Sunday, June 30, 2013

Johannes Carl Muenck, a.k.a. "John Monk", in Hammond, New York

I just thought I’d add one more family history road trip related post. On the first day of our trip, I noticed as we were driving through upstate New York that we were passing through the town of Hammond, where I recalled that my four times great grandfather Johannes Carl Muenck, known at that time as John Monk, had lived. It appears that John Monk, who fought in the Revolutionary War on the American side, was likely one and the same as Johannes Carl Muenck, a German who had originally come to America as a “Hessian” soldier to fight on the side of the British. He apparently switched sides, which seemed to happen with some regularity once the German soliders were apprised of real intentions of the British, i.e. not to help the colonists, but to suppress their revolution. As I have said before, the Monk family on my tree is quite complex, and I hope to devote more time to researching and unravelling it.

On the way back home, as we were again passing through Hammond, my sister noticed the Hammond Historical Society, and that it was open. We had often encountered museums and sites which were closed on the days we visited, so we felt we should take this opportunity and make one last visit. We were warmly greeted by Donna Demick, the Town Historian, who gave us a tour of the museum and the Civil War era stone house. (See I took some time to ascertain when John Monk had lived in Hammond, utilizing the Ancestry app on my iPad, and it appeared that it was at most two years, i.e. from 1825 when he appeared on the New York State Census as living in Oppenheim, New York, and 1827, the year he moved from Hammond to Watertown, New York. Donna checked but could find no record of John, particularly as he had only lived there briefly, and was not born and didn’t die there. The only record I had was from a letter in his Revolutionary War Pension file stating that he had moved from Hammond in 1827. This turned out to be the year the town was incorporated.

Hammond Stone House Interior
(photographed by Sherry)
Loom in Stone House Attick
(photographed by Sherry)
Exterior of Stone House
(Photographed by Sherry)

It was nevertheless a pleasure to visit the museum and the stone house, as we were able to see a typical Civil War era house in Northern New York, where so many of our ancestors lived at that time. We were also shown household articles, books, photos, toys, and clothing of various eras. Donna allowed us, including my two-year-old niece, to touch these items and to explore to our hearts’ content. She even modelled some of the old clothes for us. Thank you, Donna, for sharing your hospitality and joy in your town’s past. Again, I am feeling so indebted to historical societies everywhere for their diligence in preserving and sharing the world’s heritage, which is so easily lost.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Encounter with Richard Warren and Hester Cooke at the Plimouth Plantation

Our family history roadtrip took us to Plymouth, Massachusetts where we visited Plimouth Plantation, which contains a close to authentic replica of the town of Plymouth circa 1627. (See As you wander around the village you meet actors portraying particular individuals who were residents that year. Of the handful of actors we saw, two were portraying our ancestors: my ninth great grandparents, Richard Warren, and Hester Cooke, born Hester Mahieu, who was the wife of Francis Cooke. I was hoping something like this would happen, but did not expect this.

Hester Mahieu Cooke
as portrayed by an actress
at Plimouth Plantation 19 June 2013
(photographed by S. Hart)

Hester informed me that she was a "Walloon", as her family came from the French part of Belgium, Wallony. This is all very interesting, considering that when I was a university student I went to Belgium as part of an international youth program, which was specifically about discovering Wallony. I had no idea at the time that this land was part of my own heritage. Strange how these things happen in the course of a life. Of course, the question of Hester's origins is all fuel for further study.

Richard Warren
as portrayed by an actor at Plimouth Plantation 19 Jun 2013
(photographed by S. Hart)
I met Richard Warren at his house with his daughter Elizabeth. When I introduced myself, and told him that he was my many times great grandfather through his daughter Sarah, who was going to marry Francis Cooke's son John, he was not very happy to hear that his family was going to be connected to the Cookes. He also stated that he did not believe in speculating about the future. He informed me that he was not part of the religious group which had come to Plymouth, as was Cooke, but was from "London" and was "Church of England". He was a bit crotchety altogether, as great grandfathers can be. He was not impressed with the fact that the colonists lacked so much to help them with their daily lives, such as horses, which he stated had been promised to them originally. I look forward to learning more about Richard, and about the Plymouth colony in general. He was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact, which had enshrined separation of Church and State long before the U.S. Constitution.

