Little is known of the early years of the first documented ancestor of the Hodgson, Hodgin, or Hodson family that surfaces in Colonial Guilford County, North Carolina. According to several widely circulated stories, he was the only surviving member of a Quaker family that set sail from Ireland or England and was taken captive and/or fell victim to disease en route to America.
Spousal lines include Thatcher, Dicks/Dix, Maddock, Nichols, Stevens.
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George HODGSON 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 his wife. He married, February 21, 1729, in Old Swedes Church in what is now Wilmington, Delaware, Mary THATCHER (1712-1764), daughter of Jonathan Thatcher and Hannah DICKS. Six known children:
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- John, born August 4, 1731, Chester County, Pennsylvania; died 1804, Guilford County, North Carolina; married May 7, 1754, Mary Mills (ca 1736-1804), daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Harrold) Mills, at New Garden Friends Meeting. Ten children.
- Sarah, born 1733, Chester County, Pennsylvania; died March 31, 1817, Guilford County, North Carolina; married April 22, 1752, John “Ford” Hiatt (1729-1767), son of George (1698-1793) and Martha (Wakefield) Hiatt, under the care of Cane Creek Friends Meeting. Seven children.
- Susannah, born 1735, Chester or Adams County, Pennsylvania; died September 8, 1782, Guilford County, North Carolina. Married 1754 William Hiatt (1734-1834), son of John Hiatt (1696-1764) and Mary (Wilson) Hiatt, at New Garden Friends Meeting. Twelve children.
- George, born 1737, Adams County, Pennsylvania; died 1813, Guilford County, North Carolina (will was probated in February); married, 1764, Rachel OLDHAM or CHRISTY, in a manner contrary to Friends discipline, as recorded in the minutes of New Garden Friends Meeting, Eleventh Month 27. Ten children.
- Robert, born March 11, 1738, in Adams County, Pennsylvania; died April 12, 1813, in Guilford County, North Carolina; married first ca 1760 Rachel Mills (ca 1740-April 24, 1791), daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Harrold) Mills, under the care of New Garden Friends Meeting; married second February 6, 1794, Rachel Mills (December 25, 1756-July 24, 1811), daughter of Hur and Rachel (Harrold) Mills; married third in 1812 Sarah Pierson ( – ), daughter of (?). Sixteen children: thirteen by his first wife and three by his second.
- Joseph, born 1740 in Adams County, Pennsylvania; died 1829, Randolph County, North Carolina; married first September 30, 1760, Margaret Williams (ca 1741-1797), daughter of (?); married second January 6, 1802, Hannah Johnson (December 16, 1765- ), daughter of Tarlton and Hannah (Mills) Johnson. Fifteen children.
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The first definite documentation for this George Hodgson occurs with his marriage. He is presumed to be identical to the George Hodgson, with variant spellings, found in Chester County tax records and other documents of the time. He and his wife then begin appearing in North Carolina Quaker minutes, at first indirectly, through the marriage of daughter Sarah at New Garden Monthly Meeting in 1752, when he is recorded living in Bladen County, North Carolina, and then in 1754, when daughter Susanna and son John each married under the care of New Garden Monthly Meeting; at that time he was reported living in Rowan County. The variation in locale, we should note, has to do solely with early jurisdictional recordkeeping; George and Mary had settled in what’s now Guilford County.
“For a very long time,” Fred Hughes writes in his Guilford County, N.C.: A Map Supplement, “location of county lines [was] vague and indefinite.” As a consequence, land grants from the period were recorded in Bladen, Rowan, Anson, and Orange counties. Hughes reports a 1753 Granville grant for George Hodgens just west of the present Centre Friends meetinghouse, on Polecat Creek.
In the apparently fertile Piedmont, with its large and growing Quaker community, the family proliferated, and there were many intermarriages with other Friends families, including Mills, Ozbun (Osborn), Dillon, Fischer, Leonard, Maris, and Frazier; from these and other related lines I initially obtained much of the genealogical material that became the foundation for this paper.
For example, in the Ancestral Line of Nancy J. Overstreet (mimeographed, August 1957), compiler Glen C. Walker observes:
Geo. Hodgson (1701-1774) was the son of English Quakers. The family, consisting of the parents and three sons, sailed from an Irish port for America in 1710. And when the landing was made several weeks later at Philadelphia, nine-year-old George was the only surviving member. He was raised in Penn. and married Mary Thatcher, daughter of Jonathan and Hannah Thatcher, and granddaughter of Richard Thatcher, who came to Penn. about 1685 from Uffingham, Berkshire, Eng. The Thatchers lived in Chester County, Penn.
In the early 1750s, Geo. and his family joined the Quaker Migration to N. Carolina, where in 1761 he had a land grant of 640 acres in what is now Guilford Co. They lived near and worshipped at a Quaker church, called “Centre Meeting,” about 10 miles south of present-day Greensboro. A church and cemetery are there today
Walker does not, however, cite his sources; since he descends from George and Mary’s son, George, in a line that migrated early on to Ohio and then Indiana, I assume that some of the lore comes down through oral tradition. While some of the later material in his paper leans more toward the fanciful than the factual, I prefer to turn to some lengthy quotation from a letter by Arthur D. Hodgin of Richmond, Indiana, in part because he recognizes the problems of contradictory evidence and in part because he has invested much time and painstaking effort in attempting to discover the background of this George and Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson. He reports:
“Eli HODGSON and Zamri HODGSON wrote A Concise Statement of the Descendants of George Hodgson, Extending Through Eight Generations, Numbering 1416. The book was published at Ottawa, Illinois, in 1885. In their preface they state”
… as a work of this kind, which is intended to be a true record, so far as is now known of the family and descendants of George Hodgson, since his emigration to this country …
There is a tradition that, during the last decade of the seventeenth century, a family by the name of Hodgson, whose christianed names have not been ascertained, emigrated from England to some part of Ireland, where they remained ten or twelve years, and then embarked on a ship bound for America. During the passage the whole family died from some prevailing pestilence, except one child, a son, George, nine years old, who landed at Philadelphia about the year 1710. Nothing further is known of him except that he was married and lived in Pennsylvania until 1750, when, with a family of seven children, some of whom were then grown, he moved and settled near Guilford Court-House, North Carolina. The family seems to have remained in that state for about a half century, which includes the Revolutionary period, and the formation of the new government and constitution. A number of them, with others, forming a small colony, emigrated into new territory, northwest of the Ohio river. They were the first to chop a real road through a wilderness from Cincinnati, a distance of fifty miles northeast, and settled in Clinton Co., Ohio. Others, and perhaps all, were known to have emigrated eventually into the newer states and territories. They have been preeminent in emigrating towards the setting of the sun ..
