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The Art Of The Shun

October 9, 2016 3 Comments

10th St school

10th St school

841 Tenth St

841 Tenth St

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1950’s. We were a suburb of Pittsburgh, but had a very fancy golf club to distinguish our borough from all others—The Oakmont Country Club.  Membership in this much sought after institution was costly as well as tricky to obtain.  The members generally lived on top of the hill, near the club, in the neighborhoods developed for them.  I lived near the Oakmont Country Club but my parents did not play golf or care about the snob appeal.  This infuriated me because rather than walk to the swimming pool I had to wait for a ride to the Alcoma Country Club where our family belonged.  Alcoma was less expensive, but still had all the country club trimmings.  I was invited frequently to the Oakmont club pool with my member friends and neighbors, and never lost my desire to join.  I believe I was absorbing not so subtle messages about social and financial status.  I would have said it was because I wanted to walk to the pool, but I am sure I also desired the status that accompanied belonging to the fancier of the two country clubs.  Today I have chosen the fancy, clean, multi functional Tucson JCC over the Tucson Racquet Club, even though Silver Sneakers provides free membership in both for me now.  I do always prefer an upgrade if I can afford one.  Perhaps it is all because of my upbringing.

Our town was on a hill, with a steel mill and barges full of coal floating down the Allegheny River at the bottom. The area by the river was dedicated to industry and commerce, with small working class homes scattered into the mix.  Ascending the hill, the houses became larger and more elaborate.  The streets were numbered from 1 to 14 climbing the hill.  I lived on Tenth Street.  One could almost tell by the address in our town how much money the family had.  I lived in the upper middle category of housing, but very close to my home was a row of mansions belonging to robber barons.  These super wealthy neighbors provided all manner of recreation for the kids in the area, including a trampoline, a very large field for sledding, and some woods for exploring.  The mansion kids all went to public school and were part of our regular play group as youngsters.  Still, we were aware that their parents were not in the same financial league with ours.

My parents put their own status emphasis on appearances.  The wardrobe and/or landscaping needs of those two consumed most of their free time.  They spared no expense on the clothes they wore and their precious yard.  My mom was active in a garden club, and my dad just naturally loved to mow his lawn in his coveralls. They were a 50’s cartoon of suburban pride of ownership. I had to play along, helping with the yard work and dressing up to go to the country club, the University Club downtown, their friends’ homes, or to travel.  I was also costumed to the hilt for the many parties they held at our house.  I was fine with it up to a point, or up until I decided to have my own taste in fashion.  When I was over the white gloves and the little white ankle socks I waged a war on fascist control over my wardrobe.  My parents bemoaned my fate and warned against a hellish life ahead unless I started to want to dress more like they did.  Life would never smile on me again without those white ankle socks.  This was the beginning of our political differences.  They were appalled to think I did not want a life like their life.  How silly of them. I could not have a life like theirs because I was born in another generation with another set of circumstances, yet to be discovered. All we knew was that my white ankle socks would not be part of that future reality.

Today I am pleased to say that I understand that attachment or revulsion to any kind of status can only end in heartache.  Possessions, titles, offices, locations, are just data dust in the true meaning of life.  If we come to identify too greatly on the situation, how will we cope when the situation changes? My parents had their own giant cultural revolutions to endure.  They came from the south, but spent many years freezing their bones in Pennsylvania because it furthered my father’s career with Gulf Oil Corporation.  I learned by direct experience to stay aloof from judging circumstances.  Nothing is ever a simple as it seems.  There are generations of beliefs and traditions at play in every moment.  Learning to define one’s own status rules and symbols is perhaps our essential role on earth.

I watch the political scene today go wildly off the rails with wonder.  The United States has become very distracted by our own self image.  The will to shun has outweighed the will to live in this country in peace.  The electorate is behaving badly.  Law and order is threatened.  The fabric of society is frayed and damaged.  Public faith in institutions is understandably at an all time low.  As a nation divided we stand ready to implode if we can’t get a grip on the difference between rhetorical status and reality.  Politics maintains status …quo or otherwise.  Mother Nature maintains reality…harmonious or otherwise.  It is time to strip away the political aims of these two parties and look directly into the soul of the tax paying nation.  What did you learn from your childhood that influences your views today, gentle reader?  Were they positive or negative?  Do you belong to the same party as your parents?


