the milk in Philadelphia where he gained a reputation for honesty. He also was an auctioneer and the proprietor of the Brandywine Hotel that existed once above Coatesville.  

William II, as did his father, had six children, the three eldest boys and the three youngest girls. William Frederick Wilson III, known as Billy, and Samuel Heber (who went by Heber) were long time farmers in Chester County. The middle of the three sons was
James Evans (who went by Evans, pictured on left). He was also a farmer, but died in 1931 bringing hay to the barn. He slipped off the wagon and its wheels ran over his head. James left behind two young children, Mildred and Robert (Bob). 


Robert was to later own a number of local
Add caption
hotels, including  The Eagle Tavern (left) in Eagle and The Swan Hotel  (right) in Downingtown.

The oldest of the three daughters also died young. Her name was Helen (pictured on right) and she taught school. Her sister, Clara   (pictured left) and she married two brothers, Joel Ellsworth Downing and Herford Evans Downing, direct descendants of Thomas Downing, who founded Downingtown. Clara had seven children with Ellsworth. However, Helen died from complications in the birth of her second child, Emily Margaret. Helen was 29 years old
.
The family was to experience a schism some years later from this sad death. As is often the case it was a trifling matter. When Helen died, her oldest brother Billy and his wife Lizzie adopted Emily Margaret Downing. Herford kept his son; Herford Jr.  Herford Sr. remarried a year after Helen’s demise.

In my youth I attended the annual Wilson Family reunions. I always enjoyed being with my Cousin Audrey June White. She attended with her mother, Beulah Downing White and grandmother Sadie Guest, who was a sweet elderly lady. I was to learn through my research that  Audrey was not my cousin. Sadie Guest was the second wife of Herford Downing Sr. after Helen’s death. Beulah had then been Sadie’s child by Herford and thus not blood kin. 8

For whatever reason, the wife of Herford Jr. resented Sadie
Guest being invited to the reunions and made a “them or us” proclamation. The family elected to continue inviting Sadie, Beulah and Aubrey and so Ruth and her family boycotted the reunions for a number of years.  (Pictured on right are the combatants, Sadie Guest Downing and Ruth Downing.) 

William and Anna’s sixth child was Esther, born in 1899 (pictured left at age 12). She is my Grandmother. You may notice that my Grandmother Esther and my Aunt Helen were named in honor of their grandmother, Esther Helen Bicking.

(The picture captioned Our Family is from left to right standing: Heber, Clara, Evans, Billy and Helen; seated is William Frederick [Fred] Wilson II and Anna Margaret Dunlap Wilson holding baby Esther, 1899) 

My Great Grandmother Anna Wilson was a Dunlap (shown on right in 1890). She died in 1934, 7 years before I was born, so I really never met the Dunlaps, save one. They lived in Honeybrook, Pennsylvania.

Anna had siblings, a brother and
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three sisters.The  brother, I believe his name was James, same as his father, went west to man his fortune and then went down to South America and disappeared. No one ever heard from him again. The oldest of the sisters was the only one to marry, she is the one in the center sitting on the rock. On the left was Belle, who I know very little about. Both she and the oldest girl died in 1940. Perched up on the right, holding a dog is Harriett, better known as Hattie for the elaborate hats she would often wear.  

As I said, only the oldest daughter ever married. Her name was
Mary Elizabeth Lily Dunlap (she went by Lilly). She married Elias David Dague and they had three children to help run their farm.  Pictured left to right are Jonathan Graham, Mary Jane, Aunt Lily and Uncle Elias. 

The “1 missing” in the photo was the oldest son, Oscar David Elias Dague (pictured on left here). The photos of the Dagues were taken in 1902. 

The Dunlap I knew was Harriett, Aunt Hattie.  I was always a
little afraid of her. You must remember she was 71 when I was born and I was only 11 or 12 when she died. We sometimes visited her and at that time she lived in an apartment in West Philadelphia along Baltimore Avenue, about a block away from where I would live in the 1960s.  I remember her place as being small and dark with a musty smell.

Aunt Hattie was a fiercely independent woman, who seemed to know a number of smart and influential people. She may have frightened me as a boy, but I see a lot of her nature and strength in my middle daughter Noelle, whom the younger Harriett (left) bore a physical resemblance.




 Footnotes:

6. Wilson Family History
by Horace Wilson (pictured right)
1990


7. Chester and Delaware County Families
Volume 2
Chester County Historical Society Library


8. Thomas Downing (pictured right)
Email Concerning Downing family
August 6, 1999










Tuesday, August 28, 2018

BEFORE THERE WAS ME THERE WERE FAMILIES: PART II -- BROWNS

Brown is one of those-surnames seemingly everywhere, too common and too generic to make climbing the branches of the right family tree easy. I do not know where the root may have sprung up or when any seeds spread across the pond to America. My best guess is my line of Browns is Irish, but they may have been those British in my DNA.


