The story of our family...for my sons

Friday, May 18, 2012

11,060 family members and counting...

...yet another American patriot

Picture painted by Gilbert Stuart

Patriot Colonel John Banister was born on December 26, 1734, the son of Captain John Banister and his wife, Wilmouth, at Hatcher's Run in Bristol Parish. Banister was sent to England for a proper education and was admitted as a barrister to the Middle Temple in London on September 29, 1753. He married Elizabeth Munford in 1755; she died in 1770. Sometime between 1760 and 1762, he erected an Italianate mansion on part of the Jones tract in Petersburg that he inherited from his mother. The new house was named Battersea after a suburb on the south side of the Thames River in England. In 1762, Banister was appointed as a trustee for Petersburg. Two years later, he was elected to the vestry of Bristol Parish. He was also a representative from Dinwiddie County in the House of Burgesses from 1765 to 1769, and again from 1772 to 1775.

After Elizabeth's death in 1770, Banister married Elizabeth (Patsy) Bland, daughter of Theoderick Bland of Cawsons. Their three sons, Robert, John and Nathaniel, all died without issue. In 1771, Banister was appointed as warden for Old Blandford Church. He served as president of the Petersburg Jockey Club in the 1770s. In addition to his military duties, this patriot was a member of the House of Delegates from 1776 to 1778, and again from 1781 to 1784. He was a member of the first five Virginia Revolutionary Conventions. Lieutenant Colonel Banister fought with the American forces under General von Steuben. He was active in the Virginia Line during the invasion of Virginia by Benedict Arnold and General William Phillips, and served as Commander of the Virginia Militia under Brigadier-General Lawson in the attack against Petersburg led by General Phillips on April 24, 1781.

Colonel Banister was elected to the Continental Congress from March 1778 to September 1779, and he was appointed to the Committee of Arrangements for the Continental Army. John Banister also subscribed to the "Articles of Confederation of Perpetual Union," the first step toward the founding of the United States of America, on July 8, 1778. In September that same year, Banister visited General George Washington's headquarters in White Plains, New York. Returning home, this patriot shared his wealth in support of the American war effort. John's holdings included the Hatcher's Run Plantation, Whitehall Plantation adjoining Blanford town on the east, Battersea, and mills erected on the Appomattox River. The war effort took repeated and heavy tolls on Colonel Banister's vast holdings. The British mutilated his house, devastated the furnishings, and damaged or stole other property valued at thousands of pounds.

On February 26, 1779, Colonel Banister married Anne (Nancy) Blair of Williamsburg. She was born in May 1746, the seventh child of John and Mary Monro Blair. Her father was President of the Virginia Colonial Council. Their two sons were Theodorick Blair and John Monro Banister. The younger son married Mary Burton Bowling. Their son John later migrated to Alabama.
During the brief years of his life following the Revolution, Colonel Banister was appointed Petersburg's first mayor in 1785. He died on September 30, 1788, at Battersea, and was buried at the family estate, Hatcher's Run, near Petersburg. Unfortunately, John Banister did not live long enough to see America develop into the great nation it became, due in no small part to the fruits of his many sacrifices. A tribute by his great grandson reads, "With sword, purse, and pen, in the House of Burgesses, in the field, and in Congress, he did all in his power for the cause of Liberty."

His urban villa in Petersburg was built in 1768 in a five-part Palladian style. A notable feature of the interior is a Chinese style staircase. In 1782 he was listed in Dinwiddie County records with 3 free males, 46 Negros adults, 42 Negros under age, 28 horses, 126 cattle and one chairiott; Francis and Abram Ford were listed as 'overseer'. He is buried in the family plot at Hatcher's Run, the family estate in Dinwiddie County, Virginia.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ancestral home of the Stewarts

Dundonald Castle is situated on a hill overlooking the village of Dundonald, between Kilmarnock and Troon in South Ayrshire, Scotland. Dundonald Castle is a fortified tower house built for Robert II Stewart (my 20th great grandfather) on his accession to the throne of Scotland in 1371 and it was used as a royal residence by the early Stewart kings for the next 150 years.

The present castle stands on land where evidence suggest there used to be a hill fort. It is thought that a mixture of large timber built round houses and straight-sided structures occupy the interior. A timber laced stone rampart defines and defends the hill fort. The timber lacing caught fire and burnt with such intensity that the surrounding stonework melted, or vitrified. This firing happened about 1000 AD and seems to mark the end of the hill-fort’s existence.

It was about this date that the independence of the British Kingdom of Strathclyde ceased, being absorbed into the kingdom of Scotland. The place name Dundonald means “Donald’s Fort”. Historians do not know who Donald was but he may have been one of three kings of that name who ruled in Strathclyde in the 10th century. There have been three medieval castles present on this site. The first was built by one of the stewards of the king of Scots, most probably Walter, the first steward, who came to Scotland in 1136. There is no surviving evidence of this castle above ground today.

