Climbing My Family Tree, Part 20

Immigrants Walter and Isabel Downie

Walter Downie (my six times great-grandfather) was born in Scotland in 1697. He immigrated to Bridgewater, Massachusetts with his two children, William and Isabel (my five times great-mother). William was 11 and Isabel was 7 when they set sail. Walter’s wife had died back in Scotland. Walter settled on the farm formerly owned by the late Howard Cary, ESQ, in 1735.

When William, died 1747 at the age of 22, Walter became so distraught he sold his property and returned to Scotland. The following is upon William’s gravestone. In my head, I hear Walter’s words out loud, spoken with a broken heart and a thick Scottish accent.

“Here, William Downie, rest, my son,

Till Christ shall call thee from the tomb;

Dear Scotian youth, short was thy stay,

But bright thy hopes of endless day.

“In Scotland born, to death in score,

I pay’d the debt on India’s shore;

Nipt in my bloom I drop my dust,

In hope to rise among the just.”

 

Walter’s daughter, Isabel, remained in the colonies and in 1750 she married Barnabas Pratt {You can read about the Pratt immigrants in Climbing My Family Tree, Part Four}.

Isabel died on Christmas Eve, 1831, at the age of 102. What a life she lived!

Born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1728, she spent the first seven years of her life growing up in a well established European municipality. Glasgow was described at the time as “the cleanest, best-built city in Britain,” with a population of around 20,000 people.

The adjustment of moving from a relatively wealthy European city that was 250 years old, to a brand new settlement in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, must have been extraordinary. Her father’s name is listed among those on the official petition for incorporation of the town of North Bridgewater.

Isabel’s brother died when she was 19. I found one record indicating William contracted a bad case of the flu and died two weeks later. Walter suffered such grief he could not carry on. He sold all he had and returned to Scotland, leaving Isabel behind in the New World.

Isabel married Barnabas Pratt two years after her brother’s death. It is not clear if her father emmigrated back to Scotland before or after her marriage.

Either way, Isabel was a young bride in a new settlement in the years leading up to the American Revolution. She and Barnabas had at least six children (some accounts claim nine). One of whom, Thaddeus Pratt (my five times great-grandfather), fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill on the side of the colonists.

Sometime during the Revolutionary War, Isabel heard the roar of guns while in her home in Bridegwater, and she became so overwrought she severely burned herself with a coal of fire, which fell on her arm.

When Barnabas died in 1787 at the age of 57, Isabel moved to Hebron, Maine to live with Susannah, one of her daughters. Her son, Thaddeus (Bunker Hill), had also moved to Hebron, as had a considerable number of Revolutionary War veterans.

Hebron, like Bridgewater, was built on the new frontier. Primarily an agricultural community (hay and orchards), the village grew to comprise a shingle mill, a pail factory, a blacksmith shop, and a shoe shop. The mill was powered by the water flowing out of Matthews Pond.

When Isabel died, Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States.

Isabel Downie Pratt gravestone

The stone is weathered to the point it is no longer legible, but this May 2017 photo is believed to be the final resting place of Isabel Downie Pratt. The grave is in the Davee Cemetery in Hebron, Maine. Davee is the married name of Isabel’s daugher. Susannah.

A first generation immigrant from Scotland, Isabel helped establish two different homesteads during colonial settlement, she lived through the American Revolution, the Louisiana Purchase, the War of 1812, as well as many of the conflicts and frustrations in the years leading up to the Civil War.

I would have loved an opportunity to talk with Isabel. What were her hopes and dreams? Had she wanted to immigrant to America or was that decision made for her? Had she wanted to return to Scotland with her father, or had that decision also been one that was decided for her?

How did Isabel handle the primitive conditions in a frontier settlement, after enjoying the relative comforts of the Old Country? How did she feel about the Revolution, being that she, herself, had been born in Europe? Did she support her son going off to war, fighting on the side of the colonists?

I salute you, Grandma Isabel! You lived a long and prosperous life in times of great hardship, in an era where women had few rights and little say regarding their own destiny. You were a witness to amazing times.

A part of you lives on in me.

…..

Has your family benefited from immigration to America? Do you believe our diverse population makes us stronger? Do you want to be part of the solution?

In Climbing My Family Tree, Parts 8-18, I highlight eleven different charities that support immigrants and children. Every charity listed boasts the highest rating possible, as designated by Charity Navigator. Please consider pledging your support to these important organizations who are working so hard to make a positive change in our world.

Please go out of your way to be kind to immigrants and refugees.

 

Did you enjoy this post? Please like and share. I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

 -Alan

_______________________________________________

My Family Tree

  1. Walter Downie

»

  1. Isabel Downie

»

  1. Thaddeus Pratt

»

  1. Mary Polly Pratt

»

  1. William Pratt Sturtevant

»

  1. Pliny Wyman Sturtevant

»

  1. Electra Wyman Sturtevant

»

  1. Patricia Louise King

»

  1. Me (Alan deMeurers)

 

Running count of family immigrants = 61

_______________________________________________

 Reference Links:

https://archive.org/stream/northbridgewater00king#page/490/mode/2up/search/downie 

https://archive.org/details/historyofnorthbr01king

http://freepages.books.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~blackwell/ma/BridgewaterNorth/pg623.html

https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/21932/dvm_LocHist007905-00287-1/550?backurl=&ssrc=pt_t103669915_p150053726286&backlabel=Return&rc=1999,2250,2195,2299;873,2503,1094,2554;1094,2501,1429,2566;1429,2501,1634,2566;264,2589,513,2639;1140,2669,1429,2721;265,2759,413,2809

https://books.google.com/books?id=0ecNAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA589&lpg=PA589&dq=walter+downie+gorballs+scotland&source=bl&ots=EL6NFUaKRe&sig=Z4GhoPEPN6u8-U-kbRejVQbIqv8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwilpbT2zMzUAhVW8mMKHcz5B2gQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=walter%20downie%20gorballs%20scotland&f=false

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Glasgow_history 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebron,_Maine

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