Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Elijah Sedgwick Jr. and the Anti-Masonic Scandal of 1826

I've been poking around in Google Books, looking for whatever might be found pertaining to my fourth great-grandfather, Elijah Sedgwick. I believe what I found this morning, however, pertains not to him but to his second-born child, Elijah Sedgwick, Jr., who lived for a time at Victor, Ontario County, New York. First, here's why I think so.

Elijah Sedgwick, Jr., graduated in 1826 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District at Fairfield, New York, and filed a copy of his diploma with the Ontario County clerk. [See Hoolihan, Christopher. An Annotated Catalogue of the Edward C. Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2001.]

Later, his name appeared in a list published in History of Ontario County, New York. Papers of the Ontario County Medical Society dating from their organization in 1806 until 1842 were destroyed by fire, and the list was described this way: "...a stray leaf from an old record is found, from which we learn the names of the early physicians of the county, but there is nothing by which can be determined the date of the entry." The name Elijah Sedgwick appears in the list, and this was certainly Elijah Jr., as there is no evidence that Elijah Sr. was ever a doctor.

According to information posted at, Elijah Jr. and his wife, Esther P. Bement, were known to have lived in Victor, and Esther is said to have died there in 1842. I don't have any evidence that Elijah Sr. ever lived in Victor.

Thus I'm convinced that it's Elijah Jr. whose name appears with others from Victor as one of several locality-based committees which together formed a larger committee whose anti-Masonic activities were a response to the disappearance and possible murder of William Morgan by Freemasons.

The Wikipedia summary of the William Morgan story will surely whet your appetite for more on this interesting case, which is still unsolved. Much has been written about it by both sides. I've collected some resources on the subject at my companion blog, My Ancestors in Books. Included there are the two books in which Elijah Sedgwick's name appears, followed by seven other books which are, in whole or in part, about Freemasonry and the William Morgan affair.

Considering the widespread upheaval and political ramifications that followed the disappearance of Morgan, I'm surprised I'd never heard of this before. No wonder I thought high school history was dull. They left out the really interesting stuff. William Morgan is not so much as a leaf on my family tree, but his events of 1826 were surely a topic of conversation among my kin--so much so that at least one of them, Elijah Sedgwick, Jr., took an anti-Masonic stand.

In another branch of the family, a son born in 1832 was named after Andrew Jackson, a Mason. Previously I thought this name was simply a statement of support for a president and his party, but considering the timing in conjunction with the controversy stirred up by the Morgan affair, I have to wonder whether it may have been a pro-Masonic statement as well.

Putting a Spin on It, 19th Century Style

One more thing before you go off to read about Morgan. It seems to me there are two kinds of books about this subject: those written by Masonic authors and those written by anti-Masonic authors. You'll notice the difference yourself, even in the pictures.

William Morgan
The portrait above appears in the first of the books you'll find at My Ancestors in Books, Bernard's anti-Masonic Light on Masonry, where it's identified as William Morgan. The Historical Association of Lewiston uses a very different portrait in their informative one-page PDF about William Morgan. At the website of the Masonic Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, a page entitled William Morgan notes displays the latter image and, in note number 20, has this to say about the two portraits:
"A posthumous portrait of Morgan first appeared as a frontispiece to David Bernard’s Light on Masonry, printed by William Williams, Utica. Claiming to be from a painting by A. Cooley, the caption gives credit to V. Balch as sculptor, original copyright by Cooley in New York, April 1829. With this picture and a meticulously worded legal description, artist Noel Holmes was directed by William G. Vorpe, one of the editors of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, to draw the picture of Morgan found at the top left of this page."
A third portrait, clearly based on the Holmes portrait, appeared in an 1883 book by Robert Morris (included in the post at My Ancestors in Books):

Labeled as "Fictitious Portrait No. 1," it was followed by "Fictitious Portrait No. 2," a crude copy of the one which appeared in Bernard's book.



Apple said...

The Morgan story is one of my favorite local history stories. You would think I would have learned it in school. Until I read the wikipedia article I didn't know there was a monument in Batavia so I'll have to look for it next time I'm out that way.

T.K. said...

Send me a picture of the monument and I'll add it to the post, Apple!

Every time I sat down to work on this post, I ended up reading more about it and adding another book to the list. It was really hard to cut it off. There's lots more to read!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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