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McMath Family

Memorials of the McMath Family
Including a Genealogical Account of the Descendants of Archibald McMath who was born in Scotland about the year 1700 Compiled by Frank M. McMath of the Detroit Bar (1898)

A preface to a work of this sort has several definite functions to perform. It is important to state the sources from whence we have drawn the data contained in the work, and the care taken to avoid and correct mistakes, in order to inspire confidence in its accuracy; the mechanical make-up, perhaps, requires a few words of explanation; it affords the compiler an opportunity to acknowledge the many kindnesses and courtesies which he has received in the course of his labors, and it is an opportunity for a few observations touching the value of such work.

The work was taken up and carried forward in intervals of relaxation from more laborious pursuits and to divert the mind from less healthy channels. There has been no thought of pecuniary profit.

It was not the intention to publish a book when we commenced the work, but the large amount of interesting matter concerning the family -which came into our hands led us to consider that idea as the only means of making it accessible to those of the family who might feel interested. Those who happened to see the manuscript, expressed in such commendatory terms their desire to possess a copy in print, the compiler's sense of its increasing value as time went on and one after another of the aged members of the family whose memories had been drawn upon for important dates and facts, passed away, and our manuscript became (in many instances) the only remaining witness of those facts, these considerations determined its publication. It is quite probable that the book may possess more interest and value than if undertaken and published as a matter of business. It is improbable that the returns from sales will pay the expense of printing and binding. A preliminary canvass resulted in about forty subscriptions. No matter what price may be fixed upon the book, not more than one hundred and fifty copies are at all likely to be sold, judging from the experience of others in the same field. The cost of printing five hundred copies and binding one hundred (even in this modest dress) is something over four hundred dollars. It will thus be seen that the chance of realizing any return for the several hundreds of dollars spent in gathering the material is very remote. Moreover, it is intended that every member of the family who so desires shall possess a copy of the book, and the matter of price shall not stand in the way.

In the commencement, the work was skeletonized by correspondence with some of the older members of the family, addresses, dates, and various items and scraps of more or less interest secured and placed under appropriate heads. Next, a circular letter and blanks were printed and sent out to every member of the family whose address could be secured. Then letters had to be written requesting and even begging the favor of a reply to the circular letters and the question lists. In many cases dates and events were found differently reported and letters had to be written to ascertain which account was correct. A good many recipients of these letters and blanks would not reply and their records had to be secured through relatives or friends. If any errors appear in the dates it will be found, we think, to have proceeded from this cause. Others would reply in part and refuse to answer further inquiries. For more than a dozen years this work has been pursued with more or less diligence.

In preparing the matter for publication we have exercised the greatest care in comparing the MSS. with the sources of our information, (letters, question lists, other MSS., etc.) Lastly, the printer’s proof has undergone a careful revision, and, while but an amateur in this kind of work, it seems scarcely possible that an error of our own can have crept into the book.

The mechanical make-up is as simple as possible. Every individual descendant of Archibald McMath is numbered in the left hand margin of the page. This number is repeated where the record of the individual is carried forward for convenience or intelligibility. Where numerals follow a name, the first number indicates the order of birth and the second gives the book number of the father or mother. After becoming acquainted with the use of these numerals, and the indentation or the plan of carrying the different generations in from the margin of the page, it is not believed that any difficulty will be experienced.

Some, without doubt, will exclaim against the devotion of so much space to family names and names in general, a subject not immediately touching the purpose of the book; but the writer in the course of his work, became interested in the origin of his own family name, and finding such a wealth of historical learning upon the subject, could not forbear appropriating something to embellish and furnish an introduction to the work proper; and, indeed, this subject (whether Christian or surnames) is not without its own importance, for, “as Walter Shandy often insisted, there is much, nay, almost all, in names. Could I unfold the influence of names, which are the most important of all clothings, I were a second greater Trisme-gistus.” If Carlyle be permitted to quote Mr. Shandy, the writer may perhaps be allowed to say that he regards this worthy gentleman's argument upon the subject as absolutely convincing. In few words, a child may be given a Christian name or, for that matter, inherit a surname at birth which shall influence his conduct, morals and fortune. Camden says, “To find out the true origin of surnames is full of difficultie,” and if it shall be found that we have not accomplished much in this direction, in the matter of our own family name, we have at least found high authority to excuse our shortcomings.

The matter concerning the various other families bearing our name is the fruit of much correspondence and research. It may be that to many this matter will seem fragmentary and of doubtful importance, but some future historian of the family who shall undertake to amplify and complete our history will find sufficient justification for its presence here.

In the course of our labors we have examined family histories to the number of nearly two hundred; of these the most remarkable is the history of the Washington family, which shows the Father of his Country to be a direct descendant of Odin, the founder of Scandinavia, born B. C. 70. We may admire the patriotism, though we must, for reasons elsewhere stated, doubt the veracity of this chronicler. The largest of these family histories is that of the Whitney family of Connecticut, which commences with the year 1649. and is contained in three bulky volumes embracing 20,361 names. The writer is indebted to Hon. Diedrich Willers, of Varick, N. Y., (formerly Secretary of State) for a copy of his address, in pamphlet, delivered at the Centennial celebration (June 13, 1894) of the official organization of the town of Romulus, N. Y. It is an historical paper of rare value and of especial interest to our family and the families of our connection.

