Abraham Beaumont of Deershaw
Abraham Beaumont, clothier,
baptized 30 May 1703
Son of Adam Beaumont (?)
Died at Deershaw 23 Jan 1770
Buried 26 Jan 1770 at Wooldale
Ann Ellis, daughter of Richard Ellis
of Roughbirchworth, Penistone Parish
Died at Deershaw 08 Jan 1789, 80 years
Buried at Wooldale
Married 19 August 1731
at High Flatts Quaker Meeting House
Children all born at Deershaw
In 1731, in the little hamlet of Deershaw southeast of Huddersfield in Yorkshire, England, there lived a Quaker named Abraham Beaumont. He was a clothier, involved in the production of woolen cloth. The wool, heavy and of exceptional durability, came from hearty Penistone sheep, now known as Whitefaced Woodlands. The sheep had been raised in the harsh moors and heather uplands of northern England for some 400 years. A bustling cottage industry had grown up around the fulling, spinning, and weaving of woolen cloth, and like most craftsmen in those times Abraham worked the wool at home with labor-hardened hands.
Late in the summer of 1731, in the plain stone Quaker meeting house at High Flatts, Abraham married Ann Ellis, the daughter of Richard Ellis of Roughbirchworth. The Quaker records, complete with abbreviations and misspellings, made note of the wedding, and twenty-three witnesses signed their names to the register, the men on one side of the page, and the women on the other. Aside from Abraham Beaumont himself there were no other Beaumonts who signed the document, which read, “Abram. Boamount of Dearshaw did take to wife Ann Ellis of Roughburchworth, doughter of Richard Ellis, at a public meeting in the Meeting Hous att Highflats the 19th of 6th mo 1731....” The Quaker faith taught that each individual was his own minister and therefore did not need a “hireling priest” to intercede for him before God. When a couple married, after having obtained parental consent and having declared their intentions for two months in a row, they simply stood before the assembled Quakers and, taking each other by the hand, promised to be man and wife.
Abraham may have been the son of Adam Beaumont of Thurstonland Grange and his wife Sarah, formerly Coldwell, baptized in Kirkburton Parish on 30 May 1703. Because the Quakers do not baptize, the indication would be that Abraham turned to Quakerism later in life, entering into membership by convincement sometime prior to his marriage to Ann. Nor had Ann been born a Quaker, because she had been baptized in the Penistone Parish Church of St. John the Baptist on 21 May 1708. Her parents became convinced shortly after she was born, for the Quaker registers note the birth of Ann’s sister Sarah in 1711, and the death of her father in 1742.
Abraham and Ann settled at Deershaw, a cluster of stone farmhouses situated on a high windswept bluff called Mount, which commanded a view of the rolling green hills and heather moors of the Yorkshire countryside. Deershaw was an old settlement located less than two miles south of Fulstone, a hamlet in Kirkburton Parish. Perched atop a hilly exposed part of the district, Deershaw was an example of a “shaw,” a small wood. It may also have been the haunt of wild deer, as its name suggests. But, according to George Redmond’s Holmfirth Place-Names and Settlements, “...a very early surname [Derneschaghe, Dereshaghe, and Dershawe] in the graveship suggests that it may actually have taken its name from the River Dearne, which has its source on this ridge.”
At Deershaw Abraham and Ann raised a substantial family, most all of whom survived to adulthood to establish additional branches of the Beaumont family. Their first child was born in 1732, followed by eight others at regular two- and three-year intervals, ending with Martha, born in 1752, the baby of the family and her father’s pet.
Abraham and Ann must have been good and conscientious Quakers, if their standing in the community were to be judged by the frequency with which their signatures both appeared on the marriage contracts of others within the High Flatts Meeting. Abraham was often appointed by his Preparative Meeting as their representative to attend the Monthly Meetings held at Pontefract, Burton, or Wakefield. But unlike their parents, almost all of Abraham’s children would sooner or later run afoul of the Quaker community and be disowned from membership.