Arthur then turns to another quotation from their book, chapter 1, where some of the facts vary from the previous statements:
George Hodgson, whose descendants are recorded in this work, was born in Ireland, of English parents, about the year 1701. The names of his parents and other members of the family are unknown. He emigrated to America when he was nine years old and settled in Pennsylvania, where he afterwards married. The name of his wife was not known. He left six children, named George, Richard, Joseph, John and two daughters, whose names are unknown, but are known to have married two brothers, surnamed Hiatt, some of whose descendants are known, but the intermediate names are missing. Nothing more is known of his descendants except the fourth child
“It was this fourth child,” Arthur writes, “John HODGSON, from whom Eli and Zimri descended and it is about his descendants that the book is written. Eli and Zimri HODGSON were descended from Thomas HODGSON whose parents were John and Mary (Mills) HODGSON.” The “Richard” they note is apparently a misreading of “Robert,” from whom Arthur descends. He continues:
“Isaiah DILLAN wrote the Ancestral Record of the Dillon, Hodgson, Fisher, and Leonard Families in 1909 at Normal, Illinois. He descended from Hurr HODGSON, a son of [Robert] HODGSON and his second wife, with the same name as his first, Rachel MILLS.” One paragraph in his introduction is as follows:
The Hodgson family are of English descent. They went from England to Ireland and from there to America. One George Hodgson, number 1941 in this record, sailed with his parents from Ireland to America, and was at landing the only survivor of the family, and only nine years of age. We are informed from the Hodgson record that he settled in Pennsylvania, from there he went to North Carolina, where he was married to a Mary Thatcher and raised a large family. We know nothing more of his wife but little of his children, except their fourth child, named John, number 1988, who married Mary Mills. It is from this union that we trace the Hodgson family. It is interesting to notice how often the children and grandchildren of John Hodgson, No. 1988, intermarried with the children and grandchildren of Daniel Dillon, No. 525.
“Isaiah Dillon also states in his introduction,” Arthur writes, “that ‘while older people were living it would have been an easy matter to have obtained the desired information to make a satisfactory record dating back further than it is possible to do now. The older people are long since gone. None of them are left to tell the story. Now we are dependent upon meagre family records and tradition for the desired information.’ ”
Arthur observes: “Obviously, Isaiah Dillon did not have access to all the records in 1909 that we have today and he seemed to have relied extensively on the information in the book written by Eli and Zimri HODGSON.” Later in his letter, he comments:
“The date ‘1701’ as the year of birth of George HODGSON has not been proven nor has the age of nine, as has been ascribed to George when he is said to have arrived in America ‘about 1710.’ Another researcher has used that information and added a more precise date – ‘Jan. 6, 1701.’ The source of that information was the Institute of American Genealogy, Chicago. I have not written to the author or the institute for further verification, but intend to do so. However, I suspect that the precise dates are still unknown, and that some of the Institute’s data [were] obtained from a researcher who had submitted his genealogy for publication.”
A further note of caution needs to be made about the date of George’s birth. Quaker records would not have recorded January but rather First Month or Eleventh Month; at the time, First Month would have been in March, not January. The fact that we have the date recorded as 1701/02 hints at the possibility the original source was Eleventh Month 1701, that is, in what would now appear as January 1702. Thus, what initially appears to be a solid fact becomes less definite under examination.
The questions continue. Did a “prevailing pestilence” obliterate the remainder of young George’s family? Smallpox did, in fact, infect a number of passengers on their way to America, often with its fatal result. But there was another menace on the North Atlantic at the time, as Jeremiah Mills (born 1784 and husband of Deborah Hodson, George and Mary’s granddaughter) related in a handwritten account that appears in Paul Mills’ Mills Family History: Quaker and Other Early Arrivals (Woodburn, Oregon; no date) and, via another copy handed down in that family, in The Guilford Genealogist (Summer 1994):
But now I will speak of a breedy race. I mean the Hodsons or Hodgsons, as they used to write their name. The first I heard of them they came from Europe in the days of Blackbeard the sea-pirate. The vessel being taken that brought the first of the names over. I cannot tell the blood but I think the mixture of English, Irish, and perhaps some Scotch. Grandfather Hodgson and his wife were dead and gone before recollection.
These accounts have young George and his family sailing for America several years before Blackbeard (whose real name is believed to be Edward Teach) turned pirate and terrorized American shores in his Queen Anne’s Revenge (1716-1718) – an activity, incidentally, that had the apparent backing of the governor of North Carolina, who is believed to have shared in the booty. But Blackbeard was by no means the only freebooter in those waters. After all, Captain William Kidd, who had plundered the seas 1697-1698, had been hanged in 1701. And, as Hugh F. Rankin describes in The Golden Age of Piracy (Williamsburg, Virginia; 1969), “Actually, Kidd was little more than a pale facsimile of some of the other pirates of his day.” Through letters of marque, which permitted privateers to plunder vessels of other nations, the crowned heads of Europe had institutionalized freebooting as a way to increase their own wealth, hamper the competitive trade of other countries, and guarantee themselves a source of both seamen and vessels in times of war. Both James I and Charles I of England financed plundering expeditions of their own – even ordering the pirates to fly the colors of the Royal Navy! It should be noted that Sir Francis Drake and other “Sea-Dogs” of this period were little more than pirates and seldom appeared to take much heed of which flag a vessel flew. Yet, until the oppressive measures of the 1720s began to be applied and Captains George Lowther and Edward Low, both of whom sailed and plundered off the capes of Virginia, began to apply barbarity that outraged even other pirates, much of the plundering seemed to observe an unwritten code of propriety. For example, Rankin reports one case: “Luke Knott, the Quaker captain of the West River, and his crew were held captive for nine days while the pirates plundered his ship. … For his troubles, and in return for his silence, Knott was presented with ten chests of tea, ten rolls of tobacco, gold dust, and a number of Portuguese moidores. Gold was likewise distributed among the crew.” This 1719 event, however, failed to keep Knott from maintaining his principles, for he “not only forced his men to give up the gold given them in return for their silence, but he likewise surrendered the presents that had been bestowed on him. Subsequent events proved that his honesty did not pay. Because of his forthrightness, Knott was forced to give up his seafaring career, ‘on Account of Pirates threatening to Torture him to Death if he ever falls into their hands.”
In that year, according to one source, at least seventy pirate crews were active off the coast of North America, and in 1717 James Logan, secretary of Pennsylvania, estimated no fewer than 1,500 pirates operated in those waters. “Despite the publicity given to those few pirates who were captured and hanged on the gallows,” Rankin comments, “thousands of unknown, and perhaps more adept, pirates roamed the seas, unsung but growing rich.”
According to Kenneth Kinkor, project historian at Expedition Whydah, the so-called Golden Age of Piracy lasted from 1680 to 1725, with at least 25,000 pirates roaming the seas at its height.
Thus, young George Hodgson and his family would have set out in the midst of Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), a time when “privateering had become particularly profitable in that an act of 1708 had allowed the owners and crews of privateers to share in the whole of the plunder without having to divert a share to the Crown.” One can hardly expect the French and others who were victims of such activity to stand by idly.
