Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Legacy of Refugees

Names (left to right). First row: Ove Oveson, George Jarvis, Ann Prior Jarvis, Sidney Tanner. Second row: Mayflower pilgrims Richard Warren, Francis Cooke, John Cooke; Rebecca Hill Pettit, Edwin Pettit, Archibald Newell Hill and son Samuel. Third row: Isabella Hood Hill, Samuel Shepherd and wife Charity, Adeline Springthorpe Thomas.

There is still a swirling controversy about refugees in the United States. My daughter, Amy, wrote a recent blog post on the subject for her blog, The Ancestor Files in a very short article entitled appropriately, "Refugees." As Amy points out, our ancestral family is fairly well populated with "refugees" according to any possible definition of the term. The most common definition is "a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster." Many of my own ancestors were forced to leave the United States of American and flee into the wilderness of Mexico. Ironically, through the military efforts of that same United States, they were then involuntarily annexed back into the United States.

As a result of their efforts to maintain their beliefs in the face continued religious persecution both officially and unofficially from the government of the United States, eventually, the United States government sent the largest contingency of armed troops in the then history of the United States to invade my ancestors' homes and confiscate their church-owned, religious property. Some of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were then further forced to abandon the United States and once again, flee into Mexico. Because of the invasion of Utah by Federal troops, my Great-Great-grandfather's family was forced to flee from their farms in San Bernardino, California and re-settle in Beaver, Utah.

Of course, the suffering my own ancestors suffered at the hands of soldiers and officials of the United States included actual physical injury. My Great-great-great-grandfather while unarmed, was attacked by militia and severely hit in the head causing a major injury. Here is one account of the injury.
The mob had come up to Father Tanner in his wagon and Captain O'Dell had pointed his gun at him and pulled the trigger twice but it refused to go off. This enraged him, and with a fearful oath, he took hold of the muzzle and struck Elder Tanner over the head with the breech of the gun. This blow would probably have killed him had it not been for his heavy felt hat, the double thickness of which saved his life, but he had a large, ugly gash on his head which bled profusely. "His skull was laid bare to the width of a man's hand" above the temple, and "from the bleeding of his wounds he was besmeared from head to foot," and "the blood ran into his boots" according to various accounts (this incident was mentioned in several affidavits which the Saints wrote up of the wrongs which they had suffered in Missouri, and submitted to government officials. They emphasized Father Tanner's age, that he was an unarmed farmer simply returning home from the mill, and that he was hit over the head for no reason at all). "He was taken prisoner and held for two or three days, during which he wore his bloody clothes and refused (or was not allowed) to wash the blood from himself. He was allowed to keep his team and wagon, and the mob allowed him to go temporarily, on his word of honor, to take the body of a Brother Carey, who had been brutally killed by the mob, to his family."
If you had this family tradition, how sympathetic would you be towards those oppose assisting refugee or even forbidding them assistance and entry into the United States? My refugee ancestors were not just driven from the United States, they also came to America to escape persecution in England, Scotland, Wales and starvation in Ireland.


  1. I am interested in your Pettits. Obviously they are later than mine since you have photos. Do they go back to Henri Pettit of Essex, England?

    1. Sorry, I don't see that connection anywhere in the line.

  2. A very enlightening story to someone living outside the US of A. Ian Scott Western Australia

  3. I, too, have a history of refugee ancestors—mostly Mennonites—who were forced to flee, sometimes for their very lives. I have little patience for those who see refugees as a threat. A great many of those people wouldn't be here today if their ancestors were not given refuge here in the United States.