Mary Thatcher

The first definitive date we have for “Orphan George” Hodgson is his marriage to Mary Thatcher on February 21, 1729, in Old Swedes Church in what is now Wilmington, Delaware.

He was born, according to currently undocumented reports, January 6, 1701/02; he died, 1774, in Guilford County, North Carolina, and is presumed buried in an unmarked plot at Centre Friends burial ground, along with Mary.

Mary, my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, is the daughter of Jonathan Thatcher and Hannah Dicks.

She and George had six known children.

Their decision to be married by a priest rather than in the manner of Friends is important not just for the usual genealogical reasons but also because it places the couple in a much larger context.

First is the matter of location and the fact that Old Swedes was not all that distant from many Chester County Quaker communities. It is ten miles from the Concord Friends meetinghouse; fifteen, from London Grove. For contrast, Concord and London Grove are likewise fifteen miles apart – distances that could be traveled within a day.

Second is the contrast in cultures. Swedish Lutherans built their gray stone structure in 1689 on land they had already been using as a burial ground. In 1731, Quaker Thomas Willing would establish “Willington,” surrounding the house of worship. (Over time, the name became corrupted to Wilmington.) When, toward the end of the eighteenth century, the last of the Swedish-speaking congregation had passed on, its members agreed to become Episcopalian. On a visit to Old Swedes, I located in the transcription of its records “George Hudson and Mary Tatcher” being married there on February 24, 1729. (Note discrepancies in both spellings as well as the date.) How unfamiliar, exotic, and exciting it must have been – in a forbidden way – for the two young adults from a plain Quaker culture to enter the white-and-gold interior of that chapel,or whatever version of its decor existed at the time.

Third, and most important in the story of George and Mary, as well as in the stories of many of their descendants, is the matter of traditional Quaker marriage procedure, which they violated. Later generations that married according to Quaker process, then, were households that kept to Friends discipline. The other marriages can also tell us something about where a couple stood in context to the larger community – whether they were still close to Friends families or drifting away. In my linage, with six generations of direct Hodgson/Hodson/Hodgin ancestors in Quaker circles, only one, my great-grandfather Johua Francis Hodson, had a Friends wedding – and that turned out to be officiated by a pastor, rather than the traditional “waiting worship.” Even so, each generation appears within a larger Quaker culture and its practice.

As the Society of Friends settled into a people of faith after its initial outburst in the mid-seventeenth century, Quaker culture became something that was handed down largely within each family. To preserve their essential teachings and practices as a “peculiar people,” set apart from worldly society, Friends began to insist that young Quakers marry others who were thoroughly inculcated in the faith and that they follow a multi-step process in doing so. To be “married under the care of Meeting” meant submitting letters of intent to the monthly business meeting (men applying to the men’s meeting; women, to the women’s), having individual clearness committees appointed, meeting with those committees, and having the committee reports accepted and approved at a subsequent monthly meeting for business – all before a meeting for worship for the marriage service itself could be scheduled and conducted. In short, this typically required two-and-a-half months or more. In addition, because the traditional Quaker decision-making process requires unity, no vote would be taken; overcoming objections can be time-consuming and difficult, especially when motivations are veiled. All the same, when all goes according to the tradition, the result can be nurturing and supportive, as it must have been for Mary Thatcher’s aunt, Jean/Jane Thatcher, and her husband, William Brinton, when they were confronted by Richard Thatcher’s opposition. The act of marriage is undertaken by the entire faith community, and not just the concerned families. But not all youths could – or would – wait out the process. In reading the minutes, it is crucial to note the difference between being “marriage contrary to discipline,” that is, failing to follow the procedure I’ve just described, and “marrying out of unity,” that is, taking a spouse who was not a member of the Society of Friends.

As Howard Brinton points out in his pamphlet: “The monthly meeting had oversight of marriages, giving its consent and seeing to it that the consent of parents was obtained the prospective bride and groom had to appear twice before the monthly meeting to express their intentions.” There might, however, be occasions in which the Meeting would override the objections of parents or others, if it found such obstacles unwarranted. Brinton continues by citing two examples from the minutes of Birmingham Preparative Meeting, part of Concord Monthly Meeting, in Chester County, both in 1690. The first example regards her aunt; the second quotes Mary Thatcher’s grandfather.