Later in the day, I visited the Pilgrim Hall Museum, which is the oldest continually operating museum in the United States. (See  The one item they had from either the Cookes or the Warrens, was Richard Warren's "napkin", which had been handed down through the family. Apparently they did not use cutlery as such, but would eat with their hands, which they would wipe on cloths draped over their shoulders. I could barely make out a design showing what seemed to be embossed angels.

While shopping in the gift shop of the Museum, I started chatting with one of the employees, who was also descended from Richard Warren and Francis Cooke, and was therefore my actual cousin. She directed me to volume twelve of the series, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, which listed the descendants of Francis Cooke. We were able to follow all the lines of descent, of which I was previously aware, from Cooke all the way to my Revolutionary War ancestor, Jeremiah Hart. There it all was in print in one book. She further informed me that because Jeremiah had a number beside his name, and not just a Roman numeral, that his descendants, for at least another generation, would likely appear in the next edition of the book. Just to clarify, the lineage down to us goes something like this: Francis Cooke, John Cooke (who married Richard Warren's daughter Sarah), Mary Cooke, John Taber, Mary Taber, Jeremiah Hart, Stephen Hart, John Hart, Melvin Hart, George Hart, Harold Hart, and Harold's children and grandchildren. It is interesting to note that this list involves only three surnames: Cooke, Taber and Hart--(four if you include Warren). It is also striking to me that there was a long tradition in this family of carving a life out of the wilderness, up to and including Melvin and George Hart homesteading in Alberta in the early twentieth century.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Grist for the Mill: Harts and Tabers in Little Compton, Rhode Island

From Connecticut yesterday we ventured on to Rhode Island in search of the Harts of our paternal lineage. We knew that starting with Nicholas Hart, the first Hart of our lineage to come to America, the Harts had lived in Rhode Island, first mainly in Portsmouth, and then in Little Compton. Our ancestor and four times great grandfather, Jeremiah Hart, who had fought in the Revolutionary War, had been born in Little Compton in 1746, but left there  in about 1768 with two of his brothers to farm in Hart's Village, Dutchess County, New York, now called Millford. During the war in about 1775, he moved again to Stillwater, Saratoga, New York, where he lived out the rest of his life. Jeremiah's mother was Mary Taber,  great granddaughter of John Cooke, and great great granddaughter of Richard Warren and Francis Cooke, all of whom had been passengers on the Mayflower.

My sister and I were struck by the beauty and charm of the Little Compton area as we drove through it, not expecting to gain much more than a feel for the landscape. The lovely farms and houses, some appearing to be from the colonial era caught our attention. My sister noticed the Wilbor House, home of the Little Compton Historical Society as we drove along. (See We stopped in and found that it was only going to be open to the public for fifteen more minutes. We introduced ourselves, and the Society members recognized our surname. They informed us that the Hart family still lived in the area, and that the Harts had always lived in the village of Adamsville, which was formerly part of Little Compton. They kindly gave us directions there (and from there to Plymouth, our next destination).

Wilbor House
(photographer: Sherry)

Adamsville appeared to a little colonial town frozen in time. We parked in front of Gray's Grist Mill, claimed both by the towns of Adamsville, Rhode Island and Westport, Massachusetts. There was a sign stating that it was the oldest continually operating grist mill in the area, and that it dated back to 1675, when it was owned by Phillip Taber. We are descended from a Phillip Taber, but I believe that this Phillip was possibly Mary's brother or uncle. I have since discovered that the owner previous to the present one was a John Hart! The mill in its history has produced a variety of products, including cornmeal from an ancient variety of corn, the similiar to that had been eaten by the pilgrims in Plymouth. The cornmeal was the basis of the johnnycake, a long time area staple. (See

Gray's Mill (photographer: Sherry)

It was amazing and startling to have come from so far away to find a place so specific to our own family, and to get such a feel for their history in a brief afternoon. We definitely are getting a sense of being "guided". More and more I am developing such a sense of gratitude to the people in historical societies everywhere whose work helps to preserve the past. So much of what I know all over my family tree derives from their work. Thanks to them all.

