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The Crossetts from Ireland to America

t is agreed by most who have studied the family that Crossetts came to America from County Antrim in the north of Ireland. Furthermore, they seem to agree that the original patriarch was a French Huguenot named Antoine duCrozat. He is said to have left France for Ireland about 1640 and to have settled in Ireland. Unfortunately, documentary evidence of this belief is not available. Records indicate that uncle John Bristol Crossett travelled to Ireland probably between 1920 and 1925. He discovered that the family was originally of French Huguenot origin. Edward Clark Crossett, another more distant relative, commissioned a genealogy of the Crossett family (published in 1937) in which the statements of origin stated above were presented but with no sources other than a statement that there were "convincing" family records. Attempts to discover Edward's papers have so far been unsucessful. One other source says there were Crossetts in Scotland in the 13th century, but, again, no proof. Of great interest and for future study is an inquest document from 1561 in London which describes how one Jacques Fyschett purchased of  Stephen Craskett, a building which had previously belonged to the "Crossett ffreyers"(meaning brothers in French with Elizabethan spelling.) Who were the Crossett brothers. Is Craskett also an Elizabethan variant of Crossett? Many other Crossetts can be found in the vital records of Great Britain dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Indeed, many are resident there now. The Crossett Genealogy dismisses these as "not of Norman origin."(?)

There is a legend among the Crossetts in Ireland today that Antoine, or Anthony and his brother were each given a bag of gold coins and sent away from home in Dauphine' by their father, a Huguenot vinyard owner, when an employee warned him that all were about to be arrested. This, too is obviously undocumented.

Earliest original American records of my Crossett family date from about 1870 and were edited and added to over the years. They are comprised of seven pages from a Crossett family Bible now in possession of the Swift River Valley Historical Society in Salem, Massachusetts. I will refer to them later in more detail as SRVHS. They, too, mention an Irish origin.

Charles Lart in his Huguenot Pedigrees mentions one Marc Antoine du Crozat as among Huguenots in Dublin.  He died at Chiswick and his daughter Jean Suzanne married Col. Paul de Blosset in 1714 (who d.1719). Their son was Solomon Stephen de Blosset. John O'Hart mentions the DuCrozat family on a list of those who came to Ireland before the reign of Louis XIV (1642). (O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees , Genealogical Publishing Co. Baltimore, 1999) Jacques deCrosat is listed in a 1702 list of pensioners of the army of William III. He was an ensign and served ten years in Ireland and in Flanders in the late 1600s. (Proceedings of the London Huguenot Society vv. 6&14, pp.231&311, 1901). Note: Certainly a possibility for Anthony's brother. This is all discussed in the article on the Crossett name.

The following material is from Crossett Genealogy by Frances Plimpton, 1937. This is the study commissioned by Edward Clark Crossett. It is presented here with the caveat that it is not certain until one reaches the generation who emigrated to America.

Anthony wooed and won a Scotch-Irish girl named Laura Thompson. (He was probably a handsome and charming fellow if today's Crossett men are any indication.) They married in 1647 and lived on a farm in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, just outside Belfast. They had six children:

  • Anthony Jr. b.1648
  • William b. 1650
  • James b. 1653
  • Laura
  • Mary
  • Alice

Anthony Jr. went to Belfast and married Lucy Graham. He spelled his name Crossitt and several families of that name still reside in Antrim. William never married. There is no record of the girls.

James b.1653 inherited the farm on his father's death in 1689. He married Elizabeth Rogers from the town of Dungannon, County Tyrone in 1679. They spelled the name with one "t". They had eight children:

  • James Jr. b. 1680
  • Anthony III b. 1682
  • Edward b. 1683
  • William b. 1684
  • Elizabeth
  • Mary
  • Anna
  • Grace

There is no clear record of what became of James Jr. It is likely he came to America and lived in New Hampshire. Anthony III, it is said, joined the English army, but records of this cannot be located. Edward married a Miss Hastings of Larne, County Antrim. He was a seaman and where they went is unknown. Ms. Plimpton thought they travelled to Australia in 1708 but since that continent was not discovered until 1754 this is highly unlikely. The girls all married the sons of local farmers.

