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March 2020

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Fact or Fiction: Fanny Beardsley’s Baby & Inheritance

March 12, 2020

Guest Post from Traci Thompson

In our last Outlander “fact or fiction,” we examined  North Carolina land grants. In this installment, we will take a look at North Carolina inheritance law as it relates to the story. 

Season five episode Free Will, in a stellar adaptation, recently dealt with the creepy Beardsley family storyline. In both the book and the show, a child is born to Fanny Beardsley, and it is revealed that the baby (who is later named Alicia) is not her husband’s and is of mixed race. In the book The Fiery Cross, Claire and Jamie have this discussion: 

“Do you think we ought to take her?” I asked cautiously. “I mean – what might happen to her if we don’t?”  Jamie snorted faintly, dropping his arm, and leaned back against the wall of the house. He wiped his nose, and tilted his head toward the faint rumble of voices that came through the chinked logs. “She’d be well cared for, Sassenach. She’s in the way of being an heiress, ken.” That aspect of the matter hadn’t occurred to me at all. “Are you sure?” I said dubiously.  “I mean, the Beardsleys are both gone, but as she’s illegitimate –“ He shook his head, interrupting me. “Nay, she’s legitimate.” “But she can’t be. No one realizes it yet except you and me, but her father – “Her father was Aaron Beardsley, so far as the law is concerned,” he informed me. “By English law, a child born in wedlock is the legal child – and heir – of the husband, even if it is known for a fact that the mother committed adultery. And yon woman did say that Beardsley married her, no?” It struck me that he was remarkably positive about this particular provision of English law…”I see,” I said slowly. “So little Nameless will inherit all Beardsley’s property, even after they discover that he can’t have been her father. That’s…reassuring.”  “Aye,” he said quietly…”So ye see,” he went on, matter-of-factly, “she’s in no danger of neglect. An Orphan Court would give Beardsley’s property – goats and all” – he added, with a faint grin – “to whomever is her guardian, to be used for her welfare.”
– The Fiery Cross, Chapter 31, “Orphan of the Storm,” p. 510-511. 

Jamie is certainly correct that the colony of North Carolina was under English law. But should he be quite so certain about the nature of bastardy, adultery, and inheritance under that law?

The Beardsley property from Outlander episode Free Will

In reality, English law was not straightforward nor one-size-fits-all on the issue of legitimacy. Sir William Blackstone, in his commentary on English law (1765-69) declared that some circumstances would make children born in wedlock bastards in the eyes of the law:

“As bastards may be born before the coverture or marriage state has begun, or after it has been determined, so also children born during wedlock may in some circumstances be bastards…”1

One reason given by Blackstone was if it were known to be impossible for the man to have fathered a child, such as not being physically present with his wife at time of conception: 

“So also if there is an apparent impossibility of procreation on the part of the husband…there the issue of the wife shall be bastards.”2

Determining legitimacy was very important in an intestate situation because under English law intestate inheritance was by lineal blood3; thus such terms as “the heirs of his body” and “of the blood” are often seen in reference to legitimate children. By contrast, illegitimate children were legally considered a “filius nullius” or “nullius filii, “child of no one” or “sons of nobody”:

“BASTARDS are incapable of being heirs. Bastards, by our law, are such children as are not born either in lawful wedlock, or within a competent time after its determination. Such are held to be nullius filii, the sons of nobody; for the maxim of law is, qui ex damnato coitu nascuntur, inter liberos non computantur [the offspring of an illicit connection are not reckoned as children]. Being thus the sons of nobody, they have no blood in them, at least no inheritable blood; consequently, none of the blood of the first purchaser: and therefore, if there be no other claimant than such illegitimate children, the land shall escheat to the lord.4

Fanny Beardsley sharing her story of abuse with Claire, as well as the parentage of her new baby.

