The Will of Dame Jane Chamond, d. 1550-1551, and Tudor Sumptuary Laws

“In the name of the blessed Trinitie, Father, Sone, & Holy Gost, I Dame Jane Chamond, widowe, beyng in perfyte minde & memorie, thankes be gyven to Almyghty God, my creator & onely Redeemer, perceavyng by Faith and Creation my naturall liffe to be transitorie, holy myndyng Repentaunce, in most humble maner aske Almyghty forgiveness, and also of all the worlde. And here, under the protection of God, make & declare here my last will & testament in this manner following: First I give & bequeth my soule unto Almyghty God, my bodie to be beried in the Church of St. Androwe of Stratton, in the south yield (aile) of the Churche theare, in the place betwixt my first husband Sir John Arundell, Therys, Knyght, and Sir John Chamond, Knyght, my second and last husband. Also I do give and bequeth to my eldest son Sir John Arundell, Treryse, Knyght, all such somes of money as he oweth me for fyve thousand & haulf poundes of white tynne which he had of me: and also the two cheynes of gold which I have allredye delyvered hym. And also all sych other somes of money & other things that he hath had of myn or owith me, my part in that parte of the premisses, that he bestoew to the mariage of his doghters at his pleasure. And also besydes the mreises, I doo give and bequeth to my said sone Sir John Arundell Trerys, my basin and ewer of silver; also I give and bequeth to my doghter Dame Juliane Arundell, wiff to my said sone, my best velvet gowne, furred & edged with white martens. Also I give and bequeth to my daughter Margaret Chamonde, wiffe to my son Richard Chamonde, Esquyer, my best saten gowne & my best velvet kirtell. And as to the rest of my goods, moveable and unmoveable, not gevyn nor bequethed, I doo give & bequeth to my said sone Richard Chamone, partly therwith to marry his children; and hym the same Richard Chamonde I doo make my hole & sole executor, to dispose such part of my said goodes for the wealth of my soule, as he shall think best, & pay my debtes & chardgies for my funeral. Dated & gyven the first day of Januarye, in the fourth yere of the Reigne of our Soverayng Lord Edward the Sixt, by the Grace of God, &c. Which will and testament was made in the presence of Sir John Chamonde, Richard Prideauxe, Esquyor, Sir John Lill, clerk, then her Chaplain, Martyn Poyle, Gent. John Kympthorne her servuant, & desired to be witnes hereunto by the same Jane Chamonde.

Proved at Exeter 9 March 1552. Property sworn to the amount of 188 pounds, 0 shillings, 10 pence.”

-From “Collectanea Topographica Et Genealogica, Volume 4”, edited by Frederic Madden, Bulkeley Bandinel, John Gough Nichols, p. 172-174

Portrait of an anonymous English lady, 1555 - from the Ashmolean Museum

Portrait of an anonymous English lady, 1555 – from the Ashmolean Museum

Footnote: “Daughter of Sir Thomas Grenville; and widow first of Sir John Arundell, of Trerice. The pedigree of Arundell of Trerice in Collins’s Peerage, 1741, vol. iv. page 183, is perfectly incorrect ; another line of the family having apparently been confused with it. The correct descent, and the names of wives and children, are given in C.S. Gilvert’s Survey of Cornwall, 1817, vol. i. p. 538 : but this will proves that Sir John Arundell, who married Jane Grenville, was dead some time before 1550 l and that the monument of a Sir John Arundell, at Stratton in Cornwall, on which his figure is represented in brass, lying between his two wives, attributed by Mr. Gilbert to the husband of Jane Grenville, is that of her son, who married first, Mary, dau. and heiress of John Beville of Garnake; and secondly, Julian, daughter of James Eresby, and widow of ________ Gamlyn. Below the feet of the first wife, stand the sons, Richard, John, and Roger Arundell; under the second are ranged the daughters, Margareta, Marie, Jane, Phelipe, Grace, Margeri, and Annes Arundell. The inscription is, “Here lyeth buryed Syr John Arundell, Trerise, Knyght, who, praysed by God, dyed in the Lorde the xxv daye of November in the yeare of oure Lorde God a MCCCCCLXI, and in the III and VII yeare of his age, whose soule now resteth with the faythfull Chrystians in our Lorde.” Of the thirteen children here named, we find in the pedigree, as the only surviving son by Julian Eresby, John, who succeeded at Trerice ; and these daughters : Margaret, wife of Robert Becket, esq.; Grace, wife of John Trengough; Margery, wife of ______ Dunham ; Mary ; and Jane ; and by Mary Beville, Roger, who married Elizabeth, dau. of Tobert Tridenham, Esq. and had issue John son and heir 1597 ; Katharine, wife of Richard Prideaux ; and Jane, wife of William Wall, Esq.”

