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A TRUE NUCLEAR FAMILY
By MARGARET WILLIAMS ASPREY
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Margaret Williams Asprey
All rights reserved.
Where Did We Come From?
Every child wonders about this. I know I did. My earliest memories are from Ferguson, a small town near St. Louis, MO. But how did we get there? According to family traditions, our background is mostly from the British Isles with additions from France and Germany. But given what has been learned from genetics, we're all originally from Africa and all people are descendants of those few ancestors. From what we are learning from genetics, all of humankind is more closely related than was originally realized. I've found it fascinating to read about the African mitochondrial Eve of about 200,000 years ago from whom all humans are descended. Not quite the Adam and Eve of the Bible or Koran but pretty close.
I've also been interested to read more recently, about the 'Seven Daughters of Eve' who as 'mothers' lived from about 5000 to 20000 years ago in different parts of Europe as was explained in the Prologue. I also took a genealogy course in July 2002 and learned how to look ancestors up on the internet. What I found there mostly confirmed our family traditions. Family legends ware quire correct about Atkinsons and Massons in Hamilton, Canada, and Russell's in New Bedford, Connecticut.
Mom's Side. Winers
One particularly fascinating ancestor was Dr. Andrew Winer who was a Surgeon with the German Hessians that the British 'hired' to help defeat those upstart Americans during the American Revolutionary War. Being a surgeon must have been extremely difficult during war in the days before anesthesia and knowledge of sepsis. I mentioned this ancestor to a friend when I was in Germany and his comment was "Yes I know about them. Their King 'sold' them to the British to fight their war for them."
Although he was on the losing side, when the Revolutionary War ended Dr. Winer decided to stay in the new world rather than returning to Europe. I found him in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the first US Census of 1790. After this, he apparently married Phoebe Dickinson (by family tradition, the daughter of an American Captain who had served in the Revolutionary War) and they moved to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. There he established a pharmaceutical company which may still be in existence today. Our Grandmother, Sarah (born 1858), who lived with us as we were growing up, would probably have been his great granddaughter.
Sarah's Mother, Maria Louisa Winer (born 1828), granddaughter of Dr. Winer, married a ship's captain, John Masson (born 1819), nearly ten years older than she. This marriage may have been doomed from the start since, in addition to the age difference, he was away at sea a lot and she was apparently a party girl at heart as well as being a rather spoiled little rich girl. Not too much is known about John Masson's background, except that he was born in 1819, exactly where I don't know, but he was of Scotch descent. The name 'Masson' is by family tradition supposed to have come from the French word 'maison'. Also by family tradition, his ancestors were French Hugenots who fled to Scotland from southern France to escape religious persecution. Recently on the history channel it was mentioned that about 200,000 Hugenots fled from Southern France at that time, so this seems definitely a likely possibility. Interestingly enough, these same Hugenots refugees are also the tradition of my husband's family name, Asprey. On a map of Southern France, one time, I found a mountain range named Aspre, which may have been the source of his name.
Despite the lack of knowledge about his background, there are many interesting stories about Captain Masson. One of the family treasures is a beautiful silver coffee and tea service which was awarded by insurance companies to Captain Masson. This award was for a dramatic rescue that he made in 1853 of the wooden docks of Hamilton, Canada, from a burning ship, 'Queen of the West'. He tied a rope from his ship to the burning ship and towed it out into the middle of the bay where it could burn out harmlessly and no endanger the local docks. The inscription on the silver service reads:
Captain John Masson By Certain Insurance Companies and others interested in Property endangered by the conflagration of the Steamer "Queen of the West" on the Ninth Day of July 1853 in testimony of his systematic and zealous services on the occasion.