And so we find in Albert Cook Myers’ authoritative Immigration of the Irish Quakers Into Pennsylvania, 1682-1750 (Baltimore, 1969) the case of Samuel Massey and his family, who sailed from Cork, 1710, intending Philadelphia, but were seized by the French and carried to Antigua in the West Indies. After much suffering and hardship, the account relates, they reached Philadelphia but were so impoverished they could not pay their fare from the West Indies. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting provided the thirty pounds. The French had even taken the family’s certificate of transfer, a document Quaker meetings used to vouchsafe the character of migranting Friends, and a new one had to be requested from Cork Monthly Meeting. Sarah Massey’s certificate is recorded at Philadelphia, dated Seventh Month 18, 1710, and received Third Month 25, 1711. Considering the extent of their loss, we may venture that they were victims of French privateering.
In a footnote to the Massey incident, Myers remarks: “During the French Wars, vessels were often attacked and the passengers imprisoned or subjected to loss of property and harsh treatment.” At this point he offers another example, apparently of one of the Masseys’ shipmates: “In a certificate of removal dated 7 mo. 12, 1752, received at Wilmington Monthly Meeting, Delaware, Ballycane Meeting, County Wicklow, states that Elizabeth Robinson removed with her husband, Francis Robinson, from Ballycane some years before and has now requested the said certificate. ‘We also some years ago Gave he[r] a certificate to the same purpose which with her Daughter was taken by the french and miscarried.’”
Myers includes a chart detailing the number of adult Friends who migrated in each of the years and specifies, wherever possible, the Irish Meetings of their origin; another chart details which Pennsylvania Meetings they joined. In 1709 only five adult Friends made the crossing – three from Cork and two from unspecified Meetings; among those were Samuel Combe of Cork and his family. In 1710, when the Masseys attempted the crossing, again only five adult Friends migrated – one from Cork (I assume that to be Sarah Massey’s certificate, although William Wade Hinshaw abstracts certificates for both parents and the family recorded separately in the Men’s and the Women’s business sessions) and four from unspecified Meetings. Of the 440 Quakers who came to Pennsylvania in the span of Myers’ research, 172 originated in Ulster, 183 in Leinster (which includes Dublin), forty-two in Munster Province (which includes Cork and Waterford), and forty-three in places not specified. In Pennsylvania, twelve settled in Bucks County, fourteen in Montgomery County, 177 in Philadelphia, eighty-two in Delaware County (then part of Chester County), 201 in Chester County, and six each in Lancaster and York counties.
Considering how Friends typically stuck together in their migrations, and recalling the deprivations suffered by the Masseys and others, we have reason to suppose that young George and his family shared that voyage to Antigua. It may be that the family was so weakened by those hardships that they were, indeed, victims of both pirates and pestilence, as various family traditions have suggested.
Most of the Irish Friends, by the way, were of Borderland England and Lowland Scotland extraction, coming from families that had been planted in Ireland since 1556, when Queen Mary initiated the plantation system in an effort to stabilize the island under British control. Historian David Hackett Fischer, in Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford University Press, 1989), details many characteristics of these Borderers, the so-called “Ulster Irish” or even “Scotch-Irish,” whose ancestral grounds include those of the English Hodgsons. (This remarkable history of the four major English migrations to colonial America also examines the Quaker traits of the Midlands and then the Middle Atlantic states, and the Puritan characteristics from East Anglia that shaped what we know as New England Yankees; because the Piedmont Quaker community was a blend of these Irish Quakers, Philadelphia Friends, and Nantucket Islanders, this volume is recommended as extended background on the different lifestyles each origin contributed to the Carolina experience.) Although itinerant Quaker ministers in the 1650s successfully gained new converts from the Protestant minority in Ireland, they generally failed to penetrate the Roman Catholic or native Celt majority. Over the years, hostile actions of these Roman Catholics, especially, spurred these pacifist Friends to seek safer ground, an escape not always approved by their former Meeting. As Howard Brinton records in his Pendle Hill Pamphlet, Meeting House & Farm House, “Nicholas Newlin, a gentleman in easy circumstances, with his wife and children, emigrated from Montmellick, in the County of Tyrone, Ireland, in 1683 and settled in Concord” (Chester County, Pennsylvania). In the Quaker certificate he carried was this statement: “… we have nothing to charge against him or his family [though] he hath given us no satisfactory reason for his removing; but our Godly jealousy is that his chief ground is fearfulness of sufferings here for the testimony of Jesus, or coveting worldly liberty …”
I have since examined at Swarthmore College microfilm copies of Irish minute books, including those of Lurgan, Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Balleyhagen, Lisburn, Grange, Edenderry, Moate, and Limmerick, and failed to find young George or his family. I must note, however, that the books are quite difficult to read, and I may have overlooked what I was seeking. Further, the ink on some pages had become too faint to be microfilmed, and these may have contained the information we seek. At Lurgan,where many of these pages occur, we find a line that curiously parallels the names we find in young George’s descendants, and this family originates in other Quaker Hodgsons at Carlisle Meeting in Cumberland, England, 140 miles across the Irish Sea.
Additional information from Lester Hodgins’ Hodgins … Kindred Forever (Hodgins Family History Society, Vancouver, British Columbia; 1977) suggests that the Lurgan Hodgsons relate closely to those in Wicklow County, Ireland – just south of Dublin. Further study of Hodgson/Hodgin/Hodson references to Memorials to the Dead in Ireland finds the highest proportion – one third – at Wicklow; if Dublin is included, the figure rises to half of those listed. Whether this is because more of the Wicklow/Dublin family chose to remain, while other lines elected to migrate, is a possible consideration. In either case, a closer examination of the Leinster Province Friends Meetings – especially Ballycane and Kilcommon Meetings in Wicklow County – may be in order.
In his chapter on the North Carolina branch, “The Hodgin Families of Early Quaker Times,” Lester Hodgins draws on an account passed down in the family of William Hodgson (grandson of George and Mary by way of their son Joseph). Here, again, a version of the tragedy at sea story is told: “Edward Hodgin, with his wife and large family, left Armagh for America. It is not certain whether they were with a group of Quakers or on some other ship but some unspecified tragedy took place at sea and only one child of the Hodgin family reached Pennsylvania. His father, mother, sisters and brothers all died at sea. The American records list the boy as George ‘Hudson,’ and his age is not given.”
Thus, versions of this event are found among descendants of all four of George and Mary’s sons. Although details of each account vary, Hodgins … Kindred Forever hints at a common source: “Fifty years later or more, George related the details of the strange and terrible tragedy to his own grandchildren but little of the story was ever written down.”
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The first definitive date we have for George Hodgson is his marriage to Mary Thatcher on February 21, 1729, in Old Swedes Church in what is now Wilmington, Delaware.
