HMS Jersey and Edward Clannen/Clanin

I wonder how does this happen?  How do we forget important stories about our families that should have been handed down? It might be because someone in that line – the family storyteller – died before they could share the story.  Some stories are not passed down because the storyteller thought it might reflect poorly on the character of the ancestor, but Edward Clannen/Clanin’ story wasn’t that way.  Let me set the table.

My family research usually means I take a line and I work branches of it back until I can’t go any further.  Sometimes I find very ordinary stories. Other times I find stories  that are fascinating, but there are stories where I’m emotionally brought to tears when I discover something very difficult .  This is Edward Clannen/Clanin’s story.

The last name appears as “Clannen” in Massachusetts in the middle 1700s, but changes to “Clanin” near the 1800s.  Some people were never quite sure of their family name spelling.  We’ll refer to him as Edward Clanin for ease from here on out.

I began to unwrap the package that was his story working one family line back.  The Sherman family were from Newburyport, MA and quite a lot is written in early American history about them.  Edward Clanin married Mariah Sherman in 1835 in Clermont County, Ohio.  They are my 3rd great grandparents.

 

Mariah Sherman and Edward Clanin of Fulton County, Illinois
Mariah Sherman (1813-1890) and Edward Clanin (1813-1894)
married 1835 in Clermont County, Ohio.
Edward is Benjamin Clanin’s grandson.

I knew Edward’s father was Samuel Harris Clanin. He was born in Newburyport, MA and there was a little information about his life in books from Essex County. Samuel was born about 1778 and his father was Benjamin Clanin. His mother was Mary Harris Clanin, thus the middle name for Samuel.

Samuel’s mother died when he was around one year old. His father remarried in 1780 to a widow, Deborah Sinecross, and his father Benjamin, died in 1783. Here’s the remarkable part.

Benjamin Clannen/Clanin died before 7 February 1783 aboard the HMS Jersey – a British prison ship!

Painting of prison ships in the Revolutionary War.
HMS Jersey – prison death ship for Revolutionary War soldiers

Benjamin Clannen/Clanin had died a horrible death on board the HMS Jersey with 800 other Continental soldiers in Wallabout Bay, Brooklyn, New York. Just Google the stories about this ship.

The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument  - Wallabout Bay, NY
Monument to the men who died aboard the prison ships in Wallabout Bay, Brooklyn, NY. Oral history says his body is buried under this monument.

AND he left behind FOUR small children – including his youngest son, Samuel Harris Clanin, my 4th great grandfather.

Mary Harris Clanin’s brother, Edward, took guardianship of the four children. Edward had served as the Clerk of the Committee of Safety, Correspondence, and Information for Essex County, MA and Captain in the American Revolution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

How did our family forget Benjamin Clannen/Clanin’s sacrifice? Who forgot to tell the story of the supreme sacrifice he made? Was this story too painful for his son to tell? Becoming an orphan at the age of five would not be easy!

I’ve found the probate records of Benjamin Clannen and can see Edward Harris did a good job raising the children and seeing to their needs. One of the entries is for “leather breeches” for the boys to wear along with “two linen jackets”.

As I wait for my admittance into the Daughters of the American Revolution, I know which ancestor I will next honor with the DAR – it will be Benjamin Clanin and you can bet I’ll share his story this Fourth of July! DAR Patriot Benjamin Clanin who gave the ultimate sacrifice to establish this nation.