Break Throughs and Curious Finds

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It’s been about three weeks since I’ve submitted any posts, and I apologize for the wait. The reason I’ve been holding off on writing about my research is because information is never cut and dry, especially, especially, when dealing with primary sources. Therefore, I was hesitant to put forth any sort of analysis of some of the new information I found – and I still am. It’s extremely important to have a context to put this all in, and though I’m familiar with New York history, I lack the in-depth knowledge required to speculate confidently on what our heroes, Peter Mesier Jr. and his father, Peter Mesier, were like. Thus I’ve been spending a lot of time with Professor Lou Roper, who does have that knowledge necessary for fair speculation. Mulling over my recent finds, we’ve had a great time trying to understand Peter Mesier Jr (1733-1805, Homestead’s namesake) and his motives as a merchant. I deeply appreciate his mentorship!

The past few weeks I’ve set out to answer some questions:

1) What was Peter Mesier, Jr., trading in? (Which goods, imported from where? Was he exporting, etc?)

This is an important question, as noted by a good friend of mine, for it would shed some light on Peter’s political interest, which we are very curious to know since he was operating businesses at the onset of the American Revolution.

2) Therefore, we want to know: was he a Tory?

The Historical Society maintain the idea that he indeed was, given the court minutes which detail the “Tea Party” during which two continental soldiers and a group of women raiding the store run out of his home in which he told tea. This information seems to suggests that the community believed him to be a Tory. Further, we have Maria Mesier’s short history of the family in which she writes that her grandfather, the Peter Mesier at hand, was a Tory, “though a very quiet one.” But there are contradictions with this idea.

New York City was under British control for mostly the whole of the Revolution and was a haven for refugees with Patriot sympathies. Beyond the City, much of upstate New York was in rebellion. During the time, Fishkill (Wappingers) was a contested town. It bordered those cities and towns loyal to the crown and those north who favored the rebellion. This sparked Professor Roper’s and Dr. Jaap Jacobs skepticism that Mesier was indeed a Tory. Why would a Tory flee where he was safest? Given his own example, life beyond the city for Tories was unsure! He would certainly have known this.

Thus the question is an important one, and one we can answer by way of the first question.

3) Who were Peter Mesier’s associations (i.e. who was he working with, his partners, etc.)?

Associations are very important, especially during this time. By understanding the circles Peter ran in, we can understand Mesier himself, of course! We can also find new leads – discover more questions in this way. I’m also hopeful that perhaps by uncovering Peter’s ‘friends’ we see if their family papers still exist (letters, indentures, petitions, etc) and maybe find some mentions of Peter there. A significant quest!

I’ve also been working on research regarding Peter Mesier, Jr.’s father, Peter Mesier, but information from this period (after the colony at New Netherland and before the Revoltion (1700-1770, which is ironically the dates which are Mesier’s birth and death), is very obscure. This can perhaps be owed to the fire at the archives in Albany in the year 1911 (learning this I was deeply affected, knowing that some essential information I could have found may no longer exists). But there is hope, and anything elusive is certainly worth finding, never mind how long it may take – this is the nature of research.

I want you to know that these past few weeks, in regards to these questions, have been extremely productive and eye-opening. I am ecstatic with the information recently found, for it has allowed me to start answering these questions were are vital to the project. Peter Mesier, Jr. is one our biggest focuses, and given the new information, I’m certain he is a curious and interesting case!

I am, though, holding off on sharing the exact documents found and what they may mean. The blog, as noted earlier, is raw – it follows my research, my errors, my ‘guesses.’ Given the significance of some of this information, I want to be sure of the ideas I put forth for you all. Moreso, I want to present it in its entirety, as it’s surely better appreciated in a comprehensive form. Thus everything will come in a full, finished package which will hopefully be published for the homestead. I’m very excited for this!