Captain Masson is also reported to have sailed between Canadian and American ports on the great lakes as well as to England and apparently to Charleston, South Carolina. One intriguing story that I've heard (but which may not be completely authentic) Maria Louisa with her daughter sailed on the ship, to Charleston, SC. Maria Louisa loved dancing and one night when she was at a ball in Charleston, her husband came to her and said: "We will be sailing at dawn, and you must be ready to leave. The tide is right and we can't wait." She said, "No, no, I am having too much fun. Surely you can wait another day." He replied, "No I can't. The northerners are coming to blockade the port. We're from Canada, a neutral country but if I'm caught in a blockade, I will almost certainly lose my ship." Since the American Civil War seemed about to begin (which it soon did), it is easy to understand and sympathize with his concern, but he did choose his ship over his wife and child. Or one could put it the other way, she chose her 'fun' over his ship which was his, and her, livelihood At any rate, she didn't believe him and when he sailed on the tide at dawn he left her behind with her toddler.
History does not tell how they got back to Canada, probably overland, or found another ship to take them back, but we know they must have gone back North. That would likely have been the end of the marriage. At any rate, after they got back to Canada and the marriage was broken, Maria and her only baby daughter Sarah were welcome to move back in with her well-to-do parents where Sarah now grew up to adulthood. Louisa was a convert to Catholicism from Episcopalianism and managed to arrange to send Sarah to a convent school run by French nuns so she learned to speak Parisian French. They even had one day a week on which they could speak only French. She also learned to play the piano and the harp. I always wished that I could have heard her play the harp which fascinated me, but it was long gone by the time she lived with us.
One of my sisters tells of a time when Sarah was an adult and her father wrote and asked to meet her. Sadly, her Mother had so poisoned her mind against him that she refused to even see him. Louisa's granddaughter, our mother Dorothy, once asked her grandmother Louisa what her grandfather had done that was so bad. She replied "Oh Dorothy, he had a violent temper. Once he became so angry that I saw him rip his glove!" Captain Masson is reported to have died in 1902 as a lighthouse keeper somewhere on the New England coast, never to see his daughter again.
The Atkinson Family
Sarah Masson married a man named, John Arthur Atkinson. Although he was born in Ireland (in 1854), he was descended from a long line of British lawyers who lived in White Haven, England. His parents, Isaac and Ellen Smythe Atkinson with most of their eight children, migrated in 1864 to Hamilton, Canada, and later to Chicago where Isaac managed a very successful meat packing plant. Their third son (our Grandfather), John Arthur (also called Jack), stayed behind in England to finish his education but eventually joined them in Canada where he met his wife to be. After John Arthur and Sarah were married (1879) in Hamilton, Canada, a friend who owned a railroad, lent them his private railroad car to travel to Chicago via Niagara Falls on their honeymoon. John Arthur then worked with his father in the meat packing plant. In 1880, his father, Isaac, died of a heart attack when taking his usual morning swim in Lake Michigan and John Arthur took over managing the plant.
According to family oral tradition, there was malfeasance by the senior partner, Davis, in England. At any rate their meat packing business crashed in 1884. John Arthur continued to operate on the Chicago Board of Trade where he was the youngest member for many years. In later years he managed meat packing plants in Omaha, NB, Kansas City, and Hutchinson, KS. In 1895, the family returned to Chicago where John Arthur was Chicago manager for awhile for Sir Thomas Lipton's Tea Business. Eventually they again returned to Kansas where John Arthur died in 1913. Mom told about being fortunate to know him for a year or two after she graduated from high school and before he died. She quoted him as telling her that "if you learn to love reading you will be educated even if you do not have the opportunity of advanced education". She also quoted him as saying that "I cannot be insulted because, a gentlemen wouldn't and nobody else could". He sounds like a person who I would like to know.
