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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Eating with the President

Looking at old family info which was researched some years ago and then looking again now can provide more tidbits to follow.  The increased genealogy documents online can cause one to almost drop the morning coffee!  Almost.

There are several new finds which connect my bloodline of John SIMMONS (d.1795) the innkeeper to his descendants.  Just yesterday, a new family seeker wondered if I had the right man.  My answer to that is absolutely.  Why?  Because I like following the land and the wills.  Legal documentation is a strong first degree of evidence when researching the past.

Sometimes, though, the legal documentation just isn't there.  Sometimes, one can find more secondary evidence in census records and in history books of the times.

Samuel FRAUNCES (b. c 1722 d. 1795) is most certainly an interesting case to follow.  I plan to spend more time this February to see what else I can dig up on him.  For a teaser, he was the owner of Fraunces Tavern in New York during the time of the American Revolution.  In fact, his tavern was the site of George WASHINGTON's farewell speech.  Much has been written on that subject.  FRAUNCES goes on to work directly for WASHINGTON after the American Revolution as the steward in his household.  Again, nothing new here.

What is new about FRAUNCES since the last time I looked at him?  While the location of his unmarked grave at St. Peter's Church in Philadelphia is still unknown, he now has an obelisk in the churchyard.  On June 26, 2010, the legacy of Samuel FRAUNCES was honored with the church erecting an obelisk for him.

Samuel Fraunces, St Peter's Church, Philadelphia, PA, erected 2010

I also found it really interesting to see the handout given at the dedication of the obelisk for Samuel.  Of course, I have to wonder.  Where is his wife?

Handout given at the dedication in 2010

If I remember correctly in some of my early readings on him, oh, so many years ago, that he was put in an unmarked grave intentionally.

There has been much debate over the years as to his race.  Was he born of both black and white parents?  I don't know.  Was he mulatto?  The 1790 census lists him as white.  Some of his kids are listed in later census as black, white, and mulatto.  So, I expect he was of mixed blood.  I do know that the current line of thought does identify Samuel as black.  I was told some years ago by another researcher that free blacks were considered rather exotic back in colonial New York and it would not have been unusual for interracial marriages.  From what I have researched, there were laws banning these marriages in nine of the original 13 colonies as the colonies transitioned in to an America free from British rule.  I have seen in early Massachusetts, for instance, that the race of the child was defined by the race of the mother.  But, I haven't found this particular law in colonial New York.

What I do know is that his wife, Elizabeth DALLY, was the sister of Catherine DALLY SALTER SIMMONS, my grandma.  What I do know is Elizabeth is mentioned only briefly in what I have read.  I hope to find more on her.

What I do know is that the brothers in law, FRAUNCES and SIMMONS were both tavern owners in New York City before and after the American Revolution.   What I do know is that their taverns are about four blocks apart.  The FRAUNCES Tavern was at Pearl St and the corner of Broad,  while the SIMMONS Tavern, was at the corner of Wall St and Broad.  What I do know is that there is a written history of the times of WASHINGTON eating at both places.

Ahh, genealogy.  Knowing my kin cooked and served early America is just cool.  Knowing that they knew and mingled with George Washington, before and after he became our first President, well, that leaves me wordless.

©2017  AS Eldredge

Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895.  Edited by Paul Finkelman

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