Wednesday 17 January 2018

Tracing Lineage II back to the 1650s

I am delighted to introduce Rick Neeley as author of this guest post. Rick recently tested his cousin and established that his "Gleason" line belongs to Lineage II - the North Tipperary Gleeson's. He specifically belongs to Branch F and tests positive for all the SNP markers associated with that branch (BY14189, BY14193, BY14194, BY14195, BY14197 ... via the Z255 SNP Pack).

However, there are several interesting aspects of Rick's story that are worth mentioning:
  • Rick's "Gleeson" ancestors spelt their name a slightly different way, namely CLESSON. This demonstrates how surnames can change over time into quite different forms from the original spelling. It may be that all the Clesson's in the US are related as a result of Rick's colonial ancestor. We need more Gleeson's in the project to assess this.
  • Rick has traced his CLESSON line all the way back to the 1650s, making it the longest pedigree in Lineage II. This pedigree contains 10 generations, about double the size of the average pedigree in Lineage II. This just goes to show that there are extensive pedigrees out there and the DNA project will really benefit from finding more.
  • Rick's Gleeson ancestors mingled with the ancestors of those in Lineage I (the English Gleason's) thus providing a direct link between the two major groups within the project. This simply illustrates what we already know: it is a small world and we are all connected to each other, sometimes in the most amazing ways.

Here is Rick's cousin's direct male line pedigree ...
1. Matthew Clesson b. c1651 Ireland d. 1716 Deerfield MA, married Mary Phelps 1670 & Susannah Hodge 1701
2. Capt. Joseph Clesson b. 1674 Northampton MA, d. 1753 Lake George NY
3. Lt Matthew Clesson b. 1713 Deerfield MA, d. 1756 Deerfield MA
4. Joseph Clesson Sr b. 1756 Deerfield MA, d.1816 Deerfield MA
5. Joseph Clesson Jr b. 1791 Deerfield MA, d. aft.1850 Peoria IL
6. Jarvis S. Clesson b. 1820 Shelbourne MA, d. 1876 Shelbyville IL
7. George Frederick Clesson b. 1863 Beecher City IL, d. 1934 Oklahoma City OK
8. Willard Ray Clesson b. 1893 Matthewson OK
9. Cecil Elbert Clesson b. Pibroch, Alberta Canada, d. 1965 Olympia WA
10. GEC 687631

And below is Rick's fascinating account of his ancestry. Please feel free to leave any comments at the end of the blog post, particularly if you have any insights into how Rick's earliest ancestor might have left Ireland. Enjoy!
Maurice Gleeson
Jan 2018

Matthew Clesson (Gleeson), Irish Colonial Pioneer of Northampton, Massachusetts

INFORMATION GATHERED FROM: "Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England;” History of Northampton, Massachusetts;" Irish Pedigrees, Volume 1;" "The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, Volume 17; "The History of Deerfield, Massachusetts;" Family and Landscape: Deerfield Homelots from 1671;“ “Soldiers in King Philip’s War 1675-1677,” “The Stebbins Genealogy,” 1904; and “Joseph Stebbins: A Pioneer at the Outbreak of the Revolution," 1916.

Our family knew nothing about the origin of Matthew Clesson, born about 1651, other than he was an Irish immigrant. I recently received results from Y-DNA testing of my first cousin that I belong to Lineage II, Branch F of the North Tipperary Gleeson family tree through my mother whose maiden name was Clesson. The closest match within this group is Philip Gleeson who traces his Gleeson ancestors back to North Tipperary, Ireland. My mother had spent several years researching her Clesson ancestry. We had no idea that the family name was originally Gleeson. I don’t know if the change in spelling was intentional or by accident, but every written record we have found here in the USA for my earliest Clesson ancestor, Matthew Clesson, has been fairly consistently Clesson with minor differences. What follows is somewhat unique since there were relatively few Irish immigrants in early colonial America at this time. This is my lineage to Matthew Clesson, with some of the Clesson story that I know to date. There are lots of Josephs and some Matthews to keep track of in this story. The names in bold lettering are my direct ancestor grandfathers after Matthew Clesson.

