Joseph Rakestraw: A Colorful Claim (52 Ancestors #41)

Long have I heard stories about George Washington having commissioned a weathervane from Joseph Rakestraw, my seventh great-grandfather.  If true, this would be a pretty cool addition to the family history.  But how do I prove or disprove it?

I began by looking for information on George Washington’s weathervane and any mention of a Joseph Rakestraw.  As it happens, Washington wrote a letter to a Joseph Rakestraw of Philadelphia on July 20, 1787, requesting that a weathervane be crafted.  This weathervane was to have the shape of a bird with an olive branch in its mouth.1  A weathervane of that description can be found on the cupola at Mount Vernon today.

Cupola and weathervane at Mount Vernon. Courtesy of MountVernon.org.

Cupola and weathervane at Mount Vernon. Courtesy of MountVernon.org.

Now, I have been researching Rakestraws for a long time.  In 1787, there were about five or six Joseph Rakestraws in and around Philadelphia.  Most likely all related somehow, but still, how do I know which one fashioned the weathervane?

As I continued my research, I found that the Joseph Rakestraw to whom Washington had written was not a metalworker, he was a carpenter.2,3  This narrowed it down some.  I know at least two Josephs were carpenters and one was a printer.  I am unsure about the others.  Of the two I know to be carpenters, one had moved out of Philadelphia in 1786, leaving only one that I know for sure was a carpenter.4,5  This one is the one I believe was my seventh great-grandfather.

The Joseph Rakestraw who produced the weathervane was a member of the Carpenters’ Company.  Indeed, he was president of the Company, which is probably why Washington wrote to him.  Joseph was born circa 1735 and Carpenter’s Hall records state that he died of yellow fever in 1794.6,7  The man I believe to be my seventh great-grandfather was born circa 1735 and died in 1794 at the age of 62.  He was buried on the 10th day of the 5th month in 1794.8  He was a Quaker.  Quaker records show that he was married to Rachel Ogilby (or Ogilbey) and had children:  Justinian, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Joseph.9,10

Joseph Rakestraw, who was married to Rachel Ogilby and died in 1794, was the man whom Washington commissioned to create a weathervane for Mount Vernon.  I believe this to be the same Joseph Rakestraw who is my seventh great-grandfather, but I am still trying to prove that his son Joseph and my sixth great-grandfather Joseph, who married Rebecca Gilbert, are the same person.


Sources

  1. The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition, ed. Theodore J. Crackel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.  Accessed 07 October 2015.
  2. Manca, Joseph. George Washington’s Eye: Landscape, Architecture, and Design at Mount Vernon. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins UP, 2012. Print.
  3. Greenberg, Allan C. George Washington, Architect. London: Andreas Papadakis, 1999. Print.
  4. Walton, William. A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of Benjamin Gilbert and His Family, Who Were Taken by the Indians in the Spring of 1780. Third Edition. Philadelphia: Printed by John Richards, 1848. pp. 222-223.
  5. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1768-1789; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes.
  6. Moss, Roger W. “Rakestraw, Joseph (c. 1735 – D. 1794).” Philadelphia Architects and Buildings. The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 2015. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.
  7. Karsch, Carl G. “The Yellow Fever Connection.” Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, 4 July 1995. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
  8. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Births and Deaths, 1754-1806; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes.
  9. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Women’s Minutes, 1744-1765; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: MR-Ph 561.
  10. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1768-1789; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes.

Elizabeth Walton: A Journey of a Thousand Miles… (52 Ancestors #28)

Elizabeth Walton is one of my ancestors who had been captured by Indians toward the end of the Revolutionary War.  I’ve already posted some details on this ordeal when I wrote about Elizabeth’s daughter, Rebecca, so I’ll try not to repeat myself here.  I will, however, highlight a few things that show just how much Elizabeth traveled in her lifetime.  She was apparently a woman of strong constitution.

Elizabeth Walton was born on May 27, 1725 in Byberry, Pennsylvania (now part of Philadelphia).  Her parents were Benjamin and Rebecca Walton.  She was the eldest of nine children.1,2  The family were Quakers, and there are some good records of the births of all of the Walton children.

