Charles Joshua Henshaw

                                               ┌── Benjamin Henshaw
                                               │    1730-1793 
                          ┌── Joshua Henshaw ──┤
                          │    1765-1840       │
                          │                    └── Mrs. Huldah (Stillman) Sumner
Charles Joshua Henshaw ───┤
B: c1798                  │                    ┌── Ashbel Burnham
D: 1869                   │                    │
No Issue                  └── Esther Burnham ──┤
                               1768-1853       │
                                               └── Hannah Sage
M: Cornelia Middagh

Charles Joshua Henshaw     [ID 04645] Click here to switch to Ahnentafel view: Ahnentafel View

Charles Joshua Henshaw1 [Joshua Charles Henshaw2,3].

Born about 1798, Connecticut.4  

On Monday, June 2, 1823, Charles shot and killed a John Swails near Montreal.5  His newlywed sister Caroline's husband, George Johnson Holt, was present and charged with assisting in the killing.5  The killing was the result of the custom of charivari, in which a newlywed couple was harassed, sometimes for days - in this case the target of the charivari was Charles' sister Caroline and her new husband.6  

The Montreal "Gazette" reported on Saturday, June 7, 1823:6

For several days back the inhabitants of this city have been kept in a state of the greatest anxiety and alarm in consequence of the fatal and melancholy termination of a "Charivary" which, for ten or fourteen days, has been the incessant annoyance of one or two respectable families in the suburbs.

On Sunday, June 11, 2006 the Montreal "Gazette" published a retrospective story about the 1823 incident:6

It was no way to embark on married life.  Just days after exchanging vows with Caroline Henshaw, George Holt found himself charged as an accomplice in murder.  His new brother-in-law, Charles Henshaw, was the accused murderer.  All three had fled across the border to the United States.  

Holt, the Henshaws and of course the dead man were victims of a charivari gone bad.  

Caroline and George married in May 1823, and why the couple should have provoked a charivari has long been forgotten.  Generally, however, these "jocular persecutions" were staged when one of the spouses was much older than the other.  The young men of the district would blacken their faces, put on outlandish garments and show up at the house of the newlyweds just as they were getting ready for bed.  Shouts, bugle blasts, sticks pounded on the doors and windows would announce their presence, and only if the bridegroom bribed them with tavern money, or perhaps a donation for charity, might they be persuaded to leave.  

A charivari could go on for days if the groom refused to cave in.  And it might end in tragedy if, as was occasionally the case, the groom replied with force.  So it was with George Holt.  

The mischief-makers had been besieging Holt and his bride for a week or more.  Finally, on May 30, the authorities read the Riot Act, but this simply excited the mob even further.  Three nights later, raucous as ever, they met in the Haymarket, today's Victoria Square.  Led by one Capt. Rock - "the synonym," The Gazette reported, "of the commander of one of the most cruel and blood-thirsty banditti that ever disgraced Ireland" - they set off for the Holt house, in what's now Point St. Charles.  

At some point, a window opened and the twin barrels of a shotgun emerged.  A trigger was pulled, and a man in the street crumpled to the ground.  Others near him were wounded.  A laborer named James Roxburgh rushed up to the window and shouted, "You damned murdering rascal, don't you see what you've done now? You have shot a man."  

The man with the gun was Charles Henshaw, Holt's brother-in-law.  The victim, by a bizarre twist, was Henshaw's own servant, a recent immigrant from Yorkshire named John Swails.  He died the following morning, leaving his wife and seven children.  

At the inquest on June 4, at least three witnesses suggested the revelers had already dispersed when Henshaw fired.  Perhaps Swails had been sent outside to verify that they had truly disappeared; perhaps, in the dark, he was mistakenly assumed to be one of Holt's tormentors, not a protector.  Certainly it seems highly unlikely that Henshaw would want to shoot Swails specifically, but the charge preferred against him nevertheless was murder.  

Far from sobering the rowdies, Swails's death goaded them even more.  Soldiers from the local garrison were called out the next day, to little avail.  Once again the mob descended on the Holt house and this time, finding it deserted, burst inside and set to work.  

"Every window, with its blinds and other ornaments, was shattered into a thousand pieces," we reported.  "Not a stick of furniture was allowed to remain together. ... Neither fireplace, mantel-piece nor stair railing escaped their desolating hands, and even the very partitions and walls of the house were battered and crumbled in some places to rubbish."  

