Thursday, March 25, 2010

The excitement is building

The House of Trumble II

Robert Stuart, the adventurous fur-trapping brother of our three times great grandmother Catherine Stuart (17981877) was, like her, born at Balquhidder, in the parish of Callander in Perthshire, Scotland. According to Harvey L. Carter, once of Colorado College (writing in The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1972, pp. 36164):

“Robert migrated in 1807 to Canada, where his uncle, David Stuart, was an agent for the North West Company. Through his uncle’s influence, he became a clerk for that company in Montreal, where he also learned the French language.

“In 1810, both David and Robert Stuart decided to participate in John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company. Robert became a partner to the extent of two shares, probably through the generosity of his uncle, who is thought to have assigned to his nephew two of his five shares just prior to their sailing for the Pacific Coast from New York City, September 6, 1810. While the Tonquin was fitting for the voyage, Robert became attached to Elizabeth Sullivan, whom he later married.

“Captain Thorn, who commanded the Tonquin, was a martinet of irascible temper and, at the Falkland Islands, sailed off leaving David Stuart and five others ashore, through some misunderstanding regarding the time of the ship’s departure. When they followed for some hours in a rowboat, he refused to take them aboard until Robert Stuart drew a pistol and threatened to blow his brains out, from which it will be seen that young Robert Stuart had a temper of his own.”

This account of the early nineteenth-century post-transit re-embarkation at Port Stanley of the uncle and great-uncle of our pioneering great-great grandfather William Trumble, though very stirring indeed, is perhaps best forgotten whilst passing through modern airports.

The excitement is building

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Today’s Gospel reading (John 12:1–8) got me going:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

This remarkable story appears in all four Gospels, which agree substantially on points of detail. I wondered, however, about that “pound of costly ointment of pure nard,” and trotted home to check. Fortunately the Greek and Latin tally perfectly, and as far as I can see there are no substantive variants among early witnesses. Matthew (26:7) gives alabastron murou barutimou, which goes straight into the Vulgate as alabastrum unguenti pretiosi, literally an alabaster [flask or little bottle] of [very] expensive ointment.

Most if not all English translators and exegetes beginning with the King James Bible opt for “ointment,” with its pleasing medicinal hint, presumably helped along by the Latin unguen, –inis, which implies fatty texture, even greasy. However, according to Liddell and Scott muron literally means oil extracted from plants, hence various senses of oil, unguent, ointment, balsam, and perfume are all equally possible. As usual, context is everything.

Helpfully, therefore, Mark (14:3) gives alabastron murou nardou pistikes polutelous; (Vulgate: alabastrum unguenti nardi puri pretiosi—same problem), which translates as an alabaster [flask or little bottle] of ointment/unguent/perfume of [very] expensive pure oil of spikenard, very costly. Incidentally “polutelous” means expensive, and not more generally precious. Likewise the Latin pretiosus explicitly means costing a lot of money, not merely precious in our sense of rare, scarce, valuable, to be prized, etc.) The word polutelous only occurs twice in the whole of the New Testament; unusual words are almost invariably used for corresponding emphasis.

Luke (7:37), meanwhile, shortchanges us with alabastron murou (alabastrum unguenti), literally an alabaster [flask or little bottle] of ointment/unguent/perfume, so we may assume that the author(s) of Luke was as uninterested in fine fragrance as St. Jerome.

However, as usual John (12:3) comes up trumps: litran murou nardou pistike polutimou (libram unguenti nardi puri pretiosi), literally a pound (12 ounces) of [very] expensive pure oil of spikenard. The fact that the “osme...murou” (12:3), i.e. explicitly the fragrance of the ointment/unguent/perfume eplerothe (i.e. like “plenary”), in other words literally fills the house—this settles the question in my mind. The “woman” (Matthew and Mark), the female “sinner” (Luke), or Mary the sister of Lazarus used not ointment, but oil, specifically perfumed oil, and here begins to decant from a twelve-ounce bottle the equivalent of several ounces of Joy Parfum by Jean Patou, the original 1930 masterpiece by Henri Alméras, one of a handful of the greatest perfumes of all time, in which most of the roses grown commercially in Bulgaria still end up. The current price of twelve one-ounce bottles is $5,400 before tax. Emptying merely one would be like setting off a bomb at the fragrance counter at Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t propose to try it. The point is therefore not just about apparently wanton extravagance, but about an essentially subversive gesture of almost reckless theatricality, and hi-octane sensory impact, word of which must have reached far beyond Bethany.

Now, in antiquity alabaster vessels came to Israel from Egypt, but the heads of the spikenard plant (which yield the oil) came all the way across Central Asia, hence the enormous cost. Spikenard (i.e. Nardostachys grandiflora or Nardostachys jatamansi, also called nard, nardin, and muskroot) is a flowering shrub of the Valerian family that originated in the foothills of the Himalayas, on both sides, that is in modern China, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. If you want to find out what it smells like, check out L’Arome d’Egypte by Parfums des Beaux-Arts.

The observation about smell in John is so rare, and so vivid, that you cannot help but connect it with the observation about the condition of the four day-old body of Lazarus, whom Jesus brings back to life a little earlier at 11:39. Indeed Jesus himself explicitly makes the mortuary point at 12:7, when rebuking Judas Iscariot. In a sense it is frankincense and myrrh all over again.