I find this will so interesting in many ways. First, I love the spelling. Spelling wasn’t standardized until much later; and it seems as though you could really write so much faster if you could simply spell things the way that seemed best at the moment. (I know, some people still do this. lol) Second, I love all the commas and run-on sentences. I’ve been told before that I’m a “comma monster” and use way too many commas in my writing, a fault I really try to stamp out. However, I think this is proof I’m just a reincarnation of a Tudor person and thus commas may be used like flowers dotted throughout the landscape… the more flowers, the more beautiful the field. And the more commas, the more beautiful the writing. Right? Right? … No? Boo.

What I really adore about this, however, are the bequests. It sounds like her son John Arundell, my 13th great-grandfather on my mom’s side, was something of a borrower… he seemed to “owith” her a lot of money. I also enjoyed the descriptions of her gowns, especially the “best velvet gowne, furred & edged with white martens” that she bequeathed to my 13th great-grandmother. I’ve included a chart of sumptuary laws – laws that governed who could legally wear what – from Tudor England below, as this will was written “the first day of Januarye, in the fourth yere of the Reigne of our Soverayng Lord Edward the Sixt, by the Grace of God, &c.” It really helps you to understand Dame Jane’s place in the pecking order of society. And I wonder why she left each daughter that particular gown: was it because of personal taste? Or perhaps the gown with the furs had been a gift from Arundell rather than Chamdon, and she wanted to pass it down to that daughter-in-law… I wonder if there was any status implicit in the bequests as well. I don’t know enough about rank in Tudor society or sumptuary laws to guess.

Sumptuary laws during the Tudors, through Elizabeth I.

Sumptuary laws during the Tudors through the time of Elizabeth I.

The sumptuary laws were intended to reinforce distinctions of rank and power, and covered dress and food as well – but apparently didn’t always work as well as one might hope:

"Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII's England" by Maria Hayward, p 20

“Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII’s England” by Maria Hayward, p 20

Edward VI tried to revise the laws to promote plainness of dress in 1552, and Elizabeth I added her own stamp in 1574 by adding dress for females to the laws. Elizabeth, it seems, didn’t want excessive rivals in ostentation of dress, and wasn’t above making a law to ensure it.

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“Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII’s England” by Maria Hayward, p 20

“Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII’s England” by Maria Hayward, p 20

The full listing of Elizabeth’s sumptuary statue of 1574:

“The excess of apparel and the superfluity of unnecessary foreign wares thereto belonging now of late years is grown by sufferance to such an extremity that the manifest decay of the whole realm generally is like to follow (by bringing into the realm such superfluities of silks, cloths of gold, silver, and other most vain devices of so great cost for the quantity thereof as of necessity the moneys and treasure of the realm is and must be yearly conveyed out of the same to answer the said excess) but also particularly the wasting and undoing of a great number of young gentlemen, otherwise serviceable, and others seeking by show of apparel to be esteemed as gentlemen, who, allured by the vain show of those things, do not only consume themselves, their goods, and lands which their parents left unto them, but also run into such debts and shifts as they cannot live out of danger of laws without attempting unlawful acts, whereby they are not any ways serviceable to their country as otherwise they might be:

Which great abuses, tending both to so manifest a decay of the wealth of the realm and to the ruin of a multitude of serviceable young men and gentlemen and of many good families, the Queen’s majesty hath of her own princely wisdom so considered as she hath of late with great charged to her council commanded the same to be presently and speedily remedied both in her own court and in all other places of her realm, according to the sundry good laws heretofore provided.”