Rev. Henry Nichols, Missionary to Pennsylvania

November 23, 2015 8 Comments

St. David's Church, Radnor, Pa.

St. David’s Church, Radnor, Pa.

My 8th great grandfather was born in Wales and died in Maryland.  He came to Pennsylvania on a mission for the Anglican church.  He wrote his own epitaph in Latin which is telling about his beliefs.  He was harsh on himself.

Rev. Henry Nicholls, B.A., 1703 & M.A., 1715, Jesus College, Oxford, Wales. He was sent to Pennsylvania, 1702-1708, during the reign of King James II. He ministered at Chester, Pennsylvania.   The Chester Church is described as of good brick fabric, one of the neatest on the continent, furnished with handsome furniture and pews.  He also served St. David’s Church, Radnor, Pa. and at Concord and Montgomery, Pa. Later, he was transferred to St. Michael’s Parish, Talbot Co., Maryland where he served, 1708-1749, (41 years).

From William King and Virginia Watkins – Their Ancestors and Descendents compiled by Maellen King Ford

Henry Nichols was the first residential missionary to Pennsylvania for the “Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts“, arriving in 1703. His churches were located in Chester, Concord, Radnor, and Montgomery. The members were regular and constant in divine worship, and they contributed 60 pounds a year toward their pastor’s support. The Radnor Church is still in excellent preservation, known as St. David’s Church and has been in use since 1708. Rev Nichols requested a transfer in 1708 and became rector at St. Michael’s Parish Church. Talbot Co., MD – a post he occupied until his death. For years, all records of his life were lost. The early church books had disappeared! Until June 1878 when workmen, employed to demolish the old church building, found his tomb under the Chancel in good preservation.

The following is a translation of the Latin inscription found on the slab over his tomb: “Here lies the remains of Henry Nicols, M. A., formerly a Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, England, and a pastor of this church for 41 years – most unworthy. Born April 1st, 1678; died Feb. 12, 1748. Save his soul, O Christ for Thy own merits. Tread upon salt without savor.” (Henry has ordered these works to be inscribed before his death.) A number of his descendents still worship at St. Michael’s Church. They placed a tablet there to his memory where he ministered for so long. (From the Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1943, by Mary Clement, M. A., Principal of the Girls County School Board, Bridgend, Glamorganshire, Wales.)

Rev. Henry Nichols (1678 – 1748)
is my 8th great grandfather
William Nicholls (1709 – 1776)
son of Rev. Henry Nichols
Amos Nicholls (1740 – )
son of William Nicholls
Amos Nicholls (1780 – )
son of Amos Nicholls
Amos Nicholls (1808 – 1868)
son of Amos Nicholls
Emiline P Nicholls (1837 – )
daughter of Amos Nicholls
Harriet Peterson (1856 – 1933)
daughter of Emiline P Nicholls
Sarah Helena Byrne (1878 – 1962)
daughter of Harriet Peterson
Olga Fern Scott (1897 – 1968)
daughter of Sarah Helena Byrne
Richard Arden Morse (1920 – 2004)
son of Olga Fern Scott
Pamela Morse
I am the daughter of Richard Arden Morse

William Pickens, 8th Great-Grandfather

September 5, 2015 1 Comment

parish church in LaRachelle Normandy

parish church in LaRachelle Normandy

My 8th great-grandfather was born in Normandy, France circa 1670, and died circa 1735 in Pennsylvania.  His parents fled after the Edict of Nantes to escape  religious persecution.  Many Scots-Irish, including these, immigrated to Pennsylvania and joined Dutch Reform churches.  My branch of the Pickens family continued on to South Carolina where they formed a Presbyterian congregation.

