George Hodson (1737 in Adams County, Pennsylvania-1813, Guilford County, North Carolina, where his will was probated in February) married Rachel Oldham ( – ) in a manner contrary to Friends discipline, as recorded in the minutes of New Garden Friends Meeting, Eleventh Month 27. While he is buried in the graveyard at the New Garden Friends meetinghouse in Guilford County, her burial location is unknown. Ten known children.
In 1764, when George became the last of George and Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson’s six children to marry, he and Rachel were read out of Meeting for wedding as second cousins. There must have been some confusion within the Monthly Meeting considering the matter, for North Carolina Yearly Meeting had not yet published its own Book of Discipline. Instead, Friends relied on the volumes they carried with them; the Pennsylvanians brought Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s (or possibly Baltimore’s, for Meetings west of the Susquehanna), while the Nantucket Islanders carried New England Yearly Meeting’s. While these books of discipline were similar in most regards, they differed on the marriage of cousins: in this period, New England was attempting to extend the ban on marriage of first cousins to cover second-cousin marriages as well. The matter of my great-great-great-great-great-grandparent’s marriage was brought before the New Garden women’s business session held the 29th day of Ninth Month 1764:
It appears to this meeting that the case of Rachel Oldham not appearing at last was she went some time before a magestrate to join in marriage with George Hodgson Junr who is her Second Cousin and also been precautioned to the Contrary and it appeared that they have accomplished the Same this meeting therefore considering the great reproach that such disorderly proceeding hath brought upon the truth they have made profession of appoint Isaac Jones and request Jeremiah Reynolds to Draw a testification against the [erasure of m] said George Hodgson also assist our women Friends to prepare one against said Rachel Oldham in order to Disown them being members of our Society and produce them to Next meeting
The following month the subsequent minute was entered, the 27th day of Tenth Month 1764:
It appears to this Meeting that the case of Rachel Oldham not appearing Last Meet: was that she went some small time Before to a Magestrate in order to Joyn in marriage with George Hodgson Juner who is her [first is crossed through and second is inserted above] Cousin and also been precautioned to the contrary and it …
continues along the lines of the previous minute. The fact that first cousin was struck through indicates, to my mind, a degree of confusion regarding which discipline would apply. Unless they wanted to cast doubt on the revelation of truth itself, North Carolina Friends were stuck with the stricter discipline. Besides, even if the cousin issue were rendered moot, by this point the young couple had already married contrary to discipline, by going before a justice of the peace rather than through the traditional Quaker process, with its minimum 2½-month time span . And so, the following month, the minutes of the 27th of Eleventh Month observe:
We Friends appointed to Draw a testification against George Hodgson presented one to this meeting which was approved and signed and Jeremiah Reynolds is appointed to read it to him at the close of a first Day meeting at Senter and make report to our next meeting
The Women’s meeting produced a testification to this meeting against Rachel Hodgson formerly Oldham …
which continues as above. The following month’s minutes, dated Twelfth Month 24, record:
The Friend appointed Last meeting to read the papers of testification against George Hodgson and his wife report he has complied therewith –
Thus we see that a lengthy process was involved, in part to give the young couple an opportunity to explain themselves, if they desired, or even to appeal the discipline to the Quarterly Meeting. We also get a sense of the sorrow felt by the Monthly Meeting in this process, naming neighbors and kinfolk to act as intermediaries. From these minutes we gain insights into the actions of both the men’s and women’s business meetings and their thinking. We can see that George and Rachel were counseled against marrying each other but defied the Meeting; in some ways this latter action was more severe than the issue of their being cousins. As Damon R. Hickey writes in The Southern Friend (Spring 1981):
… such marriages could be expressions of rebellion against the fairly narrow confines of the meeting’s discipline. It is not surprising that many young Friends chose not to “condemn their misconduct” and to remain instead outside the meeting. In any event, they were not “shunned” by the meeting as wayward Mennonites would have been, but were in most instances welcome to remain in the community and even attend Quaker meetings for worship from time to time, as long as their behavior did not create a scandal. They were, however, barred from the business meetings.
… there were advantages to having been disowned by the Friends, the main being that he no longer had to worry about being disowned. Any of the actions forbidden by the discipline could be undertaken if conscience permitted.
