247 years ago today

Horton Howard, my 4X-great-grandfather, was born on this day 247 years ago.

I’ve been researching his life, and that of this off-spring, for the past 4 years or so. After transcribing more than 200 letters and other documents, have gone through these documents 3 times, to transcribe, re-write, and make sense of the information in those letters. I am now at the serious business of writing his life story.

This story traces his life from early days as a Quaker in North Carolina, where he inherited a “naval stores” plantation that produced turpentine, lumber and other products used in the ship-building industry. He and his brother and sister also inherited slaves along with the land, business and other wealth. Horton’s story includes the Quakers’ rejection of the “peculiar institution” of slavery, their move to a new land where slavery was prohibited, the loss of 2 wives, several children, successes and failures.

I’ve become very fond of some of Horton’s children. I find him endearing, and at times maddening. By now, I know his story very well, and also know that he and his children would certainly be long dead, no matter what had happened during their lives. Yet, on my 3rd pass through the letters that he wrote and recieved, I found myself wishing that Horton, his children and grandchildren, would have a different outcome. Yes, I also laughed at myself about this wish – one really can’t rewrite history.

I would wish my ancestors and their family a happier ending, yet am aware that if their ending had been very much happier, I might not exist.

Political Turmoil

The past 10 months have been filled with the emergencies and care of aging parents. Somehow I found time to make my third pass through the letters and other documents related to the life of Horton Howard. I’ve transcribed and compiled the documents, deleted extraneous material and condensed many of the remaining documents.

I’m now into the actual writing, creating the story of Horton’s life. It’s not surprising to find issues that repeat throughout history and into the present day. Politicial corruption and cronyism were rampant in the Province of North Carolina at the time of Horton’s birth in 1770.

Protesters demanded change, and were ignored. Increasingly violent protests culminated in the arrest and execution of several in early 1771.  Similar incidents occuring throughout the American colonies led to the Revolution 4 years later.

I’ve found no evidence that the Howards were involved in these protests. They were Quakers, and very few Quakers were involved in protesting, and even fewer were in North Carolina government at that time. Horton would be involved in other controversies and turmoil throughout his life.