Sunday, August 16, 2009
Black Sheep Sunday: Caleb Williams
Where do you find the Black Sheep in your family? Do you look in court records? Do you find them in newspapers? Are their stories told in local histories? Yes, many black sheep can be found in these sources, but most of my black sheep stories come from church records. The excerpt above comes from the Church Book of the Baptist Church of Christ at Burlington (Pennsylvania) and is dated 9 March 1816.
"Br Case Hebard & Wills states that Br C Williams still walks disorderly in Swearing & Clubing his Children. Voted to send Brs Mattson Saml Rockwell to admonish him to his duty and come to next meeting Satisfy the Chh."
Admonishments for swearing, drinking, and failing to come to meeting abound in these early church minutes, but this is the earliest instance I found of child abuse. What was happening in the home of Caleb Williams that was labeled by his church, "Clubing his Children?" Four days later, Caleb Williams would be excluded from the church, and I've found no record of his return. Without this note in the Baptist Church minutes, Caleb Williams would not qualify for a black sheep.
Caleb was a Revolutionary War soldier who enlisted in the Continental Army in 1781 when only fourteen years of age. Although he enlisted as a private, Caleb served as a teamster in Captain Bissel Phelps's company and was assigned to drive a team carrying baggage for the French. He was discharged upon reaching Annapolis, but reenlisted in April 1782 and served eight months, again as a teamster under Capt. Chapman. His own declaration tells the story of this service: "Both teams were ox teams, the first had one horse before the oxen. The last team he drove (during the whole of the last term of service) was the property of the government, what was termed a continental team. He was employed in first drawing the magazines, from Fishkill Barracks to Fishkill landing. Afterwards in drawing timber at West Point to repair the fortifications, afterwards in drawing forage, for Sheldon's light horse until discharged at Horse Neck." He married Abigail Andrus in Glastonbury, Connecticut, in 1788, and the young couple followed the migration route from Connecticut to western Massachusetts to Bennnington, Vermont, and finally to the area that would become Troy, Pennsylvania.
In 1816, when this church incident occurred, Caleb's three older children were married. He had given both sons and his son-in-law generous grants of land about the time each marriage occurred. Still at home were three sons, Johnson, age 20, Warren, age 18, and Andrus, age 9, and a daughter, Laura, probably about 12 years old. All lived to adulthood, with the exception of Andrus, who died in 1821. Wife Abigail died in 1823, and Caleb married a second time in 1835.
Caleb died in 1854, by which time most of his property had already been gifted to each child. He left a bay mare, a buggy wagon and harness, and two notes. He must have been very careful with his accounting, because the inventory of his estate closely matches the property he distributes in his 1853 will. He's buried next to Abigail in Glenwood Cemetery, a Revolutionary War marker next to his tombstone.
Without this record in the church minutes, Caleb would not qualify for black sheep status. I still wonder what the full story was. Historical records provide us with only small glimpses of the past - like looking into the peephole of an old Easter egg. What was happening in those places we can't see?