THE BALCOMBE REUNION OF 1901

A reunion of one of the oldest families in America was held in Buffalo, NY on August 8th, 9th, and 10th. The family dates its existence on this continent back to Henry Balcombe of Charlestown, Mass., where he is on record as owing property in 1665, and through his wife, a daughter of John Haynes of Sudbury, Mass., back in 1632. Another branch of the family began with Alexander Balcom at Providence where he is recorded as having owned property in 1665. A third branch is traced to John Balcom of Mansfield, Ct., about 1700. The family is descended from ancestors in Sussex County, England, where, at the ancient town of Balcombe, they were quite numerous in the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth centuries, as shown by the Parish records of the village.

Advantage was taken of adding attractions of the Pan-American Exposition to that of the reunion, to secure as large an attendance as possible, which resulted in representatives from every direction and extending as far as Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska and California, and to Georgia and Florida, as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Canada. The family numbers ten generations in America and the entire line of decent of each male member of the family was shown graphically by charts. The social feature of the reunion was provided for by holding an informal reception in the New York State building at the exposition, at the noon hour on the first of the three days of the gathering, with a similar meeting at the new England building on the second day and a trolley trip to Niagara Falls on the last day. The evening sessions were held at the recital hall of H. Tracy Balcom, a dealer in musical instruments on Main Street, Buffalo. The programme for the first evening included, besides music, a paper on heraldry, which was illustrated by some large designs of coat-of-arms, one of which was that of the family of Balcombe in England, done in colors. A paper on the early history of the family in England brought out the fact of the family being on record in Sussex County back to 1545. A letter from Rev. William Barnes, a noted authority on the dialects in the south of England, written from Dorset, England some years ago, pronounces the name as of the old Saxon speech, saying that the word is derived from "Bal" a hill, and "Comb" a hollow or dell, and that the meaning of the two words combined would be similar to "Highlands" in Scotch. The spelling of the name in America, without the final "be" is accounted for by the fact that it is silent in pronunciation, and that as most of the emigrants to this country about 1660, from that section of England, were Puritans who believed in lopping off all superfluous things, the name was changed to Balcom, as it is found recorded in Portsmouth, R. I., in 1664, Providence, R. I., 1665, and Charlestown, Mass., in 1665.

The first meeting closed with the outline of the history of the Connecticut or John Balcom division of the family. At the second evening session as address was given by Rev. Royal B. Balcom of Jackson, Mich., touching on the fundamental principles of family unity and other kindred points. Following this, Dr. D. E. Holman, son of Charlotte J. (Balcom) Holman, who some two years ago visited the old Sussex hamlet, which, regardless of the ancient local pun - that none succeed there because of the influence balk 'em - is at present better to do than ever, gave some interesting reminiscences of the pilgrimage. While there he made some very warm friends, who have all in their power to further the interests of the reunion at Buffalo. Mr. G. C. Newington of Balcombe had made specially for the reunion, a series of 50 views, some of which are as follows: Views of the old church, dedicated in 1291; of Balcombe forest, a tract of several hundred acres of timber land, inclosing a beautiful lake of several acres in extent; of old inns, "as ancient as any in the land, may be"; of fine country seats, Balcombe House, Balcombe Place, etc.; of Balcombe schools; the railway station, views in Walks Woods showing Chalybeats Spring, etc.

The Mid-Sussex Times notices at considerable length the proposed American meeting and speaks of the interesting associations that exist between the family on the American Continent and its cradle in the Old World. Lord Frederick Fitz Roy of Balcombe sends the following communications:

"I have much pleasure in hearing that a meeting is to take place at Buffalo, N. Y., which is very interesting to the inhabitants of Balcombe, in England. I am afraid I have not much information to impart, but it so happens that the site of the house that I live in was in the year 1615 the property of one Richard Balcombe. It went by the name of 'Scannons' in those days and from what I can make out, he appears to have been the last of the race in these parts. Wishing you all success in your interesting meeting, I remain, gentlemen, your obedient servant, "

Frederick Fitz Roy

The second meeting closed with a review of the history of the Alexander Balcom branch - he having settled in Providence, R. I., in 1665. The meeting opened with a paper on the Balcombe family in St Helena, which recounted and discovered the relations sustained between Napoleon and William Balcombe, then purveyor of the port of St. Helena, at whose home the Emperor was entertained until his quarters at Longwood could be put in shape. A letter from his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth (Balcombe) Abell, to one of the American family was brought to the reunion and was the subject of much interesting comment. A humorous genealogical poem, written some years ago by a daughter of the family, followed; and in turn was followed by a paper entitled "Reminiscences of incidents at Longfellow's "Wayside Inn", in which was recounted some published conversations had with Longfellow in the year before his death in which, speaking of the incidents that lead to the writing of the poem, "Tales of a Wayside Inn," Longfellow says that Monte and two other of his friends were so captivated with the charms of the old hostelry that they went to the old "trysting place" summer after summer for twelve successive seasons. The paper closed with the observation that it was Jerusha Balcom, who as wife of Adam Howe and mother of Lyman Howe (the bachelor landlord), produced the "homelike atmosphere," mentioned by Longfellow, and that it was due to her influence that the lovers of nature were drawn thither those many summers, the result of which was the chain of poems by Longfellow, which, although in another age and chime, have many points that suggests a similarity to Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." This was followed by reminiscences of a trip to the old "Wayside Inn," the ancient "Red Horse Inn," of Sudbury, Mass., and to the old Balcom homestead near that town, a portion of which has remained continuously in the family for 200 years. Among the accompanying views was one of the Joseph II homestead, a well-preserved frame house over 170 years old. The last number on the programme being a sketch of the history of the Henry Balcom line, he having lived in Charlestown, Mass., subsequently to 1665. His wife and children after his death removed to Sudbury, the home of Elizabeth's father, John Haynes. A permanent family organization was effected and the following persons chosen as a permanent executive committee: Mr. St. A. D. Balcombe, Omaha, Neb., Mr. Charles B. Balcomb, Salem, Mass., and Miss Mary Balcom of Clifton Springs.

In pronouncing the benediction, the Rev. Royal Balcom heartily commended the united family to the care of the God of our fathers, He who is ever present and all enduring, under the shadow of whose wing the generations to come may walk as have those of the past. Thus ended a most enjoyable family gathering.

Author/Writer Unknown


It would be really nice to connect with any family members whose relatives took part in this reunion. With an executive having been established there must be something for us to bridge the past hundred years.

Note: Email dated 2 Feb 2008

Jim Lane wrote:
Hi,
 
I'm currently doing some research & looking for information on ST A.D. Balcombe.   He's called out on the executive committee on your 1901 family reunion.  Saint Andre Durand Balcombe was regent for the University of Minnesota.  His name appears as president attest on the Minnesota state constitution.  by 1865 he was indian agent for the Winnebago tribe.  Also a noted commissioner at the signing of the Omaha Treaty.  1867-70? he owned/operated the Omaha Republican newspaper by 1876 he was a US deputy marshal in Wyoming.  My specific interest is of this time frame because he transported Jack McCall (the killer of Wild Bill Hickok) to Yankton for trial.  I'm hopeful because of his background in journalism that he may have left some memoirs. I would really appreciate any information or leads on this individual and would be very happy to share any information I have. 
 
Thanks & happy trails,
Jim Lane
jim@lanehorses.com
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