|Ray Jerrems with Research by Sandra Walcyk||
Back to Life in the 1800's
This is the story of James Jerrems, who was born in Wappenham, England, in 1812. It is the story of a family's "ups" and "downs", a theme which seems to be so typical of families in the 1800s. We have seen it in Jerrems families in the Gainsborough area and now we see it again in the United States. It provides a microcosm of life in those times which would be worthy of a Charles Dickens novel.
Chronologically it is the third of a series of articles. In the February edition of the Journal I announced the big news that Sandra has traced a "new" branch of the Jerrems family back to Wappenham in England. Her great great grandfather Joseph was born in Wappenham and emigrated to the US in the 1830s. Joseph was also Sarah's ancestor. I also related to you how that branch's surname had shifted over a period of time from "Jerromes" to "Jerrams" and finally to "Jerrems".
In the March edition I told you a little of the history of Wappenham.
In this article I will outline to you the story of James, who was Joseph's brother. Although in theory it would have been more logical to talk about Joseph first I have chosen James because we know more about him at this stage, the research on Joseph is still in progress.
You will see that I have threaded the story together from a number of sources of information. In some cases I have referred to the sources but mostly I have not, to keep the article flowing.
Previously I had carried out a fair amount of research on James, but at that stage I did not know where he fitted into the "bigger picture" which Sandra has now provided. Sandra has also supplied a lot of additional material, particularly the history of the area where James migrated to in the US. Coincidentally Sandra grew up in the same area.
The Early Years.
This period in James's life commences in 1812 and concludes in the early 1850s.
James was born in Wappenham in 1812, his parents being William and Hannah Jerrams. To date we have no specific information on the Wappenham family but we have surmised that the family lived on a farm. In about 1831 James married Ann Carter (who was born in England in about 1815) and the couple migrated to the United States in 1832.
It is very likely that the couple disembarked at New York, which was the major port used by migrants. One can imagine their excitement at the wonderful choice of places available to them in the US to settle in. They chose the Utica area, about 250 miles to the north west of New York City. No doubt a major attribute of that area was that it was now comparatively easy to get to from New York City and it had good employment opportunities.
The reason for this ease of access was that they could travel by boat along Erie Canal. The good employment opportunities arose from Utica's growth as an industrial city. Also there were a number of textile mills at the nearby village of Washington Mills.
Initially James and Ann lived in Utica, until at least 1843, but it was in the Washington Mills area that they finally settled. James probably worked in the mills initially but later took up soapmaking, a somewhat unusual vocation for someone who had grown up in a rural area. It is therefore likely that James learnt the ropes by working for a soapmaker in the Utica area and then bought the necessary heating vats to go into business by himself.
James would have found a ready market for his soap in the nearby textile mills and in the factories and households in Utica. We think of soap as being used for domestic purposes but in the days before detergent was invented soap was used for industrial purposes also. Soapmaking was not a healthy occupation because the vats were filled with animal fat and caustic soda and this witches brew had to be boiled for at least two hours. The steam would have been mildly toxic. He obviously felt that his soap was superior because he exhibited barrels of his soft soap in at least two County fairs, the first being the New York State Fair in 1852.
Meanwhile James and Ann had been busy following the principle of "populate or perish". In the space of 13 years they had eight children, James H., born 1837-38 (died 1872), Thomas W., born 1839 (died 1918), Jessee or Jesse, born 1840 (died 1866 from consumption, now called tuberculosis), Elizabeth, born 1841, Josephine born 1843 (died 1852 from scarlet fever, a staph infection), Rebecca, born 1845, Emma born 1850 and Helen born 1851 (died 1852 from dysentery).
The soapmaking business gradually built up. In the 1850 Census James showed the value of his real estate as $1500 and in the 1860 Census he showed it as $5000.
The nearby plank road on Oneida Street would have given James quick access to the city of Utica, to take soap to shops and factories and bring back the necessary raw materials for production of more soap.
The Turbulent Years.
We now see a change in tempo in the period between the early 1850s and the late 1860s. The family had a rollercoaster ride with, unfortunately, many downhill sections. We do not know the precise sequence of events in some cases, but I have put them in numbered paragraphs to make the events easier to follow:
(a) Ann, after populating so capably, perished in 1852 from consumption.
(b) James married again in early 1853, marrying a widow, Esther Colbrook, who was born in England in 1820. Esther had had 3 children by her previous marriage to Robert Colbrook (the children being Robert, Sarah and Harriet). Sarah joined James's household but it is not clear whether Robert and Harriet did likewise. James and Esther had five children, Mary, born 1853, Anah born 1854 (died 1856 from croup, a respiratory complaint), George, born 1856 (died 1859), and Charles, born 1858 (died after 1920). They also had a daughter Esther who was apparently Charles's twin and died from convulsions the day after birth. Finally James's wife Esther died in 1860 from consumption. This meant that James had lost two wives through consumption (a common cause of death, James's sister in law also died of consumption in Utica), and he outlived about half of his children. It is tempting to surmise that the "consumption" was a lung disease caused by the soapmaking fumes.
