Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Archival Mystery

On certain occasions I come across an archival document that poses a few more questions than it provides answers. In all honesty, this is really some of the fun in dealing with archival documents. You occasionally come across strange facts or stories and there is a certain allure to sorting out these historical mysteries. It is a privilege to take some time with a historical document to ask "what exactly is happening here?" When you ask these questions it is interesting what light they can shed on the document as well as

The document featured in this post is an excellent example of needing to pause to ask a few questions. This document comes from the Cronin Fonds held by the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives. On the surface this is a fairly standard document detailing payment from a group of people to an individual. At this point, it would make sense to provide a transcription of the document. As always, I have tried to keep the original spelling and grammar intact.

"I do here by Certify that I have received of Thomas Cronin David Holden Thomas Holden James Mussels Quinn Worster George G. Cronin the Full Remompence and Satisfaction in Cash for Injuring or Damaging or accidently hurting my house and part of My Furniture on the 26th Day of Januarry last, And I do here by Acknowledge my self fully paid and Satisfied as Witness by my hand in Granville this 19th Day of Febr 1834.
Daniel Ellis
Witness William Mussels

Why were this group of men paying for "Injuring or Damaging or accidently hurting my house and part of My Furniture"? This wording certainly intrigues me. Were they doing work around the house when something went horribly wrong? Was this some sort of feud that eventually became violent with house and property becoming injured? Personally, favorite theory is that this was a group of young men who were having a couple of drinks when things got out of hand. A few drinks, some songs, a bit of general revelry and, before they knew it, house and furniture were injured. This would not be the first or the last time that property was damaged in this manner. Sadly, the fact that January 26, 1834 was a Sunday does not help this theory. There may be an entirely different reason for the damage and resulting payment.

I do have a few paths to go down in trying to figure out this mystery. As an example,
a bit of genealogical research should turn up the general ages of the men in question. If they turn out to be 70 - 80 at the time of the incident, I would say that drunken revelry is less likely (not impossible, just less likely). There is also the possibility that as we continue to process material in the Cronin Fonds that a document will shed some additional light on this affair. Archival mysteries are a great deal of fun.

All for now,

1 comment:

  1. Ryan,

    Do you have any knowledge or inkling of the house in question? My parents have found several old documents/artifacts in their house in Granville over the years. I remember one thing found made reference to a roof collapse in the North East bedroom (which just so happened to be my room) and you can see where the lathe and plaster was patched.

    Check with Ian Lawrence, he lives across the road from my parents...and my parents have a "scrapbook" of some of the goodies they've found in the attic and barns of old. Even if it's not the same house, I have no doubt you'd have some interest in some of the things they've found over the years!