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!

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9/05/14 & 9/06/14 – Continuing Research and Getting Everything Organized

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As you can imagine, researching takes a lot of time! Not only that, once there is enough material on hand to write about, it still needs to be organized. I spent my time today doing that as well as continuing research on Ancestry, so I don’t have much to share today. Well, I have a lot to share – it’s just not ready! 

Other than that, today was a lively day at the homestead. Beth, Trish, Jackie, Sandra were all there this morning sharing some findings, archiving, and discussing our projects. I have to say the most exciting part about today was seeing what Sandra found on eBay! She found a genealogy of some families from Dutchess county which included the Mesiers (and all the way back to Peter J. Mesier). I was so, so, so  excited to be able to fill in some dates on our Mesier family tree and confirm some information that we already had (marriages, births, etc). We did notice that a few Mesiers were missing and realized the we had the second volume of the book, so now we are on a quest for the first! Sandra, you are amazing! 

I took some pictures of what the book contains, and you can see how valuable the information is for yourself! 

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6

**Click to Enlarge 

There’s one page missing, which is 82. I must have forgotten to take a picture of it. I’ll update this post with it next time I’m at the house. 

About my Internship at WHS and my First Day of Research

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Before I dive right in, I wanted to share my goals in creating this blog. First of all, I want a documented experience of my internship so I can reflect back on my findings. By doing this, I hope to organize my thoughts and ideas about the project and have a clear sense each day of how I am progressing. Sometimes when you lock your thoughts up in your head, you may think they make sense, but when you go to formally write them down you find that perhaps you don’t know all that you thought you knew! Or, maybe you do, but writing develops that further. This happens to me pretty often, thus the creation of this blog. And, most importantly, I want to share everything I find with anyone whose interested in knowing more about local history and the roles our ancestral neighbors played in the past. It’s so cool, so intimate, and so important that it definitely needs to be shared.

That being said, Forward in all Directions!

I am so super, super, super excited to be interning at the Wappingers Historical Society. I have a deep passion for local history, and having the opportunity to get involved, hands on, with the society makes me incredibly eager to get going! Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long to get started (thank you, thank you, thank you!).

The first few days I met with Sandra Vacchio, president of WHS, and together we ironed out the details of my duties as an intern. As it turns out, my internship will be totally awesome as Beth Devine, Vice President of WHS, suggested that my most consuming role would be fine tuning the society’s knowledge of the Mesier family. This means researching and gathering more information on Peter Mesier, the homestead’s namesake, and his kin. The project, it seems, is of immense importance to the progress of WHS as having a comprehensive history of the Mesiers, their role in the affairs Wappingers and earlier in New York City, would offer the society a firm foundation as to what exactly the long-term goals of the society would/could and should be.

Beth has already given me a wealth of information to kick start my own investigations, and today I dove right into it.

First I started by confirming some of the information Beth gave me that we were a little confused on. I went ahead and created a tentative genealogy of the Mesiers. My goal in doing this was solely to understand which Mesier members actually lived on the homestead (and when). This is what I ended up coming up with (highlighted in yellow are the ancestors I believe to have resided in the home): Mesier Family Tree

Then, to give myself a overall gist of the the Mesier’s history, I read Henry Suydam’s History and Reminiscences of the Mesier Family of Wappingers Creek. Henry Suydam was the son of Jane Mesier, daughter of Catherine and Peter Mesier, and frequently visted his Aunt and Uncle at the homestead. He privately published his History in 1882, the same year the last Mesier (Henry Mesier, I believe) occupied the house. The book is a brief, charming history of the the family and it’s more notable members.  Though not thorough in the least, it was another great starting point.

I also wanted to learn more about the Wappinger’s Tea Party and the conflict with Peter Mesier, and I found an official document written by what was called The Committee and Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies in the State of New York. Sound juicy?! Well it is! It is so cool to read about this kind of event happening not only right here in Wappingers, but at the Mesier Homestead itself! So awesome. Here it is: Peter Mesier & Wappingers Tea Party

I feel it’s also super important to have an understanding of who Peter’s parents and grandparents were and what they did themselves in New York. I unearthed some awesome, well documented information on where the first Mesiers lived and what kind of property they owned in Manhattan (this information is dated back to the 1660s – it’s incredibly hard to find specific details about one person that long ago, so we are incredibly lucky). And here’s what I gathered on that: Peter Mesier, SR

Finally, I wanted to know about Peter Mesier’s property losses in Manhattan due to two “great fires,” one in 1776 and one in 1778. What  I found in regards to this was very intriguing, and I was able to figure out quite a bit. Here are my notes on that: Peter Mesier in NYC – Houses Burned

All in all today was a great, successful, rewarding first day at WHS. I feel like I gathered  a lot of useful information and have the tools to formulate some more goals for moving forward – and I absolutely loved doing it. I feel like Sherlock Holmes.

**I want to make a note that my blog will be structured as follows: each day I’ll post a brief description of what I did and my notes on each topic, and then at the end of each week submit an comprehensive, detailed entry of what I found and reflect on those findings.