Thursday, February 02, 2012


One of the great things about researching my family's history is what I learn
about our country's history along the way. While I have a college degree in
history, there are areas and topics that I've never explored before that I've
finally encountered in the lives of my ancestors. One of those topics came
up last night when I was writing my post on Deacon Samuel Edson and is
contained in this quote:

"He was an active member of the council of war from 1667 to the end of
King Philip's war, and also of the committee to distribute contributions
made by the Irish people for that war, and also to those entitled thereto
in Bridgewater."

Now, while we have New England ancestry all the way back to the Pilgrims
and Puritans on my Dad's side of the family, I have Irish Catholic(and German)
ancestry on  Mom's side. Given the long conflict between the English and
Irish, I found it hard to believe that the Irish would have sent any sort of
aid to English settlers fighting Indians in New England. I could imagine
them perhaps offering to hold the coats of the Englishmen, but sending
help, no. But then I remembered something I already knew about English
history and things began to make sense: it wasn't all of Ireland that sent
help. It was the part under the rule of the Puritans.

The Irish Catholics had rebelled in 1641 and for a time had been successful
due to the conflict in England between King Charles I and the English Parliament.
But when the English Civil War broke out  they formed an alliance with
the Royalist side and the Parliament sent Oliver Cromwell in 1649 to deal
with the rebellion. He did so with such ruthless efficiency, especially in Ulster,
it set the stage for the next four hundred years of Irish history.

The Puritans in New England were supporters of their brethren in England.
While I'm not aware yet if they had been supportive of the Irish Protestants
in Cromwell's fight with the Catholics its possible the "Irish contributions"
were a repayment for aid sent from the New World.

I found this account of the "Irish donation" as it was also known:

"The fact that in Ireland there was a certain familiarity with Colonial affairs even
as early as the seventeenth century is proven in many ways, but none more so
than by the action taken by the citizens of Dublin when the news reached that
city of the distressed condition of the New England Colonists resulting from
"King Philip's War." No more striking instance of practical sympathy toward the
suffering Colonists is related in American history than this incident. The Indian
war of 1675-1676 was bloody and devastating in the extreme. Large numbers of
the inhabitants of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island fell in battle or
were murdered by the savage foe and many towns were destroyed, and it is
worthy of note that more than one hundred Irish names are enumerated among
the Colonial militia who fought the Indian hordes. In these times of distress and
misery it is recorded that Ireland was the only European country which sent relief
to the Colonists, and so large was the consignment that the Lord Mayor of Dublin
sent three Commissioners to Boston to take charge of the distribution of the "Irish
Donation," as it is called in the official records of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay.
It is not known what the "Irish Donation" actually consisted of, but that, with
traditional Irish generosity, it was liberal in the extreme we may judge from the
fact that the cost of the freight alone was the very large sum for those days of £475
sterling. The relief came in the ship Katherine, which sailed from Dublin for Boston
on August 28, 1676. In Massachusetts alone 47 towns and 2351 persons were 

succored by this timely Irish relief."

A Hidden Phase of American History: Ireland's part in America's struggle for liberty
(Google eBook) by Michael Joseph O'Brien  (Dodd, Mead and company,  New York

So Bridgewater, Ma. was one of the towns that received that "timely Irish relief",
and Samuel Edson, my ancestor, helped distribute it among the townspeople.

I love family history!
((712 words for the Family History Writing Challenge))

1 comment:

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Very interesting history, Bill. I love that you have tied your Samuel Edson in to this very important piece of Bridgewater's past.