The Curious Case of Daniel Crow and Susanna Skelton

Some genealogists are looking for Heroes.  Some genealogists are looking for the pure story of their families.  Other genealogists started out in the first two categories and landed in the place of just loving the research.  For me?  I have wanted to get across the pond and have some idea where I come from in Europe.  In the case of my mother’s line it is easy enough.  My maternal grandmother was from a clean line of German ancestry.  With surnames like Karnap, Springer, and Sogelhost the evidence is clear enough but family bibles and legends puts the family in Northern Germany around Hanover.

My father’s line, both maternal and paternal, have long held the legend that we come from England.  When I did the Ancestry DNA test, the results came back 87% Great Britian with the other 13% scattered around western Europe but we haven’t really found anything remotely concrete in that direction…until now.

My father’s maternal line is the Smithers family of Estill County Kentucky.  My father was named after two of my grandmother’s uncles, Augustine and Edward Smithers.  Their father was Andrew Jackson Smithers who’s mother was Rebecca Crow.  It is this Crow line where I hit pay dirt a couple weeks ago.

While researching Daniel Crow, Rebecca’s grandfather,  I stumbled across a reference to “The King’s passengers to Maryland and Virginia” ( 929.342 COLD ) pg 200-201 and had a friend in Fairfax County Virginia go and snap some pics of the necessary pages. (Jackie, you are a true SAINT!)

Here we see “Daniel Crowe” was a Felon and transported from London to Virginia on the Neptune, Captained by James Arbuckle in January 1768.   If this were my wife’s family, the Felon part wouldn’t have surprised me much but in this case it kinda made me curious as to what Mr. Crowe\Crow was convicted of.  After a bit more searching on my part and 5 minutes of Google-Fu from my Bride we now have separate corroborating evidence of the Neptune’s arrival in Virginia. The newspaper clip is from the Virginia Gazette on March 3rd, 1768….172 years to the day from my father’s, Daniel Crow’s 4th great grandson, birthday.

I was then faced with just how Daniel found himself in this predicament and once again my Google Genius Bride comes through.  It seems that there is a website that keeps track of these 18th Century criminal proceedings called Old Bailey Online.  Some amazing reading here that I will have to get into later but first The Bride found this and if you search the text for “Daniel Crow” you can read…

Reference Number: t17671209-47

56, 57. (M.) Daniel Crow and William Cane , otherwise Wane , were indicted for stealing one copper dog’s collar, value 10 d. the property of Samuel Watkins , Dec. 9 . +

Samuel Watkins . I am a butcher ; last Wednesday in the afternoon, between four and five o’clock, a young woman came, and said, she saw two men logging my dog away by the collar (producing a large copper collar with a lock upon it;) this is the collar; my son went, and pursued and took them; they were the two prisoners, and by the assistance of others brought them to my door; they had not taken it off the dog; we searched them, and in Crow’s pocket was found these couples (producing a chain to couple two dogs together.)

Jane Jelse . I was at a parlour window between four and five o’clock, and saw the two prisoners hawling the dog down the street; I called to them, and said, what are you going to do with the dog; Crow lugged him away the faster; then I sent a person up to Mr. Watkins, to let him know (I find they changed names, for that was Cane, he called himself Crow at Sir John Fielding’s)

Samuel Watkins the younger. We generally put the dogs up on the desk of the evening; I came home, and bolted them into the shop; I had not been gone to my father above two minutes, but the young woman came and called in a very loud manner, there are two men gone with your dog down Pennington-street; I followed them as fast as possible, and came up to them on the farther side of the field; Cane seeing me coming sat down; I laid hold of his collar, and called two men from the brick-field to my assistance; the prisoners were together, and the dog with them, but neither of them had hold of the dog when I got there; I called him, he came to me immediately; we brought the prisoners to our house, I found the shop-door open when the girl called, and nobody had been there except the prisoners.

Prosecutor. Crow deals in dogs; mine was betwixt a massiff and a Dane, he weighs 16 stone 3 pounds.

The prisoner in their defence said, they did not touch the dog; Crow said he was a butcher, and Cane said he was a gold-beater, and that he had that couple to put on his own dog at home.

Cane called John Margan , Edward Harman, Elizabeth Smith , and Richard his brother, who gave him a good character.

Both Guilty . T .

So my 5th Great Grandfather was kicked out of England for stealing a dog collar.  Awesome.  BUT WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!

