Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rebecca Henderson and Lawrence Bankston (b. 1704)

Rebecca Hendricks Bankston
1705-c. 1744

By The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Forde

Anno Domino 1705
· William Penn and the Quaker movement had created a Quaker culture in Pennsylvania.
· Gloria Dei congregants are in the fifth year of celebration of their new red brick building.
· Rebecca Hendricks is born to a Quaker mother and Norwegian father. Her maternal ancestors were Dutch Reformed.

Rebecca’s story could be called “A Clash of Cultures.” She first saw the bright light of day around 1705 when she was born to Quaker converts, Johannes Hendricks and Rebeckah Groesbeck (widow of Arthur Wells). Johannes was the son of Albertus Hendrickson Sr. and Aeltje of the Netherlands (Dutch descent). Johannes’ first wife was Frances Bezar.
Taking artistic license, we can intuit more about traditions of Rebecca’s mother, Rebekah (sic) and her baptism, and all of our Dutch ancestors in this well-written article about the customs at a new baby’s birth.



By Donna Ristenbatt

The arrival of a new baby was an event of great happiness in the Dutch household. There were varying customs following the birth of the child, particularly the customs involving the baptism of the child and the celebration that ensued. Before the baby was born, however, there were great preparations, just as there are today.

In rich homes, presents poured in. Many of these presents were silver, such as the cup, the pap-bowl (a bowl with a nipple), the cinnamon bowl, spoons, etc. The husband’s mother or aunt frequently gave a handsome basket lined with silk, preferably yellow, draped with lace, and filled with toilet articles. Another and larger basket contained the linen. The cradle was also tastefully and comfortably draped, and stood near the fire, from which it was protected by a screen. Special drinks and sweet cakes, or biscuits, were offered to visitors. In 1662, a case came into the New Amsterdam Court regarding these special breads:

Pursuant to the order of this, W. court, the defendant produces a declaration of Hieletje Jans, wife of Yde Cornelis, passed before the Notary Salomon La Chair, 23 August 1662, to the effect that she had agree with defendant in the presence of her husband’s sister and Tryntje Walings, to bake a quantity of biscuit for her lying-in. Burgomasters and Schepens, having read and considered the declaration, find that defendant has not baked the rolls with a design to sell them; but for biscuit; therefore dismiss the Officer’s entered demand and deduced conclusion.

Richer people tended to do things a little differently from the poorer classes. The usual custom was for the mother not to attend church until six weeks had passed after the birth of the child. According to the resolutions of the church, the child had to be baptized as soon as possible after birth, but it became customary among the richer classes to put off the baptism until after the mother had made her first visit to the church. It would have been considered bad manners if the mother had gone out of doors or appeared in society or in the street before this ceremony, and it would have been against all customs if at her return, no “churchtrip meal” (kerkgangsmaal) had been served. According to the old Dutch custom , there was hearty fare and plenty of good cheer at these dinners. Since this began to be carried to excess, an ordinance from the church was published that at a christening dinner, no more than a specified number of neighbors were allowed to be present. This number differed in the various towns.

The baptism took place in the church, sometimes before and sometimes after the sermon, but generally during the afternoon service. The compulsory baptism, performed in case of illness by the nurse, was not considered legal. Sick children were sometimes baptized before the service. (In other localities, sick children were sometimes baptized at home.) Natural children, the birth of whom had to be sworn to by the nurse before the church council, were christened in some places in the forenoon. The father had to be present at the baptism, and it was left to him to bring brothers or sisters as witnesses, provided these were members of the Reformed Church and did not stand under “censure” or excommunication. On such occasion, prominent burghers wore a special suit of clothes, called the “Lord’s Supper Suit” (avondmaalpak), or they appeared in a solemn black suit and white collar. Many, however, wore their wedding suit or had one made for the occasion.

The laws of New Amsterdam were very strict regarding any irregular baptisms. In 1674, Schout De Mill alleged that Jannettie de Kleuse baptized a child of Reformed parents on 18 April:

When the father was from home, which is a thing which can never be tolerated by those of the Reformed religion; he concludes therefore that the defendant shall be imprisoned and moreover be condemned in a fine of one hundred guilders zeawant, with cost. Defendant admits she baptized the child through ignorance; and requests forgiveness if she did wrong. The New Amsterdam Court having considered the matter and likewise weighed the evil consequences and other inconveniences, which might result and arise therefrom, condemn the defendant for her profanation and disrespect of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism that she shall be imprisoned and remain there until further order by the Court.

