Charlotte Taylor Her Life and Times
Every historic account or tale about Charlotte Taylor contains a reference to her roots in England. People say she was born in London where she resided through her teenage years. She died April 25, 1841 in Tabusintac, New Brunswick, Canada, after a lingering illness. Her Death Certificate was filed at the Office of the Common Clerk in Saint John, New Brunswick. On April 27, 1841 the St. Andrews Standard printed the obituary of Charlotte Hierlihey. Her death occurred on "Sunday morn" at the age of 89. The May 5, 1841 edition of the Royal Gazette also published her obituary. This small article announced that "Charlotte Hierlihey (Hierlihy), an old and respected inhabitant and the third British settler on the banks of the Miramichi", had died in her 89th year. Charlotte Hierlihy's maiden name was Charlotte Taylor. If her age was recorded accurately in the newspaper, then her birth occurred between April 26, 1751 and April 25, 1752. In 1980 a Memorial was placed at her grave in the Tabusintac Riverside Cemetery; a tribute to the "Mother of Tabusintac" by her many descendants. Etched on the stone is a year of birth (1755) and a year of death (1840). If Charlotte lived 85 years then she was born between April 26, 1755 and April 25, 1756. I have used the April 25, 1841 date of death in my calculations. The numbers 85 and 89 could easily have been mistaken for each other in conversation. Possibly the Royal Gazette printed an incorrect age, but the date of death was accurate and verifiable.
A search of birth and christening records in the British Isles for the years 1745-1760 provides only seven records for the name Charlotte Taylor (any spelling). The source for each is the IGI (International Genealogical Index), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The seven records are as follows:
It is important to mention that many birth and christening records of that time were undocumented, and many that were, did not survive. So it is likely that other Charlotte Taylors were born during the same period (1745-1760) in the British Isles. Of the seven records, numbers (2), (5), and (6) can probably be ruled out based on supplementary information supplied. Additionally they fall outside of both probable birth date ranges. Numbers (1), (3), (4), and (7) cannot be dismissed although number (1) is an unlikely possibility. It has an unusual French spelling, the location of the christening was not in London, and the age is outside of the birth date range. However many records included spelling 'errors'; different versions of the same name. Numbers (3) and (4) do not fit into the calculated birth date range either, but the range is only correct if Charlotte was 85 or 89 when she died. The IGI Marriage Records are interesting insofar as two dates are concerned: 1) Marriage of Charlotte Taylor to James Weston on July 12, 1772 in London, England, and 2) Marriage of Charlotte Taylor to Thomas Radford on May 7, 1770 at Saint Martin's in the Fields, Westminster, London, England. These two marriages might have involved two of the seven Charlotte Taylors listed above. Most would have reached marriageable age by 1770, and all by 1772.
The IGI Death Records also have two interesting entries: 1) Death of Charlotte Taylor on December 23, 1806 in London, England with Relative listed as Ann T. Partington, and 2) Death of Charlotte Taylor on September 19, 1839 at London, England with Relative listed as Ann Taylor Partington. Two mothers of the seven Charlottes listed were named Ann. The most likely choice for our Charlotte Taylor is number (7). The date falls within the birth date range if she was 85 years old when she died. The christening took place in the City of London at the Holborn Lying In Hospital, which at that time catered primarily to poor mothers in distressed circumstances from London and other parts of the country. This Charlotte would not have married in 1770 at the age of 14, and there is little likelihood that she married in 1772 at 16. Perhaps this girl was named for her father Charles. Interestingly, there are two IGI Christening Records, for infants Charles Taylor and Ann Taylor, dated 5 June 1757. Their parents were Charles and Ann Taylor and the christenings took place at Lying In Hospital, Endell Street, Holborn, London, England. Were these children the twin siblings of Charlotte Taylor number (7)? Mary Ann Blake was the name that Charlotte gave her second-born daughter and maybe her middle name had special significance. At any rate we do not know for certain where, when, or to whom Charlotte Taylor was born.