A semblance of calm returned as the week drew to a close.  The watchmen, forerunners of Montreal's police force, were augmented by specially deputized citizen-constables and together they patrolled the streets every night.  A public meeting deplored what had befallen the city.  

No one - apart, perhaps, from the rioters - seemed inclined to blame Holt and Henshaw.  The newspapers pointedly avoided naming either of them.  Henshaw was merely "one of the parties" in Holt's house, for example, while Holt himself was the mob's "object of revenge."  Swails died because of the mob's actions, The Gazette implied; as for those discreetly unidentified in the house, "we very well know to what an extent the laws of England go in justifying a man in the defence of his person and property when illegally attacked."  

June's lamentable events were on the agenda that August when the Court of King's Bench sat.  But again, while a long speech by the judge on the iniquities of charivaris was reported, neither Holt nor Henshaw was named.  Nor were they listed among those charged, though in a tantalizing note at the end of the list we read, "There are 16 others tried and acquitted."  

While the Connecticut-born Henshaw seems to have stayed permanently in the United States, Holt was ready to pick up the pieces again in Montreal.  Life went on as well for Swails's widow, Isabella.  Late that year, she took up with another Yorkshireman, Robert Bean.  

She settled with him in the south-shore village of Sainte-Philomène, today's Mercier, and their household was huge.  Robert had also been widowed that year, and had five children.  Then, in October 1824, a daughter of their own was born.  Perhaps this was a necessary catalyst, for a month later Isabella and Robert finally married.  The minister, an itinerant and often drunk Presbyterian named Alex Wattie, first took the precaution of absolving them of the sin - obvious in their case - of fornication.  

Isabella was then 43 years old, her husband just 32.  Despite the difference in their ages, there is no record of a charivari marring the honeymoon.

A Coroner's inquisition report dated June 4, 1823 recorded:5

4th June 1823

Inquisition on
view of the Body
of John Swails


Wilfull Murder by the
hands of Charles Joshua
Henshaw; George John [sic] Holt present, aiding &


John Swails on Monday Last in the Evening was in a street opposite to George Johnson Holt's house in the Ste. Anne suburbs in the City of Montreal, & the said George Johnson Holt & Charles Henshaw were at the same time together in one of the rooms facing the said street in the said house, and had a gun with them in the room aforesaid: that the said Charles Joshua Henshaw not having the fear of God before his Eyes, but moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on the said day, Monday the second day of June instant, with aforesaid arms at the suburbs aforesaid in and upon the said John Swails in the peace of God and of our said Lord the King, then & there being feloniously, wilfully & of his Malicea- forethought did make and [sic] assault:


Charles Joshua Henshaw, him the said John Swails in the Manner & by the means aforesaid, feloniously, Wilfully & of his Maliceaforethought did kill & murder against the Peace of our Lord the King his Crown & dignity, & that the said George Johnson Holt was present, aiding & assisting the said Charles Joshua Henshaw in committing the Crime aforesaid.

He married Cornelia Middagh1,7 [Cornelia Middaugh3], Sep 27 18321,7, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, New York1,7.  Cornelia was from Brooklyn.1  Cornelia was born about 1812, New York.4,8,9  

Charles and Cornelia had no children of their own.  But after the death of his older brother John in 1832, Charles, owning a large house and being financially comfortable, took in John's family and became father to John's children.1  

An 1835 city directory of Brooklyn, New York shows Charles J. Henshaw, near Monroe Place.  In a 1840 Brooklyn directory he was listed at No. 91 Clark Street.10  

Charles and Cornelia were shown in the 1850 census (Jul 11 1850), Flushing, Queens County, New York:4

Charles J. Henshaw, age 52, born in Connecticut; farmer; $125,000 real estate.
Cornelia Henshaw, age 37, born in New York.
Cornelia M. Henshaw, age 13, born in New York; attended school.
Elizabeth March, age 6, born in New York.
Peter Henshaw, age 83, born in Connecticut.
John Sands, age 27, born in New York.
Ester Sands, age 25, born in New York.
John Rloy, age 27, born in New York; laborer.
Amanda White, age 26, born in New York.
Louisa White, age 13, born in New York.
Mary Morris, age 25, born in Ireland.
Sarah Graff, age 23, born in Ireland.
Bridget Foller, age 20, born in Ireland.
John McKeon, age 23, born in Ireland; laborer.
John Green, age 22, born in Ireland; laborer.
James Norris, age 25, born in Ireland; laborer.
Andrew Wilson, age 30, born in Ireland; laborer.
Thomas McKeon, age 12, born in Ireland.
Mary Blane, age 17, born in Ireland.