The second castle was built in the late 13th Century by Alexander Stewart, 4th High Steward, this castle was predominantly built of stone. It would have been one of the grandest baronial residences of its time. It was largely destroyed by the English during the Wars of Scottish Independence wars of independence in the early 14th century. There is little remaining of this castle, however there is a well and a rounded stump of a tower near to the present castle.

Dundonald Castle in 1903.The third castle was built by Robert Stewart, probably to mark his accession to the throne as Robert II in 1371. It was three storeys high. The top floor above the lofty stone vault was the upper hall – the great hall. It was for the more private use of the king and family. The first floor was the lower of the two halls – the laigh hall. It would have been used for more public activities like feasting and the holding of the baron court. The ground floor was a storage area. It was probably originally subdivided providing cellars for different commodities like wine, ale, foodstuffs and fuel.

The tower house was extended in the 15th century to add additional private chambers and a prison. The outer courtyard (called more properly the barmkin) was completed and ancillary buildings (stables, bakehouses, brewhouses, smithy, etc) built against the barmkin wall. The third castle comprises almost everything you see above ground today, including the tower which dominates the hill. Dundonald castle once had its own chapel dedicated to Saint Inan.

The legend of Dundonald Castle

The following extract alludes to an old Scottish folktale about the construction and origins of Dundonald Castle:

In Ayrshire, the following rhyme is prevalent, and is probably very old:

Donald Din
Built his house without a pin, alluding to Dundonald Castle, the ancient seat of King Robert II, and now the last remaining property in Ayrshire of the noble family who take their title from it. According to tradition, it was built by a hero named Donald Din, or Din Donald, and constructed entirely of stone, without the use of wood, a supposition countenanced by the appearance of the building, which consists of three distinct stories, arched over with strong stonework, the roof of one forming the floor of another.

Donald, the builder, was originally a poor man, but had the faculty of dreaming lucking dreams. Upon one occasion he dreamed, thrice in one night, that if he were to go to London Bridge, he would become a wealthy man. He went accordingly, saw a man looking over the parapet of the bridge, whom he accosted courteously, and, after a little conversation, entrusted with the secret of the occasion of his coming to London Bridge.

The stranger told him that he had made a very foolish errand, for he himself had once had a similar vision, which directed him to go to a certain spot in Ayrshire, in Scotland, where he would find a vast treasure, and, for his part, he had never once thought of obeying the injunction.

From his description of the spot, the sly Scotsman at once perceived that the treasure in question must be concealed in no other place than his own humble kail-yard [cabbage patch] at home, to which he immediately repaired, in full expectation of finding it. Nor was he disappointed; for, after destroying many good and promising cabbages, and completely cracking credit with his wife, who esteemed him mad, he found a large potful of gold coin, with the proceeds of which he built a stout castle for himself, and became the founder of a flourishing family.

Similar legends can be found throughout Europe and the Middle-East. The earliest version is one of the poems of the Mathanawi titled "In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad", by 13th century Persian poet Jalal al-Din Rumi. This poem was turned into a story in the tale from The One Thousand and One Nights: The man who became rich through a dream; and spread through various countries folklore, children's tales and literature. More recently the story was adapted into the plot of the novel The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Joan Boteler b. 1395 d. 1489 (my 18th great grandmother) married to Sir Hamon, Treasurer of Normandy, Belnap b. 1394 d. 1429 and lived in Sudeley Castle where a melancholy figure who is said to haunt the castle. This figure is described as a tall woman wearing a green Tudor styled dress. The Lady in Green who looks out of a window and walks through the Queen's garden is thought to be the ghost of Catherine Parr. Catherine Parr, was the sixth wife of Henry VIII. After Henry died in 1547, she married Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley. Later that year, Catherine became pregnant at age 35 and gave birth to a daughter named Mary. A week later, to everyone's dismay, Catherine became ill with puerperal fever and died. Catherine was buried on the grounds of Sudeley in the Chapel of St. Mary. Her daughter, Mary, was abandoned by her father and was taken in by Catherine's close friend, Catherine Willoughby. After 1550, as there is no record of Mary Seymour, most historians believe she died. During the civil war a century later, the Chapel where Catherine was buried was ransacked and her casket disappeared. In 1782, a local farmer came upon her casket. He opened it up to find her perfectly preserved. After taking a few locks of hair he closed the coffin and buried it again. Catherine's tomb would then be disturbed again in 1792 by two drunk men who roughed up the coffin and buried it upside down. It would not be until 1817, when her remains were moved to the tomb of Lord Chandos in St. Mary's Chapel that Catherine would be properly buried and honored with a marvelous marble tomb. As to Catherine's ghost, some think that she is still at Sudeley searching for her daughter whom she never had the pleasure of knowing. Many members of the household staff have reported seeing this apparition and have now come to accept it as the ghost of Queen Catherine.