"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

21 April 2014

Private Aaron Belvin

From an empty nest to a wedding bed
To the working wage for the daily bread
The ghosts, the flesh, the bone, and blood
The famine, fear, the frost, and flood
The slate, the stone, and the granite gray
The soft green fields just slipped away
The hedge rows and the silver streams
Now live inside my thoughts and dreams
--"Where E'er You Go" by Gaelic Storm

On April 21, 1754 - 260 years ago today - my 5th-great-grandfather John Aaron Belvin was baptized in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County, Virginia.  I don't know much about Aaron's early life, beyond the date of his baptism.

Where records do pick up, rather importantly, are during the Revolutionary War.  Estimating from the baptism date, Aaron was probably in his mid-twenties at the time.

From May of 1777 through January of 1778, Private Aaron Belvin appears on the muster rolls of 7th Virginia Regiment of Foot, under the command of Colonel Alexander McClenachan.  He first served in Captain Reuben Lipscomb's Company, then, starting in July, in Captain Henry Young's Company.  For his service, the company payroll cards show that Aaron received $6.67 per month.

The last card states that he was discharged on February 3, 1778, having completed his two-year term - which means, his service actually began before the available company muster rolls start.  While the muster rolls don't provide much more in the way of details about Aaron's service in the war, there is one interesting side note.  Also serving in these companies at the same time as Aaron were three other Belvin men:  George, John, and Lewis.  Two of them were even discharged on the exact same day as Aaron.  Belvin family lore says that the men were all brothers, though there is no proof of this.

Fortunately, more information on Aaron's service can be found in his pension file.  From his affidavit sworn before Judge James Semple on May 22, 1818:

Aaron Belvin ... did declare and say that some time in the month of February in the year 1776 he enlisted in the Continental Service of the United States in the 7th Virginia Regiment in a company commanded by Capt. Charles Tomkies for two years and served in the said corps in the 7th Regiment commanded by Col. Dangerfield on continental establishment, that some time about the latter end of 1776 or the beginning of 1777 he marched to the northward & joined the Continental Army (as well as he recollects) at a place called Middle Brook, that he was at the battles of Brandy Wine Darby Town & several others, that he continued to serve till some time in February 1778 when he was legally discharged at the Valley Forge by order of Brigadier Gen. Woodford, that he served two years the time for which he enlisted, that he has no other evidence of his services in his power, that he is upwards of 64 years of age, that he is now in reduced circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for his support.

The Battle of Brandywine Creek was fought in Delaware County, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777 between the forces of General George Washington and General William Howe.  The Americans were defeated, and forced to fall back towards Philadelphia.

I haven't found anything about a battle at Darby Town, other than a battle of the same name fought during the Civil War.  However, Darby is just east of Brandywine, and so both probably took place around the same time.  Possibly a skirmish along the Americans' retreat from Brandywine?

Which brings us to the much more familiar name of Valley Forge, where General Washington's forces spent the harsh winter.  A map from the park service shows the location of Brigadier General William Woodford's Brigade:

The Virginia regiments under Woodford discharged 273 men from service in February of 1778, of which Aaron Belvin was one.

In addition to the information that the pension files gives about his service, it also provides another unexpected tidbit:  it seems as though Aaron was unable to read or write.  Rather than signing his statement, he left a mark instead.

After his discharge, Aaron made his way home to Gloucester County, Virginia, where he appears on the tax records in 1782 for Abingdon Parish.  He is listed as owning 42 acres of land, three horses, and eight cows.  According to a biography written about his grandson, Aaron "was considered a very rich man for the times, and when past middle age married the beautiful Miss Dobson, of England."  They were probably married around 1810, when Aaron would have been in his late fifties.  Their first child, Frances Ann Belvin, was born on August 15, 1811.

With the approval of his application in May of 1818, Aaron was granted a pension of $8 per month.  However, in May of 1820, a new act was passed which required pensioners to supply further proof of their eligibility, and at this time, Aaron's name was removed from the pension rolls.

In the 1820 U.S. census, Aaron's household consisted of him and his wife, Elizabeth, along with four children under the age of ten, two girls and two boys.  Their youngest child, my 4th-great-grandmother Grace Elizabeth Belvin, was an infant at the time.

Aaron passed away two years later, on November 29, 1822.  Grace, being so young, would likely have had no memory of him.

10 September 2013

The Family Inventor

My heart is low, my heart is so low
As only a woman's heart can be
As only a woman's, as only a woman's
As only a woman's heart can know
--"Only A Woman's Heart" by Eleanor McEvoy

So, this is one of my more random finds while googling ancestors' names.