Myrrh (Balsamodendron myrrha) grew in Yemen and North Africa, and the pulverized dried leaves, pods, and berries bound in oil were definitely used as a perfume qua perfume, no doubt about it (e.g. Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Songs 1:13, etc. ), as well as for the purification of women (Esther 2:12), and, of course, embalming, which is how we treat it through rather leaden association at Mark 15:23, but also (most unusually) in John, where at 19:39 Nicodemus brings myrrh and aloes that really are there for the grim business of dressing Jesus body for burial.

Frankincense (Mark 15:23) was specifically for liturgical burning, and mostly composed of various kinds of gum such as gum arabic. The fragrance, though, came from a particular resin that was collected by slitting the bark of an Indian tree (Boswellia serrata). You find frankincense right through the Old Testament, but it is generally mistranslated as incense, which is technically not the same thing. The references to incense at Isiah 43:23 and 60:6, and in Jeremiah 6:20 (as an expensive import to Arabia) are specifically to frankincense. The Hebrew word is Lebhonah, and it gave the translators of the Septuagint a terrible headache. Probably the reason for this is that frankincense came in two ways, seasoned with salt (Exodus 30:34-35), or sweet, i.e. no salt (Exodus 25:6, Leviticus 10:1). Any other sort of incense was strange incense, and could not be offered (as in Exodus 30:9, cfr. Leviticus strange fire, which is the same thing, 10:1).

Evidently the people of Israel extended principles of quality control to fine fragrance. The interesting part is that I cannot see any explicit connection in scripture between frankincense (Lebhonah) and funerary rites, until post hoc when it was convenient to make one (Revelation 8:3).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Great Grandmother Susan Compson Trumble

On January 9, 1889, our great-grandfather John William Trumble (1863–1944) of Kew, Victoria, married at Christ Church, St. Leonards (North Sydney), Susan Compson, elder daughter of John Davies, of Leddicott, Lavender Bay (later Bayview Street, McMahon’s Point). Her death notice appeared in the Argus on August 19, 1938: “TRUMBLE—on the 17th. August, 1938, at Myoora, Irving Road, Toorak, Susan Compson, loved wife of John William Trumble. (Privately cremated on 18th August.)” Myoora was by this date a genteel guesthouse cum nursing home. According to her death certificate Susan’s parents were John Davies, “draper,” and his wife Jane.

Susan’s sister, Mabel Annie Mason Davies, younger daughter of the same John Davies, of Leddicott, Lavender Bay, married on February 7, 1888, also at Christ Church, St. Leonards, John Robert, eldest son of John Hardie, of Louisville, Darlinghurst-road, Sydney. Both ceremonies were conducted by the Rector of Christ Church, the Reverend Alfred Yarnold, an Evangelical veteran of the Church Missionary Society’s outpost in Hyderabad; soon to be rural dean of North Sydney, and chaplain to the Right Reverend William Saumarez Smith, Bishop of Sydney. Mrs. Trumble’s sister Mrs. Hardie died on June 2, 1938.

These shreds suggested to me at first that the Davies family arrived in Sydney aboard the Orient line’s S.S.
Sorata on January 23, 1883, when they headed the list of Saloon passengers as “Mr. Davies, aged 60; Mrs. Davies, aged 57; Miss M. A., aged 21, and Miss S. C., aged 23.” Mr. J. S. Davies (aged 30) might be the John Stafford Davies who in 1923 was still living at Leddicott, McMahon’s Point, presumably a brother; there is also a Mr. Wm. J. Davies, aged 20, whom I cannot trace.

However, according to her death certificate, when she died Susan was seventy-five, and was unequivocally born in Sydney (having lived twenty-five years in New South Wales, and fifty in Victoria). If this is true, then it certainly casts doubt on the identity of the Davies family aboard the
Sorata in 1883, where Miss S. C. Davies is several years older than Susan Compson Trumble. Yet (a) the age discrepancy is not large; (b) it may simply have been a point of vanity that Susan shaved off a couple of years in order to topple her future husband; it was far easier to get away with that then than it is now. As well (c), the Davies’s voyage aboard the Sorata may have been the final leg of an extended visit home to England or Wales; the family could have profitably migrated to Australia up to several decades earlier, or even more.

In any case, on Tuesday, July 21, 1885, the following advertisement appeared on page 3 of the
Sydney Morning Herald: “WANTED, a good plain COOK and Laundress; references. Mrs. Davies, Leddicott, McMahon’s Point, N[orth]. S[ydney].” To my knowledge this is our great-great Grandmother Davies’s only surviving public utterance. Jane Davies died on March 25, 1890, aged fifty-three. Her mortal remains lie buried in St. Thomas’s Cemetery in North Sydney. John Davies died the following year, on August 26, aged sixty-three, and was buried beside her: thus further doubt is cast on the true identity of the Davies family aboard the S.S. Sorata.

Mr. Davies’s name (either as “John Davies, Leddicott,” or more often “Davies, Leddicott”) appears frequently in the
Sydney Morning Herald right through the later 1880s and the early 1890s as the point of contact for sales and lettings of fairly modest properties in and around North Sydney, but in quite high volume; whether he and his son and namesake were agents or else shrewd investors and property developers is anyone’s guess, but I suspect the latter.