(c) At some time in the 1850s James moved several miles to a farm at nearby New Hartford, where he took up farming with the help of his eldest sons James, Thomas and Jesse. The reason for moving was probably a combination of a desire by him to go back to his farming roots, the need for more room for his expanding family, and the increased scope for training his children. No doubt his neighbours were happy to see him take his soapmaking vats with him.
(d) A serious downside of the new location was that little George (aged three) was killed in a tragic accident in the farm stable in 1859.
(e) The new location favoured the family in other respects. The 1860 Census shows that the neighbours were mostly farmers or farm workers. A neighbour was a blacksmith, where James junior probably served his apprenticeship and later worked, finally marrying the blacksmith's granddaughter.
(f) Another son,Thomas, gained experience on the family farm, including working the horse team, and on other farms in the area. His love of horses and his farm experience stood him in good stead in later life.
(g) James kept his hand in at soapmaking, exhibiting a barrel of soft soap at the 1860 Oneida County Fair.
(h) In 1861 these farming activities were interrupted by the commencement of the American Civil War. The three eldest sons, their step brother Robert Colbrook and their close friend Thomas Mayborn signed up, and Jesse died soon after the War. Although James was no doubt proud of the boys serving in the war it would have left him short- handed on the farm, with only the eldest girls to help. I will tell you about the boys' Civil War experiences in a separate article.
(i) The labour shortage on the farm continued after the Civil War. James Jnr (the blacksmith) married Emma Newkirk and they went to Valley near Lawn Ridge, Illinois. Thomas married Theresa Autenreith in about 1862 and moved to Plainfield near Chicago, Illinois, and Robert Colbrook moved north. This was the start of a family exodus.
The Quiet Years
|Donald Jerrems, Editor, Ray Jerrems, Mystery Solver||
Another Surprise From our Email Bag
Longstanding readers may remember the still life paintings of a red melon and a rooster pictured in the January 2007 Edition of the Journal. They accompanied an article titled: "Leonore Jerrems and The Mystery Masterpieces".
In the article I described how I had found the paintings (via Google) in a 2004 Art Gallery Auction Catalogue.
At the time I had never heard of the painter, Leonore Smith Jerrems, and I was particularly intrigued by the multi-coloured backdrop in the rooster painting.
Well, I can now tell you that the backdrop to the rooster painting was a shawl. And how do I know this? Because a new reader of the Journal has the actual shawl, and it has been handed down to her.
So who has it been handed down to? None other than a grand daughter of Leonore Smith Jerrems, also named Leonore. Here is her recent email to Donald, our Editor:
"Greetings from Leonore, the granddaughter of Leonore and Arthur Wallace Jerrems Jr. I was searching my grandmother's name on the web and came across your family newsletter. What a surprise to read the article about my grandmother and the mystery masterpieces! I happen to have the shawl that forms the backdrop to the rooster picture.
I have enjoyed reading about the fascinating Jerrems family and sharing the news with my mother, brothers, sister, children, nieces and nephews. My mother, Mary, has four children and nine grandchildren.
She is very interested in family history and would love to hear from you. She would be pleased to share her memories and find out more about her father's family."
Mary M. Martin,
York Harbor, Maine
Leonore (Lee) M. Neary
Glen Ellyn, IL
Leonore and I have subsequently exchanged emails and Donald sent a birthday card to Mary for her 80th birthday which, coincidentally, was celebrated in July. But I will tell you more about these events in future issues of the Journal.
Meanwhile, isn't it exciting that we are gradually picking up more family members through people googling the Journal's website? And such enthusiastic readers into the bargain!
Followup: We sent Mary a Streetmail Greeting card for her 80th birthday in mid-July; it was the December 2005 Jerrems Journal Christmas card (edition 8) that included greeting and pictures from many of our subscribers at the time. A bit out of season but very sentimental.
|Donald Jerrems, All-Purpose Editor, Producer and More.||
Reflecting on the Future and the Past
BREAKING NEWS: From Stephanie Jerrems
Just wanted to give you a little more news for the Jerrems Journal. My brother Nick and his band Cicada are actually doing a 3 week gig right now around CA. It's pretty exciting. It's their and Nick's first tour ever.
My dad Steve is along with them, driving them everywhere. You can get more info on where they are going, they have pictures and video blogs too, on their myspace, http://www.myspace.com/cicadaca. Plus they just had another c.d. come out.
Upcoming Shows: Jul 27 2008 7:00P The Outer Rim - All Ages w/Phoenix Rising, All Time Ending, Motif Onyx, The Boomsticks, and Soultree Salt Lake City, Utah.
Jul 28 2008 8:00P The Chaos Cafe - All Ages Show with The Rainy States!!! Portland, Oregon.
Jul 29 2008 7:00P Rock N Roll Pizza - All Ages Show w/Aerodrone, Neon Culpa, Lords & Kings and Ninjas With Syringes Portland, Oregon.
Jul 31 2008 9:00P Mt Tabor Legacy w/ Neon Culpa Portland.
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