Saturday, April 11, 2015

Louise Kerwen Capron Thiers Daughter of Revolutionary Soldier Seth Capron

The History of Kenosha would be incomplete were there failure to make reference to Madame Louise K. Thiers, now in her one hundred and second year. Although she makes her home with her daughter in Milwaukee, she was long a resident of Kenosha and her memory compasses the greatest period of the city ’s growth and development. She was born in Oneida county, New York, October 2, 1814, a daughter of Seth and Eunice (Mann) Capron. (pictures below) The father was a soldier of the Revolutionary war, and Madame Thiers is perhaps today the only one living in America who can claim to be the child of one of the members of the Continental army.

Dr. Capron was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, September 23, 1762, and was a great-grandson of Banfield Capron, the founder of the family in the new world. When a youth of about fourteen Banfield Capron with three schoolmates, boys about his own age, decided to leave England and come to America. They concealed themselves in the hold of a vessel which was about to sail and which weighed anchor at Cheter, in Cheshire county, a seaport on the north of England, in the year 1674. The boys carried with them food for a few days.
After the vessel was out about four days the boys were discovered but after some parley were allowed to continue on the voyage. Banfield Capron resided in the colony of Massachusetts until 1752, when he passed away at the venerable age of ninety-two years, leaving a family of six sons and six daughters.The line of descent is traced down through Jonathan and Elisha Capron to Dr. Seth Capron, who at the time of the outbreak of hostilities with the mother country was too young to be drafted and too short of stature to pass inspection at muster. In 1781, at the time of his country ’s greatest peril, it is known that he managed, by elevating himself upon his toes, to pass the mustering office and so enlisted at the age of nineteen. He first served as a private and afterward became corporal under command of Captain David Holbrook and Colonel William Shepard. He participated in the siege of Newport as a member of the Light Infantry Corps under General Lafayette and it was there that a cannon ball, aimed at the General, grazed the top of his head. He took part in the battle of White Plains and was then transferred to West Point under Washington. where he served during the remainder of the war, being appointed coxswain of the barge of the commander-in-chief, whom he accompanied through the parting scene when he left the army, landing him at Elizabethtown Point, where he was the last man to receive General Washington ’s handclasp and benediction.

(Above images Eunice Mann and Seth Capron) Dr. Capron then returned to his native town of Attleboro, where his father, Elisha Capron, owned a good farm, but about that time he was induced to sell his farm, taking his pay in Continental money which a few days later proved worthless, the government being declared bankrupt. Dr. Capron then began the study of medicine under Dr. Bazeleel Mann, an eminent physician and man of letters who served his country during the Revolutionary war, his fellow citizens placing him upon the committees of safety, correspondence and judiciary, services which the country at that period demanded of its best citizens. Dr. Mann was the great-grandson of William Mann, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was a grandson of Sir Charles Mann, of Kent county, England, knighted in 1625_ for loyalty to his king by Charles I.

At the period when Dr. Capron began the study of medicine there were but two medical schools in the country, one at Harvard, just established, and the other at New Haven, organized in 1784, but by reason of the dangers and expenses of traveling these were by no means well attended. The medical student prepared for practice by becoming apprenticed to some noted member of the profession and had to prepare the medicines and in many ways assist his preceptor, gaining his knowledge from personal experience rather than from books, for in those days few physicians boasted a library of fifty volumes. The physician was compelled to compound his own drugs, makes his own tinctures and put up his own prescriptions, and the physician, next to the minister, was the most important resident of a community. In that period no water was given to fever patients, and Madame Thiers well remembers, when about eight years of age, pleading for water when in a raging fever. The nurse handed her the pitcher and the child satisfied her burning thirst. Her brother, overhearing what was going on, rushed into the room exclaiming “You will kill her!” But it was too late. The water probably did its restorative work and the child was soon well again.

