Latest update: Non-traditional Pioneers in the “Old West”

Americans have always been fascinated with the “Old West.”  Hollywood has produced some of its biggest stars and profitable movies telling the stories of the brave early pioneers seeking a their fortune, a fresh start, or new opportunities in the Western United States.  In most of these stories, the pioneers are eastern-based Americans or recently-arrived European immigrants, and their narratives normally involve homesteading, mining, or a noble effort to bring law and order to a wild environment under harsh conditions – the perennial “good guys.”  And until the revisionist Western movies beginning around the 1980s, the native inhabitants of the land, the Chinese railroad builders, and the Mexican laborers were nearly always depicted as dirty, savage, lazy, and foreign – the evil “others” of the lawless frontier.  Certainly these depictions by now have been exposed for being simplistic at best to utter nonsense at worst.  And as general population trends since the 1970s have seen swaths of Americans moving from the Northeastern and Midwestern United States into the Southwest, there is renewed interest with the origins and stories of the early settlers of the of the “Wild West.”

Mule Train

A Mule Train hauling ore in an early Arizona mining camp.  Photo courtesy of Mining World

Unfortunately there is a dearth of scholarship regarding non-traditional early settlers, such as the early Mexican immigrant pioneers in the Southwest, United States.  We know the stories of those who trekked thousands of miles West, but what of those who trekked thousands of miles north to contribute to the founding of early settlements in the Southwestern?  My GGG grandfather Jose Maria Jordan was one of those early pioneers that went first north, and then west to seek a better life for himself and his young family.  He was a fourth generation Mexican whose family originated in the southeastern region of Murcia, Spain.  In the early 1860s, while the United States was embroiled in its great Civil War Jose Maria became the first of the Mexican branch of Jordans to trek north across the Rio Grande.  With him went his young bride, Clara Hermosillo Jordan, whose family had lived in Chihuahua city since the mid 1700s.  From the birth records of their children, we know that the family lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico beginning at least in 1863.

Over the next 20 years, the Jordans were some of the earliest residents of several Southwestern U.S. boom towns – from Las Cruces and Silver City in New Mexico Territory to Clifton in Arizona Territory.  It is likely that Jose Maria was familiar with mining, particularly as significant operations existed at the time in the Mexican border states of Sonora and Chihuahua, some with partial investment from U.S. mining companies.  He is noted as an overseer of a coal pit in Silver City in the 1880 U.S. census and later as the owner of a freighting operation hauling mining ore and supplies between Lordsburg, New Mexico and Clifton, Arizona.  Tax records denote that he owned dozens of horses, mules, and oxen, as well as four wagons and an ambulance.  For many years, Jose Maria was employed directly by the Longfellow Mine, the first mining operation in Clifton.  As an important and respected businessman in town, Jose Maria was chosen to serve as a trial juror on several cases in Clifton’s inaugural session of the Graham County District Court.  This almost certainly implies that he spoke fluent English.  Records indicate that he naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1873 in New Mexico and that he paid taxes on the aforementioned wagons, horses, oxen, and mules.

So while this short biography does not include saloons, prostitutes, or gunfights, it does reflect the true life account of a hard working pioneer who sought a better life for his family and contributed to his society and whose descendants continue on in Arizona and throughout the United States some 150 years later.

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December 2017 Update: Nathanael Greene, “The Fighting Quaker”

Paine Portrait of NG

Portrait from Charles Peale, 1783

When I was younger, family members would always note with pride that we were related to Nathanael Greene, George Washington’s number two during most of the Revolutionary War.  He is my second cousin, eight times removed.  Only recently have I undertaken to research more about the Revolutionary War and Greene’s contributions to the founding of the United States of America.

What follows in this link is a short biography of a Quaker with a limp from the smallest British colony in North America who became a gifted military strategist and rose to become a legendary general of the American Revolutionary War – second in esteem only to George Washington himself.

Greene did it all during the course of the war.  He was commander of the city of Boston in 1776 once it had been evacuated by the British; during the remainder of 1776 he commanded Fort Lee in New Jersey and Fort Washington in New York; he served as Quartermaster-General of the Continental Army from 1778-1780; he succeeded Benedict Arnold as commander of West Point in late 1780; and lastly, after being recommended by George Washington and approved by Congress, Greene assumed command of all Continental troops from Delaware to Georgia beginning in December 1780.  By the end of the war in 1783, Greene and Washington were the only two generals to have served the entirety of the eight year war at the rank of General.

One can only speculate about what else Greene might have achieved in service to his country, but his life was cut short tragically at the young age of 43 of heat stroke.

Nathanael Greene’s longer biography link is here.

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August 2017 Update: Refined DNA Results

The incredible world of DNA Testing continues to evolve and as testing becomes more accessible, the results have gotten all the more accurate.  For those that know the science, our family volunteer DNA tester’s haplogroup results are:

R-FGC16979 Icon   and

MtDNA Haplogroup

The tester updated Y-DNA from the 67 to the 111 marker test and also tested positive for a subclade further down the P312 family known as R-FGC16979.  There have been no further updates to the MtDNA results although our tester has been closely matched to several other testers in recent months after going a few years without any matches.

In April 2017, Family Tree DNA’s My Origins site, which maps autosomal DNA to capture a person’s ethnic breakdown back 5-6 generations, launched it’s 2.0 update.  The results altered our family’s volunteer tester results quite significantly to include Ashkenazi Jewish and Sub-Saharan African markers for the first time (5 and 3 percent respectively), while the European and New World percentages (64 and 26 percent respectively) remained largely the same.  The full results are below.

My Origins Breakdown Aug 2017

For the full discussion on DNA testing, click on the following link.

