Saturday, November 16, 2013

davidson cemetery and down the rabbit hole

sometime last month i was in the davidson cemetery in whitingham, vermnot.

if you've been following my story you know that i am often in old cemeteries and i often come home and look up what i can about the people buried there because, you know, history. remembrance.

here are some of the shumways.

i say "some", because here is amasa shumway's stone with mary and betsey, his third and fourth wives.

by my awesome powers of deduction i know that somewhere there are two other wives.

if you look this guy up, though, there's a lot of information that tells you less about him and more about the founding of the state of vermont and life in this place at that time.

he was  a soldier in the revlutionary war and as such entitled to some land grants. he spent a lot of time, apparently, petitioning the newly-fledged united states government on behalf of himself and other settlers for land in the whitingham grant, which in itself took a lot of petitioning from the king of england and came up against some claims by the then governor of new hampshire, benning wentworth, who has been described by some as a greedy land-grabber.

no doubt.

there's a very long read about it in the cornell university library, which you can find in its glorious entirety online. it carries the unassuming title of "some facts about the early history of whitingham, vermont", but it begins with the precious sentence "COLUMBUS discovered some islands
of America in 1492
." and goes on to explain briefly the decision by the pope to divide lands in the new world between spain and portugal. eventually it is revealed that

"Vermont at this time was an unknown wilderness, inhabited by savage beasts and still more savage Indians, except a fort or two had previously been builded, and a small settlement around each in the southeast part of the state, then supposed to be in Massachusetts, and along some streams, lakes and ponds where wild grass grew."

you get that? "still more savage indians? the author has just completely glossed over the whole concept of terra nullius, or vacant land. you know, because. savages.

after a while the tone settles down mostly and the author begins to present the record of grants, letters, and meeting minutes, along with some hearsay regarding documents that used to exist, but were lost in a fire.

there is an interesting item from 1780 in which amasa shumway and nineteen other men took the freemen's oath.

it's an interesting item to me because i have taken the freemen's oath, and my parents had to make a special trip to an eccentric local justice of the peace in the 70's to take the freemen's oath, which was of great amusement to them because apparently in new jersey where my parents are from, you don't have to show up before a justice to take the oath before you register to vote.

see, in the state of vermont we all have to take the freeman's oath in order to vote. women have been permitted to vote in vermont since 1920, but the oath was still called the freemen's oath right up until 2002.

so yay, women's suffrage!

but i was just talking about a visit to a cemetery, right?

yeah. i get like that.

here's the headstone of mr. isaac chase, whose inscription is notable:

isaac chase
30 march 1825
in the 51st year of his age.

ninety-six hours before his death, he was seized
with an inflammation on the lungs, he bore his
disstress with christian fortitude, and seemed to
be humble resignd to the will of god, leaving a
wife and six children soon to follow him.

there's a lot i want to ask about this. "seemed to be humle resignd"?  politeness of phrase? hinting at what seems against what is? rage with the no-good son-of-a-gun for leaving the widow and children who will DOUBTLESS DIE SOON WITHOUT HIM?

it may be noted that his wife susannah did not follow him immediately into death and that his daughter lucy lived a handful of years past, as well.

there are a truckload of isaac chases in this area of the world in the early history of vermont; there are at least two in this cemetery alone.

this isaac chase s one of the first settlers of whitingham. the isaac chase buried a couple of rows back (visible in frame as the leaning headstone behind and to the left) is almost certainly a relation.

it is not clear to me if these isaac chases are completely unrelated to the isaac chases of stratton (well-known baptist folk) or the mormon isaac chase who lived in central new york but was close to brigham young, who is from HERE.

let's just say there's a very high density of isaac chases in specific, and chases in general.

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