Swans Commentary » swans.com July 30, 2007  



The Past Explains The Present


by Carol Warner Christen





(Swans - July 30, 2007)   This morning's horoscope for Pisces had both parts of a saying that, for sixty-eight years, I thought had only the first part. "Necessity is the mother of invention and the father of convention." This explains many mysteries of political life.

Americans are too used to the technological inventions that multiply daily to make life easier and more cluttered with stuff. We throw the things in the trash when the novelty and use wears off for the next latest item. It has been generations of change for us from our ancient origins and our more recent colonial beginnings. Convention is digging in its heels in places it may be unwise to permit without serious discussion. We never discuss the need or wonders of more inventions; we never discuss the growing conventions surrounding American life either; we just take sides and dig in as if life was one or another point of view to force upon others.

My family's history is intimately involved in the Revolution and the building of the United States, wresting it from England's autocracy for a free people's Republic via a Constitution. For your enjoyment, in 1894 and in 1794 my ancestors gathered to tell our story of the beginning. The paper I have is from 1894 and was partly published in the newspaper in Lima, New York. This is my father's family. My mother's family is the Allen and Adams side, of which histories have been written by many others.

The only family ties in the past between the two families were two of the leaders of the Green Mountain Boys: Ethan Allen and Seth Warner. They argued and fought with each other almost as much as they fought the British. Both my parents fought with each other for thirty-eight years. The family likened them to Ethan (my mother) and Seth (my father) and thought it was funny that they "were back at it again!"

Below are the historical writings of the early Warners involved, often with humor, in the beginnings of the United States of America and what life was like more than two hundred years ago. One of them even had an early showdown with Muslims, predating today's differences. The article begins below and I have not changed it, although I've left out endless names to let only the essence of their characters remain.

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In 1894, Mr. Harry Dusenberre of Rock Island, Illinois, gave an historical sketch of the Warners from 1637 to 1795. Matters, which ordinarily might be considered so dry, were made highly interesting by the bright and witty manner of presentation:

Should an enthusiastic friend advise you as to a recreation for a drowsy summer day, the investigation and development of your family tree, take counsel from one who has had a trifle of such experience and simply don't.

Ask this well-meaning individual to come again some cooler time, or say that you expect to be obliged to use a few moments of the remainder of your life for your own personal ends.

The study of family history, once entered upon, is all-absorbing and becomes a habit so difficult to overcome as to fairly deserve the name of "Genealogical Inebriety" and to justify the services of a doctor.

The pursuit of that which is behind us brings both its surprises and its disappointments -- the latter perhaps the more numerous. As an example, I trust you will excuse the regard for the truth which compels me to say that, in all the Warner line, I have been unable to uncover a single Duke or Prince or King or other scion of royal blood. Not even a President has shown his weary and perplexed head. They were the hardy pioneers.

Their annals seem but short and simple. Little in the way of family tradition and personal characteristics of the Warners prior to 1795 has been found. Our early ancestors were certainly not egotists as they have apparently neglected to hand down to their children a single line of written history except that contained in some of their bibles.

I am sure, if they could have foreseen our sad need today of something of the kind, they would, at least, have left an apology behind them. It is surely not true courtesy to leave one's posterity in the lurch in this way.

It would be a pleasure to tell you how brave was this man, how highly regarded in his state, another, how this daughter was the beauty of her time, or that mother excelled in all that goes to make us love and revere our mothers; but, circumstances are too hard for me.

By occupation, the old-time Warners were tillers of the soil with but few exceptions. They plowed and sowed and gathered into barns in a more primitive and laborious way than we of today, but with rather more of real, pecuniary profit, it may safely be supposed.

In religion, we can imagine the Warners of 1640 to have been Dissenters for their posterity have been since the time when the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.

Politically, I trust you will forgive me for presuming to express sorrow that they were all good Democrats; but, I am speaking of the days when there were good Indians, too.

Parallels are not always polite; so, I know you will forgive me if I follow this line of thought no farther than to say that my grief over their political preferences is neither as deep as a well nor as wide as a church door.

The ancient Warners were a stout and resolute race, and their blood is scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the British possessions to the Gulf of Mexico. The old restless spirit of movement, the instinct to seek greener fields than those which childhood knew, has never died.

There are Warners and Warners; and, many there be, though they know it not, whose lines go back to William of Ipswich, the founder of the line in America.