Matthew Clesson (my seventh great-grandfather) born about 1651, was an Irish immigrant who probably first came to Northampton, Massachusetts, as a servant to one of the early planters. Nearly all the first emigrants in Northampton from Ireland were children or young persons who came over for the express purpose of being servants. [1]

The earliest record I have found in Northampton for Matthew Clesson is in 1664 when he was employed for the year as a “cow keeper or calf keeper” on the commons to “keepe the have pay in wheate 3s 3d pr bush.” It was custom for cow keepers to be children and youths as they were required by law to busy themselves in some useful occupation. Sometime before 1665, Matthew was granted three acres of land as the other Irishmen “haue it granted theme not a horn lote.” In the years ahead, no other servant in Northampton accumulated as much land as Matthew. 

Matthew’s dwelling house was burned down during an Indian raid in the King Phillip’s War in 1675. He was one of twelve persons to whom land was granted inside the fortifications in compensation for his losses. He was quite prosperous and accumulated considerable property, owning at one time fifty-nine acres of land lying in twelve different parcels, all of which with the exception of six acres he purchased.

There are several questions that remain unanswered about Matthew Clesson. Who were his parents? How did he get to Northampton, Massachusetts? Was he an orphan? What family or master did he serve? If he was an indentured servant, he had a better financial footing than any other in Northampton. As early as 1667, a few years after being a “cow keeper,” Matthew bought the home lot with a house and barn that was later burned in 1675. 

Matthew also married well. There is a list of prominent Northampton property owners in the town records. On this list is Deacon Nathaniel Phelps, Sr., who arrived as a child with his Puritan family and father, William Phelps, in 1630, on the Mary and John establishing with other Puritan families the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Nathaniel Phelps was one of the first settlers in Northampton and was elected their first Constable in 1656. [2] He was a founding member of their church, and owned a considerable amount of land as one of the original town members receiving land grants. Both Matthew Clesson and Nathaniel Phelps are on a list of Northampton townspeople as contributors to Harvard College for the year 1676. Matthew married Nathaniel Phelps’ daughter Mary in 1670, and in 1702, Matthew Clesson was given a home lot of four acres the same year that his father in-law Nathaniel died. It’s possible that Matthew was a servant for Nathaniel Phelps' family. This area had frequent Indian raids and records may not have been kept or may have been destroyed. If records exist which mention Matthew’s origin, they might be in court minute books, deed records, or an official document that might have recorded his name and previous residence or origin. They are probably archived and would require an onsite search page-by-page.

Matthew Clesson seems to have been something of a man even though the town classed him with the “other Irishmen.” He was twice married and had a family of nine children with his first wife, Mary, several of whom became prominent citizens of Northampton, Deerfield, and other towns in the Connecticut River Valley. Matthew appears as a signer on a petition to the General Court by various inhabitants of Northampton on 4 November 1668: “Respecting the laying of Custome of Trybute vpon Corne or other provissions that are brought into the severall Portes within this Collony.” He signed an Oath of Allegiance on 8 February 1678. Matthew would have been at least 24 years of age to take the oath. He became a Freeman in 1690. 

In the “History of Northampton” book written by Trumbull there is an account of a Matthew Clesson who was an active participant in the military operations and conflicts between his fellow neighbors and the Indians in late April 1709, during Queen Anne’s French and Indian War. I expect Matthew would have been in his mid-fifties at this time, and his son, Matthew, born in 1681 (my seventh great- uncle) would have been about twenty-eight years old. I don’t know which Matthew Clesson the story refers to. If it was his son, Matthew, a couple months later on 27 June 1709, he died of his wounds during the fight in which his brother Joseph was captured. There will be more on this later. The story goes that Matthew was in a scouting expedition of fifteen men led by Captain Wright. They followed the Connecticut River to the White River and over the mountains to the French River. They made canoes and sailed down to Lake Champlain where they killed and scalped a party of Indians on the lake. On their return up the French River, they discovered another party of Indians with a captive from New England. They fired upon the party, killing several Indians. The captive swam for the shore and was seized and burned on the spot by the Indians. Four members of the Captain Wright expedition were killed, and one was wounded. After returning on 28 May 1709, those engaged in the expedition petitioned the court and were awarded twelve pounds to Captain Wright and six pounds to each man as a bounty for their eight Indian scalps. 

