Lydia Ward was the daughter of George Ward and Barzilla Doane, two original Wellfleet families. She was born in 1760 and married Reuben Arey (1) in 1777 at age seventeen. Together they had eleven children. Reuben Arey died in 1801 when Lydia was 41.
Two years before he died, Reuben posted a newspaper notice that his wife had left his bed and board. We have no proof that she had done so – and perhaps Reuben Arey was angry about something, or just wrong. Maybe he was suffering from dementia. We do not have his Will, to see if there were actions taken there. At any rate, this would have been a pretty exciting event for South Wellfleet!
Reuben’s action made me think about Lydia and her life. In the 1800 Federal Census, there is only one Reuben Arey listed, with a large household. (In the earlier censuses, only the head of household is listed, with others counted by simply gender and age.) In the 1800 census, the Arey family appears to be living together, with the two adults and the younger children. John Taylor does not appear in the 1800 census as a “head of household.” Was he a romantic interest of Lydia’s before the death of her husband? There’s no obvious proximity.
Lydia remarried on August 6, 1808, to John Taylor. If she had been having an affair with John before Reuben died, it’s odd that she would have waited so long to remarry! Now she is 38. I’m noting her age because the person who posted her and John on the website www.findagrave.org indicates that she had another child in 1824 but this sounds impossible as she would have been then 64 years old. I checked the Wellfleet birth records from 1800 to 1825 and do not find any record of a birth to John and Lydia.
In the 1810 Federal Census, in John Taylor’s home, there are children of varying ages – probably Lydia’s younger children who were still at home. Her two youngest girls, Nancy and Rebecca, would have been in their early teens.
Another oddity is noted in the marriage records for Wellfleet. John Taylor declares an intention to marry Sally Witherell in July 1808, but then married Lydia in August. This may be an error, or another story of a relationship that did not work out. Sally was the daughter of John Witherell and his first wife, Azubah Gross. (John Witherell married again, to Lydia’s oldest daughter, Ruth, in 1822.) Sally later married John Connnick.)
John Taylor is of special interest because he was another of Wellfleet’s Revolutionary War soldiers, although he was not from Wellfleet. Until he married Lydia Arey in 1808, we do not know where he lived. There is no record of him in the 1790 and 1800 Federal censuses, but he may have been living in another home where he was not the head of household.
In her excellent 1975 paper “Wellfleet Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolution,“ Elizabeth Cole provides details of John Taylor’s military service. She cites his military enlistment as a private (no date) and that he may have deserted in June 1777 – not an uncommon occurance during the Revolution when soldiers simply returned home to work their land. In February 1778, he shows up on the record again, now as a corporal. He served until December 1779. I found evidence of his enlistment as a drummer in February, 1780. Cole indicated that he was in a “Light Company” assigned to West Point in July, 1780. His pension application indicates that he served until the end of the war. Cole was doing her research, pre-Internet, looking at National Archives records while I used “fold3,” a website with partial records from the National Archives.
Taylor’s service record states that he was a drummer in the regiment commanded by Michael Jackson of Massachusetts. The 8th Massachusetts Regiment was raised April 23, 1775, under Colonel Sargent at Cambridge. The Regiment saw action at the Battle of Bunker Hill, the New York Campaign, the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, and the Battle of Saratoga. In his pension application, Mr. Taylor swears that he enlisted in February 1780. He lost his certificate of discharge, so Colonel Michael Jackson’s son had to swear that Mr. Taylor’s name was described in his father’s regimental book.
There are notes that John Taylor was from New York. Cole does not state which unit he joined in his early enlistments. The 8th Massachusetts Regiment may have been based near his home, as sources place it at West Point, an important strategic location for the Americans. Another source indicates that General Washington’s headquarters was in Newburgh, New York. in 1783, and there is a letter in Washington’s archive to Jackson that suggests that the Regiment be “put in a more respectable condition.”
By the time John Taylor joined the Regiment, the battles of the Revolution in the north were over, and with most battles now fought in the South. Thus it is not clear that he saw major action during this time of service.
Taylor’s application for a pension in August 1820 states that he owns “two acres of meadow that is valued at $40. I owe eighty dollars (unreadable) one house. I have a wife named Lydia, aged 60. One child lives at home, a cripple aged 30 years whose name is Whitfield. (This would be Reuben and Lydia’s son.) My employment a day laborer and my general health such that I am unable to labor.” The County Clerk’s office verified his property as worth $60.00.
While these details may seem cumbersome, there is one important fact about John Taylor that is of relevance today. John died a year or so after Lydia, in August 1851, at age 97 years. No doubt he was an honored South Wellfleet citizen. After his wife died, in February 1850, he was taken into the home of the Boyington family of South Wellfleet. He is noted living there in the April 1850 Federal Census. John Taylor’s grave at the South Wellfleet Cemetery has carved on his stone: “He was a Lifeguard to Washington during the Revolutionary War.”
Cole states in her paper, with regard to John Taylor, that various military units began to adopt fanciful titles and in April 1777 Congress passed a resolution that such titles were improper. Washington stated that they were not authorized by him and, in fact, were “forbidden in terms of severe reprehension.” Cole found no evidence that John Taylor served as “Washington’s Life Guard” nor did I. However, by 1850 there were few Revolutionary War veterans remaining, and one can imagine the high respect given to them — the same type of admiration we give to World War II veterans today. South Wellfleet honored John Taylor with the inscription on his grave.
There’s one other significant note about Lydia Taylor. Local historians Russell and Verna Moore have researched the Fresh Brook Village site in South Wellfleet, and lead tours for the National Park Service. They indicate that John Taylor’s wife, Lydia, owned a tavern in Fresh Brook Village. The National Park Service describes it as being located “along the King’s Highway, where travelers might stop for refreshment.” Lydia Taylor appears to have become known as “Aunt Lydia” at this point in her life. Deyo’s 1890 history describes it:
Aunt Lydia Taylor’s store or tavern, or both, is remembered by the elder people, although the house long ago succumbed to the march of improvement. Then the weekly horseback mail carrier plodded along the sandy road, and the people must gather as often at Aunt Lydia’s to enquire the news; and in early stage time the dusty traveler found an unstinted measure of relief under her roof. Reuben Arey had still another of these stores about 1820 at his house, where he kept the post office.
Note: there is another, perhaps more famous “Aunt Lydia’s Tavern” in Barnstable. This was the business of Lydia Sturgis, and was located across the road from today’s Sturgis Library.
Elizabeth L. Cole, “Wellfleet Soldiers and Sailors of The Revolutionary War” Wellfleet Bicentennial Committee, 1976 (paper held by the Wellfleet Public Library).
David Kew’s Cape Cod History site: www.capecodhistory.us.
U.S. Federal Census collection at www.ancestry.com.
Deyo, Simon. History of Barnstable County, New York, 1890. Wellfleet chapter on line at www.capecodhistory.net.
Observer Reporter, Washington Pennsylvania, August 9, 1987 article on page F-6
National Archives Revolutionary War records online at www.fold3.com.
History of the Massachusetts 8th Regiment at www.wikipedia.com.