Posted by Denise Bleichrodt-Fox on May 02, 1999 at 21:28:03:
The following is a letter written by Robert Vinson Shirley
January 10, 1912
Your letter received. I am always glad to hear anything about the Shirley family. Wish I could give you full particulars about my ancestors, but my father died when I was a mere boy. Thinking then, more about my dog and gun, than family history. Such few facts, as have been impressed on me by some venerable relative, I will gladly tell you.
We read in history, in the reign of Edward the Confessor, the Shirleys bore the Christian name of Senallus, which is still borne today by the Earl of Ferrers, the head of the house. The Ferrers peerage came into the Shirley family through the marriage of Sir Henry Shirley, of Chartley Park, to Lady Dorothy Dereres, younger daughter of Robert Derereux, Earl of Essex, who was likewise Lord Ferrers. On the death of Lord Essex, his barony of Ferrers, fell into abeyance, whence it was called by Charles II, in favor of Sir Robert Shirley of Chartley Hall, grandson of the Lady Dorothy Derereux, mentioned above. Subsequently King Charles advanced his him to the dignities of Viscount Tamvoorth and Earl Ferrers. The widow of the fourth Earl of Ferrers, married Lord Frederick Campbell, brother of the Duke of Argefle. Now, while I am not related to the Campbell family, I remember, some of the old Campbell portraits used to hang in my father's home. I have been told the first Shirley, who came to America, was Sir Walter Shirley, who came with a hunting party and settled in the region of the James River. Now here my record is dim. As far as I know, my grandfather, James Shirley, had the following children: James, Robert, Timothy, and Mary Patience. Mary Patience must have married a Mr. Howard, as my father's niece, Mary Howard lived with him.
Following the tide of emigration ever westward, the three Shirley brothers journeyed from the tide water region to the Shenandoah Valley and settled near a little village named Smithfield, afterward nicknamed Wizard Cliff.
Timothy joined the army during the War of 1812. He afterward emigrated to Mo. Little has been heard from him, as in those days, correspondence was a laborious and expensive task.
Robert, for whom I am named, moved to Kentucky. My father, named James, was born in 1768, he married twice. By his first wife, Ruth, he had two children, James and Mary. James married Miss Mary Grantham and their children were Walter, John James, Ruth and Margaret, all are dead but John, who lives in Smithfield, now Middleway.
Mary Shirley married William Hurst, their children were John, James, Ruth, Stephen and Elizabeth. John and his children still live in Jefferson County. My father's second wife was Matilda Vinson., of Montgomery County, Indiana. They had four children, Robert Vinson, George William, Thomas Lee and Elizabeth. Thomas and Elizabeth are dead.
I was born in 1825, my brother, George, was born a year and a half later, he lives in Charles Town, W. Va. Although we are both well advanced in years, all our faculties are spared to us, and we enjoy good health and happiness. If you should ever happen in this pary (sic) of the world, I would be glad to have you come to see me and we will talk over all we know about the Shirleys. I understand the Shirley Ferrers coat of arms, and history of the Shirley family from its origin in 1779, can be obtained from Martin &Allardyce;, Cor. Frankford Avenue and Orthodop Street - Philadelphia, Pa. Wishing you much happiness and prosperity during the coming year.
Very Truly yours,
R.B.Shirley (should be R.V.)
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