Saturday, July 30, 2011



While Great Grandmother Geraldine was creating a life for herself on a Fiji Island and Adeline, Bertha and Camilla were dealing with their own problems in 1870's Australia, the rest of their sixteen brothers and sisters were attempting to survive in Victorian England in circumstances much removed from their comfortable childhood.  

They each went their separate ways, Alice and Alfred junior, Madeline, Ernest, Constance, Evelyn, Ethelbert, some following their sisters to Australia, others staying closer to home.

This  is a follow up to the story about the Four Sisters from Sussex, the history of my grandmother Maggie’s mother Geraldine and three of her sisters. They were part of a family of 16 youngsters born to Ann and Alfred Sweeny in the years from 1840 to 1863.


In the early days of research I couldn’t quite believe the number  of children I was discovering.  At one stage I firmly believed some were adopted.  It took a while before I finally realised they were indeed all little Sweeny’s.

While my interest in the Four Sisters of Sussex  lay mainly with the fortunes of my great grandmother Geraldine and her offspring, I couldn’t avoid being constantly sidetracked into the comings and goings of her siblings, all 16 of them ... save for the three who didn’t survive early childhood. 

This postscript follows their lives after those halcyon days in the town of Worthing where their father was the respected Collector of Taxes, his ultimate downfall and the family’s steady disintegration as the surviving youngsters are scattered to the four corners of the globe.

I set about tracing their past some ten or so years ago and in that time uncovered their many aliases, their lives both at home in the UK and abroad in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

At the same time though, I discovered a steady stream of new relations, the offspring of the Sweeny survivors, the sons and daughters of Ann and Alfred.  My cousins many times removed.

The overall story I’ve amassed is seriously huge, I’ve posted shortened chapters, the whole though is far too involved to tell in random blogs.  But for those of you who want to know what happened to each and every one of those children  here is a potted version of The Sweeny’s – Life after Worthing.



1860, Alfred has taken the family to New Zealand on a failed attempt to resurrect their failing fortunes. He leaves first on the vessel Jura accompanied only by Ethelbert and Bertha.  Ann leaves a few months later with the remainder of the children on board the Avalanche.

It was certainly no pleasure cruise, she and her young family were accommodated in steerage, the voyage was long and uncomfortable.

After only a month in Auckland Alfred loses all interest in starting afresh in New Zealand and they return together to England on the Phoenix. They arrive back in Liverpool penniless and homeless, and are forced to seek charity from The Guardians in both Sussex and Wales. Their youngest son, Reginald conceived in New Zealand, died three years after his 1861 birth from the effects of burns to his neck. We have no idea how that happened.

Yet another daughter is born, Constance Olivia, bringing the family’s total  to 16 births and four deaths. Times are tough, the older children find work in distant towns, Bertha as a governess in Usk, Alice, aged 16 marries Alfred West in Liverpool.  The boys Alfred Robert, Ethelbert, Evelyn and Ernest are eventually all apprenticed to the maritime services.

Then in 1865, with two year old Constance a toddler and still mourning the death of her youngest son, Ann suffers the ultimate humiliation; Alfred deserts his wife to live with a younger woman, Sarah Grant, by whom he has a son. In a double blow to Ann Sweeny, this child is named Reginald Grant Sweeny.


Sarah Grant had been listed as his wife in documents and Alfred is again jailed.  At this stage Ann, earning a precarious living as a dressmaker in Rodney Street, Swansea, may well have decided to seek greener pastures and a better life for her family. 

She sets about planning her daughters future. Bertha is still in Usk, Alice Kate is married to Alfred West, and their mother Ann now has  only Frank, Madeline,  Adeline, Geraldine, Camilla and the baby of the family, Constance, at home with her. Ethelbert, Evelyn Walter and Ernest are all at sea, apprenticed to the  merchant navy. 

Australia was beckoning with schemes to attract young women to migrate with subsidised fares and positions available at the end of the voyage. By 1867 the first two Sweeny children had set sail for Australia, 17 year old Geraldine and 19 year old Adeline. Bertha would follow a year later.


A curious see-saw of emotion seemed to emerge at this time.  Their father’s disgrace and jailing made life difficult for the youngsters. The older ones remembered the privileged life they once enjoyed in Worthing. Faced now with cramped accommodation and accusers pointing fingers, their lives were suddenly shattered. 

About this time many of the youngsters began to take drastic and cunning means to either disguise their identity or cloak certain events in the secrecy of anonymity.  This subterfuge certainly made it difficult for researchers to later track their movements as one by one the Sweeny children frequently resorted to assumed surnames.

Their mother’s maiden name Keates was one alternative, the most favoured. Yet through all this duplicity each and every one of the children referred to their father on official documents as Alfred, either Sweeny or Keates ...a Solicitor.

Though Geraldine and her life in Fiji is the pivotal connection to the story of Maggie McGowan, my Gran,  each one of her mother’s siblings played a part in her life, some more so than others.  



ALFRED ROBERT: The eldest son Alfred Robert appeared to have deserted the family directly following his father’s first jailing. He took no part in the exodus to New Zealand and by the time his father had left Liverpool with Bertha and Ethelbert on the Jura, Alfred Robert had already left home assuming the name Keates to join the Marines as a lad of 16.  By the 1871 census though he is living in Swansea and charged with running a brothel in Salubrious Square. He emerged in later census records as the licensee of a Temperance Hotel.  