The incident 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 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. 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, has a Friends wedding – and that turns 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 uncle and his bride, 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 Thatcher marriage, this time with a Thatcher son, Jonathan (Mary’s father-to-be), 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 the 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-), 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 was 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 names of all who had been present, with their signatures as witnesses to the event.
For instance, George HOGEN (sometimes read at Gogen) 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.
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Sometimes, seemingly trivial details force us to reconsider basic assumptions regarding a given situation. After receiving a collection of notes from Hank Hodgin, including entries from Gwen Boyer Bjorkman and others, I began wondering why some entries, such as those for Jonathan Hughes, were included. Were other researchers onto something I had overlooked? There were also some notations for events I, too, had collected but let pass unquestioned. One of them involved a land purchase in Lancaster County.
With it universally reported that all of George and Mary Hodgson’s surviving children had been born in Chester County, I had presumed that any dealing in land in neighboring Lancaster County was simply an investment, and let it go at that. After all, there are tax records from Chester County:
George HOGGIN, 1720-21 New Garden (Chester County) nonresident d
George HODGIN, 1721 New Garden nonresident land
George HODGIN, 1722 New Garden
George HODGSON, 1729 London Grove (presumably after his marriage)
George HODGSON, 1730 London Grove
George HOGENS, 1732 London Grove
George HODGIN, 1734 London Grove
George HODGIN, 1735B London Grove
George HODGIN, 1735/36 London Grove
And Arthur D. Hodgin had sent me copies of two maps that place a George Hodgon or Hodgin as owning one hundred acres in London Grove Township. One map, Lands Around London Grove Meeting 1700-1730, is by Gilbert Cope and dated 1914. The other, copied at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester from a blueprint reconstructing the “first” landowners of Londongrove Township, on land sold by the London Company, situates that tract west-southwest of Chatham – likely near current U.S. 1 and thus perhaps closer to West Grove Meeting than to London Grove.
What I have found most tantalizing about this piece, however, is the fact that it places him only six miles from Robert and Sarah (Borden) Hodgson’s Pleasant Garden estate in New London township – a fact to consider when we investigate young George’s location when he arrives in America.
Arthur also included another bit of information in his letter, acknowledging the Lancaster County angle:
Perhaps you are aware that in 1738 a George HODGSON was given a grant of 300 acres in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, “situate at Conewaga adjoyning Moses Hartman(?)” for which he was to pay “the sum of fifteen pounds ten shillings current money of this province for every hundred acre thereof … Given under my Hand, the lesser Seal of our Province, at Philadelphia this 5th Day of October Anno Dom. 1738.” Again there is no proof that this was our George HODGSON. While in Harrisburg, Pa., for a brief time, I attempted to find out more, especially when the land might have been sold, but even with the help of an official, I was not able to do so. Perhaps in the future, with more time, I may be more successful
Another version of that purchase names Moses HARLAN, with whom George Hodgson had already been linked as a witness to the Quaker marriage of Moses Harlan’s daughter in the New London meetinghouse.
Not surprisingly, Quakers were among the early settlers of Lancaster County. For instance, the county itself was named by Friends John and Patience (Gibson) Wright, who founded what is now Columbia, Pennsylvania, and operated a ferry across the Susquehanna River. Their eldest daughter, Susanna, is a most remarkable frontier woman as a poet, silk manufacturer, and regular correspondent with Benjamin Franklin and other historical luminaries on both sides of the Atlantic. I had long wondered if George and Mary Hodgson named their daughter in her honor. Many Wrights were also among those first settlers in Guilford County, North Carolina, Quaker circles.
As early as 1715, Robert Hodgson of Pleasant Garden in New London, Chester County, had purchased 3,500 acres in Lancaster County, some of it in partnership with James Hendricks, at the rate of ten pounds per hundred acres. I am left wondering whether Robert, before his death in 1733, might have inspired George to purchase land in Lancaster County for development.
At any rate, 300 acres – nearly a half-square mile – is a significant purchase. That’s even before you consider that it was his second such transaction.
Lancaster County does have a Conewago stream, running along what is now Dauphin or Lebanon counties. At the time, that would have been on the frontier. (Much later, that area would be known for the nuclear power plant on an island near its mouth, in the Susquehanna River – Three Mile Island.)
The fact that George purchased his land from the province, rather than a previous owner, indicates the site had not yet been settled. The possibility that George and Mary actually moved out to the frontier creates a much different portrait of the family than I had originally envisioned. That relocation would have been about forty-five miles from the orderly stone houses and settlements along the road linking Philadelphia and Baltimore – what is now regarded as the quaint Brandywine and Chadds Ford country. Instead, they were likely living in a log cabin, clearing land, and practicing subsistence farming. Did they settle in during the winter, with all of its hazards, or instead wait until spring? How was George able to deliver more than forty-five pounds for this purchase? Did he borrow from kinsmen? Had he found profitable enterprises? Was he, in fact, thriving?
A closer reading of the notes, however, it appears that this was a second pruchase of 300 acres, possibly doubling the size of his holdings, and more telling, this was on the west side of the Susquehanna River. On May 29, 1735, George Hodgson had purchased 300 acres “on the Same Branch above Jonathan Hughes.”
By coincident, while looking into some of Grandma Hodson’s lines, I came across a report, “The Main Indian Paths and Migration Trails in Pennsylvania,” posted online through a Westmoreland County Web site. It mentions the New York to Baltimore Road: “ In 1719 this north-south trail … passed through Conewago PA which is a short distance northwest of the Susquehanna River and in present day Adams County.” Here, then, was a Conewego on the west side of the Susquehanna River and, as it turns out, in what was then still part of Lancaster County. York County would not be set off from Lancaster County until 1749, while Adams County, where both the town of Conewago and a separate Conewego Creek are situated, was not set off until 1800. (Researchers seeking further documentation for this part of the family journey will need to remember that this succession of counties can present difficulties when trying to determine exactly where to look.)
Initially, I had wondered if George and Mary might have been among the Friends who had followed the Great Wagon Road to the Quaker settlement at Winchester, Virginia, only to move on again, in the aftermath of Indian hostilities, to the Carolina Piedmont. With the May 1735 and October 1738 dates, however, it seems likely that George and Mary would have spent a little more than a decade in this place, clearing, building, and raising a family.
In fact, if they were indeed living in what was then Lancaster County, the widely reported and generally assumed location of the births of four of their surviving children must be reconsidered: Susannah, 1735; George, 1737; Robert, 1738; and Joseph, 1740.
Both locations also intrigue me for another reason: Grandma Hodson’s two major ancestral lines settled a few miles on either side of one site – one, Amish, by 1750; the other, German Baptist Brethren, or Dunker, by 1770. The second site, however, is just west of McSherrystown, which was founded in 1765 by the ancestors of the second wife of my great-grandfather, Joshua Francis Hodson, and a little further west of where Grandma Hodson’s German Baptist Brethren ancestors had relocated to in the late 1770s. In other words, how much interaction was there, if any, between these varied lines before they wound up in Montgomery County, Ohio, despite the varied routes they would take?
