Because many of our kin resided in this country long before the American Revolution, my husband and I have several politicians as direct ancestors and distant cousins. Four direct ancestors who were also statesmen are Colonel Francis Thornton, Colonel William Fleming, John Hanson, and Charles G. Ardinger.
Francis Thornton, my 9th great-grandfather, was a Colonel of the Virginia Militia and member of the House of Burgesses, representing Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The House of Burgesses was the first assembly of elected representatives of English colonists in North America. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America. Its first meeting was held in Jamestown, Virginia on July 30, 1619.
My connection to Col. Francis Thornton is a follows:
Francis Thornton (1651 – 1726), my 9th great-grandfather
Francis Thornton (1682 – 1737), son of Francis
Lydia Thornton (1723 – 1779), daughter of Francis
Thomas Watts (1747 – 1798), son of Lydia
Charles Watts (1772 – 1831), son of Thomas
Rumsey Shuler Watts (1810 – 1896), son of Charles
John K. Watts (1835 – 1904), son of Rumsey Shuler
Rumsey S. Watts (1859 – 1942), son of John K.
Fredrick “Fred” Boone Watts (1896 – 1983), son of Rumsey S.
Cletis Leroy Watts (1924 – 1963), son of Fredrick “Fred” Boone and my grandfather
Colonel William Fleming, my 7th great-grandfather, was a physician, soldier, statesman, and landowner. Born in Scotland, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh before serving as a surgeon’s mate in the Royal Navy. In 1755, he retired his commission and immigrated to the colony of Virginia.
Col. Fleming served as a surgeon during the French and Indian War. When the war ended in 1763, he settled in Staunton, Virginia to practice medicine. In 1774, he once again served in the military, leading the Botetourt County Militia at the Battle of Point Pleasant.
Because of wounds sustained in this battle, Fleming was unable to fight in the Revolutionary War, although he did have cause to use his medical skills. He also served his country as a state senator for the Western District of Virginia. In 1781, British forces invaded Virginia, scattering Gov. Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia legislature. When the legislature reconvened at Staunton, Jefferson’s term had expired; consequently, Fleming, as the most senior member of the Virginia Council present, acted as the unofficial governor, serving in this capacity from June 1-12, 1781, until Thomas Nelson was elected by the legislature as the next governor. During his tenure, Fleming called up the Virginia militia to oppose a British invasion. A retroactive resolution of the legislature affirmed this action. For this reason, Col. William Fleming is regarded by many as the third governor of Virginia.
My tie to Colonel William Fleming is as follows:
William Fleming (1727 – 1795), my 7th great-grandfather
Martha “Matty” Fleming (1765 – 1812), daughter of William
Pierce Connell (1797 – 1863), son of Martha “Matty”
Harriet Lucretia Connell (1820 – 1901), daughter of Pierce
Harriet Francis (1842 – 1931), daughter of Harriet Lucretia
Elizabeth “Bettie” Jane Campbell (1867 – 1954), daughter of Harriet
Osa Irene Stark (1900 – 1975), daughter of Elizabeth “Bettie” Jane
Cletis Leroy Watts (1924 – 1963), son of Osa Irene and my grandfather
Also serving in politics during the same era was John Hanson, my husband’s 6th great-grandfather. John Hanson was a merchant, whose career in politics began in 1750, when he was appointed sheriff of Charles County, Maryland. In 1757, Hanson was elected to represent Charles County in the Maryland General Assembly, serving in that capacity for 12 years. Hanson was a leading opponent of the 1765 Stamp Act, chairing the committee that drafted the instructions for Maryland’s delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. In 1769, in protest of the Townshend Acts, Hanson was one of the signers of a non-importation resolution that boycotted British imports until the acts were repealed.