ALICE KATE: Alice Sweeny, the eldest daughter, lived in adjacent rooms to brother Alfred Robert when he was charged with running the brothel in Salubrious Square, Swansea.  She married her first husband Alfred West, seaman, at the age of 17 in November 1860, not long after the return from New Zealand in the Phoenix.  Her sister Bertha witnessed the marriage.  Father Alfred, in the space marked  ‘father’s profession or rank’, was listed with the simple statement ‘support of the local board of health’. In other words on charity.

 In Swansea records for 1866 there is a death notice for a one year old child named Alfred West. Alice would marry George Wheeler in 1868 and George Glover in 1875.  She died in 1893 at the stated age of 44 which meant at some time, perhaps on one of her marriage certificates, she had claimed to be four years younger.

EVELYN WALTER: Evelyn Walter, working in Portsea, Hampshire, hedged his bets by alternating between both Sweeny and Keates and dropping his first name altogether. He even went to the extreme of marrying the same woman, Annie Lloyd, twice, in 1891 and again in 1892 using both surnames, Sweeny and then Keates.

ETHELBERT:  Ethelbert kept his given name but at some time assumed a surname that had no connection whatever to the Sweeny’s or the Keates, Kirkland.  Of Ethelbert Sweeny, we do know he was accepted into the navy aged 16 in 1865 in the Welsh town of Llanelly and had he followed through his naval obligations should have been in the Navy until at least the late 1870’s.   However by 1872, as Ethelbert Kirkland, he is married to Eliza Brown and living in Melbourne, Australia giving his occupation as mariner.  His present day descendent,  Malcolm Kirkland, is actively involved in tracing the family history.

MADELINE MAY:  There is no record of Madeline resorting to subterfuge regarding her surname.  She married a shipwright, William Evans in 1880 and lived in Pembroke raising a large family.  Madeline and an Evans infant are mentioned in the 1901 census visiting her mother Anna Sweeny in London, so obviously she kept in touch with her parents and her younger sister Constance Olivia. 

Though Madeline is shown as a student residing with her father in Talley, this may have been at the time her parents were estranged.  She is later shown as Mrs Evans with her son Bernard living with her mother Anna and sister Constance in Swansea.

Over the years I despaired of ever finding out what happened to Madeline, about her later years, her children. Until just recently another of Geraldine’s great grand daughters on a motoring trip through the UK stayed a night at the Goat Hotel in Powys, Wales.  As luck would have it the owner was Madeline’s great grand daughter Alyson, at last a connection has been made.

This is a photo of Madeline’s present day kin, albeit taken a number of years ago, possibly in the 1940’s.  The gentleman to the right is Madeline’s son Bernard Evans.

CONSTANCE OLIVIA:  Constance, the youngest Sweeny, would in time marry George Fleming, a locomotive engine driver and bear eight children before her death in London in 1901. The youngest was a babe in arms. This was a double tragedy for the family, only a short while before her husband had been killed in a work related accident.  The eight young Flemings were subsequently left in the care of their grandmother the aged and senile Ann Sweeny and were placed in orphanages following her death.

One of those children, Francis Ivor Fleming, will in later years figure prominently in the story of my grandmother Maggie McGowan. His amazing life is detailed in closing chapters of the Ancestor Series.

I am extremely grateful to Constance Olivia’s present day kin, Peter and Kim Fleming who provided access to Peter’s account of Alfred and Ann Sweeny and constantly exchanged ‘finds’ with me as together we searched for Frank Fleming’s history.

CAMILLA NORAH: Camilla’s life is a sad one, her mother accompanied 13 year old Camilla and 16 year old Francis Albert to Australia on the Southern Ocean in 1868  leaving both in the care of their older sisters, Bertha, Adeline and Geraldine.  Camilla married Charles John Benjafield in Melbourne in 1874 but died with heart problems at the age of 32. Neither of her two sons survived childhood. Even Camilla at various times used the surname Keates.

FRANCIS ALBERT: Frank, a seaman never married, though he witnessed two of his sister’s weddings.  He died in Melbourne in 1888 with the name of Frank Albert Sweeny Keates. 

BERTHA: GERALDINE: ADELINE:  They arrived in Australia on the ships Red Jacket in 1866 and Atalanta in 1867.  All three of these girls, together with Camilla, will suffer most from the separation from their mother, and they too will resort to name changing as they face the tragedies that lie ahead.  Three of them brought illegitimate children into the world before eventually marrying the offspring’s fathers.

Their lives are recounted in the Four Sisters from Sussex.

THEIR PARENTS:  Alfred and Ann Sweeny reunited yet again and moved with the Fleming’s from Wales to London. By the 1891 London Census, Alfred is listed as secretary to a New Zealand gold mining company in the City; never for Alfred the demeaning title of clerk. Even when he worked for a law firm in Wales he gave his title as solicitor, though clerk would perhaps have been closer to the truth.  

Alfred all his life had yearned for success and position, but in the end, in 1904, a year after his wife, Ann’s death, he died alone and destitute in a crowded London work house for the aged and poor.

Sadly we have little in the way of photographs or personal letters to document the siblings lives.  Only two left photos for posterity but only one, Ernest,  left a record of his everyday thoughts.

