Thursday, July 7, 2016


Continued from Part I and Part II

First American Atlee Ancestor
by Linda Minor

The importance of Phillips in the Kennedy assassination was first recognized by the House Select Committee investigator, Gaeton Fonzi, as shown in the following interview with Stephen Carter.

It has long been stated that Phillips played a crucial role in setting up Lee Harvey Oswald as the "patsy," to take the fall when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Without assuming his guilt, our research merely inquires whether he had a family background that would have given him necessary contacts inside Mexico and in Texas to conduct a "rogue" operation to depose a world leader and replace him with his Constitutional successor--the same thing the United States had been doing for decades in other countries.

The First American Atlee

We begin with the most romantic tale imaginable. William Atlee, second son of Samuel Atlee of Fordhook House in Brentford, England, and private secretary to Sir Emanuel Howe (illegitimate son of George I), fell in love with Jane Alcock, then maid of honor to intellectual Queen Caroline, wife of the Prince of Wales, who became King George II, in 1727, when his father died. Although Jane was a court favorite, destined to marry among the royal court, she instead followed her true love to Bridgeton in the parish of St. Michael, Barbados, where their marriage took place in 1734. Two days following the ceremony, the newlyweds set sail for Philadelphia and lived for a year with Caleb Ranstead 2 in the heart of what was to become, not only a hotbed of revolution against King George III, but the seat of a new independent government.

Eleanor Leslie, A Memoir

A little background for readers who are not students of British history:
  • Subsequent to the "glorious revolution" of 1688, the ruling monarch was made subservient to the People's representatives in Parliament. In 1701, the line of succession of the monarchy was passed by Parliament's Act of Settlement, declaring that, in the event the Stuarts' reign produced no legitimate Protestant heir, the throne would pass to Sophia of Hanover (daughter of James I's daughter Elizabeth, who had married  Frederick V of Bohemia), or to Sophia's legitimate Protestant heir. It was thus Sophia's son who in 1714 became Britain's first Hanoverian king, George I, and his son, already married to Caroline since 1705, became Prince of Wales. The entire entourage, except for George I's repudiated wife relocated from the German court to England in 1714.
  • Lord Howe was also known as Sir Emmanuel Howe, whom William Atlee served in Barbados up until the year before Howe's death in 1735. Jane Alcock Atlee had been at the court of King George I at the same time as General Howe's father. As rumor has it,
    Emanuel Howe's mother was the lover of King George I, who was the grandfather of King George III. She became pregnant through an affair with George I and gave birth to Emanuel Howe. This made King George III William Howe's first cousin.
Atlees in  Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The newlyweds first made their way to Philadelphia, where their first son, William Augustus, was born in 1735. Not having an income, William lived at Caleb Ramstead's house in Philadelphia until he and a partner acquired a covered "stage waggon" that ran twice a week from Trenton to Brunswick, New Jersey, delivering merchandise, passengers, and messages. Unfortunately, William lived only ten years after their marriage, dying in Philadelphia, PA, in the spring of 1744 at the Ranstead home. (Note: Although the Atlee Genealogy, published in 1884, and Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, Vol. III, published in 1911, both state he was buried at St. Peter's church yard, his remains can, in fact, be found at Christ Church.1) His Will, witnessed by Caleb Ransted, left everything to Jane in the hope she could take care of their four children: William Augustus, Samuel John, Amelia Jane, and Joseph Edwin.

After the untimely death in 1744 of William Atlee, his widow had quickly begun advertising for sale the stage wagon and other business assets, including almost ten acres in Trenton, which had still not been sold by late fall of 1745. Jane Atlee eventually loaded up the family and what remained of their possessions and moved the family to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where young William, then fourteen years of age (1747), worked as a clerk at the Recorder's Office.

We do not know what it was that prompted Jane Atlee to settle with her four young children in  Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she remained until her death in 1777. Whether she disclosed to her children the intrigues that had gone on during her days at the British royal court is also not known. Did her sons, both of whom would take an active part in the revolution know their father's connection to the British General who had invaded Philadelphia the same year Jane died?

