Moses Dalby – A Journey

Although there is only a distant link between us, Moses being my 2 x half-uncle, I became intrigued by his story after I discovered him in some American records. He seems to have been the only family member adventurous to emigrate and I found myself wondering what happened to him. This is what I’ve discovered.

Moses was born in Thorner, Yorkshire in 1806. His mother Henrietta, my 3 x great grandmother, was a widow of four years with seven children already from her marriage to husband Joseph. We don’t know who Moses’ father was, as he is not named on the baptism register. Henrietta married for the second time, three years later in 1809 at the age of 40, to a man eighteen years her junior, Joseph Stringer, my 3 x great grandfather. She then had a son with Joseph, John Stringer, my 2 x great grandfather. I wonder if Moses was the misfit of the family? Not a full Dalby but not a Stringer either. I hope he didn’t feel like the odd one out, or that he was treated as such either. I like to think he was one of the family and perhaps wasn’t even aware of his illegitimacy for a long time.

At the age of 25, a new life in a new world called Moses to America. He had probably saved for several years to pay for his passage from Liverpool to Philadelphia and he arrived 15th August 1831 on a ship called The Portland. The Portland was a barque, a sailing ship and would have looked much like the image below. There were 45 passengers listed on the ship’s passenger and crew arrival list, including families as well as single men like Moses. The crossing to America took about 5 or 6 weeks in good weather, longer in bad weather and rough seas. Most passengers like Moses would have only been able to afford the cheapest accommodation, which was steerage. Steerage was like a dormitory with bunks down the sides and tables in the middle with a stove for warmth and rudimentary cooking. It would be overcrowded with little ventilation so any illnesses or diseases such as typhus or cholera would spread very quickly. Food would have been cured meat and ships biscuits with a daily ration of water. The food supplied was rarely sufficient for the whole of the journey and most passengers would take dried and cured goods to supplement the provisions. Seasickness would have been a problem too. Not a pleasant journey I’m sure.

Image of a barque from Wikimedia Commons

Arriving in Philadelphia as a 25 year old man with experience of working in the cotton industry in Yorkshire, where he was a spinner, Moses would probably have found work fairly soon. Philadelphia had a thriving textile industry started in the 17th century with skilled work carried out by German immigrants in an area known as Germantown. By the time of Moses’ arrival, there were many large factories employing thousands of workers of all ages and nationalities.

However, I don’t know how long Moses remained in Philadelphia as the next time we find him is six years later in 1837. He is in Springfield, Massachusetts where on 22nd September 1837 he marries Lucina Ashley, the daughter of Pelatiah and Polly, a Springfield family of several generations, I have found family trees for the Ashleys showing them arriving in America in 1638. Lucina was the fourth of six siblings. It was whilst in Springfield that Moses signed a Declaration of Intent to become a citizen of the United States of America. I have discovered that citizenship was a three step process. Firstly one had to make a declaration of intent, next was the Petition for Naturalization and finally the Oath. The Declaration is pictured below, this was how I realised I had my man in America, it clearly gives his birthplace as Thorner, Yorkshire.

Springfield also had a large textile industry, so perhaps Moses had travelled there for work soon after arriving in Philadelphia. However once married, he and Lucina were on the move again and by 1840 they have settled in Orange a town in Essex County, New Jersey where I found them on the US Federal census of that year. Unfortunately the census is just a statistical document with numbers of males and females, blacks and whites of various age groups, so we can’t see what Moses was doing for a job at this time. The next census in 1850 has him as a farmer but there is nothing shown in the column for the value of real estate owned so I assume he must have either been a tenant or just worked as a farm hand as opposed to owning a farm himself.

In 1844 Moses and Lucina had a daughter who they named Henrietta. I found it touching that Moses had chosen to remember his mother in this way and it made me wonder about how much of a wrench it may have been to leave his family back in Yorkshire to travel so far away for a new life. His mother had died in May of 1836, I wonder if he still had any contact with his family, if he knew about his mother’s passing.

However, a new life he now had and in 1855 he signed an oath of allegiance, thus completing his Naturalization process. Unfortunately the middle document in this process, the Petition for Naturalization is missing and according to American researchers I have been chatting to, that is the document with the most information on it. The oath is pictured below.