The Moses Harlan connection provides some crucial answers regarding George and Mary Hodgson. Moses is reported born around 1683 in Ireland, marrying Margaret Ray in 1712 in Newark Friends Meeting in Delaware, and dying in 1749 in Menallen Township, Adams County. The family, with the surname originally spelled HARLAND, originates in Durham County, England – as do many of the Hodgsons. And some of his Cox descendants joined in the migration to the North Carolina Piedmont.
The Harlan connection thickens. An extract published online from A History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family by Alpeheus H. Harlan (Baltimore, 1914), notes that Margaret Ray, “spinster,” who marries Moses Harlan in 1712 (or possibly First Month 1, 1713) at Newark Meeting, is from Lurgan and that her certificate transferring her membership from Lurgan Friends is not received at Newark Meeting until First Month 7, 1713. The fact that the marriage process went forward before the transfer of membership was received is an interesting irregularity, especially when one considers the experience of the Masseys and Robinsons in having their certificates of transfer seized by French privateers. Might she have been on the ill-fated voyage with George Hodgson’s family?
The volume also includes a copy of Moses Harlan’s will, dated 10-10-1747, with its four witnesses: Rebecca Blackburn, his daughter, and her husband, John Blackburn, plus Charles Pidgeon and George Hodgson. This action not only situates George Hodgson in Adams County as late as 1747, it also indicates a closer connection between Moses and George than mere neighbors: there is, at the least, solid trust between the two, if not an actual blood relationship we will someday discover.
Pidgeon, incidentally, is another Quaker from Ireland, and some of his descendants, like Moses Harlan’s Coxes and George Hodgson’s family, relocate to Guilford County, North Carolina.
So far I’ve had less success in placing the Hughes/Hewes connections, other than that they, too, were Quaker.
One other aspect that settling west of the Susquehanna raises involves a Robert Hodgin from Manchester, England, who marries the widow Theodate (Hussey) Seal in 1740 in Menallen Friends Meeting. While they do move south, in the Quaker migrations, and their lines progress on to Ohio, they had previously seemed to be an unrelated Hodgson/Hodson/Hodgin line. Now I cannot be so certain.
One telling account about just how frontier the Conewego site would have been comes from the Moses Harlan family, where the story of one daughter has been told. Apparently, one night, emptying her chamberpot from a second-floor porch, she poured it on an Indian. It was hard to tell who was more startled.
Another consideration is the extent of the German-speaking population settling along the Great Valley,or Great Appalachian Valley, not just in Pennsylvania, but along its sweep through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and then North Carolina as well. Published lists of the German-speaking Palatine arrivals in Philadelphia in this period include many notations of families that head straight to Virginia or North Carolina, as well as others going directly to remote districts of Pennsylvania.
If the task of carving a homestead and a living out of the wilderness appears daunting for a man in his early thirties – the prime of his life – then what do make of his decision to start all over again in his early fifties, albeit with four sons who can now help shoulder the labor? The first relocation took the family about sixty-five miles from their Chester County neighbors. The next move would be closer to three hundred miles.
We must wonder, too, about the logistics of these moves. How many arrangements had been made ahead of the trip itself? Did one already have a place to settle before setting out? What livestock was involved, and how was it fed and managed along the way? What were these roads and trails like, anyway? How many wagons were involved, and did one rent them or their services, or buy them outright? How many days or weeks were involved in the transit?
* * *
As introductory accounts have already informed us, George and Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson and their surviving four sons and two daughters migrated to North Carolina. The first Quaker minutes there involve the marriage of daughter Sarah to William Hiatt. As William Perry Johnson, former editor of the Journal of North Carolina Genealogy and himself a Hodgson descendant, wrote in his massive Hiatt-Hiett Genealogy & Family History, 1699-1949 (Utah, 1951):
… in 1751 the Hodgsons removed from Pennsylvania and settled in the Quaker community at New Garden in Rowan (now Guilford) County, North Carolina. There have been many intermarriages between the Hodgson and Hiatt families, beginning in 1750 and continuing to the present.
Through her material grandmother, who was Hannah Dicks, Susanna (Hodgson) Hiatt was a first cousin, once removed, to the Zachariah Dicks who married Ruth Hiatt, a daughter of George and Martha (Wakefield) Hiatt. [Sarah, Susanna’s sister, had already married Susanna’s future cousin-in-law.] Through the Thatchers, Susanna was also a cousin of Phebe Thatcher, who married John Hiatt, son of John and Mary (Thomas) Hiatt.
I presume that this is the Zachariah Dicks who traveled widely on both sides of the Atlantic in free Gospel ministry. (Sarah Grubb’s journal lightly reports running into her “old friend Zachariah Dicks again” while criss-crossing Ireland and England in the 1780s. I searched in vain for a previous reference!) In a thundering message at Bush River Quarterly Meeting, which represented all of the Friends in South Carolina and Georgia, an aging Zachariah, by then a widely respected minister visiting from Cane Creek Meeting in North Carolina, warned Friends that they must “come out of slavery” or face God’s wrath. Because of his labors, between 1800 and 1804 nearly five hundred Quaker families moved north to Ohio, emptying the Meetings in South Carolina and Georgia. So rapid was their removal, in fact, that the minutebook from Santuck (old Cane Creek Meeting), near Carlisle, South Carolina, simply continued at Caesar’s Creek Meeting in southwestern Ohio. Furthermore, in the 1850 Census, a third of the adults in Indiana are reported to have been born in North Carolina, an indication of Quaker stock and the powerful sweep of that flight from a slave-infused society.
Yet those Friends who remained behind in North Carolina undertook their own witness, establishing manumission societies and, like Friend Levi Coffin of New Garden Meeting, the Underground Railroad. Hiram H. Hilty’s By Land and By Sea: Quakers Confront Slavery and Its Aftermath in North Carolina (North Carolina Friends Historical Society, 1993) details their testimony. Either choice – moving north or remaining in the belly of the beast – would be part of the legacy of George and Mary Hodgson’s descendants.
For Sarah Hodgson and John Hiatt’s marriage ceremony, New Garden Monthly Meeting appointed Thomas Beals and Thomas Hunt to oversee their exchange of vows. (This was the first Quaker wedding in Guilford County.) The marriage certificate includes signatures for both George and Mary, but whether both were literate is questionable: George’s will carries his mark, not his signature. The introduction of Thomas Beals is fascinating, for he was a crucial figure in the establishment of Quaker Meetings along the expanding frontier. As Jeremiah Mills recalled in his paper:
Thomas Beals and family lived near grandmothers, without seeing bread as I have often heard old people saying. They did not know what it was when my grandfather and some other persons came to the country, and happening to have a few cakes in their saddle bags, gave some to the children, they did not know what they were, but looked at them a while and never offered to bite them, laying them upon a board in the cabin.