On November 30, 1752, Elizabeth married Bryan Peart.1,3  He died just five years later.1,6  Elizabeth had three children with Bryan:  Benjamin (1753), Rebecca (1754-1757), and Thomas (1756).1,4,5

Elizabeth married Benjamin Gilbert on August 17, 1760.1,7  They had four children together:  Jesse (1761), Rebecca (1763), Abner (1766), and Elizabeth (1767).1,8

Benjamin had a home and grist mill in Byberry, and the family lived there until 1775, when Benjamin decided to move to the Pennsylvania frontier.  Benjamin, Elizabeth, and their children moved to a farm located on Mahoning Creek (about 4 miles west of Lehighton) in Penn Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.1

On the 25th Day of the 4th Month, 1780, the Gilbert family were taken captive by Indians and marched toward Fort Niagara.  Elizabeth was 55 at the time.  She was allowed to ride a horse some of the way, but most of the journey was on foot.  The family traveled approximately 300 miles to the Fort from their home.  It took them a month to get there.  Along the way, Elizabeth had been beaten several times, for not being able to keep up and to protect her children from receiving a beating.1

Shortly after arriving at the fort, Elizabeth, Benjamin, and their son Jesse were surrendered to Colonel Johnson, who was the Superintendent of Indiana Affairs.  Although they had been released, they stayed near the fort to try to secure the release of the other children.  They at last set off for Montreal by boat, about 350 miles away.  Elizabeth’s husband died along the way and was buried under an oak tree near Coteau-du-Lac, Quebec, Canada.  After the last child was released in 1782, the remaining family members traveled to Byberry.  This journey, of about 700 miles, was made by boat and wagon, and took five weeks to complete.1

Elizabeth stayed in Byberry with her family and did not return to the farm.  It was said that “in spite of the sorrows and hardships she had experienced, she still retained her cheerful disposition.”1

In 1791, Jesse and his wife and children moved to Fallowfield (about halfway between Philadelphia and Lancaster).  Elizabeth moved in with them.  She lived with Jesse until he moved to Lampeter.1

Walton, William. A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of Benjamin Gilbert and His Family, Who Were Taken by the Indians in the Spring of 1780. Third Edition. Philadelphia: Printed by John Richards, 1848. pp. 174-175.

Walton, William. A Narrative of the Captivity and Sufferings of Benjamin Gilbert and His Family, Who Were Taken by the Indians in the Spring of 1780. Third Edition. Philadelphia: Printed by John Richards, 1848. pp. 174-175.


Sources

1.   Walton, William, and Frank H. Severance. “Memoirs of the Captives.” The Captivity and Sufferings of Benjamin Gilbert and His Family, 1780-83. Reprinted from the Original Edition of 1784. Cleveland: Burrows Brothers, 1904. Print.

2.  Ancestry.com.  U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 (database on-line).  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Pennsylvania, Montgomery, Abington Monthly Meeting, Minutes, 1629-1812.  p.77.

3.  Ancestry.com.  Pennsylvania, Marriage Records, 1700-1821 (database on-line).  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.  Swedes’ Church, Philadelphia, 1750-1810.  p.481.

4.  Ancestry.com.  U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 (database on-line).  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Pennsylvania, Montgomery, Abington Monthly Meeting, Births and Deaths, 1682-1809, Vol. 1.  p.67.

5.  Ancestry.com.  U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 (database on-line).  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Pennsylvania, Chester, New Garden Monthly Meeting, Births, 1684-1850/Births and Deaths, 1719-1839/Membership, 1797.  p.8.

6.  Ancestry.com.  U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 (database on-line).  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Byberry Monthly Meeting, Deaths, 1736-1791.  p.2.

7.  Ancestry.com.  Pennsylvania, Marriage Records, 1700-1821 (database on-line).  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.  Pennsylvania Marriage Licenses, Prior to 1790.  p.229.

8.  Ancestry.com.  U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 (database on-line).  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Pennsylvania, Montgomery, Abington Monthly Meeting, Men’s Minutes, 1774-1782, Vol. 5.  p.69.