The photo on the left is of Millard Charlton Brown, Sr., holding his son, my grandfather, Francis Fizz down II. It was taken in 1900, the year my grandfather was born.


I don't think my grandfather changed much in looks over his life. The photo on the right was taken only three years before his death. He is seated next to my grandmother and holding a source of his early demise.

Certainly the Browns were long-time residents of Chester County, Pennsylvania and Quaker at one time, so perhaps they  were Welsh also, who drifted off to the Methodists at some point of history. There is a link to former President Richard M. Nixon, whether that is something I should say or keep to myself is the question. Nixon may fall into the category of skeletons in the closet. Should anyone admit to a man who’ll do a “yee-haw” on a tractor with a cowboy hat while dressed in suit and tie or take a stroll down the beach wearing Wingtips, for that matter?

Quakers Families who dwelled in Chester County from the 1700s are all pretty much related now, as I am one way or the other related to Darlingtons, Brintons, Downings, Dunlaps, Thomases and of course the Milhouses.

Case in point: Joshua Baldwin was a son of John Baldwin, an immigrant from  Oxfordshire, England to Aston, Pennsylvania prior to 1689.  Joshua was born at West Chester in 1721 and in 1747 at a Quaker Meetinghouse (pictured right) in Goshen married Miss Mercy Brown. Mercy was my 5-Great Grand Aunt, sister of my 5-Great Grandfather George H. Brown. Joshua and Mercy had among their seven children a girl named Hannah. Hannah Baldwin married William Milhous in 1767 and you might say some history was in the making. William Milhous was Richard Nixon’s Great-Great Grandfather and like it or nor this made me a fourth cousin to the disgraced President.3

Joshua Baldwin stands proof of the intertwining of we Chester County families. He had three wives, Mercy being number two after his first wife, Sarah Downing died. After Mercy’s passing he took a third spouse, Ann Meredith. Brown, Downing and Meredith are all family antecedents of yours truly.

George H. Brown was the Grandfather of Francis Fizz Brown (1855-1911). By this time the family were members in good
standing at the Grove Methodist Episcopal Church. The contractors Morgan Ruth and Richard Templeton Meredith constructed the present church building in 1888-89 at a cost of $7,000 (yes,  $7,000, no missing zeros). It is a small world this Chester County for Richard Templeton Meredith is my Second Cousin.4

Francis Fizz Brown was a builder of barns. He took a fatal fall off a slippery barn roof in Phoenixville and died after some hours of suffering. He was 56 years old.5 Forty-six years later his Grandson and namesake, my maternal Grandfather, was to die at 57 years of age.

 My Great Grandfather Millard Charlton Brown also was a builder, taking the business a step further and constructing many of the homes that dotted his corner of Chester County, especially along Boot Road in West Whiteland Township. Millard died in one of the houses he built, broken-hearted after the death of his wife, Sara Anne Smiley.

Millard and Sara had four boys and a girl. Millard trained the boys in aspects of the building trade, Millard Jr. (known as Bus) was an electrician, Ralph did plumbing and Paul kept books. My Grandfather, Francis (known as Brownie) was a carpenter. (Pictured on right are Millard Charlton Brown Sr. & Sara Anne Smiley.)
On the left is the home where Millard died on December 2, 1950. It is one of the houses he built. His wife died on July 24 of the same year. She was 71 and he was 73. My grandfather and I discovered his body as we stopped by his  home for a pre-Christmas visit. I was 9 years old.
Oddly enough my paternal grandparents died in 1950 as well, on May 14 and June 4. They were both in their 80s. I did not know
my paternal grandparents well, but I did my  maternal grandparents, having visited them often as a child. I always pictured them as this very elderly couple who reminded me of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” couple. Pictured right the year they died, both several years younger than I am now. 

