Saturday, May 31, 2014

4) Researching the Life of a British Loyalist: Abner Wolcott's grandfather - redeemed, unredeemed or we will never really know.

The Wolcott Society's Working Hypothesis (that's my name for this theory!) is that John Wolcott of Brookfield in Massachusetts Colony and probable ancestor of Abner Wolcott as well as the Mylotts of Whitehall, Hudson Falls, and Waterford, NY, was captured as a young teen in 1708 by French allied Native Americans.  He was restored to his New England Wolcott family in Brookfield after 7-8 years of living with indigenous people and acculturing into their native community. Upon his return to Brookfield, his family bestowed acres and acres of land to him, he participated in the local militia,  married his sister in law Dinah Walker,  impregnated her but ultimately abandoned his Wolcott family, and wife soon before their child was born.

The abandonment of his birth and wedded family, his Protestant religion, and his English colonial community caused such a trauma that a myth was created by and for his English brethren to come to terms with his voluntary withdrawal from their community and religious beliefs.  The Myth said John Wolcott was killed on a hunting expedition on the Connecticut River and thus he never rejected his birth family.

The Wolcott Society Hypothesis states while the myth spread,  John Wolcott was really alive and well living north of Fort Number Four along the Connecticut River and he started another family, possibly with an indigenous woman, while providing for them by hunting and trapping.  He severed all contact with his English family but likely continued  to be in contact with the Abenaki who were pushed northwards, out of New Hampshire lands to areas along the St Francis River and Lac St Francis in Quebec.  Supporting  the hypothesis, the society cites the small island in the Connecticut River that came to be called Walcott's Island!  Here it is on Google Maps: Walcott Island along the Connecticut River.

At first glance the entire story appears contrived and made to fit the DNA evidence acquired by the Wolcott DNA project.  However, several years ago I read, and reread, "The Unredeemed Captive" by John Demos.  Being familiar with the story of Eunice Williams, a captive of the Deerfield Raid who was born within a year or two of John Wolcott and who declined restoration to her New England family, made me believe the story presented by the Wolcott Society with the support of DNA evidence may be right "on the mark".  As I recall Demos's story of Eunice, her English colonial community sought her return because they believed the worst possible outcome for a captive would be that she convert to the papist faith and abandon the Puritan moral world view.  That is likely the personal conflict John Wolcott struggled with when he returned to Brookfield after his captivity.  Ultimately, he made his choice - if the Wilcott Society has it right!

3) Researching the Life of a British Loyalist: Abner Wolcott, was his grandfather the captive?

A little more on John Wolcott, born circa 1695, proposed grandfather of Abner Wolcott & ancestor of the Mylotts of Whitehall, Hudson Falls and Waterford, NY AND the raid on Brookfield on October 13, 1708 that took John Wolcott captive. Excerpt is from ......

"History of North Brookfield, Massachusetts. Preceded by an account of old Quabaug, Indian and English occupation, 1647-1676; Brookfield records, 1686-1783"

1707 This was a year of quiet and general prosperity on our Hampshire county frontiers.  The newcomer at Brookfield this year was John Grosvenor, brother of the minister, who bought June 11, 1707,  the home-lots and lands, formerly belonging to John Ayres deceased.

1708 This year our authorities adopted the enemy's tactics, and sent ranging parties to the North, in search of Indians.  In February, Capt. Benj. Wright led a scout of picked men as far as Cowasset (Newbury, Vt.) where was the resort of an Indian clan. They went on snowshoes; but no Indians were found.

Strolling bands of savages would suddenly appear at different and unexpected points in our county, showing that they were always on the alert; and about a dozen persons were killed or captured.
Brookfield was once again to be the scene of bloodshed. I quote from Rev. Mr. Fiske's Historical Discourse: "Oct. 13, early in the morning, John Woolcott, a lad about 12 or 14 years old was riding insearch of the cows, when the Indians fired at him, killed his horse and took him prisoner.  The people at Jennings' garrison hearing the firing, and concluding the people at another garrison (Banister's) were beset, six men set out for their assistance, but were waylaid by the Indians. The English saw not their danger till they saw there was no escaping it. And therefore, knowing that an Indian could not look an Englishman in the face and take right aim, they stood their ground, presented their pieces wherever they saw an Indian without discharging them, excepting Abijah Bartlet, who turned to flee and was shot dead.