William b. 1684 was only five years old when his father inherited the farm and had three older brothers. There was no chance he would get it. Even if he did, the landlord might "rack" the rent when the lease was up. Racking, or sharply increasing, the rent was a common complaint among Scotch-Irish tenants. This fact and the state of the country at the time led William and many others to look for greener pastures in America. William married Mary Masterson of Lurgan, County Tyrone in 1705. They had two children:

  • Robert b. 1706 d. 1708
  • Margaret (Hannah) b. 1710

Mary died in 1712 and William married secondly, about 1714, Martha Hamilton of Cookstown, County Tyrone. According to family records they had four sons:

  • Archibald b. 1715
  • John b. ------
  • William b. -------
  • Robert b. 1723

There is controversy about this and what happened next. Frances Plimpton, who wrote Crossett Genealogy claims that Martha, then a widow, William having died in 1722, came to America in 1727 with four sons and a step daughter. She names a son Frank who is otherwise totally unknown. As far as can be determined she lists birthdates of the other boys in accordance with her belief that William died in Ireland in 1722 . No references are cited for any of the dates. The fact that Martha was a widow when she came here has been repeated many times since. I believe William was very much alive when the family came to America and that 1727 was not the year that they came.

I must admit that the family records (Swift River Valley Historical Society Crossett file) gives 1711 as the emigration year and says Martha was a widow. The recorder of that information was also initially unsure about the number and names of the children. Subsequent family members who edited the record corrected some parts of it. They were clearly concerned that the Bible record be correct. In family research I will always give this kind of family record a very close look. Other records lead me to believe that the Crossetts came here in 1716 and that William was with them. I think he died soon after arriving, probably in 1722 when Martha was pregnant with Robert. My reason for believing this is the following: In an incident told in Ms. Salome Hamilton's 1894 Genealogy of the Hamilton Family 

"Mrs. Adeline Crossett Stockwell, who was also a granddaughter, (her mother was Martha (Hamilton), daughter of John) gave me the following (Mrs. Stockwell said her mother often related to her children, for their amusement, the story of the Hamilton and the Crossett families coming together to this country). She said "The Hamilton and Crossett families came together to America. When they left the old country there was an infant son in one of these families and while on the ocean an infant son was born into the other family (Mrs. S. did not know which was born on the ocean). When they came to travel by land these babes were each placed in a basket and the baskets strapped on a horse's back and thus they traveled, and Mrs. Crossett would say, these two babies are now your grandfathers; grandfather Hamilton and grandfather Crossett ( This would be Archibald)." In 1876 I met another of the Hamiltons, Mrs. Austin Lawrence, in Waverly, Iowa. I was relating this incident and remarked I did not know which babe was born on the ocean. "I can tell you, exclaimed Mrs. Lawrence. Turning to her husband she said "old aunt---(forgotten the name), used to say grandfather was born on the ocean." Then to me she said, "by the law of nations one born on the ocean can claim as the place of his - nativity either the country the parents come from or that to which they go, and grandfather chose to be called an American." We learn from this that the parents came to this country. I think I have not even the shadow of a doubt that this testimony of Mrs. Lawrence and Mrs. Crossett is correct. I knew Mrs. Crossett well, and know that in her artlessness. and simplicity she could never have fabricated such a story. And from the record in the old family Bible and on the grave stone of John Hamilton we learn the year the family came to this country." (ed. 1716)

This has the ring of truth about it. No mention is made of Martha's widowhood and this is clearly the family of William and Martha Crossett. If Archibald was born in 1715 and Robert not until 1723 then he, and his brothers, John, and William were born in America not in Ireland. The Hamilton Genealogy goes on to say that James Hamilton was the father of the boy born at sea. Hamilton family members today believe James was the brother of Martha Hamilton Crossett. (e-mail of Kelley Hamilton) Another convincing piece of evidence comes from the Minutes of the Selectmen of Boston for the year 1716. Several ships arrived from Ireland but one, the America, was said to carry passengers from Lisburn, Ireland, which is not a port city. I believe it referred to the point of origin of the people not of the ship. It arrived in May, and allowing for a long passage, time was perfect for the birth of the Hamilton baby. 