Finally, I cannot forbear the hope that no one will be so unkind today as to say of us, as it has been so often said of others, that as a family, we may be compared to that exuberant tuber which grows with only the useless part above the ground.

One William Warner was born in England, probably about 1590. In 1635 he, with his wife Hannah and his three children, John, Daniel, and Abigail, sailed over the ocean in the ship "Globe" to the new world and settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1637. The town granted him a lot of one acre; and there he built his primitive home and lived and died prior to 1648; as, his two sons were assessed that year and he was not.

Abigail and her brothers, Daniel and John, are spoken of as people of consideration among the first settlers.

Daniel's third son, William, 1646-1714 was called, variously, Deacon Warner, Captain Warner, and Lieutenant Warner, so that we may safely infer that he could both fight and pray, though his numerous military titles would seem to indicate rather more knowledge of the former. It appears that a successful pioneer must possess both these qualifications. He had six children.

Another step brings us to William, 1746-1817. He lived to hear the Declaration of Independence and left a remarkable family in many ways. He believed, "The greatest glory of a freeborn people is to transmit that freedom to their children." They did much to carry out the spirit of the Declaration and make this a free land, in fact as well as on paper.

He married Rebecca Lupton Mann, a native of Boston, and a descendant of the Saltonstall family which, through the Guerdons and Keyes, traces to the oldest blood of England and Scotland. About the family of Rebecca Lupton Mann, romance has spread its web. Her father was a sea captain and owned real estate in Boston, Massachusetts.

On a voyage to Turkey, he was taken sick in port and, on his death bed, was told that, if he would forsake the religion of his fathers and embrace that of Mohammed, the value of his ship and cargo would be sent to his family; and, if he refused, they would be confiscated and his body buried in the sand below low-water mark.

His reply was, "My wife can live without my ship and goods, and it matters not where my body may lie, but I cannot sell my soul." He died and was buried in the sand but, to the end, was a Christian.

William and Rebecca deserved nothing less than a vote of thanks from Congress for the numerous and meritorious family which they brought forth. Napoleon would have made the father of such a family at least a Field Marshall. They had thirteen children who became robust men and women. The sons are said to have averaged over six feet in height, and the women of corresponding size -- all strong and powerful, mentally as well as physically.

There were: William, who died in Lima in 1795 and was a Lieutenant in Aaron Kellogg's Company; Josiah, Lieutenant, who settled in Athens, New York; Hannah married Matthew Hawley; Sarah who died young; Jonathan, also in the Revolutionary service, had three wives and ten children; John, Sergeant, lived in Queechy; Thomas, Private in Colonel Wesemfil's Regiment, who died some forty years ago (1854); Abigail, whose husband's name was Bristol; Lupton, many of whose descendants are here today and who was a Private in the same Company as William; Daniel, father of Judge Warner, late of Rochester, N.Y., was fifer in same Company; James, Private in Captain Elijah Gilbert's Company; and, Jason, Private in Aaron Kellogg's Company of which William was Lieutenant, and ancestor of Anna and Susan Warner who wrote "A Wide, Wide World," etc.

One only of this large family came to Lima, or more strictly speaking, was brought here a broken-down man by his children. This was William of Lima, who arrived here March 22, 1795, but died August 28 of the same year. He was a Lieutenant in the Continental Army. While on his way to Saratoga with supplies for the soldiers, he was surrounded by Indians and his train captured. He, however, escaped but suffered hardships and exposure which ultimately caused his death.

Before the war, he had a fine property which he spent to buy food and clothes for the army, taking his pay in Continental money. This was repudiated and became worthless and, having nothing else available with which to meet his obligations, was, in consequence, imprisoned for debt at Albany, New York. While there, he wrote poetry to his daughter.

William made his appearance in this world of hard facts, May 13, 1740, at Canaan, Connecticut, and died in his prime at the age of fifty-five.

With a spirit of devotion to Heaven and his country, the love of God in his heart, and a sword in his hand, unjustly sacrificed and imprisoned, dead from hardship and exposure, suffered for his country's cause when his manhood should be ripest; what more do we need to make us believe that, from him, we can claim some share of the blood that goes to make heroes?

About March 1, 1795, they, with their wives, their brothers, Matthew and Daniel and their wives, and their father and his wife, started with sleighs and teams for Lima. They crossed the streams on the ice as there were no bridges; and, after journeying three weeks through woods and wilderness where they found only bear, wolves, deer and Indians, arrived at their destination March 22, 1795.

