Ye Body of Mrs Hannah Morgan

1.18.20 ~ Hannah (Brewster) (Starr) Morgan (1641-1711)

Samuel Starr, my 8th-great-grandfather, son of Thomas and Rachel (—) Starr, was born about 1640, probably in Massachusetts, and died about 1688 in New London County, Connecticut. He married (as her first husband) 23 December 1664 in New London (New London) Connecticut, Hannah Brewster, who was born 3 November 1641 in Duxbury (Plymouth) Massachusetts, and died 11 December 1711 in Groton (New London) Connecticut, daughter of Jonathan and Lucretia (Oldham) Brewster.

Hannah married (as her second husband and as his second wife) about 1690, Capt. James Morgan, who was born 3 March 1643 in Roxbury-Boston (Suffolk) Massachusetts, and died 8 December 1711 in Groton, son of James and Margery (Hill) Morgan.

Samuel is buried in the Colchester Burying Ground in Colchester, Connecticut. Hannah is buried between her son Thomas Starr and her second husband Capt. Morgan in the Avery-Morgan Burial Ground in Groton.

The following is from A History of the Starr Family, of New England, from the ancestor Dr. Comfort Starr, of Ashford, County of Kent, England, Who Emigrated to Boston, Mass., in 1635 by Burgis Pratt Starr, (Hartford, Connecticut: Case, Lockwood & Brainard, 1879), 14

[Samuel Starr] was one of the early settlers of New London, and a prominent man in the town, holding the honorable office of County Marshall (High Sheriff) from 1674 to his death. In 1670 he proposed to establish a ferry at Norwich, and lands were voted him for the purpose, but probably proving unprofitable, he gave it up and forfeited the grant.

He lived on the old “Buttonwood corner,” now corner of Main and State streets. There is no record of his death, but as a grant of land, made to him June 22, 1687, was deeded away by his widow, Feb. 22, 1687-8, his death occurred between those dates.

Hannah & Samuel were the parents of four sons:

i. Samuel Starr, born 11 December 1665 in New London, died after 1687.

ii. Thomas Starr (my 7th-great-grandfather), born 27 September 1668 in New London, died 30 January 1712 in Groton. He married (as her first husband) 1 January 1695 in Groton, his stepsister, Mary Morgan, who was born 20 March 1671 in New London, and died 14 September 1765 in Stonington (New London) Connecticut, daughter of James and Mary (Vine) Morgan. Thomas & Mary were the parents of seven children.

iii. Comfort Starr, born before 6 August 1671 in New London, probably died young.

iv. Capt. Jonathan Starr, born 23 February 1674 in New London, died 26 August 1747 in Groton. He married (as her first husband) 12 January 1699 in New London, his stepsister, Elizabeth Morgan, who was born 9 September 1678 in Groton and died there 18 September 1763, daughter of James and Mary (Vine) Morgan. Jonathan & Elizabeth were the parents of three children.

1.17.20 ~ Barbara at Avery-Morgan Burial Ground

It was bitterly cold! But I was happy to find four of my ancestors. I am kneeling behind the grave of my 7th-great-grandfather, Thomas Starr, a shipwright. To the right is his mother, my 8th-great-grandmother, Hannah (Brewster) (Starr) Morgan. Next is his stepfather and father-in-law, my 8th-great-grandfather, Capt. James Morgan. Next is his mother-in-law, my 8th-great-grandmother, Mary (Vine) Morgan.

It’s complicated! It took me a while to sort it all out, but the start of the confusion occurred when Thomas married his stepsister, Mary Morgan. So his stepfather became his father-in-law.

On the far right Mary (Vine) Morgan died in 1689. Then her widower, James Morgan, married Hannah (Brewster) Starr about 1690. Next to die was James, on 8 December 1711, about 19 years after his first wife died. Then Hannah, his second wife, followed closely on 11 December 1711 and then Hannah’s son, Thomas, on 30 January 1712. He was only 43 years old. It has me wondering about a possible epidemic.

Joshua Hempstead of New London recorded the deaths of three adult members of the Lester family within one month, as well as the deaths of a few more who died after short illnesses during the winter of 1711-1712, but he said nothing definite about an epidemic. Nearby in Groton, and in Milford, there are a few gravestones suggesting the prevalence of a contagious disease among adults that winter and spring.
~ Ernest Caulfield
(The Pursuit of a Pestilence)

Gallows Lane

Map & Compass flag and treasure box

Earlier today Beverly and I went hiking in the woods near Gallows Lane in New London. She was setting out flags and prizes hidden in the woods for the thirty children who will be coming to her Map & Compass activity on Saturday. The children have to use a map of the woods and a compass to locate eight places marked by the flags. Each location has a plastic box filled with a little treasures. They bring back one treasure from each box to prove they found each of the flags. (They get to keep the treasures…) I think the first kid back from the expedition gets another prize, too. It took us a couple of hours to set it all up, so they’ll be having a long walk and an adventure, too, if they manage to find them all!