The Indians kept firing at the rest, and wounded three of them, Joseph Jennings in two places; one ball grazed the top of his head, by which he was struck blind for a moment; another ball passed through his shoulder, wounding his collar bone; yet by neither did he fall, nor was mortally wounded.  Benjamin Jennings was wounded in the leg, and John Green in the wrist.  They were preserved at last by the following stratagem.  A large dog hearing the firing came to our men; one of them, to encourage his brethren and intimidate the Indians, called out "Capt. Williams is come to our assistance, for here is his dog."  The Indians, seeing the dog, and knowing Williams to be a famous warrior, immediately fled, and our men escaped.  John Woolcott, the lad above mentioned, was carried to Canada, where he remained six or seven years during which time, by conversing wholly with Indians, he not only entirely lost his native language, but became so naturalized to the savages, as to be unwilling for a while to return to his native country. (He did return to Brookfield, married, and settled.)  Some years afterwards, viz. in March 1728, in a time of peace, he and another man having been on a hunting expedition, and coming down Connecticut River with a freight of skins and fur, they were hailed by some Indians; but not being willing to go to them, they steered (their canoe) for the other shore.  The Indians landed at a little distance form them; several shots were exchanged, at length Woolcott was killed."

Friday, May 30, 2014

2) Researching the Life of a British Loyalist: Abner Wolcott Origins

Now that I have reintroduced Abner Wolcott,  I must declare, in the interest of full disclosure,  there is more than one controversy about him.  Let's begin at the beginning.  Where was Abner Wolcott born and who were his parents?  It seems almost all internet searching leaves one feeling confident his father was Joseph Wolcott and his mother Content Blakeslee.  None of the internet sites give a date or place which make Abner's birth line questionable to me.  The line runs something like this
Abner Wolcott, son of
     Joseph Wolcott, son of
          John Wolcott, son of
               John Wolcott, son of
                    George Wlcott, son of
                         Henry Wolcott of Windsor, Connecticut Colony

I suspect the source identifying Joseph and Content as Abner's  parents comes from either one or both of the following books:


I haven't been to a research library to check either of them out because well, I guess, I am a laptop genealogist! But onto the question: where is the original source for Abner's parents?  I haven't found it and if anyone reading this has a copy of the original source, I and many others would be grateful if you could write a comment to steer us to the origin.

Otherwise, I may have to follow the Wolcott Society's argument that Abner's father was not Joseph Wolcott but rather John Wolcott who was a descendant of John Wolcott of Watertown.  The society coordinates the Wolcott DNA Project - pretty strong evidence of connectivity. If I am interpreting it correctly, the line line runs something like this:
     Abner Wolcott, (born 1747)
son of
          John Wolcott, (born circa 1729 somewhere along the Connecticut River)
son of
              John Wolcott, (born 1695 in Brookfield Massachusetts Colony)
son of
                   John Wolcott, (born 1660 in Newbury, Massachusetts Colony)
son of
                        John Wolcott, (born 1636 in Newbury, Massachusetts Colony)
son of
                              John Wolcott of Watertown, Massachusetts Colony who was born 1599 in Axbridge, Somerset, England.

The Wolcott Society proposes Abner was the son of John who was born circa 1729 to John Wolcott and a woman who was not his Brookfield wife. See THE ILLUSIVE WOLCOTTS.  John, the father (Abner's grandfather), abandoned his Brookfield wife, his Brookfield lands and his Brookfield life for the life he had known as a young captive of indigenous people probably aligned with French Quebec. These may have been Abenaki along the upper Connecticut River north of Fort Number Four in present day New Hampshire.  Using DNA evidence, the researcher with the Wolcott Society argues the five descending Johns and Abner are a distinct line. The story of John's, Abner's grandfather, return to a life in the wilderness after several years of captivity seems plausible, especially because his capture in 1708 coincides with Queen Anne's War (the War of Spanish Succession) in North America, 1702-1713 when many colonialists were taken captive in borderland raids.

In this brief overview with a link to the Wolcott Society, I hope to clearly explain this genealogical conundrum if not controversy.  Forgive me and please correct me in the comment section, or email me at if you can clarify any section.  I would be very appreciative for guidance from anyone with more experience and information about the ancestors of Abner Wolcott.

1) Researching the Life of a British Loyalist: Abner Wolcott in Focus,

Back in November 2010 I wrote about the line of British Loyalists in the paternal family of Arthur Mylott. The family name Mylott is an Anglicized form of Milot.  The name is from Nicolas Damien Milot dit Champagne a soldier in the French and Indian War who hailed from Villiers-le-Sec, France. Nicolas Milot had twelve children with his wife Marie Josephte Guyon.  Al of the children were baptised in Vercheres, Quebec and sadly, only six lived to adulthood. Their eighth child, Marie Joseph Milot married Catherine Wolcott, the daughter of Abner Wolcott and Catherine Griffin in Saint Sulpice, Quebec.

Abner Wolcott (spelled Robine Wilcotte in the image above) and the father of Catherine Griffin, Charles Griffin, were both British loyalists during the American Revolution.

In his lifetime, Abner left a trail of documentation from Connecticut, Vermont, Quebec and finally New York and all are tasty morsels of information for a family historian.  One Wolcott family researcher was Roger Wolcott of Quebec (1946-2012), another descendant  of Abner Wolcott and Catherine Griffin through their son Solomon Wolcott.

