Saturday, October 22, 2011


So as I said in the previous post, Dr Bill Smith posted a link to his article in the
Springfield Genealogy Examiner "Panic and Depressions are more common in
our past than we may think". In it, he discusses Susan Farrell Bankhead's
blogpost "Catch the Real Villain: Factor in the Economy." Susan  talks about
how economic hard times may have effected our ancestors lives. One of the
examples she gives is how a volcanic eruption in Indonesia in the year 1816
caused crop failures in New England and triggered the migration of many
New Englanders westward.

Both Susan and Bill provided another link, this one to the History Box site
and a list of past recessions. As I looked at some of those dates I had a sudden
thought and checked my files. Look at these names and dates The larger group
are my direct ancestors, the second their brothers 

John Ames   27Sept 1832
Jonathan Barker  24April 1818
Asa Barrows  20Aug 1832
Moses Coburn  8Apr 1818
Elisha Houghton  6May 1818
Amos Upton  20May 1818
Samuel Stowe  24Dec 1832

Jesse Barker 17Sept 1832
Benjamin Barker 17Sept 1832
Moses Dunham  14Apr 1818

These are the dates on which these ancestors or their brothers filed
for their Revolutionary War pensions; five filed in 1818 and the other
five in 1832. Besides the "Summer That Never Was" of 1816, there was
widespread financial problems in the period leading up to the Panic of
1819. In 1832 there was another era of uncertainty caused by the struggle
between the Second Bank of the United States and President Andrew
Jackson. Those who filed in 1818 did so within two months of the Act
of Congress passed in March 1818 that set up the pension;  the 1832 Act
was dated 7Jun 1832 and four out of the five applied for their pension
by September. Were the 1818 group in worse shape financially than
those fourteen years later, and so filed quicker?  Did they apply because
of the problems with the economy, or merely because the pensions had
happened to become available? Unfortunately, there's nothing in their
applications that supply me with a definite answer one way or the other.

Another thought struck me looking at the list of all the upheavals: we've had
it pretty easy since the Great Depression national economy wise compared 
to all the turmoil our ancestors went through in the 19th and early 20th

Thanks to Bill Smith and Susan Farrell Bankhead for calling this to my attention!

1 comment:

Susan Clark said...

Great post, Bill. Context is so, so important.