Monday, 26 March 2012

Digging and blogging in Dallas, Texas

God, I'm not much of a blogger, am I? I mean, I posted up Mount Kailash on 8 September 2011, and promptly forgot to write anything at all about Shambhala! I had good intentions. The next blog, December 8, Digging up your Family, was merely a comment on another person's blog, called Digging up your Family, a great name for the blog of a person who willingly flings themselves into the endless entanglements of ancestral roots. And that's exactly what has happened to me. Since I discovered that RH CRozier, pastor and novelist and author of 2,000 sermons, born in Mississippi, died in Palestine Texas (1908), I became very, very excited about the past. I had discovered my own Great Great Grandfather. This man's warmth

Or at least the warmth I perceived in his eyes, made me feel like I'd found a mentor, though I doubt he'd have approved of my spiritual inclinations. A man of the South, who proclaimed the South should have a literature of her own, many of his novels were a vehicle for sermonizing. But in truth I have not yet read one of them. I will- but my mother cannot find the family copy of 'The Confederate Spy', which she remembers clearly her mother handing to her, and telling her some 'relative' wrote. My mother's mother was Mary Catherine Crozier from Dallas, Texas. She never ever mentioned to my mother that this was her own grandfather, my mother's great grandfather. He was somehow connected to the family, my grandmother told her. It only took a few evenings of twiddling around on and the US National Archives, and the Texas Genealogical Society, who were so helpful in my research, to find that this man was in fact our direct ancestor. My mother nearly fell over when I told her.  She had always wondered where her people from Dallas, Texas had come from. 

My Great Grandmother (Anne  Crozier nee Starke Gardener,) far left, Norman Robert Crozier, my grandmother Mary C. McGrath (nee Crozier) and my uncle Norman McGrath. The Croziers were on a visit to Ireland from Dallas 

There was her mother's mother, Ann Starke Gardener, a proud Southern lady, a committed member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Who was she, where had she come from? Her husband, Norman Robert Crozier, was the Superintendent of Dallas Schools. When he came home from work, he used to drop his trousers on the verandah. He was a swarthy Classics Scholar, like his father. 

My Great Grandfather Norman Robert Crozier from Dallas, Texas. Painted by my maternal Grandfather, Raymond McGrath,  on return from a boat trip to Scotland in 1938. He died in 1940

 Mary Crozier, my grandmother adored him and was so devastated by his death in 1940, that her manic depressive episodes began thereafter. There, the first reason why I wanted to investigate our American ancestry: where had the manic depression started in the line? Was my grandmother the first to suffer? Was there some earlier trauma in previous generations that had been carried down the line through my grandmother, my mother and my brother? I was lucky to have escaped. But the question remained: who were the Croziers, and who were the Starke Gardners? How had they ever come to America? "We are from France", my grandmother used to tell my mother. But in truth, she hadn't a clue. Nobody had a clue. The whole thing was a mystery. 

My maternal Grandmother, Mary Catherine McGrath, nee Crozier
from Dallas, Texas who moved to Cambrdige to study where she met my grandfather, Raymond McGrath. Together they left England in the Second World War, and came to Ireland where they settled. 

After my years in Poland, and my obsession with things Jewish, I suggested to my mother that the Croziers might have been Jews back some generations. Jews masquerading as Episcopaleans,  or Presbyterians in Texas. After all, my Great Grandfather Norman Robert Crozier, was very dark. My grandmother was very dark. I mean they had brown eyes, they had sallow skin. My mother and I convinced ourselves that there was Jewish blood. It was just a matter of time. We would discover a whole line that went back to Poland, where I had lived and pored over Synagogues (a rare thing in Poland now of course), and Jewish cemeteries, and mock Jewish quarters. My long lost sister Marina, who we only discovered in 1994, also had a thing about Judaica- many of her dear and best friends had been Jewish, and she had long been drawn to that culture. And strangely, many of my Grandmother's friends had been Jewish too although her Southern prejudices had also come out came out to mock the Jews too- she called New York 'Jew York'.  Perhaps you can see from this picture of her, why my mother and decided she at least looked Jewish. 

e been stories surrounding the Buckout Road area for 
decades...and in one case as early as the late 1600s. Native 
American legend claimed that a
 Great White D  Si
Robert Haskins Crozier was born January 28, 1836 in Coffeeville, Yalobusha County, Mississippi. He had married Mary Reinhardt from Little Rock, Arkansas in 1875. This was his second wife. I wondered was she Jewish. I later found out that she was from a long line of Lutherans that had intermarried for centuries, and her line originated in Stuttgart. Damn, once again no Jewish blood. And the more I find out about my family origins, the less likelihood there is of being Jewish. There simply isn't a Jew in sight in any of the many lines I have traced with the help of a brilliant friend who is extremely clever in genealogy. 