Sayre Family--West Jersey to Philadelphia

The branch of the Sayre family from which William Augustus's sixteen-year-old bride had sprung began in America with Thomas Sayre (born 1597), who brought his family, including three sons from their home in Leighton Buzzard, England, to Long Island, New York, pursuant to a royal grant issued around 1638. Unfortunately, this land was also claimed by Dutch settlers, forcing the Sayres to settle on the opposite side of Long Island, at Southampton, where Thomas died in 1671.

Joseph Sayre (born 1630) "moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey, around 1665 and was named one of the proprietors in Elizabeth in a deed from Richard Nicholls, the Governor," and it was there that his son Daniel, Esther's grandfather, was born in 1685. Daniel's third son, John Sayre, also born in Elizabeth Town in about 1705, had lived for a time at 56 Broad Street in New York City, residing with his first wife, Esther Stillwell, daughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth Stillwell. They lived next door to Francis and Rachel (LeChevalier) Bowes, with whom they were close friends. In 1735 John, a tailor doing business from his residence, was admitted as a Freeman of the city. Esther Stillwell Sayre, died, possibly during childbirth with daughter, Esther Bowes Sayre, in 1747, several years after the Bowes family had moved west to Philadelphia.

Map shows where Atlee and Sayre families lived before marriage in 1763. Click to enlarge.
Francis Bowes, at that time had become actively engaged in Trenton, West Jersey, in the sale--both wholesale and retail--of items of merchandise such as rum, sugar, indigo and London steel--according to notices published in  the Philadelphia Gazette which listed an address on Water Street in Trenton, Nevertheless, after his death occurred in 1749, his body would be interred at Christ Church cemetery in Philadelphia alongside Mary, his first wife, who had died in 1725.

Two months after Francis' demise Rachel Bowes, still in Trenton apparently, attempted to sell off his lands and other goods by placing an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1750. Possibly she contacted her former neighbor, John Sayre, to invite him to Philadelphia to take over the business left by his old friend, or perhaps he saw the notices and made his way to Philadelphia to ask about it. Nevertheless, John Sayre and Rachel Bowes renewed their friendship and were married on April 8, 1751. Only seven weeks later her three-year-old son, John Bowes, was laid to rest near his father. From that point on, the financial condition of the couple now living in Philadelphia improved significantly.

Seven years later Rachel's daughter, Mary Bowes, was wed to John's son, John Sayre, Jr., at Christ Church, the same setting where, in 1763, William Augustus Atlee of Lancaster and Esther Bowes Sayre were married. Christ Church was the Episcopal church where Benjamin Franklin and other eminent founders of America in Philadelphia attended services. Rev. William Sturgeon, who peformed the Atlee-Sayre wedding, had first become rector in 1747, sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the same group which directed the career of Rev. Sayre.

Rev. John Sayre, Jr.
John Sayre, Jr., who had been almost twelve years of age when his sister Esther was born, was sent back to New York and trained as a physician at King's College (now Columbia University) when she was still quite young. She was a girl of eleven years when her brother returned to Philadelphia in 1758 to marry his stepsister, Mary Bowes.

Their first child, a daughter, was born there in 1759, followed in short order by John, James and another Esther Sayre. After birth of the fourth child in 1763, they left Philadelphia and moved to Lancaster, where John's sister, now Esther Atlee, was living with her new husband. Four years later Rev. Sayre was assigned by the Anglican Society to mission work in New York. Fireworks began not long after. The revolution had begun.

John, wishing to "remain neutral" during the revolution, despite the fact that his brother-in-law back in Lancaster was an active participant in the planning of the rebellion, found himself accused of being a British Loyalist for refusing "to sign the articles prescribed by the Continental Congress," which would obligate the signer to oppose the King with "life and fortune," and to refuse charity to any who chose not to sign. Somehow Rev. Sayre became "one of the agents chosen to arrange for the resettlement of the Loyalists" in St. John, Nova Scotia. We will pick up again here shortly after a brief review of the men with whom Atlee had become associated.

Patriots, Loyalists, or Spies?

The same year Atlee died, a Philadelphia merchant "dealing largely in supplies for Indian traders" by the name of Edward Shippen (1703-1781), was elected Philadelphia's mayor. Eventually serving as  a judge of the court of common pleas in Philadelphia for five years, Shippen became chief clerk (prothonotary) for a similar civil court in Lancaster. It was in Shippen's law office in Lancaster, that William Atlee began a study of law, and he, too, would be admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1758, after learning the practice from Shippen.

