Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lorenzo Childs, my Great Great Grandfather

Lorenzo’s birth place has long been an enigma for me. I first find him in the 1830 Brooklyn, Kings County, New York Directory as proprietor of his own store. He does not show up there in the 1830 census. Why?, Who knows? It was here that Lorenzo met the love of his life, Ann Caroline Marshall. She was born 8 May, 1813, the fifth child of John Marshall and Sarah Dayrell, all of whom were born in Barbados, British West Indies. Both John and daughter Ann Caroline were born in St. Thomas Parish and Sarah was born in St. Michael Parish, Barbados. As an interesting aside, back along the Dayrell line one of the Dayrell women was the mother of Jane Seymore, one of King Henry the 8th's many wives.
In those years Barbados had a large population of black slaves who from time to time revolted resulting in many deaths of both whites and blacks. Several years after one such revolt and with rumors flying of another, John, in 1821, moved his family to the United States, settling in Brooklyn, New York. It was in Brooklyn where Lorenzo and Ann Caroline met. At some point, John and Lorenzo decided to joint-venture Lorenzo’s grocery store and in the 1833 Brooklyn Directory, the store is listed as “Childs & Marshall Grocery.” Tragedy struck soon after the joint venture was consummated.  John Marshall died..

I’m not sure whether it was before or after John’s death, but Lorenzo and Ann Caroline married April 30, 1833 in the Episcopal Church, Jamaica, Long Island, New York. The family continued to reside in New York where the two boys, William O., August 1836 and John Worrell Marshall,  1 January 1838, were born. The family left Brooklyn in 1839, going first to Cleveland, Ohio then on to Pittsburgh and finally, settling in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

In the 1840  Beaver County census I find Lorenzo enumerated with an adult female and two young males under ten. The family then moved to Fallston to take advantage of the waterpower provided by a lively set of falls on the Beaver River. The third child, Nancy Anna, was born  5 December, 1840, a nice Christmas present. Unfortunately, Ann Caroline never really recovered from Nancy’s birth and tragically died the following 21st of March, 1841.

A few years later, Lorenzo married Sarah Mehaffey and had two more children, Charles C, born in 1844 and Caroline in 1847. Tragedy struck Lorenzo’s life again when Sarah died on the 28th of April 1859. Several years later, he married Deborah E. Green, and had two more children,both of whom died in infancy. I can’t imagine such a string of sorrows.
In 1861 the Civil War broke out and in 1862, William, Lorenzo's oldest son marched off with the local regiment. Upon leaving, he had Lorenzo made Guardian of his children. He fought in many battles but was wounded in the face in the battle of Spotsylvania. He eventually was transferred to a hospital in Pittsburgh. About that time Lorenzo contracted the deadly scourge, Small Pox. Within weeks, it proved fatal and he died in Bridgewater, Pennsylvania, 19 August, 1864. William immediately went AWOL because of his children and never returned to his unit. That cost him a pension in later years.

Lorenzo was obviously a hard worker and a hustler, trying all kinds of things to make a living. In many ways he had a good and successful life. He went into the machinery business with considerable success, establishing his operation in Smith’s Ferry, Pennsylvania. Another of his entrepreneurial ventures was drilling for oil, interestingly, it was at the same time as Colonel  Drake, who was credited with bringing in the very first oil well anywhere. Drake made his momentous discovery near Titusville, Pennsylvania, not far from where Lorenzo’s efforts were taking place. As they say, close counts only in the game of horseshoes.

One of the long standing enigmas in my research on Lorenzo has been identifying whom his parents were and where he was born. In the 1850 census in Beaver, Lorenzo stated that he was born in Massachusetts . Surprisingly, in the 1860 census he stated he was born in Vermont. I have a bit of data from his son William’s research into where Lorenzo was born and he came up with Vershire, Orange County, Vermont. Unfortunately, he gave no indication where he found such data. I’ve queried both Orange County and Vermont historical entities and they have no record of a Lorenzo Childs born there, or that he ever lived there. But, there are two other items of interest. Lorenzo named his oldest child William. And living and enumerated in Thetford, Vermont, not far from Vershire, in both the 1810 and 1820 census, is a William Childs. The only catch,  in censuses prior to 1850, dependents are listed in gender and age brackets only, not named. And discouragingly, there was nothing listed for Lorenzo's age bracket as we think it was. Or, could he have been born after the census was taken. I don't have a verifiable birth date for him, however, there were two males in the next bracket up. Could one of them have been Lorenzo? And lastly, in the 1841 issue of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania City Directory, there is listed a "Lawrence Childs, Machinist." Remember, he was in Pittsburgh just before going to Beaver.  Makes you think about the fact that the name Lorenzo was popular in those days and he just started calling himself, Lorenzo.

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