The Lisburn Proprietary                                                 

 1739 - 1800  

 

 

 

Family Data

Contents

 

Prejudice and persecution were two major reasons that the Scotch-Irish left Ireland for America. They encountered both again in Worcester, Massachusetts Bay Colony at the hands of the Puritan majority there. Their reaction was to move yet again. This time to a place where they could worship and live in their own way; they called it the Lisburn Proprietary, after the city of Lisburn in Ireland. Modern sensibilities interpret their experience in Worcester as an unfortunate injustice. The settlers themselves, however, viewed it differently. They wanted to separate themselves from people they saw as unorthodox in religion. The truth of this can be seen in the articles to which all settlers in the Lisburn Proprietary had to agree. They said:

(They shall be) "families of good conversation... Who shall be such as were inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland, or their descendants, being Protestants, and none to be admitted but such as bring good and undeniable credentials or certificates of their being persons of good conversation and of the Presbyterian persuasion as used in the Church of Scotland, and conform to ye discipline thereof."

There was to be no repeat of the Worcester experience. In fact, they were no less prejudiced than the Puritans they left. The difference was that now they were in control.

The Lisburn Proprietary worked like this. In 1738 two Worcester Scotch-Irish men, Robert Peebles and John Thornton, acting for a few others, contracted to purchase a large tract of land (about thirty thousand acres) in central Massachusetts from the owners who had it as a grant from the crown. These were the proprietors.Lisburn Plan They would in turn sell portions of the parcel to the people who fit the criteria above stated. They would also get first choice of lots. Then, the land was again divided and sold, until three divisions were made. The new owners agreed to develop the land and settle on it. Lots were set aside for a church and a home for the minister and space was allowed for roads. In this way, a town was created.

William Crossett purchased three lots, one in each division. They were numbers (1)57, (2)38, and(3)46. (seen here in red) These lots were, I believe, for himself and his brothers, Archibald and Robert. Number 57 is a larger lot in the east section, 38 of the second division is two ranges to the north on a creek, and 46 of the third division is just a bit to the west of 57. Average size of lots was about 100 acres. Brothers John and James appear not to have been with the others. There is evidence that John may have married in Boston in 1735 under the name of Crozier, and James seems elusive as well. It is possible that some opted to return to Europe.

We must suppose that at the time of this settlement this land was undeveloped forest. In fact, this was the frontier of America. Travel in this land was oriented north and south along the river valleys, not east and west. The Atlantic Coast, and the Hudson and Connecticut River corridors were the paths of settlement and trade. Original settlements occurred along these corridors and later filled in between them.

William, Archibald, and Robert Crossett were housewrights. Their skills were central and essential to the success of this new community. They, together with the sawyer and the blacksmith would help create an infrastructure. As part of their purchase each owner agreed that in three years time, they would be settled on the premises,

"each to have a house of at least eighteen feet square and seven feet stud, well inclosed, and made habitable and upon one of said hundred acre lots, and have three acres part thereof improved by plowing and mowing."cabin

Development would progress in stages. Food and shelter were primary. Initially, possibly only a lean-to was built for the man to use while clearing part of the land. This meant felling, lopping, and clearing trees and underbrush. Doing this to an acre of land is a daunting idea when done totally by hand. At an earlier time the work might have been easier. Native Americans habitually burned over the forest clearing it of brush and encouraging grass growth. Large trees would not be affected by the fire. So, huge tracts of forest would appear like parkland. However, in the late 17th century, the Native American tribes were ravaged by smallpox and measles probably brought by Europeans. It is difficult to be absolutely certain, but scholars agree that a majority of the native people died in that plague. Native hunters could no longer care for their hunting grounds and undergrowth returned. Settlers would temporarily share meadow for pasturage and grazing. Pigs would be allowed to live free in the woods since the trees supplied an ample fodder of chestnuts and acorns. This led to the establishment of a colorful civic office, that of "hog-reeve." He took care of the behavior of the community's pigs, who could do a lot of damage if not somewhat controlled. Another colorfully titled office was  "dog whipper", a self explanatory, if dangerous, occupation. If a man had his family with him, then a more substantial house would be necessary. These were made of logs, since they were abundant and could be quickly formed into a house. A cabin could be constructed using only a large hand ax, a mallet, some wedges, an adze, and a froe (a device used to split shingles from a log.) All this haste was necessary in order to get in a crop so that the first winter could be survived. No doubt the Crossett brothers had plenty of work, not only on their own land but in helping their neighbors.