Shippen himself had studied law from his wife's father, Tench Francis, Sr., a lawyer in England prior to his emigration in 1720. After working as Lord Baltimore's attorney in Maryland, Francis relocated to Philadelphia about 1739 and became involved there in politics, elected first to the  Common Council of the city. Within two years he was named colonial attorney general, serving 14 years in that position, before being succeeded by Benjamin Chew in 1755. [See Note ** below.]

Tench Francis, Jr.--brother of Edward Shippen's wife, Margaret Francis Shippen (married in 1753)-- continued to operate the store his father began out of his home on Second Street, which subsequently merged with another one on Front Street. They sold goods imported from Europe and the East Indies, including a large assortment of books. The two stores were apparently combined into a single location in 1755. With passage of the Stamp Act in 1765, however, Tench Francis, Jr. (his father having died previously) joined with other Philadelphia merchants who contractually resolved among themselves to boycott the importation of any goods from Great Britain.

With his brother-in-law, Thomas Willing, he joined with Benjamin Chew and Robert Morris to established the Bank of North America, which would become the Bank of the U.S. The latter bank was "envisioned by" Alexander Hamilton, not born until 1755 in the West Indies, who learned finance from Robert Morris. Willing was the first president of Philadelphia's Bank of North America, originally located in the home of its first cashier, Tench Francis, Jr., at 307 Chestnut when it was chartered in 1781.

At that time, all life revolved around THE revolution. Everyone was forced to take a side. Some, who chose loyalty to the British--possibly believing the rebels could never win over a superior force-- would eventually become a major embarrassment, if not more, to family members who were "patriots" to the revolution. Just as Peggy Shippen, wife of the famous traitor General Benedict Arnold, became such an embarrassment to the Francis and Shippen families with whom Atlee was closely associated, so would his wife's brother, Rev. John Sayre, Jr., become to the Atlee family.

General Howe's headquarters were in Richard Penn's mansion, later leased to Benedict Arnold.

The Philadelphia Mansion 

Click to enlarge.

When the elder Governor Richard Penn died in 1771, his son Richard Jr. succeeded him as governor, and the following year he married Mary (Polly) Masters. Polly's father had during colonial days operated a grist mill north of Philadelphia, possibly in connection with Governor Penn. After his death in 1760, the property was used "for two years as headquarters by Sir William Howe, and upon whose site Robert Morris afterward erected the house where President Washington resided."

The Penns were married in London and soon began raising a family there, giving a power of attorney to Tench Francis, Jr. to lease their estates in Philadelphia. The house which Generals Howe and Clinton had used as British military headquarters, being the same one in which Benedict Arnold had lived with Peggy Shippen (aka Margaret Arnold), burned in 1780. Penn's power of attorney allowed Tench Francis, Jr., to sell the ruins to his banking colleague, Robert Morris, who then purchased the now unimproved land and constructed a residence for the new President of the United States. The location and description of the house were set out in a centennial address given by Nathaniel Burt in 1875.

An ownership map which dates to 1777 shows the location of that residence originally built for the mother of Polly Masters, Mary Lawrence Masters, daughter of John Lawrence and wife of William Masters. By zooming in on the City of Philadelphia rectangle, we can also see the names of Willing, Shippen, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Chew throughout the wards between Second and Fifth Streets, from Chestnut to Locust, where the revolution was headquartered, and where the Declaration of Independence was penned. Note, incidentally, the proximity to Ranstead Street, where the first Atlees had lived when he first arrived in Philadelphia from Barbados.

The Atlees from Lancaster and the Banished Sayre

As you recall, however, Jane Atee had taken her family to Lancaster, a newly created township in Pennsylvania, eighty miles west of Philadelphia, still part of the frontier, where her two sons grew up in association with Edward Shippen. By 1774 William Atlee's eldest son was named to a committee in Lancaster with Edward Shippen and others, to correspond with planners of the revolution in Philadelphia. By 1776 William Augustus Atlee was made chairman of Lancaster's Committee of Observation & Inspection, which oversaw payments to numerous militias raised to fight in the rebellion. He was also chairman of the Lancaster County Committee of Safety which stayed in contact with Benjamin Franklin and other organizers in Philadelphia. Colonel Samuel John Atlee, William's younger brother, was by then an officer in the military under General George Washington.