While the law did generally lean towards a presumption of legitimacy in the case of children born to married women, this was only in absence of obvious evidence to the contrary.  As the racial factor made Fanny Beardsley’s child an obvious bastard to Claire, so her appearance would have to colonial society as a whole. “Judicial error was tolerated when it meant that a white child, unrelated by blood, would be made a white man’s legal heir. An African-American child becoming a white man’s legal heir, however, was unacceptable. Faced with this situation, the court essentially suspended application of the presumption.”5  Although it certainly happened – and often – miscegenation was against colonial law at this time, which would automatically render any marriage void, and therefore any offspring illegitimate:

North Carolina followed suit [with miscegenation laws] in 1715 providing that ‘no White man or woman shall intermarry with any Negro, Mulatto or Indyan Man or Woman under the penalty of Fifty Pounds for each White man or woman.’ In 1741, the North Carolina act was amended to more closely track the earlier Virginia statute: ‘And for Prevention of that abominable Mixture and spurious issue, which hereafter may increase in this Government, by white Men and women intermarrying with Indians, Negroes, Mustees, or Mulattoes, Be it Enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That if any white Man or Woman, being free, shall intermarry with an Indian, Negro, Mustee, or Mulatto Man or Woman, or any Person of Mixed Blood, to the Third Generation, bond or free, he shall, by Judgment of the County Court, forfeit and pay the Sum of Fifty Pounds, Proclamation Money, to the Use of the Parish.’6

Sweet wee “Bonnie’s” future seems uncertain

As we see here, unfortunately for Fanny’s child, several strikes would be against her were she a real person. If Aaron Beardsley did not dispose of his property by will, intestate inheritance law would immediately come into play, and an inquiry into the identity of any legitimate lineal heirs would be undertaken by the county court.  Aaron Beardsley’s incapacity would not likely factor in, as he had only been in that state for about a month when Jamie and Claire showed up, and thus could have fathered a child before that time. However, the fact that he was not apparently able to father a child with any of his previous wives could have raised doubt and become an issue. But the definitive reckoning would be the child’s mixed-race parentage, which the books and show indicate was obvious by the child’s physical appearance. If it were known or believed that Aaron Beardsley was a white man, and it was thought that the child was anything other, then a status of illegitimacy would automatically follow, which would absolutely eliminate inheritance. 

Verdict: FICTION 

Bonus Trivia: Did you know? An “orphan” was legally a child whose father was deceased, regardless of the status of the mother.7 After 1799 in North Carolina, a change in state law recognized illegitimate children as heirs of their mother and were enabled to inherit from her.8

Sadly, the past was not kind to babies born out of wedlock, and little “Bonnie” would not have been an exception. Are you on Jamie’s side–hopeful that wee “Bonnie” will inherit the Beardsley property, or will she have to rely on her new adoptive parents for her raising? From the looks of the scene where Lucinda and her husband ask Claire if they can keep the baby, she will not lack for love at all. Tell us what you think!

Thanks, Traci, for this insight about bastardy and inheritance laws! Traci Thompson is a married mother of two who lives in eastern North Carolina, and is, of course, an avid Outlander fan. Traci is a Certified Genealogist and Local History & Genealogy Librarian. She is a contributing author for Outlander North Carolina.

Footnotes:
1.  Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 volumes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1765-69), 1st  ed., Volume 1, “The Rights of Persons,” Chapter 16, “Of Parent and Child”; digital transcription, The Avalon Project (https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/blackstone_bk1ch16.asp : accessed 2020).
2.  Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England.
3. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Volume 2, Chapter 14.
4. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Volume 2, Chapter 15.
5. Mary Louise Fellows, “The Law of Legitimacy: An Instrument of Procreative Power,” Scholarship Repository University of Minnesota Law School, 1993 (https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/ : accessed 2020), p. 502.
6.  Judy G. Russell, “Intermarriage and the Law, Colonial Style,” The Legal Genealogist 1 June 2012 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/2012/06/01/intermarriage-and-the-law-colonial-style/ : accessed 2020).
7. Raymond A. Winslow, Jr., “Estates Records,” in Helen F.M. Leary, editor, North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, 2nd edition (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996), chapter 12, p. 189, “Guardians and Conservators.”
8.  John Haywood, Esq., A Manual of the Laws of North Carolina (Raleigh, NC: J. Gales, 1814), p. 274, “Intestate’s Estate,” section IV, 1799.
Photos from Outlander Online