ERNEST LEONARD:  Ernest Leonard played around with his name only to the extent of adding Charles, making him Ernest Leonard Charles Sweeny. By 1879 though, he too had settled in Australia marrying Ann Knight in Adelaide.  Ernest, of all the children, is the only one to leave behind his written word.  His great grandson Kim Sweeny has a treasure chest of letters written to his son Ernest Charles Sweeny in the early years of the twentieth century.

Perhaps through Ernest’s letters we can best understand the tragedy of the family’s disintegration.  Barely five years of age when Ann took her children aboard the Avalanche for that disastrous expedition to New Zealand, the small child along with his even younger siblings Evelyn Walter and Madeline May would have been bewildered by the acrimony surrounding his parents and the sudden change to their lifestyle.

Through all the drama of New Zealand and the return voyage on the Phoenix,  the breakup of his parents marriage, the very struggle to exist and the gradual disappearance from their lives of older siblings, the smaller children would no doubt have clung to their one constant, their mother, Ann Keates Sweeny.

This telegram points to another poignant episode in his life when he discovered the son he had believed dead nearly 20 years was actually alive.

Living in Wales his father Alfred signs the papers that will  apprentice his young son to maritime service.  In his own words, in a poignant letter written in 1902 to his own son he tells of the last time he saw his mother, Ann Sweeny in Wales, in the year 1870 when he was 15.

Ernest Leonard Sweeny, one of the 16 Sweeny children and the only one to leave behind any personal correspondence.

This photograph of Ernest Leonard in the latter years of his life, together with the studio portrait of Geraldine Orde Foreman are the only images so far found of the Sweeny’s.

Geraldine  - my great grandmother who sailed to Australia with her sister Adeline , married William McGowan in Fiji, then following his death married Robert Foreman.

               Kim Fleming, Constance Sweeny Fleming’s great grandson: He and his father Peter have together researched the life and times of the Sweeny’s in great depth.

Sweeny great grandsons today
Ethelbert’s grandson Malcolm Kirkland with his wife Meredith...and right Neredah and Kim Sweeny, Ernest Leonard’s grandson, pictured together in Melbourne, Victoria.

The first name choice, Kim, is a complete coincidence with neither branch of the family at the time having any idea the other even existed.



This journey through the lives of the Sweeny’s is an ongoing passion.   Where only a few short years ago the various family branches in the UK and in the southern hemisphere knew nothing about each other, there is now a contact of minds and memories.

A family history has evolved and with it an insight into the way life was lived in centuries past.  There are without a doubt numerous other descendants of the Sweeny’s who right now are living in far flung parts of the world. From them I’m sure new stories will continue to emerge, new secrets will be revealed and an old photo or two will surface. 

All grist for this historian’s pen. 

Meanwhile I continue to live in hope, but hurry up and make contact, I’m not getting any younger! 


For readers who have just discovered the ongoing Sweeny Sagas, you need to search back through the blogs archives,  to the Ancestor Series and in particular to Four Sisters from Sussex.

Robyn Mortimer ©2011
Next : A return to Straddie.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


There’s a special intangible quality that goes hand in hand with living in a small community, especially when that community is an island of no more than two thousand permanent inhabitants... a floating population that swells in holiday times to well over 40,000.

As one of the lucky permanents you treasure the quiet times, the friendships both nodding and close.  These are the men and women you sit next to on the water taxi’s we reluctantly take to the mainland, the fellow fishermen you cast your lines beside on the ocean beaches, the neighbours you pass the time of day with,  and the passing island motorists who raise a hand in laconic salute:  An acceptance that you and he, or she, are fellow residents in paradise, your vehicle and status duly recognized. 

You’re never quite sure just what hidden gem is lurking behind a genial smile, a workplace uniform or a fitness freak out and about,  power walking along the bush trails.

None though are more special nor surprising than a young woman from France whose present life revolves around the koalas of North Stradbroke Island.


Romane Cristescu is a Veterinary Scientist, a graduate of the University of Tours with a Master in genetics, the Veterinary School of Alfort,  and worked with the University of Rennes on a gorilla project for her Veterinary thesis.  She has dedicated her life to animals in the wild, and arrived in Australia by way of Africa and the western lowland gorillas of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville.)

While by comparison with koalas her interaction with the gorillas was kept safely hands off, this modest young lady fell in love with the primates and their family life and was devastated when it came time for her to move on.

I don’t think Romane had the least inkling what was ahead of her when she accepted the assignment to study the koalas of Straddie:  Not the slightest idea that perhaps when the kids at the local school created a poster about their koala project, that central drawing of the two koalas, Suzy and Sam, might just have been the portent of personal events yet to come.

Romane and school teacher Nicole.

To speak to Romane is to be captivated by her French chic and captivating accent; if it weren’t for her obvious reluctance to be photographed you could imagine her on the fashion catwalks of Paris.  And that’s not so far fetched, sister Moira is a fashion designer with Karl Lagerfeld’s personal label. In fact all the Cristescu girls are high achievers, one in French politics, another a Geographer.   Not surprisingly she springs from a well travelled family.

