The Tener Family

This is a journal kept by Dennis Holmes and friends concerning the Tener Family.
The links below will take you to the "Tener Blue Book" - "TENER: A History of the Family in France, Ireland and America"; and to a Finding Aid.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

1832 - William Tener's passing at sea

Isaac William Tener, a son of Robert ‘Robin’ Tener and brother to John Kinley Tener I, was an interesting fellow in his own right. From the TBB we learn that Isaac made three separate trips to America – 1832, 1834 and finally in 1849 when he came to stay the remainder of his life.

In the TBB, page 45, we learn that the times were bad in Ireland by 1831, and Isaac and his brother William had tried their hand at a dry goods store in their father’s home. And, “This venture was not successful and Isaac and William decided to try their fortunes in America.”

When I began in earnest to try and develop the Tener Family history, and perhaps bringing the Tener Blue Book (TBB) up to date, I have sought a copy of the “handwritten account of some family history written by Isaac before his death….” In April 2006 I received a photo copy of this account from a great great granddaughter of Isaac. The copy that was shared with me indicates in its content that it is a handwritten copy of Isaac’s history – copied by hand in 1937 by Allan C. Tener, for his niece’s 15th birthday. And I have to admit I am very thankful for having received it.

I would like to share with you all, in Isaac’s own words, his account of the trip to America in 1832 – during the crossing he lost his brother. Now, in Isaac’s own words – that crossing, and what had led up to it:

“In 1829 my brother William’s time in the Maxwell store in Derry was complete, and the Maxwell’s offered to set William and me up in business and take 5% of the profits as their share provided I would at my own expense fit up the store in my Father’s house for the business – this I agreed to, this cost me over ₤100, and about this time Mr. Brown lost the agencies of both estates and I of course lost my situation – the store was opened in due time, but the sales were so small that it appeared a failure.

Mr. Maxwell proposed that we should employ a young man named Heazlton (sic) as salesman at ₤30 a year and board – this was done with no adequate result.

Then Mr. Maxwell proposed that we should move to Sligo: he went there and rented a store, and we removed the goods, and William, Robert, James and myself all went there: it turned out no better than in Dungannon, and after working along for a year there, we finally gave it up. And by the advice of Maxwell’s we agreed to go to America, they agreeing to advance us a loan, our passage money, and ₤50.

William had gone on a tour of inspection to Waterford and Limerick to see if it would be advisable to remove there. He decided it was no use, but on the journey he caught cold which settled in his lungs. And though he was advised to go to sea by the physician who attended him in Dungannon, he died when three weeks out at sea, and was buried in the deep!

We, William and I, went on board the Brig General Brown, Captain Purvis commander, at 3:00 Pm Wednesday May 16, 1832, to start for the New World – America. The passengers (were) crying, “Farewell Derry”, “Farewell Bogside”, etc. while tears started into the eyes of many of the strong and able bodied fellows who go with us to try their fortunes in the New World. My brother William from time of leaving was weak and perspiring a good deal. At Marville (?) Bro. John and a friend left us by the steamer that returned to Londonderry.

Nothing of importance occurred till June 8th – the sea running mountains high and the wind blowing a hurricane. William still weak and perspiring a good deal: I took care to have his flannel and linen shirts well aired, and bed clothes – doing this all myself.

I had him lie on my bed during the day, and I read to him a great deal. If I was a minute from him he said it was like an hour. I would fix his bed on the deck or top of hencoop on good days, and he enjoyed the fresh air. He had a great desire to drink, and I made it as nourishing as possible – first using lemons in the water, and after they were gone used barley water.

On the morning of June 8th 1932, as I gave him some water he got into a convulsion fit and quite senseless body distorted, head and shoulders writhing and breathing very high! I bathed his hands and temples; put smelling drops to nose, but all to no use. I all alone and not knowing what to do called the Captain and some others. We bathed his lips with brandy, bathed his hands and temples again. They left me for a minute except one and I put my hand on his breast to see if he were warm when he gave a sudden start and commenced plunging with his legs and arms for the next three hours! 3 or 4 had to stay with (him) constantly, or he would hurt himself on the bed sides. (A)fter this he got into a sleep for about half an hour, and awoke still speechless, but apparently sensible. He slept again another half hour, awoke and tried to speak – but could not. He made some signs – and I did what I thought he wanted. By degrees his speech returned – at first like the first efforts of a child.