Sumptuary statue is here, including the ladies’ part.

Last but not least, for anyone who’s stumped by traditional English money (as I am), here is a link to the very informative Wikipedia entry for “Pound sterling”, including quite a nice history.

The Tangled Family Relations of William de Braose (either) and Llywelyn the Great

I’ve been trying to write these histories for a while, but there’s SO MUCH to cover that I’ve finally decided to break it up into juicy little bite-size bits. To reward myself for deciding, I’m going to start with one of the juiciest: the tangled web of interrelations between the family of Welsh Marcher Lord William De Braose and Welsh Prince of Gwynedd Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (“the Great”).

Let’s start with the family of William De Braose (the younger – I’ll call him “our” William to differentiate him from his grandfather, William 4th Lord of Bramber), to whom I am directly related in three ways on both my mother’s and father’s sides.

William De Braose, Lord of Abergavenny and son of Reginald De Braose by his first wife Grecia di Briwere (look below for more of Reginald’s marital history), married Eva Marshall and had four daughters:
Isabella de Braose, who married Llywelyn ap Iorwerth’s only legitimate son, Dafydd ap Llywelyn
Maud de Braose, who married Marcher lord Roger Mortimer (grandson of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth) – this is my father’s line
– Eleanor de Braose, who married Humphrey deBohun – this is my mother’s line
– Eva de Braose, who married William Cantelou, and who only has this one notation in our story. Sorry, Eva!

Next, let’s outline Llywelyn ap Iorwerth’s family. Llywelyn, also known as “Llywelyn Fawr” and “Llyweyn the Great”, was Prince of Gwynedd and eventually ruler of much of Wales. He married Joan Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of King John (yes, the King John who is the baddie in so many Robin Hood tales. He also signed the Magna Carta, but I’m more excited by the fact that I have an ancestor who’s been animated by Disney and voiced by Peter Ustinov. I’m a weenie, I know.)

Prince John, as portrayed in the Disney movie “Robin Hood”

In later years, Llywelyn had Joan legitimized by the Pope in an effort to strengthen his legitimate son Dafydd’s claim to inherit, rather than his older but illegitimate son Gruffydd. His children by Joan are:
Dafydd, married Isabella de Braose
– Elen Ferch Llywelyn, married 3 times. Not in our story (as far as I know)
– Susannah Ferch Llywelyn, who died below marriageable age & isn’t part of our story
Gwladus Ddu (“the Dark”), married 1st Reginald de Braose, then 2nd Ralph de Mortimer
– Angharad Ferch Llywelyn, who’s not in our story
Marared or Margaret Ferch Llywelyn, who married 1st John de Braose and 2nd Walter Clifford (my dad’s lineage comes down through Walter)
– Elen The Younger Ferch Llywelyn, whose daughter later married Robert The Bruce and mothered the first Stuart king. However, that’s all we have to say about her.

Llywelyn the Great with his sons

Llywelyn the Great with his sons

Our story begins in 1205, when Llywelyn married Joan, daughter of King John, while his relationship with John was still cordial. Things between Llywelyn and the King went sour around 1210, however, possibly because of Llywelyn’s alliance with William de Braose (4th Lord of Bramber, the grandfather of “our” William de Braose via Reginald), who had been stripped of his lands by King John and cast into disgrace.

