This is a slightly delayed post, originally intended to go out a few weeks ago for obvious reasons. But here, in a reflective mode as we prepare to enter a new year, I give you a highly suitable subject to aid in that reflection. The past.
One day in 1648 John Milton wrote in the family Bible:
“My daughter Mary was born on Wednesday Octob. 25th on the fast day in the morning about 6 o’clock 1648.” Baby Mary was baptised on November 7th at St Giles in the Fields Church, which still stands (although rather rebuilt) just by Seven Dials.
In 1665 (aged 16 or 17) Mary married John Maugridge, and in 1669 she gave birth to a girl, Mary Milton Maugridge. It is interesting to note that this Mary, the third – as our first Mary’s mother was Mary Powell, Milton’s famous first wife, who left him for a time before coming back, thus engendering Milton’s notorious support for divorce – died in Pennsylvania, in 1738.
Mary Powell married John Milton at the age of 17, by the way. It has been suggested that the match was proposed in payment of a debt to Milton’s father – also John – a scrivener and moneylender. She was dead at 28. I’ve looked and looked and looked for a picture of her but I can’t find one. (I’m working on it.)
By the way, when they talk about Milton dictating to his daughters and all that, they mean the other ones, Anne and Deborah. Mary was apparently much more like her mother – I feel that may be her in the grey dress above, looking seriously askance at her oblivious father – though by all accounts his relationship with all the girls was “strained”.
He also had a proper secretary, a young man, whose job it was to come to the house every morning and take dictation of 40 lines of Miltonic blank verse, which the poet would have composed by memory during the preceding afternoon and night. So the girls had some help.
Well, and on August 16, 1689, our third Mary, Mary Maugridge, married a Quaker weaver called George Boone III. Here the plot thickens.
George Boone III and Mary Milton Maugridge had a son. Squire Boone was born on 25 Nov 1696 in Exeter, in what was then Devonshire. In about 1712, Squire sailed to America as a cabin boy, having been sent with two of his siblings to have a look and see if it would be worth the whole family settling there. It was. In 1717 his parents sailed over and the family settled in the environs of Philadelphia. In 1720, Squire married Sarah Morgan. Their daughter Hannah – the youngest or second-youngest of twelve – was born on 24 August 1746, in Pennsylvania. You can read more here.
Of course, Squire and Sarah Boone became rather distinguished in later life, as the parents of two rather distinguished sons – you’ll know this if you clicked the link above. One was the famous pioneer Squire Boone Jr. The other was his even more illustrious brother Daniel, 14 years older than his sister Hannah. Daniel opened up Kentucky; was captured and adopted, and then escaped from, the Shawnee Indians; was famous all over the world, a template for the hero of the Wild West; and lived well into his eighties. In the States he is still, or was until the TV show, much more famous than Davy Crockett. And not many people know that he was the great-great-grandson of John Milton. (This also reminds me of a wonderful Davy Crockett joke, but I feel I should save it for another time…)
Hannah Boone married Richard Pennington in Yadkin, North Carolina on May 4, 1777. He was her second husband; the first (John Stewart) had been killed by Indians in Kentucky. (Pennington himself fought in the Revolutionary War, at Fort Osborne in Virginia.) They had four daughters: Sarah, Mary, Rachel and Elizabeth Stewart. She had four more children with Richard Pennington: Joshua, Daniel Boone, John Stewart and Abigail Pennington.
John Stewart Pennington was her little revolutionary baby boy, born on June 10th, 1784.
He grew up and married Jemima Hauser in March 1807. Their daughter, Hannah Boone Pennington, was born in Kentucky in 1820.
Hannah Pennington married William Bird Pile in December 1836, when she was 16 – and here we enter the history of my actual family.
Hannah’s son William Stewart Pile was born around 1840 in McDonough Co., Illinois. At some point he married Mary M. Walker, and she duly gave birth in February, 1880, to Walter Clyde Pile, whose picture is on the front of my book.
He had tuberculosis of the hip and was, by all accounts, cantankerous as hell. A newspaperman and school commissioner who also ran a movie house. He died in 1957.
The sad truth is, though, that it is no great big deal being descended from Hannah Boone, as you can see. This list doesn’t even include my family after William Stewart Pile.
His daughter Millie was born in 1906 and grew up in Protection, Kansas.
She went on the stage – that’s another story – and there she met her husband Arthur Walwyn Evans. A ‘distinguished Welsh orator,” he was also an ordained minister of the cloth (though it didn’t show so much at that time) – directly descended down a line of ministers from Bishop William Morgan, who translated the Bible into Welsh in 1596 (thereby singlehandedly saving the Welsh language from extinction, 23 years before the King James Version appeared). (And if you trace hers back past the Miltons etc, they’re all in London and they’re all called ap Llewellyn etc.)
As it happens, pace the Daniel Boone Shawnee story, my grandmother was also an honorary Blackfoot princess. Apparently the Blackfoot tribe LOVED her song & dance number, Smilin’ Through. Notwithstanding that, she and her husband immediately got to work setting up with a house, a parish and a new life as pillars of society.
In 1934, along came their daughter Nancy, the oldest of four girls, and MY MOM. By this time the family was safely ensconced in the environs of New York City.
Forget all that virgin territory stuff.
Then I grew up and came back to London where it all started.
How do ya like that?