The Craftsmen

Long before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, my ancestors migrated to North America from Europe. It’s hard to imagine how they could support themselves in an unfamiliar and untamed land, but some arrived as experienced craftsmen with skills that were greatly in demand as more and more settlers arrived. Others learned a skill after they got here. For the most part, these trades are very different from work people do today.

Pilgrims in Massachusetts

Francis Eaton, carpenter

Francis Eaton was my only ancestor to come on the Mayflower with the English Separatists who settled in Plymouth (Massachusetts) in 1620. With him on the Mayflower were his wife Sarah and son Samuel. Francis, a carpenter, was born in England, date unknown. His carpentry skills were undoubtedly in demand since the Pilgrims had to build all their homes. Unfortunately, Sarah was one of many who died in 1621, and Francis married a second wife who also died. In 1623, Christian Penn arrived on the Anne. She became his third wife around 1625, and they had three children: Rachel, Benjamin, and Christopher. Francis died on November 4, 1633, and Christian married Mayflower passenger Francis Billington the following year.  My descent is through Benjamin Eaton.

Giles Rickard, Sr., weaver

Giles Rickard Sr., born about 1599 in England, arrived in Plymouth on the Speedwell in 1637 with his wife, Judith Cogan-King, and three children. On December 4, 1637, he was granted seven acres of land in Plymouth, where he served on several grand juries and was chosen to be constable in June 1658. Though he was granted a license to have an ordinary (a tavern), he was also a weaver–one involved in textile production. He died about 1684 in Massachusetts. I am descended from his son Giles Rickard, Jr.

John Barrowe, cooper

Born in Yarmouth, England, in 1609, John Barrow sailed to Massachusetts in 1637, probably on the Mary Ann, with his wife, Anne Thompson Barrowe. Shortly after arriving, they settled in Salem. John had several ways of supporting his family; one of them was working as a cooper. A cooper made barrels, vats, buckets, tubs, troughs, and churns out of wood pieces held together with hoops. John and Anne were the parents of my ancestor Robert Barrowe, born in 1639, but Anne died soon after the birth. By 1665, John had moved to Plymouth, where he died in 1691. 

John Stockbridge, wheelwright

John Stockbridge, born about 1607 in England, was not technically a “Pilgrim,” but his biography is listed in Genealogies of Mayflower Families, Vol. III, available at the Ancestry website. This source discusses at length some of the controversies regarding baptism that divided people in the church. The claim is made that John came to New England for economic, not religious, reasons. There is no evidence he belonged to the church, but his first wife, Ann, is listed as “Goodwife Stockbridge” in the church records of Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1637.  His second wife also accepted the church’s teachings, despite John’s dissatisfaction with the government in Scituate. He was fined more than once for his “contemptuous speeches,” but his “usefulness as a wheelwright” protected him from being punished more severely. In 1646, he is mentioned in land transfers as “John Stockbridge, wheelwright.” Wheelwrights built and repaired wooden wheels, so it may be that most people did not have the knowledge or the means to do this themselves. He was later party to the purchase of a sawmill, which must have been a help to him in his work as a wheelwright.  I am descended from his daughter Mary Stockbridge by his third wife, Mary Broughton. This daughter married Benjamin Singletary in Essex County, Massachusetts, in 1678.

Nathaniel Briscoe, tanner

The maternal grandfather of Mary Broughton Stockbridge (mentioned in the preceding biography) was Nathaniel Briscoe, born in Missenden, England, in 1595. The surname is also sometimes seen as “Biscoe”. In Watertown, Massachusetts, Genealogies and Histories at Ancestry.com, he is described as “the rich tanner”. Tanners were responsible for treating the hides or skins of animals to make leather. Nathaniel had come to Watertown around 1640 and was always politically active. Like John Stockbridge, he was a rather contentious person. For example, he circulated a pamphlet complaining about the way ministers were supported financially. By 1651, he was so fed up with the “religious intolerance” and not being allowed to vote as a “freeman” due to his Baptist beliefs that he returned to England, where it is believed he died. His wife, Elizabeth Honor Briscoe, born in 1600, had passed away before he left, but Nathaniel’s grown children remained in Massachusetts. He later wrote to his son-in-law that he would rather be in Massachusetts if people were allowed freedom of conscience.

Settlers in New Netherland

Philippe Antoni Du Trieux II, worsted dyer

Philippe Du Trieux was born in July of 1586 in Roubaix, France, which is now part of Belgium. In 1615, he married Jacquemine Noirett, and they had four children. After Jacquemine died in 1620, Philippe married Susanna Du Chesne in Leiden, Holland; their families had come to Leiden to escape religious persecution in France. The Netherlands was enriched with the arrival of these new immigrants because they were highly skilled craftsmen and artisans. Philippe was among these skilled workers; he was a worsted dyer–a dyer of wool yarn. In 1623, the Dutch West India Company decided to take settlers to the Delaware Valley near the Connecticut River. Philippe and 29 other families sailed in the spring of 1624 on the ship Nieuw Nederland but ended up going to a different location than planned: New Amsterdam (now New York City). The families settled on Manhattan Island, and Philippe became an employee of the Dutch West India Company. He later served his community in other capacities and had at least nine more children. Sometime before September of 1653, Philippe died, and Susanna died in 1654. I am descended from their daughter Susanna, who married Evert Wendell.