It was 1739 when William Crossett purchased land in the Lisburne Proprietary now called Pelham, MA. Here is my speculation. James Hamilton was fairly wealthy. His estate is valued in several hundred pounds at his death and he has five votes in the Worcester Massachusetts council. Most others had one or two. I believe he brought his sister and brother-in-law and their son with him in 1716 and possibly indentured William for the cost of the passage. This was a common practice. Only a relative would have taken on a whole family, however. Indenture would usually last for a period of as much as seven years. Such people would be landless and would not show up in most records. If William died in 1722 then his oldest son would be Archibald, then aged seven. Martha would have to remarry or fall upon the charity of family. In fact, in 1742 Martha remarried William Donagy. In 1739 the indenture would have been fulfilled and the boys would be between 24 and 16 years of age. They would have had a chance to gather some money, and go on their own. 

James Hamilton was prominent in Worcester in the 1720's. He was given charge of seeing a bridge built and was on the committee to oversee the roads. This probably means that he was engaged in the builders craft. When Archibald Crossett and his brother Robert are mentioned in Pelham, Massachusetts land records they are called"housewrights". The Crossett family of this line has at least six generations of stone masons and master carpenters, beginning in Pelham. These men apprenticed somewhere for these crafts. I believe it was likely with James Hamilton.

One detail remains. Why were there no church records of the Crossett family in these years? They were certainly staunch Presbyterians. I believe the question can be explained by the fact that there was a great deal of religious tension between the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and the Puritan settlers of Massachusetts Bay Plantation although both were Calvinists. This tension was particularly acute in Worcester, Massachusetts in the first quarter of the 18thC. While many S-I came to America in the 17thC most of them went to New Jersey and then to Virginia and the Carolinas. Colonists here invited settlers to come over. Rev. Cotton Mather urged the Huguenots in Northern Ireland to emigrate. Even though Protestant, they did not enjoy freedom of conscience in Ireland. The Church of Ireland, an offshoot of the English Anglican Church, dominated. Presbyterians could have their worship but they had to pay to support the clergy of the Church of Ireland as well. In addition, at various times they were barred from holding any public office and the legitimacy of their minister's actions were questioned. As a result they left Ireland in their thousands, carrying with them a hearty dislike for the English. Those who could not afford passage indentured themselves, sometimes to the ships Captain who would sell them off in America. Servants were greatly in demand. One of the motives of the Puritan colonists and, indeed, of the government, was to grant these people land on the frontier as a buffer between themselves and the Native Americans who, at that time, were still fiercely defending their land. They settled first in places like Worcester, Coleraine, Salem, and the inlands of Maine. Later they gathered in their own settlements largely due to the rejection they experienced when in contact with the Puritans.

Difficult times beset the Scotch Irish group inWorcester, where I believe the Crossetts first lived. The area was first settled in the 1650s by Puritans but had to be abandoned due to Indian raids. It was taken up again in the early 1700s by some of the old settlers and some new S-I immigrants. Joseph "Hambleton" was among them. Things went fairly well although the English did not like the newcomers accent or their "cloddish" ways. They did like the fact that they were armed and ready to resist the Indian threat. They were accepted to worship in the Puritan Church as long as they accepted the service and agreed to pay tax to support the Puritan minister and the church building. There are pew lists from this time which show S-I names in some prominent pews. However, as time went on a number of the S-I families grew dissatisfied with the arrangement. It was too much like the old country. They petitioned the village council for the opportunity to bring in their own pastor, Rev. Mr. Johnston. The 1737 records of the Proprietors of Worcester deal with it at length:

" In answer to ye request of ten persons Desiring to be Dismist and Released from the Suport of ye Rev. Mr. Isaac Burr, Pastor of the church of the Town, or from any other except Mr. Johnston, etc, the Town Came into the following vote, vizt.The Town upon meture Consideration think that the request is unreasonable and that they ought not to comply with it upon meny Considerations: " They go on to say that they think the whole thing is irregular and that they do not accept the ordination of the S-I pastor. They also say that their beliefs are essentially the same and that the "Irish" should basically shut up and accept the status quo.

Shortly after this the Scotch-Irish settlers undertook to erect their own church building. In the night a group of residents came together and burned down the structure and destroyed the building materials. With that almost all the Scotch-Irish left Worcester to settle elsewhere. The Crossetts went to the Lisburne Proprietary later known as Pelham.

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