The Gleeson Lineage II pedigree is well represented at this time in early colonial Massachusetts by Matthew Clesson and his heirs. But the Gleason Lineage I pedigree is also represented. Thomas Gleason (Gleson), the son of Thomas and Anne (Armesby) Gleson, was born 3 September 1609, in Cockfield, Suffolk, England, and died Cambridge, Massachusetts, about 1687. He married Susanna Page on 31 July 1634, in Cockfield. Susanna was baptized 4 December 1614, in Ingham, Suffolk and probably died in Boston, Massachusetts, 24 January 1691. Thomas and Susanna had several sons which included William, Phillip, and Isaac, that were born in Watertown and Cambridge, Massachusetts and fought or died in the King Philip’s war. His son, Isaac, was in the Connecticut River Valley living in Enfield, Connecticut, and fought at the Battle of Turner’s Falls 19 May 1676, about ten miles northeast of the Deerfield, Massachusetts, settlement. One can wonder if Isaac Gleason knew any of the Clessons. A possible connection is through Matthew’s youngest son, Samuel, who married Abigail Bushrod, whose father, Peter Bushrod, was also in the battle. Both Samuel Clesson and Isaac ‘s son, Isaac Gleason, were listed as descendants of soldiers in the “Falls Fight” and thereby claimants of land granted to the soldiers by an act of the Court in August 1741.

Matthew Clesson, born about 1651, made out a will in 1713 and is believed to have died 17 November 1716, in Deerfield, Massachusetts. He married 22 December 1670, Northampton, Massachusetts, Mary, daughter of Deacon Nathaniel Phelps and Elizabeth Copley. Mary died 15 April 1687, in Northampton, Massachusetts; some years later, Matthew married his second wife, Susanna Hodge/Hedge, on 21 November 1701. 

Matthew and Mary had nine children: 
  1. Mary, b. 13 Aug. 1672; d. 11 Dec. 1672 
  2. Thankful, b. 19 Sept. 1673; d. about 1761; m. (1) 1690 Joseph Mason, (2) 28 October 1695, Samuel Davis 
  3. JOSEPH, (my sixth great-grandfather) b. 23 April 1675; d. 4 June 1753; m. about 1704, Hannah Arms 
  4. Elizabeth, b. August 1677; d. 16 July 1709; m. 30 November 1698, John Hannum, Jr. 
  5. Mary, b. 20 November 1679; d. after 1750; m. 6 April 1701, Benjamin Bartlett
  6. William, b. 3 Jan. 1680; d. before 1709 
  7. Matthew, b. 31 December 1681; mortally wounded at Deerfield, Massachusetts, by Indians, 23 June 1709, and d. 27 June; he was engaged to be married to Sarah Mattoon, who she shared his estate with his brothers and sisters by direction of the Probate Judge. 
  8. John, b. 1 April 1685; d. before 1709 
  9. Samuel, b. April 1687; d. 8 September 1767; m. 24 May 1716, Abigail Bushrod, daughter of Peter Bushrod and Elizabeth Hannum 

The Clessons came of sturdy stock and the sons of the Irish servant Matthew are mentioned very frequently in accounts of the border warfare with the French and Indians. 

Matthew’s son Joseph (my sixth great-grandfather), was a soldier in King William's War (1689-1697). At the age of fifteen, he was one of the American parties engaged in the "Pomeroy Pursuit" from the Deerfield garrison in 1688. He was a resident of Deerfield from 1705 to 1709 and of Northampton from 1712 to 1724. In official accounts of the Queen Anne’s War (1704-1718) and of the Indian massacres on the border, Joseph Clesson, while on a scouting patrol on 23 June 1709, was captured by a party of French and Indians commanded by de Rouville. He was taken to Canada but either escaped or was released. He was an active participant in "Father Rasle's War" 1721 to 1725. Father Rasle was a Jesuit Priest and missionary to the Abernaki Indians. The English believed that Rasle was the mastermind who planned many Indian raids on their homes and settlement. Joseph is mentioned as a captain of the military forces at Deerfield in 1713. In 1730, he bought a home lot and house in Deerfield, Massachusetts. A rebuilt house on that lot is owned by Historic Deerfield and houses their Silver collection and is known today as the Clesson House. 

Joseph’s younger brother, Matthew, (my seventh great-uncle) was also a known Indian fighter during Queen Anne’s War and took a prominent part in the battle in which his older brother was captured while on a scouting patrol 23 June 1709, which I discussed earlier. However, on 24 June 1709, the day after that battle, Matthew received a mortal wound while fighting a party of French and Indians in defence of the settlement. He died four days later. Matthew’s son, also named Matthew, was listed as a member of the settlement's military force and was a captain at this time. 

