Sunday, March 18, 2012

What do Cornwallis, Lord Dunmore, President John Tyler and the First National Disaster Have in Common?

James Shields' branch sits way up and far to the side on my family tree but it includes some Revolutionary War soldiers, a president and a victim in the first national tragedy so that makes it a branch worth blogging about.

It's been a crazy few months but anytime I get an extra minute or two, I've been researching the lineage of my second great grandmother, Sarah Evelena "Lena" Booth Marbury. I'll have that family on soon but for now, here is how you get from me to my ninth great grandfather, James Shield:

My mother is Shirley Ann Lovelace Williams, the daughter of:
Virginia Brantley Lovelace, the daughter of:
Allie Ern Marbury Brantley, the daughter of:
Sarah Evelena "Lena" Booth Marbury, the daughter of:
William G. "Billy" Booth, the son of:
Stephen Shaybe Booth, the son of:
John Booth, the son of:
Elizabeth Cobb Booth, the daughter of:
Mary Shields Cobb, the daughter of James Shield and Hannah Marot.

James was born in 1670 in Williamsburg and died there on 2 June 1727. He lived his entire life in Williamsburg where he ran what was called at the time, "an ordinary" or a restaurant/bar.

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James Shield is documented in “Colonial Families of The Southern States of America” which was written in 1911 by Stella Pickett Hardy. It's a great research tool and I really like what she wrote in the forward:

"I have dealt strictly with the genealogical history of Southern families whose Colonial forefathers were established in the Colonies before the formation of the thirteen original States. I have flattered no one, and it can-not be said that this work is written in the interest, of one more than another, I admit that some records are more fully given than others; it could not be otherwise, for it was the relatives or friends of these families that responded to my repeated calls for authentic information."

Of my ninth great grandfather, James Shield, Ms. Hardy wrote:

“The Shields family of Virginia, is a very ancient and honorable one, the first of this family in Virginia, of which we have authentic record is, James Shields, of Williamsburg, VA.: he was one of the early ordinary keepers of the Colony; was a staunch supporter of the Established Church; m. Hannah, of what family is unknown…”

There were other interesting facts about James Shield's offspring included in Hardy’s book that inspired me to do a little more research.

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Gunpowder Magazine at Colonial Williamsburg

James’ son, Honorable James Shields II was surveyor for York County and married Anne Marot-Inglis. Anne was the daughter of John Marot, a French Huguenot who came to Virginia in the Huguenot emigration in 1700. Anne's first husband had been James Ingles, the son of the first Grammer Master at William and Mary College.

James II and Anne’s daughter, Anne Shields married Robert Booth Armistead and their daughter, Mary Armistead, married John Tyler Sr. who served as governor of Virginia, 1808 – 11. A college roommate of Thomas Jefferson and ardent supporter of the Revolution, Tyler served as a member of the Committee of Safety for Charles City County in 1774 and raised a company of troops in 1775 in rebellion against Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia. He had ordered the removal of gunpowder from the magazine at Williamsburg and that action, among many others, inspired the colonists to rebel and Lord Dunmore retreated to a ship.

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President John Tyler

John Tyler Sr. and Mary Armistead Tyler were the parents of John Tyler Jr., the 10th President of the United States. So I think that means President John Tyler's second great grandfather and my ninth great grandfather was the same dude. That pretty much makes us...not even related really.

When Tyler was just seven years old, his mother, Mary, died from a stroke. At the age of 12 he joined the College of William and Mary like his father before him, and later enrolled in the collegiate program of the college. He graduated in 1807 when he was 17 years old.

After that, Tyler studied law, first under the tutelage of his father, then under his cousin, and finally under Edmund Randolph, the first US Attorney General. Tyler was admitted into the Bar in 1809 and, in 1840, became the Vice President under William Henry Harrison. Harrison died after just a month in office which made John Tyler the president.

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The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis

James II and Anne Shield’s son, Colonel James Shields III served in the Revolutionary War and was present at the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. His great grandson, James Shield, IV owned a large plantation near Yorktown.

At the age of 23, James IV’s daughter, Elizabeth Page Shields died from injuries she received in what is now referred to as the first great disaster in American history, the burning of the Richmond Theater on December 26, 1811. Source

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The Burning of the Theater in Richmond

Many of Virginia's most prominent families were gathered in the theater that day after Christmas to watch a play, "The Father or Family Feuds" and, as the curtain lowered after the first act, a chandelier was lifted toward the ceiling with the flame accidentally still lit.   

As the backdrops and stage area began to burn, the curtain kept much of the audience unaware of the impending disaster. Once it became evident the theater was on fire, panic ensued and many were unable to get to one of the exits before the entire theater was up in flames.

72 people were listed among the dead including the Governor of Virginia.

Many, like Elizabeth Page Shields, survived the actual fire, only to die later from the injuries they sustained.

After the fire, a church was built on the spot with the mass grave of all the victims becoming a crypt located in the basement. The church, now called Monumental Church, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1969 and is now owned by the Historic Richmond Foundation.

Meredith Henne Baker has written an interesting book about the topic called "The Richmond Theater Fire."

Now I can return to trying to find out more about the Booth family.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

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