Hawkins Imprisoned for Refusal to Bear Arms

Last year, I went on a road trip to discover more about my Quaker roots; what I found was much more than I could have imagined. An initial search for my 4th great-grandmother, Sally Bond, led me to the Hawkins clan of Wayne County, Indiana, a prominent Quaker family with connections to the Welcome and William Penn. I found three Madonnas of the Trail, each of whom trekked thousands of miles to provide their children with greater opportunities; a family of brave and bearded Bonds, whose descendants are scattered throughout the United States; and a connection to the oldest schoolhouse in Wayne County that still stands today. There’s wanted wagons and corn harvests in winter and, now, a courthouse complication.

john hawkins
Record of marriage intention for John Hawkins & Lydia Comer, 1799

This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is “At the Courthouse,” and I’ve shared all of the courthouse-related stories in my family tree on the blog before: from my grandparents’ elopement after my grandfather returned from war to my Kuznicki ancestors’ shadier business dealings, it’s all been written and recorded for future generations. I needed to find something new for this week’s prompt, and after hours of searching through newspaper articles about the Bond and Hawkins families, I finally found a story that deserves to be shared: the story of John Hawkins’ unexpected arrest in the midst of the War of 1812. (Trust me, all of the court cases involving transfers of estates were so boring.)

John Hawkins was born on November 27, 1777 in Union County, South Carolina to John Hawkins and Mary Molly Moore, and he’s my 1st cousin 7x removed: the patriarch of my Hawkins line, Nathan Hawkins, shared a set of grandparents with John (James Hawkins and Martha Hollowell, whose descendants in the United States number in the thousands). John and his siblings grew up in the Cane Creek Meeting House community in Union County, and he married a member of the group himself–Lydia Comer–on November 30, 1799 at the age of 22. Then came uncertainty: bad flooding, poor crop yields and fear of military unrest in the Carolinas resulted in a mass migration of Quakers leaving for Ohio and Indiana around the turn-of-the-century.

And John and Lydia left for the north, as well; after all, they were secretaries of their respective meetings, and someone had to carry the books. It was a harrowing journey by covered wagon: according to one source, “it took five weeks and five days for the trip to Miami Country–the roads were worse than expected, much wet weather–and most of the people were unwell at times…some of the men had to be carried. They were Penn’s men and were too old to walk.” But the Hawkins family–and a number of their friends and neighbors–made it, settling first in Ohio before moving to Wayne County, Indiana to live with the rest of the Hawkins line (including my own ancestors).

A Quaker meeting house

In Wayne County, “John Hawkins was engaged in the saw mill business and there he prospered and was a prominent man among the first settlers. He was a member of the Society of Friends, was an Abolitionist, afterwards a Whig and later a Republican. He had a high-wheeled wagon he used to haul freight to and from Cincinnati. John Hawkins and also Amos Hawkins [his brother] were on the original Quaker list that settled in Whitewater Monthly Meeting area prior to 1809.” But John’s story took a turn for the worse, though, with the outbreak of the War of 1812; the Palladium-Item’s “Our History Scrapbook” details the circumstances leading up to John’s arrest:

The War of 1812 was a source of much trouble for the Quakers. They were harassed on account of their refusal to do military duty. The imprisonment of four young men at Salisbury jail, the first jail in Wayne County, took place during severe cold weather. Fire was denied them, and conditions were almost intolerable. Hot bricks and blankets were handed them, through the gates, by friends, which gave a little relief. Suits were subsequently brought against the officers for false imprisonment. They were tried at Brookville, Franklin County, and all recovered damages. All records agree that only four men were imprisoned for this cause…All were birthright Quakers and would have been a conscientious objector willing to go to jail if necessary, rather than to bear arms.

The Hawkins line of my family tree is my favorite line to delve into; there’s always an inspiring story to find–and never a dull moment. They’re also the ancestors (and relatives of ancestors!) that I’m most inspired by: I admire Sally (Hawkins) Bond’s courage to raise seven children on her own after her husband’s passing; Rebekah (Roberts) Hawkins’ resolve to move her family north, fleeing the violence on their doorstep; and Nathan Hawkins’ hard work to pass down land and security to his children and grandchildren. And now, I’m in awe of John Hawkins’ commitment to his beliefs–just another incredible member of the Hawkins family to look up to for years to come. 

13 thoughts on “Hawkins Imprisoned for Refusal to Bear Arms

  1. As always, great story, Jamie. As you know, I have some Quaker roots as well, so I am always fascinated to read other people’s Friends’ family histories to see if there are any overlaps or insights. Thank you for telling John Hawkins’ tale!

    BTW, also thanks for cluing me on what this week’s 52 Ancestors prompt was. I never receive the advance emails, so I rely on other participating bloggers to keep me current. Believe it or not, I just posted a piece that would fit right into the “At the Courthouse” theme: https://kindredconnection.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/hannah-layton-marriner/. It’s about my 2nd great-grandmother whose stood tall when others would break her down. Yeah, I know that it was written a couple of days early, but better early than late, don’t you think? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! It’s the first War of 1812 story I’ve found in my family tree; I think it’s a good one.

      Yours is a great read, too, and I love the connection to Monmouth County (that’s where my Applegate ancestors are from!). Hannah seems like an incredibly strong woman–someone else to look up to this week. Definitely better late than never–it was a privilege to read Hannah’s story, and I’m very glad you shared it!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Small world! From my research, I knew there were plenty of Applegates in Monmouth County and even have three in my tree, although they are not my direct ancestors. (I am sure you and I have some overlaps in our lineages since you have deep Monmouth roots too.

        As to Hannah, although I never had the pleasure to meet her in this world, I hope that I can have a fraction of her strength and determination. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s becoming my favorite to research! The Hawkins family is so different from every other line in my tree, and while I’ve heard a handful of stories about my Polish and German and Mayflower ancestors over the years, my dad never knew any stories from that side. It’s all new!

      Liked by 1 person

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