After Esther Sayre's marriage to Atlee in 1763, her brother had also moved with wife and four children to Lancaster, and their next son, Francis Bowes Sayre, who became a medical doctor after completing study at the Univesity of Philadelphia in 1790, was born there in 1766 (died 1798).  Two more children would also be born at that location before John was assigned a mission outpost by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in 1768 to an area recently changed to Newburgh from Quassaick. In 1769 he filed a petition requesting a charter addressed to the acting governor of that province. Once granted, this church was called St. George's. Rev. John, too busy to confine himself solely to Newburgh, requested a total of three church charters during his short missionary tenure, while he also preached at a fourth place called Warwick, 20 miles from where he lived at Bellomont, comprising a territory now in Orange County, bounded by the northeast part of Pennsylvania and northern counties of New Jersey.

Rev. John Sayre abruptly abandoned the Newburgh mission and took up residence in Fairfield, Connecticut. According to James Shepherd in "The Tories of Connecticut," Connecticut Quarterly, Vol. 1 No. 2 April, May and June, 1895:
On January 28, 1777, Rev. John Sayer [sic] of Fairfield was before the Governor and Council as a Tory that he might be ordered to some safe place for confinement. He was sent to the parish of New Britain to be under the care of Col. Isaac Lee, and not to depart the limits of said society until further orders. In July of the same year the wardens of the Episcopal church and others at Fairfield, with consent of the selectmen and committee of inspection, petitioned for his release and return to his people to remain within the limits of Fairfield and give bond with surety for good behavior, which petition was granted. He was probably the first Episcopal clergyman that ever resided in New Britain. In a letter he subsequently said: "I was banished to a place called New Britain, where I was entirely unknown except to one poor man, the inhabitants differing from me both in religion and political principles; however, the family in which I lived showed me such marks of kindness as they could, and I was treated with civility by the neighbors."
At the time of his banishment Sayre was serving as rector of Trinity Church in Fairfield where he resided with his wife and eight children when it was invaded by British General Tryon and burned. The British fleet took him to the Long Island area of New York until in 1783 he applied for a land grant in New Brunswick, Canada. A brief history of Rev. John Sayre, Jr., is also set out in "United Empire Loyalists, Parts I-II," by Alexander Fraser:

Anglican missionary John Sayre, Jr., British Loyalist to the end.

The list of members that Claimant James Sayres supplied to the King, unsurprisingly, failed to include his sister-in-law/stepsister, Esther Bowes Cox (1740-1841), who, following the marriage of John Sayres and Rachel Bowes in 1751, is said to have made her home with sisters of her mother, the former Rachelle Le Chevalier:
...youngest daughter and child of Jean Le Chevalier, of the Huguenot colony in New York City, and his wife, Maria de la Plaine. Jean Le Chevalier was one of the most prominent of the French refugees of New York, and must not be confounded as he sometimes was with Jean, son of Pierre le Chevalier, of Philadelphia. Jean Le Chevalier, of New York, married Marie de la Plaine, in the Dutch Reformed Church, June 27, 1692, and had seven daughters but no sons. These children, all baptized in the French church. New York City, were: Marie, born June 6, 1693; Susanne, March 11, 1695; Esther, February 18, 1696; Marie (2d), baptized May 14, 1699; Elizabeth, born August 26, 1702; Jeanne, baptized March 7, 1704; Rachelle, born February 16, 1707, baptized February 22 following, married Francis Bowes, and after his death (second), as his second wife, John, son of Daniel and Elizabeth Sayre. The children of Francis Bowes and Rachel Chevalier were: Theodosius; Samuel; Mary, born March 5, 1739, married, September 28, 1758, John, son of John Sayre, her stepfather; John; and Esther, born January 6, 1741, died February 10, 1814, married, November 16, 1760, Colonel John Cox, of Bloomsbury....Colonel Cox himself was one of the celebrated men of his day, and rendered good service to the Continental army as assistant quartermaster under General Greene, the latter having made the appointment of John Cox and Charles Pettit to serve under him a condition of his acceptance of the position of quartermaster-general. Not only did Colonel Cox help to provision the patriot army, he also supplied it with a large amount of ordnance from his foundry at Batisto, New Jersey. At his home, "Bloomsbury," now "Woodlawn," the Warren street home of Edward H. Stokes, General Washington had his headquarters, and was entertained when he made his triumphal entry into Trenton, two of Colonel Cox's daughter's, Rachel and Sarah, being among the thirteen young ladies who sang the ode, "Welcome, mighty chief, once more," and another, Mary, being one of the six young girls who strewed flowers in the General's path over Trenton bridge. At "Bloomsbury," the Marquis de Lafayette and the Count de Rochambeau enjoyed the hospitality of Colonel Cox, and had the pleasure of conversing in their own language with Mrs. Cox's French aunts, the Demoiselles Chevalier, the youngest daughters of Jean Le Chevalier, referred to above....[Quoted from Genealogical and Memorial History of the State of New Jersey, Francis Bazley Lee (
The sister of Mary Bowes Sayre, Esther Bowes, who "played on the spinnet and organ, and was the only lady of the day who had mastered thorough bass," was selected as the bride of Colonel John Cox, to whom she was married on November 16, 1760, in Christ Church, Philadelphia. The Coxes then moved to Bloomsbury Court in Trenton, where Colonel Cox was Assistant Quartermaster under Major Nathaniel Greene. It has been suggested that Rev. Sayre's widow may have made her way to Trenton to stay for a time with her sister, Mrs. Cox. At any rate, that is where she died in 1789. [Anne Hollingsworth WhartonSalons Colonial and Republican (1900), which paints a vivid picture of life in Philadelphia while it was the seat of the new government.]

