Select Webster Miscellany



Here are some Webster stories and accounts over the years:

A Webster Line from Yorkshire


The Websters were settled in Yorkshire at a very early period.  According to Burke and Playfair, they held the manor of Lockington in Yorkshire at the time of Richard II.

The apparent founder of the family was John Webster of Bolsover, near Chesterfield in Derbyshire.  In 1434 he returned into Chancery among the gentlemen of that county who made oath, on behalf of themselves and their retainers, for the observance of the king's laws.  From him is descended John Webster who, upon the dissolution of the monasteries, received from Henry VIII large grants in Cambridgeshire, Essex, and Huntingdonshire.


Lady Webster and Lord Holland

Born in 1771, Lady Webster had been married at the age of fifteen to the uncongenial Sussex baronet, Sir Geoffrey Webster.  Eight years later, they were savoring the lavish life of the aristocracy living abroad.  

Enter Lord Holland, aged 20, and his wife.  The young couple was making the European grand tour and, while in Italy, stopped in to see the Websters.  Before you could say cocoxchitl (which the dahlia was called by the Aztecs), Lady Webster and Lord Holland began a torrid affair, ran off together and, in 1796, produced a son.   

A year later, Lord Webster divorced his wife and Lord Holland and the former Lady Webster married.   Years later, the now Lady Holland sent seeds of dahlia back to Britain and thus has been credited with jump-starting the dahlia's introduction into English gardens.


Ephraim Webster Among the Indians in Syracuse

In 1786 a wiry young man five feet four inches tall came to Onondaga, the only white man among the restless Indians of that day.  He established a one-man settlement that eventually led to the founding of the city of Syracuse.  His name was Ephraim Webster.

Webster is said to have married an Indian maiden when he first came to please his Indian allies.  When white settlers arrived, however, he longed for a white woman to be his wife and he later married the beautiful Hannah Danks.

His fame among the Indians became so well established that he was often sent on dangerous and confidential missions by the Government.  Such an assignment became his lot during the fighting between British, Indian, and American troops between 1788 and 1794.  He would loll around the British fort at Oswego in the disguise of an Onandaga Indian.  No amount of liquor ladled out by the suspicious officers could get a word from him except in the native language of the Onandagas.

Ephraim Webster was Syracuse's trader and merchant who died as he had lived, in the year 1824, among the Indians at Tonawanda.


Noah Webster and the American Language

As a teacher, Noah Webster had come to dislike American elementary schools.  They could be overcrowded, poorly staffed with untrained teachers, and poorly equipped with no desks and unsatisfactory textbooks that came from England.  Webster thought that Americans should learn from American books.  So he began writing a three volume compendium, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language.

His goal was to provide a uniquely American approach to training children.  His most important improvement, he claimed, was to rescue "our native tongue" from "the clamor of pedantry" that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation.  He complained that the English language had been corrupted by the British aristocracy, which set its own standard for proper spelling and pronunciation.  Webster also rejected the notion that the study of Greek and Latin must precede the study of English grammar.

The appropriate standard for the American language, he argued, was "the same republican principles as American civil and ecclesiastical institutions," which meant that people at large must control the language. Popular sovereignty in government must be accompanied by popular usage in language.  "The truth in general custom is the rule of speaking - and every deviation from this must be wrong."

For the next one hundred years, Webster's book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words.  It was the most popular American book of its time.  By 1861, it was selling a million copies a year.


Websters from Ireland to Canada

The first Websters were brought to Ireland from Wigan in Lancashire to construct coal mines in Tipperary. They were very poor and lived in two room mud homes.  They still wore the wooden clogs brought from Wigan.  It is not known whether one or more Websters came from England.  But we do know that Thomas Webster of Kilcooly parish in Tipperary was one of them.

Daniel Webster, born in 1798, was a younger son of Thomas Webster.  He married Susan Pearson in Tipperary in 1829.  He did his apprenticeship as a cooper (barrel maker) and had this trade to fall back on in his later years.  It must have been his wish to be a farmer that - as there were few opportunities in Ireland - he departed for Canada along with several of his neighbors.

His older sister, Mary Louise Webster, had married William Cantelon and their family went to Canada in 1831.

Daniel, Susan, and their three small children left Ireland in 1837.   Four of Daniel's brothers and at least one sister came to Canada at that time.  Crossing the Atlantic took at least six weeks with a further journey up the St. Lawrence river and Lake Ontario to Hamilton, Ontario.  From Hamilton they went to the flourishing town of Streetsville.  Daniel died in Lucknow, Ontario in 1883.

The next generation of Websters from this family also headed for Canada, this time in 1849 and 1854 after the potato famine.  Henry Webster returned in 1851 with stories of life in the backwoods.  He was conscripted for the Crimean War and thus never returned to Canada.

 

Escape From Russia

John Webster went over to Russia very young  to join the business of his uncle, a co-founder of Kovalenko & Webster who were tug and barge owners and coal merchants operating from the Black Sea ports of Kherson and Odessa.  As the latter's sons all died in fever, John in due course became a manager.

He had frequently proposed to his cousin Marie, as had a Russian that her father wanted her to marry. However, she did not want to marry Kovalenko and she finally accepted John's proposal.   They were married in Odessa in 1914.  Kovalenko was apparently distraught.  During the Revolution, as a capitalist, he had to sweep the streets and was said to have died with her name on his lips.

In 1917, Imperial Army officers, trying to escape from Odessa, were caught by the revolutionaries.  They were tied together in groups, heavy stones were fastened to their feet, and they were then taken to sea and thrown overboard.  Later their dead bodies could be seen floating upright, moving with the current.  For better class Russians at the time, it was essential to wear old clothes and no fur coat.  A white collar or hands would lead to instant arrest.

By 1918 the Germans were advancing.  So it was essential for John and Marie to leave Odessa via Siberia, as this was the only route open to England.  It will be seen from the log that it took two months to travel from Odessa to London.  They had to leave most of their belongings and assets behind, including presumably the Fairfax sword and the India and Gold Rush letters from his father.   


Samuel Webster's Brewery

Samuel Webster opened his brewery in Ovenden Wood in 1838.  The plant was located close to a natural spring which initially provided the water needs of the brewery.  The brewery, in common with many others, owned significant numbers of tied public houses spread throughout West Yorkshire.

One of their advertising slogans was "drives out the Northern thirst."  Their brands, Green Label and Yorkshire Bitter, were famous all over the country.  These brands were distributed in bottles and cans, although the traditional brewing at Webster had been cask ales.  Two of the company's dray horses were used for publicity until well into the 1990's and two talking Webster dray horses - Uncle and Nephew - appeared in a series of TV ads for the brewery.

In 1971 the company was taken over by Watney Mann. 


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