Alamance Hillsborough NC Historic Sites NC History Outlander North Carolina Pre-Revolutionary War Period Season 5 The Fiery Cross

The NC History Behind The Outlander Story

March 7, 2020

Episodes 502 & 503

I don’t know about you but I’m loving the new season of Outlander! There is so much HISTORY in this season, I can hardly contain myself. OK. OK, I confess. I have become a history nerd but it’s all Diana’s fault. When I fell in love with Outlander, I also fell in love with all of the wonderful history that surrounds the story. I’ve been watching the show, rereading the book and doing some research on my own. So, bear with me, as I share a few things that I’ve discovered as a result of Episode 502, Between Two Fires, and Episode 503, Free Will. Just consider it the Outlander North Carolina version of CliffsNotes. Hang on ’cause here we go! P.S. There are a lot of links in this article and they should all open in a new tab.

Hillsborough Riots

Did they actually occur? Yes! There were some pretty brutal mob riots by the Regulators in Orange County, North Carolina, more specifically in Hillsborough, in September, 1770. You’ll be interested to know that there is NO record of anyone being tarred and feathered during the riots. Edmund Fanning, the Crown Attorney, was dragged out of the courthouse by his feet with his head reportedly hitting each step on the way down plus they beat him and at least one other man with clubs and whips. Read more about the true story of the Hillsborough Riots and what ignited them here.

The Hillsborough Riots weren’t the beginning of violent hostilities. In fact, in 1765, there was a skirmish called the War of Sugar Creek in Mecklenburg County between the backcountry settlers and a survey crew. Once again, our friend, Edmund Fanning, is involved. He’s such a tattletale. 

Edmund Fanning

Not being willing to stay out of anyone’s business, Fanning reappears in 1766 after a meeting of Regulators at Hart’s Mill. I’m really beginning to not feel sorry for this guy. 

Sidenote to that last link, what is James Fraser doing at Hart’s Mill and why is he a reverend?

Historical Marker at Eno River Bridge Northwest of Hillsborough

Rowan County

Complete Map of NC by John Collet From Survey 1770

You may remember Jamie calling the men of Rowan County to form a militia in Episode 3. (Can someone please tell me what paper Fergus grabbed and was writing Jamie’s instructions on?) Anyway, did Rowan County actually exist? Yes, it did and still does today; however,  in 1770, Rowan County, North Carolina, was HUGE. Check out this map of North Carolina in 1770 which shows just how much territory comprised Rowan County in relation to the map above.  At  that time, the county would have encompassed at least 20 of North Carolina’s existing 100 counties today. Jamie would have had a wide pool from which to gather men for a militia as you can see. 

Brownsville, North Carolina

Brownsville, North Carolina was mentioned in Episode 3 and in the books. Did it really exist? No, not that I can find BUT you will be interested to know that there was a Brownsville Plantation (ca. 1800) in Granville County, North Carolina . Granville County in 1770 would have been two counties east of Rowan. Click here for map.  

From The Fiery Cross…

“Brownsville was the outer point of our journey, before turning back toward Salisbury, and it held the possibility of a pothouse—or at least a hospitable shed to sleep in—but Jamie thought better to wait.”

Diana Gabaldon~The Fiery Cross

“Brownsville was half a dozen ramshackle huts, strewn among the dying brush of a hillside like a handful of rubbish tossed into the weeds. Near the road—if the narrow rut of churned black mud could be dignified by such a word—two cabins leaned tipsily on either side of a slightly larger and more solid-looking building, like drunkards leaning cozily on a sober companion. Rather ironically, this larger building seemed to operate as Brownsville’s general store and taproom, judging from the barrels of beer and powder and the stacks of drenched hides that stood in the muddy yard beside it—though to apply either term to it was granting that more dignity than it deserved, too, Roger thought.”

