Hart family tragedy…

If the Shepard line of descent from William Shepard is true, then that means that my mother’s side of the family has two HART lines. [I could insert a Vulcan joke here, but I’ll refrain.]

The first is Edmund Hart, father of Experience who married our Shepard immigrant William, (and then divorced his sorry butt for desertion). The second HART line is on the Shaw side of the family through Deacon Stephen Hart of Farmington, Connecticut (crazy Esther Newell strikes again). As far as I have been able to discern, the two lines are not related.

According to the Genealogical History of Deacon Stephen Hart and his descendants…, by Alfred Andrews, Deacon Hart was born in Braintree, England about 1605 and arrived in Massachusetts Bay by 1632. We know next to nothing about the mother of his children, not even her name.

We actually descend from this line three times through the second generation of Harts:
1. Sarah who married Timothy/Thomas Porter
2. John who married Sarah Hawthorne
3. Thomas who married Ruth Howkins

John was the eldest son of the Deacon and his unknown wife. He married Sarah Hawthorne and they resided in Farmington, Connecticut until the family moved to Tunxis, where they were one of the first settlers there.

New England homestead on fire.

It was here that tragedy struck the John Hart family in 1666. Although the story has two versions.

According to the Genealogical History book mentioned above:
…his house, which was located near the center of the village, was fired in the night by Indians, and he and all his family, with the exception of his eldest son, John [about 11 at the time], who was that night at Nod, or Worthington, since called Avon, looking after the stock on a farm they owned there, perished in the flames.

Apparently, in the same fire, the town records were also destroyed. The story continued to say that the General Court tried to find the perpetrators of the crime among the Tunxis tribe but had no luck.

According to the online version of the same book with addendum, a researcher by the name of David Mauro published in the July/August 1997 issue of Hart Historical Notes an article showing that there were no Indians involved. A quote from the story from Dr. C. Pickford of the Connecticut Historical Society states:

“The 19th century accounts of Farmington contain a lot of fiction. Without any corroborating evidence to support Andrews’ story, I had to conclude that is was without substance.”

Andrews being the author of the original Hart book mentioned above.

There was further mention that a Rev.Samuel Danforth a pastor of the first church in Roxbury kept a diary where an entry appears on February 11, 1666:

“Tidings came to us from Connecticut how on ye 15th of 10M66 Sergeant Hart, ye son of Deacon Hart and his wife, and six children were all burned in their house at Farmington, no man knowing how the fire was kindled, neither did any of the neighbors see ye fire till it was past remedy. The church there had kept a fast at this man’s house two days before. One of his sons being at a farm, escaped the burning.”

It is by the will of the fates’ that Stephen’s grandson John was the only family member to survive this horrible incident. I can only imagine how devastating it would have been for him to lose his whole family, and at so young an age.


Genealogical history of Deacon Stephen Hart and his descendants, 1632. 1875 : with an introduction of miscellaneous Harts and their progenitors, as far as known; to which is added a list of all the clergy of the name found, all the physicians, all the lawyers, the authors, and soldiers, by Andrews, Alfred, 1797-1876Hart, Austin1875 [archive.org]

Addendum version online:

Up in smoke…

Fire in some way or another has made its appearance often in my ancestor’s lives. The most devastating one being the Peshtigo Fire of 1871, a much nastier event than that little dust up they had in Chicago the same day. Most of the other fires seem to have been house or chimney fires of which I can count at least 6 having occurred to various ancestral families, so far. For the David Brooks family we have the following account.

David Brooks was John Brooks’ elder brother. He was born about 1812 in Albany, Albany County, New York. Both John and David lived with their mother until sometime after 1841 when we can find John at his own address in the city, as well as David.

David most likely trained or apprenticed as a tin smith in his early years, an occupation he continued throughout his life.

Sometime between 1855 and 1860 David and his wife Margaret packed up the tin smith business and the family jewels and headed to Otsego County, New York. Cherry Valley to be exact.CVSCAPE


The family wasn’t in the area long before we find this newspaper article in their county paper:

The Freeman’s Journal, July 13, 1866, Page 3.

It doesn’t appear that any lives were lost in the fire, but the family most likely did lose a goodly amount of their possessions and possibly even their tin business for a short time.

David and Margaret continued to stay and raise their family in Cherry Valley. Together they had at least 5 children. Their son Andrew is the only one to take on the tin smith trade.

I can find information on only three of their children. Andrew who married and had one daughter who died without any heirs. Sarah who married and had 9 children, all Woodwards. Benjamin married and had one daughter and has descendants from her. There appears to be no sons that carried on the Brooks surname in his line.

David died in 1882 at the age of about 70. Hopefully this was the only nasty event to occur to the family.