I do want to emphasize that being disowned by Meeting – or “read out,” as it is also called – meant only that an individual was no longer permitted to participate in the government of the church until the disciplinary matter had been resolved, often by an open apology from the individual; until then, that person could continue to attend Meeting for worship, send children to Friends’ schools, even be buried in the meetinghouse yard. In all likelihood, the person continued to use Plain speech (“thee” and “thy,” in addition to the Quaker form of dating the week and months) and Plain dress. All that had changed was that he or she could no longer attend Monthly, Quarterly, or Yearly Meeting business sessions – and Meeting could no longer hold over them the threat of reading them out of Meeting. This was hardly the excommunication or shunning found in other denominations!
George and Rachel reappear in the New Garden Friends minutes in 1797, asking to be reinstated as members. This involved preparing a statement “condemning their outgoings” to be read in front of the business meeting. In this instance, they addressed their request to New Garden Monthly Meeting. Whether this reflected a residence on nearby Horsepen Creek or is instead an attempt to maintain the “good order of Friends” by facing the body that had originally disciplined them as it reconsidered the matter is not clear. George appeared before the men’s business meeting to make contrition. But from the New Garden minutes of Twelfth Month 30, 1797, we learn
Rachel Hodgson through indisposition of body not being able to attend this meeting sent a paper condemning her outgoing which was accepted.
More than three decades after they appeared before a justice of the peace, they told the Meeting that they regretted getting married – at least in the way they did. I strongly suspect the reason behind Rachel’s failure to appear in person before the women’s session was that she simply could not say to them, in effect, “I’m sorry I got married”!
Having satisfied New Garden Monthly Meeting, they received a certificate of transfer, dated Second Month 24, 1798, to Centre Friends Meeting.
About Rachel Oldham’s Lineage
Given the nature of George and Rachel’s disownment from New Garden Friends Meeting at the time of their wedding, determining Rachel’s ancestry posed a second-cousin riddle: just where in their great-grandparents was that common link? More tantalizing was the possibility that this puzzle might also resolve the elusive matter of George’s parentage, lost in attempted crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to America.
As I examined the first names of their children, I began to question the origin of Deborah. In correspondence to me, Paul Mills remarked, “The name Deborah was not a Hodson name and is seldom found in Hodson families. I looked through a large file on the Hodson’s and only found it once: Jonathan Hodson, 1777-1865, s Joseph & Margaret Wilson Hodson, m 1801 Deborah Dicks 1785.” Mills spent some time pondering this, coming at last upon a Deborah Maddock, born 1660, and her sister, Esther Maddock, who married Peter Dicks, born 1660; as the father of Hannah (Dicks) Thatcher, he was Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson’s grandfather. Peter Dicks named a daughter Deborah, and she married a Jonathan Fincher, 4-29-1726.
Later, in a genealogical table prepared by Charles H. Saunders, came the confirmation: Rachel Oldham’s parents were listed as William and Sarah (Dicks) Oldham.
Subsequently, several correspondents shared a story that Rachel was born a Christy and was subsequently adopted by the Oldhams. If this is the case, however, why the second-cousin fuss regarding the marriage? Certainly, others at New Garden would have known that in such a case, she wouldn’t have been a blood relation. There were, however, both Christy and Hodgson family members in the Quaker Meeting at Lurgan, Ireland, leaving us with the possibility of a Hodgson-Christy union. Still, the naming patterns lend credence to the Oldham, rather than Christy, connection.
Further complicating the picture is the difficulty of determining precisely how Rachel arrived in Guilford County: no Oldham or Christy citations appear in Hughes’ map or in the 1790 Census.
On top of it all, we lack solid dates for Rachel’s birth and her death. These would help bracket her movement.
CHRISTY: I have little on them at this point, although one line originates as Scottish Quakers, some of whom relocate to Ireland. Although none show up in the 1790 Guilford County Census, marriage abstracts 1771-1840 reveal some family lines there: Daniel Christy marries Sarah Holland, December 25, 1793, and a Mary Smith, August 12, 1795; he witnesses the June 14, 1796, bond of Elizabeth Christy and Robert White; on August 23, 1798, Hannah Christy and Georg(e) White marry, witnessed by William Dougherty. On November 6, 1799, Mary Chrizee and John (x) Christopher wed. These would appear to be a generation latter than Rachel.