William Brinton said Friends I do intend to take Jane Thatcher to be my wife. She said the same I do intend to take William Brinton to be my husband if the Lord permit and with your consent.

The second instance also regards a Brinton-Thatcher marriage, this time with a Thatcher son (Joseph?), rather than daughter, involved.

Richard Thatcher would not give his consent to his son’s marriage but the meeting gave it. Richard said it mattered not the order of the meeting no more than the dirt under his feet.

The Brinton genealogy adds to Richard Thatcher’s quote, “no more than ye dirt under his feet and if it were but two Steps to the meeting [for business] he would not Come, further Adding, and so tell them” – this, in reference to the two members Meeting had appointed to inquire of him his reasons for objecting to his son’s proposed marriage. Richard had refused to meet with the two Friends, who eventually cornered him at the home of another, where he delivered his outburst. Strong language that would not have been permitted in later Quaker generations! Was he upset at the prospect of losing a free laborer? Or were there other grounds for his objections? I must even wonder if his obstinacy in that instance was a factor in Mary’s decision to elope.

Incidentally, the stone house that William and Jane (Thatcher) Brinton erected in 1704 has been restored to its original appearance and is open to the public as a museum, on the old Wilmington-to-West-Chester a road little more than a mile from the intersection of U.S. highways 1 and 202.

I must confess that Richard’s outburst has given me comfort at times when I’ve been clerking difficult issues in Quaker meeting for business; there are later generations of Friends when he would have been seriously censured for such an outburst, and yet his directness has a refreshing honesty I admire. And to think this may be my earliest direct quote from an ancestor!

George Hodgson and Mary Thatcher were but one of many Quaker couples found marrying at Old Swedes. By the time they eloped, such marriages were becoming all too common or even fashionable; newly wedded Quakers would return to their Meeting and apologize for having disregarded Friends marriage procedures. The earliest offenders were often forgiven, but as the practice became increasingly widespread, the Society of Friends found itself in a difficult situation: tolerate the erosion of the system altogether or take the violations more seriously.

Thus, when Mary Thatcher, daughter of Jonathan Thatcher (1667-1750) and Hannah (Dicks) Thatcher (ca 1682-1728), appeared before Concord Monthly Meeting in Chester County on Fourth Month 2, 1729, and “condemned her marriage by a priest” (that is, a paid clergyman), the offense was taken seriously. She was disowned, or removed from formal membership, for marrying contrary to discipline. Interestingly, no similar minute has been found regarding George Hodgson, which would suggest he might not have been not a member in full standing within a Friends Meeting. Significantly, though, the offense was “contrary to discipline,” rather than “out of unity.” The distinction here is that George was presumed to be a birthright Quaker.

Had they undergone a traditional Quaker wedding, a copy of their marriage certificate would have been recorded and preserved. On it would be the names of both of their parents, as well as the signatures of all who had been present, who would have signed as witnesses to the event. More important in terms of this genealogy project, I want to emphasize, is that the document would have given us the names of the couple’s parents and their place of residence, answering the elusive question of George’s parentage. This information would have been included in the Meeting’s minute book for posterity.

Still, this matter of signing wedding certificates does help in sketching some of his activity. For instance, George HOGEN appears as one of those signing the certificate at the marriage of John Cocks (Cox), son of John Cocks of London Grove, and Mary Harlan on Eighth Month 9, 1735, in the New Garden Friends meetinghouse. Others signing include Jonathan Hughes and John Day. The fact that George was permitted to sign at all suggests that he had some standing among Friends, even if he was not an official member as far as we can tell.

*   *   *

Through all of this discussion, Mary Thatcher has been somewhat of a cipher. At this point, let me suggest ways we might consider a more complex figure in the drama.