Diana Gabaldon~The Fiery Cross

Brownsville Plantation was owned by Thomas Brown of Scotland. How about that? He was born in 1776 and died in 1856.  The plantation also had a post office, a store and a school. As thorough as Diana is, I wonder if she happened upon Brownsville Plantation in her research. Although Brownsville Plantation would have been outside of Jamie’s “jurisdiction” plus the time frame doesn’t match, it is interesting to think about and wonder, isn’t it?

Herman Husband

Historical Marker in Randolph County, North Carolina

We met Herman Husband with Murtagh very briefly in Episode 2. He didn’t look at all like I envisioned him. But did he actually exist? Yes! In fact, he was instrumental in the Regulator movement, stirring up tensions in the backcountry settlers who felt unfairly treated by Governor Tryon, the local sheriffs and the wealthier Eastern North Carolina landowners. Since Husband was a Quaker, his leadership in the Regulator movement was somewhat controversial, I think we will see more of good ole’ Herman (I say that with a wink) as the season progresses. 

One last thing on Husband from Episode 2, it appeared that the Regulators were assembled in a camp. Rocky Creek Baptist Church was the site of many meetings of the Regulators plus Herman Husband participated in the early history of the church. I think I’ll just imagine that’s where they were meeting in the show.  Wink. 

Historical Marker in Chatham County, North Carolina

Reward For Fighting For Tryon

Roger: Governor Tryon's orders. All able-bodied men are asked to join His Excellency's militia.
Mrs. Findlay: Poor men must bleed for rich man's gold and always will, eh? Their father has gone to his reward in heaven, or he'd join ye.
Roger: My condolences, Mistress Findlay.
Roger: Is there a reward for my sons? 40 shillings each from the governor's treasury and two shillings a day for as long as they serve.

From Outlander, Season 5, Episode 3

Thanks to our friends at Alamance Battleground State Historic Site Facebook Page for sharing the following cool bit of history with us: Circular Letter from William Tryon to commanding officers of the North Carolina militia.  Among other things, Tryon’s letter spells out what each man who volunteered would receive in terms of “reward”, as Mrs. Findlay put it. It’s a very interesting letter. If you haven’t already liked the Alamance Battleground State Historic Site Facebook Page, you might want to do so by clicking the link above. Season 5 will revolve around this battle to a large extent. 

Back To The Present

Welcome back to 2020! Did you enjoy your trip through time and the history as it relates to Outlander Episodes 502 & 503? I’m no scholar so I’d love to hear what you think. There are so many things I didn’t mention, either because of complete ignorance (probably) or because they might be spoilers, so I’m waiting for things to play out on the screen before I discuss them.  I’m really excited about the rest of the season though and I hope you’ll join me for some more history lessons!!

Want to come to North Carolina to see these places for yourselves? Check out the following:

You won’t regret it!! Until next time, I remain…

Yours truly in North Carolina,

Beth 

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ONC Admin Choice Awards–Episode 3, “Free Will”

March 5, 2020

Welcome back to the season five ONC Administrators’ Choice Awards!  Now until the end of this season, (we refuse to think about it), some of the ONC administrators and myself will be voting on our “Bests” from the latest Outlander episode.  We enjoyed this fun way to briefly recap each episode last season, and hope you enjoy it as we do! This week’s voting contributors are Susan Jackson, Carolyn Baker, Tara Heller, Dawn Woo, Mitzie Munroe, Cameron Hogg and Nancy Roach. So, without further ado, the winners for episode 3, Free Will are…

Susan: When Fanny’s face was suddenly in the window. Just about had an accident when Jamie turned around–kinda like that scene from The Shining, but without the “Here’s Johnny!”

Dawn W: Maybe not a best moment, but I do like it a lot and the scene has been repeated with Jamie throughout the series. When he sees “home”, he stops and looks at it from a distance. We saw it with Lallybroch….we saw it with Helwater (although not what he particularly wished for)….I think we saw a far off shot with Leoch. (And when he’s walking into the house at the first, is that a dog trot he’s walking through??)

Tara: I agree with Dawn. I loved seeing the silhouette of Jamie standing on top of the hill overlooking the Big House. It reminded me of George Washington or a statue or something. Then going in and standing over Claire and then her waking up. I love moments with those two.

