Adventure comes in many forms

This week in #52ancestors the theme is Adventure and I decided to write about the farthest flung family on my tree: the Negus family.  The Negus line hangs off the Van Syckel line in Hunterdon County, New Jersey as one of Aaron Van Syckel’s grandchildren (by Daniel (1790-1861)) Isabella Van Syckel married James Engle Negus of Philadelphia.

Negus_James_Engle_theft_Arkansas_Washington_Telegraph_Wed__Jun_21__1854_James Engle Negus (1809-1884) starts out in Philadelphia where he is a wealthy merchant and chief weight clerk at the U. S. Mint in Philadelphia. However, in June of 1854, Negus is exposed for short weighting gold at the Mint. He made immediate restitution (for tens of thousands of dollars, if the newspapers are to be believed) and flees with his family to England. He later returns to the US and settles with his mother Susan, his wife Isabella and daughter Susan Engle in Somerset County, New Jersey where he owned a great deal of farmland. This may explain why I cannot find the family in the 1860 Census, and then find them in Franklin township, Somerset, NJ in 1870. James apparently saw the error of his ways, as he becomes a successful gentleman farmer in Franklin. His mother dies there, as do Isabella and Susan.

James Engle Negus and Isabella Van Syckel Negus have four children: Robert Patterson Negus (1838-1884), Susan Engle Negus (1840-1915), James Engle Negus (1842-1903) and William Shippen Negus (1844-1914).  William S. Negus appears to have been in finance. James E. Negus served with distinction in the Civil War and settled in Greenville, Mississippi where he was a banker. Susan Engle Negus never married but was active in many women’s organizations including the DAR. Robert Patterson Negus is the traveler and the one who caught my eye when the topic of adventure came up.

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A group of Masons in front of the Oxford Hotel, Sydney, Australia. Robert P. Negus is in front with his right hand over his heart.

Robert Patterson Negus (1838-1884) was born and raised in Philadelphia. I have seen mention of his education in Europe as an engineer. He may have gotten the travel bug as the family flitted about England and Wales. He was in New Zealand in 1863 when he married Mary Ann Hargrave (1838-1881), daughter of Captain William Hargrave of Sandridge. They had seven children:

  • Mary Ann Isabella Negus (1864-1950) married David James Bardwell Smith
  • Susan Engle Emiline Negus (1866)
  • Charlotte Ernestine Negus (1868-1949) married Edward V. French
  • William James Hargrave Negus (1871) 
  • Selinda Parry Negus (1872-1959) married twice
  • Horatio Van Syckel Negus (1874-1966)
  • Virginia Louise Negus (1876-1956)

However, neither Robert nor Mary Ann Negus would live to see their 45th birthday. Mary Ann died in 1881 and Robert died 2 October 1884. This tragedy meant that four of the seven children needed a new home. Mary Ann Isabella Negus, while the eldest, could not take on the raising of her siblings. She married shortly after her father’s death, and was possibly courting David Smith when all this was going on. Courtship of a young woman is one thing, taking on a ready made family quite another. In any case, the four younger siblings are sent back to America to live with their grandmother Isabella VS Negus and aunt Susan Engle Negus.

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Interesting side note: the guardianship proceedings distinguish between Charlotte who is over 14 and the three children under 14. Each is noted as having about $500 to their name. James Engle Negus seems to have helped manage some of these proceedings but by my reckoning he is settled in Mississippi at this time with a wife and three children. However, William Shippen Negus appears to have settled in Bound Brook and so he may also have been involved in retrieving the children. Possibly their adventure was travelling by steamer across the world without an adult!

This line represents a fascinating side trip and I want to thank cousin Melanie Ealey for bringing it to my attention. Her email to me was exactly what I was hoping would happen when I started this blog!