William Pickens (1670 – 1735)
is my 8th great grandfather
Anne Pickens (1680 – 1750)
daughter of William Pickens
Nancy Ann Davis (1705 – 1763)
daughter of Anne Pickens
Jean PICKENS (1738 – 1824)
daughter of Nancy Ann Davis
Margaret Miller (1771 – 1853)
daughter of Jean PICKENS
Philip Oscar Hughes (1798 – 1845)
son of Margaret Miller
Sarah E Hughes (1829 – 1911)
daughter of Philip Oscar Hughes
Lucinda Jane Armer (1847 – 1939)
daughter of Sarah E Hughes
George Harvey Taylor (1884 – 1941)
son of Lucinda Jane Armer
Ruby Lee Taylor (1922 – 2008)
daughter of George Harvey Taylor
Pamela Morse
I am the daughter of Ruby Lee Taylor

William Pickens was the son of Robert (Andre) Pickens and Esther Jane Benoit. He married Margaret, traditionally Margaret Pike, in Northern Ireland. He died circa 1735 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Traditionally it is said that William Pickens was born in France and was taken to Scotland, then to Northern Ireland, by his parents when the Huguenots fled following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. His mother was French; his father was, according to various theories, either Scot or French. But regardless of his actual ancestry, it is fair to say that William was Scots-Irish.

When James I of England ascended to the throne in 1603, among his main objectives was to Protestantism Northern Ireland. To that end he began an extensive colonization plan that encouraged Protestants from England, Scotland, and even France and Germany, to emigrate to the Ulster Plantation (Northern Ireland). The vast majority of Protestants who settled there during the 17th century were lowland Scots, but those we now call Scots-Irish were not exclusively Scot. What they were, were Presbyterian; what they were not, were Irish.

Well, the Irish Catholics hated the Presbyterians, the Presbyterians hated the Irish Catholics; and the English crown hated both. Over the next 100 years or so, the Scots-Irish Presbyterians had to deal with the Irish who wanted them out of the country, English landlords who charged ever-higher rents, and Anglican ministers who made most of their income by imposing tithes. There was a constant struggle for religious tolerance, civil liberties and political rights. For example, the Scots-Irish could not hold office and were denied representation in government. The “Great Migration” of the Scots-Irish to America began in 1717 and occurred in waves over the next 58 years. With them, the emigrants brought a deep-seated resentment toward the English that would lead to the Revolutionary War and Independence.

It is thought that William and Margaret Pickens arrived in America with their children about 1719. Although the majority of Scots-Irish immigrants to Pennsylvania arrived at the Port of Philadelphia, a significant number came through New Castle, Delaware. It is probably safe to say that William and family arrived at one or the other. Apparently, they settled first in Bensalem, Bucks County, where William Pickens and his wife, and Israel and Margaret Pickens are found in the records of the Low Dutch Reformed Church. On a list of “Newcomers from Earlandt” who joined the church are found.

1719 – Willem Pecken and his wife, by certificate.
1720 – Iserell Pecken by profession.
1722 – Margaret Picken by Profession.6,7

And under “New Church Members from Ireland, Nov. 4, 1724. . .”

The new members from Ireland have been received on letter of attestation and have now become chosen Elders – William Pickens
and his wife.

Also. . .

Israel Pickens by profession of faith.
Margaret Pickens, communicant, June 6, 1724.

The Low Dutch Reformed Church at “Bensalem & Shammenji” was established on 20 May 1710 as a Dutch speaking Reformed congregation under Presbyterian authority. (The Low Dutch should not be confused with “Pennsylvania Dutch” who were German, not Dutch). The early Scots-Irish immigrants to Pennsylvania, having no churches of their own, joined Dutch Reformed churches. In the years that followed they came to outnumber the Dutch at Bensalem. Fearing the loss of their identity, the Dutch congregants withdrew to form a new Dutch Reformed congregation, and by 1730, the Bensalem church was clearly a Scots-Irish Presbyterian Church.

According to Sharp, William’s death in 1735 is recorded in Bucks County and his estate was administered there.

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