During the French and Indian War, Capt. Joseph Clesson commanded a company of Massachusetts soldiers and died from the rigors of military service on 4 June 1753; he was buried in the camp burial ground near Fort William Henry in New York. He was married to Hannah Arms and had 10 children by her. 

Capt. Joseph’s son, Matthew Clesson (my fifth great-grandfather), born in 1713, was also prominent in military affairs of the settlement. He was in the frontier service under Captain Kellogg at the age of nineteen. By 1747, Matthew was a lieutenant. On 4 August 1747, he led a scouting party from Fort Dummer towards Lake Champlain and Canada. He was sent there by Governor Shirley to watch the movement of the French and Indians who were reported to be forming an army for a raid. He again led another scouting party in 1755 to Lake George. Worn out by the hardships of this expedition, he died on 4 or 24 October 1756. It is been recorded that his motto was "Kill them all! Nits will become lice".

Two of Lt. Matthew Clesson’s sons, Joseph, Sr., born 1756, (my fourth great-grandfather) and Matthew, born 1748, were patriots in the Revolutionary War. Joseph, Sr. fought at the Siege of Boston in 1776. The Deerfield Clesson House was left to Lt. Matthew Clesson, who left it to his three sons, of which Joseph, Sr. was the last one to have it. By 1798, the house had deteriorated greatly. In 1814, the house was torn down, and what was intended to be a rear part of a new house was built on the lot about 1814. Between 1830 and 1837, it was moved to its current location on the lot. His son, Joseph, Jr., born 1791, (my third great-grandfather) inherited the new house when his father died in 1816. He sold it to Eliphalet Dickinson in 1818, and from there it passed out of the family. 

The house in the picture above was lived in by the Clessons for only two or three years, but appears to have been built by them, or under their direction. 

There are close ties with other Revolutionary War Patriots to the Clesson family. Joseph Clesson, Jr. (my third great-grandfather) married into the Stebbins family, a prominent English family in Deerfield, Massachusetts. He married Mehitable Stebbins, 10 November 1814, in Deerfield, MA. Mehitable’s father Joseph Stebbins, Jr. and Joseph Clesson, Jr.’s father, the patriot Joseph Sr. knew each other in Deerfield and fought the battles during the Siege of Boston. Little did they know that their son and daughter would marry several years later in 1814 in Deerfield, making Mehitable a third great-grandmother and her father, Joseph Stebbins, Jr., a fourth great-grandfather of mine. 

Joseph Stebbins, Jr. served the entire Revolutionary War with a rebel and military career beginning in 1773, as a leader of the “Sons of Liberty” in Deerfield, and the first to respond as the lieutenant of the Minuteman Company that answered the Lexington Alarm on 20 April 1775, when a rider galloping through town called “to arms...Gage has fired on the people! Minute men to the rescue! Now is the time! Cambridge is the place!” 

In Cambridge, Joseph Stebbins was promoted to captain in the Continental Army by General Ward and placed under the command of Colonel Prescott. His officer’s commission was later signed by John Hancock and hangs in Deerfield Memorial Hall. His commission was issued in the same room and by the same body of men which had commissioned George Washington Commander-in-Chief eleven days earlier on 19 June 1775. Captain Stebbins was at the Battle of Bunker Hill 17 June 1775. He was one of the company commanders tasked the night before the battle to build the Redoubt and was “in the thick of the fight” defending the Redoubt the following day. He was later at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, fighting at Stillwater and Bemis Heights and witnessed General Burgoyne’s surrender to General Horatio Gates. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel in 1781, and Colonel of the Militia in May 1788 to assist Governor John Hancock in Shays’s Rebellion. All three of his officer commissions were signed by John Hancock. 

Richard Alan Neeley
January 2018

Some comments from Maurice:

[1] Matthew Clesson would have been a child around the time of Oliver Cromwell's conquest of Ireland. I wonder if he was one of the many children and youths rounded up and sent to the New World as (un)indentured servants. If so, there may be Court Records which show what age he was assigned by the Court upon his arrival. This "age assignment" was necessary because many children did not know how old they were and the Court would decide. The age assigned determined how many more years of indentured labour the child / youth had to serve before being set free from his indentureship. [Reference: Without Indentures, Richard Hayes Phillips, 2013]

[2] Nathaniel's father William was from Crewkerne, Somerset and was born about 1593. You can read about him here. Coincidentally, there were a family of Phelps in North Tipperary in the mid-1600s which has been discussed in a previous post ... The Phelps Connection. They originated from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire in 1620s.