Carolyn: Piggybacking on Dawn and Tara, when Jamie stands over Claire after he comes home, crosses himself and thanks the Lord for her.

Mitzie: When Jamie comes home and stands over Claire, crossing himself and thanking God, with such a look of adoration on his face. (Swoon)!!!!

Cameron: I’m with Susan… there was something really cool about finally seeing Fanny Beardsley after envisioning the scene play out while reading the book. I did miss the more pronounced lisp, though. I found that kind of made Fanny a little more endearing.

Nancy: The opening scene between Claire and Jamie that lets us know the romance is still there and love is on a deeper level. By having this scene at the beginning of the episode, we are reminded of that love and are ready for them to go forward together and face whatever calamity lies ahead.

Susan: When Fanny screams at Beardsley “You hear that? You old bastard! She isn’t yours!” I can feel all of the revenge this abused woman is enjoying while announcing her secret to her now-helpless abuser. 

Dawn W.: Claire’s reply to Jamie’s request to give him the same mercy that he gave Beardsley…”I’ll do what must be done”. There was an added line in the book. But I think it’s an interesting statement and a careful statement because coming from her as a doctor, it means something totally different. 

Tara: Claire- “I’m coming with you…then you’ll need a physician. Murtagh, Knox, Tryon they’ve all made decisions, and I’ve made mine. You’ll need my help” Jamie- “I always have and always will.”They are still a team.

Carolyn:  Jamie to Mr. Beardsley “Will you pray for forgiveness?”

Mitzie:  Jamie: “Deo Gratias”. Claire: “What are you thanking the Lord for”? Jamie: “For the sight of you, Sassenach”. Me…. (Still Swooning)!

Cameron: It was a sad line, but memorable- Fanny saying that having a baby didn’t make her a mother anymore than sleeping in a barn would make you a horse. It seemed to really give some insight into Fanny’s state of mind.

Nancy: I have to agree with Mitzie on this one – Claire: “What are you praying for?” Jaime: “For the sight of you, Sassenach.”

Susan: Paul Gorman, for playing the parts of the Beardsley twins–he’s going to do a fine job, I think. He’s gonna be busy, to say the least.

Dawn W.: I have to give it to the man with no lines…Mr. Beardsley. He looked awful…acted like he was in pain….and just looked wicked.

Tara: Definitely the man playing Mr Beardsley.

Carolyn: I’ll give this one to the actress playing Mrs. Beardsley. I didn’t like her at all to begin with but ended up loving and really feeling for her in the end.

Mitzie: Bronwyn James, who plays Fanny Beardsley. I like seeing new faces in a breakout role and I think she did a wonderful job.

Cameron: Mr. Beardsley. So expressive with absolutely no words.

Nancy: I have to agree with others, my vote goes to the actor playing Mr. Beardsley. To emote with just your eyes and pain filled moans and gurgles had to be challenging. I think the make up artists did an excellent job of making his body grotesque and that blackened foot nauseating.

Susan: When nasty old man Beardsley made enough noise to show he was alive. I was thinking that maybe they were going to portray him as dead for time’s sake. But, nope.

Tara: Not sure there were any surprising moments for me since this episode was pretty much right out of the book. But I guess for me it was when Fanny’s water broke and I thought to myself- guess we aren’t going into the woods with this party of the story.

Dawn W.: I think I’m most surprised at how well they pulled off 2 characters with one actor….in the same scenes!

Carolyn: When Mrs. Beardsley’s face suddenly appeared in the window of the house. I jumped!

Mitzie: How well the special effects team merged the actor playing both roles of Josiah and Keziah Beardsley together in that one scene. That was really well done.

Cameron: I agree with Tara. I wasn’t expecting her to deliver in the cabin. But the whole scuffle with Jamie, and his pushing her off, that led to her water breaking was a bit of a surprise.

Nancy: When Fanny’s water suddenly broke,( at first I thought she had peed out of fright), and she gives birth. In the book she her goats are everything to her. She continues to cradle a kid in her arms.