He (knew) nothing of what had occurred, and seemed surprised at my earnest look upon him and the frequent visits of the Captain, mate and our fellow passengers to see how he was. We took turns sitting up with him, some young men in the cabin and I taking the watch from 12 midnight till 4 A.M. each night. He did not understand why we staid up with him, and chided me for sitting up. I lay in bed at night when not on watch but did not sleep 2 hours as my mind was so anxious. After 3rd night he begged I would not sit up as it annoyed him beyond measure, and said, “I don’t like to be watched like a corpse!”

I saw it best as he seemed much better so I consented on condition when he awoke he would call me for anything, (and) he consented to this plan. We continued this till Sat. the 16th of June, he requiring well aired flannel shirts 3 or 4 times in 24 hrs. On this night he began to talk very incoherently as if speaking to all his friends and often taking me for many of them.

I was obliged (to) rise about 50 times this night and stand frequently a good while in my shirt doing things he wanted. The vessel was rolling greatly and the sea running high this night. I dressed early and stood by him all the day. He continued to talk, on one occasion when the Captain came in, I thought William sleeping and I remarked to Captain I was up 50 times in the night. When he heard me say this (he) said “poor fellow that was too bad”. So at times he was sensible as to what was going on. This night I decided to stay up so I put my large box with my mattress on it near him so I could sit or lie and watch him.

He talked all night same as day and night before. He had difficulty in breathing. I put him in a sitting position with pillows. He had not the strength to get up the phlegm – I took it from his mouth all night. In the morning he took his hands out of the clothes and putting the hands together in the attitude of adoration looked me straight in the face and said “a voice from the coffin”. I stood petrified, but thinking it a piece with the way he had been talking sometime before, putting his hands under the clothes again. He then lay quiet, eyes half open, the phlegm rattling in his throat – apparently in a kind of sleep. After lying this way for sometime he began to breathe only every ½ minute. This alarmed me very much and I called the Captain who was in bed and he at once rose, and when I came in Wm. Gave a heavy sigh and breathed even for a minute. I said to the Captain I think he’s going – really said the Captain, ‘I think it is the case.’

He then gave another sigh, deep and heavy, and breather no more – the Spirit having taken its flight to the God who gave it.

This was the first death scene I had ever witnessed and thankful I felt that it pleased the Most High to give him so easy an exit. From the 8th of June he could not take tea or coffee and I got very nice meat grease made for him and put a little butter and sugar in it and he would drink nearly a bowlful of it every night and morning.

He died at 11 AM Monday June 18, 1832 in Lat 37° 45’ N, and Long. 49° 0’ W. We got him dressed and stretched in the cabin – this day every face on board wore a solemn appearance. I went and washed and dressed myself in my good clothes, came and sat in the cabin for a short time, then went on deck. William’s remains were staid up by the Ship’s colors and the Union Jack spread over him, and the ships flag hoisted half mast high with the wrong side up. Every marine honor was showed and everyone seemed to deplore his loss and feel for me, and some came and sat in the cabin a few hours. Almost 8 PM he was put in his coffin and brot (sic) on deck and laid down with the Union Jack over his coffin where he remained all night.

I did not go to bed this night but laid myself down on a mattress in the cabin with a coat over me and from being completely done out having been without sleep for several nights I fell into a short sleep for about an hour. I then came on deck and was alternately on deck and in the cabin till morning.

About 10 AM Tuesday June 19th 1832 the lid of his coffin was removed and a large quantity of copper droar (?) and sand were put at the foot. Before putting on the lid the Captain removed the covering from his face that I might see it and he did not appear in the least altered. The lid was then nailed down and the coffin placed as before till noon when it was lifted upon a platform resting on an empty “puncheon” – the passengers all crowded round and the Captain -- before I was aware -- began reading the Church of England burial service, and at noon his body was committed to the great deep in Lat 30° 25’ N and 49°50’ W: all present standing uncovered with serious faces.”

** I thought is something prophetic when he indicated that this was the first death scene he had witnessed – for he would see death in his family many more times – the deaths of many of his very own children. Those stories will follow.