Gray's Mill Interior (photographer: Sherry)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Harts and Wrights in Farmington and Wethersfield

As our family history road trip continues, my sister, my niece and I are staying in Farmington, Connecticut. After my sister booked us two nights here as a base for our travels in Connecticut, I realized that we would be staying in a town which our eight times great grandfather, Deacon Stephen Hart, helped to found. Although we get our surname from another line of Harts, we are still as directly descended from Stephen as we are from Nicholas, the infamous one. As it turns out, Princess Diana and the boys are also directly descended from Stephen on one of her mother's American lines. (Just saying). Stephen also lived in Hartford, Connecticut, and it is said that Hartford is named after him, as there was a ford in the river called "Hart's Ford" which derived its name from him. We were able to locate the site of the Hart Grist Mill yesterday down the road from us in Farmington.

Site of the Hart Gristmill, Farmington, CT (photographer: Sherry)

We visited the beautiful and picturesque town of Old Wethersfield  ( yesterday, and although some of the historical sites were closed, we were able to wander around and make some wonderful discoveries. It was especially eye-opening for me to visit the Wethersfield Historical Society ( and see books on the shelves with the names of so many early Wethersfield families from which we are directly descended, including Wright, Deming, Foote, Welles, and Hurlbut. Charles Wright, my four times great grandfather, mentioned in my previous blogpost, was born in Wethersfield, but his family moved to Goshen, Connecticut, when he a child, before the birth of his brother Freedom. I was struck by what an important place Wethersfield was on my family tree, how the history of the town was so entwined with our own family history, and yet how exotic all this was to me. We really did not know about any of this until a couple of years ago. Oddly enough, my sister and I both mentioned that we felt at "home" and at "peace" here. I hope to write more about my Wethersfield ancestors in future blogposts.

One of our discoveries was a memorial to our nine times great grandfather Nathaniel Foote at the far end of the village green pictured here:

Nathaniel Foote Memorial, Wethersfield, CT (Photographer: Sherry)

We also visited the cove where our eight times great grand uncle Thomas Deming built the first ship ever built in Connecticut, the Tryall, in 1649:

The Cove at Wethersfield, CT \(photographer:: Sherry)

Today, we wend our way toward Plymouth, Massachusetts, in search of our Mayflower heritage. We hope to stop in at Little Compton, Rhode Island, on the way, where the descendants of Nicholas Hart lived for so long.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Our Family History Road Trip: Day One

My sister, my two-year-old niece and I are now on our long anticipated "Family History Road Trip" to upstate New York and New England, including Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. We set out on Father's Day in the pouring rain in search of our father's American roots. I choose to believe that rain at the outset of an undertaking is auspicious.

Battle of the Windmill Historical site (photographer: Sherry)

Before leaving Ontario, we were able to stop by Prescott to visit the Battle of the Windmill historical site, where our first cousin four times removed, Stephen "Sylvanus" Wright, fought in the "Patriot War" in 1838. As readers of this blog will recall, Stephen was captured by the British and sentenced to transportation to Van Dieman's Land, otherwise known as Tasmania. He eventually made it home to Denmark, Lewis County, New York, three years later, where he was greeted with a parade.

Later in the day, we were fortunate enough to find the town of Denmark down a country road--where we discovered Freedom Wright's Inn! This was thrilling for me, not only because Freedom and his brother Charles, my three times great grandfather, have been favourites of mine in my family history research, but also because this was the first place we found on our trip which was specific to our family. Freedom's Inn was the first inn the area, and the site of the meeting in 1804 where it was decided to create the counties of Lewis and Jefferson. As you will recall, Uncle Freedom and Grampa Charles had been in the first battle of the Revolutionary War, Lexington. Strangely, the rain stopped during our visit to Denmark. 

Freedom Wright's Inn (photographer: Sherry)

Today, on to Connecticut.