Friday, March 11, 2011

Less MS, More Phebe. Or Her Grandson, to Be Specific.

I made it to the Monmouth County Historical Society Museum and Library in Freehold today!!! Yeeeee!!! For two whole hours! I know!

It took me a while to calm down, afterwards. To come down from the high. But I'm doing well and my brain is again functioning so that I may transcribe something that I think is great for you.

I found more information about her family from a source that was not so interested in hating on the Loyalists of Monmouth County (in contrast to Asher Taylor for example). In fact, there is a sentence in this typed-up family history that is as follows (and OMG, is it a long sentence - brace yourself) (Also, I don't know who wrote this or when. I hope to get at least a date on it, though, when I go back to the library. The folder is simply entitled "Taylor Family Miscellany"):

"But the best of the Loyalists, however, were entirely too honorable to engage in midnight expeditions to rob and murder former friends and neighbors. Indeed, very many Tories were of the best families in America, and men of this class (to which the Taylors preeminently belong) never committed acts dishonorable as soldiers; this, together with the fact that they socially stood high and that many had held influential positions in the community, exerted a very injurious influence in the patriot cause; of course, the example of such men served to entice many of their friends and acquaintances to the ranks of the enemy, and to cause others secretly to wish them well."

So this family history includes an anecdote. A wonderful one, regarding William Bainbridge, Phebe and John's grandson by their daughter Mary. If you remember from my last true Phebe related post, it was known that William was partially, if not fully, raised by his grandparents in Middletown, in their house on Ruckman Hill. It was also known that he "had the reputation of being bold and of combative nature, so much so that he became a terror to the lads far and near, At the age of eighteen he went to sea." That's from that same account written by E.C.M. VanBrunt.

I should mention that eventually, William Bainbridge became Captain William Bainbridge, a hero of the American Navy during the War of 1812 with Great Britain. He was nationally known - a hero. Exciting, right? Handsome lookin' fella, right? *sigh* On a side note, I'm despairing a bit over finding a portrait of Phebe. But, I'm finding relatives, which is something, I guess.

Anyway, the anecdote in "Taylor Family Miscellany" is about a 16 year old William Bainbridge who once took a walk with his grandfather and who kicked the a of the man twice his size who came upon them in order to protect the honor of his elderly grandfather. It's a good story. But long. Also, sadly, there is no mention of Phebe. Or of William's mother, Mary, for that matter. In fact, I'm coming to realize that this anecdote is remarkably lacking in women. Huh. But we have to assume that they were also in charge of William. I'll get more on Phebe soon, I promise.

Without further ado:
A Revolutionary Legend.
A Tale of Middletown-- William Bainbridge's Early Life.
(From the Freehold Transcript.)

Among the American naval officers who distinguished themselves in our war with Great Britain in 1812 was William Bainbridge, whose boyhood had been passed at Middletown, in the County of Monmouth. Commanding the good ship Constitution, afterwards known in history as Old Ironsides, while cruising along the coast of Brazil he fell in with the British frigate Java, commanded by Captain Lambert......... (Blogger's note: I will spare you the details of this battle. And you're welcome.)

From this time to the day of his death, July 18th, 1833, Captain Bainbridge's career is part of the naval history of the United States, and too well known to need repitition. He was the son of Dr. Adsalom Bainbridge of Princeton. His father moved to New York city and left William, then a mere child, in charge of his maternal grandfather, John Taylor of Middletown.

William Bainbridge lived with his grandfather, John Taylor, at Middletown until 1792, when he sold his farm to George Crawford. In the survey then made of the farm, he acted as one of the chain-bearers for his grandfather. A map of this survey is still in existence, and the signature of William Bainbridge appears thereon as one of the chain bearers. He write (sic) at that time a very neat and graceful hand.

(Blogger's note: A bit repetitive - sorry. Fixin' to get informative and entertaining, I promise.)

Among some of the traditions which still linger among the hills of Middletown of the boyhood life of William Bainbridge, is one which exhibits that indomitable resolution which characterized his after life, and was perhaps the secret of his success. After the Revolutionary war closed, the lot of the more prominent loyalists who were compelled to remain here was very unhappy. Not only was the property of many of them confiscated, but they were often subjected to insults, abuse and even personal violence. The outrages, robberies and murders which had devastated Monmouth County during the war, had aroused the most savage and malignant passion and the bitterest feuds between neighbors, some of which have lasted almost to these times. The Tories who remained were often shown but little mercy; and strange to say some of those whose patriotism was very doubtful during the war, and who were more than suspected of selling poultry, eggs, vegetables and other farm produce to the British fleets, which were anchored in the lower bay or to the British army on Staten Island, and in New York City for English gold, were among the most abusive and violent in their treatment of the outspoken and honest loyalists. They appeared to think that they could in this way rehabilitate their reputations as patriots.

(Blogger's note: Whew. The anecdote begins now. And it is one hell of a paragraph.)

A man of this kind named Walling lived at Centerville, about half way between Middletown and Keyport. He was a man of great size and physical strength and notorious all over the county as a rough and tumble fighter. In those days nearly every neighborhood had its local bully or champion fighter. On election and general training days, these fighters would meet and fierce battles would ensue, in which kicking, biting, gouging and all the injury men could do to each other without using weapons, was allowable. Walling had been victorious in all his fights, and under the influence of liquor was very abusive and insulting to anyone who crossed his path. As a result very few men cared to have anything to do with him and avoided any quarrel with him. Walling, like many others in the neighborhood where he lived, when he had an errand to Middletown village, and went on foot, would take a short cut through by Hendrickson's stillhouse, on across the Wilson farm and Sheriff John Taylor's farm to the Village of Middletown. A private lane or road ran back of Sheriff Taylor's house to the rear of his farm. The old sheriff was in the habit of walking back on his farm every day when the weather was pleasant. His young grandson, William Bainbridge, often accompanied him in these walks. One pleasant day in June when young Bainbridge was about sixteen years old (Blogger's note: 1790, one year before Phebe died.), he accompanied his grandfather, and on their return, when near Cocowder spring, now on the Beekman property, they met Walling, who had been to the village and was on his way back home. The old Sheriff bid him pleasantly good day. Walling began at once to abuse him, saying that "old Tories ought to have their necks stretched" and that he especially "ought to be cleared out of the country." Young Bainbridge stepped up in front of the big bully and told him if he couldn't speak civilly to his grandfather to get off the place. Walling without a word struck young Bainbridge a blow on the forehead which sent him reeling back eight or ten feet, when he fell heavily on his back. He was on his feet, however, in an instant, and rushed wildly at Walling, who again knocked him down. Again Bainbridge sprang to his feet and rushed at his giant antagonist. There was now such a look of grim determination on his face, and such an expression of fury and rage flashing from his eyes, that Walling was seized with a panic and without stopping to analyze his feelings, leaped over a side fence and ran across the fields as fast as his long legs permitted. He stopped at Hendrickson's stillhouse, and after indulging in a few drinks of apple-jack, illustrating the truth of the old adage, "veritas in vino," he frankly told of his encounter with the old Tory's brat, as he called young Bainbridge, saying, "I knowed I could lick him with one hand tied behind my back and both eyes shut. I knocked him down twice, but when he came at me the third time I could see murder shinin' out of his eyes, and he had such an ugly Inginny look as would have skeart the devil. I tell you, that young Bill Bainbridge will be hung for murder." So the story told by Walling went the rounds of the countryside, and after this Sheriff Taylor was not insulted when young Bainbridge was present.

Good right? Are you glad you waded through all that? This is becoming the new normal for me. Lots and lots of wading. But there are gems in store.

Until next time...

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