Moira Cristescu, Fashion Designer (centre)



Koalas are unique to Australia, together with the kangaroo and the kookaburra they are the more readily identified icons of the Aussie outback.  But like all wild animals in developing countries they are endangered, their numbers affected by urban sprawl, by climate change and by disease.

Where in Africa Romane encountered the Ebola threatened gorillas, in Australia she observes the Chlamydia diseases threatening our koala population. Mainland koala numbers are dwindling and scientists and conservationists like Romane are leading the battle to stem the downward slide.  

Romane spends a great deal of time out in the field, she says that while the koalas on Straddie actually have one of the lowest genetic footsteps in South East Queensland their body condition is healthy and they don’t show signs of the diseases so prevalent on the mainland. Which is a great plus for us and for the koalas.

 Much of this could be due to the past 50 years of mining on the Island, an activity that has put a stop to the  crowded over-development apparent on adjoining islands in Moreton Bay.

With rehabilitation of mined areas ensuring the replanting of native Eucalypt trees this acre upon acre of native flora is the koala equivalent of their own personal delicatessen.  As Romane said, the koalas are obviously moving in and out of the rehabilitated areas with some spending much of their time there finding new little companions and reproducing..

Romane’s title and professional credentials are seriously long; officially for her work on Straddie she is Romane Cristescu, a PhD student from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales and the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, University of Queensland currently ending three years on the Island tracking koalas and studying their interaction with mining rehabilitation.

In all that time she has worn the uniform of the mines, the bright yellow work shirt, the everyday trousers, hard hat and the sturdy, no nonsense boots.  Her days have been spent assessing the wild life population, tracking koala families with radio collars, a practice she  tells me she wishes she could avoid. As she put it, those collars cannot be comfortable, can they?.

 I’m amazed when she tells me  a specially trained koala sniffer dog will soon help make the finding of koalas a whole lot easier. The same man who trains the sniffer dogs for Airports and Police Drug Squads is behind a new addition to Romane’s household, one that is going to have to coexist with her pet cat and four chickens.

Straddie is a large island and though only a small percentage has actually been mined, the three townships take up only another minuscule  proportion of the total leaving plenty of room for the pursuit of nature. And the kids of Dunwich love anything at all to do with wild life or the great outdoors and what’s more they don’t have far to go to find it...

So when Romane offered to show the youngsters how she locates koalas in the high branches of Eucalypt trees she had only to step out into the playground to find some likely subjects.

If you go back to the Straddie Series 5, A Surprising Slice of History you will see the beautifully green historical cemetery just across from the local school grounds pictured above. The koala’s from time to time cross the road, back and forth, managing to avoid passing cars or buses and giving onlookers minor heart attacks in the process.

Koalas in the wild aren’t cuddly little bundles of fur to be played with, they aren’t even easy to sight munching away as they do in the uppermost branches of the trees.  Even the tell tale signs of claws scratching their way up the bark aren‘t always easy to identify, so for the excited youngsters wafting their antennas aloft this was show and tell with a difference.

Romane has fitted easily into Straddie’s community, joining in the ever present social life, donning the party clothes her sister would be more attune with, becoming another familiar face to wave to and wish well.  Her work here has added to our knowledge of koalas, given youngsters like the school kids of Dunwich a better idea of what’s going on in the trees around them, all the little Sam’s and Suzies they drew on their poster.

Her studies have assured the mines that their rehabilitation methods are working, the koala and the other arboreal marsupials native to the island, the feathered, sugar and squirrel gliders are re-colonising and moving between undisturbed areas and the new growth, and what’s more they are breeding. 

I think the future for North Stradbroke Island is looking very good indeed.

And what of Romane’s future?  Her work is ongoing.  Yesterday it was Africa, today it is still Australia.  But what of tomorrow?

Straddie doesn’t want to see her go.  We can only hope the koala’s keep as firm a tug on her heart strings as does a certain other who for now will remain nameless.


All these photos are from Romane’s personal collection.


Robyn Mortimer ©2011

Monday, July 11, 2011



Chester County today
Contrary to what I’ve so far written, not all Quakers were necessarily holier than thou.

In the early 1680’s when Quaker William Penn established his first settlement on the Delaware he set it up with all the accoutrements of an Olde English Town ...a governing body, resident sheriff, meeting house, jail, a pair of stocks and a whipping post.

Obviously he thought there might be a few bad eggs amongst his flock deserving at some time or other of a jolly good flogging.

And he was right, human nature being as similar back then as it is today there was bound to be those whose path bordered on the criminal.



The Whipping Post may have been initially designed as a deterrent, but it seemed while some offenders received the full wrath of the Court, others got away with blue murder...

One poor unfortunate, Abraham Effingall was lawfully convicted for abusing  and menacing the ‘Majestracy of this County’ and was ordered twenty one lashes at the ‘Publicke Whipping Post on his bear backe, well laid on, and 14 dayes imprisonment at hard labour in ye House of Correction.’

Another soul viewing this punishment with horror was ‘Lawrence Carolus (who) by ye ingagemt of Ja. Saundilands was to appeare at this Cort, but was called three tymes and appeared not.’

I don’t blame him, nor would I.


However when indentured servant Margaret Person complained that her Master, John Colbert ‘ill used and beat her Contrary to Law’, the Court merely ordered that someone else should take her off his hands by paying the seven pounds the servant girl had already cost him.  Colbert himself got off scot free.