The works most useful to us, perhaps, have been the little booklet of the late Rev. Samuel Fleming, "being a Record of the Family and Descendants of Robert Fleming,” (Pub. Coldwater, Mich., 1868). embracing the descendants of Mary Fleming, who in 1805 married Col. Samuel McMath, and the “Record of the Gillette Family,” compiled and published by the late Mahlon B. Gillette (Niles, 1885), this record includes the descendants of Mabel Bainbridge (dau. of Elizabeth McMath), who married in 1817 Joel Hoyt Gillette. Mellick’s “Story of an Old Farm” embraces a record of the descendants of Mabel McMath, who married Gen. Peter Himrod, and would have been serviceable had not the author of that genealogy (Mrs. Mary J. Dalton) kindly copied and revised her work for us, in manuscript, so that we had no occasion to resort to the published work.

Some good things culled from various family histories may not be out of place here. In the History of the Wrays of Glentwortll (London, 1880), the author, Charles Dalton, says: “It is difficult to define the meaning of the term, an “Old Family." In America, a man who can prove he had a grandfather is considered of an old family. But in this country it takes a line of grandfathers to entitle a man to describe himself as coming from an old family. I consider the Wray family a very old family.” (It commences with a birth in 1523.) In his preface to the “Memorial of the Walkers,” the author, J. B. R. Walker, eulogizes his family and ancestry in the following simple but dignified and eloquent period, which might be applied to our own family with equal truth and propriety. “With a name on which no stain has ever rested, with an ancestry not often great, but always virtuous, filling with fidelity and honor the stations they were called to occupy, one may justly be proud of his lineage.” And this, from the autobiography of Rev. Wm. Jay, of Bath. “I have not to trace a long and proud lineage. If any great and illustrious individuals have been found among my ancestors, they have not been ascertained in my family in my own time. But were I mean enough to feel any mortification here I could not console myself.”

The writer here makes grateful acknowledgment to those who have assisted in the work by prompt and cordial replies to his requests for information. Too many have turned a deaf ear to these requests, or returned empty answers, in the spirit of the Eastern Cadi, who wrote in reply to M. Layard’s inquiries about certain antiquarian statistics, “The answer which you seek of me, O illustrious friend and joy of my liver, is both difficult and useless to be given.” However, it was but natural to expect that there would be some who would have little interest in the matter, and the writer cherishes no resentments.

Especial mention should be made of those whose contributions embrace considerable portions of the work. Miss Sarah A. McMath is entitled to credit for almost the entire history of our ancestor, Alla McMath, involving a great deal of correspondence and research, and on account of her interest in the work, her knowledge of the family and its traditions, and a style of narrative especially suited to an undertaking of this character, the family has reason for congratulation that the history of this important period fell into such capable hands. The history of the family of her grandfather, John McMath, is almost wholly from her pen; at every step of the work her assistance has been freely and cordially given. The simplicity and beauty of her narrative and expression easily distinguish her contributions. The late Alla McMath, Esq., and Mrs. Joanna B. Folwell were earnest and interested helpers.

Hon. John W. McMath, William Bainbridge, Esq., Rev. William Folwell Bainbridge, Miss Ida B. Van Auken. Mrs. G. H. Ten Broek,

Mrs. Spencer G. Allen, Prof. Wm. W. Folwell, Mrs. Mary. J. Dalton, Mrs. Alonzo M. Doty and Oliver C. Gillette are all gratefully remembered. It would be impossible to enumerate all those whose names crowd upon our memory.

Credit should also be given the late Rev. Robert McMath, whose history of the family, in MSS., was made accessible to us through the kindness of his sons, Morrison H. and Edwin McMath. His MSS. represents the labor of years and evidences the cordial relations subsisting between himself and the other members of the family of thirty and forty years ago, with a very large number of whom he maintained a constant and cordial correspondence.

Our MSS. was completed so far as seemed possible in 1895, and but little has since been added. The likenesses which we have reproduced might cause the suspicion that we had been at some pains to select our best looking members, but that suspicion could only occur to those who are strangers to the family.

A Scotch author in touching upon the subject of genealogy says, “facts of this nature are easily ascertained in the Highlands, where descent from honorable ancestors is not forgotten or neglected by the poorest individual. To a stranger the accuracy with which genealogical connections are preserved may appear ridiculous, but the people fill many idle hours very innocently with matters of this kind, never failing to bring forward the best traits in the character of their relations, and the conduct of the Highlanders is influenced by the dread of disgracing the honorable race whose blood they believe fills their veins. It may, therefore, be believed that in former times the bond of friendship was close and strong in societies where so much importance was attached to consanguinity.

And now a word in conclusion. We believe this work will serve to draw together and knit in closer bonds of amity and good fellowship the scattered members of this numerous family. We are conscious of our shortcomings. We know the work should have been taken up by more capable hands. But, such as it is, we hope it may be deemed a not unworthy monument to a righteous, patriotic and honorable family.

Detroit, Mich., May, 1898.