Roger Wolcott 1946-2012

In my next few entries, I hope to share some documentation a relative of Roger Wolcott, has kindly shared with me.  We will follow the trail of  documentation and perhaps discover what is missing to establish his line of ascendancy to the New England Wolcott families.  Ultimately, I hope the next several blog posts will help other Wolcott family members to share research about the life and times of Abner Wolcott as well as his ancestors and descendants.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day: the distant memory of Donald A Messier from Watervelit and his widow, my "Aunt Lucy"

Memorial Day was called Decoration Day when I was a small fry.  I don't exactly recall when the name was changed but it definitely has held many meanings to me as I have grown older.  It used to mean marching in the town parade and the beginning of warmer days. Later, it was about remembering those who died in the wars Americans fought.  Born seven years after the end of World War II, I didn't know anyone who died in it but I did grow up knowing widows with their children.  This Memorial Day I would like to say I remember Donald Messier but I cannot.  However, I  can vividly recall his widow, my "Aunt Lucy".

Donald Messier was from Watervelit, n the US Naval Reserve. He never made it out of the war to meet his namesake, young Donald Messier. I think he died on an aircraft carrier in the US Navy.  I found information about him on the New York State Military Museum site:

There is his "next of kin", his wife, who I  always called "Aunt Lucy". Aunt Lucy lived in Green Island during the world and my mother and she became close. I am not certain how they met, perhaps she started going to my mother's beauty salon on Swan Street in Green Island.  When my mother married dad at the end of the war, in 1945, Aunt Lucy was her matron of honor and witness.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of Donald Arthur Messier but I have many of Aunt Lucy, her son "young" Donnie and later her second husband, Bill Bossidy. Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bill had one daughter, Patricia Bossidy.  Aunt Lucy was a petite but strong woman, always kind, sweet and content with her home and family. When my mother got pregnant soon after Patty was born, the pact was sealed and although one year apart Patty and I would be best friends. 

Aunt Lucy Messier nee Ryan (left), Dorothy Mylott nee Wills (right)

"The Gang"
Young Donnie Messier is sitting on the left side of the group
Back row, left to right: Claire Rivet Yetto, Lucy Messier, Al Rivet
Mid Row: Arthur Mylott, Doris Laurent, Robert Wills
Front: Donnie Messier, Marguerite Yetto, Sonny Yetto

A gold star wreath for Aunt Lucy

Aunt Lucy met her soon to be second husband,  Bill Bossidy, at a VFW convention in Plattsburgh after the war.  I think Uncle Bill was the best man Aunt Lucy could ever find. Uncle Bill adopted young Donnie Messier and was a great father to him. He made everyone, especially Aunt Lucy, smile and laugh whenever he was around.
Arthur Mylott, Lucy Messier Bossidy, Bill Bossidy

In this series of photos below, you can see Uncle Bill clowning with my mother. He was always a joker and I came to love his teasing which was never mean ....just fun!

Donnie was 7 or 8 years older than me and always made me wish I had an older brother like Patty had. I remember the time Donnie was visiting with his family and he brought along a girlfriend. I was suppose to be asleep in the sofa in the front "parlor" room where Donny escaped with his girlfriend. That is when I saw, for the first time, how young boys try to woo and kiss young girls! Later Donnie would go on to serve in Viet Nam piloting missions in the 89th special air missions in the US Air Force.

Patty and I were friends, even though she often lived overseas because Uncle Bill was in the US Air Force and stationed for, what seemed to me like, very longs periods in Turkey and Europe.  When she came home we shared sleep overs and even a New Years celebration that we both stay awake until midnight.

 But in 1969 the unbelievable occurred. Patty was killed in an automobile accident in downtown Troy. She was 18 years old and was just starting classes at Hudson Valley Community College.

I remember Patty well to this day though I haven't seen her in forty years. I remember how I couldn't believe that the world could be so unfair and so unkind to Aunt Lucy, the war widow who had suffered so much. And now Uncle Bill, the man who always smiled and made me laugh, suffered too. For more than ten years or more after Patty died, I never heard my Aunt Lucy mention Patty's name. Finally one sunny day, my mother and I paid an unannounced visit to Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bill's in Poestenskill. While we sat in the yard all afternoon, we shared laughter and smiles. I went inside the house to use the facilities before leaving and was shocked to see the interior walls and tables covered with pictures of Patty. It took about five more years until we could talk openly and remember Patty with Aunt Lucy. She grieved in her own way and finally made some peace with her circumstances in the years before her own death. Donnie and his wife had a wonderful baby boy and I think the presence of a grandson in Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bill's life was ultimately restorative. We shared many stories and memories of Patty.

Memorial Day for me is remembering the randomness in war and peace, life and death. There are no guarantees or bargaining. Aunt Lucy survived widowhood and the loss of a child and with her kindnesses she overcame bitterness.  She made the world a better place.  Uncle Bill did too.