It was left to two judiciaries of the Court to find a (new) master for the servant, one willing to cough up the seven pounds. It took a while, but another settler, Walter Faucett stepped forward with the cash and Margaret and her cruel boss were finally whipping for him.




While the sanctity of marriage was sacred to Quakers as depicted in this silhouette image of distant kin Hannah Thornbrough and Abraham Woodward, a devoted couple who lived in the 1700’s, there were a few others incurring marital hiccups along the way.

On one such occasion the law came uncomfortably close to family when William the Immigrant’s brother, James Brown stirred the interest of the Court in the days of Penn’s early settlement.

 It happened in a Case regarding one Benjamin Ingram and Jane Hendrix who were charged with being ‘unlawfully married in the house of James Brown of Chichester’ in January of 1698.

The charge was brought before the Jury with my many times great-great Uncle James and his wife Honour, together with eight others including their servant maid being called before the Chester Court as witnesses to the unlawful marriage.

That must have been a bit embarrassing for James Brown, not only was his wife’s father William Clayton, a respected Justice of the Peace,  James himself was an appointed Sheriff.


Earlier, in December of 1697, when Edward Bezer and Jeane Collett set up house together they neglected to make it official and were duly presented to Court for being unlawfully married.  In his petition Bezer declared it (happened) through his ignorance.  The Court pondered on this  plea and then ordered that he pay the charges of the court and make his address to the Governor.

I can only imagine address should have read redress, as in ‘very sorry my lord, won’t let it happen again my lord.’


Another intending groom must have had second thoughts about the costly process of a legal marriage. In 1684 Joseph Cookson was presented at Court for taking a wife ‘contrary to the good and wholesome laws of this Province’.

Accordingly he was ordered to ‘find security (as a commitment) for ten pounds.’  But he must have weighed the attributes of his wife to be against the excessive injury to his pocket and as the Court was later advised...’he appears not to have been further troubled about the matter.’



In small communities it’s only a matter of time before close relationships are formed. Henry Reynolds, the tavern keeper, for instance became James Brown’s brother-in-law when Henry married Prudence Clayton, and James married Honour Clayton.

Honour’s father William Clayton was the most prominent member of the Chester Meeting, having receiving due commission before his departure from England, and together with the famous Daniel Francis Pastorius, was one of Pennsylvania’s first two Judges.

Following his arrival in Marcus Hooke,  Henry Reynolds became a publican and proprietor of a tavern  where he sold liquor with, and sometimes without license. (The problems with the ready availability of strong liquors was growing and eventually the Governor of the Colony will impose restraints on the sale of strong drink such as rum to ‘ye Indians.’)

Already Reynolds has been found guilty of illegal dealings in regard to liquor and has established a reputation  for a quick temper as no doubt subsequent courts were well aware of...

In 1685 for instance, Reynolds sued one Justa Anderson for scandalous and defamatory words when he reported that Reynolds had beaten his servant girl and the next day she died.

Appearing for Reynolds, the plaintiff, were among others his brother in law James Brown.

Evidence was given that Justa Anderson had seen Reynolds ‘kick and beate his maide’, an indentured servant,  and that he saw her alive no more.  Several more witnesses came forward alleging Reynolds lifted ‘up the tongs’ and threatened to strike the girl ‘for not eating such things as was provided for her.’

Another came forward to say he had seen Reynolds ‘beat his maide with a broome staff and afterwards kick her as she was by ye fire.’

But the last witness provided the most inventive story of all when he said he ‘see the maide sleeping by ye fireside and sometimes afterward she went to bed after which a revelation came to (him) that the maide would dye that night.’

The final person called to give evidence was Prudence Clayton, Henry’s mother in law, who had been called to lay out the dead girls body.  Prudence told the court she could remember ‘no manner of hurt about her’.

Despite his mother-in-law’s evidence the Jury found however, for the defendant, Justa Anderson.  The order of the court held on the seventh month of 1685 showed ‘execution’ be granted against Henry Reynolds for ye Crown’s fees, charges of Inquest and taking up ye said Reynolds maide, with all other charges whatsoever thereunto belonging.

The sheriff in this execution levied on an ox, and Reynolds at the next Court had to pay 4 pounds 10 shillings. when the ‘court ordered him his Oxe againe.’

When the defamation charge was dismissed no charge of murder or manslaughter was laid, but it’s no wonder Henry Reynolds didn’t remain a Quaker for long.



By the time William Penn and Thomas Calvert had begun disputing the border rights of the Nottingham Lots children of these major players in our Quaker lines were coming of marriageable age.  The Reynolds and the Browns, both James and William.

Three of William ‘the Immigrant’ Brown’s children will marry Reynolds siblings:  Richard Brown, who will be known as ‘The Entrepreneur’ will marry Hannah Reynolds, while William’s two youngest daughters, Mary will wed William Reynolds, and Hannah Brown will marry Henry Reynolds Jnr.

The Reynolds Patriarch, Henry of the quick temper, had prospered with his taverns and land purchase and when he died in 1724 he left all his sons large tracts of land, including two separate blocks on the Nottingham Lots.  These were the blocks left to William and young Henry and their brides to be.  (To his four daughters the miserable old man left only one shilling each.)

