In the history of the Carter family there are a handful of genealogical problems that have caused much consternation between the genealogists and non-genealogists of the family. The biggest one has always been how many Richards are in our pedigree starting with the immigrant Richard Cater. (And yes, the last name was originally Cater not Carter – but that is another story.)
So in this episode of Hannah’s life we are going to discuss the correct date of Hannah’s marriage to John Carter. Anyone not well versed in the Carter genealogy might have cause to wonder as to why this is a big deal. In short the issue revolves around the year of the marriage – whether it was 1805 or 1806. For as long as I can remember most everyone in the family subscribed to the 1805 date. We will discuss how this came to be – whether by accident or as a deliberate act we may never know but for a century or more the wedding date stood in the records of the family as 1805. For moral reasons this was perfect as it would place their first child’s (Dominicus) birth some fifteen months after their marriage. The facts will show that this isn’t the case and Hannah was a full five months pregnant on her marriage date. It is not my plan to point fingers at anyone but the truth does need to be stated. This fact doesn’t diminish my opinion of my third great grandparents at all. Knowing this does help to explain many things that went on about this time in the life of John Carter. So let’s get back to the story.
In 1805 Hannah was 18 years old. She was probably still living at home and as the fourth eldest child (and second oldest girl) in the family of Zebulon and Lydia Libby, and as such she probably had many major responsibilities in the home. The children ranged from Amos who was 25 down to the baby Clarissa, who was three. At this point none of the children were married and we suppose that all the kids were still living at home. Zebulon’s farm was called “substantial” in one record which leads you to think that it probably required all the effort of this large family to run it effectively.
John had been raised on a farm within a very short distance from the Libby farm. It is most likely that the Libby family and the Carter family were well acquainted though there is no physical proof of this assumption. Little is known of his early life until in 1804 a remarkable deed is found that describes his purchase (with another man) of a home in Portland. John is described as being a “mariner” on the deed. Family lore has always said that he was a sea captain at one point in his life and that rumor, at least, has some substance as the 22-year-old John is living in one of the main seaports of New England in 1804.
History then steps in and appears to change the course of John’s life. The year 1805 must have arisen full of great hope and much financial prosperity for the mariners of Portland. Profits had gone up and up in the previous years and the city was in the midst of a great boom. But as in many financial situations things can change rapidly – and within two years the bottom would fall out of the maritime industry centered in Portland due to two events. After the Revolutionary War the relationship of the new United States and Great Britain remained strained. Simply put the British may have lost the war but they weren’t through exerting their supremacy, as they saw it, over their former colonies. Politically the situation deteriorated until in 1806 the British formally passed the Non-Intercourse Act which forbid any American ship from trading with any foreign country except Britain. At that point the only shipping was done was by individuals who were willing to risk being captured by the British if they were discovered.
By 1805 John and Hannah had begun to see each other. Whether he would visit her when he was in Scarborough to see his family or if she was going the 5 miles or so into Portland is a question we will never answer. Most likely knowing the general morality of the day I suspect that they began courting during his visits to Scarborough. Whatever the case their love must have blossomed and eventually turned intimate as Hannah became pregnant sometime in October of 1805.
Based on the events as they unfolded I seems most likely that John had already made a decision to leave the life of a mariner for life on the farm. For on 7 Nov 1805 John purchased 72 acres of land that was between the farms of his parents and Hannah’s parents. There is no way the couple would have known that Hannah “was in the family way” at that point so, I believe, they had already decided to get married and John had chosen to leave the sea and be with his wife.
In any case once it became obvious that the couple would have to marry they put in motion the plans and were married on 2 Mar 1806. So if it wasn’t someone concerned with morality and wanting preserve Hannah’s dignity by moving the marriage date back a year, how else can it be explained. A look at the original record of their marriage – which first came to light some 80 or so years ago can help explain the “problem” of the date.
|Record of Marriage for John and Hannah (Records of the First Parish of Scarborough)|
Above is a photocopy of the original town record of Scarborough, Maine that includes John and Hannah’s marriage. A partial transcription is as follows:
A list of Marriages in the Second Parish in the Town of Scarborough
Returned by the Rev. Nathan Felton, Pastor of the said Parish
From April 1805 to April 1806
Record by Robert Hart, Town Clerk…
Record by Robert Hart, Town Clerk…
Mar 2, John Carter & Hannah Knight Libby
Mar 2, John Carter & Hannah Knight Libby
The confusion with the record is that it starts in 1805 and that date is very prominent. The 1806 year is buried in the middle of the page and, in fact, looks a little like 1805 itself. If the reader of this record was not careful they might miss the 1806 and assume that the date was 1805. In any case this is what I think might have started the 1805 date in our genealogy. But once it was uncovered morality seems to have set in among some of the descendants that insisted that that date had to stay in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Since John had previously purchased his 72-acre tract of land one would presume that this is where the newly wedded couple moved after their marriage. There is no indication in the deed for this land that there were any buildings on the property. If that was the case, John probably wouldn’t be able to build a home between the purchase of the land in November and their marriage in early March as this spans winter and conditions would make it difficult for John to construct a house at that time. In that case they may have spent the first few months of their married life living at the home of one of their parents – probably the Libby family as Hannah would probably want her mother to be with her in the birthing of her first child.
On 21 Jun 1806 the Carter family welcomed their first child, Dominicus, into the world. Dominicus was named after John Carter's youngest sibling - Dominicus who was baptized 11 Aug 1796 and probably died young - possibly before John and Hannah's first child was born. If John and Hannah were living in the home of Hannah’s parents their life would have been reasonably comfortable. Over the next couple of years John did build a dwelling on his property and the little family surely moved into it. About a year and a half later, on 3 Jan 1808 their second child, Almira, was born. By then they were in their home on their farm but still essentially neighbors of both sets of parents. It is doubtful that John could, on his own produce enough to sustain his family but with parents’ farms close by they surely were able to have what was needed. John also probably helped out on the farms of the parents.
(Up next: Preparing for the move to Newry.)