Jochem Wesselse, baker

Jochem Wesselse (1579-1681) was born in Hamburg, Germany. Very little is known about him, but he married Geertruy Hieronimus and had at least one child, Catrina. Though they were among the earliest settlers of Rensselerswyck (now Albany), they later moved to New Amsterdam. Jochem was a baker, and, obviously, his skills were in demand, regardless of where he lived. Everybody eats bread! He made a will around 1680 and died not long after. Geertruy was born in the Netherlands in 1579, but her date of death is unknown. Catrina (1620-1703) married Abraham Staats, a surgeon, fur trader, and community leader in Fort Orange, Rensselaerswyck, now Albany.

Goosen Van Schaick, brewer

Goosen Gerritse Van Schaick was born in Utrecht and came to New Netherland in 1637 under contract to Patroon Killian Van Rensselaer. After seven years of service, he went back to Holland but returned to New Netherland in 1646 on the ship Rensselaerswyck. Goosen was interested in the fur trade and was also involved in the real estate market. In 1664 he and Philip Pieterse Schuyler purchased the “Halve Maan”– land– from the Indians. Within this patent is Van Schaick Island, where the Van Schaick Mansion was built by his son Anthony. In 1675, Goosen and Pieter Lassingh purchased Harmen Rutger’s brewery on the Exchange Block; subsequently, Goosen became a brewer. A brewer, of course, makes beer, which was probably a necessity in that time and place. Goosen’s first wife was Geeritje Brantse Van Nieukerke, mother of my ancestor Sybrant Goosen Van Schaick. After she died, Goosen remarried. Due to his two marriages, he was the patriarch of a large and prominent family in Albany. At his death, sometime before 1679, he left a substantial estate to his second wife and to his ten children living in Albany.

Immigrants to Virginia and South Carolina

Salvator Muscoe, Sr., stone mason

As far as I know, Salvator Muscoe is my only Italian ancestor. According to Doug Garnett of the Garnett Family Registry, Salvator was a stone cutter, or stone mason, born in 1645 in Sicily. He went to London following the Great Fire of 1666 because workers with his skills were in demand to rebuild the city. He worked under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren in the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Salvator immigrated to Virginia around 1685 and settled near one of the Garnett families living there. Sometimes there is confusion about the details of his life due to the fact he had a son also named Salvator. Both Salvator Sr. and Salvator Jr. had daughters named Elizabeth who married Garnetts. I am descended from Elizabeth, daughter of the elder Salvator. Elizabeth was born about 1680 and married Thomas Garnett, born about 1675. They lived in St. Anne’s Parish, Essex County, Virginia.

Johann Philip ensminger, blacksmith

Johann Philip Ensminger, born in 1727 in Waldambach, Alsace, France, immigrated to Pennsylvania as a child with his parents, Peter and Mary Catherine Trautmann Ensminger. He was the fourth generation of Ensminger men to be a blacksmith. His great-grandfather, Philipp Ensminger, Sr. (1640-1712), age 20, was listed in the 1662 tax records for Grafschaft Lützelstein, which included Waldhambach.  His occupation is listed as schmeidwerks. A schmied is a smith (blacksmith) and werks means works. Johann Philip’s grandfather, Philipp Ensminger, Jr. (1666 – post 1730), worked as a blacksmith who shoed horses in Alsace. Johann Philipp’s father, Peter Ensminger (1694-1739), was a blacksmith, too, and practiced that trade both in Alsace and in Pennsylvania. However, blacksmiths do more than shoe horses. They are really metalsmiths– hammering, bending, and cutting metal to make grills, railings, grates, tools, cooking utensils, weapons, and chains, among other things. After the death of his father, Johann Philip married Catherine Margaret Kissinger, served in the American Revolution, and moved to Virginia, where he worked as a blacksmith, raised at least ten children, and died in Monroe County. This area is now in West Virginia.

john dickey, Linen draper

One of the strangest professions I’ve ever heard of is linen draper. Basically, this is the job title for someone who sold cloth or linens–a dry goods merchant. According to Grover Dickey’s book John and Alexander Dickey, Immigrants, 1772, this was John Dickey’s job in Larne, County Antrim, Ireland, before he and his son Alexander arrived in South Carolina on the ship James and Mary. They received warrants for land surveys in 1773, and John Dickey’s land was 150 acres in Barkley County. Obviously, they had to do some farming, but I do not know for sure that John continued to work as a linen draper. John died in York County, South Carolina, in 1788. His son Alexander (1746-1832) served in the American Revolution and married Ann Wiseman, also an Irish immigrant. 

John mcvey, millwright

Long-time McVey researcher Vern Taylor believes that John McVey (1737-1823) was probably born in Scotland and came to America as a soldier in the French and Indian War.  He and his (unknown) first wife had four children and lived in Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia). I am descended from their son Samuel Lewis McVey. After John’s first wife died, he married Sarah Snedigar and had twelve more children. John was given leave to build a mill on his land in 1787 and then worked as a millwright. A millwright’s responsibilities might have included installing, repairing, dismantling, assembling, or moving machinery, as well as constructing any of a variety of types of mills–flour mills, sawmills, or paper mills. The idyllc scenes of mills that are often seen in artwork might make one think that a millwright’s life was easy. However, looking at a diagram showing how complicated the machinery could be, it becomes clear that a millwright actually had to be very knowledgeable about  many things. John moved to Kentucky later in life, but records are unclear as to whether he died in Kentucky or in Virginia.

These examples give a simple overview of some of the crafts and trades our earliest American ancestors learned. Technical and practical skills are always needed, but not always appreciated.  I am looking forward to finding more information about other ancestors  and the crafts and skills that helped them to support their families and contribute to the welfare of the whole community.

Note: All illustrations are in the public domain.

Copyright © 2019 Kitty Steele Barrera. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *