Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sir William "Braveheart" Wallace

Sir William "Braveheart" Wallace 1272-1305   (22nd great great grandfather)

Born, Elderslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Died 23 August 1305 (aged 32––33) Smithfield, London, England
Cause of death Decapitation
Occupation Commander in the Scottish Wars of Independence
Children None recorded
Parents Malcolm Wallace (father), Margaret Crauford (mother)

Sir William Wallace ( Medieval Gaelic: Uilliam Uallas; modern Scottish Gaelic: Uilleam Uallas; 1272 –– 23 August 1305) was a Scottish knight and landowner who is known for leading a resistance during the Wars of Scottish Independence and is today remembered in Scotland as a martyr. Along with Andrew Moray, he defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, and was dubbed the Guardian of Scotland, serving until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk. A few years later Wallace was captured in Robroyston near Glasgow and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him executed for treason.

Wallace was the inspiration for the poem The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, by the 15th century minstrel, Blind Harry and this poem was to some extent the basis of Randall Wallace’s (no known relation) screenplay for the 1995 film “Braveheart“.

Little is known for certain of William Wallace's immediate family. The Wallace family may have originally come from Wales or Shropshire as followers of Walter Fitzalan (died June 1177), High Steward of Scotland and ancestor of the Stewart family. The early members of the family are recorded as holding lands including Riccarton, Tarbolton, and Auchincruive in Kyle, and Stenton in Haddingtonshire. The seal attached to a letter sent to the Hanse city of Luubeckin 1297 appears to give his father's name as Alan. His brothers Malcolm and John are known from other sources. Alan Wallace may appear in the Ragman Rolls as a crown tenant in Ayrshire, but this is uncertain.

The traditional view is that Wallace's birthplace was Elderslie in Renfrewshire, but it has been recently claimed to be Ellerslile in Ayrshire. There is no contemporary evidence linking him with either location, although both areas were linked to the wider Wallace family.

At the time of Wallace's birth, which cannot be securely dated, King Alexander III (Medieval Gaelic: Alaxandair mac Alaxandair; Modern Gaelic: Alasdair mac Alasdair) ruled Scotland. His reign had seen a period of peace and economic stability. Alexander had maintained a positive relationship with the kings of England, while successfully fending off continuing English claims to sovereignty. In 1286 Alexander died after falling from his horse; none of his children survived him. The Scottish lords declared Alexander's four-year-old granddaughter, Margaret (called "the Maid of Norway"), queen. Due to her young age, the Scottish lords set up an interim government to administer Scotland until Margaret came of age. King Edward I of England (popularly known as "Longshanks" among other names) took advantage of the instability by arranging the Treaty of Birgham with the lords, betrothing Margaret to his son, Edward, on the understanding that Scotland would preserve its status as a separate kingdom. Margaret, however, fell ill and died at only seven years of age (1290) on her way from her native Norway to Scotland. Claimants to the Scottish throne came forward almost immediately. With Scotland threatening to descend into a dynastic war, Edward stepped in as arbitrator — as a powerful neighbour and significant jurist he could hardly be ignored. Before the process could begin, he insisted, despite his previous promise to the contrary, that all of the contenders recognize him as Lord Paramount of Scotland. After some initial resistance, all, including John Balliol and Robert Bruce (grandfather of the Robert Bruce who later became king), the chief contenders, accepted this precondition. Finally, in early November 1292, at a great feudal court held in the castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed, judgement was given in favour of John Balliol having the strongest claim in law. Formal announcement of the judgement was given by Edward on 17 November. Edward proceeded to reverse the rulings of the Scottish guardians and even summoned King John Balliol to stand before the English court as a common felon. Balliol was a weak king and not the strong leader Scotland needed in these troubled times. Thus he came to be known as "Toom Tabard", or "Empty Coat". Balliol supporters including Fraser, Bishop of St. Andrews and John Comyn, Earl of Buchan appealed to King Edward to keep the promise he had made in the Treaty of Birgham and elsewhere to respect the customs and laws of Scotland. Edward repudiated the treaty, saying he was no longer bound by it. Balliol renounced his homage in March 1296 and by the end of the month Edward stormed Berwick-upon-Tweed, sacking the then-Scottish border town. He slaughtered almost all of his opponents who resided there, even if they fled to their homes. In April, the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Dunbar in East Lothian and by July Edward had forced Balliol to abdicate at Stracathro near Montrose. Edward then instructed his officers to receive formal homage from some 1,800 Scottish nobles (many of the rest being prisoners of war at that time), having previously removed the Stone of Destiny, the Scottish coronation stone, from Scone Palace, and taken it to London.

Military career
Early exploits
Blind Harry invented a tale that Wallace's father was killed along with his brother John in a skirmish at Loudoun Hill in 1291 by the notorious Lambies, who came from the Clan Lamont. According to local Ayrshire legend, two English soldiers challenged Wallace in the Lanark marketplace regarding his catching of fish. According to various historians, including John Strawhorn, author of The History of Irvine, the legend has Wallace fishing on the River Irvine. He had been staying with his uncle in Riccarton. A group of English soldiers approached, whereupon the leader of the band came forward and demanded the entire catch. Even after Wallace offered half of his fish, the English refused such diplomacy and threatened him with death if he refused. Wallace allegedly floored the approaching soldier with his fishing rod and took up the assailant's sword. He set upon the entire team of English soldiers with stereotypical success. The argument had escalated into a brawl and two English soldiers were killed. Blind Harry places this incident along the River Irvine with five soldiers being killed. The authorities issued a warrant for his arrest shortly thereafter.

According to a plaque outside St. Paul’s Cathedal in Dundee, however, William Wallace began his war for independence by killing the son of the English governor of Dundee, who had made a habit of bullying Wallace and his family. This story perhaps has more weight because it is speculated that Wallace may have attended what is now the High School of Dundee, and spent some of his time growing up in the nearby village of Kilspindie. In 1291, or 1292, William Wallace killed the son of an English noble, named Selby, with a dirk. Wallace enters history when he killed William Heselrig, the English Sheriff of Lanark, in May 1297. According to later legend this was to avenge the death of Marion Braidfute of Lamington— the young maiden Wallace courted and married in Blind Harry's tale. Soon, he achieved victory in skirmishes at Loudon Hill (near Darvel, Ayrshire) and Ayr; he also fought alongside Sir William Douglas the Hardy at Scone, routing the English justiciar, William Ormesby from cities such as Aberdeen, Perth, Glasgow, Scone and Dundee. Supporters of the growing revolt suffered a major blow when Scottish nobles agreed to personal terms with the English at Irvine in July. In August, Wallace left Selkirk Forest with his followers to join Andrew Moray, who had begun another uprising, at Stirling, where they prepared to meet the English in battle. As Wallace's ranks swelled, information obtained by John de Graham prompted Wallace to move his force from Selkirk Forest to the Highlands; there is no historical evidence to suggest that Wallace ever left the Lowlands area of Scotland other than his visit to France and his trip to the scaffold in London. Battle of Stirling Bridge On September 11, 1297, Wallace's forces won the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Although vastly outnumbered, the Scottish forces led by Wallace and Andrew Moray routed the English army. John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey’s professional army of 3,000 cavalry and 8,000 to 10,000 infantry met disaster as they crossed over to the north side of the river. The narrowness of the bridge prevented many soldiers from crossing together (possibly as few as three men abreast), so while the English soldiers crossed, the Scots held back until half of them had passed and then killed the English as quickly as they could cross. The infantry were sent on first, followed by heavy cavalry. But the Scots' sheltron formations forced the infantry back into the advancing cavalry. A pivotal charge, led by one of Wallace's captains, caused some of the English soldiers to retreat as others pushed forward, and under the overwhelming weight, the bridge collapsed and many English soldiers drowned. Some claim that the bridge was rigged to collapse by the action of a man hidden beneath the bridge. The Scots won a significant victory which boosted the confidence of their army. Hugh Cressingham, Edward's treasurer in Scotland, died in the fighting and it is reputed that his body was subsequently flayed and the skin cut into small pieces as tokens of the victory. The Lanercost Chronicle records that Wallace had "a broad strip [of Cressingham’s skin] ... taken from the head to the heel, to make therewith a baldrick for his sword". William Crawford led 400 Scottish heavy cavalry to complete the action by running the English out of Scotland. It is widely believed that Moray died of wounds suffered on the battlefield sometime in the winter of 1297, but an inquisition into the affairs of his uncle, Sir William Moray of Bothwell, held at Berwick in late November 1300, records he was "slain at Stirling against the king." Upon his return from the battle,

Wallace was knighted along with his second-in-command John de Graham, possibly by Robert the Bruce, and Wallace was named "Guardian of Scotland and Leader of its armies". The type of engagement used by Wallace was contrary to the contemporary views on chivalric warfare whereby strength of arms and knightly combat was espoused in the stead of tactical engagements and strategic use of terrain. The battle thus embittered relations between the two antagonistic nations, whilst also perhaps providing a new departure in the type of warfare with which England had hitherto engaged. The numerical and material inferiority of the Scottish forces would be mirrored by the English in the Hundred Years’ War, who, in turn, abandoned chivalric warfare to achieve decisive victory in similar engagements such as Creecy and Poitiers.

In the six months following Stirling Bridge, Wallace led a raid into northern England. His intent was to take the battle to English soil to demonstrate to Edward that Scotland also had the power to inflict the same sort of damage south of the border.

Battle of Falkirk
A year later, Wallace lost the Battle of Falkirk. On 1 April 1298, the English invaded Scotland at Roxburgh. They plundered Lothian and regained some castles, but had failed to bring Wallace to combat. The Scots adopted a scorched earth policy in their own country, and English quartermasters' failure to prepare for the expedition left morale and food low, but Edward's search for Wallace would not end at Falkirk. Wallace arranged his spearmen in four "schiltrons" —— circular, hedgehog formations surrounded by a defensive wall of wooden stakes. The English however employed Welsh longbowmen which swung strategic superiority in their favour. The English proceeded to attack with cavalry, and breaking up the Scottish archers. Under the command of the Scottish nobles, the Scottish knights withdrew, and Edward's men began to attack the schiltrons. It remains unclear whether the infantry shooting bolts, arrows and stones at the spearmen proved the deciding factor, although it is very likely that it was the arrows of Edward's bowmen. Gaps in the schiltrons soon appeared, and the English exploited these to crush the remaining resistance. The Scots lost many men, including John de Graham. Wallace escaped, though his military reputation suffered badly.

By September 1298, Wallace had decided to resign as Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick (the future king) and John Comyn of Badenoch, King John Balliol's brother-in-law. Bruce became reconciled with King Edward in 1302, while Wallace spurned such moves towards peace. According to Harry, Wallace left with William Crawford in late 1298 on a mission to the court of King Philip IV of France to plead the case for assistance in the Scottish struggle for independence. Backing this claim is a surviving letter from the French king dated 7 November 1300 to his envoys in Rome demanding that they should help Sir William. Whether or not Wallace made it to Rome is uncertain. Harry also states that on their trip down the English coast, the small convoy ran into the infamous pirate Thomas Longoville, also known as the Red Reiver for his red sails and ruthless raids. Hiding in the hold of the ship while Crawford and a small contingent of men sailed, Wallace surprised the pirates as they boarded the ship. Longoville was captured and taken to Paris where the Scots convinced Philip to grant amnesty so that Longoville could prey on English ships. This last story is one of many recorded by Blind Harry for which there is no evidence. Harry also invented a major action against Edward I at Biggar, which, though often cited, never actually occurred.

In 1303, Squire Guthrie was sent to France to ask Wallace and his men to return to Scotland, which they did that same year. They slipped in under the cover of darkness to recover on the farm of William Crawford, near Elcho Wood. Having heard rumours of Wallace's appearance in the area, the English moved in on the farm. A chase ensued and the band of men slipped away after being surrounded in Elcho Wood. Here, Wallace took the life of one of his men that he suspected of disloyalty, in order to divert the English from the trail.