The Quaker faith had gotten its start almost 100 years before the time of Abraham and Ann when George Fox began to preach against the personal interests, corruption, and greed among the powerful, especially those associated with the Crown and the Established Church. The Quaker concept of the “Inner Light” taught that each individual was his own minister. The Quakers refused to take oaths, such as the Oath of Allegiance to the King, refused to pay tithes to the Established Church, and recognized no church rituals, such as baptism, marriage by a “hireling priest,” or the marking of graves with a tombstone. Believing that all men are equal, they refused to doff their hats or bow to officials, and did not use titles such as sir or mister. Instead they referred to one another, and to those with whom they came into contact, as thee and thou. They did not use the commonly accepted pagan names for days of the week or months of the year, calling them instead First Day, Second Day, and First Month, Second Month, and so on. Those members who deviated from the somewhat strict rules of Quaker conduct would find themselves the object of an investigating committee, subject to reprimand and often disownment.
In his lifetime, Abraham probably suffered for his faith, because Quakers were persecuted by the Established Church for non-payment of tithes to maintain the clergy. The Quakers refused to pay those who “made a trade of saints’ words.” The clergy did not look kindly upon such defiance, for it struck at their authority as well as their pocketbook. Consequently, Quakers’ household goods were often seized in payment. Pots, pans, dishes, pewterware, sacks of oats and barley, all saw their way into the coffers of the church. And those who would not allow their goods to be seized were jailed.
After a life of such sufferings, as well as witnessing the disownment by the Quakers of several of his children, Abraham died and was laid to rest on 26 January 1770 in an unmarked grave, according to Quaker practice. He was buried in the Quaker burial ground at Wooldale Meeting House because the little burial ground in the front yard of High Flatts Meeting House was quite full up, and the larger plot of land which now stretches behind the meeting house had not yet been procured.
Following Abraham’s death, Ann received a form of widow’s retainer from the Quakers. As the years progressed the money was delivered to Abraham’s daughter Sarah, still single and living at home with her mother and younger sister Martha. For seven years Sarah continued to receive the regular payments, until she, too, ran afoul of the Quaker community. Ann Beaumont must have continued to receive a subsidy, however, because the records of High Flatts Quakers show that on 08 June 1780 Ann Beaumont received a pension. Ann died at Deershaw on 08 January 1789 at age 80, and was buried near Abraham in the Wooldale burial ground beside the meeting house.
Hannah, daughter of Abraham and Ann Beaumont
Abraham and Ann’s first child, Hannah, was born on 28 April 1732. In August of 1758, when Hannah was about 26 years old, she left home for a brief period of time. When a family member wished to move or to visit another meeting, the Quakers provided a certificate of removal for the visitor, a sort of transfer of membership. Such appeared to have been requested at the behest of young Hannah. According to the Monthly Meeting held at Lanehead on 10 August 1758, “... a certificate being requested upon ye acct of Hannah Beaumont, Friends desire Sam. Westgarth to enquire what’s needful concerning her and to draw one against our next [Monthly Meeting].” But three months later at the Monthly Meeting held at Burton on 09 November, the Quakers reported that “Hannah Beaumont returned home so that she needed no certificate.” Beyond this point in time, there appeared no further mention of Hannah in the Quaker records, so she may have died.
John, son of Abraham and Ann Beaumont
John Beaumont, born on 20 April 1734, was the second child born to Abraham and Ann. Records indicate that trouble began in June of 1761 when John, then 27, took himself off to the Kirkburton Parish priest along with Ann Kaye of Totties, another Quaker, a widow, so that they might be baptized in the Established Church and married.
Joseph, son of Abraham and Ann Beaumont
Abraham and Ann’s third child was Joseph, born on 27 May 1736. Early in 1762 when he was about 26 years old, Joseph declared his intentions before the Quaker assembly of wedding Mary Wood of Denby. Joseph and Mary appeared twice before High Flatts Meeting, and after a proper inquiry into Joseph’s clearness from all others, their marriage was accomplished in an orderly fashion according to Quaker practice. Although he appeared to live a good Quakerly life, in his old age Joseph would be disowned.
