Facts and Events
HISTORY OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY. Chicago: Beers 1882. Book 2. Pages 530-534
The settlement of gypsies in this county had its origin in the year 1856, when in the fall of that year came the "pioneer" families, chief among whom were Owen Stanley and Harriet Worden, his wife, Levi Stanley and his wife, Matilda Joles, with their families. Others accompanied them, most of whom had done some extended travel before striking this camping-place, which was for a time not far from Fairfield, on what was known as the Jack "Frick" farm, then on the "Davis" farm in Montgomery County. The Stanleys soon became property holders, Owen purchasing the "Black" farm, situated about eight miles north of Dayton, and now owned by Levi Stanley. In the course of years the families of Stanleys and Jeffreys have accumulated considerable of property, located principally in Harrison Township, with some in Wayne, Mad River and Butler. These families with their numerous descendants comprise the Dayton class of gypsies; however, there are many other families and some differing in nationality, who often frequent, in their wanderings, this vicinity, but are not considered local. Of these are the families of Wells, Harrisons and Coopers, the former being quite numerous and are a big, hardy class of people, coming from a settlement near Detroit, Michigan. The Harrison's are from the vicinity of Washington City. There is also a tribe darker in complexion than any yet mentioned, and of a rough, ugly nature. The Dayton settlement is made up of,an English class. The Stanleys were quite numerous in England, and there boasted as being a better class of the traveling tribes, which we believe to be true, as will appear in the progress of this sketch.
Owen Stanley, styled by the Dayton gypsies "king," was born in Reading, Bershire, England, and died February 21, 1860, in the sixty-seventh year of his age. His wife, the queen, departed this life August 30, 1857, aged sixty-three years. They were succeeded to the throne (permitting us to call it such,) by their son Levi and his wife, Matilda, (now deceased). This kingdom and queenship is but a popular notion; there is no investiture, no authority or state. Listen to the words of the venerable "Uncle Levi," who says, "Why, there is nothing in it more than a good man, a good woman. Our people trust me and love me as they did my father and mother before me, that is all. They do pretty much as I tell them, and we all work together, and that is all there is in it." King Owen and Harriet died as they had lived, "roof-dwellers." When Matilda died, although in the blithe sunshine of Mississippi, in January, 1878, in the camp, she was the owner of farms and town lots, having reached the point of independence. Said the bereaved husband, " We have seven children, and their children are learning very fast, and it won't be long before we'll go no more a roaming." The race of gypsies differ as do other classes of men, in their religious views; some are Orthodox while others are Catholic in their opinion. "I once saw, "says a writer on the subject of gypsies," a woman in a gypsy tent reading the Bible to a circle of nine children, all her own, and though on coming near, her blue eyes and light hair showed her to be English woman, the daughter, as I found, of a game-keeper who had married one of the Boswell gang, yet the interest which she assured me the whole camp took in it, was sufficient evidence that it is only for want of being taught, that they still remain in ignorance of the best knowledge. They have been so long treated with contempt and severity, that they naturally look on all men as their enemies. For my part, when I seen a herd of them coming some solitary way, with their dark Indian faces, their scarlet cloaked women, their troops of little vivacious savages, their horses laden with teuts, beds, etc., I cannot help looking on them as an eastern tribe, as fugitives of a most ancient family, as a living enigma in human history and feeling, with all their Arab-like propensities, they have great claims on our sympathies and on the splendid privileges of a Christian land.
The following invocations tire part and parcel of the devotions of gypsies: "Our father who dwellert there in the heaven, may Gentile and Gypsy love thy name. Thy kingdom come. May they do thy word here on earth as it is done there in the heaven. Give us to-day our daily bread, and forgive us indebted to thee as we forgive them indebted to us. Suffer not that we fall into no temptation, take us out from all evil. Thine is the kingdom, my God, thine the strong hand, thine all goodness in all time, Aye, Amen."
"Sweet Goddess, give me health, Holy Goddess, give me luck and grace, wherever I go, and help me, Goddess powerful and immaculate, from ugly men, that I may go in the road to the place I purpose; help me Goddess, forsake me not, Goddess, for I pray for God's sake."
It is said by one, to whom, in conversation with the late Matilda and family around their campfire, the following remarks were addressed: "Here is our book of prayers. Although we do not read it glibly as do some others, we know it when we hear it, and we love it as all our people have done." She went on to speak of the churches in Bristol by the sea, giving a fair account of the north porch of St. Mary, Radcliff, and the Norman gateway of the Abbey, and last she said, "We are law-minding, God-fearing," and then gravely added king Levi, "and tax-paying, too, and we are glad to pay these taxes in this country, where we enjoy our living and have our fair chances alike." There spoke out the true Briton; such, then, is Stanley's gratefulness and piety, well calculated to enliven those to the name born. These different families of Stanleys and Jeffreys are looked upon by the people of Montgomery County as a good and honest class of people, and the universal response of all who have had business transactions with them, is that they were very honorable. Their word is considered as good as their note, and, in short, they are as "old wheat in the mill." This tribe, while the possessors of considerable property, as heretofore described, are nevertheless as nomadic in their habits as the race at large. They generally rent their lands and property, and roam, as it were, over the country, the men following, trading, principally, and the women fortune-telling; however, there are times when they live "under roof," and farm their lands for a period of years, as was the case in the years 1877 and 1878, when for two years they had kept in this county, contrary to their ancient custom of migration. This was, probably, owing first to the illness of lady Stanley herself, and then the ominous signs of civil war, which then shook not only the minds of these simple-minded keen judges of the weathers and waves of human passions, but also of the wisest of our statesmen. The winters are spent through the south, and it was there, as aforesaid, that queen Matilda died in the vicinity of Vicksburg, aged fifty years. She was enclosed in a superb casket and brought to Woodland Cemetery, by her affectionate husband, as well as her son Levi, Jr. The great Palm Sunday funeral of 1877, which was nine miles north of Dayton, with its long procession through the rain, was even more impressive than usual. Indeed, stout men expressed their grief over the death of Amelia Stanley Jeffrey, and Thomas Jeffrey, her husband, much more demonstrative than the youth or the women. If it had not been unquestionably earnest it would have appeared even ludicrous; but at the grave in Woodland, all expressions were evidently overawed by reason of the oppressiveness of being the object of intense scrutiny. The rather bright colors of apparel and the expressive features of these people, standing in the rain without umbrellas, and vacantly wandering around the grounds under restraint were noticed, When Dr. Berger stood at the head of the wide grave, the only umbrella upraised was over his head. The good queen Matilda was a mother of her people, with rare nobility of nature. This title of queen, as far as it embodies the love and trust of countrymen and countrywomen, is beautifully appropriate.