The girls wore leather petticoats, made of deerskins, and when they were young women grown, yet enjoyed themselves as well as Queen Victoria, dressed in silks in Indian and gems of Golconda. Well this Thomas Beals was a Quaker preacher and like Nimrod, the mighty hunter, he felled the game and was always forward in settling new countries. From Guilford he moved into the mountains of Stokes County, from there to Grayson County, Virginia, from thence to the mouth of the Gian, on the Ohio river, thence to Salt Creek on Scioto, there he was buried.
I once heard him preach. He had several brothers. I don’t know how many, but I remember to have heard of John and Bowater. The Beals taken as a family were considered very stout, and very attractive.
Thomas Beals, son of John and Sarah (Bowater) Beals, was born Third Month 1719 in Chester County. From there he moved to Maryland and then to Hopewell Meeting in Frederick County, Virginia, which was an important center for migrating Friends. Many of those who settled in the Carolinas came through this Meeting, as did many headed later for the Ohio Valley. In 1748 or 1749, Beals moved his family to North Carolina, where they appear in the minutes of Cane Creek Monthly Meeting and later New Garden, then on the frontier. Later, he moved to Westfield, in Surry County, where he established a large Meeting. In 1775 he made the first of several visits to the Shawnee Indians in Ohio. Continuing to establish Friends Meetings, he moved on to Blue Stone in Giles County, Virginia, 1781; Lost Creek, Tennessee, 1785; and Grayson County, Virginia, 1793. He moved to Quaker Bottom, Ohio, in 1799, opposite the mouth of the Guyandot along the Ohio River, before moving again in 1801 to Salt Creek near Adelphia. When he died in 1801, he was buried (some accounts say in a hollow log) near Richmondale in Ross County, near the Scioto River south of Chillicothe. His descendants, who largely populated the Yearly Meetings of Indiana, Western (Indiana), Iowa, and Wilmington (Ohio), include a large number of recorded ministers as well as a portion of Hodgson/Hodgin/Hodson blood.
Rapid settlement of the Carolina frontier, 1750-1775, by Quakers – a disproportionate number appearing initially to have been from Chester County, Pennsylvania, with another cluster arriving later from Nantucket Island in Massachusetts – created favorable conditions for growth both in the Society of Friends and its constituent families. The first established Monthly Meeting in the Carolina frontier was Cane Creek, at Snow Camp in Alamance County, 1751; then came New Garden, 1754; Centre, 1757 (though it did not receive full Monthly Meeting status until 1773); Deep River at present-day High Point, 1778; Westfield, 1786; Springfield, 1790, near Jamestown; and Deep Creek at Yadkinville, 1793. Others followed, including worship groups that were part of the business sessions of larger, neighboring Monthly Meetings: these smaller bodies are known variously as “indulged meetings,” “allowed meetings,” and “preparative meetings,” often with their own neighborhood meetinghouse. In his Guilford and Randolph county maps prepared for the Historical Documentation Series, Fred Hughes shows somewhat earlier dates for the Piedmont Meetings than does William Wade Hinshaw in his abstracts: Hughes has New Garden 1751, Centre 1753, Deep River 1753, Springfield 1786, as well as Holly Springs 1760, and others.
George and Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson appear in this caldron as early as 1751, and their presence is confirmed with the 1752 marriage of daughter Sarah (whose surname is recorded as Hodson in the Hinshaw abstracts). As noted, the Hughes map shows George Hodgens settling in 1753 on a Granville tract just west of Centre Monthly Meeting. Other names that appear in the neighborhood are a Peter Dix (Dicks) and his mill, 1755; William Thatcher, 1769; and David and William Reynolds. The 1754 marriages of John and Susanna are among the first items of business for New Garden Friends Meeting.
New Garden’s minute books also record: “At our Monthly Meeting [for business] held at Newgarden ye 6th month 1755 George Hodgson having for some time been under our care makes request to be joyned as a member among us this meeting grants it.” From this we see that George had been practicing as a Quaker and ministered to by Meeting for a long time before making his position official. Becoming a full-fledged Quaker was not something one undertook lightly. It carried with it watchful care in all details of one’s life.
It is unclear whether this minute applies to George Senior or his son. But this minute does reenforce the idea that George had never been a formal member of the Society of Friend on this side of the Atlantic, and that he may have been brought up in a Quaker household that was not as attentive to its membership as it ought to have been. Thus, the Hodgsons likely attended Quaker Meeting for worship on a regular basis even before moving to North Carolina. Membership – especially regarding the care and upbringing of children – began to rigidify in the 1730s, although determining who was and wasn’t a Quaker continues to plague researchers examining the next half-century.
As for Mary, the question is what prevented her from reapplying for membership until 1752. 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. From CaneCreek’s records, as abstracted by Hinshaw:
1751, 12 Sarah received by request
1752, 5, 2 Mary [Hudson] received by request
1752, 5, 2 Sarah removed to marry John Hiat
1752, 11, 4 John received by request
1753, 7, 7 Susanna received by request
1754, 1, 5 George received by request
Additionally, New Garden records
1755 George received by request
1756 Robert received by request
Centre Meeting would receive its name because of its location halfway between Cane Creek and New Garden. (The naming intrigues me, because of the Centre Meeting organized in 1690 in Centreville, Delaware, halfway between New Ark and Old Kennett Meetings along the Delaware-Pennsylvania border – a location that holds earlier, possibly related Hodgson connections.)
From Hinshaw we learn that New Garden settled a First-Day Meeting at Centre in 1757, indicating that Friends in the neighborhood may have already been worshipping together. At first there were only five families, with worship being held in the private house of Peter Dicks, a recorded minister. A little later a small log meetinghouse was constructed. Rapid growth based on migration from the north ceased at the outbreak of the Revolution. As was the case with many other Southern Meetings, Centre lost many members in the great migration to the Midwest. Among those moving northward would be many of George and Mary’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Again, from Arthur D. Hodgin:
On 8 Jan. 1761 George HODGSON received an original grant from Lord Granville of 640 acres on Russels Creek. That creek is located west of Centre Monthly Meeting which is very close to Polecat Creek. On 26 Nov. 1762 George and his wife, Mary, sold 318 acres on the Dan River to William Ozburn. I haven’t pinpointed the location of the Dan River, although the land was part of the tract granted by Granville. On 29 Mar. 1765 George and Mary sold 321 acres on Russels Creek to William Reynolds. This was also part of the tract granted by Granville. The above information was obtained from Rowan County Deed Abstracts by Jo White Linn and later from photocopies made of the recorded deeds at the Rowan county courthouse. I did not find where George HODGSON had purchased land after selling the original 640 acres, but in his will he gives his land to his sons and allows for “charges of obtaining a Deed for the land mentioned above” which he had purchased from Robert LAMB, another one of my ancestors. This land, as shown in later deeds and wills, was east of Russels Creek and on Polecat Creek which flows near Centre Monthly Meeting.