Mr. William R. McNair continued the history of that branch of the Warner family which settled in Lima, New York, as follows:

FRIENDS AND KINSMEN: The history of that branch of the Warner family which a hundred years ago began the process of removal from Canaan, New York, to Lima, New York, and which is represented here today by so goodly a number of their descendants, is necessarily so inwrought with the history of the town and, to a considerable extent, with that of the adjoining county, that, in tracing the family narrative, we also need to embrace a portion of that of their locality.

Doubtless, their removal from eastern to western New York was a part -- though an infinitely small part -- of that vaster movement of population which began about the same time on our Atlantic slope and never for a moment rested in its march until our Pacific coast was reached and the intervening country dotted with towns and grid-ironed with railroads; but, at the period when our narrative opens, this marvelous growth and development were all unheard of.

Even the State of New York itself, which is now the home of five millions of civilized white men and which, with its unlimited resources, its towns, its schools, its churches, its railroads, and all the appurtenances of a high grade of civilization makes so favorable a showing upon the map of our common country, was at that time, to a large extent, but an undeveloped wilderness -- the home of the wild beasts of the forests and of those redoubtable Indian tribes that composed the Iroquois Confederacy.

It was into the heart of this wilderness country that our fathers came to make their abode and spend their remaining days. They came, not as adventurers nor as speculators nor as transient persons, but as men who sought to become fully identified with all the interests of the country into which they had come to cast in their lots.

We, their descendants, who are met here today for reunion and mutual congratulations over the honorable share that our fathers bore in the reclamation of this goodly land, intend no detraction from the credit of others, their neighbors who, like them, bore an honorable part in the trials and struggles of those early days.

The founder of the family, in whose honor we are met today, was William Warner of Canaan, a man of no uncertain antecedents. He came, as we have seen, of the best New England and Puritan extraction and inherited from his fathers -- along with some of their faults -- that ingrained love of human liberty, which for two hundred years had been running in their veins and which served to make New England the cradle of our American Revolution and furnished invaluable contingents, in both men and money, to fight out the war to a successful issue.

William Warner was one of these, belonging in a family whose father and nine sons are recorded as being enrolled and doing faithful service in the Continental Army and he as coming out of that service with impaired health and ruined fortune, but with the satisfaction of living to see the cause triumphant.

His sons, Asahel and William of the older group, were the first to come westward, which they did upon an exploring tour in the spring of 1794. They came here as home seekers and spent the season of 1794 in, and about, what now is Lima... Only a few white men were here before them.

The two Warner brothers returned to Canaan in the autumn of 1794 and were married during the following winter. They started westward again in the early spring of 1795, not this time as prospectors with packs upon their backs, but as intruding settlers with wives, brothers and sisters, and father with his younger children in the company.

They brought teams with vehicles loaded with such effects as householders of the period deemed indispensable. History has been niggardly in giving us detailed accounts of the contents of these emigrant carts, an inventory of which might now be interesting reading. We happen to know that a keg of boiled cider and a bag of eyes of potatoes were a part of the outfit; but, we are in the dark as to how many strings of dried fruits and dried pumpkin those thrifty housewives had stowed away against the time of need.

Oxen being the only team available, their progress was slow. The roads to the westward of Geneva were unopened and only marked by the blazed trees; the streams were unbridged; and, the want of house accommodations compelled them to sleep some in, and some under, the vehicles; but, as an offset to this, the party, for the most part, were in the prime of their young man- and womanhood.

They had set themselves to the accomplishment of a definite purpose, and they were people of the stamp who usually succeed. They reached their destination safely and, within no long time, found themselves settled in the conventional log houses of the period; and then, their life work as pioneers in a new country began in earnest.

They began with farms heavily timbered; and, their first and most urgent labor was to cut down and burn this forest. The work was onerous past the comprehension of us who inherit the improvements of three generations of our ancestors; but, they brought into requisition the skill and the pluck and patience acquired in their earlier training; and, these qualities, combined with good judgment and the finest of physical stamina, left them with but little to doubt about material prosperity.

It was by the ordinary law of heaven, when brought to bear upon human affairs, that our Warner ancestors prospered; and, the substantial homesteads with which they, by and by, possessed themselves with their appurtenances of orchards and gardens; and, productive fields and good buildings were the legitimate outgrowths of their ingrained thriftfulness.

