Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's Easter! A Few Memories

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Everyone,
Had enough sugar for one day, or are you just beginning? I'm real old school when it comes to my candy of choice for Easter. You can have the jelly bean eggs. You can keep the Cadbury chocolate delights. I'll be your friend for life if you save me the marshmallow Peeps and the Brach's Easter Eggs with the colored candy shell and that white marshmallow interior. It's comfort candy to me - a reminder of my Easters in South Dakota as a kid.

My parents didn't put a lot of time into Easter, as evident in our traditional "Easter Egg Hunt". Every Easter afternoon my seven brothers and sister and I would be ordered to the basement after Sunday School to take off our church clothes and wait for the arrival and departure of the "Bunny". Maybe it was because we were the poor kids on the block, or maybe Rapid City, South Dakota was always the Bunny's last stop, but that darn Bunny didn't put a lot of effort into the hiding of our eggs. His haste always led to concussions and spilt blood.

Imagine eight children on a very narrow staircase, huddled with pillowcases (we couldn't afford the nicely woven, colorful baskets). We sat close to each other and waited for the upstair's door to open - the signal that the Hunt was on. My older sister and I sat at the bottom of the stairway on my parent's orders. Putting us at the end of the line was intended to give our younger siblings first dibs on the pickings. It never did and always led to disaster. Sometimes parents never learn.

We all jumped up and pressed forward when the door opened. Our hearts pounded in our chests, feeding off the thought of pure sugar.
"You can come up!" Suddenly the words we waited for were spoken. It was time to put brotherly love aside or go without the good stuff for another year.

First blood was always drawn on the rush up the stairs. It was usually the youngest's bloody nose. My sister and I, having had more experience at that kind of thing and carrying more mass, easily pushed and shoved the other six out of the to make it outside first.

The Bunny's haste usually meant most of the eggs were located in one central area on the back lawn.
"There they are!" was the shout we all listened for. Once the stash was located, it was like two football teams descending on a fumbled football. We all piled in, pushing and shoving, swinging and missing, swinging and hitting, biting and punching - it didn't matter. There were no rules in this evolutionary sport of survival of the fittest.

Now that I'm older I understand why our neighbors were always outside at their back fences. Watching the Williamson's Easter Egg raucous was better than anything on TV. Some of them joined in the fun by waiting until our collecting was finished and then shouted that we had missed a few. We watched while they threw several eggs by the tree. They laughed as the whole rugby scrum formed and fur, hair and teeth flew all over again. It was like tossing a whole piece of bread into a gaggle of ducks on the pond. Feathers flew and camera's snapped.

At the end, we four oldest had most of the candy eggs and Peeps while the youngest had the strangely colored hard boiled eggs we'd dyed the night before. Then came the tears and screams. The four of us knew that Mom would make us share the candy and Peeps if we didn't eat them right then and there. We ran to the side of the house and shoved them into our mouths as fast as we could (or rehid them for retrieval at 11:00 P.M when everyone was in bed).

The Holy Grail of our Easter was finding the one that got away. Remember finding that one candy egg or marshmallow Peep that escaped the search lights and blood hounds? There it quietly sat, hiding up high on the window ledge behind the living room curtain for a month or so until discovered. The thrill of finding the "One that Got Away" was intoxicating. The screaming would be followed by a parade through the house where the delicious morsel would be held out like a captive general of an opposing army. Your pride would swell from hearing "I can't believe it," said over and over again.

The Easter trophy would sometimes be eaten in front of everyone right after the parade. We believed that it's craftiness and cunning could be transferred into our own being through digestion. Other times the candy would be kept as a trophy to be taken out, dusted and shown to company for the next several months.

Yes, those are my Easter memories........ Happy days.......


Sir Thomas Gresham, Our 11th Great Uncle.

Sir Thomas Gresham, Our 11th Great Uncle

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!
I'm hoping this post finds you all sugared up from your Easter celebrations. Things are quiet at the Fortress, leaving me a few hours of quality time to continue the search for our family's history.

I started my historical wanderings this morning with Selina Dandridge Jeffries, mother to our common ancestor George Matthew Williamson. I'm sad to say that after an hour or two I have nothing to report. Selina's ancestry remains a mystery, except for a few clues. From her name I know that her mother was probably a Dandridge, yet I can find no records of a Jeffries marrying a Dandridge in Virginia at the time her parents would have wed. What is more interesting is that George Washington's wife (Martha Washington) was a Virginia Dandridge. There may be a link then to the founder of our nation, if I can only find Selina's parents.

I gave the up search on the Jeffries line and jumped over to Matthew Williamson, father of George Matthew. You'll notice a "?" by the name of his parents on the family tree. That means I'm almost certain he ties into the Cuthbert Williamson family line - but don't have absolute proof. That being said, I decided to explore further up this Williamson line and have discovered some interesting things and people.