But then there is the draping concern: Was real estate merely a sideline, and did John Stafford Davies inherit not only the family home in Lavender Bay, but also a controlling interest in the family retail businesses also? Regardless, Great-Grandmother Susan Compson Trumble certainly had money. Great-grandfather J. W. Trumble spent a good deal of it sailing back and forth to England to attend the Ashes series at Lord’s Cricket Ground; drafting extremely tedious letters to the Editor of The Times newspaper about how groundsmen ought to maintain a good cricket pitch, and enjoying extended holidays with friends in Scotland and, in the teeth of North Sea gales, playing golf on rugged lowland links.

The House of Trumble

In assembling his The Golden Age of Cricket (1968) and The Trumble Family in Australia (1972) our first cousin twice removed, the musicologist Robert Trumble (son of the renowned Australian test-cricketing legend Hugh Trumble) was not yet able to benefit from the extraordinary resources that are now available on the internet: official records of every description, above all scanned or transcribed records of births, deaths, and marriages in many jurisdictions; shipping lists, and entire runs of nineteenth-century newspapers that are now keyword-searchable. Happily it is now possible therefore to augment his picture of our common ancestor, William Trumble (1828–1908).

With his brother Thomas Cornelius, William Trumble migrated from Ballymote, Co. Sligo, in 1841, aged fourteen. The Trumble boys’ father, John Trumble, was a freeholder, and their mother’s name was Ann (née Knott). John Trumble survives in the land records for two parishes in the neighborhood of Ballymote in Sligo. It seems he paid a church tithe or tax for arable and bottom land, and what is unsentimentally described as “reclaimed bog” at Feenaghroe in the parish of Toomour, to the tune of £1/10/10½. John Trumble leased from a Mr. Parke a property at Shancarriglen or Oldrock in Cloonoghil parish, which was presumably where he and his wife lived, and raised their family. This was in 1834 valued for taxation purposes at £30. In turn John Trumble let numerous small holdings, viz. 37 acres to Mary Feely, 22 to Michael Coughlan, 14 to Michael McDonough, 31 to Messrs. Gaffney, Gray, and McGettrick, 7 to Michael Dodd, and smaller, actually tiny parcels and plots of arable land to various others. The family also had connections to the little town of Castlerock, near Lough Foyle in Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Mrs. Trumble’s Knott relations lived near Ballymote in much the same way, though they were better off: James Knott, Esq., of Battlefield in the parish of Toomour, probably Mrs. Trumble’s father or brother, held more than 200 acres, which were in 1858 valued at £133.

Robert Trumble has shown that the Irish Trumbles were transplanted from Scotland in the seventeenth century, and their name was much prone to corruption. Variants include Trimble, Tremble, Trumbull, Turnbull, Turnebull, Turnebu, etc., but satisfactorily there is in Joseph Bain’s Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland Preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, London (Edinburgh: H.M. General Register House, 1881, Vol. 2: A.D. 1272–1307) a dated reference to one Ralph de Trumble (1295/96), so ours is obviously the correct, or canonical spelling.

In any event, in 1841 William and Thomas Trumble disembarked in Port Adelaide, South Australia, and found their way overland to Victoria. The brothers must have arrived in the vicinity of Sandhurst (Bendigo) well ahead of the first gold rushes in 1851, because one of them made it into this 1853 composite silver albumen group portrait photograph by “Bent” of 100 members of the Society of Old Bendigonians, which is today in the collection of the State Library of Victoria in Swanston Street, Melbourne. At this date the Trumble in this photograph practiced around Sandhurst as an apothecary.

William Trumble’s subsequent career is pretty well documented. Evidently the brothers did rather less well at prospecting for gold than supplying medicines to the neighborhood of Sandhurst before the Gold Rush, but William must have done at least well enough to justify describing himself on his marriage certificate in 1862 as “quartz miner.”

The following year William Trumble entered the Victorian government service, ultimately rising to the position of superintendent of the Willsmere Hospital, better and perhaps more accurately known as the Kew Lunatic Asylum. The Asylum was built between 1864 and 1872 to the design of architects in the Victorian Public Works Department—a gloomy, cut-price riff on Second Empire architectural opulence, initially standing in stark contrast to its function, but with each passing decade converging eerily with it. There is some comfort in the fact that our ancestor was put in charge of the asylum, and not admitted. The doors were thrown open to in-patients in 1871.

Thomas Cornelius Trumble, meanwhile, decided to continue on to New Zealand, and was never heard of again. I am told his descendants have prospered, to the extent that this is possible.

By 1862, William Trumble had moved from Bendigo to Melbourne. On December 3 of that year, at St. Stephen’s Church, Richmond, (“in [his] 30th year”) William married Elizabeth, spinster, of Richmond, formerly Edinburgh (“in [her] 27th year”; her rank or profession simply gives “with friends”). When their eldest son, our great-grandfather John William Trumble was born in 1863, William and Elizabeth Trumble were living in Sackville Street, East Collingwood, in inner Melbourne. The next three children were all born in the same house, but in 1872 the family was living in Ararat, in Central Victoria, where Thomas, the youngest, was born, i.e. the future permanent secretary of the federal war (defence) department throughout World War I. According to the electoral roll of 1903, William and Elizabeth Trumble were in that year retired, living quietly in Waterloo Street, Camberwell.