London in the year 1761 was a settled and widely serviced city. St. Martin's-in-the Fields, where a Charlotte Taylor married Thomas Radford in 1770, and the Holborn area, where Charlotte Taylor number (7) was christened in November 1755, were both well known areas. The London referenced here notes the significant churches, gardens, squares, theatres, markets and government buildings of the day; along with the taverns, inns and coffee houses that were there. It is an interesting look into the world of Charlotte Taylor when she was girl of five to ten years. The stories of her life usually mention her father, a London merchant or a military man. No stories of her mother have ever been recorded. There was a black stableboy or butler working at their dwelling or business, and Charlotte became involved with him. Around 1775 they ran off to the West Indies, to escape the heavy-handed disapproval of her family. The young man may have been a West India merchant according to other tales. An interracial relationship would have been more acceptable in the West Indies. On the Islands during the 18th century there was almost complete abandonment of monogamy and marriage. 'Concubinage' or cohabitation without marriage, was the custom of the Islands. The European population was composed mostly of transient men with coloured mistresses. The progeny of these relationships, bought free by their fathers, became part of an influential coloured middle class. In 1775 the word coloured was commonly used and there were 'whites' and 'coloureds' on the Islands of the Caribbean. Most likely Charlotte and her young man hastily boarded a sailing ship, and left their lives in London behind them.
There is no record of Charlotte's life during her brief stay on the Islands. There was well established trade in the 18th century between the West Indies, Great Britain and North America. Ships laden with fish, lumber, and manufactured goods arrived in Island ports; others brought in African slaves to labour on sugar cane plantations. A West Indies life may have been the only option for Charlotte Taylor under the circumstances. But something went awry and again there are different versions. Charlotte's lover perished from Yellow Fever in the West Indies, or he drowned off Miscou Island accompanying her to North America. I think it unlikely that Charlotte Taylor and this fellow chose to emigrate to a remote wilderness. Slavery, while not widespread, was practiced by fur traders and others until the end of the eighteenth century in Canada. There are no records of black people living in New Brunswick before 1783, when they came as indentured servants, free blacks or black Loyalists after the American Revolution. I think it more probable that this individual died of Yellow Fever. It was pandemic in the Caribbean at that time, and the old burial grounds on all of the Islands are filled with its victims and with the casualties of the countless wars fought there. The unexpected death of this young man must have been a devastating development for Charlotte. She was carrying his child and that reality would have prevented her from returning home, should she have even considered it. It is probably what was behind their departure from England in the first place. Circumstances again forced her hand. She made another bold and radical decision when the opportunity presented itself, but she may have had little choice in the matter.
An unlikely assist came from "the most famous privateer Britain has ever known", Commodore George Walker. Walker had commanded a fleet of armed merchantmen during the War of the Austrian Succession. He went on to fame and fortune as commander of the Royal Family, a fleet of privateering vessels. His spectacular naval battle with the Spanish Glorioso is recorded as his most memorable. A legend in his time; he was a kind, brave, competent and widely respected individual. His na´vetÚ about financial matters enabled the unscrupulous owners of his vessels to take advantage of him. Locked away in debtors' prison, it would be years before he was exonerated and freed. His knowledge of the Scottish fishing industry, and his desire to employ its successful practices in the rich northern waters of the Bay of Chaleur, led him to undertake a new venture after his release. He relocated to present day Bathurst, New Brunswick where he set up a trading establishment in 1768. He owned several ships that enabled him to successfully carry on his enterprise. One of them, commanded by Captain Skinner, would bring Charlotte Taylor to the area and to a very different life than she had planned.
Commodore Walker was partnered initially with wealthy Scottish lawyer Hugh Baillie, and later with John Shoolbred. They supplied the capital and he managed the day-to-day affairs. By 1775 he was living in luxury at Alston Point where he had a splendid, elegantly furnished summer residence and five stores. Another large residence stood at Youghall, near the head of the harbour. Walker was also the local magistrate, empowered to perform marriages, baptisms, and burials. Twenty British subjects worked for him in his fishing, shipbuilding, lumbering and fur trading business. One of them was a Mr. Young who eventually married an Indian woman. Another was master cooper James Robertson who lived on a farm in the Bathurst area until his death on October 29, 1834, at the age of 98. Walker and his employees developed a lucrative trade with the Indians and Acadians of the area. The Commodore also did business with other Englishmen who had set up similar ventures in that area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; the Robins of Jersey and London merchant William Smith.
Walker's ships left the (Bathurst) area loaded with lumber and fish from the bountiful Restigouche River region. They sailed to ports in the Mediterranean and Great Britain where they took on manufactured goods. From the Caribbean, they transported rum, molasses, and salt. Frequently the ships stopped at Liverpool, Nova Scotia to unload and take on new cargoes in that bustling little town. The Diary of Simeon Perkins, penned by a local merchant over a period of years, chronicled the activity and the movement of vessels into and out of that port. It provides a fascinating look at days gone by. Captain Blake, a frequent visitor, was likely in the employ of Commodore Walker or associated with him. The Diary reveals that Blake arrived in Liverpool a few days before July 24, 1775 with a load of molasses and salt which he sold to Simeon Perkins and Captain Dean. He remained there several weeks loading his ship with fish and boards and set sail after settling his accounts on Thursday, September 12, 1775, "with a good wind". Was this mariner Blake the one destined to marry Charlotte Taylor and father three of her children? Perhaps she was actually with him at this time.
