Family Indian Lore – Taken Captive

Updated 1/1/15 with details on Powers, Wheeler association with Nashoba Indian Town

While my wife and I both appear to each have some Indian ancestry,  it is not surprising to find some of our family branches had different kinds of “Indian encounters” – given we are primarily of European descent.

I have been told stories by other “family genealogists” of family ancestors being captured by Indians, who later escaped. So of course I wanted to find out if these stories were true and what more I could learn.  This post focuses on the stories from my Father’s line. My mother’s family immigrated around 1900, so there are no Indian stories down that path. There are many other Indian stories to be told on my wife’s family lines, but those will be in later posts.

The first event I confirmed was that of Nathaniel Cochran, who was born February 7th, 1757 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Being a historical figure in the Indian Wars of Virginia and the American revolution, a lot is known about Nathaniel Cochran:

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Gerard Hubert Roers (1850 – 1896)

Devils Lake Map_1

Updated 12/12/14: Added section on the meaning of Minnewauken and Devils Lake

[Map Reference: “Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930“, by Karen V. Hansen, Oxford University Press, Sep 18, 2013]

This post presents one of my wife’s ancestors through her father’s lineage: Gerard Hubert Roers

He is one of the first ancestors I traced back to Europe, but his lineage was difficult to establish since he (as many in her her family did) lived just beyond the boundaries of the United States along side Native Americans. In this case, along side the Sioux of North Dakota. Specifically, near the Spirit Lake Reservation along Devils Lake, ND. The map above shows the area this enterprising young man from Holland settled, before dying suddenly of appendicitis. The above referenced book outlines the migration of Dutch and Norwegian immigrants into Minnesota and the Dakotas during the last half of the 1800’s.

Update: interesting note: Devils Lake and Minnewauken, SD originate from the same source:

The Sioux called the lake mni wak’áŋ chante, which separately translate as mni (water), wak’áŋ (spirit), and chante (bad). Early European-American settlers thought this meant “Bad Spirit Lake”, or “Devils Lake.” The “bad” referred to the high salinity of the lake, making it unfit to drink, and “spirit” meant the mirages often seen across the water. The Christian concept of the devil was not present in the Sioux religion.

mni wak’áŋ = Sioux for Minnewauken, SD – end update

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Tracing Our Family To The 1600’s In New England, Part 1

southern new england

Updated 12/1/14 for editorial clean ups.

Updated 12/7/14 to address the alleged lineage between Iyanough and Canonicus

I thought I knew where most of my family roots led back to, or at least I was confident we would not be tracing back to the very beginnings of the country in New England. But as with most families who have  roots stretching back to before the Revolutionary War, I should have known there was a high probability we would discover a trail back to those settlements we all learned about in school.

And given I am writing this the day before Thanksgiving 2014, it should also not surprise me (anymore) there may be a path back to some of the major players in the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Interestingly enough, if there is a path it runs along the Native American tribes who were inhabiting the Plymouth Colony at that time [click image above for a larger version].

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Tracing Our Family To The 1600’s In New England, Part 2

Sgt William Cornwall Jr

Updated 12/31/14 to addressed the alleged connection between Mary Hyanno and Canonicus

In this post I will review our family lineage back to Sgt William Cornell of Roxbury MA, Hartford CT and Middletown CT. I will use the spelling “Cornell” throughout. Early records show he signed his name “Cornell” and during most of his life, but later records and generations shifted the spelling to “Cornwell” and then “Cornwall”. I tend to prefer the spelling used by the individual when doing these posts. I have over time switched between all three spellings, so you will see remnants of them in images and file names.  But for the purpose of this post, I will stick with the original “Cornell”.

I begin with the lineage from myself back to William Cornell:

Alan J to William Cornwell

I have not seen any issue or ambiguity with this lineage, so I will not dwell on it anymore except to bring in other branches of import when needed.  So let’s review not just the life of William Cornell, but the world he lived in based on documented evidence.

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Tracing Our Family To The 1600’s In New England, Part 3


Updated 12/22/14 to fix spelling of Indian tribe names

Updated 1/1/15 for corrections to Iyanough/Hyanno generations plus other editorial clean ups

In this post I hope to provide context with respect to the New England Indians during the period 1630-1640. This is the window in which William Cornell comes to Roxbury, MA, joins the Roxbury militia, at some point loses his first wife, fights the Pequots and then moves to Hartford, CT by 1639 where he is recorded having property. It is inside this window of time a nexus must be shown between Mary Hyanno and William Cornwell for the claim of Hyanno Indian lineage to be true.

To set an end state for this post, it must be noted that the first child of William and Mary Cornwell (i.e,  Sgt. John Cornwell) was born in 1840 in Middletown, CT (reference: White, Lorraine Cook, ed. The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records. Vol. 1-55. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994-2002; via and Family Research  Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA).

Therefore if Mary Cornwell is actually Mary Hyanno, then William Cornwell must meet her sometime in this period. Since no record exists of this meeting, it can only be inferred by events in the region that could tie the Hyanno and Cornwell families together.

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Tracing Our Family To The 1600’s In New England, Part 4

Sgt William Cornwall Jr Atkinson

Updated 12/20/14 to add further evidence of a broad trade network emanating from Mattabessett/Middletown throughout Connecticut.

Updated 12/21/14 to add map showing how Springfield MA, Middletown CT and New Haven CT were connected by a portage site at Middletown.

Updated 12/21/14 to add record date for marriage between William Cornwell and Mary ____

Updated 3/28/15 and 5/16/15 to fix numerous typos.

Since this blog is dedicated to the genealogy of our family I want to step back and establish some context again. The lineage from my father back to Sgt William Cornwell (pictured above and my 10th great grandfather) is clear and unambiguous (see graph below – click all images to enlarge). This series of posts is still the story of one our of ancestors. A story I think my family would like to know. While it attempts to cover some research and explores some theories, it is – in the end – still a story of our family.

Alan J to William Cornwell

This second-to-the-last post in the series brings together a large pool of information, gleaned from numerous sources, to paint a more complete picture of the life of Sgt. William Cornwell (1609 – 1678). As we fill in these details we will discover that over the time of his life here in America, William Cornwell developed special relationships with some of the Indians of New England. We will see how a brutal war on a single tribe (called the Pequot War) affected English and Indians alike, and sent William Cornwell down and interesting (and profitable) path in life. It will postulate a relationship born of battles that founds a special town in Connecticut, and also leads me to conclude William Cornwell’s second wife was very likely an Indian.

In the last post of the series I will address the possibility William Cornwell’s 2nd wife was Mary Hyanno of Barnstable (a distinct possibility from her being Indian).

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Tracing Our Family To The 1600’s In New England, Part 5

Middletown and Barnstable

Update 12/21/14 to address the tradition of naming of children after grandparents

Finally we come to it: was it more likely William Cornwell was married to one Mary “Little Dove” Hyanno, – Nauset Indian Princess – or was it more likely she married one Austin Bearse?

Can we attempt to claim Mary Cornwell was actually from the Cummiquids of Barsntable?

This final post in the series will attempt to address these questions.

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