Susannah, daughter of Abraham and Ann Beaumont
Susannah was born on 31 May 1738, the fourth child of Abraham and Ann. In April 1763, less than a year following the marriage of her older brother Joseph to Mary Wood, 25-year-old Susannah was baptized by the Kirkburton parish priest. Concurrent with her baptism, banns were published at the church for her marriage to Joseph Brooke. Their wedding took place in the Established Church on 03 May 1763. The following month, in June, the Quakers sprang into action. At the High Flatts Men’s Preparative Meeting it was noted that “complaint being made by High Flatts Friends that Susannah Beaumont who has her education amongst Friends hath joined herself in membership with the Church of England by getting sprinkled and married with a person of that persuasion. This and her other misconduct hath given Friends just occasion to bear their testimony against her and to hereby disown her to be a member of our society.” Clearly, getting sprinkled was just grounds for disownment.
Abraham, Junior, son of Abraham and Ann Beaumont
Abraham and Ann’s fifth child and youngest son, Abraham, was born on 09 October 1740. He would be perhaps the most troublesome, for as a young man Abraham brought shame upon his family and the Quaker community.
(See Abraham Jr. of Dearshaw and Ester Beever)
Sarah, daughter of Abraham and Ann Beaumont
Sarah Beaumont, born on 10 February 1743, was Abraham and Ann’s sixth child. As a young woman she lived at home, caring for her elderly mother following her father’s death in 1770. Ann received a form of widow’s retainer from the Quakers, and each month the money was delivered to Sarah, until 1777 when she, too, ran afoul of the Quaker community. Once more the hue and cry went forth. Again, the Quaker men noted in their Preparative Meeting minutes that “the women friends inform this meeting that Sarah Beaumont of High Flatts meeting is guilty of fornication, that they have made an appointment to speak to her and that she had little to say for herself.”
On 14 August 1777, a pronouncement was made: Sarah Beaumont, daughter of Abraham Beaumont, late of Deershaw, deceased, hath been educated among us, the people called Quakers; but not being obedient to that principal of grace and truth, she made a profession and let out her mind and kept company with loose persons of disagreeable conduct and conversation insomuch that she hath been guilty of fornication, which hath not only been cause of grief and trouble to her relations and friends, but a reproach and a scandal to the truth, and us as a people for which said misconduct we find ourselves engaged to signify our disunity therewith, and do hereby disown the said Sarah Beaumont to be a member of our society, sincerely desiring that she may cometh to a right sense of her outgoing and witness a time of repentance and acceptance with the Almighty.
With that mouthful, Sarah, too, was disowned.Poor Sarah never married. She died at Deershaw on 25 January 1784 when she was 40 years old, and was buried three days later, on 28 January, at Wooldale Quaker burial ground. The Quaker records described her as a “singlewoman” and “not in unity.”
Mary, daughter of Abraham and Ann Beaumont
Mary Beaumont was born on 07 May 1745, the seventh child of Abraham and Ann. Her life seemed unremarkable, for as a young woman she went quietly about her business and dutifully attended monthly meetings as often as she was appointed representative. On 03 January 1770 when Mary was 4 months shy of her 25th birthday, the Quakers made note in their records that “Samuel Haigh and Mary Beaumont laid before us their intention of taking each other in marriage; he produced a note duly attested from his mother signifying her approbation thereto; her mother being present, expressed her and her husband’s consent; this meeting having no objection, leaves them to their liberty to lay the same before our next Monthly Meeting.” Although her father died a short while after Mary announced her intentions to marry, all was otherwise in good order, for on 15 March 1770, Mary and Samuel Haigh were married before the assembled Quaker community at High Flatts. Mary and Samuel Haigh remained in the High Flatts area throughout their lives. They had at least one child, a son named William, who was born around 1771. Samuel must have preceded Mary in death, for when she died on 07 February 1825, at 80 years of age, the Quaker registers described her as being “of High Flatts in Denby, a widow.” She was buried four days later at High Flatts Quaker burial ground.