First, if George Hodgson was twenty-seven or twenty-eight at the time of their wedding, Mary was only sixteen or seventeen – young, by Quaker standards. On one hand, she may have been filled with youthful impetuosity in dashing off to marry. On the other hand, there may have been something very practical in her decision. Or even some blend of the two. Meeting likely would have counseled her to wait a few more years before wedding. We may consider the question, then, of whether theirs was a marriage of convenience or necessity. We may also wonder whether George appealed to her as an escape from her father, or even if his status as an orphan was something she understood emotionally. From a practical point of view, he would have had a few years in which to begin establishing some wealth, as tax records have suggested.

We have already seen two instances of her grandfather Richard Thatcher’s cantankerous nature. Was any of that continued in her father? The fact that none of Mary’s children are named in her family’s honor suggests a strained relationship there.

The plot thickens when we look at Mary’s mother, Hannah Dicks, who was herself fourteen years younger than her husband, Jonathan Thatcher. Hannah’s death comes in 1728 – that is, anywhere from two to fourteen months before Mary’s wedding. Could that have played in some way into Mary’s decision to elope?

A second point of consideration is that she would have been about twenty-three when she and George relocated to Adams County and in her late thirties at the time of the move to North Carolina. In other words, as a pioneer wife, she would have been in her prime, capable of facing up to the many challenges, when they moved across the Susquehanna, and still in condition to apply that experience in the Carolina resettlement.

As a third point, let me suggest that she is the one who holds the family in the Quaker stream, shaping her descendents’ religious direction for generations. While we know nothing of George’s parents, we’ve also seen little that would reflect an intense faith on his part; in addition, if he was for whatever reason raised in the household of Robert and Sarah (Borden) Hodgson, we should note that most of their family drifted away from Friends and into Presbyterian and Episcopal churches instead.

When George and Mary settle in North Carolina, they are surrounded by her cousins, many of them filling significant positions in the emerging Friends Meetings. Tellingly, they come from her mother’s side of the family – Dicks – even though a William Thatcher is among the settlers at Centre. In fact, George and Mary’s neighbor, Peter Dicks, was also a recorded minister in the Society of Friends and many of the early Meetings for Worship were held in his home, among others. It would seem that Mary was on closer terms with some of her cousins than she was with her own parents or siblings.

One crucial question would ask about her spiritual practice and growth during their decade or so living in Adams County. With Quaker neighbors, it is likely that Meetings for Worship were held in their houses and that they received visiting ministers periodically, for what were known as “opportunities.”

In fact, one question would ask what prevented her from reapplying for membership until 1752, after she and George and their family had relocated to North Carolina. Perhaps it was a desire to see her daughter married under the care of Meeting, something that her own membership would likely facilitate. Nevertheless, she and the remainder of the family eventually came into full membership.

Even so, many unanswered puzzles remain, including the date of her death. She is named in the sale of land to William Reynolds, an event that occurred early the year after George Hodgson had drawn up his will (Sixth Month 5, 1764), in which he describes himself as “being very sick and weak in body, but of perfect memory and understanding (thanks be to the Almighty for the same).” George’s will makes reference to his wife and widow, but does not name her. Later in 1764, son George becomes the last of their children to marry, and is read out of Meeting for wedding a second cousin, contrary to New England Yearly Meeting’s Book of Discipline, which the Nantucket Quakers had carried along to the Carolinas. (That was a crucial difference between the New Englanders and the rest of the Quaker world, where only first-cousin marriages were prohibited; the Carolina Friends originiating in Pennsylvania turned instead to the published discipline of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.) Yet Mary’s death has been listed as 1764, one source indicating December. Because of discrepancies between Old Style dating and contemporary usage, some of these dates may be several months off; thus, some of the events may have actually occurred in 1765, rather than the previous year, or may have happened several months later than our notes would have them. Regardless of the actually timing, we do have several major family events occurring close together. Did George and Mary share a common ailment? Was she still alive when the Reynolds’ sale was recorded? Did George’s health recover, or did he instead remain another decade in poor health? Did George Junior’s planning to marry prompt the father to prepare a will? Whether these events are causally related remains, at this time, speculative.

