Lingering questions regarding Robert of the Woodhouse

An obvious first question asks about the parentage of Robert the Missioner. Second is a desire to know whether he married before embarking for America and, if so, whether there were offspring, making Rachel Shotten a second marriage for him.

We also would want to learn the maiden name of Rachel’s mother, Alice Shotten, and details of the life of son Robert’s sister, Mary.

Additional questions concern the origin of Sampson Shotten before his arrival in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Was he, as one source lists, also of New York? And if so, how? Was he originally Dutch, or even among the English who sought religious refuge in the Netherlands before coming to America? Did he marry Alice in New Amsterdam or even England, or did they meet in New England? Or was she the New Amsterdam linkage? A closer examination of the early arrivals and residents of New Amsterdam and New Netherland may be instructive. Dates of birth, too, would be helpful; Sampson was likely born before 1619, and so we would expect him to be from abroad. But what about Alice, who may have been much younger? And why did they have only one child?

Of special interest is a question that asks why Alice Shotten Cowland became such a staunch Quaker, risking her life and being imprisoned in Boston at the time of the hangings. Was she always independent-minded? Or was this, in part, a reaction to the death of Sampson during the armed attack by Massachusetts authorities? Details of her life would, in fact, present a biographer with a fascinating look into a Colonial woman of conscience and courage.

Despite the strength demonstrated by Alice Shotten Cowland, the daughter Rachel remains a cipher. Who was she? How old? Were there other children who did not survive?

There are many questions surrounding the son, Robert Hodgson. Why did the family move from Rhode Island, and when? Were there Hodgson kin to welcome him in his new territory? Did he and his wife take in a young orphan, the George Hodgson who later settled in North Carolina? What happened to some of Robert and Sarah’s descendant lines? Why did they largely depart from the Society of Friends, despite their prominent legacy in its founding?

Detailed examination of the wills in Cecil County, Maryland, would be one starting point, at least for fleshing in the lines of Joseph, John, and Richard; Kent County, Maryland, appears to have that of son David. Cecil wills would also provide clues to the identity of John Hodgson (1699), Thomas (1725), and Solomon (1746); a Richard Hodgson’s 1735 will appears in Charles County. Cecil Monthly Meeting record a Nicholas Hodson who died 9/20/169?: again, who is he and how does he fit?


Durham details

My hope of locating the Hodgsons in a few locations in the English county of Durham was dashed when I found an online posting for the Durham and Northumberland signatories to a 1642 document known as the Protestation. Originally envisioned as a national petition that would include an oath to uphold the true reformed Protestant religion, what results is a kind of census of males age 18 and older, as well as a few female heads of household; it includes an indication of those “recussants” who refused to sign or otherwise were identified as Roman Catholic. The Durham collection names about 120 Hodgsons arrayed in 40 or so parishes and towns – even allowing for some overlap and duplication, this becomes a much larger range of possibilities than I had anticipated. Add to this the proliferation of other Hodgsons in Cumbria and Yorkshire, and the likelihood of a single Hodgson Quaker nexus evaporates.

Furthermore, since the Robert Hodgson in question would have been only 15 or so at the time of the Protestation, he would not have been enumerated. If Robert is a common family name, it is found in Hartlepoole, Sedgfield, Bernard Castle, Lamsley, Lainchester, Lumey, Hebburn (“papists”), Auckland St. Helen, Hamsterley diocese of Durham (two), and Whitworth.

Similarly, if Robert did indeed have a brother Ralph, that name is found in St. Oswald parish (Elvett St. Thomas), Billingham, West Auckland, Bernard Castle, St. Hellin Auckland chappellrie (where he is churchwarden), and Hamsterley (three, as well as two Anthonys).

Thus, overlap is found at Bernard Castle, Auckland (combining St. Hellin and West), and Hamsterley, especially. Whether any of these possibilities bears fruit remains to be seen.