Gravestone of Joan Plantagenet. Was “alas! used as a horse-watering-trough, was rescued from such indignity, and placed here for preservation, as well as to excite serious meditations on the transitory nature of all sublunary distinctions.” St. Mary’s Church, Beaumaris

The actual sign from which the above caption is taken. This just makes me hoot.

The actual sign from which the above caption is taken. This just makes me hoot.

William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber and the grandfather of “our” William de Braose, had been Lord of Gower, Abergavenny, Brecknock, Builth, Radnor, Kington, Limerick, Glamorgan, Skenfrith, Briouze in Normandy, Grosmont, and White Castle (sliders!!), before falling out with King John and losing his lands. (And he went on the run, but his wife Maud St. Valéry, my 27th great-grandmother, and his eldest son William, were caught and killed by King John. But that’s a story for another day!)

In 1215, Llywelyn’s daughter Gwladus Ddu married (as her first husband) Reginald de Braose, the son of William de Braose 4th Lord of Bramber; but although they may have had a daughter, she’s not part of our line or our story. You may recall Reginald de Braose from above; he’s the father of “our” William. After Reginald’s death, she married Ralph de Mortimer and had a son, Roger Mortimer.

Confused yet? Oh, just wait. 😀 I love this, but I’ve had to graph it out several times just to get my head around it. DRAWN FAMILY TREES ARE COMING, just hang on. Keep breathing.

So back to Llywelyn himself. In 1217, after the death of King John, Reginald de Braose was induced by the crown to change sides, betraying Llewelyn, who promptly invaded his lands. Eventually Reginald was forced to offer Llywelyn submission and cede Brecon, Swansea, and Haverford. Presumably, peace ruled for a while between the families after this exchange.

In 1228, Llywelyn was fighting against Hubert de Burgh Justiciar of England, and after the fighting was over, Llywelyn paid 2,000 pounds to the crown, a sum which he raised through the ransom of one of his prisoners: William de Braose (the younger, who is “our” William). Apparently they hit it off, because an agreement was made to marry Dafydd, Llywelyn’s son and heir, to William’s daughter Isabella.

1228 was also a big year for Llywelyn’s daughter Gwladus Ddu, whose first husband Reginald died. After this, she was married to Marcher lord Ralph de Mortimer. They would have issue including Roger Mortimer, who would later marry William’s daughter Maud.

Let’s cut back to William’s family. In 1224, his daughter Maud was born. In 1230, when Maud was six years old, William made a trip to visit his friend Llywelyn, but — oops! — was caught alone with Joan in Llywelyn’s chamber in the dead of night and subsequently hanged. The Brut y Tywysogion chronicler commented: “that year William de Breos the Younger, lord of Brycheiniog, was hanged by the lord Llywelyn in Gwynedd, after he had been caught in Llywelyn’s chamber with the king of England’s daughter, Llywelyn’s wife”.

“On 2nd of May, at a certain manor called ‘Crokein, he was made ‘Crogyn, i.e. hanged on a tree, and this not privily or in the night time, but openly and in the broad daylight, in the presence of more than 800 men assembled to behold the piteous and melancholy spectacle.”
—Abbot of Vaundey as quoted by J.E. Lloyd., History of Wales from the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest, page 213.

After Llywelyn killed William de Braose, a message was sent to his widow Eva Marshall to ask her if she would still agree to Isabella’s marriage with Llywelyn’s son Dafydd. One can only imagine what Isabella thought; but the marriage was allowed to go forward, and later in 1230 Isabella and Dafydd were married. Isabella was very young, probably around 8 years old.

It appears that Joan and Llywelyn died in the same year, 1237. After his death, his son Dafydd succeeded him, but he and Isabella de Braose had no heirs, and when Dafydd died in 1246, Llywelyn’s greatly diminished legacy passed to Gryfydd’s son, Llywelyn ap Gryfydd. He will show up again later on our blog, in conjunction with one of my other ancestors. MWAHAHAHAHAAA! (giving my imaginary mustache an evil twirl) Among the poets who lamented Llywelyn the Great’s passing was Einion Wan:

True lord of the land – how strange that today
He rules not o’er Gwynedd;
Lord of nought but the piled up stones of his tomb,
Of the seven-foot grave in which he lies.