The family are living in Clinton township, Essex, New Jersey in 1860, then in Irvington, Clinton in 1862. I don’t believe they have actually moved but just that the names of places have changed. A useless bit of trivia is that Irvington was originally called as Camptown up until 1852, named after the Camp family who owned most of the land, but when the 1850 ballad ‘De Camptown Races‘ was published, the townsfolk were outraged to be associated with ‘bawdy goings on’, although the song was not actually written about their town, and renamed the town Irvington, after Washington Irving. Clinton township, which included what is now Irvington as well as South Orange and others was, created in 1834. So although the family have lived in Orange, Clinton and Irvington, I believe it is all the same place. See a history of Irvington here and the map of Essex County from 1889 below. If you click to open it and zoom in, Clinton is at the bottom in pink and you can see the fork in the roads at the bottom of Orange Ave where the Dalby homestead stood.

In 1862, Moses appears on IRS tax documents, paying taxes for his business of ‘Retail liquor dealer’. He is listed in the 1864-65 Boyd’s business directory of Essex, Hudson, & Union Counties, N.J. under the section for Saloons and is shown on later census returns and on his death certificate as a Saloon keeper. He appears to have continued as a saloon keeper until his death in 1882 and according to a much later newpaper article of 1909, shown below, the Dalby Homestead was a favourite haunt of the newly formed Irvington Baseball team, who were to go on to some success considering the small size of the village. I just have a wonderful image in my head of Moses, Lucina and young Henrietta cheering on the local baseball team, although of course I have no idea if that happened or even if women and children would attend games. In the absence of evidence to the contrary though, I’ll allow my imagination to run.

The 1859 map pictured below shows the residents of the village and Moses’ home is highlighted in green, on the corner of Center Street and Belcher Avenue, which on a later map is renamed Clinton Avenue. I love that the family names are listed for each property on the map! Click the image to open full size to zoom in.

I haven’t managed to find out anything significant about the day to day life of the Dalbys, they must have been unassuming, law-abiding citizens as they don’t appear in any newspapers or legal records that I can find. Like most ordinary folk, they probably just went about their ordinary, daily lives. I have found church records for Lucina and Henrietta, they appear to have been active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church and their names are frequently in listings of members attending meetings, Henrietta seems to have been more involved than Lucina was and it looks like Henrietta joined first and perhaps persuaded her mother to join her. Moses doesn’t seem to have been of the same faith as he is not to be found in any of the member registers. Again, to give my imagination a run out, I love to think of Moses, a down to earth Yorkshireman telling his daughter in no uncertain terms that he had no intention of joining any church. I do wonder how her father’s occupation of saloon keeper sat with Henrietta’s church friends! Although I believe that alcohol was not prohibited by the episcopals so perhaps they all went for a beer or two after church!

Moses died aged 75 on 20th July 1882 of Duodenal Enteritis. This is what we would now call a tummy bug, treatable with antibiotics but back then, could lead to infection and death. Moses’ will leaves all his estate to Lucina and for Henrietta to be given an allowance for as long as she remains with her mother, on the death of her mother she would inherit the whole of the remaining estate. Lucina died three years later at the age of 79, her death certificate states the cause of death as paralysis of heart, I assume this means heart failure.

Henrietta continued to live in the house on Centre Street for a further six or seven years, but presumably not running a saloon! She moved to Orange Avenue around 1902 where she lived out her life, a woman of independent means, remaining unmarried until her death aged 75 in 1919.

I can’t help but feel sad that Henrietta never married and had children, I would have loved to have found descendants of my Yorkshire/American 2 x half uncle Moses. I hope you have enjoyed reading about his life as a factual account. I have been working on another version, semi-fictional, featuring other characters, real and imagined, more detailed descriptions of places and events and some imagined scenarios leading up to events in Moses’s life. A fictional tale of a real life if you like, keep your eyes peeled and I’ll post it as a blog post when I’ve finished.

During my research, I found a fabulous book of old photographs and images of Irvington and I’ve created a gallery of some of them below, including prominent houses and building from the Dalby’s time. I know I’m not supposed to reproduce images due to copyright laws but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. For one, I’m not making any money out of them and two, these are old images and in my opinion should by now be in the public domain! (Tip: If you are using a computer and cannot see the caption on the image, click the information symbol on the opened image)

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