Hitherto William Trumble’s wife, Elizabeth, has been a shadowy figure. Her death notice appeared in the Argus on September 3, 1908, p. 1: “
TRUMBLE—on the 31st. August, Elizabeth, beloved wife of William Trumble, of Auburn-road, Auburn, and mother of J[ohn]. W[illiam]., H[ugh]., and T[homas]. Trumble, aged 79 years. (Interred privately [at Kew].) William died suddenly in Mentone before the end of that year, and was given a colossal funeral. According to Great Uncle John Compson Trumble, “People came from everywhere.” William and Elizabeth were buried in the same plot, together with their only daughter, who died young.

Elizabeth Trumble was the daughter of Hugh Clark of Edinburgh (born in about 1796–98) and his wife Catherine (1799–1877). Hugh Clark is variously described at different times and in different places as “merchant,” “accountant,” “billiard keeper,” and “civil servant,” and it may be that at one time or another he filled all of these functions, but probably not all at once.

On February 26, 1821, in Edinburgh, Hugh Clark married Catherine “Stuart,” the daughter of John “Stewart” and his wife Margaret (
née Buchanan). By 1841, when the first Scottish census was taken, Hugh and Catherine Clark and their family of three surviving sons and four daughters (including the future Elizabeth Trumble) were residing in a modest house at 5 Duke Street, Edinburgh, together with “D. Skinner,” a writer (accountant); James Grant, a clerk, and Hannah Turnbull (“F[emale]. S[ervant].”), all three of whom were aged twenty. Apparently Mr. Clark worked from home, under rather cramped conditions.

By 1851, when the next census was taken in Scotland the family had vanished, and it has occasionally therefore been presumed that they migrated to Australia in the intervening decade. However, according to the Victorian death certificates of three of Mr. Clark’s children, including that of Elizabeth Trumble, which agree exactly on this point, those Clarks who came to Melbourne must have disembarked at Hobson’s Bay some time in 1853. The only record of the death in Melbourne of any remotely likely person called Hugh Clark seems to be the “crier of the Supreme Court,” who resided “at the back of the Royal-Terrace, Nicholson-street.” Exciting though this hint toward future Trumble involvement in the legal profession may be, this Hugh Clark died in January 1858, and was probably not Elizabeth’s father. It seems more likely that Mr. Clark died somewhat prematurely, and was buried in Edinburgh no earlier than 1841 and no later than 1853. This was presumably the prompt for his widow and her family to emigrate. In later official documents he is invariably referred to as “Hugh Clark of Edinburgh,” and never as a colonist.

Certainly, his widow Catherine Clark sailed to Melbourne, though she is hard to locate in any ship’s manifest. Old Mrs. Clark lived quietly in Church Street, Richmond, in the household of her youngest son (Elizabeth Trumble’s brother) David Stuart Clark (1838–1925), and their unmarried sister Catherine (1834–1903). Another sibling, Annie Christina, married at St. Kilda in 1870 a person who rejoiced in the name of John Herman Krom. Of the five children of this marriage, two daughters and a son predeceased Mrs. Krom, who died a widow in 1902, having been confined to the Austin Hospital with what, with leaden tact, a consulting physician described as a “rodent ulcer.” Mrs. Krom was survived by two Misses Krom, of whom the younger (also Annie) was still alive in 1936, and residing at 53 Mary Street, Kooyong.

William Trumble’s mother-in-law Catherine Clark died peacefully at her youngest son’s home in Richmond from natural causes: general “debility” and paralysis. She expired on January 4, 1877, aged seventy-eight.

Now, Catherine Clark was the youngest of the nine children of John “Stewart” (born 1756) of Balquhidder in Perthshire, Scotland, the place where Rob Roy died in 1734. Overshadowed by the dramatic mountain braes of Balquhidder, and more often than not enshrouded in ponderous mist, the eponymous village stands at the head of Loch Voil in the neighborhood of Stirling. John Stewart, also known locally as Ian mhor na Coille, or “Big John of Cuill,” was a redoubtable Gaelic-speaking Highland gentleman, for many years the schoolmaster at Strathyre and Callander. He was also clerk of sessions, and keeper of the local register of births, and marriages, including his own (on April 15, 1780) to Catherine’s mother, Margaret, the daughter of one Robert Buchanan and Janet, née Menteith.

John Stewart’s father, meanwhile (Catherine Clark’s paternal grandfather), was James McTavish McAlester Stewart (1725–1796), also known locally as Seumas na Coille, or “James of the Wood.” This elder Stewart of Balquhidder joined the infamous Duke of Cumberland in the battle fought by the Anglo-Dutch armies against the wicked French at Fontenoy (modern Belgium) during the so-called War of the Austrian Succession. Though defeated on that day (May 11), the 42nd Highland (Black Watch) Regiment, in which James Stewart fought, distinguished themselves by “their own way of fighting,” i.e. with scarcely imaginable ferocity, and, as if to underline the point, our ancestor’s own well-worn Andrea Ferrara broadsword is today in the collection of the Scottish United Services Museum in Edinburgh Castle. Five times great grandfather Stewart was probably not aware that one of our other sixty-three thankfully unrelated five times great grandfathers, Sir James Campbell of Aberuchill and Kilbride, third baronet (1723–1812) (an equally doughty Pearson ancestor), also fought at the Battle of Fontenoy, but in a rather sniffier cavalry regiment: the Scots Greys.

