Wednesday, January 14, 2015

52 Ancestors 2015: #2 Arnold Livers, Page of the Backstairs

England Coat of Arms, 1660-1689, used by James II
Image from Wikipedia Creative Commons
Arnold Livers was a devoted partisan of James II, the last Catholic King of England.  When this unfortunate monarch was dethroned through the plottings of his newphew and his son-in-law, William of Orange, Mr. Livers fled to Maryland and became the proprietor of a large estate.  So deep was his attachment to the Stuart-King, that he swore he would name his first child "James."  As the first born proved to be a girl, and the loyal father insisted upon the promised name, the priest who baptized the child latinized the appellation, and hence the singular name "Jacoba."  (Character Glimpses of Most Reverend William Henry Elder, D.D., William Henry Elder, published 1911)

The story of Arnold Livers' escape from England is told in many histories in various forms.  In one version, Arnold's daughter, Jacoba Clementina, was born in England rather than Maryland, and Arnold carried her in his arms as he fled England.

Another tradition states that Arnold took an English wife when he was quite young, perhaps as young as 15 or 16.  When he made his escape from England, he left behind his wife and their two sons.  Years later, after learning that the English wife had died, Arnold married an American woman.  This wife, Hellen Gordon, went to Flanders to retrieve Arnold's two English sons because Arnold was afraid to go himself.

I have also read reports that Arnold escaped with only the clothes on his back, and that those very clothes -- his uniform, buckles, and buttons -- have been preserved and handed down in the family.  If this part of the story is true, I'd really like to see them!

There are so many stories told about my 6th great grandfather; it is difficult to determine which are truth and which are legend.  However, the following is generally accepted as truth.

Arnold Van Leeuwers (anglicized to Livers) was born in 1669 in East Flanders, Belgium.  As a youth, Arnold was a "page of the backstairs" in the royal Stuart household.  The most important duty of the page of the backstairs was to guard access to the royal family's private rooms.  Other duties included serving meals, assisting with dressing, and looking after the bedchamber apartments.

After fleeing England, he arrived in Maryland in 1699, where he became an indentured servant working as a tailor for six years. Arnold was then naturalized in Annapolis, Maryland in 1704.  Once he had earned his freedom, he settled on the Charles River near Upper Marlborough in Prince George's County, Maryland.  Arnold also purchased land in nearby Frederick County, between present day Thurmont and Emmitsburg.

Arnold Livers had three American wives: Hellen Gordon, Mary Ann Drane, and Helena Eleanor.  I am descended from Rachael Livers, who is the daughter of Arnold and Mary Ann Drane.  Rachael, the youngest of Arnold's American children, was born in 1741, when her father was 71 years old.

On June 11, 1751, Arnold Livers died in Prince George's County, Maryland at the age of 81.


  1. Thanks for the interesting story! Arnold is my 7th great grandfather as well! I'm descended from his daughter, Jacoba C.

  2. My grandfather always told the story of two brothers coming from Ireland. They were accompanied by a girl that both brothers were in love with. When they landed in the United States the girl made her choice. The two brothers never spoke again because of this although they lived near one another. One brother kept the name Livers and the other changed it to Lyvers.

  3. Arnold Livers was also my 6th great grandfather. I am descended from his son, Anthony. There is a book about the family's genealogy and history written by Sister Mary Louise Donnelly, titled, The Arnold Livers Family in America. It has a wealth of information, including photos of a set of silver spoons that were allegedly made from the silver buttons and buckles of Arnold Livers' uniform in which he fled England.