Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Find - Barnabas Davis

Back in December a catalog of books arrived in the mail from the retail side of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS). Flipping through it, I spotted a new book title, From Deference to Defiance: Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1629-1692, by Roger Thompson.  The description of the book claimed that it “recreates the lost world of 17th-century Charlestown and the lives and work of the first three generations of its townspeople.”

Knowing that my ancestor Barnabas Davis and his son James lived in Charlestown in the 17th-century, I was interested in the book.  I’ve often wondered what the town was like in the early days of settlement, and what my family may have experienced at the time.  I added the book’s title to my Christmas wish-list, but unfortunately didn’t receive it.

A couple of weeks ago I remembered the book and placed an order.  It arrived in the mail a few days ago, but I didn’t get a chance to look through it until last night.  I was happily surprised to find an entire chapter about Barnabas Davis in the beginning of the book!  Most of the information in the chapter I had read about in other sources, but the last three sentences of the section struck me as funny.

“Despite his [Barnabas] experience as a colonial agent, he and his family never integrated into the community, or prospered.  He left the very modest estate of £77.  Every town had its share of sore thumbs.”[1]

The footnote attached to the last sentence mentions Barnabas’s sons: “James, assault”, “Samuel, fornication”, “Samuel, bad workmanship”, “Barnabas Jr., disturbance of the peace”, “John, drunkenness”.  It also mentions another chapter later in the book entitled “Sharecropping Conflicts”.

These “sore thumbs” were not something that I had read about before.  I’m wondering now if I have stumbled upon the reason the family moved out of Charlestown a generation after James.

From Deference to Defiance has been a pretty good read so far, though I’m only 70 or so pages into it.  It has an easy narrative flow, allowing me to picture the people and places as opposed to focusing on the names and dates.  That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of names and dates to refer to.  After a read-through, I plan to go back and re-read some of the details.

My initial take is that anyone interested in the history of Massachusetts, New England, or colonial settlements will enjoy this book.  Others may disagree, but I’m very happy with the purchase so far.

[1] Roger Thompson, From Deference to Defiance: Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1629-1692, (Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012), 35.

1 comment:

  1. Elroy, Roger Thompson spoke at NEHGS twice last year, and the stories he told were everything from hysterically funny to extremely interesting. I ended up buying several (The Cambridge, Charlestown, and Watertown books) and he signed them for me. If he ever comes back to Boston you should make the trip from Vermont to see him!