Echoing the work of another ancestor, Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss, who was known for his rope-making, the author twists together the findings from historical research with the collective memory of his own family. This creates the threads of a narrative that is both personal recollection and collective history. Photographs supplement this story, illustrating the people, places, and objects that figured in the history of the author's family.
Approaching both types of history in this fashion, My Family in America since 1620 reveals how each era's events touched the life of the author's family. The reader journeys with the Carter Wagon Train from Indiana to Missouri in 1841, into the conflict of the Civil War, through the Depression, onto the battlefields of World War II, and through the highlights of the author's rise to prominence.
My Family in America since 1620 promises to tell a distinctive story of the history of the United States and of a family whose roots find their grounding in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and whose branches have grown and spread across the lands of this continent for almost four centuries.
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My Family in America Since 1620
By William G. Carter
iUniverseCopyright © 2016 William Carter
All rights reserved.
MY MOTHER'S FAMILY ARRIVES IN AMERICA IN 1620
On my mother's side of the family, I am a descendant of William Brewster. He was born in 1566 in Wales, which is a part of the United Kingdom. He would become my great-grandfather, with several more "greats" added, of course. He was an elder of his church in Scrooby, England, and attended Cambridge University. His neighbors and friends were aware of the new land of America, and William Brewster became one of the key leaders of the Mayflower expedition.
The Mayflower group left England on September 6, 1608. They moved across the channel to Holland, where they could safely plan their trip across the Atlantic Ocean to the new land of freedom that would later become the United States of America. Word was spreading about the new country and the vast areas available for peaceful settlement. There was work to be done and money to be raised before they would be able to set sail.
One hundred and two men, women, and children, along with the necessary crew, boarded the Mayflower in Holland in early 1620. Their wind-powered trip across the Atlantic was under way. The voyage took a little longer than two months. On November 9, 1620, they arrived in North America at the tip of Cape Cod peninsula. After two days of exploration, they chose the site on which they would establish their colony.
The Mayflower Compact was prepared and signed by the forty-one men on board on November 11, 1620. Historians have recognized the Mayflower Compact as the first official government document created in America. It stated the rules by which they would live peacefully in their new colony. My great-grandfather (with many more greats added of course) Brewster was the scribe, or secretary, of this group, and he would have had a major influence on the creation of the famous Mayflower Compact.
The first five who signed the compact were John Carver, William Bradford, Isaac Allerton, Edward Winslow, and William Brewster. I am proud to proclaim that I am a descendant of William Brewster who was instrumental in the preparation of that officially recognized document.
By springtime of 1621 many of the colonists had died from tuberculosis and other diseases. In April 1644, they celebrated an event that would become known as the first Thanksgiving Day in America. They were giving thanks for their successful arrival in this land where they could live peacefully and in security. The Mayflower Colony would later be known as the Massachusetts Bay Colony. America was vast open country at that time, and they were living off the fruits of the land. There were no stores or shops as we know them today for purchasing food or family supplies.
An entire book has been written about William Brewster's life: Pilgrim, A Biography of William Brewster. The author of that book is Mary B. Sherwood who is also a descendant of William Brewster. Her book is more than two hundred pages and beautifully done. There are photographs of artists' renditions of how Brewster would have appeared. The Library of Congress is another good source for information on the Mayflower.
In the early days of the Mayflower Colony, the Native Americans were friendly and helpful. When I visited the site, the original log cabins had rotted away. However, some modern cabins had been constructed to depict the original homes. As I walked this site of one of the first colonies in America, I tried to imagine what life would have been like there in 1621 for my ancestor William Brewster.
More ships were arriving and more colonies were being established. They would soon join to form the original thirteen colonies. The total number of immigrants living in America in 1620 has been reported at about 4,100. After four years the Mayflower Colony would have a population of about 250. Today, the Mayflower arrival site is known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. I was very excited when I personally visited this site, knowing that I was walking the area where my own ancestor William Brewster had lived in the 1620s. He passed away in 1644.CHAPTER 2
MORE EARLY HISTORY ON MY MOTHER'S FAMILY
Other notable individuals on my mother's side of the family include Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss, a descendant of William Brewster. He was born in Belleville, Virginia, in 1819 and became an auctioneer and a rope maker. Rope was a product in major demand at that time in history.
Also, Daniel Kober and family arrived from Germany in 1730 in what would later become the Philadelphia area. The name was eventually changed to Cover, pronounced with a hard C. The Daniel Cover family would have a son, James Harvey Cover, and he would become my great-grandfather.
The Cover family was based in Maryland in the early 1800s. The westward movement in America was under way, and members of the Cover family moved on westward to Illinois and then to northwest Missouri in 1883. James Harvey Cover became publisher of the Albany Ledger newspaper.