In 1304 he was involved in skirmishes at Happrew and Earnside. Capture and execution Wallace evaded capture by the English until 5 August 1305 when John de Menteith, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, turned Wallace over to English soldiers at Robroyston near Glasgow. Wallace was transported to London and taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and was crowned with a garland of oak to suggest he was the king of outlaws. He responded to the treason charge, "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject." With this, Wallace asserted that the absent John Balliol was officially his king. Wallace was declared guilty. Following the trial, on 23 August 1305, Wallace was taken from the hall, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was hanged, drawn and quartered—— strangled by hanging but released while he was still alive, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts. His preserved head (dipped in tar) was placed on a pike atop London Bridge. It was later joined by the heads of the brothers, John and Simon on Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling, and Aberdeen. The Wallace Sword, which supposedly belonged to Wallace although some parts are at least 160 years later in origin, was held for many years in Loudoun Castle and is now in the Wallace Monument near Stirling.

In 2002 William Wallace was ranked #48 as one of the 100 Greatest Britons in an extensive UK poll conducted by the BBC. In 2005, David Ross undertook a 450 mile walk in commemoration of the septicantennial of Wallace's execution.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

ABRAHAM BIRT 1844-1893

[Ancestral Link: Louis Abraham Stagge, son of Elizabeth Birt (Stagge), daughter of Abraham Birt.]

Family History of Abraham Birt and Catherine Norris by Florence Cragun Leishman, grand-daughter                         
Abraham Birt, my grandfather, was born 21 December 1844 in the beautiful little village of Painswick, Gloucester County, England, the son of Peter Birt and Harriot Ireland Birt.

In the 1840s growing urban demand increased scientific knowledge, and better methods of producing glass jars and tin receptacles permitted the introduction of canned foods, and by the 1960s fresh fruits, fish and vegetables were being canned in considerable quantities. Gail Borden in America had just patented "condensed milk" and dried milk was first made in England in 1855. Together with submarine cable to America successfully laid in 1866, the telegraph made it possible to get news transmitted with unheard of rapidity which gave a stimulus to newspapers, which were likewise aided by mechanical steam presses and cheaper paper.

Photography was a new industry, although the first crude photograph had been made in 1822, it was a Frenchman who rendered the process practicable. There was also a very rapid progress of industry between 1830 and 1850, but even more revolutionary than the rapid progress of industry were the startling improvements in transportation. The impact of industry, science and cheap transportation on English agriculture worked first in one direction, then in the other. By the new techniques of the 18th century, British farming had been changed over into a large scale profit making enterprise.

In spite of all this progress, Abraham had very little or no education. Coming from a very poor family he was put to work at a very early age. He was farmed out to help land owners with their "farming," and when still a young man was employed as a "gardener" at the Palace of Gloucester. Gloucester City being only six miles from Painswick, it is not known whether or not be walked to and from his labor, or whether he moved to the vicinity of Gloucester City.

The following account is given of how the little village of Painswick derived it's name: Wicke, a Saxon word for "villa" was built in a forest cleared by a band of Saxon pirates who came across the North Sea from Germany and swarmed westward through England, killing looting and burning. With the coming of Christianity they built a church on the site where they had formerly sacrificed to Thor the god of thunder, and to all the warrior gods of the Nordic Mists from which they came. Pain Fitzjohn who had been born in England since the conquest was one of the several able officers of King Henry I. As the King's sheriff he also collected the royal revenues so necessary to the law. Twice a year Pain rode with the revenue collected to Winchester of Westminster Hall where the coin was carefully counted. In later years Pain built a small castle on what is now Castle Hale, and our "Wicke" thus became known as Pain's Wicke or Painswick.

