Sunday, June 18, 2017

When did Henry Church marry Hannah Keine?

Pretty much everything I have ever read about Henry Church’s marriage to Hannah Keine said that they got married circa 1778.  Seemed reasonable as I knew Henry came to America during the Revolutionary War, which started in 1775.  At least it seemed reasonable until cousin Rise’s questions made me start questioning myself and re-thinking the timeline.

According to a Harper’s New Monthly Magazine article from 1859, Henry “came to this country a British soldier, of the 63d Light Infantry, and served under Lord Cornwallis in the memorable campaign of 1781.”  The article notes that he was not at Yorktown when the final battle took place, because, “A short time previous, while on a scouting-party between Richmond and Petersburg, he was taken by the troops under Lafayette, and sent a prisoner to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  He remained here until peace was proclaimed.”1

In comparison, the write-up about Henry that is included in the History of Wetzel County, West Virginia, has similar wording except that it says Henry “served under Lord Cornwallis in the memorable campaign of 1791.”  Note the 10-year difference between the two accounts!  (Obviously 1791 was a typo as Cornwallis’ surrender in Yorktown took place in 1781 – that was the end of the “memorable campaign” and the final battle of the Revolutionary War.)  This Wetzel County history does agree that Henry was a prisoner until peace was declared.2

Yet a third source is an article from the Journal of the American Revolution website at  that says Henry came to America in 1780 as a recruit, was sent to Virginia in 1781 and was taken prisoner in the vicinity of Petersburg and sent to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, along with several other British.  Henry remained a prisoner there until 1783 when a peace treaty was signed.  The article, written by Don N. Hagist, cites his source:  Muster rolls, 63rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/7242, British National Archives.  Additional information about these muster rolls can be found at the National Archives website.

Don Hagist also writes another blog, “British Soldiers, American Revolution,”  where he wrote a post about Henry Church in 2013. In that post he stated that Henry arrived in America as a recruit in October 1780 and was assigned directly to the regiment's light infantry company that was sent to Virginia in early 1781.  He was captured near Petersburg and sent to the prison at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where many British soldiers were housed.

The commonly accepted marriage date of circa 1778 has to be wrong if Henry didn’t come to America until 1780.  An account written by Ruth Hixenbaugh Jones of Hundred3 says they married after the war - is that factual or an assumption based on tradition?  Notes on the back of a photo of Hannah reportedly said that Hannah married Henry soon after they met.

Consider this scenario, bearing in mind that it is only a theory:  Henry arrived in America in October 1780 and met Hannah shortly thereafter.  They learned he was being sent to Virginia in 1781 and decided to get married immediately.  (Wouldn’t be the first time a couple got married right before one of them went off to war!)  While in Virginia, Henry was captured and remained a prisoner until 1783.

So is it possible that they were actually married in late 1780/early 1781?  If so, it appears that 80 years is the maximum length of time that Henry and Hannah were married as both of them died in 1860.  So where did the idea that they were married for 82 years start?  In the account by Ruth Hixenbaugh Jones, she wrote, “They lived in blissful wedlock for 82 years.”  That number was also written on the back of Hannah’s photo, but it’s unclear who wrote it or when.  Did the writer have personal knowledge that 82 years was correct, or was that just the number that everyone believed was right according to “tradition”?

So just as I am still unsure when Henry was born, I am also still unsure when he and Hannah were married.  All I can say with any degree of certainty at this point, is that I believe the often-stated year of 1778 is incorrect.   Once again ... if anyone has additional info to settle the question, please step forward!  I would love to hear from you.

1 Harper's New Monthly Magazine Volume 0019 Issue 109 (June 1859)
2 John C. McEldowney, History of Wetzel County, West Virginia, reprint of 1901 book.
3 "Hundred," submitted by Ruth Hixenbaugh Jones, presented by The Wetzel County WVGenWeb, online Original source: History of Wetzel County, West Virginia 1983.

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