Horace Capron Louise's Brother
Having passed through the period of preliminary preparation, Dr. Capron began the practice of medicine in Cumberland, Rhode Island, in 1789. He married Eunice Mann, daughter of Dr. Bazeleel Mann, and in 1806 removed to Oneida county, New York, traveling across the country in his own carriage with his wife and four young sons—a long and tedious journey of five hundred miles. He located at Whitesboro, now a part of the city of Utica, which was then a small village, its population composed of a few families of rare culture and refinement. There by diligent attention to his profession Dr. Capron secured a handsome competence.
He also became greatly interested in manufacturing, believing that the establishment of manufactories upon a permanent basis was essential to the independence and prosperity of the country. It is said he built the first cotton mill and afterward the first woolen mill in the United States and thus laid the foundation for the present industrial development of the country along manufacturing lines. Associated with him were Dewitt Clinton, Elisha Jenkins and Francis Bloodgood, of Albany, New York, names that figure prominently on history’s pages.
In 1814, when their youngest son was between ten and eleven years of age, when the father was fifty-two and the mother fifty, there came a daughter into the family whom they called Louise Kirwan. Dr. Capron was quite independent and advanced in his views and freely discussed the subjects which the ministry of that period was constantly keeping before the people—questions of original sin, foreordination and freedom of the will. He took exception to the old-time doctrines, but the wise counsel and loving words which always fell from his lips made him the idol of his sons from youth to old age. The mother, too, was a woman of strong intellect and through a long life commanded the respect and love of all who knew her. When the family first located in Oneida county the Indians lived in their wigwams and roamed in the forests on the banks of the Mohawk. Madame.
Thiers well remembers seeing the red men in that district, sometimes in war paint and feathers. There were no stoves in those days but large, cavernous fireplaces which took up half the side of a room, sending half the smoke into the room and half the heat up the chimney. The cooking was done in pots and kettles hung on cranes over the fire, while large brick ovens were built in beside the fireplace in the kitchen, in which the baking for the family was done on Saturdays, beans, meat, bread and pies being prepared for the Sunday meals, for no work could be done on the Sabbath—not even a bed made from six o’clock Saturday until six o’clock Sunday night. The Sabbath became a day of torture to the children, for no privileges were allowed them on that day.
Dr. Capron removed to Walden, Orange county, New York, in 1823. The trip was made in a canal boat from Utica to Albany on the Erie canal, just completed. It was thought to be a wonderful advance in the mode of travel-—so comfortable, for if one got tired of the boat, one could go ashore and walk on the bank or towpath. Dr. Capron continued to reside in Walden until his death, which occurred September 4, 1834, after an eventful life of seventy-two years. In a periodical of that day it was said of him: “He was a man of great integrity and moral worth, uncommon ardor, industry and enterprise. Few have led more active lives and few have accomplished more. His highly persuasive manner, the honesty and goodness of his purposes and the uniform correctness of his example gave him a wonderful influence over the villagers. Obedience followed his will as if he had been invested with absolute power. The village will long mourn for him as for a father.”

It was in such a household that Madame Louise K. Thiers was reared, spending her girlhood in Orange county, New York, where she gave her hand in marriage to David Bodine Thiers, a merchant (picture above). They afterward removed to Laurel, Maryland, traveling on the canal boat ‘Pumpkin Seed from Utica to Albany and from the latter city to Newburg on one of the first steamers on the Hudson river. There were no wharves and passengers had to embark in rowboats, thus going ashore.
In the year 1850 Mr. and Mrs. Thiers came to the west, traveling mostly by rail. Coming to this county, they settled on a farm about forty miles west of Kenosha and after living thereon for four years they established their home in Kenosha and here Mr. Thiers engaged in business until his death. Mrs. Thiers has three sons and a daughter living: E. C., who is president of the N. R. Allen’s Sons Company; Louis M., retired; Herbert, who is living in Chicago; and Mrs. Charles Quarles, of Milwaukee, with whom Mrs. Thiers has made her home for many years.

The mother is now in her 102nd year (March 18, 1888 Photo above) and seems to enjoy the best of health. In spirit and interests she seems thirty years younger and, what is still more remarkable, she not only remembers all of the past but keeps posted on present-day affairs. She is extremely active in mind and bodv. She is 3 great believer in right living and attributes her health to the fact that she has followed nature ’s laws. Her kindly spirit and many admirable characteristics have won her the love of all and Kenosha is proud to claim this venerable lady as one who for many years was numbered among its citizens, becoming identified with the county in pioneer times and witnessing its growth through all the intervening stages of development to its present condition of progress and prosperity.

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