Thursday, June 8, 2017

Birth of Henry Church, aka Old Hundred

Henry Church, aka Old Hundred, is a hard man to pin down.  There have been many articles in books and magazines and newspapers, coupled with info in blogs and genealogy forums, census records, and on and on.  The problem, though, is that there are a lot of discrepancies and I have yet to see actual documentation to really nail down specific dates.  This problem also applies to his wife, Hannah, as well as several of their offspring.

Some examples of the discrepancies:
  • Was Henry born in 1750 or 1751?  Was the month November or December?
  • Was Henry 109, 111 or somewhere in between when he died?
  • Was Hannah born in 1754, 1755 or 1760?
  • Was Hannah from Lancaster or Chester County?
You get the idea.

When my newly found cousin Rise started asking me questions, about conflicting dates, she really opened up a can of worms that I had put a lid on and set up on a shelf while I researched other family lines.  Now it’s time to pull that can back down off the shelf and see if I can make sense of what I only thought I had “sorta, kinda” figured out some time ago.

Henry’s birthplace is the easiest piece of the puzzle.  Everyone has always agreed that he was born in England, many say in Suffolk2,3,4 or Suffolk County (or misspelled as Suffox county1).  As to the date of Henry’s birth, that’s where the differences begin.  I mostly find 1750 as the year of his birth,1,2,4 but the month varies between November 303 and December 13.

Per this photo of the new gravestone purchased in 1972, Henry's age when he died was 109 years 9 months 1 day.5  Plug that age into a date calculator along with the reported date of his death (14 September 1860.2,3) and it says he was born on 13 December 1750.

However, Henry's age at death is given by another source as 109 years 9 months 14 days - an additional 13 days3 which calculates backwards to the previously mentioned date of 30 November 1750.

On the other hand, the gravestone photo shows 1751 as the year of Henry's birth.5 That seems odd to me considering that Henry's age at death as it appears on the gravestone supports a birth date of 13 December 1750. Could that mean that the reported death date is incorrect?  I don't think so based on an article, "Death of a Patriarch," published in the Richmond Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia) on 01 October 1860.  It stated that Henry died "on the 13th ult.," meaning the 13th of the last month, i.e. 13 September 1860, a difference of only a day.

A birth year of 1751 is supported by the 1850 federal census in which Henry's age was given as 99.6  The 1860 federal census recorded Henry’s age as 110;7 if he had been born in 1750, he would have been 110 as of the date of the census, 01 June 1860.  Obviously this disagrees with his age at death shown on the gravestone.  If 1751 was the correct birth year, the census should have shown his age as 109, which would match the gravestone.

As if all this isn't enough, the previously mentioned article in the Richmond Dispatch stated that Henry was 111 years old at the time of his death.

So where does this leave me?  I'm already past my intended publish date for this post and there is a little more digging I want to do before I answer that question and move on to Henry's military service and his marriage to Hannah Keine.

1    John C. McEldowney, History of Wetzel County, WV, reprint of 1901 book.
2    "History of Hundred," compiled by Courtney Dennis, presented by Hundred Area PRIDE, viewed online 07 September 2010.
3    "Hundred," submitted by Ruth Hixenbaugh Jones, presented by The Wetzel County WVGenWeb, online Original source: History of Wetzel County, West Virginia 1983.
4    “American Towns Named for British Soldiers,” by Don N. Hagist, online
5    Digital photo of Henry and Hannah Church gravestone in Hundred United Methodist Church Cemetery (Hundred, Wetzel County, West Virginia), taken by K. Alan Lewis on 29 December 2008.
6    Henry Church household, 1850 U.S. Census, Wetzel County, Virginia
7    Henry Church household, 1860 U.S. Census, Wetzel County, Virginia


Anonymous said...

The Gregorian Calendar, also known as the Western or Christian Calendar, is the most widely used calendar in the world today. It was first introduced in 1582 in some European countries. Its predecessor, the Julian Calendar, was replaced because it did not properly reflect the actual time it takes the Earth to circle once around the Sun, known as a tropical year.
The reason the Julian Calendar had to be replaced was the formula it used to calculate leap years. The Julian formula produced a leap year every four years, which is too many. The Gregorian Calendar uses a much more accurate rule for calculating leap years.
To get the calendar back in sync with astronomical events like the vernal equinox or the winter solstice, a number of days were dropped.
In North America, the month of September 1752 was exceptionally short, skipping 11 days.

Jo said...

Hi Anonymous,
The link you provided is an interesting read and does seem likely to account for the discrepancies, at least in part - as usual, more research is needed. I see that while North America skipped 11 days in September 1752, the Julian calendar is now behind 13 days!

If you are descended from Henry Church, I'm curious to know what your take is on his birth date. Care to share? ~ Jo