We’ve talked about the eventual fate of Dafydd, and of Gryfydd’s heir; now let’s go back to Llywelyn’s daughter Gwladus “The Dark”. Gwladus had been married to Reginald de Braose, Maud and Isabella’s grandfather, but Reginald died in 1230. Gwladus then married Ralph de Mortimer, and they had a son Roger.

Roger subsequently married Maud de Braose in 1247, thereby becoming Isabella’s brother-in-law *and* nephew by marriage, and Dafydd’s brother-in-law *and* nephew by blood.

You can't tell the players without a scorecard.

You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Note: I made an error in classifying John de Braose as “our” William’s nephew. John was actually William’s cousin.

To finish up our little love knot, there is Marared or Margaret, another daughter of Llywelyn. In 1219, she married John de Braose, whose grandfather was William 4th Lord of Bramber. He was cousin to “our” William, who was father of Maud, Isabella, and Eleanor. Whew!

– John was Gwladus’ brother-in-law, Dafydd’s brother-in-law, Roger’s uncle through Marared/Margaret’s sister Gwladus, Maud’s 1st cousin once removed, Roger’s 1st cousin once removed through Roger’s marriage to Maud, Isabella’s brother-in-law, Isabella’s 1st cousin once removed, and 1st cousin once removed to brother-in-law Dafydd through Dafydd’s marriage to Isabella
– Isabella was both Roger’s sister-in-law and aunt by marriage to Dafydd
– Maud was Isabella’s sister and also her niece by marriage to Roger, and daughter-in-law and step-granddaughter of Gwladus
– Llywelyn became father-in-law to Isabella and grandfather-by-marriage to Maud after killing their father. IMAGINE FAMILY HOLIDAYS. THE AWKWARDNESS.
– Probably more, but my head is spinning and I need to stop now.

Here are my family tree scribbles. I hope they help clarify things. I certainly needed to draw them so I could keep track of who was marrying whom. Yeesh!

Llywelyn ap Iorweth's line

Llywelyn ap Iorweth’s line. Note: John de Braose is not Isabella’s uncle, as I noted in his entry. I was getting overwhelmed at this point.

The de Braose line

The de Braose line

I’ll finish by apologizing for any errors, especially in degree or name of relationship; I’m still learning about who’s “once-removed” as opposed to a 2nd cousin, and this is a messy enough knot to confuse anyone. Well, almost anyone. :} If you spot any errors, I would appreciate kind corrections in comments. Thank you!!

(some of my sources – I’ve favored Wikipedia because the person pages are interlinked, they often include references, and seem mostly correct.)

Castle Wales’ page on Llywelyn ap Iorwerth
Pen Y Bryn, the Princes’ Tower – Llywelyn & Joan’s home
Castle Wales’ page on the Kings of Gwynedd
Llywelyn’s page at English Monarchs site
Llywelyn the Great in “A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest” Vol 2, by Sir John Edward Lloyd (1911) Llywelyn’s part starts on P 612, “Early Manhood” and goes until at least p 693.
Sharon K. Penman’s link to interesting research on the family tree. Includes some of the questions about the maternity of the children, and the reasons many researchers tend towards the view I’ve outlined in the previous post.
Related to her book about this family.

Joan’s grave
– Wikipedia’s entry on Joan
– Joan, Lady of Wales on English Monarchs site
“Thirteenth Century England X: Proceedings of the Durham Conference 2003” – Joan’s part starts on p 81 and continues, with a lot of information about our subsequent characters, including William de Braose the younger.