The next family move was to Bethany, Missouri, a few miles to the east. There Mr. Cover began publishing the Bethany Broad Axe newspaper which was later changed to the Bethany Democrat. He published it for ten years. He would later sell that operation and open a furniture store in Bethany. That was successful for a number of years, and then he sold the business and served as assistant doorkeeper of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. In 1900, he and his wife, Margaret, moved back to Missouri.
James Harvey Cover would have a son, James Wilbert Cover; in his adult life he was known as J. W. Cover. He married Mary Prentiss, the daughter of Benjamin Prentiss of Civil War fame, and they had a daughter in 1896. This was Leah Cover, and she would grow to adulthood and marry William Y. Carter, an ancestor of the leader of the Carter Wagon Train in 1841. I am the fourth child of William and Leah Carter, born in 1929. Others in the Cover family included Albert, Donald, Frank, Fred, Rodney, and Norma.CHAPTER 3
THE CARTER WAGON TRAIN TO MISSOURI, 1841
Like the Brewsters, the Carter family came from Wales. I have no record of the precise time of their arrival in America, but we do know that Levi Carter and his wife, Susanna, were living in Tennessee in the mid-1700s and that they would become my great-great-great-great grandparents. They had a son named Elijah, and he married into the Glendenning family, which had arrived from Scotland. Elijah Carter became my great-grandfather (with more "greats" added). Then into that family, my own grandfather Adam Carter was born in 1872, just thirty-one years after the arrival of the Carter Wagon Train in Missouri. He was the son of William Glendenning Carter.
In the 1830s and 1840s, wagon trains were starting the major expansion westward into the open virgin land available for settlement in America. In 1841, the Distribution-Preemption Act declared that land legally open for settlement. That same year, the Carter family journeyed from eastern Indiana westward through Illinois and into Missouri, which had become the twenty-fourth state in America in 1821. The wagon train's trip would have been approximately eight hundred miles.
The wagons were horse drawn. The first horses had been brought to the United States in the 1500s and 1600s; motor-driven vehicles did not become available until the late 1800s. When I drove the approximate route that the Carter Wagon Train had followed from Indiana to Missouri, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to travel that far in a horse-drawn wagon.
That was quite simple for me to understand, for I'd spent many years on our farm harnessing and driving our team of horses, which provided the power to pull wagons or other farm equipment six days a week. Based on my early life on the farm, I calculated that it would have taken two to three months to complete that lengthy journey. They had to stop at least three times a day to give the horses a break and to provide a midday meal for all.
If there was a stormy day, they would have had to stop and wait for reasonable weather. Many were walking ahead and alongside the wagons as they made their way along. There were no roads to follow. The country was just open land with only a few local trails.
Scouts walked or rode on horseback out ahead to find the best route to travel. They had to avoid excessively wooded areas and find the best place to cross the rivers and streams. Once the scouts had found the appropriate route to follow, one would return and lead the wagon train while the others continued the search ahead.
In the 1840s, my home state of Missouri was on the western border of the United States. Kansas City became officially incorporated in 1853, twelve years after the Carter Wagon Train arrived. This great land of America was still in its very early years of development. The Carter Wagon Train would have consisted of two or three wagons per family. By one early report, there were about forty wagons on that journey. They were transporting not only family members but also all necessary household items.
The Carter Wagon Train arrival site is about midway between the current towns of Albany and Bethany in northwest Missouri. The leader of this wagon train was my great-great-grandfather, Elijah Carter. There were also members of the Glendenning family. Elijah Carter's son, William Glendenning Carter, was born in a covered wagon before they had completed construction of their first log cabin.
They had to saw down trees with a hand-drawn crosscut saw and then saw them into the proper-size logs to stack and build the cabins. At that time, there were wild animals roaming the country. Through domestication and careful breeding, these wild animals would become the fine cattle, horses and other livestock that we have on farms today. The same was probably true for chickens, ducks, and turkeys.
The arrival site of the Carter Wagon Train in Missouri would become Gentry County in 1845. The adjoining county to the east is Harrison County, which also was organized in 1845. The old original county courthouse in Bethany burned in January of 1874, and a new brick building was constructed. The growing Carter families would move on throughout the area. My grandfather Adam Carter would eventually establish his farm just to the north of what is now New Hampton, Missouri.
The early settlers were using what was known as split rail fences. They would chop down trees from the plentiful supply in wooded areas and then stack the logs and limbs from those trees to construct their fences as well as their log cabins. At this time in the early 1840s, Missouri is reported to have been the eighth state in size and the fifth in population in America. Where the Carter Wagon Train arrived is about one hundred miles to the northeast of Kansas City, which was only a village in the 1840s. It would not become an incorporated town until 1853.