Those of us who knew our grandsires before they became impaired with the decadence of age will easily recall some of their many pleasing personal characteristics.

They were men with whom nature dealt liberally in the matter of physical endowment. They were of medium height, strong in build, possessed of large physical endurance, and, in this regard, were finely equipped for the life of the pioneer. But, they also had good minds, and best of all, good hearts.

Perhaps it is entirely safe to say they had sound minds and equable dispositions because of their perfect physical organizations. You, who knew them, will bear me out in saying they were pleasant men to meet in social intercourse. They evidenced by every word and act that they loved life with its diversions and its exacting duties, loved their families and their fellow man, loved God, also, and walked in His commandments.

They all raised families, some of them large ones, and trained them up creditably; and, they continued to reside in the community of their choice even down to the old age to which the five brothers all attained, and now rest in honored graves near at hand.

The brothers, Asahel and Matthew, by reason of strong and balanced characters, were called to fill many places of trust and responsibility among their neighbors. Asahel was a general favorite and known, through a wide acquaintance, as the Major.

Matthew, like Asahel, was an active and useful man. He represented his district for two terms in the Legislature; viz., those of 1820 and of 1823. He also served as county judge in the newly organized county of Livingston for the term of (missing number) years, having been appointed thereto by the Governor, although he never received a technical education as a lawyer.

The three remaining brothers, William, Daniel, and John, were never prominent as office-holders in the civil service, but as private citizens, were active, efficient and successful, and stood well in their community. Many other descendants of the Warners are scattered widely over our great West whom to enumerate would be impossible within the scope of this paper; but, it is entirely safe to say of them that, though they are widely scattered so that but a few, comparatively, could be here today, yet they are, almost to a man, engaged in honorable and useful callings, and each in his place helping on that grand march of civilization that has easily eclipsed the past and bedizened us with wonderment.

The Warners came to Lima a band of brothers; and, it is pleasing reflection to us that they ever after lived as brothers and that no unbecoming and unprofitable discords were allowed to disturb the charm of their family circle. In one special regard, there was a strong, family resemblance; viz., the love of music and they were, as the early records bear them witness, cheerful and liberal contributors to the church, the school, and all that made for higher culture. It is, also, a pleasing thing for us to know that our hardy, pioneer forefathers could live to be witnesses of so many of those marvelous transformations that, in the process of time, came to this home of their early choosing.

They saw this village converted from a hamlet made of logs to a thriving country town. They saw the entire region, of which Lima is a part, changed from its wild condition into a land of exceeding fruitfulness, the reputation of whose Genesee wheat became world-wide.

They saw the patient, but patience-defying oxen, exchanged for horses upon the farm. They saw a goodly number of articles of domestic use, including the wooden mould board and door hinge and latch exchanged for articles more artistic and more useful.

They saw the introduction of machinery into farm labor; they saw a portion of the wondrous revolution that steam has wrought in its application to printing and locomotion; and, they saw in the electric telegraph, a plain intimation of some of the curious and useful purposes to which that subtle force would someday be put by Edison and his co-conjurers.

They realized the change in farm values which, to them, meant the difference between comparative indigence and a handsome competency. They saw their native state advance from the rank of fourth or fifth to the rank of foremost. To these important and great changes, our fathers, like all other men who render society honest and faithful labor, contributed their humble share.

Friends: In the service of filial regard which we pay this day to the memories of our ancestors, let us not fail to be impartial as between our grandsires and our grandmothers; inasmuch as, the obligation to honor both alike comes to us from the Fifth Commandment reinforced by the counsel of our own willing hearts.

Surely, those heroic women who, through toils and privations, bore nobly their end of the yoke in the pioneer life can never fail to command our veneration and our sincere affection. Looking backward at them through the vista of intervening years, we remember them only with pleasure, whether as contributors to our youthful sports about their open fireplaces or as caterers to our young appetites through their skill in the olden, culinary formulas.

We are, sometimes, compelled to listen to damaging slurs upon the dress methods of those ancient, worthy women; and, we are not supposed to know whether they could or could not pose to advantage as patterns in modern dress reform circles; but, to our own unprofessional eyes, our grandmothers, taken in their tout ensemble (viewed as a whole or general effect), were always becomingly attired.