Dafydd ap Llywelyn:
– Wikipedia entry on Dafydd

Gwladus Ddu:
Wikipedia on Gwladus
– More information can be found in “Thirteenth Century England X”, under Joan above

Marared or Margaret ferch Llywelyn:
Halhead family tree including Margaret

William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber:
– Wikipedia entry
– Another page on William
– Matthew Boulter’s dissertation on William
– Michael Family site on William and his wife, Maud

Reginald de Braose
– Wikipedia

William de Braose
– House of Braose
– Wikipedia

Isabella de Braose:
Wikipedia entry on Isabella; has more info on her father’s death

Maud de Braose
Maud on Wikipedia

Roger Mortimer, 1st Baron Mortimer
– Wikipedia

Follow-up: Bocconoc House today

This is related to the piece I did the other day, about the Bocconoc estate’s devolution out of the Courtenay family, through to the Mohuns, and then Governor Pitt’s purchase of the estate with the funds from the sale of the Pitt, or Regent, Diamond.

Apparently the estate went through a restoration a few years ago. I actually saw a show about this on TV a couple of years ago, not knowing my connection to the house… I wish I could remember the “after” images from the show. lol Alas. Still, there are some interesting images in this article, including the tidbit that Charles I hid there during the British Civil War. I found some information about this in a book recently and am hoping to write that up soon. 😀

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the restoration of a Cornish country house, enjoy.
Award-winning restoration for Cornwall country house

Great video about women’s undergarments throughout history

Ok. We can file this under “errata” – The Indianapolis Museum of Art posted this very interesting presentation about women’s undergarments and how they’ve changed over the years. I find it fascinating how fashions in history were influenced not only by the materials one could afford, but also by the amount of support staff required to create and maintain garments, and to dress the final consumer in them. And it’s fascinating to consider how some garments shape and control the activities that can be performed while wearing them.

In any case, I thought I’d pop this up here for future reference.

History of Women’s Undergarments

Death, Disgrace, And A Great Whacking Diamond

I love all the connections and random chances of history. This was one of those little after-stories you find if you look into what happens *after* your line wanders off somewhere less interesting. I was reading up on the Courtenay Earls of Devon, who were part of my mom’s heritage, when I followed my curiosity to the next page of the book and found this bit about the eventual fate of their estate, Boconnoc, after the line had died out (“for the compound name, “Bo-connoc”, it is taken from the barton and manor of land still extant there, with reference to the beasts that depastured thereon; and signifies prosperous, successful, thriving cows, kine, or cattle.” – “The Parochial History of Cornwall”, edited by Davies Gilbert).

I was following the line of Sir Hugh (“Boconnoc”) Courtenay of Haccombe. He was my 16th great-grandfather, and had a strong and thriving descent; but eventually the lands and title went out of the family. This seems to have been when Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter and husband of Gertrude Blount (listed in the book as “Elizabeth Blount”, but I believe this is in error; more about Gertrude here) was executed for treason by Henry VIII in 1538. (Henry Courtenay and Gertrude Blount had one child, the 18th Earl of Devon, who died without issue in Padua on the 4th Oct. 1556. Well, if you’ve got to go, Padua seems like a nice place for it.)   In any case, the estate left the family (the author isn’t quite certain whether it was purchased from the Crown or disposed of in some other way), and passed through several hands before coming to rest in possession of a certain Reginald Mohun (incidentally. my 14th great grandfather in the Speccot line) in 1566.

Now, Reginald Mohun was the son or grandson of a William Moune, who married Isabel Courtenay, sister of Edward Courtenay, 16th Earl of Devon. So it was rather nice that the estate had come back into the hands of a branch of the family. Reginald duly married and got heirs, and 6 generations later – no longer in my line – they come to the last of their descendants: Charles, Lord Mohun.