The defeat of the Anglo-Dutch armies at Fontenoy and in late September at Prestonpans (where James Stewart also distinguished himself) gave considerable momentum to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s expedient and dastardly Highland insurrection, the so-called second Jacobite rising, which took place in the autumn of 1745. James Stewart’s Black Watch regiment fought on the loyalist or Hanoverian side during that bitter and bloody campaign, the “Forty-Five,” which was far bitterer for that generation of the family of Stewart of Balquhidder because James’s two younger brothers John Stewart and Duncan Stewart fought on the opposite side, that of the Young Pretender, and lost.

One final aspect of this saga of life in the Highlands of Scotland is the tantalizing glimpse of vast wealth accumulated in America by a collateral branch, but inevitably (as has so often been the case) channeled elsewhere: William Trumble’s mother-in-law, Catherine Clark, had an older brother, Robert Stuart, who was born on February 19, 1785, and in 1807 migrated to the United States. By 1810 he was in New York City, where he became
a partner in John Jacob Astor’s famous Pacific Fur Company. Thus furnished with an apparently inexhaustible supply of capital, Uncle Robert Stuart sailed via the Falkland Islands (where, in an altercation, he threatened to blow the captain’s brains out) then Cape Horn to Fort Astoria, the company’s principal trapping establishment and trading post on the mighty Columbia River in the territory of Oregon, hard by the encampment that in the winter of 1805–06 Lewis and Clark named Fort Clatsop. I have been there. Afterwards Robert Stuart undertook one of the most remarkable overland journeys in American history: carrying despatches to Mr. Astor in New York; he walked all the way back across the continent from west to east, a feat that is remembered as the discovery of the Oregon trail.

Afterwards Robert Stuart settled at Michilimacinac, Mich., where he was J. J. Astor’s agent for the American Fur Company until 1834, when he moved to Detroit. During this period the Company vigorously maintained a monopoly on western trade in pretty much everything by any and all available means, as ruthless and deadly as was considered expedient. Mr. Stuart continued in Detroit as Astor’s principal agent, and incidentally as an elder of the Presbyterian kirk, before retiring to Chicago, where until his death in 1848 he was Secretary to the Trustees of the Illinois and Michigan Canal Company. His fortune was considerable, though not nearly as enormous as John Jacob Astor’s. (Astor sank the profits earned from the sale of beaver pelts, etc., into what later turned into the limitless jackpot of Manhattan real estate.) Alas in Robert’s lengthy will there is no mention of his sister, the widowed Australian colonist Mrs. Clark, nor any reference to her sons, daughters, nor indeed above all her deserving Australian son-in-law, our pioneering great-great grandfather William Trumble, sometime superintendent of the Kew Lunatic Asylum.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

John Mignan of Plymouth

The marriage in 1764 of our four times great grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Peter Travers deftly combined at least three substantial legacies carefully husbanded in Plymouth during the first half of the eighteenth century, and prudently bequeathed by one close-knit generation of Huguenot merchants to the next. Mr. Travers’s father was an industrious watchmaker. Mrs. Travers’s parents were Mr. Peter Paré and his wife Mary, the daughter of a M. Mignan, formerly Mignon, sometime comte de la Chaussée de Poitou. Mr. Paré accumulated a considerable amount of property in and around Plymouth anyway, but thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Paré’s unmarried brother, John Mignan, who died in 1754, Mrs. Travers and two of her female cousins shared in the residue of his considerable estate, although, by virtue of having been prematurely widowed, as a bonus Mrs. Paré’s older cousin Mrs. Pitman got the use for twenty-one years of Mr. Mignan’s brand new house “on Hardy’s Lands,” and the gift of his sedan chair; perhaps she was lame, or portly, or both. Mr. Mignan’s will survives in the probate records of the National Archives at Kew, and is of some interest. It identifies this gentleman as a religious “enthusiast” through his association with the famous “primitive” Calvinist Methodist divines George Whitefield and Howell Harris of Trevecka in Breconshire, Wales. Mr. Mignan was obviously practical, seeing fit to leave his clothes to a young unmarried manservant Samuel Price (plus £10!), but only if Samuel stayed at his post until the very end. But who were Ann Simon (£5), and Sarah Tippett (50s), and especially Charity Perdue to whom Mr. Mignan left his house, “courtilage,” and garden in Gascoin Street, Plymouth? (In property law a curtelage is the enclosed area of land surrounding a “dwelling-house.”) And where did this leave the current, indeed soon-to-be-previous occupant Elizabeth Barker? In the conventional manner of eighteenth-century legal drafting, the document is a colossal, relentlessly unpunctuated sentence written out in longhand. For ease of comprehension I have inserted punctuation.

“In the Name of God, Amen.