Once successfully wintered, and a new crop put in, more time could be spent on housing and barns for the animals, wells could be dug, and a sawmill built. With the ability to saw timber, and forge tools, including plowshares, a more permanent residency could develop.

Each of the Crossett brothers were married after settling in Lisburn. William married in 1740,Robert and Archibald in 1748 to sisters Mary and Sarah Savage. The connection with the Savage family is strong and needs to be discussed at more length, elsewhere. There is no evidence of the presence of their mother, Martha Crossett, although she may have been living with one of her sons. Here are their families.

William married Elizabeth Macklam and they had ten children.

  • Jacob b. 13 Feb. 1743 - a twin who probably died.
  • Samuel b. 13 Feb. 1743 m. Agnes (Nancy) Getty
  • Thomas b. 6 Jan. 1745
  • Mary b. 25 July 1746 m. George Thompson
  • John (?)
  • Elizabeth b. 8 Mar. 1748 m. Jonathan Clough
  • Margret b. 2 Dec. 1749 m. Joseph Thompson
  • William b. 19 Sep. 1751 m.(1) Susanna Jackson (2) Jannet Thomas
  • Robert b. 2 Nov. 1753 m. Nancy Hood
  • James b. 3 Aug. 1755 m. Sarah (?)

Robert married Mary Savage and they also had ten children.We should note that Mary and Sarah's mother was Mary Hamilton, related to our Hamiltons.

  • Edward b. 25 July 1749 d. 31 Dec. 1820 m. Elizabeth Cady
  • Samuel b. 25 Dec. 1750 d. 2 Nov. 1802 m. Abigail Cady
  • Robert b. 9 Mar. 1753 d. 29 Sep. 1776 ( a war casualty)
  • Sarah b. 14 Feb. 1755 m. Joseph Bridge
  • John b. 4 Feb. 1757 m. Olive Carpenter
  • Isaac b. 25 Apr. 1760 d. 20 Sep. 1791
  • Ebenezer b. 10 Jun. 1762
  • Richard b. 5 Nov. 1764 d. 6 Aug. 1814 m. Olive Powers
  • Patience b. 22 Oct. 1766 d. 19 Feb. 1853 m. Zenas Ware
  • Mary (Polly) b. 4 Apr. 1769 m. Samuel Holbrook

The two Cady girls were sisters.

Archibald and Sarah set the record with thirteen children. (some list more, but not convincingly)

  • Jacob b. 19 Dec. 1749 m. (1) Elinor English (2) Fanny Savage
  • Son b. 1752 - a twin who died.
  • Mary b. 1752 m. William Rhee
  • Martha b. 1754 m. Samuel Fenton
  • Lydia b. 1754 m. Thomas Gray
  • Rachael b. 1757
  • Israel b. 3 Mar. 1759 m. Martha Hamilton
  • Eunice b. 15 May 1761 m. John Macklam
  • Samuel b. 10 May 1763 d. 20 Oct. 1822 m. Sally Polhemus
  • Rebecca b. 19 May 1765 m. Ephraim Wheeler
  • Sarah b. 5 Jun 1767 m. Matthew Gray
  • John Savage b. 24 July 1769 d. 3 Mar.1770
  • Elizabeth b. 1771 m. Solomon Foote

 So, from three brothers we get a second generation of 33 people. Notice the last names that repeat; Macklam, Savage, Gray, Cady, Hamilton, Thompson. All these names are common in the counties of Antrim and Down in North Ireland and are found richly populating the central part of Massachusetts and particularly the Lisburn Proprietary which later became Pelham, Massachusetts. Data is missing on several of the siblings. Some died in infancy, some married and moved away, and some just lost touch. Just like modern families only it was much harder then to keep in touch.

The three brothers were active members of their community. In the French and Indian War William served as an ensign in the company of Captain Robert Lotheridge in their march for the relief of Fort William Henry in 1757. Brother Archibald also enlisted as a private. William later was often chosen moderator of town meetings. In 1774 he was named to a committee called "The Committee of Inspection" whose duty was to "follow the instructions of the Continental and Province Congresses." This was to interpret to the town what was asked of them by the larger government. In 1777 he and five other men were allowed one pound as payment for "carrying down provisions to the army at Cambridge." This was for the Battle of Bunker Hill. He moderated the meeting calling for a new Constitution in 1779, and chaired the meeting accepting it in 1780. William  was deeply involved in the committee to set  the "average"  for calling men to serve in the militia. This average was derived from tax payments and other contributions and was a bone of contention among the surrounding towns. These men all had sons serving in the army and William's nephew Robert was killed in the war. They took great care that their sons were treated fairly.