Whew. Is your head spinning yet? Because mine is. But wait — there’s more. Charles, Lord Mohun, married twice. The first wife was Charlotte, daughter of _______ Mainwaring, Esq., and the author doesn’t seem to think much of her:

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Meow. Apparently, the duel that killed Charles was an argument over an estate left to Charlotte (that baggage). Wow. Chuck, with wives like that, who needs enemies? But I digress.

Here's the little sexypants himself.

Here’s the little sexypants himself.

Charles had a second wife, with whom he had no children; and after his death by duel, she sold all the Cornish and Devonshire estates in 1717 for fifty-four thousand pounds (a pittance) to Mr. Thomas Pitt, also known as Governor Pitt. When I read that name, it rang a bell, so I forged ahead.

Interestingly, this is the Mr. Pitt who came back from India with the Regent Diamond (more about that here). The Regent Diamond was a 141 carat diamond that was set into the crowns of Louis the XV and XVI, and Marie Antoinette wore it as a wee sparkly on her hat… as who would not? (Answer: anybody who didn’t want a headache from wearing around a bloody great diamond, that’s who.) The stone was stolen, found in the timbers of an attic in Paris, adorned Napoleon’s sword, and is now in the Empress Eugenie’s crown in the French Royal Treasury at the Louvre (where it was probably seen by my niece when she was on her recent honeymoon in Paris, or at least I hope so).

Empress Eugenie's crown, featuring the Regent Diamond

Empress Eugenie’s crown, featuring the Regent Diamond

So when Governor Pitt purchased the Boconnoc estate from Charles Mohun’s second wife, he did so with the money from the French purchase of the Regent Diamond.

I’m not sure if anyone else would have followed this rabbit hole quite so far, but… I do love jewelry so. It makes me happy to put together all these little pieces and come up DIAMOND. 😀

(Oh. And William Makepeace Thackeray fictionalised Mohun’s duels in his novel “The History of Henry Esmond”. So there’s that too, for you literature lovers.)

And now I need to unpretzel my brain.

—For more about Boconnoc and the adventures of the estate, “The Parochial History of Cornwall” is here.

Tale of the Drunken Postmaster

I sure wish this gentleman, a well-connected imbiber, was mine …but I don’t think he is at all related to me. I was researching the Gerwig family of Indiana and found this fellow, who is certainly a colorful character. Noted for his horsemanship during the Civil War, he became the postmaster of Chapel (also known as German), West Virginia, where he did not cover himself with glory. In fact, he was such a poor postmaster that his neighbors (neigh-bors, get it?) wrote to the government to see if they could get him replaced, AND a verse was written to memorialize what a drunk he was. Bonus: Matthias actually went to see the US President to keep his job. As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I love the poem, partially for its awfulness, and definitely wish Matthias Gerwig was in my rogues’ gallery. Alas. 😀
(Full document can be found at:


Mathias Gerwig, a son of Georg Friederich and Juliana Elizabeth
(Konig) Gerwig, was born in Germany July 3, 1832 and died January 4,
1920. He emigrated to Catonsville, MD with his family in 1833 and came
to the German settlement in BRaxton County, VA (WV). with them in 1840.
He married Sarah Ellen Lloyd July 31, 1857. Sarah, a daughter of Isaac
Hyer and Catherine Mary (McPherson) Lloyd, was born in Braxton County,
VA (WV) February 27, 1839 and died there January 14, 1878.
After Sarah Gerwig’s death Matthias married Susan E. Whytsell
November 24, 1878. Susan, a daughter of Levi and Margaret (Sipes)
Whytsell, was born in Rockingham County, VA January 30, 1842 and died
before 1916. Matthias married Laura Mapes at St. Cloud, FL January 15,
Mathias was a superb horseman and served in the Civil War in General
Phillip Sheridan”s escort. He was in 91 engagements during that war.
Mathias served as a post master of German, WV (now Chapel). Marvin G.
Miller has told Mattias’ story in verse.