Below is a patent granted 146 years ago today to John Aaron Belvin, Jr., a cousin of my 3rd-great-grandmother Lucy Atkinson Fleet.  John invented a "new and useful apparatus for the use of females during menstruation and weakness of the womb" which he called a "catamenial guard and supporter".


A few choice excerpts:
"The nature of my invention consists in providing a guard for the use of females during menstruation, and at the same time a support for the womb in its weakened state during that period."
"The part A forms properly the womb-supporter, and acts on the lower part of the abdomen, the elastic straps producing a gentle pressure, sufficient to hold up the womb in its natural position without incommoding the female."

"It will be noticed that the whole weight of the truss bears upon the hips, thereby relieving, in a considerable degree, the female of the pain experienced by her during the critical period."

"The parts are constructed "of boiled-oil silk, a light, soft, and impervious material, and which does not chafe or irritate the skin of the wearer."
Why the term "catamenial guard and supporter" never caught on is beyond me.

25 August 2013

The Missing Sword

Ann am Bruxelles a chaidh innse In Brussels it was told
Gun robh Frangaich tigh'nn nam miltean That the French were coming in their thousands
'S cha bhreug huam gur h-i an fhirinn I tell no lie but the truth
'S iomadh fear bhios sint' gun deo Many a man will be stretched out without breath of life

Illean chridheil, bitheamaid sunndach Brave lads, let's be merry
Seasaibh onoir ur duthcha Stand for the honor of your country
Fhad' s a mhaireas luaidh is fudar As long as lead and powder last
De rud chuireadh curam oirnn? What could worry us?
--"Bonaparte" (Traditional)

On last week's episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?", Chris O'Donnell's family history journey led him to discover a sword from the Mexican-American War that his great-great-grandfather donated to the Smithsonian.  As it happens, I've been searching for an old sword from my family's history, but so far with no luck.

This brief article appeared in the Alexandria Gazette 176 years ago today:

Mr. Herman Boschen, of Richmond, has presented to the State of Virginia the sword which his grandfather carried at the battle of Waterloo.  The old sword has been in the Boschen family ever since the memorable battle occurred.  It has been placed in the State library with some relics of the late war.

Herman Boschen was the brother of my 3rd-great-grandmother Leonora Boschen Siegel, so his unnamed grandfather who was at Waterloo would be my 5th-great-grandfather.  The article mentions the sword being in the Boschen family, but there's a chance that the sword could have come from his maternal grandfather.

I have no direct proof (yet!), but I believe Herman and Leonora's maternal grandfather was Lorenz Paul.  From what I know so far:

1)  Last year, I found Lorenz's obituary from 1873 while researching at the Library of Virginia, which I mentioned in an earlier blog, Richmond Day Trip.  It talks about his service at the Battle of Waterloo:

Death of an Old Citizen. - Mr. Lorenz Paul, one of the oldest German citizens of Richmond, died Monday night of congestion of the lungs, in his seventy-seventh year, leaving six children and many grand and great grandchildren, besides a large number of friends, to mourn his loss.  Mr. Paul was one of Blucher's troops at Waterloo, and survived that terrible fight to lay himself quietly to rest in another country, where the shock of battle has been but lately stilled.  In the battle of Waterloo he received a special mark of honor from his sovereign for distinguished services.

2)  The obituary states that Lorenz was survived by six children.  From census records, Lorenz's known children were Herman, Clara, Wilheminia, William, George, and Emma - six total.  But, one of those six, his daughter Clara, had already passed away before Lorenz, in 1864.  So my ancestor Christina could be the sixth surviving child.

3)  Christina immigrated to the U.S. with Lorenz Paul's family, arriving in New York on June 14, 1839.  Lorenz is the right age to be Christina's father, but his wife Charlotte would have been rather young to be her mother - though not out of the realm of possibility, given the time period.

4)  Christina Paul married John Boschen on October 19, 1842 in Richmond, Virginia.  John Boschen owned the plot in Shockoe Hill Cemetery where Lorenz and Charlotte Paul are buried.

5)  Lorenz appeared in some records with his name anglicized to "Lawrence."  My great-great-grandfather, Charles Lawrence Siegel, was likely named for Lorenz.

On my genealogy to-do list the next time I visit Richmond is to try to find a will for Lorenz Paul, and see if Christina Boschen was named as one of his children.

Which leaves the mystery of what became of the Waterloo sword.  Herman Boschen donated it to the State Library, which is now the present-day Library of Virginia.  The LVA says that they don't have any swords from Waterloo in their collection, nor do they have any record of it, and suggested that I try the Virginia Historical Society.  I did contact them, but the VHS doesn't have it either.

So if anyone knows of any museums in the Richmond area that might have such a sword, please let me know!  I'd very much like to find my 5th-great-grandfather's sword.