In the Coldham book I noticed another name, Susanna Skelton.  She was on the same boat to America with Daniel Crow.  Earlier research I had gathered from another researcher had Daniel Crow married to a Susanna Shelton so the Skelton caught my eye.  I still have no marriage document for them but upon finding Rebecca’s Old Bailey record and doing some map work I can’t help but think these two could have known each other prior to their conviction or at least once onboard the Neptune they likely found each other.

So first, Susanna’s Old Bailey record:

Reference Number: t17671209-15

17, 18. (L.) Thomas Newman and Susanna Skelton were indicted for stealing 150 pounds weight of sugar, value 45 s. the property of a person or persons unknown, Nov. 21 . ++

Robert Friend . I am a porter, I was drinking at the Cock and Anchor in Thames-street, near Billingsgate; on the 21st of November, about half an hour after eight at night, I went over the way to get a halfpenny-worth of tobacco; coming back, I was told there was something concealed in the gate-way; I and John Read went, and on the left-hand side I saw the prisoners, the woman had her arm round the man’s neck; I having a light, saw some sugar spilt; we found two bags of sugar, one was under the woman’s petticoats, and the other under the man’s trowsers; we brought them to the Cock and Anchor, and sent for a constable; the woman made her escape, but was taken at the Brown Bear in East-Smithfield on the 23 d.

John Read deposed to the same purport.

Mr. Woodhouse. On that day I was informed a man and a woman were with some sugar under a gate way in; I went as directed to the Cock and Anchor; then I went to see if any thing was lost from the buildings; I found a hogshead was broke open, I found a rope ladder (produced in court;) I have seen the man at the bar backwards and forwards upon the keys.

Newman’s defence.

I was in at the King’s Arms, and drank two pints of beer; about eight o’clock I went out, and fell down, and this woman went to help me up; I was not out of the King’s Arms five minutes when these people came to me.

Skelton’s defence.

I had but a groat in my pocket; we had two pints of beer; Newman went out to ease himself, I went out after him; he fell down, and I went to help him up; I know nothing of any sugar.

Both Guilty . T .

There was 150lbs of sugar involved in this case.  Thomas Newman had one bag when he was captured.  Susanna ran away with 75lbs of sugar under her skirt?  Okay…sure.  But where did she run to?  East-Smithfield?  Where exactly is that I wondered.  Using modern maps for this kind of research can be useful if the ground hadn’t changed that much and I knew that London is a modern city that remembers its past fondly.  I’m not a Londoner but I know that large cities like that may keep street names due to the historical traditions but the actual street locations may have moved.  Thankfully Billingsgate is quite the landmark in London and easily found on the modern maps.  While the Billingsgate Market has moved a bit, it gave me a decent idea of where the original place may have been.  Still, I was on the hunt for some maps from the late 1760s.  Luck was with me this time as it only took about 5 minutes to find Mapco.net with this awesome 1767 map of London.

So Daniel’s case said he and Mr. Cane were trying to take the dog down Pennington Street near a brick-field.  This is the environment around Pennington Street in London:

Notice “Gravel Lane” and “New Gravel Lane” on either side of an open area?  Wondering if that is the “brick-field” mentioned in the court case…dunno.

Susanna’s “crime scene” started at a pub in Thames-street near Billingsgate:

but she “made her escape” and was later captured in another pub in “East-Smithfield” which is here:

Of all the places for Susanna to flee, she was captured about a mile and half east of the initial pub at Billingsgate and roughly 2 blocks from the location of Daniel’s crime seen which had not happened yet.  Susanna was arrested on Saturday, November 21st while Daniel wasn’t arrested until Wednesday, December 9th over two weeks later.

How much of a stretch is it to say these two knew each other while still in London?  I’ll grant you that it is a bit of a stretch.  Clearly, however, they were familiar with the same area of town.  A thief on the run isn’t going to run into unfamiliar territory.  How much of a stretch is it to say they met on the Neptune?  Personally I think either stretch is possible.  Perhaps they knew of each other while in London and the voyage to Virginia brought them closer?  However it happened, I am about as convinced as I can be that Susanna Skelton in the Old Bailey records is the Susanna Shelton my research partner had in his work….I just need a marriage document!

2 Responses to The Curious Case of Daniel Crow and Susanna Skelton

  1. Betty Estep says:

    Interesting read. Thanks and keep searching. The stories are neverending.

  2. Connie says:

    Such an interesting story! Did ship’s captains have ‘marrying’ abilities in that time period? If so, a record would be in the captain’s log, but finding the log would be iffy.

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