Jack and Sarah had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood: Isabelle, Jack, Arthur and the youngest of whom was my Mother, Dorothy. When Sarah's husband Jack died in 1913, there was no insurance, social security or pension, to help her survive herself, or to educate or launch her two remaining children, Dorothy (19) and Arthur (20) The older children, Isabelle and Jack, were already grown and married and living back in Chicago. For Isabelle there had been an elaborate society wedding. For Dorothy there was no money even for education. Arthur was able to become an apprentice in an architect's office and went on to build hospitals and other large buildings in Tulsa, OK. Dorothy however was another story. Mom used to tell a lovely story or this period in her life. One day she and Arthur were moving some furniture down some stairs and wrangling over it the way siblings will. This got to be too much for Sarah. She called to them "Arthur, Dorothy, come down here." Then when they were down, she said "I will not have this arguing. You two must get along. I will do whatever I have to do to stop it. I am going to have a happy home if I have to make it a hell on earth to do it" Well this was too much for Arthur who burst out laughing. A hell on earth to have a happy home was just a joke to him.
Sarah had been raised in a wealthy family where she was not even allowed in the kitchen. As an adult, she was part of the financial aristocracy in Chicago, socializing with people like the Swifts, Armours, Potter Palmers, Sir Thomas Lipton and Thomas Edison. According to Sarah, Marshall Fields was just a tradesman and not part of society! Her education was not at all practical. She had musical training and played the piano and harp. She spoke French but did not know how to cook or clean. As the lady of the house, in the morning the cook would come to the morning room and Sarah would tell her what they wanted for dinner. The cook would then go away, buy what she needed, cook it and serve when ready. It sounds a lot like the household in the Masterpiece Theater Play, "Upstairs, Downstairs". But everything changed when the money was lost. She later told us of cooking a chicken without drawing it! and also of being left with 'only' two footmen and two 'ignorant' Irish girls for help. When her daughter wanted to find a job in 1913, she said flatly 'ladies don't work'. After much argument, Dorothy persuaded her mother that being a librarian was "ladylike" enough. So she took training classes at the public library and began work as a librarian. For most of the rest of her life, Sarah lived with us and we children loved her dearly.
Dad's Side, the Russells
As to my father's side, probably the most interesting ancestor, and one who can be traced back the farthest, was Joseph Russell, Sr, who was the founder of the town of New Bedford, CT. According to his family tradition, his ancestor Ralph Russell was one of a pair of twins who were younger sons of the Earl of Bedford. They came to the New World around 1600 to seek their fortunes, because by English primogeniture law, as younger sons, they would get nothing from their father's estate. In case you think this is so old fashioned and exaggerated that it has no relevance today, I recently heard a story from a German friend to the contrary. Before the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, her grandfather had been quite wealthy, owned a factory, with about 30 employees, and several large houses. After the war ended they were in the British sector of Germany when her grandfather died. Under British primogeniture law which was applied in their section of Germany, everything he had owned went to an older daughter, nothing even for the widow and nothing for the rest of the children. Everyone assumed she would be honorable and share but not so. She sold everything, and took off for another country leaving nothing for her Mother or her siblings! But under the law she had the right to do it and no one could stop her. At any rate the primogeniture law got our ancestor Ralph Russell, to this country.
Of the Russell family descended from Ralph, five generations remained in New Bedford but according to oral tradition, one of them, Seth Russell, fought at the battle of Lexington and Concord. Our great grandfather, Charles Butler Russell was born in New Bedford in 1836 to Alice Hathaway Butler and George Russell but he moved as a child with his family to Covington, KY. There, in 1866, he married Susannah John. Susannah (b 1842) was a descendant of Thomas and Sibiella John, her great, great grandparents, who immigrated to Chester County, PA. from Wales in 1745. Later they moved to Mononghela County, (now West) Virginia, then to Kentucky. Charles and Susannah had two daughters, Lydia (b 1867) and Susanna who was younger. Unfortunately their mother Susannah died in 1874 while they were still quite young. Their Grandmother John took over the care of the girls for a while. But, a few years later their father Charles, moved to Cincinnati, OH, and there married a second time.