John Mignon of Plymouth in the County of Devon, merchant, being of sound and disposing mind, memory, and understanding, and calling to my Remembrance the great uncertainty of this Transitory life, do make, Publish, and declare this my last Will and Testament, humbly recommending my Soul to Almighty God, in hopes of mercy and forgiveness for all my Sins, and my Body commit to the Earth to be decently interred at the discretion of my Executors hereinafter named, and as for my Temporal estate, I dispose thereof in manner following, that is to say, I give and bequeath to my Kinsmen Stephen Mignan and Peter Paré both of Plymouth aforesaid two hundred Pounds in the Three percent Annuities of the year One thousand seven hundred and forty three In Trust to permit and suffer my Sister Susanna Boutet to receive the Interest or Dividends thereof during her Life, separate and apart from her Husband, and without being Subject to his Management or control, and, after her decease, In Trust to permit and Suffer her Daughter Magdalen Boutet to receive the Interest of the said two hundred pounds during her Life and after her Death In Trust to divide and pay the said Principal sum of two hundred pounds to and amongst my said Sister Susanna Boutet and such of her children as shall be then alive; I give and bequeath to my Neice Magdalen Pitman, Widow, All that my new Erected Dwelling house which now almost finished situate in Plymouth aforesaid on part of Hardy’s Lands which I lately purchased To hold to her and her Assigns for and during the term of Twenty-one years from the time of my death, and also I give her the Chair that I am now carried in; I give and bequeath to Charity Perdue all that my house, Curtilage and Garden with the appurtenances situate in Gascoin Street within the Borough of Plymouth now in the possession of Elizabeth Barker To hold to her and her Assigns for and during the term of her natural Life, and I also give her the sum of five pounds; I give and bequeath to my Brother in Law Isaac Chardavogne One hundred pounds; to my Brother Mignan five pounds; to Ann Simon five pounds; to the Reverend Mr. Bordier five pounds; to Mr. Philip Gibbs ten pounds, to the Reverend Mr. [George] Whit[e]field ten pounds, to Mr. Howell Harris of Trevecka in [Breckonshire] Wales ten pounds, and I further give to the said Messrs. Whit[e]field and Harris thirty pounds in trust for them to distribute at their own discretion amongst such of the Preachers and Teachers of the Gospel as they shall think fit; I give to Mr. John Stephens late of Plymouth and Mr. Thomas Adams now of London and Mr. Howell Harris’s Wife five pounds a-piece; to my servant Samuel Price if he is living with me at my death, and not otherwise, Ten Pounds and all my Wearing Apparel; To Sarah Tippett fifty shillings; I give devise and bequeath to my said Kinsman Stephen Mignan and Peter Paré and the Survivor of them his and their Heirs and Assigns All my Mossuages, Lands, and Tenements whatsoever In Trust nevertheless and to the End and purpose that they, the said Stephen Mignan and Peter Paré or the Survivor of them his and their Heirs and Assigns of such Survivor as soon as can be after my death, may sell and dispose of the Reversions and Inheritance of all and singular my said Messuages [i.e. dwelling-houses including outbuildings, orchards, curtilages, or court-yards and gardens], Lands, and Tenements for the most money that can be had for the same and, after all my Debts, Legacys, funeral Expenses, and other charges and Expences whatsoever are fully paid and discharged, for them, my said Trustees, to divide and distribute the neat proceeds of all my said Real Estate, as well as the residue of such Personal Estate as may dye Possessed of, in four equal parts, that is to say, to and amongst my said Nephew Stephen Mignon and my three Neices Mary Paré, Magdalen Pitman, and Lydia Sanford, share and share alike, and I do hereby constitute and appoint my said Kinsman Stephen Mignan and Peter Paré joint executors of this my last Will and Testament, desiring them to see the due Performance thereof and hereby I revoke all my former Wills whatsoever, In Testimony whereof I, the said John Mignan, have hereunto set my hand and seal the Twenty Fourth day of April in the Twenty second year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain France and Ireland King Defender of the faith, and so forth, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty nine—[squiggle] The mark of John Mignan— Signed sealed and declared by the said Testator John Mignan as and for his last Will and Testament in the Presence of us who have Subscribed our names as Witnesses hereto in his presence and at his request

Sam. Brent, H. Brent, Edward Warren.

“This Will was proved at London the Eighth day of April in the year of our Lord One Thousand seven hundred and fifty four before the Right Honourable Sir George Lee, knight [illeg.], of Laws Master, Keeper or Commissary of the [Ecclesiastical] Prerogative Court of Canterbury, lawfully constituted by the Oaths of Stephen Mignan and Peter Paré, executors, named in the said Will, to whom administrators was Granted of all and singular the Goods Chattels and Credits of the deceased being first sworn by Commission duly to administer.”

The Huguenot families of Paré and Mignon

In 1764, our ingenious four times great grandfather Peter Travers, physician to His Britannic Majesty’s Royal Hospital at Lisbon, married Mary (1741–1815), the daughter of Peter Paré, a merchant of Plymouth, and his wife Mary Mignon (d. 1775), in turn the daughter of a Huguenot refugee who, settling in Devonshire at the close of the seventeenth century, no doubt spent the evening of his life (when not engaging in the novel profession of “merchant”) by reflecting wistfully upon the splendor of his title: comte de la Chaussée de Poitou. But, though ancient and noble, the family of Mignon was in fact originally English.