Arthur enclosed a photocopy of an 1895 map placing Centre Meeting in Sumner Township and having a railroad going through nearby Pleasant Garden in Fentress Township. In this map, a Hodgin is shown residing near the original homestead, and other Hodgin households are placed upstream along the Polecat. It appears that George and Mary obtained more than one Granville tract. We should note that these grants were not in fee simple; until some time after the Revolution, annual quit rent payments were required, in addition to other legal aggravations that Hughes details in his Guilford County, N.C.: A Map Supplement. These problems forced many of the Quakers to move on.
When did Mary (Thatcher) Hodgson die? 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 1664, 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. As we will see in successive generations, there is an oral tradition of the Hodgson/Hodson/Hodgin family being prone to strokes and other heart ailments, in which case George may well have lingered; he died in 1774, survived by his six children.
His will of 1764 was probated in August 1774. In it, he left son George 200 acres of home plantation and improvements bought of Robert Lamb; sons Robert and Joseph the remaining part of home plantation, tract bought from William Ozburn; son John, five shillings; daughter Sarah, wife of Ford Hiett, and daughter Susannah, wife of William Hiett, five shillings each. Executors were Robert Lamb and Nathan Dicks. It is signed with his mark, “H.” I presume that the differences in inheritances reflected assistance already provided some of the children in establishing their own households.
The fact that George Hodgson signed with a mark may reflect the extent of his illness, rather than illiteracy. As Brenda G. Haworth wrote in “The Springfield Schools 1775-1928” (The Southern Friend, Spring 1995): “Fred Hughes … found Quaker men and women were generally literate in the eighteenth century. Of all the hundreds of Quaker records he dealt with, only twenty-two Quakers signed with a mark rather than a signature, and two of those were due to infirmity.” (My emphasis.)
In 1773 Western Quarterly Meeting elevated Centre to Monthly Meeting status, giving it independence from New Garden. George and Mary are believed to be among the many Friends buried in a part of the meetinghouse yard that remains without headstones or footstones – markings that would have been considered ostentatious and superfluous.
Although we know the names of his children and their spouses, the trail quickly tangles. From the four sons alone came at least fifty-two children, with at least twenty-seven males marrying. Compounding the problem is that many of these descendants have the same given names as their cousins and aunts and uncles. Many of these, in turn, took spouses who had first names identical to other family members, so that citing even the couple together, as in “John and Mary,” might be insufficient in telling lines apart. Although some Hodgson descendants were already shortening the surname to Hodgin and Hodson, that distinction was seldom observed with any consistency in official records of the era, and apparently not always by a particular individual. Nevertheless, the family grew rapidly. The 1790 Census recorded a dozen households in Guilford and Randolph counties; by 1810, even with a massive migration to new territory in Ohio and Indiana, there were already seventeen households in that part of North Carolina. As Hodgson/Hodgin/Hodsons proliferated and moved northward, the ones remaining behind continued to multiply as well, so that it is not always possible to tell from Quaker records or Census data precisely which family strand we are following from state to state.
About their children
The life of son George, by whom I descend, is detailed in a separate posting.
The eldest child, John, was born August 4, 1731, Chester County, Pennsylvania. He married on May 7, 1754 (in one of the first items of business at New Garden Friends Meeting) Mary Mills, born around 1736 to Thomas and Elizabeth (Harrold) Mills, at New Garden Friends Meeting; they had ten children. The fact that we have a nickname for him, “One-Eyed John,” is itself remarkable – a detail that lifts him out of a simple list of names and dates. Was this a consequence of a childhood accident – one possibly reflecting the hazardous nature of frontier life or farming? Or did it occur during adulthood? Was it, in fact, from a disease instead of an accident? Did he cover it with a patch? (And which eye?) John apparently shortened the spelling to Hodson, although when many of his descendants moved to southwestern Ohio, the spelling frequently reverted, at least temporarily, to the longer Hodgson form. His descendants seem to be rather thoroughly recorded in the previously cited genealogies published by Eli and Zimri Hodgson and by Isaiah Dillon, in addition to William Wade Hinshaw’s two Ohio volumes of the Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy and Willard Heiss’ Abstracts of the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana. My impression is that many of John’s descendants joined early in the great Quaker migration northward to Ohio and Indiana, leaving few of their line in North Carolina. Both John and his wife died 1804 in Guilford County, North Carolina.
Elder daughter Sarah was born 1733, Chester County, Pennsylvania, and was the first of the children to marry, wedding in April 22, 1752, under the care of Cane Creek Friends Meeting, John “Ford” Hiatt (1729-1767), son of John and Martha (Wakefield) Hiatt. They had seven children. The Hughes map shows a John Hiatt Jr. settling in 1760 on the western edge of Guilford County, near the Deep River Friends meetinghouse. She died March 31, 1817, Guilford County, North Carolina.
The younger sister, Susannah, was born 1735, Chester or Adams County, Pennsylvania, and married 1754 (in another of the first items of business at New Garden Friends Meeting), William Hiatt (1734-1834), a first cousin of her sister’s husband, and son of John Hiatt (1696-1764) and Mary Wilson. They had twelve children.
The husbands were grandsons of John Hiatt, 1674-1726, and Mary Smith. Thus, through this marriage of two sisters to two first cousins, William and Susannah (Hodgson) Hiatt’s children were double cousins (once removed?) to those of John and Sarah (Hodgson) Hiatt. The Hughes map shows a William Hiatt settling in 1757 west of the New Garden Friends meetinghouse, near the western border of Guilford County. The Hiatt lines are detailed in William Perry Johnson’s previously cited three-volume genealogy. She died September 8, 1782, in Guilford County, North Carolina.
The Hiatts descended from John Hiett, who came to Pennsylvania in 1699. William Perry Johnson observes that this is probably the John Hyott of Shipton-Mallett, England, taken prisoner in Somersetshire in 1683 during one of the most severe anti-Quaker persecutions. William Penn’s second voyage to America was in 1699 and it appears, Johnson writes, that Hiett traveled with Penn and settled near Doylestown in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His son, George, first appears on a 1734 petition to form Richland Township there. By 1746 George was a member of Fairfax Monthly Meeting in Virginia before becoming part of Pipe Creek Monthly Meeting, Maryland, and Hopewell Monthly Meeting, near Winchester Virginia, arriving at New Garden Monthly Meeting in 1754. When, in 1788, he sold a tract of 81½ acres to John Maris, the land would be bounded by Horsepen Creek, Geo. Hodgson’s corner, Jacob Roger’s line, and Thomas Archer’s corner. Such descriptions, as we’ve already seen, seem to fit the joining of families as much as the land itself. Over the years, as the Hiatts migrated northward and westward, many of their family became Mormons, a major theological shift away from the beliefs of their ancestors.
