Caleb North of Westmeath

Caleb North was from Westmeath, in the Irish midlands. The North family of Westmeath is supposed to be related to the distinguished English North family, which included the prime minister under King George III, various barons of Guilford, and other notables. The prevalence of the given name Roger in both lines and the similarity in the coat of arms may have led to the tradition of a relationship.1

Caleb is supposed to be the son of Roger, who was in turn the son of John.2 The story is that John North, called “the Cromwellian”, went to Ireland in 1650 with Cromwell and stayed there. Although there is no direct evidence to place him in the English family, he could have been an illegitimate son or a scion of a minor branch.3

John North was part of a group of Cromwell’s officers who got land in Westmeath. According to John McCormack: “In the division of the lands of the Irish chiefs forty nine Cromwellian officers got no land – they rebelled and some of them later got land in Fartullagh. One of them was Mr. John North… The Norths lived in Newcastle until around 1780. They were very industrious and with the help of money from the English branch of the family they developed their land and soon there were Norths in Tyrrellspass, Clonfad, Whitewell and Guilford… They had large families and soon they were  too numerous for the available land. Many of them emigrated to the United States in the 18th century.”4

McCormack added that the Barony of Fartullagh, Westmeath, was known as “Tyrrell’s country”, after the descendants of the Norman barons who owned it since 1173.5 The culmination of their power was in 1650, when they had five castles, at Newcastle, Kilbride, Gaybrook, Tyrrellspass and Castlelost. Because they were Irish chiefs who opposed Cromwell, all of these were seized by Cromwell after the war. All were destroyed except Tyrrellspass, which may have been spared because one of the Tyrrells supported Cromwell. Some of the North family lived at Kilbride Castle, probably in a house there, since the castle was in ruins.6 These places form a cluster, about ten miles across, centered on Kilbride. Tyrrellspass is south of it, as is Castlelost. Gaybrook is north.7 The civil parish was Newcastle. The barony (a larger subdivision) was Fartullagh. Trim, further northeast, where Roger North’s will was proved in 1701, was the former county town of Meath, later supplanted by Navan.

Little is known about John North except that he lived in Kilbride about 1660 and had two sons, Roger and John.8 The sons both married about 1680, but there are no surviving church records for them. Most of the family were Protestants, and many Church of Ireland records were lost in the 1922 fire in the Public Records Office in Dublin.

John’s son Roger “of Newcastle, West Meath”, married and had six known children. His will was proved in 1701 at Trim.9

Children of Roger and an unknown wife:10

Joseph, m. Mary Emor in 1705, will probated Aug 1729, children: Roger, Richard, Philip, Susanna, Emor, Joseph, Sarah, Mary, William, Michael, John, Anne.

Caleb of Newcastle, m. ?Jane, went to Pennsylvania, children: Roger, Caleb, Joshua, Ann, Catherine, Elizabeth, Sarah, Joseph. All of the children were born in Ireland, between 1704 and 1721.11

Elizabeth, immigrated to Maine, married there, Francis Cooper, died 1740.

Roger of Kilbride Castle12, died 1766, m. 1704 Mary Wade, children: William, Joseph13

Susanna, m. 28 Nov 1733 William Smith of County Wicklow

Mary North, ?died before 1748, m.  ab. 1710 Caleb Emerson. He died 1748 in Philadelphia.14 Children: Elizabeth, Joshua, Ann. Elizabeth and Ann went to Pennsylvania, while Joshua stayed in Ireland.15

Some of this generation are named in a three-lives lease in 1726.16 This was a lease from Joseph and Mary North of Newcastle, Westmeath, to Roger North of Dublin, gentleman, for land in Newcastle, for the lives of Richard, Mary, and Caleb North. Since Joseph’s father Roger supposedly died in 1701, this could not have been him. It was most likely Joseph’s son Roger. Richard was Roger’s brother. Mary and Caleb were his aunt and uncle.17 It is interesting that Joseph and Roger are both described as gentlemen in the lease, and that Roger was living in the city of Dublin. In 1736 his marriage settlement from his father-in-law described Roger as of Newcastle.18

Caleb North was born about 1678. He is said to have married Jane Eckersley, supposedly the daughter of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, but this is almost certainly a fraud. It was based on a genealogy by Harriet Bainbridge who made fraudulent claims for her American clients, sometimes involving faked noble ancestry.19 The tree that Bainbridge drew for her client James North of Augusta, Maine, seems to be accurate in the main, but suspect in this detail. The story passed down in the Pennsylvania North family is that Caleb eloped with his wife, making a runaway marriage.20 The Bomford site suggested that she may have been Jane Berkeley. John Berkeley was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for two years starting in 1670, but there is no sign of a daughter Jane in his known children.21 It is possible that Bainbridge simply invented the relationship.

In 1730 Caleb and Jane (if that was her name) moved to Pennsylvania with their children. The story was passed down that Caleb’s son Roger had been educated for the ministry but instead proposed to go to Pennsylvania. His father replied, “If you are determined upon that, Roger, we will all go.”22 A receipt for their passage, for 38 guineas, was saved in the family. It was dated May 1, 1729, from Cork, Ireland.23

They bought 69 acres from the Penn family at Gilbert Manor, Montgomery County, and settled there.24 The tax list of Philadephia County for 1734 shows the 69 acres in Providence (part of Gilbert Manor) as owned by Roger North. Perhaps Caleb died soon after their arrival. He apparently did not leave a will.