The christening robe was as costly as the parents’ means would allow. Rich families wrapped the baby in a handsome lace shawl. The little bonnet showed whether the child was a boy or a girl—six plaits for a boy and three for a girl. The bows of ribbon by their color and the way they were tied also indicated whether the baby was a boy or girl. If the mother had died, or the parents happened to be in mourning, the baby was dressed in white with black bows. Once the baby was dressed, neighbors and friends were invited to come and visit, and light refreshments were offered. Then the christening-party started for the church. The baby was laid on a pillow and wrapped in a “christening-cloth” of white silk, satin, or Marseilles embroidery, and the long skirt of the child’s robe was arranged in folds over the nurse’s shoulder to be held by one of the witnesses. If there was no font in the church, an urn of gold or silver gilt was used, and this was filled with lukewarm water. In some places the elder children of seven, eight, or nine would carry the baby.

Once the christening-party returned from church, the child was blessed by the father and dressed in another outfit, called a presentation robe, to be presented to the friends and relatives who were invited to the christening dinner. In the meantime, the berkemeyer or large glass goblet with a cover, filled with sugared Rhine wine, or the silver brandy bowl, was passed around.

The christening dinner was a very costly and elaborate affair and differed little from the wedding feast. During the dinner, the child was again presented to the guests and songs were sung and speeches and toasts were made. The family silver and porcelain were set upon the table, which was also decorated with fruits and flowers, fine pastries, and cakes. Among these delicacies were the suikerdelbol gaan, or sugared roll, and kraamvetjes, cakes made hollow and filled with sugar. Anise seeds covered with a coating of white sugar, rough for boys and smooth for girls, were also served. The kandeel pot (caudle cup or cinnamon cup) was never missing. This was a tall drinking cup filled with Rhine wine sweetened with sugar. In it was placed a stick of cinnamon—a long one if the child was a boy and a short one if a girl. The sugar was stirred in the cup with the cinnamon stick by the person who presented it.

Being at a christening was long remembered, and in later years people often remarked to a young man or woman, “Old friend, I had a sugar piece with you.” (“Oude Kennis, ik heb bij je nog een stik met suiker gehad.”)

Upon returning from the baptismal font, gifts were presented or promised. These were usually of gold or silver, such as porringers, pap-bowls with spoons, a silver whistle, or a silver mounted bag, if the godfathers and godmothers were of the rich burgher class. But the farmers presented the child with silver shoe buckles or coat buttons or some trifle. It was also the custom to give a luyer korf (napkin basket) completely furnished, or a gold or silver rattle.

Sometimes the presents were made on the day of the birth, or a few days afterwards, on which occasion a dinner or kinderbier (baby beer) was given. These festivities sometimes lasted six weeks, one christening feast following another. In the meantime, the husband neglected his business or his work, and debts often resulted. The presents were kept in the “show cabinet” where the bride’s gifts and the bridegroom’s pipe were on exhibition. The silver was taken to the mint only in dire need, and then sometimes it was discovered that the “gold” presents were often of gilded brass.

Thanks to Donna Ristenbatt, we can visualize our Dutch grandmother’s baptismal celebrations. (Esther Singleton, Dutch New York. Dodd, Mead and Company (originally), 1909).

The story shifts to Rebecca, daughter of Rebeckah (widow of Wells) and John Hendricks. Rebecca did not have the baptism of a Dutch Reformed daughter; instead, her baptism was later when she was older, a spiritual baptism. Rebecca Hendricks married into one of the staunchest Lutheran families in Pennsylvania. About 1725, she wed Lawrence Bankson, son of Lawrence Bankson Jr. and Gertrude Lars Boore. Rebecca and Lawrence established their home in York County during a time of increasing sociopolitical upheaval and religious intensity.

Rebecca’s husband and her father, Johannes “John” Hendricks, were involved in a boundary dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania. They were jailed in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and John was required to provide bail for their good behavior at Lancaster County Court in early 1737. They participated in the riot of Marylanders, including the sack of Henry Hendricks’ (of Tobias Sr.) house in the fall of 1736.

Rebecca Hendricks Bankston may have died between 1740-1744 in Pennsylvania, Maryland or in North Carolina.

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