On the Nottingham Lot number 17, Henry, and I’m presuming this was the son and not the father, erected a stone building, a tavern designed as a stage stop. Over the front entrance he erected a swinging sign depicting the rays of the sun at dawn with the lettering reading ‘The Rising Sun.’

Old Rising Sun Tavern by David J. Kennedy
From this central position evolved the village of Summer Hill  eventually to become known as the town of Rising Sun. It became a veritable crossroads and centre of a busy agricultural community, and would in the years to come see the railroad come to town.

And because of the ongoing dispute between William Penn and the Calvert family over their border rights, the Town of Rising Sun would have the rare claim to have been located in two different States of the Union. For decades the townsfolk considered themselves part of Chester County, Pennsylvania until the Mason Dixon line pushed them into the Cecil County of Maryland. 

The ‘Cecil’ tag, by the way, being in memory of the Calvert’s noble patriarch back in England who never set foot in Maryland but provided the wherewithal for his sons to prosper in this new country.

Today the old memories of Rising Sun and the Nottingham Lot disputes are long gone but I wonder if anyone today ever gives thought to the Quakers and the Tavern Keeper whose intermarried families first gave breath to their community.


The Browns, Reynolds, Thornburgh’s and Claytons of this chapter are all inter-related in one way or another and I do hope I haven’t offended any of their descendents with some of the more irreverent stories I have related.  If it’s any consolation, they’re all kinfolk to me as well.

Robyn Mortimer ©2011

Monday, July 4, 2011



Writing and creating these chronicles is a bit like time travel,  a roller coaster ride between the past and the present. It seems with every new journey I manage to uncover ever more surprising links and hidden secrets, as you will see with this story about the Dutton girls.

In this story much of the action takes place in the same geographical area but over a period of a hundred years...



While  trawling the web for bits and pieces on the American Civil War to include in Dennis Brown’s Quaker chapter, I came across a delightful love story about a dashing young Union Lieutenant and a pert young lady from Waterford in Virginia.

This anecdote documented by Meredith McBean McMath, brought alive a family’s often told story, and its contents remained in my mind long after I had finished writing the extended story of my Quaker family.

Though I didn’t realise it at the time, my earliest Brown Quakers were also those of the young heroine of Meredith’s account...

...On a road in the heart of Virginia, a handsome soldier in Confederate uniform approached a pretty young miss.  The fellow’s name was J. William Hutchinson and he was actually a Union officer with the 13th new York Cavalry, but acting as a Scout in enemy territory.  Soldiers weren’t allowed out of uniform, but he needed to be mistaken for a Rebel soldier in order to gather information.  So he became a turncoat, literally turning his blue cavalry jacket inside out to let the muslin lining be taken for Confederate homespun.

In this ‘disguise’ Lieutenant Hutchinson approached the young lady and politely asked directions.

From there things took an interesting turn.

Although a Virginian, the girl was a Quaker from the town of Waterford, and she and her village were faithful to the Union cause.  Her name was Lida Dutton, and, she was soon to become the editor of an underground newspaper.

While it was against the tenets of Lida’s faith to knowingly lie, it was against her nature to knowingly help a Confederate get where he was going any faster than he should.   Her solution was to give the fellow directions only a local could understand:  “Left at Brown’s stump, right at Uncle Harmon’s well, left at Zilpha’s Rock....”

At the end of these impossible to follow instructions, Hutchinson quietly asked, “Miss,  which side would you like for me to be on?”

She blurted, “If you’re a Rebel I hate you ;  if you’re a Northerner I love you!”

At that point he was pleased to introduce himself as Lieutenant John William Hutchinson of the 13th New York Cavalry, followed by a presentation of the ‘lining’ of his jacket, the brass buttons and navy wool of a Union officer.

Then he told her he planned to hold her to her promise.

                                                Meredith McBean McMath

And he did.



Our American Quaker Brown’s go back a long way, and so too do the Dutton’s, in fact they both go back to the Nottingham Lots where they were neighbours.

The Browns were among the first Friends from England to establish their early settlements along the Delaware in 1677. Like all my Quaker forebears there was a great deal of marriage and intermarriage in those first formative years in Maryland, and later in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and for me, sorting them out became very taxing indeed.  

The Dutton’s didn’t disappoint me.

While this particular story is about three clever and daring young ladies of the 1860’s, Lida and Lizzie Dutton and their cousin Sarah Steer, for me their Quaker story really begins with a great-great seven times-removed Aunt, the twenty year old Ann Brown, preparing for her marriage in her home on one of the newly established Nottingham Lots, way back in the early 1700’s.. 


The ceremony takes place in the year 1707 in the home of the bride’s father, William Brown the Immigrant and his second wife Ann Mercer. The groom is Robert Dutton, an original resident of the Nottingham Lots and the ceremony  is witnessed by Andrew Job and John Churchman, Ann’s cousin.

 Both young people are Quakers;  All those present are residents of William Penn’s Nottingham Lots.   Robert’s father, John Dutton, is deceased and his mother Mary is now married to John Neeld of Aston.

The 20 year old bride is about the same age as the more modern 1864 counterparts of our main story, but while all four girls are Quakers, Ann will not be called on to put her pacifist beliefs to the quite the same test.

