Once upon a time there was a family with ancestral roots around Grand Rapids, Michigan. They knew a few things about their ancestors, such as Delilah who, they were told, was French and from whom the brown eyes in the family came. They knew that when Grandma Porter had surgery for cancer in 1930, "they found her so full of it that they just closed her up again." And from time to time, when someone displayed a bad trait, it was declared that he or she "must have gotten that from Great-grandmother Wells."
by the brick farmhouse and little North Chester Baptist Church that had played important roles in their family history. They visited the graves of parents and grandparents and planted red geraniums by the headstones. And the patriarch of the family, Grandpa Hawkins, would take off his hat, bow his head, and express a prayer of gratitude for the spiritual heritage left to the family by those who had gone before.
BEGINNING OF A LIFE-TIME HOBBY
Yes, that was my family, and I was fifteen the day we visited Guy
Lockwood. He was a fellow Wells descendant, a cousin of my Grandma
Porter, and a first cousin twice removed of my mother, Esther Hawkins
Moneysmith. And he was a grandson of our legendary Great-grandmother
Wells, who had died in 1888 when Guy was not quite seven.
The important thing that day was that Guy brought out and showed our
family paragraphs he had copied from his grandmother’s Bible.
Obviously ancestral heritage had been important to her, too, as you will
see in what follows. It caught my interest enough that I copied it into
a notebook. Though it would be more than a decade until, as an adult and
young mother, I made my first efforts to learn more about her Compton
family, that exposure marked the beginning of our current family’s
interest in our ancestral heritage. What a journey it has been,
especially since the mid-1990s when the Internet opened up whole new
ancestral worlds for us!
Now, sixty years later, we know that Great-grandmother Wells was a fine,
godly woman who was born Hannah Marie Compton, the youngest of eleven in
a large, intriguing family. Wouldn't she be amazed to know that, more
than a hundred and twenty years after her death,
some of her descendants have connected with descendants of several of
her siblings and we continue to dig deeper into the family
history—both before her and after her?
THE HANNAH WELLS BIBLE RECORDS
The first thing Grandmother Hannah told us about was her parents and her
siblings. The following are copies of material in her Bible.
Ancestors of Hannah Post
"Hannah Compton was born in Holland,
came to New York City, married Wm. Compton, son of Wm. Compton who
fought in American Revolution. Eleven children were born to Hannah Post
and Wm. Compton.”
Annie Compton married Seymour Sachwood
then told us about her grandfather and earlier Comptons.
of the First Compton Family
"William Compton was a grandson of a younger
branch of Sir Spencer Compton, Warwickshire, England. Sir Spencer
Compton was slain in 1648 at Hopton Heath, England, and defeated Oliver
Cromwell and his Puritan rebels during the battle. William Compton born
in England (our great-grandfather) [served] in the first regiment of
Orange County, N.Y. militia had his lower jaw shot off and died during
the Revolution. His son, William Compton, married Hannah Post (that is
my mother). She is buried in Sugar Hill, N.Y., and he is buried in
The name of
Hannah’s grandfather William Compton can be seen in the troop registry
at George Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, NY, where he served
under Major Zacharias DuBois, and published in various other sources
Wm. Rev. war list). That, however, doesn’t tell any battles in
which he fought nor the one in which he was wounded. We’ve picked up
one reference suggesting he did not die immediately upon being wounded.
Perhaps he got home before he died? We’ve recently picked up a source
that gives his death as 1778. Inquiries to the National Archives in 1992
did not turn up any information on him.
account of the Hopton Heath Battle is surprisingly but not completely
accurate. The battle happened in 1643, not 1648, and Oliver Cromwell did
not come into prominence in the struggle with the king until
considerably later. Hannah refers to her ancestor as
“great-grandfather” but goes on to say that his son married her
mother, which would make him simply her grandfather. Hannah wasn’t
born until forty years after the Revolutionary War, so of course she
never knew that grandfather. Based on our current research, we think
there had to be at least four, and maybe more, generations between
Hannah and Spencer Compton.
We are still
working to find the missing link between Hannah’s grandfather and Sir
Spencer, though we’re confident there must be one. Consider how many
facts she had accurately in her Bible, facts confirmed elsewhere:
All three parts of his
name: Sir Spencer Compton
Name of the battle: Hopton
Date of the battle: 1648
(though this is not correct, "8" and "3" could
easily have been miscopied in 200 years, including by me at age 15)
He fought against the
Puritan opposition to the reigning monarch.
The king's forces were
But Spencer died.
Finally, the name
Warwickshire, which meant nothing to us until Matt Hoppe tracked down
the Compton estate, Wynyates, located in Warwickshire, England.
How could lowly Hannah Marie Compton, on the frontier of New York two hundred years later, have even known about that battle, let alone gotten that many points correct if they did not have their roots in facts?
OF THOSE WHAT IFS….
I hate to
think what might have—or might not have—happened if Guy Lockwood
that day in 1951 hadn’t pulled out his piece of paper and showed us
what he had copied from his grandmother’s Bible. Would I have gotten
interested in genealogy at all? If I hadn’t, I would have missed so
much—like being invited into a couple homes built by my ancestors
decades before I was even born, making friends with third and fourth
cousins who descend from those brothers and sisters whose names
Grandmother Hannah wrote in her Bible, and visiting the graves of at
least three sets of fourth-great-grandparents.