" REFIANCE "
Wife of Richard Harrison, died May 3, 1873, aged 45 ,years.
Their son, died May 1, 1873, aged 10 months. A husband and six children left to mourn their loss.
This tomb is a graceful one of marble. It fronts to the west. Above the relief (a lamb) is "mother", and below " babe." This is very tastefully adorned with plants. In 1867 Frank A. Harrison was buried, aged 11 months, born in Urbana, Ohio. Due east from the Harrison lot is the first Scotch granite tombstone erected to a gypsy, the Jeffrey monument, to Amelia and Thomas Jeffrey, who died within a few days of each other in March, 1877. The Owen-Stanley lot, south of Harrison, contains twelve graves. On the outer line, the south, are these tombstones: "E. Young, died July 17, 1873, aged fifty ,years;" east of this is a tombstone bearing on its summit a lamb in full relief, for two sisters, "racy, died October 5, 1871, aged fourteen months; Harriet, died December 25, 1865, aged sixteen months, children of Dangerfield and Richanda Stanley." Then eight graves are on the north side of this. Coming back to the west front to the north of the Young tombstone stands that of Priscilla Stanley. This stone bears a hand, painted upward on its face, "There is rest in Heaven." Priscilla, wife of Owen Stanley, died March 19, 1866, aged forty-nine years, five months and five days, born Woodbury, England. This stone bears many verses. Emanuel, son of John and Isabella Broadway, born January 20, 1852, in Somersetshire, England, died June 20, 1869, aged seventeen years and six months; buried August 29, 1869. Little Charlotte Stanley, (a lamb,) died December 13, 1864, aged two years and two months. She was buried in 1867; born in Urbana; granddaughter of the late queen. Passing north from the Owen Stanley lot-crossing the queen's place-we come to the very graceful marble, erected by Paul Stanley to his young wife. It bears close resemblance to that of Mrs. Richard Harrison; a grave lies along side of hers. "Mazella, wife of Paul Stanley, died April 9, 1871, aged twenty years.
" Ye that mourn a mother's loss,
Ye that weep a wife no more,
Call to mind the Christian cross,
Which a wife and mother bore."
Probably the most touching instance of grief which ever occurred in Woodland Cemetery, was that of the husband and father, Ephraim Joles. Within fourteen months he buried his wife and all his children, six in all. The central tomb, standing near which is a hickory and dogwood tree, where the vault will be opened to contain the queen and her little daughter, and a place is allotted to king Levi, and for Michael, the youngest heir of the house of Stanley. It is seven feet long, six feet wide, three and one-half feet deep in the clear. Here, resting within a case, the queen's casket has remained. The plate bears the name Mrs. Matilda Stanley, aged fifty years, with the date of her death. In the casket was placed her worn Bible with her. The railed enclosure which contains the graves of the first king and queen lies farther west, lower down the hill. The tombstones are plain slabs, the man's on the right, the woman's on the left, and appear like the pages of a tall ledger. That of the queen was the first gypsy grave in Dayton. On the tombstones the following quaint verses appear:
"Our father has gone to a mansion of rest
From a region of sorrow and pain
To the glorious land of the blest,
Where he will never suffer again.
His spirit rests above,
In realms of bliss it never dies,
But knows a Savior's love.
The mortal pang is past,
Jesus has come and borne thee home
Beyond the stormy blast.
England was his nation,
Any wood was his dwelling place,
And Christ his salvation."
My body now slumbers along with the dead,
My Savior has called me, to him I have gone.
Then farewell my husband and children all.
From you a mother's Christ doth call,.
Mourn not for me, dear wanderers, 'tis vain
To call me to your sight again.
We at your loss do mourn.
Oh, may we meet in heaven to dwell,
With our wandering children now forlorn.
England was her nation;
In any wood her dwelling place,
In God was her salvation.
" She was a tender mother here,
And in her life the Lord did fear;
We trust our loss will be her gain,
And that with Christ she's gone to reign."
The prosperity of these people is interwoven with our own. They are a curious addition to American citizenship. In the prosperous future, old ways and manners will fade out before the new; but revered will the simple lives and kindly influences of Matilda and Levi Stanley ever be. Happy are the people that cleave to the simple, ancient ways of industry and generous aid to our fellows wherever we wander on God's footstool.
"Kind hearts are more than coronets
And simple faith than Norman blood."