Interesting Ancestors – the Inscrutable Jane Bailey

Researching family history uncovers not only the proverbial ‘skeletons in the closet,’ but also some interesting stories and characters. My five-times great aunt was one such person. She quickly caught my attention as being one of the most intriguing females in my maternal ancestry. To begin with, even her name is somewhat uncertain. She was listed as Jean at her baptism but listed as Jane in later records of the same church. But that’s a minor occurrence that could be attributed to transcribing the clergyman’s writing, or perhaps the pronunciation of the name.

The most fascinating, and puzzling, thing about this lady is one question: was she the victim of an older man’s romantic charms, or was she a young ‘femme fatale’ – perhaps even a bit rebellious? Whatever the circumstances, the relationship between Jean Bailey and Joseph Hiscock is an interesting one.

Jean’s parents, John Bailey and Mary White, married around 1755 and settled in the little fishing village of Salmon Cove, located in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. They had six children: Elizabeth, John, twins Thomas and Jean, David, and Flora. Jean and her twin brother were christened on 22 November 1764 in St. Paul’s Anglican Parish of Trinity. There was no church in Salmon Cove at that time so parents had to travel to the church at nearby Trinity or have a child baptized at home.

Meanwhile, Joseph Hiscock was apparently born February 1724 at Christchurch, Hampshire, England. When he came to Newfoundland is unknown. In 1753 Joseph was one of five people recorded as residents of Fox Island, Trinity Bay, which is now part of Champney`s West. Women and children were not recorded in early census reports but other records show that Joseph was married and had one child at that time.

In March 1750 Joseph married Sarah Collier at Trinity but they settled on Fox Island and had a large family. By the time Jean Bailey was baptized in 1764, the Hiscocks already had eleven children. Three more were added later. So while Joseph was busy being a fisherman, husband and father, little Jean was busy with the games and discoveries of childhood. Sarah Hiscock died in June 1776 and her youngest child was baptized the following month, leaving us to wonder if she may have died from complications of childbirth.

Salmon Cove, later renamed Champney`s West in honour of Sir Ralph Champneys Williams, governor of Newfoundland in 1909, is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Fox Island, sometimes referred to locally as Fox Head, is a high headland that is connected to Salmon Cove by a rocky beach. In the 1700s-1800s, the residents of these two settlements were close enough to interact socially on a daily basis, not much further than the width of a four-lane divided highway.

In 1782 Joseph Hiscock was a widower in his mid-fifties, with a family of 14 children, 13 of whom were still at home. In fact, Joseph was a grandfather for his oldest daughter was married with four children by this time. Jean Bailey was just a teenager. It is hard to imagine what this unlikely couple could have had in common. So what drew them together? Was it love, lust, fate, or convenience? Perhaps she was mature for her age and found an older man more attractive than those her own age.

How did this young, impressionable teenager get together with a man who was 40 years older than she? Well, Joseph’s daughter, Mary, was around the same age as Jean and, since the two communities were within spitting distance of each other, the two girls may have been friends. Jean might have spent a lot of time around the Hiscock household. It is possible that Jean may have been hired to help with the chores at the Hiscock home. Then again, it might have been a matter of romantic attraction, despite the age difference. Such May-December romances have existed down through the centuries.

However it happened, Joseph and Jean had a relationship that lasted at least seven years, perhaps longer, and produced four sons. The first, Jasper, was born around 1782 when Jean was 18 years old, six years after the death of Joseph’s wife. Jean may have become involved with Joseph when she was 16 or 17. She then had Joseph in 1785, James in December of 1787 and Thomas in November of 1789. The age of each child was listed on the baptism record, thereby giving an approximate date of birth.

When Jean’s son Thomas was about 10 months old, 66-year-old Joseph died and was buried on 20 September 1790. His death was attributed to falling off a cliff. Except for a steep slope going down to the beach that joins it to the mainland, the rest of Fox Island is shear cliff, ranging from 50 to 100 feet above the water. The Hiscocks lived on the ‘the scrape’, or western side of the island and it would not be hard for a person to lose his or her footing on the loose rocks.

Eleven months after Joseph’s death, on 11 August 1791, Jean had two of her children children baptized in St. Paul’s Anglican Parish, Trinity. James, ‘age 4 years and 9 months’, and Thomas, ‘age 2 years and 9 months’, were recorded as sons of Jane Bailey by the ‘late Joseph Hiscock, Sr., of Fox Island’, leaving no doubt about the identity of their father.

The next major event in Jean’s life was her marriage to Daniel Green on 25 October 1794 at Trinity. In the following year, our dear lady Jean had two more children baptized: Joseph, age 10, on 14 October; and Jasper, age 13, on 22 October. Both boys were listed as sons of Jane Green, ‘by Joseph Hiscock Sr. of Fox Island’. The word ‘bastard’ was written beside each entry. It is not certain if they were baptized in the name of Bailey or Green.

Ironically, Thomas, baptized in 1791, as the son of Jane Bailey and Joseph Hiscock, appears to have been baptized a second time, on 26 December 1797. One wonders if Jane’s husband, Daniel, wanted to adopt the boys and raise them as his own, with the name of Green. Since James and Joseph were first baptized as sons ‘of Jane Bailey’, they were probably given the surname of Bailey. Joseph and Jasper, baptized as sons of Jane Green, probably had the name Green. She then had Thomas baptized again, giving him the name of Green, but there was no further mention of James. It is possible that James may have died young, although no record of his death has been found, or he may have gone to live with some other family member and retained the name of Bailey.

Jane Bailey left more questions than answers for us to puzzle over. She is, indeed, one of the most intriguing characters I have found in my family history to date.

© F. Herridge
Published in Canadian Stories, Feb/Mar 2014

Non Fiction, Page 1
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