A good place to begin is with Stephen Moses Davis (b. 18 Feb 1823, Godmanchester, Québec; d. 5 Feb 1893, El Dara Township, Pike County, Illinois), the father of James Polk Davis (b. 5 May 1845, Derry, Pike County, Illinois; d. 20 May 1937, Derden, Hill County, Texas). Stephen comes with a satisfyingly extensive biography, courtesy of both church documentation and the notes of historian Robert Sellars,
as well as a (sometimes factually spotty) section of the 1891 book, Portrait and Biographical Album of Pike and Calhoun Counties, Illinois.
In particular, it’s here that we learn that Stephen’s first wife was Harriet Young; or, as the book so delicately puts it:
On March 16, 1841, Mr. Davis led to the hymneal altar Miss Harriet Young, a native of Canada, who was spared to him but a few years.
I mean, on the one hand, that’s quite tragic. On the other hand, hymneal altar.
So, who was Miss Harriet Young? A baptismal document from Quebec’s Drouin Collection (Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records, 1621-1968; Anglican Cathedral Holy Trinity Church, 1824) offers one possibility: Heriot Young, daughter of Henry Young and Mary, born at sea between Ireland and Canada on 16 May 1824.
And, before we continue, let us take a moment to appreciate the sheer readability of this bit of ephemera, which cannot be said for the vast majority of primary documents in genealogical research.
So, this is actually a really rich little scrap of paper in terms of what it tells us about Heriot and her family. First, and most relevant for us, is the year she was born, which would have made her a marriageable almost-seventeen at the time of the above mentioned wedding date (and just one year younger than Stephen). It’s at least plausible enough that, combined with the dearth of other candidates for “Harriet Young” in the otherwise exhaustive Drouin database as it currently stands, we might reasonably hypothesize that Heriot and Harriet are the same person.
Working from that assumption (which could, in the fullness of time, prove to be wrong), let’s look at the document, which reads:
Heriot, daughter of Henry Young, late from the parish of Nantinan, County of Limerick, Ireland, Schoolmaster, & of Mary his wife was born at Sea on the on the sixteenth of May, & baptized on the Fourth of July in the Year of our Lord, One thousand eight hundred & twenty four.
By me. [?], deacon
Present: Henry Young Father
Mary Young Mother
Catherine Lowe Grandmother
Apart from the sheer coolness* of having been born at sea, there’s a lot going on here. “Late from the parish of Nantinan” is quite telling, particularly given Henry and Mary’s (presumable) surnames of Young and Lowe. Both are associated with the Irish Palatines, a mostly Protestant group who originated in the Palatinate region of western Germany.
Following decades of upheaval and poor fortunes, the Palatines began a mass emigration to Britain:
The proprietors of England’s American colonies had been pushing for the naturalization of foreign Protestants as a way to encourage people to settle in their lands without depleting the population of England, and in March of 1709, Queen Anne passed a naturalization act that was favourable to foreign Protestants.
With the prospect of a better life in view, hordes of Palatines and others from the southwestern German principalities—mostly Protestants of the Lutheran and Reformed churches—started moving up the Rhine that spring. They travelled to Holland and boarded boats for England, expecting to be given free passage to America. By late summer, about 10,000 Palatines had arrived in London, where they were housed in tents as refugees.Carolyn Heald, “Who are the Irish Palatines?”
About a third of these families were ultimately relocated to Protestant estates in Ireland, with the largest number settling in County Limerick. Within the next hundred years, many Palatine families began emigrating to North America as part of the broader wave of Irish immigration that occurred from the late 1700s through the first few decades of the 1800s. While most emigrated to the US, many settled in Canada – mainly in Ontario, but also in Quebec.
Among these Quebec settlers would have been Henry and Mary Young, making the Reeds descendants of the Irish Palatines of Canada.
- Clinton REED (1900-1975)
- Lula Mae DAVIS (1879-1972)
- James Polk DAVIS (1845-1937)
- Stephen Moses DAVIS (1823-1893) m. Harriet YOUNG (1824-1846)
- Henry YOUNG (unknown)
*cool for those of us reading it retrospectively; decidedly UNcool for poor Mary delivering a baby on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean