Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The David Drew Sailmakers of Plymouth

At least three generations of the Drew family in Plymouth, Massachusetts were sailmakers.

The first known in the lineage was David Drew, who was born in 1752 in Plymouth, the son of Nicholas and Bathsheba Kempton Drew.  Nicholas was probably a sailmaker too but conclusive evidence has not been found to support it yet.

David established his business in Plymouth serving the ships in that area.  As whaling and trade expanded from New England throughout the Atlantic, so did his work.  New sails were needed for the ever expanding fleets and repairs were in constant demand.  Ship owners maintained their ships then as we do our expensive commercial vehicles today.  They weren’t making money in port or without efficient operation.  Sails were the engines of the craft and the stress and wear on them was enormous.

The sailmaking craft stayed in the family.  David brought his sons David and Atwood in to the business as young men.  David Jr., eventually took over the business while his younger brother, Atwood became a ship captain, sailing the oceans of the world.

David established his ownership of the business when his father died at the young age of 55.  Business was good in the sail loft producing enough revenue for the Drews to build a large home a short distance away at 51 Pleasant Street.   The home remained in the Drew family for four generations until the 1920’s.

                                   Drew Home on July 4th 1907                                           

Drew Home Plymouth 1907

                                             Drew Home in 1996

Drew Home Plymouth Massachuetts

The walk to work wasn’t too long.  A stroll up Pleasant Street that turned into Market Street.  A right turn on Church Street after glancing to the left at First Church and Burial Hill and then a leisurely walk east as Church Street turned into Leyden after crossing Main Street.  The walk ending at the third door on the left on the north side of the road at the Drew Sail Loft.

David Jr’s son, David III, took over the business in 1825 when his father became ill and died.  He kept the business thriving for years until the sailing fleets began to dwindle because of the downturn in whaling and the replacement of wind powered craft with fossil fuel power. 

There was still enough revenue to support his family but not to entice his sons to enter the business.  All of his sons left Plymouth in their early manhood to establish lives in other locales and occupations.   David Lewis, moved across the county to Calaveras County, California during the gold rush.  Harrison was a sailor who moved to Florida for a time and while there helped salvage a wrecked lumber ship.  He married there and moved back to Plymouth to work and support his family.  Austin worked in textiles and leather and traveled south to New York and other surrounding states before passing away.

The sail loft was sold when David was in his advanced age.  The work must have agreed with his constitution, because he lived to the ripe old age of 94. 

The era of the Drew Sail Loft passed into history.  It supported generations of the family and while the work was extremely taxing physically, it was also rewarding, both from a monetary standpoint and from the knowledge that your work was traveling the world as the the power source on the grand sailing ships of Plymouth.

Worn, calloused knobbly knuckles and knees from sailmaking left the visage of the men of the family when the loft was sold.  David’s descendants have explored numerous fields of endeavor.  Most have continued in fields of expertise that has brought power to the vehicles and equipment of their era. 


Monday, May 17, 2010

Thanks! – William Guyselman – A County Recorder

Every once in a while we find written entries in our ancestors records that make our day.  Yes, it may be ‘THE’ record that crumbles one of our ancestral brick walls or it may be a piece of information that although important, is just a piece of an overall well-sourced record.

Then, there are the men who entered information in records with a flare.  Sometimes the flair consists of fancy script embellishments, at other times it is concise handwriting that fills the page of a census record.  And then, there are the men who spent long hours entering the facts associated with births, deaths and marriages but still had the blossom of art in their hearts and pens.

William A. Guyselman was one such fellow.

I first encountered his entries as a recorder in the Marriage Books of Macon County, Missouri while looking for the marriage date of my great granduncle, Alfred Farrar.

There it was … on page 69.  Alfred Farrar married Emma F. Sawtell on the 7th day of June 1869 in Macon County, Missouri.  William’s script was beautiful, readable and structured to be attractive to any future reader. 

While the tall, leather-bound book would never be a best seller, William Guyselman took pride in his work and frequently embellished its stark pages with hand drawn works of art to commemorate the extremely important marriage event in the lives of citizens of Macon County.

Farrar Alfred Sawtell Emma marriage license art2

Page after page of superbly written flowing text and art unfold as you scroll through the pages he wrote.

His own marriage to Nancy Jane McKee is recorded with an eagle comprised of scrolls and flourishes from his pen.

Guyselman William McKee Nancy Jane marriage certificate art2

I feel an affinity to William and wish I could tell him ‘thanks’ face to face.  I’ve spent more than five decades puzzling out the scribblings and markings of tens of thousands of recorders.  Every time I encounter a document written by a recorder who had good penmanship and used it in the performance of their duties, I offer a verbal ‘Thanks’ hoping it will wend its way to them.


 McKearp Nelson marriage certificate art2

Wondering what happened in William’s life, I spent a little time seeking his records.  

In 1850, he was listed as a 10-year-old son of John and Sarah Guyselman in Warsaw, Kosciusko, Indiana.

By 1860, the family had moved to Wayne, Buchanan, Missouri, where the family was recorded as ‘Gisleman’ in the census.

1870 found him as a young married man in Macon, Macon County, Missouri.  He is listed as being 30 years of age and a school teacher by occupation.  His wife, Nancy was 17 and their son John as two months.  His short stint as the recorder for Macon County may have already been over.

In 1880, he was forty, lived in Breckenridge, Colorado with his wife Nancy and three children, William Jr., Lou and Emma.   He reported that he was an attorney by profession and was born in Ohio, while Nancy was born in Indiana and their children in Missouri.

My uncle Alfred Farrar was married in 1869, thus, William Guyselman was about 29 years of age when he served as the recorder of Macon County, Missouri.

Guyselman William recorder art2 

In 1900, he still lived in Breckenridge.  The census says that he was born in November 1839 in Ohio, still worked as an attorney, but unfortunately, Nancy had died.  Two sons still lived home with him, 13 year old McKee and 10 year old Plain. 

During the Civil War, William served as a corporal in the Union Army.  He enlisted in Company A, Illinois 113th Infantry Regiment on 15 August 1862 in Chicago until he mustered out on 19 October 1863 and transferred to the U.S. Signal Corps. 

His military service proved to be providential because in his 70’s he was able to both claim a military pension and assistance from a military home, the front runner of today’s veterans hospitals.

By 1923, William had been in and out of a military home six times.  He had served in the army as a private from August 1862 through the end of the ward after 1865.  His military training in the U.S. Signal Corps served him well in later life as his occupation was listed as a telegraph operator during his stays in the military home.

Guyselman William A Veterans Home

I haven’t found a death date and location for William yet, but think that the event took place in or near Breckenridge.  

Because I can’t tell him ‘Thanks’  in person for his clear writing, entertaining and reverential treatment of marriage records in the Macon County, Missouri vital records he maintained, this post is my way of remembering William.

Thanks to all the recorders and government employees past and present who took the time to write clearly.  Family history enthusiasts everywhere not only thank you but appreciate your work.  That’s a praise you probably didn’t receive on the job.