Above left: Norman RObert Crozier and right of him, Anne Crozier nee Starke Gardner and below, my Grandmother Mary C. McGrath (nee Crozier) with my mother Jennifer Anne McGrath and her brother Norman McGrath
I traced back about four generations on the Crozier line. In a small biography of Robert Haskins Crozier, it stated that he was the son of  Nancy Oliver (1808-1876) and Hugh Galbraith Crozier (1818-1884), who was the owner of a large plantation in Mississippi. I discovered that Hugh's parents were Arthur Crozier and Elizabeth Barton. Arthur had been the postmaster of Clinton, Tennessee. Census Records told us he was born in Tyrone. Ireland. Beyond that, I could find out no more. Everyone knows that tracing your family in Ireland is like diving into an ancient bog. Thanks to the reliance on oral genealogy,  a somewhat slack approach to recording vital records and the final burning of any records that there were during the Irish Civil War, when Michael Collins burned down the Custom House, there is little hope of going back very far into your generational roots. So I left the Croziers there. Arthur had, no doubt, taken a ship to America in search of a dream or fleeing some nightmare. Though as I understand it, the first American settlers were all pretty well disposed and endowed and therefore had the mentality of colonialists which was a prerequisite for the total suppression of the native American Nations to be completely brought under control. 

I can't say I'm entirely proud that the Croziers, especially Hugh Galbraith, had slaves. I couldn't sleep the night I discovered that. That's the way it was in the Southern States. I was always told how my Great Grandmother Heart (Anne Starke Gardner) told blacks to give her a seat on the bus. How that family had black drivers and servants. How, disgracefully, they called blacks 'niggers'. I was never proud of this and that it was my inheritance made me uneasy. 

Croziers aside, I left my GGGG Grandfather Arthur in Tyrone, and moved on to his wife, Elizabeth Barton, my GGGG Grandmother. The name would not suggest she was Irish: therefore, there was some hope that she was traceable- or her line was. My friend Liosa McNamara, a genealogical genius, traced these Bartons back to New York. We found Roger Barton, Elizabeth's GG Grandfather, had founded Brookhaven, Long Island and after some trouble he got into for selling beer to the natives, he bought land up in Westchester, New York. 

About 1670, it is said by Charles W. Baird ("History of Rye" [New York, 1871], pp. 52 f.) that Roger Barton acquired land at Rye Neck, then part of Connecticut, and gave it the name of Barton s Neck, i.e., "all the lands . . . [in 1871] . . . bordering on Grace Church Street, north of the road leading to Mamussing Island, as far as the brook and inlet above Dr. Sands' house, near to Port Chester . No Barton deeds for this area have been found in Westchester records and it is probable that, if extant, they lie hidden in some Connecticut archive. Whatever the truth about the period at Rye, Roger Barton purchased on 20 Nov 1678, from John Archer, first Lord of the Manor of Fordham, a tract of 102 acres "Iying near Brunxes River, commonly called the Great Plain, within the bounds of the said manor" together with a sixteenth part of the salt meadow and a share of fresh meadow adjoining the "Nursery Swamp". This land was assigned to Barton for various causes and more especially valuable considerations of money", but as a token payment signifying enfeoffment, Barton and his heirs and assigns were obligated to pay Archer and his heirs and assigns, every Shrove Tuesday, at the Manor House of Fordham, a fat hen. Similarly, at the same time (see Harry C. W. Melick, "The Manor of Fordham and Its Founder" [New York, 1950], pp. 92-4) Archer also sold similar tracts to Thomas Statham, John Conklin, Jeremiah Cannife, William Jones, Jonathan Hudson, and Nathaniel Stevens. According to Mr. Melick, Barton and Statham, at least, gave bonds to Archer, neither of which had been satisfied by 1688 (op. cit., pp. 114 f.).


A few generations later we have Captain Elisha Barton, whose grave is in this photograph, born 1729 in  
 Hunterdon County, New Jersey, USA. He served in the American Revolutionary War as a captain in the Eastern Battalion of Morris County, New Jersey and may have witnessed some very gruesome battles with the Cherokee people. 

TO my amazement (and some horror) the whole genealogical spectrum of our family on my mother's side contained far more Anglo-Saxon blood and Saxon blood than I ever could have imagined. I was not descended from the underdogs, but the bulldogs themselves. Yet the other half of me, on my father's side, was descended from a long line of staunch Republicans (freedom fighters, in the Irish context) who would do nothing but spit at the English throne. I have an uncle who refused to travel through the UK for most of his life, on moral and historical grounds. There I was, searching for Jewish blood in America, only to find I was on the side of the Puritan colonisers who suppressed and destroyed a whole native culture that is still suffering to this day in the repercussions of their loss of land. And the further back I went, and as I continue to do, the plot only thickened. I was more British than I ever could have dreamed of, or had nightmares of being. More to follow. 

1 comment:

Anchorbird said...

This post is WONDERFUL. So exciting...!