OLDHAM:Minutes of Nottingham Monthly Meeting, Pennsylvania/Maryland, record the Fourth Month 1736 marriage of William Oldham and Sarah Dicks.
A compilation of neighboring Meeting minutes names William’s parents as Thomas Oldham and Susannah Few, who married First Month 27, 1704, at Chester Monthly Meeting, Pennsylvania. After her death Thomas married, as his second wife, Rachel (Minshall) (Taylor) Littler; she was the daughter of John Minshall of Great Britain, and the widow of Thomas Taylor and then of Samuel Littler; she died Seventh Month 22, 1762.
A certificate of transfer for Thomas from Chester Meeting was received by Concord Monthly Meeting Ninth Month 14, 1709, and he was on the East Nottingham tax rolls 1718-1755; he died Second Month 16, 1756. (One source places Thomas Oldham’s birth about 1680 in Flintshire Clwyd, Nottingham, Wales, and Susannah’s about 1678 in Wedhampton, Wiltshire, England.)
On Tenth Month 20, 1746, William and Sarah (Dicks) Oldham and their children were granted a certificate of transfer to Sadsbury Monthly Meeting at Christiana in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
(As an aside, one correspondent notes that Thomas Taylor’s brother, Simeon Taylor, married Esther Dicks, and their daughter, Rachel, then married Robert Lamb, who figures in the Hodgson story as their neighbor on Polecat Creek and as the father of Esther Lamb, who then married David Hodgson/Hodson.)
Other Oldham movement is seen at Hopewell, Virginia; Menallen Meeting in Adams County, Pennsylvania; a Rachel Oldham who attends Quarterly Meeting in 1731 (might the date be in error?). There are marriages of Daniel Brown and Susannah Oldham at East Nottingham, 1736, and Edward Brown and Sarah Oldham in the same neighborhood, 1756. Daniel and Susannah’s son, Jonathan Brown, married Deborah Hodson at Hopewell, 1795 – and these Browns are also related to the Ozbuns/Osborns of Guilford County. Once again, Quaker lines keep interlocking.
Piecing together what I could from available data, I have speculated there were two strands of Quaker Oldhams in and around Philadelphia at the end of the 1600s.
One had a Thomas who died in 1714 and was probably the husband of an Elizabeth who died in 1724; they seem to be the parents of the Thomas who married Mary Garrat (or White?) at Darby Meeting in 1721 and died in 1734; Thomas and Mary named one of their daughters Elizabeth, perhaps reflecting his mother’s name. One source names a Thomas Oldman/Oldham, born January 6, 1659/60, possibly in Norwalk, Massachusetts; he married on March 20, 1686/87, in Lewes, Delaware, Elizabeth Sykes, daughter of James and Elizabeth. This Thomas was the son of Joseph Oldham, born September 11, 1631, in All Saints Parish, Derby, England. (This linkage, which I have not attempted to verify, indicates a Puritan phase before any affiliation with Friends; in addition, Quakers were active around Lewes by this time.)
There is also a John Oldham who arrived at Philadelphia in 1682, possibly arriving among the Friends settling with William Penn. This may be the John Oldham buried at Philadelphia, 1698, and father of an Alice Oldham buried there in 1731.
Oldhams do not appear in Joseph Besse’s collection of Quaker sufferings. The name does appear, however, among 1621 and 1623 arrivals at Plymouth, Massachusetts — the latter with an Anthony Dix from Derby, Derbyshire, England. Oldhams also began arriving in Virginia as early as 1635. Thus, it appears possible that the Oldhams may have become convinced as Friends upon American shores.
From this, then, the following sketch:
Generation 1: Joseph Oldham, born September 11, 1631, in All Saints Parish, Derby, England.
Generation 2: Thomas Oldman/Oldham (born January 6, 1659/60, possibly in Norwalk, Massachusetts – died 1714), married March 20, 1686/87, in Lewes, Delaware, Elizabeth Sykes ( – died 1724), the daughter of James and Elizabeth.
Generation 3: Thomas ( – 1734); married Mary Garrat (or White?) at Darby Meeting, Pennsylvania, 1721.