Susan: The men being boys around the campfire was kind of funny, but there was something that made me lol but I can’t remember what it is. Guess I need to rewatch…

Dawn W.: The men around the campfire talking about how cold it was.

Tara: I agree with Dawn, the campfire. My husband laughed at that. He never laughs during Outlander.

Carolyn: Ditto on the campfire scene!

Mitzie: Jamie, Myers, Roger, Claire, et al sitting around the fire, just cracking some jokes. It was a light moment in such a dark episode.

Mitzie – Jamie, Myers, Roger, Claire, et al sitting around the fire, just cracking some jokes. It was a light moment in such a dark episode.

Cameron: I liked the offhand comment from Bree, about feeling like Scarlett O’Hara, when all the men left the plantations. I love some of the inside jokes between Claire, Roger, and Bree about the future and later pop culture references.

Nancy: I liked the scene with the pounding on the locked door. Jaime and Claire approach the door with dreaded anticipation that Mr. Beardsley is behind the door only to reveal an errant Billy goat.

Susan: Can I have four? No? Well, I’m taking them anyway: (1)When Jamie stops at the crest of that hill and sees home–then (2) walks in and does the sign of the cross and gives thanks. sigh I SO miss this Jamie in the show–it’s not the religiousness of it, it’s just part of what makes Jamie Fraser Jamie Fraser. We haven’t seen that in the show since season 1, I think. (3) The gloominess of the Beardsley home, all of the suspense–I found it much more suspenseful and spooky than the book scene. (4) The exchanges between J&C seemed so natural–S&C come across so well onscreen. It’s like watching the old friends I know from the books. I’ve missed the “every day” between them. #TeamFraser is the hashtag for this episode.

Dawn W.: Jamie And Claire….their exchanges have a maturity….Claire is not fighting to be só headstrong but working with her husband. They just have a “oneness” about them.

Tara: I just give this whole episode an award. It was pretty much straight from the book. Bravo writers!

Carolyn: How Jamie and Claire worked together in this episode. He was definitely the strong, leader we all know and love, but she was also the physician who handled things at the Beardsley home. I loved it when she delivered the baby and handed her off to Jamie, who was more than willing to take her and help get her cleaned.

Mitzie: I liked the special effect touches and dark staging throughout this episode. From the time-lapsed molding bread to the passenger pigeons darkening the sky, I felt like they did a good job taking the direction of this episode to a more creepier level than previous episodes.

Cameron: Having the Beardsley twins side by side in the scene in the woods was really well done. Sometimes when they try to have “twins” in the same scene, they always have one in silhouette from the back or the effects look weird, but this was pretty seamless

Nancy: My best overall award goes to the writers for sticking with the storyline in the book. Kudos to you!

Susan: I still dislike all of the accessories Claire has in her “lab.” All of the cloches, and equipment–it’s too modern, if that makes any sense. Oh, and Captain Mackenzie telling that mother that he’d bring her sons back to her. I mean, looking at her face, she knew he was full of it, because you just can’t promise someone’s going to come back from any battle safe and sound, but to make that promise as a ruse to get someone to let their sons go–just kind of silly to me.

Dawn W.: I have two…..Claire checking out Keziah’s ears with a mirror and diagnosing his burst eardrums. Can you really see your eardrums like that?? And…since Fanny brought up Mary Ann, I kind of wish they had gone into more of Mary Ann and the whole ghost thing. Mary Ann, supposedly, caused Beardsley to have the stroke bc he saw her.

Carolyn: I know it was necessary, but the Beardsley man was definitely the epitome of “a scary old man!”

Mitzie: Some of the gruesome sights during the Beardsley cabin segment. I pretty much watched the whole thing with RBF on my face.

Cameron: I didn’t really get the need to have the few moments of seeing the scene from Mr. Beardsley’s point of view. There weren’t enough of it to make it seem logical with the rest of the episode. If that had been more cohesive, it could have been more impactful.

So, now that we’ve voted, it’s your turn! Agree? Disagree? Tell us in the comments who or what gets your vote for “Best” Awards for Episode 503, Free Will. Leave it in the comments!