Their daughter Mary Cox (born 1775) would later marry Colonel James Chesnut from Camden, S.C., while daughter Rachel was wed to John Stevens of Castle Point, Hoboken, founder of Stevens Institute, where, as I discovered several years ago, Prescott Bush's father, Samuel P. Bush, would be educated. Not then realizing that John Stevens was also related by marriage to ancestors of David Atlee Phillips, I wrote the following paragraph, excerpted from "Money and Gunpowder, Part One," posted at my blog, Where the Gold Is:
Samuel’s before-the-turn-of-the-century education in mechanical engineering at Hoboken, New Jersey’s Stevens Institute—where he learned to design and build steam engines and locomotives—would become useful to America in building its “gunpowder” and other weapons so necessary in World War I’s mission to “save the world for democracy”.... Family papers reveal the closeness between John Stevens and the Founding Fathers in equipping the military forces during the Revolutionary War and in the country’s subsequent defense.
Another daughter, named Esther but called "Hetty," married Matthias Barton, whose father had long been a clergyman in charge of the church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to which John Sayre, Jr. had moved around 1761, bringing us back full circle to the Atlee clan, whom in the next segment we will follow to Texas, where descendant spy, David Atlee Phillips was born.



1. Intriguingly, Christ Episcopal Church would, some four or five decades later, become the venue for the wedding of Beau Walker's widow to Robert Hodgson in 1801.

2. The street bissected by the Liberty Bell is called Ranstead Street, named undoubtedly for Caleb Ranstead (also spelled as Ransted), a furniture dealer, with whom William Atlee was residing at the time of his death in 1744. The house appears to have been quite close to the Philadelphia Bank Building (410 Ranstead/419-25 Chestnut); we previously noted that George E. Walker's "Uncle Tommy" worked at this bank , for many years. Coincidentally, Caleb Ranstead's name also shows up in the receipt book of Benjamin Chew, a man who was mentioned in Part Two of the Bush/Walker Genealogy:
Chew, Sr. had moved to Philadelphia in 1754, set up a highly lucrative legal practice, and "owned an elegant town house on South 3rd Street. Here, he attended St. Peter’s [Episcopal] Church and associated with many influential people in the city. He became involved in other business interests, including iron works and land speculation."
It was mentioned also that Chew had held the mortgage on the farm Harriet Mercer Bush inherited, and her husband's inability to repay that mortgage which precipitated their move to Illinois.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Caleb Ransted/Ranstead's will dated 3/12/1757 was witnessed by Jeremiah
Warder. Jeremiah Warder was related by marriage to my relatives in Virginia! Want to know more? Your on the right path BTW!