Signatures of Robert and Ann Dutton on a 1712 lease.
The Dutton’s would later acquire further large tracts of land from his deceased father’s estate.  In 1716 Robert will build a mill at the North East settlement, a mill with a forge and furnace for iron working.  His business will prosper and he will make regular business trips to Jamaica. But Robert makes one trip too many and we suddenly hear no more about him or of his family.

Until finally in 1736, again in the home of her father William Brown,  his daughter, the widowed  Ann Dutton, is married to the widower John Underhill.  Her son Robert, and daughter Elizabeth Dutton witness the simple Quaker ceremony.

An so the spirit of the pioneer Quakers, both Dutton’s and Browns, is passed down through the generations  to our three inventive and patriotic young ladies of Waterford.



Waterford, Virginia circa 1864 from the Waterford Foundation

Quakers in Virginia in the 1860’s were in an awkward situation, their sympathies torn between the Union and the Confederacy. The peaceful separation that existed between Quakers and the slaveholding estates to the south quickly became mired as Virginia moved towards secession and war.

The town of Waterford in Loudoun County virtually straddled a no man’s land  and would do so throughout the Civil War with the southern rebel Confederates treating  the citizens of Waterford as traitors to the cause.  As a consequence the town suffered deprivation with pillaging and continuing seesaw invasion from both armies.

With the imposed blockade from the North and with no resident force to protect them, Loudoun County was at the mercy of the soldiers from the south.  Farms were torched, barns destroyed, livestock including horses confiscated.  The situation became so grave one Quaker mill owner, Samuel Cornelius Means was finally pushed to such an extent he personally raised a Union Cavalry Unit, the Loudoun Rangers, the sole Union Cavalry unit from Virginia.

While most Quakers maintained a strict neutrality caring for soldiers from both sides of the  conflict, they all feared being conscripted by force into Southern armies
Two Quakers fled to Maryland to escape this harassment and arrest:  John B. Dutton and Samuel Steer used their business and family ties in Maryland to set up trade stores on the border, thus enabling them to assist their Waterford families with goods and supplies.

Their daughters though stayed behind and became active participants in a surprising underground movement to support the Union cause. They became the editors and publishers of a subtle, rabble rousing newspaper.



 The Janney's property adjoined the Brown's.

Time travel back to Virginia’s beginnings threw up some interesting connections.  Not the least was that of Amos Janney, farmer and surveyor, and, as you’ve probably guessed,  a Quaker connecting back to the Nottingham Lots.

Amos was given the task of surveying the extensive Fairfax estates in Virginia, in a particular area around the Catoctin Creek that would become known as Taylorstown; a hamlet I might add that is just five miles north of the village of Waterford.

(The accompanying map shows the close proximity of the original Catoctin Creek settlements to  Waterford, and for keen eyes even includes the areas mapped by Amos Janney and settled on by Richard Brown.)

Following Amos Janney’s surveying of the Fairfax land, those measurements were then included in Richard Brown’s patent registered in the Proprietor’s Office in 1741...

...The land grant begins by identifying the proprietor of the Northern Neck of Virginia: Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron in Scotland. It then declares that Richard Brown, previously of Pennsylvania, will be given a tract of land near the Catoctin Creek. The land had been surveyed by Amos Janney...

The purchaser was my Brown ancestor, Richard the Entrepreneur (see Quakers 3), who was brother to Ann Brown, Robert Dutton’s wife, both the children of William Brown the Immigrant and his second wife Ann Mercer.

Richard went on to build grist mills and forges and accrue even more land holdings.  His third wife, the Irish born Mary Norton provided Mercer, the son who would continue my particular strand of the Brown family... (and provide the fodder for the following six Quaker chapters.) 

While the Janney’s would join the marriage merry-go-round when a Janney nephew, Mahlon, marries a Brown niece, Sarah in the Quaker Meeting House in Fairfax.

 And the Dutton story will continue a hundred years later when the Janney’s become fellow residents of the Dutton’s in Waterford and with them help celebrate the outcome of the Civil War.



Lida and Lizzie Dutton were bright, well educated, extremely clever and very forthright with their opinions on the war and the Confederacy.  They were not anyone’s image of what pious and retiring young Quaker girls should be.

Lida was just 19 and Lizzie 26 and engaged to a Lieutenant Holmes of the 7th Indiana Regiment.  Their brother James had already joined the Union army.  For the Dutton’s the war had become personal, not only did they have loved ones at the front, they themselves were constantly in the midst of battle.

It seemed though, they managed to stifle their Quaker beliefs as one of their future editorials would only too blatantly show...”Christians make the best soldiers.”

Together with their cousin Sarah Steer they created and published a secret newspaper to help cheer the boys in blue, the soldiers of the Union, while at the same time nursing the sick and injured from both sides of the war. They had no background in journalism but as the Southerners continued to harass and torment the town and countryside, burning barns and homes and pillaging supplies, the three girls dreamed up a plan to strike back at the Rebels.  

The Waterford News was born on May 28th, 1864, a four page edition with proceeds from its 10 cent price to be handed to the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a non government organization formed in 1861 to provide health and medical care to Union troops. Their efforts would raise over $1000 for the Commission.

Publishing and distributing a clearly  pro-Union newspaper within the jurisdiction of Southern Rebels was a hazardous and dangerous occupation.  At the time Loudoun County was under blockade by the Union, a desperate  attempt to cut off supplies to the southern armies. 

