Like I said, – Mr. Esquire George Park, – let us start at the beginning.
Well, it is the beginning as far as I have been told. There were Birdsalls all over Long Island prior to the American Revolution. They lived in Oyster Bay, Jericho and other small island villages. There were also some “Burchells” who wished they were Birdsalls and so they introduced themselves as such. Families multiplied and soon Birdsalls and “would be” Birdsalls were found in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and in the lower counties of New York on both sides of the Hudson. And, oh yes, let us not forget that great Quaker experiment called Pennsylvania.
Confusion reigned as to who the true Birdsalls were and who the false Birdsalls were. One thing remained constant however, and that was most Birdsalls were Quakers. Peace loving, and in the case of those still living on Long Island, royalists. The UPSTATE Birdsalls were far enough removed from British Royal influence so that they could think a little more critically than their Long Island cousins.
Grandfather Birdsall had told me that he originally had a farm in Westchester County, Town of Salem, New York. “Just one mile west of the Connecticut border” he would say. As if that would make a big difference in my mind!
I never did get the drift of that declaration but I always acted as if I did.
He told me “the farm was small, the dirt was old and everyone in the area was tired, and I knew I had to move on.” The previous owner had been growing Connecticut tobacco on Grandfather’s farm and that drew the nutrients out of the soil.
Grandfather had always wanted one of those superb pieces of land that reached down from east to west; the parcels that would touch the Hudson River. These parcels, long and thin, started in the highlands and followed the slope to the rich bottom land of the river. This gave each property owner upland timber, hillside pasture, and fertile flat tillable crop land overlooking the Hudson River.
I, Epinetus Birdsall, was named after a travelling Quaker minister of the “Society of Friends.” Minister Epinetus served the Quakers on a circuit through New York and Rhode Island. Our word, the word of a Quaker, was as good as gold, – – – even if we suffered a financial loss.
Minister Epinetus set the example by converting part of his farm to a meeting place and school. Grandfather Henry admired minister Epinetus for his generosity, hard work, and the seed of Christ that grew within him. On the other hand Grandfather saw no need for the new school. He would often say in the third person “Henry Birdsall has worked hard, spent wisely, and kept the Light of Jesus lit daily.” He would often follow up with “The Holy Spirit planted the Seed in Henry Birdsall and the Holy Spirit will water the same seed in his sons.” There was never a mention of his daughters’ future well being. That would be the responsibility of the men they married.
And so that was the way it was in Salem Township, County Westchester, State of New York. Hard work each day, all day, by elder Henry and his two boys; younger Henry and Horace. Hours of tedious work late into each night by Grandmother Abashaby Birdsall and her seven daughters; who, to belabor the point were Hester, Fanny, Abashaby, Rachel, Deborah, Eliza and Polly. Time was always set aside for family prayer and weekly meetings with the brothers and sisters in the Society of Friends. The term Quakers was not openly used then.
Most people took it as an insult.