My daughter went on an overnight field trip as part of the Maritime Programs curriculum series through her elementary school. She went aboard the “California” as a male merchant sailor in the year 1774. I had a “parental assignment” of writing her a letter from home as if I too was living in the era. Being that I hadn’t let my creative lion roar in over two weeks (aka – work on my novel) I probably went a little overboard with it. I took the meat of what I knew of the Quiggle surname and family history, mixed in historically accurate names and facts about the area they settled in, threw in a dash of fiction, and made sausage.
Here’s some background before I feed you the letter. When I was 16 or 17, a great aunt of mine did a deep dive into the Quiggle family history. My parents shared what she wrote up at the time. However, since it’s been a score and half more years since I read it, I’ll plead ageism if I’ve made any gross errors.
The Quiggle name is an alteration of the Italian name Quaggia. They were a military family that fled Italy to avoid the persecution of a Pope. I can’t remember which one or the exact dates anymore. I think it was latter 1600’s but it could have been earlier or later. They moved into Germany, and joined the ranks of professional soldiers for hire – in Hessia. At one time, they served under Ferdinand of Brunswick.
The British hired them and moved them to the colonies around 1770 through Philadelphia. I am unclear if the families came at the same time or followed. They migrated west and settled in what would become the Williamsport area. They joined the Fair Play Men. In fact, the Quiggle name is on the Tiadotehn Elm treaty – which was a declaration of Independence that was created BEFORE the Declaration of Independence. They fought in the Revolutionary War alongside the colonists against the British and Iroquois.
I write to you after a long day in the lumber yard at Culberson’s Mill. My back is sore and my hands shake a little. I’ve just eaten more of your mother’s cooking – boiled meat, potatoes, and cabbage. Sometimes I find it as tiring as cutting and hauling the logs. Why did I marry a Pole?
This is not the life of a professional soldier, but we make do with what we have. Since we left you in Philadelphia, we’ve made our way westward to a settlement here in Muncy County. Mr. Andrew Culberson hired our family along with many of the rest of our company to double duty, both security and as workers. Damn the crown for hiring us, shipping us to the Colonies, and leaving us here without assignment or pay. It’s a long way from serving with Ferdinand in mother Germany.
In addition to some temporary homes, the company has pulled together and built a lodge not far from the banks of the Susquehanna River. There is a great old tree nearby where we meet in private. Each family has carved its name deeply into its trunk. We will be remembered.
We train in the fields near the tree to stay sharp. Rumors of Iroquois activity to the west keep people on their toes. The discontent of the Colonists toward the crown reaches even our small but growing settlement. There is a local militia to whom we’ve offered our services through an Irishman named William Hepburn. Your brother Connor seems fond of him. They’ve become friends.
Today I felled a great oak. Did you know that you can tell the age of a tree by counting the rings? I counted over one hundred. This tree was a sapling when our family was newly Hessian after having fled Rome and the disfavor of the Pope. The tree was hauled to the mill and cut for long boards. They will be sent down river and used in the making of ships! Which, of course, made me think of you. Perhaps one day, your boots will tread on the wood of this tree as it carries you across the vast blue waves.
My son, will you stay a sailor? If the company is called up, be it the crown or the militia who pays our contract, will you remember your training and rejoin the company?
Jägers Grenadier Scott Quiggle