Even that much berated, and ancient, bonnet of theirs is, we think, entitled to its measure of praise as a thing of utility. Surely, it conveyed, beyond a shadow of doubt, the idea of shelter whether it were from sun or wind or rain or from all obtrusive, sidewise glances coming from whatever source they might.

Moreover, our grandmammas knew how, upon occasion, to don those immaculate, and historic, caps with bows and ruffs, and all, to match; but, notwithstanding this, they ever wore their finest headgear just under the cranium and not, according to modern custom, perched on its top. We hold their memories in kindly and grateful remembrance forever.

Brethren: We have in the achievements of our fathers under the difficulties they encountered, a chapter of ennobling inspirations. Shall it not be that, when we have left this stage from which we are all passing so rapidly, history, in our case, will have repeated itself and that our children may point, with a pride equal to ours today, to the example we then shall have set for them to follow?

God grant it may be so and that, from generation to generation, the good that should descend to the children from their fathers may flow as an unfailing benediction, a benison (blessing) forever.

As many of the Warners of this section are descended from Isaac Warner, a nephew of the original settler, the following original sketch of him was read by Mr. A.M. Holden of Honeoye Falls:

Isaac Lupton Warner, born December 6, 1789, came to Lima, N.Y., from Canaan, Columbia County, New York, in May, 1822; and, although this was several years after the coming of his uncle William and his cousins, Asahel, Matthew, and the others referred to today, yet his advent was long before the day of railroads and even before the completion of the Erie Canal.

Isaac Lupton Warner was regarded as one of the solid men of Lima during more than forty years of his life here. His large-hearted, kindly nature was proverbial until he was everywhere known as "Uncle Isaac"; and, his memory is revered, to this day, by numbers of people who remember some kind word or deed in their time of trouble. His counsel was sought on every hand; and he was, indeed, a characteristic Warner in love for his kindred and in his genial hospitality.

If he had lived in these days of photography, we should, without doubt, have been able to present a picture of this man and, possibly, ascertain what were the attractions that enabled him to have four wives lying side-by-side in the old Canaan burying ground. His first wife was Anne Lord, the mother of his children, a granddaughter of the Reverend Benjamin Lord, D.D., a noted preacher of Norwich, Connecticut.

Her death occurred by smallpox in 1802. The contagion is supposed to have been taken from a piece of paper dropped by a tramp while getting a drink of water from the old, oaken bucket at the well sweep, such as was common in those days.

His second wife was Polly Beecher, a sister of the Reverend Lyman Beecher, D.D., and aunt of the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher; after this, he married Mercy Curtis, then Anna Mix. This fashion of muchly-married, old widowers was peculiar to the 18th century and has, no doubt, become obsolete before this.

Lupton, born in 1758, a young man when the Revolutionary War broke out, true to the Puritan blood in his veins, a champion of civil and religious liberty, entered the army, together with his father and eight brothers, and, in his later years, was known as Captain Lupton Warner.

Isaac Lupton Warner was descended through his mother, Anne Lord, from many of the oldest and best families of the Massachusetts and Plymouth Colonies, who were driven from England during the oppressions of the Stewart kings from 1620 and 1640. Among them were:

William Lord of Newton, Massachusetts; 1635: Matthew Mamie; Deacon Thomas Adgate; Thomas Lee; William Hyde; 1637: Edward Taylor; Samuel Whyllis, son of Governor George Whyllis, who, when Governor Andros attempted to sign the Charter of the colony, it was that concealed it in the famous Charter Oak; Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower; and Governor John Haynes, the first governor of the colony of Hartford, Connecticut, and his wife, Harlakendue, a daughter of one of the English nobility and whose ancestry are recorded back through the Kings and Queens of England to the time of Charlemagne.

We revel today in this nearly forgotten history of our family which is, indeed, the history of our country -- the noblest and best God ever made; and, we point with pardonable pride to this long list of names who gave the character to this, our beloved, land in its beginnings and ...

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(Piece torn from newspaper.)


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About the Author

Carol Warner Christen on Swans (with bio)... Woman born 1939, twice married, five children, 7 grandchildren; own a goat farm, rural Oregon after years in Chicago area and Ohio; Associate of Arts, Chicago Art Institute (1 year); artist, editor, mechanical design drafting supervisor; owned two computer companies before anyone had a computer; activist; antiwar; human.



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published July 30, 2007