Monday, July 19, 2010

A Lady of No Reputation Who Was Simply Amazing, Part V

Irish Ladies Working "Lazy Beds," the Prime Means
Of Potato Cultivation in the 19th Century

Many of the Irish Catholics Forced Into Potato Cultivation by the British Landlords Whole Stole Their Lands and Then Rented Them Back to Them Had to Live in Mud Huts Next to Their Potato "Lazy Beds"; the "Rich" Potato Farmers Were the Ones Allowed to Live in Shacks

Finally, here we start zeroing-in on the story of our father's father's mother, Annie Fuller.

In 1801, brutality came disguised as an act of democracy. The Act of Union dissolved the Irish Parliament and government, but gave the Irish a large but ineffective representation in the English Parliament. Credit for Irish businessmen and the lifting of restrictions against Irish Catholics never materialized. Instead, the English annihilated what was left of Irish industry by flooding Ireland with cheap English manufactures. Unemployment soared. Banned from most forms of employment, most of the Catholic majority in Ireland were forced into tenant farming.

At this time the English overlords of the lands stolen from the Irish discovered the potato. With almost no investment, very tiny plots could be coaxed into growing very large and very profitable quantities of potatoes. They forced their Irish tenant farmers to cultivate potatoes, only, by simply shrinking the boundaries of leased plots while jamming as many tenant farmers as possible onto every available square foot of stolen Irish estates. While the English overlords, who rarely actually visited their Irish estates, collected rents from their stolen lands, severely impoverished Irish tenant farmers barely managed to eke out an existence on their miserable little potato plots.

The poverty of the Catholic Irish farmers was astounding. Two out of five lived in disgusting little mud huts, without windows or furniture, with their pigs. Most of the rest lived in unfurnished cottages. A farmer was regarded as "rich" if he owned a wheelbarrow. Under such conditions, population normally booms, and it did boom in Ireland during this period, but not for lack of virtue. Visitors to Ireland during the early 19th century declared that there was no such thing as a bastard child in Ireland. There was simply no marital infidelity in Ireland. The daughter of one English overlord, visiting her father's stolen estates, was shocked at how much safer she was among the Irish than on the streets of London.


That was the world into which G1 GM ANNA FULLER was born in 1829 [1]. That world was about to collapse.

[1] This simple sentence contains three educated guesses. The first one, that ANNA FULLER was born in Ireland, is a relatively safe assumption. Oral tradition within the family is that she was Irish. Gf HENRY AVERY DAWSON's marriage license application says that ANNA was Irish. However, the 1870 Census record states that Anna was born in "England." Why? Perhaps, while ANNA was being interviewed by Samuel Kinsley, assistant marshall for the Census Bureau, 3 year old gf HENRY AVERY DAWSON was holding onto ANNA's leg, screaming, crying, begging for attention, so that when Kinsley asked ANNA for her birthplace, and ANNA said, "Londonderry," her birthplace according to certain relatives in the family, all Kinsley heard was "London..." and so wrote "England" on the questionaire. Who knows?

The next educated guess is that ANNA's surname was "Fuller." We find 2 surnames associated with ANNA in records, "Fuller" and "Mallon." "Fuller" and "Mallon" are 2 common surnames in Ireland. One is obviously her maiden name and the other a married name, since oral tradition in the family holds that ANNA came to America a young widow with a blind daughter, great aunt BARBARA. I guessed that "Fuller" was ANNA's maiden name because of an entry in the 1852 Philadelphia Directory. There we are told that "MALLON, A." was a "lab[orer]" who lived at "#3 Goldsmith Court," a Philadelphia street which was so tiny that I could not find it in Smedley's 1863 Philadelphia Atlas. I connect this with ANNA for several reasons. First, there are several women listed in the 1852 Philadelphia Directory. In other words, there is no good reason why "A. MALLON" could not have been a woman. Second, there are no other "Fuller's" or "Mallon's" in the 1852 Directory with a first name beginning with "A." Third, as a widow from a Catholic Irish potato-farming family (which would explain ANNA's departure from Ireland and arrival in this country in the first half of the 19th century), ANNA living in the City of Philadelphia would have been classified as an unskilled general "laborer." Assuming that "A. MALLON" in the 1852 Philadelphia Directory is our g1 gm, then "Mallon" would probably have been ANNA's married name since, so soon after the death of her husband in Ireland, in that more formal and more proper era she would probably have retained her married name, and would also have done so for the sake of her infant daughter. For these reasons, saying that "Fuller" was ANNA's maiden surname did not seem to be too much of a "stretcher."

The third educated guess was g1 gm ANNA FULLER's birth year, 1829. In 1870, ANNA told census taker Samuel Kinsley that she was "41" years of age. 1870 - 41 = 1829. However, the census interview took place on June 13, 1870. Technically, June 13, 1870 could have been anything from the last day of her 41st year to the first day of her 41st year. That generates a possible range of birth dates from June 14, 1828 through June 13, 1829.