How did Charlotte Taylor become involved with Commodore Walker and Captain John Blake? It is possible that she first encountered them in London, if her father had indeed been a merchant there. But it is more probable that she met one of them, likely Blake, after the death of her young man in the West Indies. She set out for Walker's compound, or to the Miramichi River area, in one of Walker's ships and is said to have first come ashore at Miscou Island. This is probably true as it was generally the first land sighted by vessels bound for ports in Gloucester County (New Brunswick), and a place to take on fresh water. Rugged, indented with creeks and gullies, and lying in deep water, Miscou sits at the entrance to the Bay of Chaleur. Charlotte was expecting, or was already the mother of an infant daughter born sometime in 1775. Blake was probably with her and had presumably brought her there. Simeon Perkins confirmed in his Diary that a Captain Blake had definitely been in the Caribbean when he recorded the July 1775 purchase of Blake's cargo (molasses and salt).
If Charlotte did spend time at his compound, Walker would have been welcoming and solicitous. As the local magistrate he could have officiated at the marriage of Captain Blake and Charlotte Taylor. Perhaps he christened her baby Elizabeth Williams or Willisams, the presumed last name of the child's late father. Maybe Charlotte had been married to this man Williams or Willisams, for that story has also been told. As a short note of clarification here, Elizabeth Williams (Willisams) was the woman who married Duncan Robertson at Bay du Vin, New Brunswick on September 22, 1791. This Elizabeth is thought to be the eldest daughter of Charlotte Taylor. In the Census of 1851 for Alnwick Parish, Northumberland County, N.B., she was enumerated as Widow Elizabeth Robertson, age 76. This verified that she had been born around 1775. She was described as English, although her son with whom she was residing was noted as Scotch, the nationality of his father. The record of that Census also states that she was born in the colony. If this is correct, and it must be emphasized that errors were common on these Census Reports, then Charlotte Taylor probably arrived along the Gulf of St. Lawrence (New Brunswick) in 1775, before the birth of Elizabeth. It is likely that the last name of this girl was Williams, a name prevalent in the vital statistics records of the West Indies in those days. There are no records there for the name Willisams. There was probably a spelling 'error'. However there is an interesting IGI record of a marriage between Elizabeth Willisams and John Cotlam in Nottingham, England on August 22, 1774. This is the only record for the name Willisams in Great Britain. It may too have been a spelling 'error', but if not, then this name may be a remote possibility.
Captain John Blake, Charlotte Taylor, and the infant Elizabeth, may have quickly relocated to Black Brook on the Miramichi River. The American Revolutionary War was erupting and American privateering vessels began their campaign of terror around the northeast coast (Canada) in 1775. Blake may have felt it wise to get away from Walker's compound which was probably under constant siege. Indeed he may have left there as a result of the hostilities. Commodore Walker, like most of the other traders in that area, became a principal victim of the privateers. His establishment was burned to the ground in 1776 or 1777 and the old 'pirate' was forced to immediately return to England. Charlotte and Captain Blake may have fled Walker's compound at the same time; but Charlotte's background probably prevented her from returning to England. Commodore Walker was a philosophical man and a survivor of a lifetime of serious setbacks. He presumably took his misfortunes in stride, as he had throughout his long and colourful history. He planned to take command of another ship and involve himself in the new battle between Great Britain and her rebellious colonies. But his seafaring days were over and he died of 'apoplexy' (stroke), soon after his return to London in 1777.
And so the story moves on to the time of John and Charlotte Blake, and to the beginning of their life together at Black Brook. Many believe that they married soon after their arrival on the Miramichi River, and not before. There were tremendous opportunities in that area, particularly in the fishery; consequently settlement was beginning. Captain Blake had sailed in the region since 1758, and for certain knew it well. He may have conducted business from time to time with William Davidson, who had established a business there similar to Commodore Walker's in 1765. Blake may have divided his time between the Walker compound and the Miramichi area. Life would continue to be tumultuous and unsettled for the Blakes. The American Revolution was beginning and it would have a great impact on their lives. The Miramichi would not provide a safe haven. The next eventful chapter in the life of Charlotte Taylor will be detailed in Blake's Time.
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