Monday, October 27, 2014

What Does Your Family Mean to You?

A family, by definition, begins because a man or woman is attracted to someone of the opposite gender, and cares about the fruits of the relationship on an ongoing basis. Think about how much you care about your family, and how much your parents, or grandparents cared about you and their families. The degree to which you show your love and concern determines what happens, within the limits of individual choices, to your children and grandchildren, and beyond. Here’s an outstanding example how both parents in early American Colonial times (about the time of the French and Indian War) cared for their family members, and each other.
Denys (or Denice, Dennis, Dennisje), 1658-1713 is an 8th great-grandfather on my mother’s side of my family. His parents came from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and settled in New Jersey, then a part of New Netherlands. They moved to New York, which, at that time, included all of New England and Maine. He was born there, grew up, then moved up to what is now the state of Maine, and married. It was after he began his family that the hardships began. Denys moved to Jamestown, which was renamed Pemaquid, and is now Bristol, Maine, where he married Grace Dollen, in about 1680.
They had 4 children, Dollen, born 1681, Adriaen, born about 1683, Catharina, born 1688, and Jane, born about 1687.
In 1689, a small, French-led army, consisting of Abenaki natives, led by Jean-Vincent d'Abbadie de Saint-Castin, Father Louis-Pierre Thury, and Chief Moxus, attacked the fort at Pemaquid, successfully subduing it and the farms around it, killing and capturing many English subjects. One of them was Denys’ wife Grace. Denys was apparently able to hide himself, and his 3 older children. Little 2-year old Jane, the fourth and youngest, however, couldn’t flee, and had to stay with her mother, and was captured. No information exists about how long Jane survived. What she and her mother suffered was also never put into writing. Telling the authorities was probably too painful. It is possible Jane was taken away to be raised by the Abenaki, or other tribes. Considering the difficulties Grace and her captors would have had nourishing a two-year old girl, she probably died soon after her capture.
The next few years were nightmarish for Grace, for Denys and their older children. Denys, wracked with sorrow and loneliness, wondering where his wife was, and whether she remained alive, pleaded with Governmor Slaughter, the newly-appointed governor of New York responsible for Pemaquid, and was finally granted permission to sail north in the Spring of 1691. There he was to be dropped off, so he could search for his missing wife and daughter.
Saint-Castin, the interim military administrator, however, immediately imprisoned Denys as a war combatant, notwithstanding his being “…a lame man having but one arme & not Capable to gett his living by any servile labour.” The commander’s administrative excuse was “Who is this governor (Slaughter) and how long has he been there?' Denys replied: 'A month or six weeks.' St. Castyn then said: “Why has Monsieur Frederick Phillips, or his son Philip, whose hand-writing and name I know, not written me a letter of recommendation? Therefore, I cannot consider you as anything but traitors and I am forced, according to orders from Governor de La Conte, to send you to Quebec.”
So Denys, courageous, and crippled, was taken prisoner by the French, and sent to Quebec. In the meantime, his wife Grace had survived her experiences among the natives, and was sold to the French, then brought to Quebec, where she was reunited with her husband. I would have liked to see the reunion. On March 4, 1693, their son Joseph, my 7th great-grandfather, was born.
The Hegemans’ story resonates in this day and age of electronic distraction and familial disconnection to me. How much would I care, and what would I have done, were I in a similar situation? How prepared am I for these, or similar kinds of contingencies?

No comments:

Post a Comment