At any rate, George Senior lived another decade after drawing up his will.

Mary Thatcher also presents one of those curious points in genealogy, in which multiple generations of the wife’s ancestry are documented while her husband’s ancestry is stonewalled; typically, the patrilineal generations are more fully available than are the matrilineal ones.

Here, instead, her linage is the one that’s documented. For instance, Concord (Pennsylvania) Meeting minutes include Mary Thatcher’s parents’ announcements of their intent to marry, 1699, as well as the 1727 marriage of her brother, Jonathan, to Mary Wyeth, daughter of John and wife of Chester County, and the 1734 marriage of her brother, Richard, to Edith Grubb, daughter of Emmanuel and wife of New Castle County (now in Delaware).

THATCHER: We’ve already considered details regarding her parents and her grandfather, who came to Pennsylvania in 1682. As indicated earlier, he may be the same Richard Thatcher of Uffington Meeting in Berkshire, England, who in 1670 was fined, with Anthony Pearson, among others, five shillings. In 1674 he was fined five pounds sixteen shillings plus two cows worth eight pounds and then fined an additional one pound two shillings for his absence from the national worship (Anglican church). That Richard, born 1645 and died 1697 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was the husband of Jane or Jeanne Stevens, born circa 1646 at Uffingham, and was the son of Richard Thatcher, born 1620.

Other Thatchers whose Quaker sufferings are recorded include Humble Thatcher, who journeyed to Holland in ministry with William Ames (died 1662) and served as an interpreter for William Caton (1636-1665). In April 1657, Humble was arrested and tried in Amsterdam, and then shipped back to England. Joseph Besse’s volumes also mention Humble Thatcher of Hertfordshire, who was sent to prison in 1660, and a Mary of Somersetshire, a sixty-four-year-old widow who was imprisoned for two years, ten months, beginning in 1660 for her refusal to pay tithes of six shillings.

DICKS/DIX: Mary Thatcher’s mother, born ca 1682 in Chester, Cheshire, England, was the daughter of Peter DIX (circa 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 (unknown). John’s parents were Hester Dicks/Dix and Isabella (unknown). 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 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

We still face the uncertainty about the date of Mary’s death. Clarity there would be especially welcome.

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5 thoughts on “Mary Thatcher”

  1. I’ve been working a family tree for my sister-in-law and was somewhat doubtful of the story of George’s beginnings. It’s essential for me to prove each entry to the best of my ability. Your information was so very helpful in substantiating the family story. I’ve tremendous respect for the people who go the extra mile and delve into their roots, and are willing to share their findings. Thank you sincerely.

    1. And I’m so grateful for all of those who shared their findings with me. I hope you check in over the next several months as the postings focus on George and Mary together and the most plausible link to his roots I see. There will be some surprises.
      It’s wonderful, too, to hear from others who find these materials useful. Sometimes, they have their own bits to swap or add to the story.

  2. Your research is fascinating. I am descended from George and Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson’s daughter, Susannah. I did note that you’ve got the wrong parentage and relationship for both William Hiatt (1735-1834), married to Susannah and John Hiatt (1729-1767), married to Sarah. William and John were 1st cousins, not brothers and neither were sons of John Hiatt (1724-1790) and Mary Thomas. William was a son of John Hiatt (1696-1764) and his 1st wife, Rachel Wilson. John Hiatt married to Mary Thpmas was another son of John and Rachel. John Hiatt (1729-1767) who married Sarah Hodgson was a son of George Hiatt (1698-1793) and Martha Wakefield. George and John Hiatt (1696-1764) were sons of John Hiatt (1674-1726) and Mary Smith. You pretty much need to chart it out to differentiate all the John Hiatts.

    Thanks for all your work on the family of George Hodgson.

    1. Thank you for the corrections. When I was beginning this project, I came across the three-volume Hiatt-Hiett Genealogy William Perry Johnson compiled, but my focus at that time was trying to sort out George and Mary’s sons — and then attempt to see how my line might connect into that.
      Now, let’s see if I get the corrections right.

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