Charles and Cornelia were shown in the 1860 census (Aug 24 1860), Westchester County, New York:8

Charles J. Henshaw, age 62 [unclear], born in Connecticut; farmer; $12,000 real estate; $5,000 personal property.
Cornelia Henshaw, age 47, born in New York.
Cornelia M. Henshaw, age 23, born in New York.
Marcella M[..unclear], age 35, born in Ireland; cook.
Mary Martin, age 30, born in Ireland; nurse.
Wm N. Forster, age 15, born in Nova Scotia; servant.
Michael Morrisey, age 35, born in Ireland.
Peter Stilburg, age 20, born in Germany.
M. J. B. Henshaw, male, age 65 [unclear], born in New York;
Ellen D. Henshaw, age 27, born in New York.

Charles Joshua Henshaw died Jun 19 1869, Mamaroneck, Westchester County, New York; age 72.11,12  

Charles' death was noted in the "Brooklyn Eagle" (Brooklyn, New York) on Saturday, June 19, 1869 [as abstracted]:11

June 19 Mamaroneck Chas J Henshaw 72y formerly Bklyn Greenwood Cemetery

Cornelia was shown in the 1870 census, Mamaroneck, Westchester County, New York:9

Henchaw, Cornelia, age 58, born in New York; "keep home"; $30,000 real estate; $30,000 personal property.
Sands, Hester, age 43, born in Canada; parents foreign-born; "keep home".
Sands, Magdalene, age 21, born in New York; parents foreign-born.
Sands, Lovisa, age 20, born in New York; parents foreign-born.
Sands, Camelia, age 16, born in New York; parents foreign-born.
Hurd, John, age 50, born in England; parents foreign-born; laborer.
Hurd, Grace, age 40, born in England; parents foreign-born; domestic servant.
Warley, Mary, age 23, born in England; parents foreign-born; domestic servant.
Warley, Jane E., age 18, born in England; parents foreign-born; domestic servant.
Wyomer [unclear], John, age 22, born in Ireland; parents foreign-born; laborer.

Cornelia died Dec 11 1871, Mamaroneck, Westchester County, New York; buried Dec 14 1871, Section 101 Lot 670, Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn, New York.11,12  

Cornelia's death was noted in the "New York Evening Post" (New York, New York) on Monday, December 11, 1871 [as abstracted]:11

Mon Dec 11, Mamaroneck NY Cornelia wid Chas Henshaw
Cornelia's death was also noted in the "Brooklyn Eagle" (Brooklyn, New York) on Monday, December 11, 1871 [as abstracted]:11
Dec 11 Mamaroneck NY Mrs Chas Henshaw


  1. "Our Family: A Little Account of it for my Descendents", by Sarah Edwards Henshaw, Oakland, California, 1894, contributed by Donald Craig Henshaw. USIGS scan:
  2. Contribution from Tom Henshaw.
  3. Henshaw genealogical chart, author unknown; Contributed by Donald Craig Henshaw.
  4. 1850 census, Flushing, Queens County, New York; roll M432-583, page 252, line #26, dwelling #89, family #90.
  5. Mike Sainsbury's () Swails family history:
  6. Contribution from Mike Sainsbury (), citing:
    The Montreal "Gazette", Jun 11 2006; John Kalbfleisch's "Second Draft" column, revisiting historic stories from the Gazette.
  7. Posting Jun 14 2002 by Linda Clark () to NYBROOKLYN-L, citing:
    marriages from St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Brooklyn (LDS Film #017533).
  8. 1860 census, Pound Ridge P.O., Mamaroneck Township, Westchester County, New York; page 325, line #8, dwelling #2160, family #2432.
  9. 1870 census, Mamaroneck, Westchester County, New York; roll M593-1117, page 32, line #28, dwelling #9, family #9.
  10. Posting Dec 11 1999 by () to NYBROOKLYN-L.
  11. New York, Death Newspaper Extracts, 1801-1890 (Barber Collection);
  12. Green-Wood Cemetery burials:

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