Family tradition is that ANNA FULLER was from Scotch-Irish stock -- in other words, from one of the Presbyterian families from Scotland who colonized what is now Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 17th century with the support of English King James I -- but was nonetheless devoutly Catholic [2].

[2] I feel that this is gently corroborated by two factors. Directly, by the claim of one of the southern Dawson's that ANNA lived in "Londonderry" in Northern Ireland; and, indirectly, by Samuel Kinsley's error in 1870 when he inscribed the 1870 Census record to read that ANNA was born in "England," which would have occurred because he misunderstood ANNA when she said that she was born in "Londonderry," so that Kinsley heard "London."

ANNA was probably born and raised in Northern Ireland [3].

[3] See data connecting ANNA with Northern Ireland in Note <[>2].

The family tradition that ANNA was devoutly Catholic, plus ANNA's starvation during the Potato Famine, reveals a great deal about ANNA's early years. Probably, one or both of her parents were actually Northern Ireland Catholics. Her parents were probably merely another family of potato-growing tenant farmers on the stolen lands of an English overlord in Londonderry County. Odds are that ANNA lived in one of the windowless mud huts or shack-like cottages for potato-growing Catholic tenant farmers in Londonderry County, since she would have tended to marry someone in her class, and , again, her subsequent starvation suggests that she very much belonged to the class of astonishingly-poor Roman Catholic Irish potato farmers. She was probably educated in the Gaelic language and in the Catholic faith outdoors, a short distance from wear her parents were cultivating their potato crop, in one of the famous "hedgerow schools." She may have attended illegal Masses regularly in the obsequious root cellar of a neighbor. In this context, there is a respectable chance that, as so often happens with Irish children today, ANNA FULLER grew up disliking Protestants.

Before the Potato Famine, Irish Catholic girls traditionally married at age 16, and Irish Catholic boys at 18. The circumstances suggest that, indeed, ANNA FULLER married her first husband Mr. Mallon in 1845, at 16 years of age [4].

[4] Oral tradition holds that ANNA came to America after giving birth to a blind daughter and after her husband's death. Both things are probably the result of the Potato Famine. The Famine commenced in the Fall of 1845, and severely disrupted Irish civilization in 1846, 1847 and 1848. Casualties continued into later years, but those first three years were the worst. If her baby, great aunt BARBARA, was born blind on account of ANNA's starvation, and if ANNA's husband starved to death, then her marriage would have occurred in 1845 or 1846; and ANNA would have conceived fairly quickly; and then her baby would have been born blind and her husband would have died in 1847 or 1848.

Mr. Mallon was probably just another potato-faming Roman Catholic tenant farmer. At such a young age, they almost certainly lived in one of the windowless mud huts situated on their potato plot [5].

[5] The sheer fact of the family's subsequent starvation suggests this.

In the Summer of 1845, American farmers noticed that a strange fungus was wilting the leaves of their potato crops, causing the vegetable in the ground to rot. In the Fall of 1845, the fungus boarded a boat which sailed from America to the Isle of Wight, probably in the form of a half-eaten potato cast carelessly aside. Within a few weeks after that boat made its landfall, nearly every potato on the Isle of Wight was dead. Perhaps the same boat brought the fungus to England's south-eastern coast. Within a few weeks, most of the potatoes in the County of Kent were dead. The damage quickly spread to all of Southern England, and then to Ireland. Mr. Mallon would have come home one day and said something like, "Annie, the boys are sayin' that somethin's happenin' to the leaves of everyone's potato crop. T' tell th' truth, our crop doesn't look too inspirin'. We may be in for a bit a' trouble." Living on the brink of utter destitution, this could not have been very good news for ANNA, who was probably pregnant at the time. In the weeks that followed, a large amount -- but not all -- of the 1845 potato crop died. A number of farmers got their crops out of the ground in time. The 1846 crop was a complete disaster. So were the 1847 and 1848 crops.

As subsistence-level tenant farmers immediately began defaulting on their rents, the absentee English overlords in London's fashionable West End, deprived of their rents, began ordering evictions, as though the Catholic Irish tenant farmers were allowed by the law to live elsewhere and earn their living in another way. English-run Irish courts authorized brutal evictions. Doors were broken-in, families expelled, and mud huts and cottages collapsed. Within a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Catholic Irish were wandering the roads, with no place to go, no one to beg from, no way to eat.

Stupidity followed upon stupidity. In London, Parliament authorized some relief efforts, but decided that the main problem was too many tenant farmers crammed onto too many undersized plots, and so Parliament enacted the infamous Four Pound Clause, imposing an annual tax of four English pounds on every farming plot under a certain size. Although Parliament certainly did not put it this way, ultimately their new policy amounted to eliminating starvation by getting rid of the people.

Faced with an immense annual penalty for previously forcing their Catholic Irish tenants to farm undersized potato plots, the English overlords immediately announced the eviction of even their tenants who were still current in their rents, so that their plots could be recombined into much larger farms. The evictions doubled. In short order, millions of Catholic families were homeless, wandering the roads in Ireland with no place to live, no one to beg from, and no food to eat.


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