The Wainwright Family of Essex County Massachusetts

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The Stawell, Green, Wenman, Peirce, Pike, and Gerrish Families

Last Updated 7 October, 2015

J

oshua Schwartz  married Elizabeth Stawell and settled in Lunenburg. Elizabethwas born in Lawrencetown, near Dartmouth Nova Scotia. Her heritage was easy to uncover. Once found, it turned out to be a rich one indeed.

The Stawell Barony had its origins with the Norman knight Sir Adam, who came to England with William the Conquerorin 1066. For his services Adam was given lands and a manor called "de Coveston" or "de Cothelstone" and the manor of "de Stawelle" in Moorlinch, County Somerset. In 1661, during the English Civil War, the Stawell family fought with the Royalists against Cromwell, and Sir John Stawell was imprisoned for several years on this account. The royal line was restored in 1681, and in 1683 King Charles II rewarded John's son for his father's loyalty by crowning him "Baron Stawell of Somerton, County Somerset". The barony expired in 1760 because there was no male heir. By special act of Parliament, the Barony was awarded to Mary Stawell, daughter of the last male Baron with the right of inheritance by her male heirs. She married Henry Bilson-Legge and had a son, Henry. The Barony became extinct again in 1820 with his death, and has not since been claimed.

Elizabeth Stawell's particular line takes a slightly different direction. Anthony Stawell  was sent as a soldier by the Crown to help put down a revolt in Ireland in 1600. He and his family settled in County Cork, at Coolmain Castle (the painting, at right, depicts Coolmain in 1860). The family lived there through six generations leading up to Reverend William Stawell , Rector of the parish of Kilmalooda in 1786. His son, William Stawell, was appointed an Ensign in His Majesty's 48th Regiment of Foot in 1811 and was sent to Portugal for service in the Peninsular Wars. Ironically,  Parish records in Cork show that a child, William, was supposedly buried there in 1798. Had this record been more detailed, William might never have been presumed dead, and thus he would have been able to claim the Barony in 1820.

Ensign William Stawell had an illustrious military career against Napoleon in the Peninsular Wars of 1812-1814He was seriously wounded during the Battle of Toulouse France and he received the War Medal with Four Clasps for outstanding service (one with three clasps is shown at left). In 1816, after partially recovering from his wounds at his home in Coolmain, Ensign Stawell was promoted to Lieutenant and reposted to the British garrison at Halifax until 1818, when, due to the disbanding of his regiment, he was placed on half pay status, the equivalent of today's Active Reserve.. He remained in this status until his death in 1868. The British War Office kept close tabs on him throughout this period, and so we have substantial information about his marriage, children, and health.

Lieutenant William Stawell married Elizabeth Green, daughter of the Hon. Benjamin Green, Treasurer of the Province of Nova Scotia.  She was a great-grand daughter of the Reverend Joseph Green, Minister of the Parish at Salem Village (now Danvers, Massachusetts) and Reverend Joseph Gerrish, Minister of the First Parish at Wenham Massachusetts.  Rev. Green, successor of the infamous Reverend Samuel Parris, is remembered for reversing the convictions of those persons accused of witchcraft in that town. His son, the Hon. Benjamin Green Sr. accompanied Lord Pepperell as Secretary in the British expedition to siege Fortress Louisburg in 1745. In 1749 he was called to serve under Lord Cornwallis  in the newly formed government of Nova Scotia Province. He was instrumental in the migration of the Foreign Protestants from Germany to Nova Scotia.  He was a founding member of St Paul's Church in Halifax. His son, (and Elizabeth's father) Benjamin  was one of the twenty original land grantees of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  He married Susanna Wenman, daughter of Richard Wenman, representative for Halifax in the Nova Scotia Assembly from 1765-1770.

Lieutenant William and Elizabeth Stawell had two children who lived to maturity.  William Eustace Stawell and Wenman Blankley Stawell. William became a primary school teacher but later was afflicted by insanity and died unmarried. Wenman married Mary Romans Bremner, daughter of Daniel Bremner and Margaret Meagher of Lawrencetown,  and lived in the home of his father.  We can thank Wenman for several manuscripts that chronicle his and his father's life, and the family's claim to the Stawell Barony.

Wenman and Mary had three children:  William Eustace Stawell spent his entire life insane. He was admitted to the Asylum in Dartmouth in 1869 and remained there for the remainder of his life.  Henry Stawell married Ellen MacDonald from Cape Breton Nova Scotia, and settled in Halifax.  After Henry's death in 1904, his family traveled west to Calgary Alberta and eventually to Tacoma Washington.  Ellen died in 1933 in Calgary. Elizabeth, as we have seen,  married Joshua Schwartz of Lunenburg Nova Scotia. 

It is a sad note on the nature of the times that nowhere in Wenman's papers or official records is the date of birth or death of Elizabeth recorded.  Only the year of her birth was known to him.  We can only infer the date of her death.

Wenman and Mary experienced serious marital difficulties, and split in 1860. The Lieut. took William Eustace and Elizabeth to live with him at the home of George Hiltz, a family friend.  Henry was farmed out, possibly to a fishing family in Lunenburg. Wenman was admitted to the Insane Asylum in Dartmouth, and remained there until the death of his father in 1868.  Mary married George Bezansin around 1864 and had two additional children. Wenman's will condemns Mary as being "notoriously guilty of gross sin and the author of painful family misfortune". 

Lieutenant William Stawell was acutely aware of the situation of the Stawell Barony in England.  He preferred to be addressed as "Lord Stawell" by his friends in the British Army, and he kept in close touch with his father and uncles, who held title to the lands in Coolmain and Oldcourt Ireland. Son Wenman was careful to document his father's claims in a document entitled "Declaration of the History and Pedigree of our Family for the information and advantage of my true and lawful son, Henry Stawell", which he presented to his son in 1895, shortly before his death.  In it, he describes the nature of the family ties to the Stawell family of Cork Ireland, explains his father's reasons for not returning to Ireland at the death of his Uncle Eustace to claim his title, and asserts his own claim to these titles for the benefit of his son.  This document is in the possession of a descendant of Henry Stawell who graciously agreed to share it with the compiler for this family history.

One cannot review the account of the Stawell, and Green families without being impressed at their tendency to insanity.  There seems to be, within the family, a genetic predisposition to the condition known as Bipolar Affective Disorder that is present in our family to the present day.  There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that  the condition was passed originally from the family of Benjamin Green Jr.'s mother Margaret Pierce, through her father Joshua Pierce (founder of Woodbridge New Jersey) from his mother Dorothy Pike.  When I have more time, I shall try to document the genetic basis of their illness in more detail..

Many members of Lieutenant William Stawell's family are buried together in a small  cemetery in Mineville, Nova Scotia.

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