According to a discursive entry in John Burke and John Bernard Burke’s Heraldic Illustrations, Comprising the Armorial Bearings of the Principal Families of the Empire (London: E. Churton, Vol. 2, 1845, pl. CIII) “The family of Mignon...deduces its paternal descent from Sir William de la More, the ancestral chief of the ancient house of that name [i.e. More and Moore, not in any way related to Sir Thomas More, whose ancestry is obscure], who possessed More Hall and Bank Hall, both in the county palatine of Lancaster, for a long series of generations. Sir William accompanied Edward III. [1312–1377] to France, fought at the battle of Cressy [Crécy] in 1346 [August 26], and was advanced to the highest military order in the days of chivalry, that of a Knight Banneret, on the field of Poitiers [1356]. About a century afterwards, the successors of this Sir William de la More raised a corps of archers, and hastened to the relief of Louis XI. [1423–1483] King of France, when besieged by Charles Duke of Burgundy [at Beauvais, 1472], and on their being presented at court, His Majesty observing their handsome and martial appearance, exclaimed—“Ce ne sont pas la des Mores, mais des Mignons;” from which the surname of “Mignon” has remained to them.

“In the 16th century, during the reign of Charles IX. [1550–1574] when civil war broke out between the Catholic and Protestant parties, Mignon’s lineal descendant adopted the latter faith, and was one of the most distinguished chiefs of the Huguenots, and took a conspicuous part in the numerous victories of his party, between the years 1580 and 1586, in conjunction with the celebrated Duke [Maximilien de Béthune, duc] de Sully [1560–1641]. At the battle of Coutras in Guienne [October 20, 1587], Mignon was chief Commandant of Artillery, and to his exertions was the King of Navarre, (afterwards Henry IV. [1553–1610]) principally indebted for that brilliant victory: for his services on this occasion Henry IV. sent him the baton of a Marshal of France, the highest military honour which could be paid to a Protestant nobleman, but he was killed soon after at the seige of Nonan Court [Nonancourt, 1590]. His son and successor became page to Henry IV. on that monarch’s accession, and was (as his father had likewise been) the confidential friend of the Duke de Sully. The family continued in undisturbed enjoyment of their estates, until the revocation of the edict of Nantz [sic, 1685], when the representative of this ancient and noble family was compelled to fly his native country, and arriving at Plymouth, settled himself there as a merchant.

“One of the chief ancestors of the different branches of the family of Mignon which flourished in France in the reign of Philip [VI] of Valois [1293–1350], acquired the lands of Mignonville near Nantes. William de Landes, Lord of Mignonville, was upwards of a hundred years old when he died. His son allied himself with the noble and ancient House of De la Chaussée of Poitou, which held the Government of Poitiers in 1635. This family also intermarried with the illustrious house of Breçonnet of Tours. Francis Breçonnet, the second of his name, Lord of Leveville, &c., was father of William Breçonnet, by his wife, Anne de Landes, Countess of Mignonville. He was President of the Council and d. in 1674; by his marriage with Margaret, dau. of John Amelot and Cathérine de Creil [of the exceedingly ancient and noble house of Creil], he had several children, of whom one only survived, John, Lord [sieur] of Mignonville, who d. 25 Dec. 1698, leaving an only son, Count de la Chaussée, who came into Devonshire, as already stated, and had issue—1. John, a merchant, who d. at Plymouth, Feb. 1754. 2. Stephen, who m. 11 March 1746, Mary, eldest dau. of the Rev. Thomas Bishop of Barnstaple, grand-dau. of Sir John Davie, fifth Bart. of Creedy, and had,—with two elder sons both d. young, and two daus. viz. Mary, m. John Innes, Esq., and Elizabeth Mussell, m. to Joseph May, Esq. of Plymouth,—an only surviving son, George Mignon, Col. in the army, who served with great distinction in the campaigns in India under Generals Goddard and Abercrombie, and Lords Cornwallis and Harris. At the assault at Seringapatam [Srirangapatna, May 4, 1799], he led the whole flank companies of the Bombay Army, and obtained immediately after the battle a divisional command through the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington (then Sir Arthur Wellesley)... 3. Mary, m. to Peter Paré, Esq. the lineal descendant of the celebrated Ambroise Paré, Surgeon to Francis I., and Henry II., Kings of France…”

Now, as regards our five times great grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Paré, all this is useful but slightly misleading. Ambroise Paré (c. 1510–1590) has indeed been referred to as “père de la chirurgie française,” but of his ten children by two marriages only three daughters survived infancy. Nevertheless, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as antiquarian interest in le chirurgien formidable Paré intensified—he is credited with discovering the antiseptic properties of turpentine in the treatment of hideous battlefield injuries; for the ligature instead of the cauterization of arteries prior to amputating limbs, as well as certain modest advances in obstetrics—there existed a scattering of ancient spinster ladies called Paré who lived not far from the village of Bourg-Hersent near Laval (Mayenne) where Ambroise Paré was known to have been born, as well as numerous Huguenot families with the name of Paré who likewise claimed direct descent from this illustrious man. All members of the latter fled France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), and a number settled in Amsterdam, where one displayed a sign prominently over his front door: “Habitation des descendants d’Ambroise Paré.” (The whole story is set out in great detail by Paule Dumaître in her fine article “Des descendants retrouvés dAmbroise Paré, a famille dhier, sa famille daujourdhui,” in Histoire des sciences médicales, Vol. 33, 1999, pp. 243–54, though unfortunately the trail goes cold in Amsterdam.)