Martha, daughter of Abraham and Ann Beaumont
The last of Abraham and Ann’s children, Martha, was born on 17 June 1752. In 1781 when she was 29 years old, Martha married Elihu Dickinson, a 40-year-old clothier of High Flatts. Elihu was the son of Edward Dickinson of High Flatts, deceased, and his wife Ann. They belonged to a local family of prominent Quaker landholders. At the Men’s Preparative Meeting of 07 October 1781, a note was made that “Elihu Dickinson and Martha Beaumont have laid before us their intention of marriage with each other, each of their surviving parents being present signified their consents, and he expressing himself clear from all others, this meeting having no objection gives leave for them to proceed to the monthly meeting.” The following month at High Flatts, “Elihu Dickinson married Martha Beaumont, daughter of Abraham, late of Deershaw, clothier, deceased, and Ann his wife surviving on the 15th of 11th month called November 1781.”
Beaumont relatives who witnessed the marriage included John, Joseph, Abraham Junior, Mary, and Hannah Beaumont. The Mary mentioned was probably Mary Wood who married Martha’s older brother Joseph. Hannah may have been the daughter of John Beaumont and Ann Kaye of Totties, or Martha’s older sister, if she was still alive.
Martha and Elihu had three children: Ann, born 30 November 1783; Edward, born 22 March 1786; and Mary, born 02 May 1791. Little Ann died on 16 February 1785 at 15 months of age, and was buried probably at High Flatts Quaker burial ground. Martha, who was high-strung and driven by nervous energy, had been spoiled and indulged by her father when he was alive. Soon after her marriage to Elihu problems developed when she began to show signs of dementia. Her affliction was to make miserable the lives of her husband Elihu and her surviving children, Edward and Mary. It was early in April 1817 when Martha and Elihu’s 31-year-old son Edward, in a “disordered state of mind...,” crept behind the corn mill at High Flatts. According to the account given by Joseph Wood, a local Quaker writer and diarist, “It was...between 7 & 8 o’Clock in the evening when he committed the fatal act in the corner of the middle close on the back of the Windmill. And after bleeding there a considerable time he went home of himself, which was very admirable after losing such a large quantity of blood.” Edward died seven days later and was buried, amid much morbid fascination, at High Flatts Quaker burial ground on 17 April 1817. Elihu died at age 76 not long after his son, and was buried on 27 November 1817 in the Quaker burial ground at High Flatts. Martha survived her husband by thirteen years, and died in 1830 at age 78. She was buried on 12 January 1830 at High Flatts. Martha and Elihu’s daughter Mary married John Firth, a clothier of Fulstone, on 18 September 1817 at High Flatts. He was the son of John Firth, a yeoman of Shepley, and his wife Ann. Mary and John settled at High Flatts.
John Firth died at age 57 at High Flatts and was buried there on 06 September 1847. The Quaker registers described him as a yeoman, an independent farmer. Four years later when the 1851 Denby census was taken, Mary’s name appeared. She still lived at High Flatts, and a woman named Rebecca Wright, a cousin, lived in her household, along with two Beaumont women. It is unknown whether the Beaumont women were somehow related to Mary Firth, although they may have been cousins, too. [Martha Dickinson’s brother Abraham Beaumont, Junior, had a son named John who would have been Martha’s nephew. Martha’s daughter Mary would have been John’s first cousin. It is likely that Sarah Beaumont was a daughter of John Beaumont, and therefore a first cousin once-removed to Mary Firth.]
Mary died at age 69 some thirteen years after her husband, and was buried at High Flatts on 03 May 1860.
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