Footnotes:
3. Records of Goshen Meetinghouse
Ray Downing
The Downing Family
1999 

4. Martha Leigh Wolf and Diane Sekura Snyder
A History Of West Whiteland
West Whiteland Historical Commission
Exton, Pa.
1982

5. Daily Local News
West Chester, Pa.
November 2, 1911
Stored in the Chester County Historical Society Library




Monday, August 27, 2018

BEFORE THERE WAS ME THERE WERE FAMILIES: 1-- MEREDITHS

You don’t pick your ancestors. They don’t pick you either. You sort of happen to them and they’re kind of stuck with you and you with them. They give a little something of themselves to you called genes. You take these scraps and build upon them, add to them and come up with a new creature called you. Some of that start up material you may like, some not so much. You may have great, great grandmother Sarah’s eyes and granduncle Elmer’s hair or lack of. Perhaps you got a cute button nose from mother or a big honking honker from father.
Maybe some special talent flowed through family blood to your veins, an artistic bent or ability to lead. Weaknesses may twirl down the spiral of DNA as well. There may be a history of drink, of temper, of shyness or you may always be too skinny or too fat because that’s just the way the family mutated.
Whatever your families sowed through the centuries of being is in the seeds of your existence. Hopefully you make the best of the good and the least of the bad inherent within you. It doesn’t matter what your family was; you are a new beginning. Still it can be interesting knowing whether the tree you dropped off of was Golden Delicious or Crabapple.

I don’t know of a white apple, but according to my DNA Test I am about as white as one can get. If I was any more pale I’d be invisible or at least transparent.My ethnicity is 52% British, 22% Irish, Scot and Welsh, 18% Western European and 6% Finish and Northern Russian. The other 2% is undeterminable, which probably means I have bloodlines on other planets who immigrated here in UFOs and most likely illegally.

These are briefly my family roots.



I
MEREDITHS




Families can be a royal pain, quite literally. There are red-blooded Americans and Blue Bloods and sometimes we find our blood stained by a bit of ancient royal purple.
My surname went through some evolution of spelling from Maredudd to Meredydd to the modern Meredith. The original Old Welsh was Morgetiud. Apparently the first half of the name means pomp or splendor and the second half means “lord”. I have also heard claims the name meant “protector of the Sea”, more likely “Sea Lord”. Similar words as “mere” and “mare” translate to sea or lake in various languages including Latin, Old High German, Old Norse, etc. (according to the Free dictionary.com).  Mer also means sea in French, mare means sea in Italian and mar is sea in Spanish. Dudd or Dydd in Old Welsh means “lord”. The double dd in Welsh is pronounced like the English th, kind of a lisp sound. The proper way of saying my surname is Ma-Red-Dith, not Mare-Dith.
The name first appeared in Northeast Wales in the ancient historic county of Denbighshire, a place that goes well back before William, Duke of Normandy invaded and defeated the British at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
The Meredith motto was “Heb Dwuw her ddim, a Duw a digon”, which means truly, “Without God there is nothing”.