Marvin G. Miller

The evening breeze was blowing
And the Church was overflowing
When the preacher preached the evils of strong drink.
And he said with vim and vigor
That no sin was any bigger,
And that all the liquor should be thrown down the sink.

We know when Germans gather,
Makes no difference what the weather,
They like to take a drink their throats to cool.
Mathias Gerwig, true to breeding,
To this evil gave no heeding,
So I guess he’s no exception to the rule.

With him the preacher pleaded
That hard cider wasn’t needed
Til at last he told them, “I’ll get rid of mine.
And his sons, although they’d rue it,
Asked their father how they’d do it,
And he answered, “as we use it stein by stein.”

Now Mathias was no charmer,
‘Tho he was a wealthy farmer,
And a dandy judge of horseflesh, so they say,
But the neighbors cried “disaster”
When he became post master
Of the little town of Chapel by the way.

The good folk came together
And it wasn’t about the weather.
They talked of ousting Gerwig from his post.
And they loud and long debated,
Although most of them had stated
That the service wasn’t that of which to boast.

For a lack of something better,
They sat down and wrote a letter,
And to the high officials it was sent.
When Mathias saw the letter,
He went them one much better,
And wrote a message to the President.

Two weeks had scarce gone by us
When a letter for Mathias
Came to bring him happy news and lots of cheer.
And the ‘General Postmaster’
Could have traveled none the faster
To inform him of his job he need not fear.

Still the neighbors argued strongly
That they all were treated wrongly
And they penned more letters to those in command.
Till Mathias, nervous hearted,
Grabbed his old black hat and started
Out to see the leader of this favored land.

When he reached his destination
To the President of the Nation
He was told McKinley he couldn’t meet
But the President at last
Saw Mathias as he passed,
And bid him come in and have a seat.

He reassured Mathias
That the people there were biased,
Then they fell to reminiscing ’bout the past.
For they had oft fought in battle,
Heard the swords and muskets rattle,
And they’d shared a billet to the very last.

When General Sheridan was departed
From his men when fighting started,
Mathias was just one of twenty by his side,
And as I’ve stated in this discourse,
Mathias always loved a fast horse,
And he’d picked a mount with care on which to ride.

When Sheridan’s men were routed,
And their courage they had doubted,
He rode for twenty miles to reach their side.
Mathias was the least expected,
And the only one to match the General stride for stride.

When Mathias at last departed,
And for his home had started,
In sooth, his worries were as light as air.
And for years folks kept wondering,
How he got by with such blundering,
But Mathias kept his post and didn’t care.

Random 1880s drinking men from Colorado County, Texas - found on

Random 1880s drinking men from Colorado County, Texas – found on

Children of Matthias and Sarah Ellen (Lloyd) Gerwig.

33. (1). Amanda Catherine b.Jul 22 1858 d.Jun 10 1871

34. (2). George Wesley b.Nov 1 1861 d.Jun 18 1954
m.Dora Ellison Jul 21 1887

35. (3). Isaac Mathias b.Sep 4 1863 d.Jul 31 1932
m.Amand Ann Bender Dec 25 1888

36. (4). Hester Isabel b.Apr 5 1866 d.Feb 3 1943
m.Thomas J. Stonestreet Jul 21 1887

37. (5). Mary Ruhama b.May 21 1868 d.Aug 19 1941
m.Philip C. Belknap Mar 11 1886

38. (6). William Frederick b.Feb 21 1871 d.Jan 29 1879

39. (7). Ankrom Orr b.Nov 4 1872 d.Jul 9 1948
m.Louisa J. Wolfe Dec 10 1893

Children of Mathias and Susan E. (Whytsell) Gerwig.

40. (1). Minnie Margaret b.Jun 27 1880 d.Apr 17 1963
m.Maury Bolton Keith Jun 29 1902

41. (2). Lottie Dare b.Feb 1 1883 d.Mar 17 1963
m.Jackson Corley McCartney Aug 31 1904