Robert Hodgson was born March 11, 1738, in Adams County, Pennsylvania. He married first ca 1760 Rachel Mills (ca 1740-April 24, 1791), daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Harrold) Mills, under the care of New Garden Friends Meeting. They had thirteen children. He subsequently married her first cousin, on February 6, 1794, also named Rachel Mills (December 25, 1756-July 24, 1811), daughter of Hur and Rachel (Harrold) Mills. His second wife was twenty years his junior and was, through her mother, Rachel (Harrold) Mills, a first cousin to the Sarah Mills who married Robert’s brother, John; through Rachel’s mother’s mother, Mary (Beals) Harrold, she also descended from the prominent frontier Quaker Beals clan discussed earlier in this chapter. Robert and the second Rachel Mills had three children. He married third in 1812 Sarah Pierson, and died April 12, 1813, in Guilford County, North Carolina.
Robert’s practice as a Friend appears is documented in several places. When he witnessed the 1762 will of Hur Mills, it was noted, “Robert Hogins [does not swear].” In 1773, when Centre Friends Meeting was set off from New Garden, he was appointed – with Robert Lamb, John Mills, John Beals Jr., John Stone, and Isaac Jones – to respond a request to establish an Indulged Meeting at John Hanley’s and John Rich’s, apparently near the future Springfield and Kennett Friends meetinghouses. The Hughes map shows a 1768 Robert Hodgin homestead near the confluence of Richland Creek and Deep River; this would have been on the far side of the river from Centre Friends Meeting and the Hodgson plantation on Polecat Creek, both five miles from Robert’s property. Although he seems to have kept the Hodgson spelling, at least some of his descendants adapted the Hodson form as the moved to Ohio, Indiana, and points west – often migrating to new settlements to join up with or in the company of their cousins from John and Sarah (Mills) Hodson’s lines. Similarly, Robert’s descendants are well represented in the Hinshaw and Heiss abstracts; much of this line is also recorded in Cordelia Bogue Wright’s The Hodson Story (Spiceland, Indiana; no date).
Joseph was born 1740 in Adams County, Pennsylvania. He married first September 30, 1760, Margaret Williams (ca 1741-1797). They had fifteen children. He married second at Cane Creek Friends Meeting on January 6, 1802, Hannah Johnson (December 16, 1765- ), daughter of Tarlton and Hannah (Mills) Johnson. He died in 1829, Randolph County, North Carolina. Curiously, because a higher proportion of his descendants remained in North Carolina, compared to those of John and Robert, his lines – like those from his brother, George – have been less widely published. Fortunately, through the efforts of John K. Hodgin and others, this is being remedied. Complicating the efforts to trace the lines of both Joseph and his brother George is the loss of Centre Meeting’s minutes in a fire at Obed Ozbun’s residence shortly after the Civil War; missing are the men’s business minutes 1773-1835 and the women’s business minutes 1773-1825. (An attempt to reconstruct the minutes more fully than those abstracted in William Wade Hinshaw’s Encylopedia of American Quaker Genealogy appeared as a special double edition of The Southern Friend, Autumn 1990-Spring 1991. As Mary Louise Reynolds admits in an explanatory essay in that edition, “A reconstruction, however, can never be as complete as the original, and this report is no exception. The disownments, requests for reception into membership, and other records that involved only Centre are irretrievably gone. Even transfers are incomplete in instances where the other meeting’s records have likewise disappeared.”)
In his chart of July 28, 1982, Charles H. Saunders, drawing on additional research by Glen C. Walker, concluded that all of Joseph’s “descendants in Guilford and Randolph counties today spell their name Hodgin.” Many of Joseph’s descendants are buried in the Centre Friends burial ground.
George and Mary Hodgson’s sons John and Robert appear to have been more fully on their own by the time their father drew up his will. In 1764. Joseph and George seem to have remained closer to home, perhaps laboring on the home “plantation” (a term used for any farm, not just those having slave labor), before Joseph eventually settled a bit to the south, in neighboring Randolph County. The will also names Robert Lamb and Nathan Dicks as his “trusty friends.” While the Dicks family is closely related to the Thatcher line, I am left wondering how far back the friendship between George Hodgson and Robert Lamb goes: could this be a clue to more of George’s earlier movement?
Naming patterns also raise some questions. For one thing, none of the surviving children are named from Mary’s Thatcher family: we have no Jonathan, Hannah, Richard, Jeanne/Jane, or William. Traditional naming customs, whether those of the English Borderlands or the English Midlands, would have invoked her parents, at the least. Since we currently know nothing of George’s parents, there’s a possibility that John and Sarah were named in their honor. However, since John was born nearly 2½ years after his parents’ wedding, and Sarah two years after that, there is the possibility of other children in the interim – ones who may have died in childbirth or else not joined in the Carolina migration. What I do find intriguing is the fact that four of their children’s names fit those of Robert and Sarah (Borden’s) family, while the fifth name, George, continues his own; who, then, is Susannah named for?
Naming patterns also raise questions about emotions existing among these siblings: were there tensions? John, for instance, includes George, Sarah, and Joseph among his ten children’s names – but no Robert or Susannah. The George and a Mary are presumably in honor of his parents.
Robert, in turn, applies only Sarah in naming his sixteen children. (There is a Mary, possibly in honor of his mother, but no George.
George uses only Susanna in his ten children; his son George may, of course, be as much for himself as his father, but there is a Mary.
Joseph applies John, Sarah, and Susannah – but no George or Mary – in naming his fifteen children.
Perhaps naming traditions were already in transition. Closer comparison with other Piedmont Quaker families may be helpful.
Regarding Mary Thatcher
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 parents, 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?
A second point of consideration is that she would have been about twenty-three when they 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 indeed 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 William Thatcher is among the settlers at Centre. We’ve already noted George and Mary’s neighbor, Peter Dicks, who was also a recorded minister in the Society of Friends and held the early Meetings for Worship 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.”
Crucial points for further research
At this point, the central questions center on George Hodgson’s parentage and place of birth, and any other children he and Mary may have had.
We still face the uncertainty about the date of Mary’s death. Clarity there would be welcome.
Because George and Mary are the trunk for four main lines of American Hodgsons/Hodsons/Hodgins, there is merit in looking more closely at the relationships among the six siblings for clues into their bonding and their conflicts. The fact that my own great-grandfather, Joshua Francis Hodson, chose Spiceland, Indiana, as his destination in leaving Guilford County after the Civil War indicates to me that there was, indeed, a continuing kinship linking even third- and fourth-cousins living hundreds of miles apart – cousins who had perhaps never even met each other, and yet maintained an awareness of their blood relationship.