What was Ruth Martha Andrews’s story? We knew very little about the family’s history, and there were few people to talk to when we began the search for answers. We knew that Ruth’s mother had died at a young age, and Ruth had been raised by her grandparents. We did not know her mother’s name. We did not know who Ruth’s father was, but we did know that her mother had been assaulted by a white man, resulting in a pregnancy. Son Jimmy, who lived with his great grandparents while growing up, told us the family was part Native American, and that he had gone with his great grandparents to “pig roasts” in Connecticut. Son Richard remembered the Civil War artifacts in the attic, and knew that one of his ancestors had fought in the Civil War.
What our search found out was astounding. Ruth has deep roots in New England. Not only did her great grandfather, James Wallace, fight in the Civil War, so did many of her uncles. Her ancestor, Ned Carter, fought in the Revolutionary War along with several of his sons. This family also had roots in New England slavery, which was quite prevalent but never discussed like slavery in the South.
And Ruth’s father has been found. Through DNA matching, her father was identified along with his history, which reaches back to Richard Warren, one of the original passengers on the Mayflower.
Telling the stories, I am going to split up the Andrews side of the family, Ruth’s mother side, from her father’s side. There are so many stories to be told on the maternal side; an I’m still working on her father’s side. Ruth’s father was only identified this past summer.
Before we start, reviewing the history of blacks and Native Americans in the early years of New England, as well as some general background of the family, can help put the stories in context as we travel through time. Census records and other vital records of the family list their ethnicity or race as black, mulatto, white, and Indian, but most frequently as mulatto. Intermarriages between blacks and Indians were not uncommon in New England, and any racial combination was considered mulatto.
The Andrews, Freeman, Powers, Russell, Wallis/Wallace and other families on the maternal side of the family can be found in early records for Hampshire and Hampden Counties in Massachusetts, and Tolland, Hartford, and New London County records in Connecticut. The families moved between Massachusetts and Connecticut, are often found living near each other, and frequently marry between families.
African and Indian slaves were a part of the New England landscape as early as the mid-1600s. Indians were enslaved following the various Indian Wars, and Rhode Island and Connecticut were active ports for the slave trade during the Colonial years.
Slavery legally and officially ended in Massachusetts in 1783. In 1784, Rhode Island and Connecticut adopted gradual emancipation laws; therefore slavery did not legally end until 1842 in Rhode Island and 1848 in Connecticut. (Harper, Douglas. (2003). Slavery in the North. Accessed at http://www.slavenorth.com May 3, 2009.)
Blacks (and Indians) had few rights. Blacks in Massachusetts could vote, and could move within the state without legal restrictions. This was not the case in Connecticut. Free blacks in Connecticut could vote until 1814, when a law was incorporated into the constitution that disenfranchised blacks who had not voted before the law became effective. Rhode Island disenfranchised all blacks in 1822. (Blatt, MH., Brown, TJ, Yacovone, D. (2001). Hope & Glory: Essays on the Legacy of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, pp.9-10.)
There are few records found on our families before the early 1800s. Most free families can be found in the earliest records in New England. Because of the lack of records, we can assume that these families were enslaved. Records that we have indicate that the family roots in New England were longer than what is found in written records.
The opportunities available for employment for people of color in the 19th century were limited. Blacks most frequently worked as laborers (men) and domestics (women). This is also the case of the men and women in our family. We also see the women working as laundresses, and families taking in boarders.
There was a closeness of families. Extended families lived in the same household, or near each other. Families moved to communities where other relatives lived. This family support is not only part of both Indian and African traditions, but was probably critical for the survival and growth of the families.
Blanche Louise Andrews
Attached is a pedigree chart for Blanche Louise Andrews, the mother of Ruth Andrews. Referring to the chart will help put the family in context, and show how they are related to each other. Pedigree Chart for Blanche Louise Andrews ♥
Blanche’s mother, Martha H. Gibbons was 25 years old, and her father, Charles Henry Andrews was 17 years old when Blanche was born on April 30, 1895 in Vernon, Connecticut. They had only been married four months when Blanche was born, joining her eight year old sister Anna Martha Gibbons Wallace, the daughter of Martha. In 1899 Anna died from diphtheria, leaving Blanche an only child. Her parents did not have other children. By 1900, the Andrews family had moved to Monson, where Martha’s family lived, and they were living in Palmer by 1906 where they remained. Family members remember a picture of Blanche in their home in Palmer, which was lost in the flood of 1954 caused by Hurricane Carol. Blanche was described as a beautiful woman.
She was only 16 when she was assaulted and she became pregnant with her only child. If she knew who this man was, his identify was not shared with her family. I do not know if she reported this assault to the police, but it is doubtful. Most rapes went unreported, women blamed themselves, and they did not want additional trauma of an investigation. Ruth Martha was born October 12, 1912. Blanche’s family was a great support to her, and she and her daughter lived with them.
On August 4, 1917 Blanche married Henry J. Page. Little is known about Henry other than he was born in 1888 in Georgia, and he was the son of Joseph Page. It appears that the marriage did not last long. Henry was not living with Blanche three years later when the 1920 federal census was taken, and just seems to have disappeared. Blanche worked as a laundress, and as a domestic for the Sego Lunch Company. She was only 25 years of age when she suddenly became ill from typhoid fever, and within eleven days of becoming ill died. How devastating that must have been for her parents, losing their remaining child. Her parents took on the responsibility of raising their only granddaughter.
Thursday, March 31, 1921
The Palmer Journal
Mrs. Blanche L. Page
Mrs. Blanche L. Page, 25, died in her home, 9 Pine Street, Monday morning after a short illness of typhoid fever. She was born in Vernon, Conn., but had passed most of her life in this town. She leaves one daughter, Martha, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Andrews, and a grandmother, Mrs. Anna Wallace. The funeral was held yesterday afternoon from Beers’ undertaking parlors, Rev. F.C.A. Jones of the Baptist church officiating; burial was in Oak Knoll cemetery.
The next post will be on Blanche’s parents, Charles Andrews and Martha Gibbons.