Sunday, June 19, 2011

More interesting connections...

My 4XGreat-grandmother Ann Smith McGowan was newly widowed on September 7, 1809 when she purchased from John and Marcia Van Ness lot 16 of square 321 on 11th St. West (then, now NW) for $336.00.  This is now the location of Manufacturers Life Insurance and across Eleventh Street Northwest from Lincoln Circle Associates LLC 0555 11th Street NW, Washington DC or one block directly west of Ford's Theater or at approximately 542 11th Street NW.
This indenture made this Seventh day of September in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and nine Between John P. Van Ness and Marcia Van Ness his Wife, both of the City of Washington of the first part, and Ann McGowan Widow and Uloct(?) of the late Barney McGowan of the same place of the second part, and Catherine McGowan, Ann McGowan and Charles McGowan Infant Children of the said Widow & Barney of the same place of the third part Witnesseth that the said John and Marcia for the consideration of the sum of three hundred and thirty six Dollars to them in hand  ____ the receipt whereof they hereby acknowledge have granted bargained sold En_i__ed & confirmed and by these presents do grant, bargain, will, _____ & confirm unto the said Widow Ann McGowan one undivided third part of a certain part of lot number sixteen in square Three hundred and twenty one said part of said lot being the north part thereof and containing twenty four feet front on Eleventh street west and about one hundred feet in depth & one inch be the same more or less as designated on the plat of said City of Washington. To have and to hold the said equal undivided third part of the said twenty four feet front by one hundred feet & one inch in depth of ground with improvements & appurtenances belonging to her the said Widow Ann McGowan during her natural life for her only proper use benefit and behoof. And for the consideration aforesaid they the said John & Marcia Have granted, bargained, sold, aliened, enfessed and confirmed and by these presents Do grant, bargain, sell, alien, infess & confirm unto the said parties of the third part, to wit, Catherine McGowan, Ann McGowan and Charles McGowan infant, children of the said Widow & Barney, the remaining undivided two thirds of the said part of the lot as above described with the improvements and appurtenances thereon. To have and to hold the said two undivided third parts of the said part of a lot and also the reversion of the said other third part after the death of the said Widow Ann party of the second part, unto the said Infant children, parties of the third part, as Tenants in Common and not as _ointenants, their heirs and assigns forever. And the said John & Marcia doth hereby covenant and agree to with the said parties of the second & third parts that he the said John and his heirs will forever warrant & defend the said part of a lot & premises with the improvements and buildings thereon to the said parties of the second and third parts their heirs and assigns against all & every person or persons lawfully claiming or to claim the same by from through or under them the said John & Marcia. In witness thereof the said John & Marcia have hereunto set their hands & seals the day & year above written.

But that's not all, John and Marcia Van Ness are interesting as well.
John Peter Van Ness
John Van Ness was a native New Yorker, born in Ghent [formerly Claverly] New York. He studied law at Columbia College [now Columbia University], was admitted to the New York State Bar, but he never practiced. He was elected as a Republican [some sources say Democrat] to the U. S. House of Representatives to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of John Bird. He served in the U. S. Congress for less than two years, from October 6, 1801 until January 17, 1803.

While he was in the U. S. Congress, President Jefferson offered him the office of major of the militia in the District of Columbia. He accepted the appointment, and as a result he had to become a resident of the District of Columbia. As a D. C. resident, he was no longer a resident of New York, and therefore had to give up his seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. In that same year, in 1803, he was also made the president of the Second Council.

He apparently relished the military appointment, possibly because it had been granted to him by President Jefferson. In 1805, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and became commandant of the first legion of the militia in the District of Columbia. Six years later, in 1811, he was again promoted to brigadier general, and in 1813, he reached the rank of major general of the first legion of the militia of the District of Columbia.

Later in his Washington residency, probably following his military career, in 1829, he entered a more political career, and was appointed to be an alderman of the city of Washington, D. C. A year later, in 1830, he became mayor of Washington, D. C., and served in that position until 1834. By this time he had approached the retirement age. Prior to the end of his mayoral career, he became the second vice president of the Washington National Monument Society. A year later, in 1834, he became the president of the Commissioners of the Washington Canal, and president of the branch bank of the Bank of the United States at Washington, D. C. Van Ness had also served as first president of the National Metropolitan Bank from 1814 until his death.

John Van Ness was born in 1770. He married Marcia Burns [1782-1832] in 1802. She was a very wealthy woman, who had acquired her fortune through an inheritance. She was a philanthropist and had great influence in the Washington area. Upon her early death, when she was only 50 years old, she was given a public funeral. She was the only woman, up to that time, to be given such an honor following her death. John Van Ness outlived his wife by 16 years. He passed away on March 7, 1846, at the age of 76. Both John Peter Van Ness and his wife Marcia are interred in a private mausoleum at Oak Hill Cemetery.
It is hardly surprising that Widow Ann had to buy property from wealthy residents of the city. How she came to have the money though is a mystery. Perhaps it was saved, perhaps some of it was recompense for the death of her husband who, family oral history has it, died in the construction of the capitol building. Prior to our review of the deed we did not know, well somebody did but I didn't, who Charles' siblings were.  We now know they are Catherine and Anne McGowan, likely older as Charles was born in 1807.

Back a bit to my 4XGreat-grandfather Bernard "Barney" McGowan.  Apparently he was a stone mason who had been born in Ireland.  We know that he died in 1809 but we don't know when he was born or immigrated.  Indeed, immigrate might be not quite the correct phrase depending on his age because when he came here and where he landed it might still have been colony.  This may be, in part, why there are no records of immigration or naturalization.  But, I'm thinking, based on the averages of the time that he might have been born about 1780, give or take a couple of years.  The family story is that he fell from a building and was killed and that that building on which he was working was the U.S. Capitol building.

In 1809, Benjamin Henry Latrobe was the capitol architect (his proper title being "Surveyor of Public Buildings") and he was working on the interior of the north wing.   Much of the rotting wooden interior was replaced with stone work.  It would be about this time that Barney would have fallen and died.

Finding anything about Barney has been difficult.  This made all the more difficult by the many Bernard "Barney" McGowans who apparently immigrated during and after this period.  We do know that as a stone mason on the Capitol building project he was paid about $1.33 a day and the only days not worked were Sundays.  We also know that he likely worked side-by-side with the slaves brought in to work on the project.

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