Select Oliver Surname Genealogy

Here are some Oliver stories and accounts over the years:

Ringan Oliver and His Border Escapades

Ringan Oliver who farmed Smailcleuchfoot in the Borders was a Covenanter, a good swordsman, and a man of enormous strength. 

At Dunkeld he encountered a Highlander as big as himself who challenged him to a fight with broadswords. Ringan accepted the challenge and drew out Andrea Ferrara, his splendid weapon.  After a desperate encounter he killed his adversary and he and his companions made their way back home to Jedforest.  His farm at Smailcleuchfoot was not far from Fernieherst mill, a house built for defense, and when Ringan got within its walls he felt safe. 

For many years he lived a quiet life, cultivating his little farm in which he took much pride. 

One unlucky day a Border baron hunting with his hounds entered old Ringan’s farm and did much damage to his crops.  To add to this, his servants treated Ringan with great insolence.  This was more than Ringan could endure and, in the heat of the moment, he loaded his gun and shot two of the hounds. 

For this action he was reported as disloyal to his King and a warrant was issued for his apprehension.  He refused to surrender and kept his besiegers at bay for some time, his only companion being a servant girl called Mary, who loaded the gun for him. During the siege she was wounded and this infuriated the old man so much that he threw open the door to attack his enemies sword in hand. 

However, he was soon overpowered by force of numbers and sent off to Edinburgh jail where he was imprisoned.  When he was released he was placed under the supervision of the authorities and was obliged to remain in Edinburgh.  He died there in 1736 and was buried among the martyrs in the churchyard of Old Greyfriars.

Thomas Oliver's Tragedy

Thomas Oliver brought his family from Bristol to New England in 1632.  A year later John Winthrop recalled the following in his journal: 

"Thomas Oliver, a right godly man and elder of the Church of Boston, had three or four of his sons, all very young, cutting down wood upon the Boston Neck.  One of them (Nathaniel), being about 15 years old, had his brains beaten out with the fall of a tree which he had felled. 

The good old father, having the news of it in as fearful a manner as might be, called his wife and went to prayer and bore it with much patience and honor."

Huguenot Olivers in America

Pierre Olivier, believed to be among the refugees from Niort in Poitou, was recorded as arriving in Charleston, South Carolina from England on the Richmond in early 1680.  Peter and John Olivier were naturalized there a year later. 

Although John died in 1721 and Peter in 1732, they obviously had issue.  The marriage of Peter Oliver and Margaret Duval took place in 1729.  They had five children, three sons and two daughters.  Peter was a butcher.

Olivers in Antigua

The south transept of St. John’s Cathedral in Antigua contains a panel with the following inscription: 

“Sacred to the memory of Richard Oliver Esq. planter, speaker of the House of Assembly 1704, member of HM Council 1708, and colonel of militia 1715, he was baptized at St. Nicholas in Bristol on August 14th 1664 and was here buried on May 29th 1716 

Also of Richard Oliver Esq, his grandson, an alderman and MP for the City of London and strenuous supporter of the constitutional rights of the American colonies, he was baptized in this parish on January 7th 1734-5 and died at sea off Nevis on April 16th 1784 

This panel is dedicated by Vere Langford Oliver in commemoration of his ancestors and kinfolk who lie buried in the churchyard or in their plantation, 1919."

Richard Oliver of Polperro

Richard Oliver, born in 1772, was the owner and master of a smuggling vessel called the Lottery when a Custom House officer was murdered in 1798 while trying to board her off Cawsand near Plymouth.  So incensed were the authorities by this outrage that the hunt for the Lottery and its crew continued for months. 

Several Lottery crewmen were captured and stood trial at the Old Bailey. One of them, Tom Potter, was convicted of the murder and executed after another member of the crew testified against him. 

But Richard Oliver remained at large.  A notice published by the Customs Commissioners in 1799 described him as having: "a dark complexion, long face, light brown curled short hair, about 6 foot high, rather thin, but very boney and walks very upright." 

Ironically, two of Richard's sons joined the new Coastguard service formed in 1822 to stop the smuggling trade that had been rampant with their father during the Napoleonic Wars.

Charles Silver Oliver at Castle Oliver

In 1798 Charles Silver Oliver took control of the Castle Oliver and its 20,000 acre estate.  The same year Charles Silver hung, drew and quartered a popular local united Irish man Patrick ‘Staker’ Wallis and placed his head on a spike on the top of Kilfinane market hall. 

He had at least four illegitimate children by his mistress at Castle Oliver.  The youngest of these children was Eliza Oliver, mother of Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert known as Lola Montez “the Spanish dancer,” who was born in 1818.  Lola was the mistress of King Ludwig 1 of Bavaria.  She subsequently departed for America and died of pneumonia, aged 42, in  Brooklyn.

James Oliver in South Bend

James Oliver was a great benefactor to the town South Bend in Indiana and built for them a magnificent hotel, the Oliver Hotel, which opened in December 1899. 

At the opening ceremony in early 1900, the inhabitants of South Bend presented him with a gold loving cup on which was inscribed the word Copshawholm.  Copshawholm was the name of the small town in Liddesdale where James Oliver was born.  James’s father had been a shepherd there, as still was his younger brother George.

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