Generation 4: Thomas (born Chester County, Pennsylvania-1756, Nottingham); married First Month 27, 1704, at Chester Monthly Meeting, Pennsylvania, Susanna Few. After her death he married, 1728 at Nottingham, his second wife, Rachel (Minshall) (Taylor), the daughter of John Minshall of Great Britain, and the widow of Thomas Taylor and then of Samuel Littler; she died Seventh Month 22, 1762.
In Fourth Month 1736, East Nottingham Preparative Meeting reported “that Thomas Oldham Sr. hath been disguised with liquor, which hath led to unbecoming language, with imprudent behavior … but he appeared at this mtg & made satisfaction.” In Tenth Month, the Meeting also reported Thomas Oldham Jr. “had been disguised with strong liquor,” and his acknowledgement was accepted the same date.
Generation 5: William Oldham, married Sarah Dicks in Fourth Month 1736 at Nottingham Monthly Meeting, Pennsylvania/Maryland. They and their children were granted a certificate of transfer to Sadsbury Meeting, Pennsylvania, Tenth Month 20, 1746.
Generation 6: Rachel Oldham ( – ), wife of George Hodson.
As an aside, let me mention that I have stood inside the 1701 “Brick Meeting House” at East Nottingham – near Calvert, Maryland. The meetinghouse has been restored to its primitive appearance and is used once again for worship, although Nottingham Meeting itself is conducted in Oxford, Pennsylvania, where I have also attended. It was quite moving to stand inside the rough-hewn interior, grip the railing on the ministers’ gallery, and to feel again that mystery of life. I wonder, too, if George and Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson worshipped here in their movement westward.
DICKS/DIX: Minutes of Nottingham Monthly Meeting, Pennsylvania/Maryland, record the Fourth Month 1736 marriage of William Oldham and Sarah Dicks, naming her father as Nathan Dix (1685, Pennsylvania; 1728, Pennsylvania); his wife was Deborah Clark, born on Nantucket Island. Nathan’s father – and Mary Thatcher’s mother’s grandfather – was Peter Dix (ca. 1660, Cheshire-1704, Birmingham [Concord] Friends Meeting, Chester County, Pennsylvania), possibly the Peter Dix of Cheshire who was fined twenty pounds in 1679 for not attending the national church; several others are recorded in Besse, with a Dickes spelling used in some cases. I suspect that this line will lead back to the Netherlands; the textiles trade, in particular, encouraged some migration between northern England and Holland. Peter married August 4, 1681, Esther Maddock (October 16, 1661, Cheshire-1709, Chester County, Pennsylvania), the daughter of Nathan Maddock (1642-) and Alice Nichols. Peter’s parents were John Dicks/Dix, who died July 7, 1695, at Philadelphia, and Phyllis. John’s parents were Hester Dicks/Dix and Isabella. Peter Dicks was a flaxdresser from Chester, England, who purchased 250 acres in Pennsylvania on August 16, 1684, from James Dicks, who had bought it from William Penn in 1681; after his death in 1704, his widow married John Mendenhall. In addition to Hannah, Nathan, and Deborah, his children included the Peter Dicks, a recorded minister, who married Sarah Hayes, the widow of Thomas Powell, in 1716 – from them come several of the Dicks lines that migrate with George and Mary Hodgson to North Carolina.
MADDOCK: Nathan Maddock’s parents were Thomas Maddock (1615- ) and Elizabeth Simcock.
NICHOLS: Alice Nichols’ father was Anthony Nichols.
Crucial points for further research
The Christy/Oldham puzzle requires clarification. If Rachel were not an Oldham, then why the second-cousin controversy at the time of her marriage? I am intrigued, too, by the repetition of Rachel as a first name in the Oldham lines. Does this also occur in the Christy lines?
One line of argument is that Rachel Oldham was adopted by Christys who then moved to North Carolina. This proposal, however, requires evidence; too many dates are missing in the Oldham line, especially, to support or disprove the contention.
In addition, we still need birth and death dates for Rachel, and a clearer picture of her movement and activities from birth to death. Did she arrive in North Carolina with the Lambs, the Dicks, or other relations? Was she, in many ways, a lot like George’s mother, nurtured and shaped by her Dicks cousins?