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August 2016 Update: A Brief History of French Canadian Migration to New England

It is widely cited that between 1840 and 1930, nearly one million French-Canadians emigrated to the United States.  Our Despatie family, which had lived in Quebec for 250 years, was among these emigrants when they left the suburbs of Montreal to settle in Northeastern Connecticut in the early 1890s.  Several main factors pushed this southern migration, including poverty and debt, overpopulation, and infertile farmland.  Many scholars point to an unsustainable population growth in Quebec Province in the 19th century which led its largely agricultural workforce into subsistence farming.  With a short growing season, many farmers were unable to make ends meet and became dependent on loans they would never be able to repay.

Wauregan Mill

Wauregan Mill

In the meantime, the post-Civil War United States was in the midst of rapid industrialization, particular in the New England states.  Particularly cotton and textile mills began to pop up in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut offering a significant pull to many French Canadians at that time.  The emergence of a railroad system linking Quebec to New England meant an easier means of exploring the new economic opportunities provided by the mills.  Another significant factor was that these jobs in the mills did not usually require any type of formal skills or education and many employed women and children, meaning that several family members (not just the father/husband) could be employed at the same time.  By 1900, more than 500,000 French Canadians had emigrated to New England, with nearly half settling in Massachusetts.  While Connecticut received less than 10 percent of these immigrants, those that did settle in the state left a lasting impression.

Franco-Americains in New England in 1900

Franco-Americains in New England in 1900

Our Despatie family, led by Antoine Despatie, emigrated with several of his children to Wauregan, Connecticut (15 miles south of the Massachusetts/Connecticut border and five miles from the Rhode Island/Connecticut border) around 1890.  Antoine had been a farmer in Granby, Quebec just southeast of Montreal and likely had experienced many of the issues outlined above – subsistence farming, poverty, and debt – before deciding that the lure of New England’s factories would lead to a better life for his family.  Indeed, once in the mill town of Wauregan, he and several of his children worked in the cotton and textile mills.  Wauregan, like many other mill towns in New England at the time, became inundated with French Canadians, who voluntarily segregated themselves within these communities to maintain their distinct culture.  As New England was still largely made up of English-descendant Protestants, French Canadian immigrants held closely to their French language and Roman Catholicism, and the Catholic Churches became the focal points in these new communities.  In Wauregan, the Sacred Heart Parish was built in 1870 to serve the burgeoning French Canadian population in the region and remained the center of the growing Catholic population for a century.

Sacred Heart Parish in Wauregan

Sacred Heart Parish in Wauregan

Wauregan’s fortunes were entirely tied to the cotton mill.  Following World War II, the mill began a period of decline, partially the result of cheaper labor in the southern United States, free trade policies and a couple of hurricanes in 1955, which led to large scale flooding that destroyed portions of the mill.  By 1970, the Wauregan mill had ceased operations entirely and its assets were sold.  Many Franco-American families at that time had lived or three generations in the United States, and the soci0-cultural bonds that had kept them together – work in the mills, the French language, and the Catholic religion had begun to fade.  Today the descendants of these original immigrants are fully assimilated Americans, who speak English as a first language and who have scattered to pursue opportunities outside of New England throughout the rest of the United States.  However, their legacy survives and is a source of pride for the more than eight million Americans who claim French Canadian descent in the United States today.

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April 2016 Update: Francisca Vielma – the Pioneering Academic

This home page is the where I post periodic updates made to the website.

Click on this link (or click on the Vielma tab from the Main Menu at the top of the page) and scroll down to the fifth generation to check out the discussion on Francisca Vielma.  Francisca is our family’s academic pioneer – a Mexican-American woman who graduated from High School in the early 1920s in the small and then-largely segregated mining town of Clifton, Arizona and who later earned a degree in teaching from the Tempe State Teachers College (the forerunner of Arizona State University) in 1928.  To put this incredible achievement in context, U.S. Department of Education statistics show that in 1930 (two years after Francisca graduated) less than three percent of women in the United States even attended a college or university.  To say that Francisca was part of a tiny minority is one thing – add to this the fact that she was a Mexican-American woman, and the magnitude of her accomplishment is even more apparent!

Francisca Vielma (for post)

**NOTE: All photos are the property of Greeneandmiranda.com unless otherwise noted. If you wish to use or copy any photos on this site, please contact us through the feedback form requesting permission. Thanks!

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March 2016 Update: Killingly, Connecticut Page

This home page is the where I post periodic updates made to the website.

Click on this link (or alternatively click on the Our Towns tab from the Main Menu at the top of the page) and scroll down to the United States heading to check out the most recent update – the creation of the Killingly, Connecticut page!  Killingly is second largest town in northeastern Connecticut and was the home of our branch of the Greene family for five generations between approximately 1850-1950.

IMG_3216

**NOTE: All photos are the property of Greeneandmiranda.com unless otherwise noted. If you wish to use or copy any photos on this site, please contact us through the feedback form requesting permission. Thanks!

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October 2015 Update: Alençon, Orne page

This home page is the where I post periodic updates made to the website.

Click on this link (or alternatively click on the Our Towns tab from the Main Menu at the top of the page) and scroll down to the France heading to check out the Alençon, Orne page! Alençon is in the region of Normandy in Northwestern France and was the home of our Despatie line until the mid 17th Century, when Nicolas Forget dit Despatie emigrated to New France (Canada).  We were fortunate to visit the city in April 2015 and walk in the steps of our ancestors.

2015 Alencon France - 01

**NOTE: All photos are the property of Greeneandmiranda.com unless otherwise noted. If you wish to use or copy any photos on this site, please contact us through the feedback form requesting permission. Thanks!

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