#113: Stampede of the Colts!

113.1  Dear Friends: Recently I was writing an article for a monthly entertainment newspaper up here where I live in northern New York state…it’s a column on Baby Boomer pop culture, back columns of which are here if you’re interested. I needed to double-check the facts concerning Samuel Colt and the fictitious Colt cousins on the 1950s TV show “Colt .45″…and it was then that I realized that the question of the parentage of his nephew Samuel Caldwell Colt was of more significance than I had realized when I mentioned it back in  #103So here’s a brief accounting…

chart 406

113.2   It begins in August of 1835 when Samuel Colt, who had just turned 21, sails to England on a 4-month-long business trip promoting his firearms. He spends much of his time there in London, visits Paris as well, and spends several weeks in Scotland, where he meets Caroline Henshaw…a 16-year-old German, said to have been “stranded” there for whatever reason. They fall in love…they are married…they travel back in the US in December. Once home, he has doubts about revealing his impromptu nuptials to his family. Caroline is a foreigner, not of old New England stock obviously…she speaks German, French, and Polish fluently but very little English…a proper spouse for a blue-blood scion?…and so the marriage remains a secret.

113.3   And just as well…Samuel is apparently a poor husband…to wit, he’s never home. Needless to say, details of their relationship over the next several years are sketchy…but in 1841, we find Caroline ensconced in Philadelphia, working in a corset-making shop, where she meets Samuel’s brother John Caldwell Colt, 4 years his senior. He has spent time as a fur-trader, a Marine, a law clerk, a teacher, but has finally found his niche as a bookkeeper, and has published an influential textbook on the up-and-coming system of double-digit accounting. He moves to New York City in January of 1841, and Caroline comes to live with him in May.

113.4  And she is pregnant, giving birth on December 17, 1841 to a son, which she names Samuel Colt Junior. All and sundry assume that despite the name, this is John’s son…but John has his mind on other things, as he is being tried for the murder of book publisher Samuel Adams that fall. The trial drags on into 1842, and on September 28, John Caldwell Colt is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The public has been following this sensational story with rapt interest, but the best is yet to come.

113.5  On the morning of his execution, November 14, 1842, John and Caroline are weddedmarried in a brief ceremony in his cell, witnessed by his brother Samuel. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Caroline is now a bigamist, if only for a day…Samuel doesn’t marry Elizabeth Jarvis and start his own family for another 14 years. Mind you, altho John was incarcerated in New York City’s infamous prison nicknamed The Tombs, he was living in the lap of luxury…wearing satin dressing gowns, dining on roast quail, fresh flowers brought to him daily by Caroline, the works. Several hours after the wedding ceremony a fire breaks out at the prison, and when the smokes clears, John in found dead in his cell, stabbed thru the heart. It is ruled a suicide…and it is never discovered who smuggled in the knife…Caroline is the logical suspect, but he had many visitors, especially family.

113.6   Samuel Colt provides for the mother and the upbringing of the child, now known as Samuel Caldwell Colt, always referring to him as his “nephew”…yes, he would put the word in quotes.  Samuel Colt dies on January 10, 1862, and when his will is probated, it is found that he has left what would be the equivalent today of $2 million to his “nephew.” Widow Elizabeth protests, and it is then that a marriage certificate from Scotland is produced…it is ruled that regardless of whom the real father of Samuel Caldwell Colt may be, his mother was married to Samuel Colt when he was born, thus he is a legal heir.

113.7  There is much more to the story, including rumors that John Caldwell Colt faked his death, escaped in the confusion of the fire, and lived out his life in California. Despite the sensationalist aspects of the affair, Samuel Caldwell Colt goes on to raise a family in Connecticut as a farmer…is of good enough reputation to be elected to the state legislature…and dies in 1915. Caroline, reinvented as Julia Leicester, Samuel Colt’s “niece,” returns to Germany and marries a Count who runs the Colt factory there…altho some historians claim that Frederich von Oppen actually married a different Julia, Samuel’s 2nd cousin, the granddaughter of his grandfather Benjamin’s brother Peter. I leave you with images of the 3 gentlemen concerned, a picture being worth a thousand words, as they say.

whose daddy

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  113.8  But I’ll admit it…I got hooked on it all…and in the process of assembling a Colt family tree, I came across some interesting twigs and branches that I’d like to share with you.