The cliff where Sarah Bramble was hung from the gallows…

One might wonder how a road would come to be designated with such a morbid name. Gallows Lane. Well, it was a terrible thing that happened there. A servant woman named Sarah Bramble was executed by hanging off the cliff here in 1753. She had been convicted of murdering her illegitimate newborn daughter. So far I haven’t found out too much about her, but what I have found out makes me more curious than ever about her life.

November 21st, 1753, Sarah Bramble was executed in a cross highway that leads out of the main road to Norwich, about two miles north of the town plot. This path has ever since been known as Gallows Lane. It is a rugged, wild and dreary road, even at the present day. The fearful machine was erected in the highest part of the road, and all the hills and ledges around must have been covered with the spectators. It was computed that 10,000 assembled on this occasion; some of them probably came twenty or thirty miles to witness this repulsive exhibition. The gloom of the weather added another dismal feature to the scene, a drizzly rain continuing most of the day.

This is the only public execution of any white person that ever took place in New London. The crime of the unhappy woman was the murder of her infant illegitimate child, on the day of its birth. It was committed in April, 1752, and she was tried by the superior court the next September. But the jury disagreeing in their verdict, she was kept imprisoned another year, and sentenced October 3d, 1753. She declined hearing the sermon intended for her benefit, which was preached by Rev. Mr. Jewett, before the execution.

Frances Manwaring Caulkins, History of New London, Connecticut: From the First Survey of the Coast in 1612, to 1852, (Hartford, Connecticut: Press of Case, Tiffany & Company, 1852), 468

Sunlight through the trees and spilling over the wall…

[September 28, 1753] “at the meeting house to hear the Tryal of Sarah Bramble for murdr of her Bastard Child in March 1752.  Court Sat by Candle light.”
[October 1, 1753] “the Jury brot in their verdict & found Sarah Bramble Guilty of Murdering her Bastard Child a female in march 1752.”
[October 3, 1753] “Sarah Bramble Received Sentance of Death ys Day”
[October 24, 1753] “went to Lectureto hear Mr Jewit who pr to Sarah Bramble &c.”
[November 7, 1753] “in the aftern att Lecture. Mr Jewit preacht. the Sermon Composed to be pr to Sarah Bramble, but she declined Coming to hear itt, a Large Congregation.”
[November 21, 1753] “Misty & Rain moderately. S: Bramble. I was at home foren. in the aftern I Rid up to the Cross Highway abve Jno Bolles to See Sarah Bramble Executed for the Murdering her Bastard Child in march last was a year Since. She was hanged at 3 Clock. a Crowd of Spectators of all sexes & nations yt are among us from the neighbouring Towns as well as this. Judged to be Ten Thousand. it Rained moderately most of the day.”

Joshua Hempstead, Diary of Joshua Hempstead of New London, Connecticut (New London, Connecticut: New London County Historical Society, 1901), 616-619

Stone walls in the woods…

It strikes me how matter-of-fact and unemotional Hempstead is about this woman’s trial and execution. He doesn’t say one way or the other what he thinks about the matter. Why did the jury disagree on a verdict? Who was the father of Sarah Bramble’s child? Didn’t he have some responsibility for what happened? Was the father possibly her employer? I can’t help feeling she was probably abandoned and forced to bear the blame for the “fornication.” And why did she murder her baby, if she did? Did she want to spare it the pain of a lifetime of being referred to and excluded as a Bastard? Did she feel cornered, like there was no other way out? Honestly, I could see myself reasoning that way if I had found myself in that situation in that time period. Maybe she was suicidal…

There’s a lot of history in these woods, which are still claiming back the land the early settlers turned into farms and then abandoned when they moved westward. Today we found a pen made of stones for ewes and their lambs. The rocks were low enough for the mother sheep to leave to find food and return, but high enough to keep the lambs safe inside. Amazing how shepherds knew to build such an enclosure and how the sheep made use of it, instinctively knowing it was just what they needed for a perfect nursery!

We also found a pretty little princess pine forest…

Enchanting princess pine forest…