Sunday, February 13, 2011

Scipio Serendipity

It has been my experience in historical research as in genealogy, serendipity plays a part with uncanny frequency. I've heard many stories of people searching for a document, or a grave site, and literally tripping over the information they needed. And I've had occasion to do the genealogy "happy dance" a few times myself.
Thanks to some recent serendipity, Scipio now has a second jacquard coverlet; this one is dated 1832. Here's how it came about:
I paid a visit recently to my Symula relatives, who had moved to the Capital District just before the holidays. I don't often see folks from that side of the family, as they don't live in central NY. But a few years ago, they held a family reunion, and I happily did a little research on the Symula and Bielowicz families, since it gave me my first opportunity to work with records from Austria and Poland.
I was able to find some census and naturalization information that led me to immigration and ship records. Eventually, with the help of my Family Tree Maker program, I put together a small but interesting packet of new details and shared it with the Symula family.
So two weeks ago, I am downstate visiting with my relatives, and a family member from Vermont was also there. We got to talking, and he asked if I had a copy of my earlier research that I could send electronically.
If you know any historians or genealogists, you know that they never ever throw anything away. Of course I still had his family tree! So I handed him my Scipio Historian business card, and asked him to contact me after he returned to Vermont. He looked at the business card and said “Scipio, huh? My wife has a quilt up in the attic that came from there.”

Here’s where it gets interesting.

I asked about getting some photos of this quilt. He was pretty familiar with it, and from his description of a blue and cream colored blanket with big roses on it and a date in the corner, I knew he was talking about a jacquard coverlet. He promised to send me some pictures after he got home.
I had pictures the next day. This is a well-used coverlet, with some familiar designs. I had a few telephone conversations and e-mails with Mrs. Symula. Her coverlet came to her through her grandmother, who had lived in Fairport and was associated with the Strong family.
If you search this blog for jacquard coverlets, you will find that the Strong family of Rochester, known for Strong Memorial Hospital, came to Rochester from Scipio. And Rhoda Strong, a daughter of Epaphroditis Strong, married a weaver by the name of Henry Johnson in 1829, moving to Genesee County by 1840. It does seem like a real possibility that they are somehow connected to this coverlet.
The Symulas wrapped the coverlet carefully and shipped it off to Scipio. It arrived last week, and I can’t wait to display it at the town building. I hope you will be able to come see both our new acquisition of the 1832 coverlet, and our 1834 coverlet soon.


timandkaren said...

What an exciting discovery!

Roger A. Post said...

Sandie, Henry Johnson (ca. 1810-before 1870) was a son of my 3rd great-grandparents, David P. Johnson (1776-1844) and Eliza Clinton (1782-1860) of Scipio so the possible Johnson connection to the coverlet is particularly interesting to me. David P. Johnson and Eliza Clinton Johnson are buried in the grown-over Bolt's Corners (Warner) cemetery on the Sherwood Road.

Henry Johnson's brother, David Harvey Johnson also was listed as a weaver in the 1850 census at Bradford, Steuben Co., NY. This might indicate that weaving was a Johnson family trade before the mid-19th century. Among the assets of David P. Johnson's estate are listed "three weaving looms, a quantity of weaver's reeds, brass kettle, etc." valued at $100 (1845 appraisal), which were the most valuable part of his estate.

Henry Johnson's sister, Joanna, also married a member of the Strong family, John B. Strong, Sr., a cousin of Henry's wife, Rhoda M. Strong. John and Joanna remained in the Scipio/Venice area.

Congratulations on the great networking and good fortune to find the second Scipio coverlet!

Sandie Stoker Gilliland said...

It was so exciting when I heard those words "my wife has a quilt from Scipio in the attic" I could hardly sit down!
As for the Johnsons, one of my DAR patriot ancestors is David Johnson, whose daughter Clara Clarissa Johnson married Abraham Van Etten. Their grandchild Hattie Van Etten married Welcome Edick, whose child was my grandmother Mabel Edick Stoker. I don't know if that is the same family or not, do you?

Roger A. Post said...

Sandie, I don't have a Clara Clarissa Johnson among the children of David P. Johnson and Eliza Clinton of Scipio but can't rule it out. David P. Johnson apparently hailed from NJ. I haven't tried to trace his origins beyond that, however. Eliza was born in Ireland. I'll dig around some more to see what I can find on David's origins.

Roger A. Post said...

Sandie, after a check that focused more on your David Johnson than mine, it seems quite certain they were different people, yours in Niles married to Prudence Coburn and mine in Scipio married to Eliza Clinton, although they were more or less contemporaries. By staying on opposite sides of Owasco Lake, the two David Johnsons may have kept any potential confusion in check!