Archibald Crossett was also a well known townsman. It is from his family that we New York Crossetts are descended. Taxes were levied following a formula based upon a man's land ownership and wealth. The "invoice" for Archibald was found among a tattered pile of papers in the Pelham town offices. He was fairly well to do.

  • Dwelling house - 19 by 37 feet.            
  • Horses - 2, Cows - 3, Sheep - 13
  • Ackers of Mowing land - 12       
  • Tuns of hay - 9
  • Ackers of tillage land - 5
  • Ackers of orchard - 3
  • Bushels of Corn - 45, Rie - 20,
  • Bushels of Oats - 23
  • Barrels of Sider -  3

This was 1760 and he and Sarah already had six children, so we can assume the house to have been two stories.  Archibald was the only male old enough to vote.  He was active in the church and was  given, along with Thomas Dick, the task of allotting pews in the meeting house. He and William  were in the third row  and paid  four and a half pounds for the space.  The allotment was contested  and changed to allow the elderly members to sit in the front downstairs "provided they clear them on Sacrament Days." In 1769 he was chosen with two others to "provide shingles to finish the roof of the meeting house and to Imploy Workmen to do said work."This indicates that he was indeed a housewright as he would have the ability to produce the shingles; each split from a log, and would have knowledge of men to contract to do the work. The work was a social occasion judging by the amount of rum purchased by the town clerk for the workers. Afterward the town sold at auction a large amount of shingles and nails left over. These Scotch-Irish Presbyterians were not teetotalers by any means. Liquor was often used as money. Drunkenness, however, was not tolerated. Mixing alcohol with drinking water made it more palatable and also made it safer from disease.

Robert, being the youngest of the brothers, is found later in town affairs. Robert was involved in the School Committee. Schools were started in Pelham in 1744. In 1798 and 1800 he voted the allotment for the school's cost. Over two years it went from $100 to $450. That seems familiar somehow. In 1809 Robert was a tax assessor in Pelham. His own assessment was $8.42. This was toward the upper level of taxpayers.

The person with the highest tax was one Dr. Nehemiah Hinds at $24.02.

The good Doctor was not shy in putting in his two cents. He directed a letter "To the Church of Christ in Pelham, East Parish." In it he brought charges against the minister, putting six points against him. The first three allege him to be in "disregard for the truth" on various grounds.  The fourth may be most to the point. "In falling from a bargain he made with me to procure him lumber for his house." In the fifth point he gets theological; "In declaring that he believed only a lesser part of Creation would be saved, and afterward denying that he ever said a less part would be saved but the greater part." The last charge is vehement. "Profaneness. In saying that he would not pray for the Reverend Mr. Williams of Leveritt because he was in error; but if he did he must pray as the other man did - O Lord!  Damn such damnable doctrines."

This precipitated a crisis and a committee was formed on which Robert Crossett served to consult with four other clergymen and seek their cousel. The result was that an Ecclesiastical Council was convened. Like a court with half the people chosen by the plaintiff and half by the accused, they heard testimony from various people. Tellingly, Dr. Hinds was the moderator and the matter was conducted at his house. The council did not reconcile the parish to the minister. At a town meeting the people, after hearing the committee report were asked to vote. The method of voting was interesting and very expressive of opinions since it was not secret. "All those that are not for Mr. Cazier as their minister under present existing circumstances to move to the west end of the meeting house. Twenty nine moved to the west end of the meeting house which was the whole of the voters present."

Robert was then named to a committee to supply the parish with a new minister. These Scotch -Irish Presbyterians were very particular about their religion and demanded orthodoxy and strict observance. Deviation from that led to the need for public confession. In 1794 Pelham formed a second parish, led by the above named Reverend Matthias Cazier. Archibald Crossett was apparently not an easy man to change. His son Israel and wife Martha joined the new parish as did his daughter Lydia Gray. Sarah, Archibald's wife, joined as well, but he and his son-in-law, Thomas Gray, did not.  This fact was published for the town to see. Sarah was clearly as strong minded as her husband.

No dates of death have been discovered for any of the original Crossett brothers except Robert who died in 1812. William and Robert may be represented in the 1790 census, but Archibald is not unless he is living with a child. Only heads of household were named. It is Archibald's family we must follow, especially his first son, Jacob.  

 

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