Posted by Captain Everett on May 05, 1998 at 22:23:56:
In response to Country Squires, written by Erin L on May 01, 1998 at 17:14:11
] Can anyone explain the role of a "squire" in the late 18th- early 19th centuries? My family history states that my gggg-grandfather served as a Justice of the Peace in Pennsylvania beginning in 1809,and was always referred to as "Squire Horner." What is the difference between this and the "country squire" that we read about in English literature?
F.M.L. Thompson, English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1963 -- also Toronto: U of T Press), gives one possible definition. He gives the label of squire to those with estates of 1000 to 3000 acres.
His primary focus is later in the century but his guidelines might be of use. He argues that for most of the 19C, the gentry included that group with incomes ranging from £1000 to £10,000 a year. This could be roughly equated to estates of 1000 to 10,000 acres. This obviously embraced a wide variety of types from the local village squires to figures of commanding county importance. (Thompson give rentals under £3000 in 1873 as another benchmark.)
In North America, the situation was quite different. It seems it was a fairly common custom for inhabitants of an area to bestow upon leading citizens various titles. Thus, Erin's ancestor was dubbed, "Squire." There was an incident during the War of 1812, when Major Forsyth raided Brockville, Upper Canada. He visited, and carried off a number of "Captains" and "Colonels," who later proved to have no military rank, but were merely known locally by those titles.
I remain, etc.
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