This is the Legend of Meredith.
 In the fifth and sixth centuries AD, many tribal chiefs and
princes ruled the country of Cymry, what we know today as Wales. Each and all were in constant struggle to dominate. Maelgwn (pictured left) one of the stronger princes was attempting to bring some order and unite the varied warlords under one chief, hopefully himself. He gathered all the most powerful princes together. This council made a proposal. Each prince would sit upon a seaside chair. The king would be he who sat the longest as high tide covered the shore.
Maelgwn visited Maeldav the Old. A number of scholars, who spend their lives worrying  about such things, believe Maeldav was the same wizard known as Merlin in the King Arthurian Myths. (Pictured right, and indeed, there are those who propose Maelgwn
as the model of King Arthur.) Maeldav the Old prepared a chair constructed from waxed bird wings. Maelgwn sat upon his chair the longest since it rose and floated above the tide. Because of this deception, the people declared him Chief Prince and bestowed the title Maredudd upon him. The exact meaning of this word is not certain, but may mean Protector of the Sea.1
The title Maredudd eventually became a surname and the spelling evolved through Maredydd to become Meredith. The proper pronunciation is Ma-Red-ith, not Mare-Dith. My family used Ma-Red-ith when I was a child, but at some point my father surrendered to the more common use of Mare-Dith.
“I got tired ev’ry time I gave my name they said, ‘Spell it’. I spelled it and they’d say, ‘Oh, Mare-Dith,’ I jus’ got tired of spellin’ it.” 
I discovered as a young man, despite how I might announce myself, everybody still asked me to spell my last name, except in Dallas where Don Meredith , former Cowboy quarterback and Monday Night Football commentator was a hero.
Maelgwn, who is an actual historic figure (c.497 - c.560 AD), was my 43-Great Grandfather (pictured on left). He had at least two children (and probably many more not recorded), a son named Rhun and a daughter Gwawr.  In case  you wonder, that was pronounced either as Go-AAR (heavy on the AAR like a pirate ) or Goo-aar (a bit more feminine, I suppose). It was probably considered a pretty name for a girl within her native tongue since gwawr means “dawn”.
To just give equal time to both these offspring, Rhun is pronounced as Rheen and means charm and mystery, also mighty.
Gwawr may not be what you would name your daughter and I certainly didn’t name either of my daughters that; nonetheless Gwawr was my 42-Great Grandmother married to one Eliylt Llydanwyn ap Meirchion. This was a period long before surnames came into existence. The little word “ap” means “son of”; therefore, Eliylt was the son of Meirchion.
Eliylt and Gwawr begat Llywarch Hen ap Elidir (note the slight change in the spelling of Elitlt). Llywarch allegedly had 42 children. His wives are not noted. (It is an assumption on my part that with 42 children he probably had more than one woman in his life.)
As one can begin to see, my family tree is a web of odd relationships, because Rhun is also my 43-Great Grandfather, indicating he and his sister Gwawr began two separate lines of my father’s ancestors. (It also indicates Rhun shared a wife with his father, but the less said about such things the better. This is not the last of such entanglements and confusion couplings, but we will get to some more of that a bit later and in a more recent period.) 
Meanwhile, Rhun begat Beli and so forth and after many
permutations we reach my  32-Great Grandfather Rhodri “Mawr” (“Mawr” meaning “the Great”) ap Merfyn, King of Wales, from 855 toAD-878 AD  (pictured left). From there we continued through a number of kings and princes until Gruffydd ap Cynan, Prince of Gwunedd in 1081. Gruffydd (pronounced Griffith) had a son named Cadwaladr ap Gruffudd, who was my 24-Great Grandfather and another son named Owain ap Gruffudd, King of Gwynedd (pronounced Gwenith), 1137 AD-1179 AD. 
(By the way, note that I refuse to change to the use of C.E. and B.C.E. [Current Era and Before Current Era]. Just because the cynics of the world fear God so much they want to eliminate any reference to his Deity doesn’t mean I’ll go along.)
Owain was my 24-Great Grand Uncle and his grandson, my second cousin, was Llywelyn Fawr ap Iowerth. (Fawr is not a given name, but a descriptive add-on, and just like “Mawr”, means  “The Great”.) 
Llywelyn Fawr was great enough in his day that he took as a wife the illegitimate daughter of John Lackland, known as Joan of England (pictured left). John Lackland was the King of England at the time and is best known for signing the Magna Carta. As a result of this union I am a 24th cousin to Queen Elizabeth II. I suppose if enough people were to die and her grandchildren would stop having babies, I would have a claim to the British crown.  
All this is ancient history having little to do with who I am
today. It is interesting to discover one has a bit of Royal DNA, but it doesn’t buy me any castles or put a farthing in my pocket. Yet there is an interesting tidbit, a coincidence of time, in this past.
Llywelyn Fawr had a son named Gruffydd who had a son also named Llywelyn (pictured right). This was Llywelyn the Last, the final REAL Prince of Wales. He was also my 4th Cousin. Cousin Llywelyn the Last died at  Buellt (Bu-lith) on December 11, 1282 during King Edward I of England’s conquest of Wales. As Fate often does just to have a giggle, the soldier who killed my cousin Llywelyn, was an ancestor of my friend, Ronald Tipton.
Of course much of history is full of uncertainty and it is disputed exactly who killed Llywelyn the Last and in what manner. According to legend, he was accidentally chanced upon (which is basically true) at the Battle of Orewin by forces of Edmund Mortimer and Hugh Le Strange. Attempting to flee back to his own forces he was pursued and and killed by a lone lancer, a soldier completely unaware of whom he was. Sir Robert Brody was the alleged soldier named in contemporary ballads of the time.
Other accounts claim while the captured Llywelyn was kneeling in prayer Stephen Frankton of Ellesmere came behind and struck off his head. It is a fact Llywellyn’s head was carried to King Edward, displayed in th city pillory of London with ian vy crown and then carried to the Tower of London where it was set over the gate for the next 15 years..2
King Edward then had the audacity to proclaim his own son, Edward II. the Prince of Wales and ever since there remains an English pretender using that title. Quite frankly, I have more claims to that title then Prince Charles.




Footnotes:
 
1. Owen M(organ) Edwards (right)
Hanes Cymru (History of Wales)
Company Publishers Cywreig
Wales
1901

Referenced by Charles Hoffman Thomas in a letter dated August 5, 1905 to my Great Uncle Benjamin Franklin Meredith II. 

2. Paul M. Remfry (right)
The Final Campaign of Prince Llywelyn
Castles of Wales
1998


Also genealogy research by this author and Ronald W. Tipton. (Below)