A different world. One of the challenges of doing family history is that almost all my ancestors lived in another world–not another nation, not another place, but a different world.
Life has changed so much over the past decades and centuries. The farther you go back in history, the more unrecognizable things become. I’ve found that even looking at the lives of my grandparents and great grandparents can be disorienting (what was it like before TV and the internet, anyway?)
When Valentine Hollingsworth came to America, sailing on the ship “Antelope” in 1681, the land looked nothing like today. A handful of colonies scattered along the eastern coast of an uncharted land were slowly being organized and settled by Englishmen. The French, the Dutch and the Spanish still claimed parts of North America. The idea of an independent United States of America was yet inconceivable.
Valentine’s family was English or Scottish, but they had located in Ireland during one of the resettlements of the late-sixteenth or early-seventeenth century. In that period, the Tudors and Stuarts who were ruling in England were trying to assert supremacy over Ireland. One of their methods was to send Englishmen who were loyal to English Crown to settle there. The Hollingsworth family acquired land in County Armagh and were living there when Valentine decided to come to America.
Upon arriving in the Delaware Valley in 1681, Valentine immediately became involved in civic affairs. He settled in Penn’s New Castle County (which would eventually lie in Delaware). In 1682-3, Hollingsworth served on the first Provincial Assembly in Pennsylvania and signed Penn’s Great Charter (also known as “The Frame of the Government of the Province of Pennsylvania”). He would go on to serve on the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1687, 1688, 1689, 1695 and 1700. He was also Justice of the Peace in New Castle County from 1685-1688.
It’s hard to imagine how different life was in the 1680s and 1690s. Native Americans still possessed most of the land that is now part of the United States. Government organizations were still forming and being shaped into what they would some day become. Money was different.
Some colonies either issued, or allowed to be issued under their authority, various coins of copper and silver. Pennsylvania did not issue money or allow it to be issued. But Charles Pickering, who was an attorney who came from England at Penn’s invitation, was caught up in a coinage scandal in 1683.
Pickering had found silver in the valley of the Schuylkill River, on land granted to him by Penn. It was said that he and two partners were coining New England shillings and Spanish silver pieces, but not using the proper alloy of silver and copper. Pickering and his partners were called before Governor Penn and the Provincial Council on October 24, 1683. Valentine Hollingsworth was on the grand inquest that was “impanneld and attested” the next day to hear the case. On October 26, the inquest found a true bill against Pickering for a “heynous and grievious crime.”
Upon conviction, Pickering had to make good on the losses that people had incurred from his bad money. Anyone who brought in the “false, base and counterfeit coyne” within a month would be reimbursed by Pickering. He was also required to pay forty pounds toward the building of a new courthouse. One of his partners was forced to pay ten pounds toward the courthouse. The other partner, who was a servant of Pickering and had confessed the crime, was merely required to sit in the stocks for an hour.
It must have been an exciting time. As William Penn established his colony, putting forth his values and ideals in the charter and setting down laws in the assembly, my nine-times-great grandfather Valentine Hollingsworth was there. He added his voice. He helped create a fair and just system of government in the colony of Pennsylvania. He helped advance a provincial culture that would ultimately issue in a new country.