His new wife was unwilling to take on a new family and insisted the girls be put in a boarding school and sent the grandmother packing. When he married this new wife, one of his friends told him that if he married her he would only be sorry once—and that would be always! But he married her anyway. She must have been quite something! So the two poor little girls were essentially raised without a mother and without even much attention from their father. The older one, Lydia Russell, was my Grandmother. My mom told a tale she had heard from Lydia about when she began menstruating and had no one to turn to. She was crying in the bathroom, thinking that she was dying. A kindly Jewish girl in the school found her and told her what it was all about and how to take care of herself. Things like this are bound to have an effect on a young girl. On the other hand I have a Gold Medal which she received for 'Elocution' in 1882. So she had some successes. I remember her as a quiet and rather withdrawn but competent person. In an early attempt to say "grandmother", I named her "GraGra", which she was called from then on. She and our grandfather, Grant Williams, were married in Cincinnati, OH in 1891.
Now we come to our family name, Williams. I find it very interesting how fast the female family names disappear leaving only the male names. Of my great, great grandparents, we don't have the last names of three out of 16 women and beyond that we have almost none. Grant Williams was descended from a long line of John Williams (I, II, III, IV) who lived in New England first in Connecticut and then in Darien, New York. Since Williams is such a common name, a trace is a little hard to sort out. John Williams, IV, in 1839 went from Darien, NY, to take up 'new land' in the Wisconsin Territory, leaving his wife, Anne Carter and his older boys to manage their old farm until he could send for them. In time they helped found Darien, WI. Later, a younger son, Orange Williams, married Mary Stone from Vermont. Their son, Grant Williams, born in Darien, WI, in 1865, was our grandfather.
Excerpted from A TRUE NUCLEAR FAMILY by MARGARET WILLIAMS ASPREY. Copyright © 2014 Margaret Williams Asprey. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Ancestors, 1600-1957, 1,
Chapter 2 Two Little Girls Across the Generations, 1858-1998, 13,
Chapter 3 How Our Parents Met and Married, 1900-21, 23,
Chapter 4 Childhood in the 1920's, Ferguson, MO, 33,
Chapter 5 Moving to Chicago, Depression, 1930-1934, 46,
Chapter 6 Entering The Teen Years, 1935-38, 59,
Chapter 7 Growing Up and Becoming Independent, 1939-42, 76,
Chapter 8 Attack on Pearl Harbor, Manhattan Project, 1941-45, 89,
Chapter 9 Meeting my Husband and Marriage, 1944, 101,
Chapter 10 First Years of Marriage and Parenting, 1944-49, 112,
Chapter 11 To Los Alamos, 1949-53, 131,
Chapter 12 Early Espanola Years, 1953-60, 143,
Chapter 13 Sixties in Espanola, 1960-70, 161,
Chapter 14 My First European Vacation, 1965, 182,
Chapter 15 Back to School and Working, 1964-1981, 193,
Chapter 16 Losing Parents/ Watching Kids Grow Up, 1970-80, 210,
Chapter 17 Some Fun Trips between 1975 and 1981, 234,
Chapter 18 Karlsruhe, Germany, 1981-82, 249,
Chapter 19 Final working Years/ China Trip, 1982-86, 270,
Chapter 20 Spread of Family, Marriages and Anniversaries, 1980-95, 283,
Chapter 21 Early Retirement. Building our Dream House 1986-1995, 304,
Chapter 22 Other Great Retirement Trips 1987-95, 318,
Chapter 23 Rest of Retirement, 1995-07, 335,
Chapter 24 Losing My Friend and Center, March 6, 2005, 342,
Chapter 25 Surprising Award from ANS, June 6, 2005, 358,
Chapter 26 Kids as Adults, Being Parents, 1990-2007, 364,
Chapter 27 Times of Disaster (2006-2007), 378,
Chapter 28 Successes and The Final Journey, 2007-2012, 393,
Appendix A: Fan Chart of Ancestors, 409,