Children of Caleb and Jane: (all born in Ireland)

Roger, b. 1704, d. 1785, m. 1732 Ann Rambo, daughter of Peter and Magdalin. They lived in Providence Township, where Roger was a miller and tanner. Children: Sophie, Samuel, Sarah, Elizabeth, John, Joshua, William, Roger, Nancy, George, Caleb, Thomas, Hannah. The story is that eight of the sons served in the Revolution. Ann died in 1798.25

Caleb, did not marry.26

Joshua, m. Susanna Empson in 1754 at Old Swedes Church, Philadelphia.27

Ann, m. — Jansen

Catherine, m. 1731 James Snowden (b. 1711) at First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, had at least seven children.28

Elizabeth, m. 1749 George Plymm at Christ Church, Philadelphia. A George Plim died in 1773 leaving a wife Elizabeth and son George.29

Sarah, no further record

Joseph, b. 1721, d. 1810, m. Lydia Price; lived in Philadelphia, a tanner.

  1. Some of the Irish North family who came to America used a similar coat of arms to the English branch. This is not so much evidence for a connection as it is evidence for a belief in the connection.
  2. “The Coffeys of Newcaster”, excerpt from a history of Tyrrellspass by Bishop John McCormack, d. 1996,  reproduced on the Bomford website at Peter Bomford, who died in early 2017, died extensive work on the Irish Bomford family, which included a connection to the North family. He studied deeds, Burke on landed gentry, extracts of wills, ordnance survey maps, and more. His work, continued and extended by other researchers, is online at
  3. John Dudley North 3rd Lord Kirtling had a son John who immigrated to Connecticut around 1640. (Ancestry trees). So there is a precedent for an immigrant son in the English family.
  4. McCormack. He wrote about the Coffeys, who ended up living in one of the North homesteads, at Newcastle.
  5. A barony in Ireland was a subdivision of a county, larger than a parish. The barony of Fartullagh contained eight civil parishes and part of two others. (Wikipedia)
  6. The reference to Kilbride Castle is on the Bomford site, page on the Irish North Family, in a comment on Roger of Kilbride Castle, son of Roger (d. 1701). The younger Roger was the brother of Caleb North, the immigrant.
  7. Kilbride should not be confused with another Kilbride in County Meath.
  8. Bomford web site. John’s son John, brother of Roger, married in 1679 a woman named Mary or Hannah Watson, and had children Elias, John, William, and possibly Edward. This branch of the family did not stay in the Newcastle area.
  9. Bomford site, Coffeys of Newcastle, Bainbridge tree (reproduced on the Bomford site).
  10. From the Bomford site. Note that this generation scattered.
  11. Dexter North, Caleb North Genealogy, 1930.
  12. A note on the Bomford page for “The Norths of Ireland” pointed out that the Kilbride Castle was probably in ruins by then, and was meant as a defensive structure rather than a manor. Perhaps they lived at Kilbride House, which the locals may have called Kilbride Castle.
  13. William’s family is extensively followed on the Bomford site.
  14. His will, in Philadelphia County Will Books J.43, did not name his wife, implying that she died before him.
  15. Bomford site on “The Norths of Ireland”.
  16. Three-lives leases were granted not for a fixed term, but until the death of all three people named as livers. They generally lasted over fifty years, and were favorable to the renters, since the rent did not increase during the term. (Catherine A. Wilson, New Lease on Life: Landlords,Tenants, and Immigrants in Ireland and Canada, 1994)
  17. From the Bomford site: 1726 50 54 32031 in the Registry of Deeds, dated 7 & 8 June 1726, a lease and release between Joseph and Mary North of Newcastle Gent. to Roger North of the city of Dublin Gent. For £102 Joseph granted to Roger lands in Newcastle to have and to hold during the lies of Richard North son of the said Joseph North, Mary North and Caleb North, son and daughter of Roger North senr.
  18. Bomford site, “The Norths of Ireland”.
  19. Dexter North. Since Harriet DeSalis’ information was discredited, there is no reason to believe that Jane’s last name was Eckersly. Harriet Bainbridge DeSalis was exposed in 1880 when a client became suspicious of the supposed royal ancestry she had found for his Whitney family; he hired a genealogist who confronted her with her forged documents and made her promise not to take any more commissions from American clients. (TAG, 1994, vol. 69, pp. 9-14) Her tree for the North family, made in 1870, was published in a book by James North, History of Augusta (Maine). It can be found on the extensive website of the Bomford family, in chapter 16.4.6, under North Family Tree.
  20. Dexter North.
  21. Wikipedia entry for John Berkeley.
  22. Dexter North, pp. 7-9.
  23. Millard Stipes, Genealogy of the … Keyes, North and Cruzen Families, 1914. In 1817 the receipt was owned by Joshua North of Tompkins County, New York.
  24. Dexter North, p. 7. Another branch of the family settled in Augusta, Maine. (John North of Framington, Conn.)
  25. Dexter North.
  26. Stipes.
  27. Stipes said he died unmarried.
  28. Query to TAG, 1900, vol. 1, p. 145.
  29. Philadelphia County Wills, P.451.

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