Rockerfeller, JD

J D Rockefeller Snr

John Davison Rockefeller Snr was an American business magnate and philanthropist. It is widely considered that he was the wealthiest American of all time, and was once the richest person in modern history (Amazon and Facebook probably outstrip him now!).

In the 1850s a new industry emerged when refiners discovered that refined petroleum (which up until that point had been bought chiefly for its supposed medicinal properties) made an ideal fuel for lamps. Rockefeller foresaw the potential of refining Pennsylvania crude oil, which would revolutionise the way people lit their homes, fuelled their vehicles and powered their industries.

Standard Oil Company Building, Lower Manhattan, New York 1956

He founded, with 2 others, the Standard Oil Company in 1863 in ClevelandOhio.  By 1899 Standard Oil controlled 90 to 95 percent of the oil refined in the United States. By 1911 this was considered a monopoly and the company was broken up, later becoming Esso, BP, Mobil and Amoco amongst others.

John Davison Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839 in Richford, New York and died on May 23rd 1937 in Florida. He was the second of six children of William Avery Rockefeller and Eliza Davison.  William  (1810- 1906) was the kind of man they called a scoundrel in the 1800s. He was a peddler, a quack, an itinerant and generally a ne’er-do-well who had several wives and many children. He spent much time away (some with a bigamous second wife) so JD had to help his mother look after the first family until aged 16, he found a job which set him on the road to success.  Surprisingly William “snake oil pedlar” Rockefeller’s  own father – Godfrey Lewis Rockefeller (1783 – 1857), was an American farmer and businessman who was an early settler in Richford, New York. His parents were William and Christina Rockefeller who were third cousins; William’s grandfather was Johann Peter Rockefeller, a miller who migrated from Rhineland, Germany to Philadelphia where he was a plantation owner and landholder in Somerville and Amwell, New Jersey. Christina’s grandfather was Johann Peter’s cousin, Diell Rockefeller, who immigrated to Germantown, Columbia, New York. In 1806 Godfrey married former schoolteacher, Lucy Avery (1786 – 1867) despite opposition from her parents. This was because  the Rockefellers were German Evangelicals and Lucy Avery’s ancestors were Puritans who had emigrated from Devon to Salem, Massachusetts, in about 1630. 

From the 12th C the name Avery can be found many times in the south west of England  and in St Stephens Church in Saltash, Devon there is a plaque placed in memory of the Avery family and their long-standing association with the area.

John D Rockefeller Snr
John D Rockefeller Snr
John D Rockefeller Snr and John D Rockefeller Jn 1915
John D Rockefeller Snr and John D Rockefeller Jn 1915

In the 17th C many Averys emmigrated to the New World and four branches developed – the Groton branch, the Dedham line, the Portsmouth line and the Ipswitch branch. Lucy’s parents descended from the Groton branch in Conneticut.  Samuel Avery (1731-1806) her grandfather, married a Sybil Noyes who was descended from William Bradford who came over on the Mayflower. William Bradford was born in the village of Austerfield, Doncaster in 1589. Despite being a long-standing member of the Separatist group and playing a huge part in their plans to sail across the Atlantic, Bradford was yet to assume any leadership role for the Pilgrims – but that was to change very quickly. Against all the odds, he overcame the terrible sickness that swept through the Mayflower during the first winter and accounted for more than half the lives of the people on board. Then, while grieving the sudden death of his wife – who passed away while the ship was anchored off Cape Cod – Bradford was chosen to lead the group after the first Governor John Carver collapsed and died less than six months after the Mayflower landed. He served as Governor for many years, gaining re-election time and time again, and played a huge part in gaining the trust of the Native Americans – which led to what became the first Thanksgiving in 1623.

So, returning to J D Rockefeller Sn. Does he descend from Huguenots?.  The answer is, sadly, apparently not! His paternal side were German evangelical protestants and his maternal side descended from English Puritans.

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