chart 407

113.9  The first one that caught my attention was when Samuel Colt’s 1st cousin Daniel married Emelia Skinner in 1819. Skinner sounded familiar…and sure enough, Samuel had a 3G grandmother, Ann Skinner. All that was needed was to link up Ann and Emelia, and that wasn’t difficult, as the genealogies of these old New England families are relatively well documented. You’ll notice in Chart 407 that there is some question about which of John Skinner’s sons, Joseph or Richard, is the relevant ancestor, but end result: Daniel and Emelia were 5th cousins…and something struck me that hadn’t up to this point…

113.10  …and that is that when 5th cousins marry, it’s almost a certainty that their common ancestor is long dead…and that’s true in this case. When 2 of John Skinner’s 4G grandchildren wed, he was in the grave 169 years. Likewise, Ann Skinner was gone 85 years when her 3G grandson married her 3G grand niece. Parenthetically, notice how much more logical that is than the equivalent, which would be to say that her 3G grandson married her 4G niece…sounds like they’re different generations when they’re not.

chart 408

113.11  Next we have David Skinner, Emelia’s paternal grandfather…he married 2 Lord girls, first Sarah, then Jerusha. Sisters, perchance? Nope…double 1st cousins, thru the Lords and thru the Bulkeley’s, sometimes spelled Bulkley, as seen in Chart 408. There are a couple of other Colt/Bulkeley hookups scattered about here and there in time, but this gives you the flavor of it.

chart 409

113.12  Ready for a trifecta? Back to Ann Skinner, Samuel Colt’s 4G grandmother. Her mother was a Loomis, and 3 of Ann’s children also married Loomises. At first, it appeared that 2 Colt brothers and a Colt sister were marrying 3 of their Loomis 1st cousins, 2 of them brother and sister. But as we see in Chart 409, the Loomis trio were actually 1st cousins of Ann Skinner herself, meaning they each married a 1st cousin once removed. Now this jolly arrangement comes with a caveat…John Colt was married either 3 or 4 times…to Mary Fitch, Lydia Finch, Hester Edwards, and Ann Skinner….the first 2 possibly being the same person. Sadly, the dates given by various sources do not match up…it seems most likely that all 3 of these Colt siblings were Ann’s children, altho there’s an outside chance 2 of them were Hester’s.

chart 410

113.13  And finally, an amusing change of pace, Chart 410. In the 1800s, they were just entering the era when middle names would become fashionable…more on that next week. Often,  parents chose the mother’s maiden name, or another surname going further back in the families…it was thought of as a way to “preserve” the surname.  And most often, it was a son that got it, but occasionally a daughter did. Now when a woman marries, then and now, she chooses which middle name to use: either her middle name at birth or her maiden surname.

113.14  Thus it seemed harmless enough when Samuel Colt’s brother Christopher and his wife Theodora DeWolf named their daughter Isabella DeWolf Colt in 1840. Who knew she would grow up to marry her 1st cousin on her mother’s side, Francis Eugene “Frank” DeWolf! She died in 1923, and the US Census records for 1900, 1910, and 1920 all list her as “Isabella C. Dewolf”…altho in genealogical records today, she is by convention called  “Isabella DeWolf DeWolf (Colt).” An added complication is that various branches of that family spelled it DeWolf, Dewolf, and De Wolf…but that’s a tangle for another day…a rainy day…a torrential downpour day… ;) ;)

Wicked Ballsy

chart 411

We’ll say goodbye to the Colt clan for now…yes, for now, since there are many other connections I’ve yet to investigate…how could there not be! But since this whole thing started with the question of whether nephew “Christopher Colt” and his cousin “Sam Colt Jr.” from the TV show “Colt .45″ were real people, I leave you with Chart 411, outlining the various Samuel and Christophers I’ve found, none of which fit the bill, but there you go.

And in the interest of full disclosure, there is yet another Christopher Colt, born in 1829…and he was alive at least in or slightly before 1869 when he had a son. Now that’s the start of the Ulysses S. Grant administration…unfortunately, he would have been 40, a little old to be the character from the show, said to be Grant’s special agent out west. Trouble is, genealogists are not sure exactly where his branch of the Colt family originates…there are at least 4 candidates, a son and 3 grandsons of John Colt, progenitor of the line. Happy hunting, sez me!

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Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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