Select Foster Miscellany

Here are some Foster stories and accounts over the years:

The Doctor Foster Nursery Rhyme

The origins of Doctor Foster reputedly lie in English history dating back to the Plantagenet  monarchy of the 13th century when King Edward 1 ("Doctor Foster") was thought to have visited Gloucester and fell from his horse into a large muddy puddle!

“Doctor Foster
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain. 
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again!”

King Edward 1 was a powerful man - over six foot tall - hence his nickname of Longshanks.  He is said to have been so humiliated by this experience that he refused to ever visit Gloucester again!

However, some have said that the Doctor Foster rhyme did not come until later.  Royalist forces were besieging Gloucester in 1642 during the Civil War.  But because of the bad weather they failed in their attempt and had to retreat.

Tom and Dorothy Forster

Tom and Dorothy Forster were the last in the line of Northumberland Forsters.  Tom had been one of the ringleaders of the 1715 Jacobite Revolt.  For this he had almost paid with his life.  He escaped to France where he died in 1738.  Dorothy married a local blacksmith.  She died in 1767 and was buried besides those of her earlier kin in the Forster crypt under St. Aidan’s Church in Bamburgh. 

The portrait of Dorothy Forster hangs in a tower of the Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland.  This used to be the Forsters’ manor house and was later the home of Dorothy’s aunt and uncle, Lady Dorothy and Lord Nathaniel Crewe.

Dorothy’s spirit is still believed to haunt one wing of the Lord Crewe Arms.  There have been many claims of ghostly sightings, particularly in what is referred to as “Dorothy Forster’s Sitting Room.”  The ghost is described by those who have seen it is that of a russet or auburn red-haired beautiful young woman or teenage girl who seems to be sadly searching for something or someone.  Some say that the object of her search is a new-born baby which appears to have been born out of wedlock and was taken away by her family to avoid a scandal.  

The russet-hair coloring is worthy of comment, insofar as red-brown hair, although not so powerful today as it once was, is a genetic trait of the Forster clan.

Foster Mill Owner Buys Castle

One of the best known and biggest worsted mills in Yorkshire was that of John Foster & Son Ltd.  Their Black Dyke Mills lay on a hilltop village midway between Bradford and Halifax.  Its founder John Foster came from nearby Clayton. 

He began by putting yarn out to be woven, collecting the finished pieces and selling them in Halifax.  Later he built a warehouse in Queensbury.  The warehouse became a mill, the mill expanded, and John Foster prospered so much so that he bought Hornby Castle in the 1850's as his family home.

After the purchase he wandered into an inn on his new estate.  John Foster was famous for affecting the dress and manner of an ordinary working man.  The landlord, who was engaged in conversation with some of his customers of the “better class,” ordered Foster into the taproom.  He joined him later and condescended to share his woes with him.

"The estate's been bought by one of them Yorkshire mill owners," he said.  "I've a new landlord."

"Aye, that's right," John Foster replied.  "It's me."

Freeman Foster of Brewster

Brewster was a seafaring town on Cape Cod and Freeman Foster was one of its most prominent sea captains.  He was described as follows:

"Freeman Foster began seafaring at the age of ten on fishing trips with his father David Foster who had been a whaler.  As far as is known, he captained the Ten Brothers, made several voyages on the Rice Plant, and superintended the building of the Choctaw in Bristol, Maine.  His line of work was between Boston and the West Indies, New Orleans, and the Russian ports of Archangel and Kronstadt.  Captain Foster was of commanding presence, standing over six feet in height, and stout in proportion." 

The Chillingsworth Foster homestead stayed with their family for almost three hundred years and has been converted in recent times into a premier restaurant.  

Fosters in Mississippi and Louisiana

One Foster branch from South Carolina crossed the Appalachians to Mississippi while it was still Spanish territory.   The 1792 Spanish register for Natchez in the Mississippi valley lists them as Marta Foster (Mary the mother) and her four sons, Juan, Jaime, Guillermo and Tomas.  They were tobacco and cotton farmers.

The sons did well.  John Foster was active in local politics and later became one of the pioneer settlers in Texas.  James Foster stayed in Natchez (his descendants are still to be found along Foster's Mound Road); as did Thomas Foster, the youngest, who prospered as a farmer.

Thomas had three sons, Levi, Thomas, and James, who lived and played hard.  Levi benefitted from his wife’s inheritance money; Thomas had a reputation for drinking; but James was perhaps the most erratic of the three.  Matters came to a head in Natchez in 1834 when he abused and killed his wife. In those lawless times, he was able to get acquitted.

Thomas Foster Jr. built the Oaklawn Manor sugar plantation in Franklin, Louisiana in 1837.  It ran with sixty slaves in the years before emancipation.  And this family spawned a political dynasty in the state.  Murphy Foster was Governor of Louisiana from 1892 to 1900 and Mike Foster Jr. from 1996 to 2004.


Fosters in Jamaica

Fosters were early sugar planters in Jamaica, arriving there from Bedfordshire in the 1650's.  Their Jamaican Bogue plantation lay on the Black river in St. Elizabeth parish.  This family was pro-slavery in the early 19th century.  Their slave labor was pushed hard, as the following contemporary account reveals:

"Every morning from the first dawn of day, the shell was blown to call the slaves to work.  Each gang walked off to the fields under the direction of a driver armed with a long whip.  The gangs went to work and toiled all day in the sun, their only covering being a cloth around their loins.  Later in the evening, the work was examined by the overseer.  Those with whom he was dissatisfied, whether man or woman, were ordered to be flogged."

These plantation days are long gone.  Stanley and Amy Foster opened Chatham Cottages in Montego Bay in 1934.  With their seven children, they hung on through the depression and World War 2 until Montego Bay blossomed as a resort in the 1950's.

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