But Rebel raids and attacks  continued to strip the Loudoun County of livestock and grain.  Despite the efforts of men like John Dutton and Samuel Steer who had fled to Maryland and now filtered much needed supplies back to the town, the citizens of Waterford and the surrounding County were suffering.

The girls hoped their paper would help persuade the newly installed President, Abraham Lincoln,  to lift the embargo and perhaps even garrison the town of Waterford to provide some protection from attack. 

The three cousins wrote and edited their copy in the Dutton house in the centre of town.  The contents were then smuggled across the border to Maryland where a newspaper editor, a friend of John Dutton, set and printed the editions.

Sunnyside, the Dutton house on Second Street where the Waterford News was written.
The paper’s contents were quirky and full of news from home – ‘The young ladies of Waterford...are hereby notified to meet the first opportunity and lend their mutual aid in filling a large mud-hole with stone, said mud-hole being located in the middle of Second Street...the men have driven around it so much that it is extending each side.  Being fearful the gentlemen will get their feet muddy, the ladies will try and remedy it.’

Or in the Wanted column...

  • ...A Union commander to take charge of the Rebel Conscripting officers.
  • ...a great big Pound Sponge Loaf or Ginger Cake to be distributed amongst the Union Ladies of Waterford who haven’t tasted any for a long time...
  • ...a straight-jacket for the Editor who was bent on having her own way.

But while the paper showed evidence of the girls keen sense of humour it also reflected the tragedy  of the times.  Lizzie’s fiancĂ© Lieutenant David Holmes was killed in the Battle of Petersburg; a short time later the editorial of the July 2 1864 Waterford News read...

...let not kind words, loving tones and love of good deeds cease to find a place in our hearts.  Now, if ever, is the time to ‘cast bread upon the waters’, when tired and weary ones are all around us and starvation stares so many in the face...when hope leaves and misery looks at us with hollow eyes...


With the war limping to a close General Grant authorises a raid on Loudoun County, this Union foray a precursor to Sherman’s victorious March to the Sea.

In local circles it becomes known as The Burning Raid, though in the Waterford News the Dutton girls call it ‘The Fury Order’.  The idea was to burn out the farms still able to provide forage to Confederate raider Colonel Mosby and his men.

Over a period of five days from late November 1864, the people of Loudoun County watched the Union soldiers destroy what they had been hiding and protecting from southern marauders for four years. 

The fires and the resulting smoke hung darkly over the countryside.  Some cheered the soldiers on, anything to stop the rebel Mosley and his gang.

Others though found it hard to accept.  When a Union soldier demanded matches from one Quaker lady for the sole purpose of burning down her barn, she quietly held the match sticks in the steam from her kettle before handing them over.  Her barn was saved.

I wonder did the three Waterford News Editors cast their minds back to an editorial they wrote in the July 2, 1864 edition, just five months prior to the burning...

...many threats have been made about burning our houses over our devoted heads.  But Waterford is still standing and we trust it may stand long in the future to remind other generations that in its time-honoured walls once dwelt as true lovers of their country as ever breathed the breath of life-long suffering, but stood faithfully to the end...

The burning and destruction however did have the desired affect on Confederate diehards, the spirit of rebellion had been broken.  By April of the following year the people were welcoming a peace.

And how did the good people of Waterford celebrate?

A record of sorts was written by a disgruntled Confederate who wrote a short bitter note and slipped it into his record book for posterity to read in later years...

...great rejoicing with the Union people in regard to the fall of Richmond and the surrender of General Lee.  It is said Samuel M. Janney had the old gobbler (turkey) killed and invited many of his Union friends to eat and be merry. William Tate shut himself up in a room and laughed his fill... Bill Lemmon and Lot Tavener have gone fishing, they say the work is done.  Thorton Witacker says the backbone of the Confederacy is broken and the war is about over...


Aerial view of Waterford and the Catoctin Creek  by Laura Shaw

With their newspaper’s work done and the war over, the three girls continued writing articles.  Susan Steer achieved her ambition to open a school for the children of freed slaves and became the first teacher of black children in Loudoun County.

Lizzie had maintained a correspondence with a friend and comrade of her deceased fiancĂ©, a Lieutenant Joseph Dunlop who returned to Indiana to marry his childhood sweetheart.    His wife died after only two years of marriage, and some years later on a business trip to Washington, James made contact with Lizzie Dutton and they were married in 1882.


And that just leaves the story of Lida Dutton and her handsome Lieutenant.

John William Hutchinson made good his promise to hold her to her word when she said all those years ago, if he was a Northerner then she would love him, if he was a Southerner she would hate him.

When the war ended the dashing young man came back to Waterford to claim his sweetheart, and they married.   He joined the Quaker church and the young couple moved to New York.

Lida always blushingly denied she had said ‘love’,  her actual word, she claimed had been ‘like’.  But that was an argument that held no ground.  The two raised a loving family and in their old age were inseparable, surrounded by children and grandchildren. 

They were married for 53 years before the gallant Lieutenant passed away.

Following in the footsteps of all our Quakers they shared a momentous moment in history, and a story their family will never forget.

Robyn Mortimer ©2011

Much of this historical information in this chapter has been sourced from the Waterford Foundation Society.