William Nourse, Midshipman

William Nourse. According to the Nourse Family Bible which can be viewed online at http://www.noursefamily.net/docs/Nourse-Bible-Entries.pdf , William Nourse was born on 30 October 1763 in London. He was named after an older brother who died in infancy. He was christened at Covent Gardens Church in the presence of godfathers William Symons and William Hughes and godmother Miss Nancy la Bas. Young William grew up at the Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London home of his parents James Nourse, Esq. (1731-1784) and Sarah Fouace whose portraits are captured in a painting that may also be viewed online at http://www.noursefamily.net/wills/img/5-James_and_Sarah.jpghttp://www.noursefamily.net/wills/img/5-James_and_Sarah.jpg . The elder Nourse, with wife and nine children, left England on 16 March 1769 and emigrated to Virginia aboard the ship Liberty, arriving in Hampton on 10 May 1769. About 1770, James Nourse moved his family to a plantation at Piedmont near Charles Town in Berkeley County, VA (now West Virginia). Nourse was an “ardent patriot” and represented Berkeley in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1778. In 1781, he was appointed commissioner to settle the claims of Maryland and moved to Annapolis. When William was twelve years old, his father visited Kentucky for the purpose of acquiring land in 1775, keeping a journal which was published. Four years later, William’s older brothers James, Jr (1758-1799), Robert and Charles followed in their father’s footsteps, traveling to Jefferson County, KY during the Winter of 1779/1780 for the same purpose. Charles was killed by Indians, probably after February 1780.  Brother James apparently obtained a land grant on 29 April 1780 for 1000 acres along the waters of the Salt River on the “Southeast Buffalo Road” about ten miles from the Elk Lick including “William Board’s improvement.” This land was on the north branches of the South fork of Herods Creek in Jefferson County. He also acquired 1000 acres on the “East Buffalo Road” from Elk Lick. Almost ten years later, younger brother William would settle in this same area near Harrodsburg, KY. In 1780, William Nourse was sent to live under his oldest brother Joseph’s care. In a 1827 affidavit, Joseph Nourse (1754-1841) wrote, “my younger brother, William Norse, was by his father, James Norse in 1780 placed under my Direction…” Joseph probably arranged for the appointment of his younger brother William as a seventeen year old midshipman on the frigate Confederacy due to his influence as Assistant Auditor General. Prior to that posting in 1779, Joseph previously served as military secretary to General Charles Lee beginning in 1776, was appointed Deputy Secretary to the Board of War in 1777 and Secretary of Ordnance and Paymaster to the Board of War in 1778. Later in 1781, he was made Register of the Treasury where he served for forty-eight years until 1829. According to the pension application #W-6845 of his widow, William Nourse entered service on board the Confederacy at age 17 on 16 October 1780 in Philadelphia. In December of 1780, the ship sailed to the West Indies and captured a British brig sailing from New York to Turks Island for salt which they carried into Cape Francois. In company with the Continental frigate Deane, they later captured the African slave ship Diamond bound for Jamaica, which they also carried into Cape Francois. Her cargo of slaves was condemned and sold with the profits distributed to the officers and crew. The payroll records of the frigate Confederacy located in the National Archives indicates he was paid three pounds in specie on 26 February 1781. On 14 April 1781, “a day long to be remembered” by Nourse, the Confederacy was captured with him “having lost by his capture nearly everything but the clothes on his back”. He was confined to the Jersey prison ship, suffering “for many weeks the most cruel and rigorous treatment.” “When scarcely recovered from a putrid fever which raged with great mortality,” Nourse was transferred with forty others to the hold of a ship in the British fleet and carried to Portsmouth, England; where was committed to Forton Prison under the charge of “suspicion of high treason.” After a confinement of seven months over the “long and tedious” Winter of 1781/1782, which they suffered without any fire for warmth, Nourse was sent back to Philadelphia on a cartel with about 300 other American prisoners after the surrender of Cornwallis- arriving in August 1782. The Nourse Family Papers in the Special Collections Library of the University of Virginia includes a nineteenth century copy of a 10 March 1782 from Mrs. Elizabeth Fouace to William Nourse describing the terms of his release from the British. A 23 August 1782 notation in the diary of Robert Morris, penned just after the midshipman’s return to Philadelphia, reads “Mr. Wm. Nourse sent in a Petition and Account.” The Papers of Robert Morris indicates these documents, no doubt associated with his service on the Confederacy, subsequent imprisonment and request for compensation, have never been found. He soon after entered on board the Dutch-built Continental frigate South Carolina under the command of John Joiner as midshipman in Philadelphia. The exploits of this ship can be followed in Neptune’s Militia: The Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution by James A. Lewis (1999). In December 1782, Nourse was again captured by the British, carried into New York and according to his survivor’s pension application #S-6845 dated 1832, he received “severe treatment beyond description.” He was paroled to Long Island, then Philadelphia and “not released until the end of the war.” After the war, according to the Genealogies of West Virginia Families by the Clearfield Company (1992), William Nourse was working as a clerk in his father’s office in Annapolis by 1784. That same year, just six months after his oldest brother Joseph was married to Colonel John Bull’s daughter Maria Louisa Bull of Philadelphia on 22 April, James Nourse, Esq. died at Annapolis on 10 October 1784. William’s name was addended to his brothers Joseph and James as executors for the estate of their father in his will dated 25 March 1784, suggesting that William had returned shortly before. Signed in the presence of General Horatio Gates, family friend and godfather to two of William’s siblings, James’ will bequeathed one hundred pounds sterling to son William Nourse, as well as, an equal share in the remainder of his estate. A newspaper advertisement of 30 November 1785 reveals the three executors marketing the sale of their father’s thousand acre parcel on the “Head of Worthington’s Run” in Berkeley County. Three years after the death, according to the Genealogies of West Virginia Families, William Nourse was sent to England in 1787 to settle some family matters of estate. A footnote in the Papers of Robert Morris states that after assisting his father in Maryland, William Nourse later served as clerk in various Treasury Department offices, one of the many in the family brood working under the auspices of oldest brother Joseph Nourse. The family’s roosting is documented in A Tale of Two Bureaucrats: Joseph Nourse, Oliver Wolcott Jr. by R. D. White, Jr. (2008). In Mercer County, KY on Thursday 9 July 1789, William Nourse married Elizabeth Jameson, daughter of Andrew Jameson and Martha Stevenson. Nourse’s older brother Robert also was married to Elizabeth’s sister Rebecca Jameson. According to The Family Forest Descendants of Lady Joan Beaufort by Bruce Harrison and other genealogical sources, their children included: Joseph born 24 December 1789 and died 4 January 1790, Gabriel born 1 February 1792 and died December 1812, William born 20 April 1794 and died 10 March 1795, Andrew born 11 February 1796 and died June 1798, Martha born 12 February 1798 who married John McClay Irwin 2 April 1822 and died 28 August 1829, Robert born 15 May 1800 and died 10 June 1827, Elizabeth born 10 August 1802 who married William Chambers 4 January 1830 and died 9 September 1832, William born 21 September 1804 and died 5 March 1809, Maria Josepha born 19 October 1806 who married Thomas McLanahan 17 December 1829 and died 4 May 1836 and finally, Elder Charles Force Nourse born 5 December 1809 who married Elizabeth Ward Gaines and died 20 April 1836. Additional family genealogy is published in James Nourse and his descendants by Maria Catherine Nourse Lyle (1897), reprinted by Naomi Etta Ward (1995). On 23 February 1810, Mr. Johnson presented a petition before Congress on behalf of William Nourse “praying for a grant of land in consideration of services rendered as a midshipman in the navy of the United States during the Revolutionary War, or that such other relief may be afforded him as may appear just and proper.” Congress ordered the petition referred to the Committee of Claims which appears to have acted in Nourse’s favor on 2 March 1810. William’s first wife, Elizabeth Jameson died on 24 April 1811. William Nourse was married a second time on 2 May 1813 to twenty-one year old Rebecca P. Kyle in a ceremony officiated by her father Reverend Thomas Kyle in Mercer County, KY. Rebecca, born in 1792, was the daughter of Mary and Thomas Kyle, known as “Dominie” in his position of pastor of the Lower Dutch Reformed Church known originally as the Salt River Congregation and later as Old Mud Meeting House in Harrodsburg. Fellow Revolutionary War veteran Thomas Kyle (1757-1846) came to the area about 1802, just two years after Nourse purchased 101 acres of Mercer County property on Salt River from John Valentine Lindsey and his wife Anna on 3 November 1790 for 170 pounds. About three years after the wedding, Kyle left his pastorate to become a Methodist just about the time the Western Monitor reported the Harrodsburg Bible Association petitioning of the Kentucky Bible Society to sanction its formation under William Nourse as chairman on 8 November 1816. The congregation of Kyle’s former church, presumably including his son-in-law William Nourse, re-organized as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1826. Nourse’s daughter Martha may have married one of the three pastors involved in founding this Presbyterian ministry earlier in 1822. A report of contributions to the American Colonization Society for the Winter of 1826/27, includes “collections in Presbyterian church, Harrodsburg, Ky. by Wm. Nourse”, as well as, a contribution from brother Joseph Nourse, Esq. who also served as Vice-President of the American Bible Society. It is about this time when William Nourse begins seeking a pension for his naval service writing in an 1827 deposition that his wartime imprisonment of forty-five years earlier “is probably the cause that he has been laboring for many years with a broken constitution and for months together such heavy infirmities as to render him entirely unable to attend to any kind of business.” His pension #S-6845 awarded Nourse an annual allowance of $144, his first payment of $360 being received on 27 September 1832. Several years later in December 1834, Harrodsburg attorney Mr. Harlan presented a petition to the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of William Nourse “praying for a pension.” William Nourse died on 30 August 1836 in Mercer County, KY. William’s wife Rebecca P. (Kyle) Nourse apparently never remarried and filed for pension relief as his widow in the Court of Claims in 1853. Finding in her favor, Chief Justice Gilchrist found “the claimant is entitled to the arrears of her pension, from the 4th of March, 1848, to the 3d of February, 1853,” whereupon his pension was reinstated on 18 May 1853. Subsequent continued concern over the $144 annual pension is suggested by Rebecca P. Nourse’s appointment of relative Michael Norse of Washington as her attorney on 23 February 1857. William Nourse’s widow Rebecca died twenty-eight years after husband on 20 July 1864. The Special Collections Library of the University of Virginia houses the Nourse Family Papers (1751-1918) containing over 2,000 items in Microfilm Collection 547 (#3490). In addition to the earlier mentioned letter concerning the terms of William Nourse’s release from British captivity in 1782, the collection includes correspondence between brother Joseph Nourse and his wife Maria during the 1780’s, Joseph Nourse’s “Wastebook” from 1773-1782 and a “memoir” of the Nourse family containing references to the activities of family members during the Revolution (#3490-a). An additional collection representing 32 items between 1769-1850 includes two Revolutionary War claims (#3490-d). Additional Nourse family papers can be found at the Maryland State Archives in MSA SC 1394 Collection 4 Microfilm.

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