In 1769, Hanson resigned from the Maryland General Assembly, sold his land in Charles County, and moved to Frederick County. In Frederick County, he held the offices of deputy surveyor, sheriff, and county treasurer. In 1774, Hanson chaired a town meeting that passed a resolution opposing the Boston Port Act. In 1775, he was a delegate to the Maryland Convention. On July 26, 1775, he, along with other delegates, signed the Association of Freemen, which expressed hope for reconciliation with Great Britain but also called for military resistance to the enforcement of the Coercive Acts.
With hostilities underway, Hanson chaired the Frederick County committee of observation, part of the Patriot organization that assumed control of local governance. Responsible for recruiting and arming soldiers, Hanson proved to be an excellent organizer; Frederick County sent the first southern troops to join the Continental Army.
In 1777, Hanson was re-elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. In December 1779, the House of Delegates named Hanson as one of its delegates to the Second Continental Congress. He began those duties when he took his seat in Philadelphia on June 14, 1780. In November 1781, Hanson became the first President of the Continental Congress to be elected for an annual term, as specified in the Articles of Confederation. He retired from politics at the end of his term.
My husband’s line of descent from John Hanson is as follows:
John Hanson (1721 – 1783), 6th great-grandfather of my husband
William Hanson (1753 – 1824), son of John
William C. Hanson (1791 – 1871), son of William
John A. Hanson (1819 – 1899), son of William C.
Ruth Ann Hanson (1851 – 1919), daughter of John A.
Walter Lee Spangler (1883 – 1954), son of Ruth Ann
Reba Gwendola Spangler (1919 – 2005), daughter of Walter Lee and my husband’s grandmother
Almost a century later, our family produced a fourth direct-relation politician who also served in the Maryland General Assembly: Charles G. Ardinger, my 4th great-grandfather. Charles Ardinger was the owner/operator of Ardinger’s Mill in Washington County, Maryland. In 1871, Ardinger was elected to the Maryland General Assembly. He began his tenure as a Republican representative in 1872, serving for several years.
My relation to Charles Ardinger is as follows:
Charles Godfrey Ardinger (1812 – 1891), my 4th great-grandfather
James Christian Ardinger (1839 – 1876), son of Charles Godfrey
James Eugene Ardinger (1866 – 1946), son of James Christian
Thelma Catherine Ardinger (1901 – 1990), daughter of James Eugene
Betty Lee Noell (1922 – 1993), daughter of Thelma Catherine and my grandmother
Not all the politicians in our family are directly related. One well-known politician related to me through both of my maternal grandfather’s parents’ lines (no, not through my father’s family as you might think) is “Old Rough and Ready,” General Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States. Zachary Taylor is both my 3rd cousin, 5xs removed and my 4th cousin, 6xs removed. Through the Stark line, our common ancestors are William Thornton (1620-1708) and Elizabeth Rowland (1627- ), Zachary Taylor’s 3rd great-grandparents and my 9th great-grandparents. From them through the Stark line, I am descended through their son, Rowland Thornton (1654-1701), whereas Zachary descends from their son, Francis (1651-1726). In the Watts line, we both descend from Francis Thornton (1651-1726) and Alice Savage (1653-1701), Zachary’s 2nd great-grandparents and my 9th great-grandparents.
Three other politicians whose ancestries intersect our own are all signers of the Declaration of Independence. The first was Charles Carroll, 2nd cousin, 9xs removed of my husband, through their mutual ancestors Thomas Brooke (1632-1676) and Eleanor Hatton (1642-1725), Carroll’s great-grandparents and my husband’s 9th great-grandparents (through his father’s mother). The next distant cousin is William Ellery, my 4th cousin, 8xs removed, through our mutual ancestors John Lawton (1580- ) and Marguerita Dutton (1585- ), Ellery’s great-grandparents and my 11th great-grandparents (through my mother’s mother). Finally, our third political connection is William Whipple, my husband’s 5th cousin, 7xs removed, through their mutual ancestors John Oliver (1555 – 1598) and Elizabeth Rowland (1556 – 1628), Whipple’s 4th great-grandparents and my husband’s 11th great grandparents of husband (through his mother’s father).