Today, Kansas City, Missouri, is the largest city in the state of Missouri, with a population of 466,600. Couple that with neighboring Kansas City, Kansas, bordering immediately to the west with a population of 48,500, and you have a major metropolitan area with a population well over 500,000.
In the 1800s, there was only one way to build a place to call home: chop down trees from the wooded areas. After that was done, the logs were trimmed and then stacked properly to build a log cabin. At this time in history, middle America and westward was open land ready for the increasing population to arrive. All settlers had to do was carefully stake out their own tract of approximately one hundred acres, take that information to an office in a nearby village, and record it as their own tract of land. I recall from very early family conversations that there was about a ten-dollar charge to make this registration. That was a substantial amount of money at that time in history.
After completing their journey in 1841, the Glendenning family, which had been part of the Carter Wagon Train, built a church and a school for the growing community. The Carter Cemetery was also established. I have walked through that historic cemetery. It was obvious that gravestones of that early era were not the granite markers of today. They were constructed of concrete, and many had deteriorated to the point of leaning or falling over and were unreadable as to who was buried there. Some were replaced in later years with permanent granite gravestones. This includes the gravestones for my great-great-grandfather Elijah Carter, his son William Glendenning Carter, and their families.
My great-grandfather William Glendenning Carter served in World War I, which took place from 1914 to 1918. He later established a bank in a nearby village just a few miles from where the Carter Wagon Train arrived. Family records reveal that he then moved a few miles to New Hampton, where he became involved in the early development of a lumber company. Small towns were being established to stock supplies needed by the increasing number of early settlers in the Midwest.
The farm where I would later live was a few miles to the east of the Carter Wagon Train arrival site. There was a stream flowing through our 160-acre farm called Long Branch Creek. There was only one small sturdy bridge on that creek. It was the only place a horse-drawn wagon or a tractor could cross. In my early grade-school years, I would take my shoes and socks off and wade across that flowing creek. Occasionally, when there had been considerable rainfall, the water flowing was at a depth and speed too dangerous to wade into.
Therefore, I can understand why the Carter Wagon Train scouts had to constantly search for the best and safest route to follow in order to avoid heavily forested areas and to find the best place to cross rivers and streams. This was before roads and highways were available.
Their major challenge would have been crossing the Mississippi River. There were no bridges across major rivers at that time in history. We know that they camped out for about a week on the eastern edge of the Mississippi to carefully locate the safest place to cross. Then they had to make special plans to prepare for crossing on westward into Missouri. The wagon train was successful in crossing the mighty Mississippi River.
As I drove the approximate route that they would have been traveling and came to the Mississippi River, I tried to envision what it would have been like for them to cross it in wagons. For additional reference, it was not until 1865 that the US mail system was created and Pony Express mail delivery was under way. The first gasoline-powered automobile did not become available until 1886. That was only ten years before my mother and father were born.
I have walked through much of the area where the Carter Wagon Train arrived in 1841, trying to envision what daily life was like for my family there in the 1840s. My own early life was spent on our nearby farm, so I could pretty well imagine what life was like for them at that time in history. There would have been a lot of horseback riding to do in order to maintain contact with neighbors and friends.CHAPTER 4
MORE INFORMATION ON MY EARLY CARTER FAMILY HISTORY
My grandfather, Adam Carter, was born in 1872, thirty-one years after the arrival of the Carter Wagon Train in Missouri. He was the son of William Glendenning Carter, who was the one born in the covered wagon. Adam Carter married Frances Young, and their family included William, Edgar, Tommy, Raymond, and Velma. William grew up there in northwest Missouri and married Leah Cover, a descendant of William Brewster of Mayflower fame.
I was born to William and Leah Carter in 1929. There was some thought of giving me the name William Glendenning Carter in honor of my great-grandfather Carter. However, after some consideration, my parents decided on keeping the G but making it William Gerald Carter. Therefore, when I sign my name today as William G. Carter, the memory of my great-grandfather William Glendenning Carter often comes to mind.
Moving now to rural life for the Carter family in northwest Missouri, it would have been nothing like farm life today. Their source of power for cultivation of fields for crop planting was horses, before cars and tractors were available. When I was in my grade-school years in the early and mid-1930s, Dad was still using his historic old single plow when it was time to plow our small garden.
You could get much closer to the fence line with that little plow than with tractor-drawn plows. Back in the early 1800s, that would have been the method of plowing ground when the large fields were being prepared for crop planting. With the strength of your own hands, you would adjust the front part of that plow properly into the ground and walk along behind as a team of horses pulled it through the field or garden.
It was in the early 1930s that farm tractors came into general use. My father had purchased one of the first tractors sold in our neighborhood in northwest Missouri but he was still using his relic old single horse drawn plow to begin preparation of our small garden for planting. When tractors became available in the 1930s, our tractor drawn double plow was being utilized to prepare all fields for crop planting.
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