Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shoemaker, Mason, Harness Maker . . . Famous Chicagoan



I have been absent lately. Life will return to normal next week and I will be able to devote more time to writing.

Were you able to watch Friday’s "Who Do You Think You Are?" I hope so.  If not, you can view the episode on the website, www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are/. Jerome Bettis and his desire to learn about his mother’s family was the focus of this episode.  Jerome was very familiar with this paternal side of the family.  However, his mother knew very little about her ancestors. Not knowing about a part of one’s family history seems to be a common thread among so many stories. I think it is the reason why genealogy is so appealing.

This week I began writing about the Silas W. Cobb Family of Vermont. Silas W. Cobb’s youngest son was named Silas Bowman Cobb. In his biographical sketch, Silas Bowman Cobb appeared to be a restless young man with a determined father. This determined father wished to find a trade for his son.

With little education, Silas Bowman was “bound out” as an apprentice to a shoemaker. Shoemaking was not for young Silas Bowman and he broke away from the apprenticeship and returned home. Young Silas Bowman was apprenticed again, against this will, to a mason. Silas Bowman discovered masonry was not for him and he returned home.

The elder Cobb finally conceded and allowed the young man to choose his own path. Silas Bowman chose to apprentice with a harness maker and found success at just seventeen years of age. Unfortunately, the harness maker sold his business; which included the service of young Silas Bowman.

Of course, this was unacceptable to young Silas. According to his biographical sketch, Silas Bowman spoke the following words to the new owner, “In this case the nigger don’t go with the plantation.” He negotiated with the new owner and received satisfactory wages and mastered the harness making trade.

His words, “In this case the nigger don’t go with the plantation,” show that slavery was part of life even as far north as Vermont. Slavery touched all people at that time in history. Lucky for Silas Bowman as he was not African American, could speak his mind and negotiate a better life for himself.
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Thomas Wakefield Goodspeed, “Silas Bowman Cobb,” The University of Chicago Biographical Sketches, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1922), 145-170.


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