However it was in Gloucester City that Abraham met Catherine Norris, a young women four years his senior. He fell in love with her and they were married 30 May 1868. Catherine was born 20 January 1840 in the beautiful village of Gloucester City, Gloucester, England. She was the second child and eldest daughter of a family of eight children born to Jacob Norris and Caroline Holbrow. She spent her childhood and early adulthood in Gloucester City. Catherine also came from a very poor family. They were very poorly educated but good religious people who taught their children to be honest, thrifty and hard working individuals. Catherine had no schooling other than what her parents taught her. She was a shy, quiet, retiring girl who took life very seriously. She was also highly emotional, keeping her thoughts and troubles to herself but brooding about them.

Abraham and Catherine became the parents of six children. Charles Thomas born 5 June 1870. Elizabeth born 22 May 1872. William born 26 January 1875 died 1880. Minnie Agnes born 1 August 1876. Francis Frank born 19 September 1881. Kate born 30 July 1884.

The missionaries visited the Abraham Birt family, where they were received kindly, and the family became very interested in their gospel message. However they were not baptized until after they came to Utah. Abraham, Catherine and their three youngest children, Minnie, Frank and Kate were baptized 20 March 1893 at North Ogden, Weber County, Utah, by John W. Rex.

In the year 1880, Catherine gave consent for their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who was eight years of age, to come to the United States with a friend and neighbor, Alice Brazer. Alice also brought with her a niece, who probably was a friend and playmate to Elizabeth. After arriving in the United States and traveling to Utah, Alice met and married John Knowles, a widower. Alice raised her niece and Elizabeth along with John Knowles' children until they were old enough to marry.

When Charles, the eldest son was eleven years of age, grandmother's brother, Thomas Norris, who had been in Utah for some time, wrote asking Catherine to send Charles to him, explaining that he could use him in his work, and sending the money for his transportation. Charles sailed from England with a Mormon missionary who had preached the gospel to the Birt family.

On August 4, 1892, Abraham and Catherine left England with their three youngest children. The family was very sick on their way over with the exception of Kate. She made her family, as well as the other passengers, as comfortable as possible by bringing them their meals and water as well as entertaining them with recitations and singing. On arriving in New York, the family came directly to Utah, settling in North Ogden.

Shortly after arriving they settled in a little home owned by Alfred Barrett, who employed Abraham as a farmer. Abraham loved the soil, his work and new found home, but the happiness lasted for only a short while. On 9 August 1893, less than a year after his arrival he saddled his horse to go to the pasture for cows. Before he had gone very far something frightened his horse, and he was thrown to the ground, his foot catching in the stirrups he was dragged to his death. Cause of death was listed as "concussion." He is buried in the North Ogden Cemetery.

Grandfather's death was such an emotional upset to Catherine, she went about in a state of shock and depression. she would sit for hours on her front porch staring and rocking, and sometimes singing the songs that were sung at Abraham's funeral. She was dazed; her children being too young to understand didn't know how to manage and care for their mother. On consulting relatives and friends, and their family doctor they were advised to have their mother taken to the mental hospital in Provo. She was there for just a short while until she was released and reunited again with her family. She never did get completely over the deep sorrow of the loss of her husband. She grieved until the time of her death.

I recall very little of my grandmother, but I do remember her as a dear, kind, loving little lady who I adored. She was always able to supply us with a sweet of some kind, or a penny with which to buy something. She and Uncle Frank, who never married, lived close to us in Pleasant View, and whenever my sister LaVon and I felt the need of candy or cookies, we would carefully cross the road to go visit her.

Grandmother kept house for Uncle Frank until he felt it was too much work for her, then she moved to Ogden to live with her daughter Minnie, who had been widowed very young. She cared for Aunt Minnie's children while she worked to make a living for them. In September 1911 Catherine became very ill, passing away 12 September 1911 in Ogden, Utah, age 71 years. Her death was listed as "general debility."  She was buried in the North Ogden Cemetery beside her Abraham. Her family and friends mourned her death, but rejoiced that at least she had joined her beloved husband. Grandmother Birt was loving, thoughtful mother who always felt a deep concern for her children as well as her grandchildren's welfare.

Compiled 1 July 1972 by: Florence Cragun Leishman, granddaughter.
Found on (contributed by Millie Kaye Beck 30 May 2017)