Presumably the Plymouth branch of the family of Paré cherished the same tradition, and it may be that all, including our Mrs. Travers, were remote collateral descendants of Ambroise’s father, who was a valet de chambre and barbier attached to the household of the comte de Laval, or else Ambroise’s brother Jean, who was also a hairdresser.

None of this explains our dear late father’s strong attachment to unreliable French automobiles.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Peter Travers at Lisbon

Our four times great grandfather Peter Travers was for over forty years surgeon to the English forces in Portugal; physician to His Britannic Majesty’s Royal Hospital at Lisbon, and eventually also to the Court of Dom José I and Dom Pedro III. He took up his appointment in the immediate aftermath of the terrible Lisbon earthquake of 1755. His reputation (such as it was) seems to have rested for many years on a sensational case of modern clinical practice that was reported to a meeting of the Fellows of the Royal Society in London on January 27, 1757. According to that paper, “An Instance of the Gut Ileum, Cut Thro’ by a Knife, Successfully Treated by Mr. Peter Travers, Surgeon, at Lisbon,” (Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 50, 1757, pp. 35–37), young Travers successfully treated Señor Antonia Josée da Costa, one of the King’s messengers, thus proving that vicious, deep stab wounds to the lower abdomen, perforating both the peritoneum and small intestines, were not inevitably fatal, as had previously been assumed. Still, at first it was touch and go.

According to his report, upon being summoned to the bedside of his unfortunate patient, Mr. Travers thoroughly explored the wound with his index finger, and, concluding that matters were serious, drained and cleaned it as best he could. Obviously without the aid of anesthetic, he repaired the intestines; “reduced,” reattached, and put them back into the patient’s tummy; sewed up the external incision with a needle and thread, and administered an enema consisting of olive oil, the yolk of an egg—the constituents, incidentally, of mayonnaise—and warm water.

In the ensuing three days the patient experienced extreme abdominal pains; continuous and powerfully odiferous vomiting; diarrhea; high fever, and a fast, irregular pulse. So Mr. Travers regularly bled him. He administered further enemas consisting this time of a decoction of wormwood and camomile. He also prescribed by the tablespoon every two hours “an anodyne mixture” of mint-water, liquid laudanum, sugar, three ounces of syrup of rhubarb, and an ounce of “the fresh-drawn oil of sweet almonds.” And to this medicine he added “Dr. Huxham’s tincture of the bark; which was taken, a tea-spoonful, six times a day, in a little mint water; which indeed greatly relieved him.” After three days, showing no signs of deterioration, but very few of improvement (other than that his pulse was slow and weak—Mr. Travers took this to be an improvement) he administered by mouth “absorbent powders” bound in rice water: one drachm each of crabs’ eyes and ground red coral, and two grains of crude opium.

The following day Señor Da Costa slowly began to improve; his pulse strengthened but stayed calm; his diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, and the agonizing pains in his tummy gradually abated. The loose threads came adrift from his wound, which steadily healed over, and thereafter “he was kept seven and twenty days on chicken-broth, and never admitted [allowed] to use any solids during that time: afterwards he was indulged with young chickens, &c.,” at which point he was discharged, and made a complete recovery.

A notable aspect of this remarkable case anticipates by 250 years the uneasy interrelationship that now exists between members of the medical profession and drug companies. Huxham’s “tincture of bark,” more properly known as tincture of Peruvian or red cinchona bark, contains “bitter orange peel,” serpentary (or Virginia snakeroot), saffron, and cochineal, mixed in 20 fluid ounces of diluted alcohol. It was invented by the physician John Huxham, M.D., of Totnes (1692–1768), a son-in-law of the celebrated Captain Thomas Coram of the Foundling Hospital.

Peter Travers privately addressed his original report about Señor Da Costa to John Huxham on August 3, 1756, clearly believing that Dr. Huxham’s tincture had made a vital contribution to the complete recovery of his patient. And it was Huxham, since 1739 a Fellow of the Royal Society, who decided to go public with the case, and read the paper himself. No doubt he was motivated by genuine scientific curiosity, and possibly also a determination to give credit where credit was due to a young colleague working abroad under challenging conditions. Still, the paper attracted much gratifying attention to Dr. Huxham’s “tincture of the bark.” Admiring reports and paraphrases of the paper appeared in The London Magazine, or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer (Vol. 27, 1758, p. 396); The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle (Vol. 28, 1758, p. 265), and elsewhere. Indeed the remarkable case of Señor Da Costa’s gut was still regularly cropping up in medical literature of the mid-nineteenth century, almost a century after Huxham’s death in 1768, and more than fifty years after Peter Travers’s on February 18, 1797, by which time he had clocked up more than forty years of continuous service in His Britannic Majesty’s Royal Hospital at Lisbon.

As far as I can ascertain, only one of his direct descendants ever followed Peter Travers into the medical profession: his five times great granddaughter Dr. Sybil Borthwick, our excellent first cousin once removed, though I doubt if she has ever seen fit to prescribe Huxham’s tincture of the bark.