About that Impressment Story

Each family has its’ stories passed down through the generations. For us, one of the most intriguing tales is the story of how our 3rd Great Grandfather, Isaac Hammitt, got his name. If you read the previous post, Isaac Hammitt, John Kille and Isaac’s Ark, you know there was a pact between two impressed seamen resulting in a long held family tradition. The book Life in Apollo in the 1890’s, by Marion Dewees Gropen, tells a similar story. Discovering the story had been passed down through another Hammitt family gave it credibility and piqued our curiosity.

The Isaac featured on our home page was born in New Jersey in 1790, the son of Samuel Hammitt and Jane Simmons. His grandson, Joachim (pronounced Joe-ah-cheem) wrote a series of notes in 1941. His words best describe the story:

My ancestors name was “Isaac” he was captured at sea during the revolution, taken to England and paroled for the duration of the War. One of his chums was named John Kelly, they made a compact that their first born male was to be named for his father and the second one after his chum. In my great grandfather’s family, grandfather was the first born and his name was Isaac and the second son was named John Kelly. There were others but I do not know their names or history.

In other words, our Isaac, born 1790, was not the son of an Isaac, but the son of Samuel. The fact that Samuel named his first born son Isaac and his second son John Kille not only hints at the existence of an earlier Isaac, it tells us that the impressment of the two seamen took place around the time of the Revolution.

The Christ Church parish register in Philadelphia recorded the Baptism of Samuel Hammitt by Rev. Richard Peters on 10 January 1763. Samuel was 9 years old. His father, Isaac, and sister, Mary, were Baptized the same day by Rev. Peters. Mary was almost 2 years old at the time. The children’s mother is identified as Mary.

We know from Joachim’s writings the family settled first in New Jersey in the early 1700’s. In 1755 payment was made to Isaac Hammett by Elizabeth Bates from the Gloucester County estate of her son, Jonathan. The payment confirms there was an Isaac Hammitt living or doing business in Gloucester County. Elizabeth Hammitt, along with several others, was also paid by the Estate.

The Christ Church website has a searchable database that includes Baptisms, marriages, burials and pew rentals. They also have an online collections database. To view the Baptism records mentioned above visit their Christ Church Registers page. Payments from the Estate of Jonathan Baits by his mother Elizabeth Bates can be found in the book Documents Relating to the Colonial, Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey, Volume 30, page 31, available through Google Books.

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