In our digital family gathering this Easter we shall learn about our Great Uncle, Sir Thomas Gresham (with the caution that I'm almost sure this is our line but, as in many cases of genealogy , I can only go on the evidence available if the smoking gun isn't present).

Sir Thomas Gresham

We begin with the Relationship Chart:

11th Great Grandparents Sir Richard Gresham and Audrey Lynn
Christian Gresham and Sir John Thynne (Sir Thomas was Christian's brother)
Dorothy Thynne and Sir John Strangeways
Grace Strangeways and Edmund Chamberlayne
Edmund Chamberlayne and Elanor Coles
Thomas Chamberlayne and Mary Wood
Rebecca Chamberlayne and John Williamson
Cuthbert Williamson and Elizabeth Allen
(?) Cuthbert Williamson and Susanna White
Matthew Williamson and Selina Jeffries
George Matthew Williamson and Margaret Ann Willis
Vennie, Ima Inez, Lillie, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles and Maurice Williamson

Uncle Thomas was born in London and descended from an old Norfolk family. He was one of two sons and two daughters of Sir Richard Gresham, a leading London merchant, who for some time held the office of Lord Mayor, and worked as agent of King Henry VIII in negotiating loans with foreign merchants. He was given a knighthood. He attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Either before or after this he became apprentice to his uncle Sir John Gresham, also a merchant, who founded Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk in 1555: we have his own testimony that he served an apprenticeship of eight years.

The Gresham Coat of Arms

In 1543 the Mercers Company admitted the Uncle Thomas as a liveryman, and that same year he went to Belgium and the Netherlands where he carried on business as a merchant and worked an agent for King Henry VIII. In 1544 he married Anne Fernley, the widow of William Read.
In 1551 the English government entered a period of financial embarrassment due to the mismanagement of funds. The King called in Thomas to give advice, and then chose him to carry out that advice. He called for the adoption of various methods — highly ingenious, but quite arbitrary and unfair — for raising the value of the English pound sterling on the Bourse of Antwerp. This proved so successful that in a few years King Edward VI was able to pay almost all of his debts. The English government sought Gresham's advice in all their money difficulties after that, and employed him in various diplomatic missions. He had no stated salary, but in reward of his services received from King Edward various grants of lands, the annual value of which at that time amounted ultimately to about 400 pounds a year.

Another portrait of Thomas Gresham

In 1553 Gresham went out of favor for a short time when Henry VIII's daughter Queen Mary took the throne at her father's death. But soon Gresham was re-instated; and as he professed his zealous desire to serve the Queen, and manifested great abilities both in negotiating loans and in smuggling money, arms and foreign goods, his services were retained throughout her reign (1553 - 1558). In addtion to his salary of twenty shillings per diem, he received grants of church lands to the yearly value of 200 pounds. Under Queen Elizabeth he was made the Ambassador to the court of Margaret of Parma, receiving a knighthood in 1559 prior to his departure. The unsettled times preceding the Dutch Revolt compelled him to leave Antwerp on 10 March 1567; but, though he spent the remainder of his life in London, he continued his business as merchant and financial agent of the government in much the same way as formerly. Overall he made himself one of the richest men in England. (reigned 1558 - 1603).

Queen Elizabeth also found Gresham useful in a great variety of other ways, including acting as jailer to Lady Mary Grey (sister of Lady Jane Grey), who, as a punishment for marrying Thomas Keyes the sergeant porter, remained a prisoner in his house from June 1569 to the end of 1572.

The Royal Exchange Today

In 1565 Gresham made a proposal to the court of aldermen of London to build at his own expense a bourse or exchange — what became the Royal Exchange, modeled on the Antwerp bourse — on condition that they purchased for this purpose a piece of suitable ground. In this proposal he seems to have had an eye to his own interest as well as to the general good of the merchants, for by a yearly rental of £700 obtained for the shops in the upper part of the building he received a sufficient return for his trouble and expense.

The Gresham Grasshopper atop the Weather vane on the Royal Exchange

The grasshopper is the crest above Gresham's coat of arms. It is used by Gresham College, which he founded, and can also be seen as the weathervane on the Royal Exchange in the City of London, which he also founded in 1565. The famous Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, later borrowed the emblem.

Gresham College Today, Still a Center for Learning

According to an ancient legend of the Greshams, the founder of the family, Roger de Gresham, was a foundling abandoned as a new-born baby in long grass in North Norfolk in the 13th century and found there by a woman whose attention was drawn to the child by a grasshopper. A beautiful story, it is more likely that the grasshopper is simply an heraldic rebus on the name Gresham, with gres being a Middle English form of grass (Old English grœs). The Gresham family motto is Fiat voluntas tua ('Thy will be done')