Born into a family connected with the Revolutionary War, Catharine Jekyll Hicks married men of great historical interest. Eventually, she wound up in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. How did this come about?
She married three times, the first of which was to Stephen Ceronio. Stephen Ceronio was directed in his Revolutionary War secret agent activity by Robert Morris and Benjamin Franklin.
Stephen Ceronio and Robert Morris were well acquainted. Notice their proximity in the Philadelphia City Directories:
1785: Willing, Morris, and Swanwick 11 Penn St. Merchants
1791: Ceronio, Stephen Merchant 1 Penn St.
The Marriage and Demise of Stephen Ceronio
The wedding of Stephen and Catharine is listed in records as,
Marriage: 12 May 1784 in Swedes’ Church (Gloria Dei) by Mathias Hultgreen
Catharine was well aware of Stephen’s political intrigue when she married him. Sadly, their marriage was not to last due to the smallest of causes – a mosquito. Perhaps migrating from the very islands he had once visited, he died of Yellow Fever in the late summer or early fall of 1793, as reported by Mathew Carey.
This report is supported by later Philadelphia City Directories,
1793: Cer[o]nio Stephen, merchant, 5 No. 6th St.
1799: None listed
Note that data for the 1793 city directory was likely gathered in 1792.
I record in my family tree notes: “Stephen was supposed to go to the East Indies, but only his sons are mentioned there.”
Next Husband, Jacques Servel
Not too much is known and little is deduced about Catharine’s second husband, Jacques Servel. But what I have, I include here.
Catharine Jekyll Hicks Ceronio married Jacques Servel on 09 March 1794, perhaps a half a year after the death of Stephen. The church was the same. I do not know the minister. Who was this Jacques Servel? Apparently he was the son of Jacques and Marguerite Hostachy Servel, of France.
Jacques seems to have been born sometime between 1731 and 1740, likely close to the latter. My family tree notes read that he was ship’s physician aboard a French frigate docked in Philadelphia.. If the identity of this Jacques Servel is correct, he died 24 February 1806 and was buried back in Manche, France.
The point is, he died a mere 13 years after Catharine’s first husband. The event that took place next requires the largest leap of faith the reader will be asked to make. For you see, Catharine sailed with her son, James Montague Delair Ceronio, to the East Indies. The earliest evidence I have of James’ sailing was in Australia in 1805. In that year, he sailed aboard the Criterion.
Here comes the speculation, despite its being almost certain.
Likely, when Captain James Montague Delair Ceronio left for perhaps his second trip to the East Indies, he brought his widowed mother with him. James would have been in his early 20s. If James did not transport his mother, then she must have followed him aboard another ship. James’ brother Edward at some point moved to India, as well. Their brother William seems to be lost in the cracks; his outcome is not known.
Catharine’s Third Husband and West Bengal, India
Born circa 1767, the man Benjamin Browne is rather obscure. He married Catharine 16 July 1807 in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. The minister performing the ceremony was Paul Limrich. Tragically, the couple were married a mere 2 months and 2 days; Benjamin died 18 September 1807; he was buried in Calcutta. True to form, Benjamin had been a marine pensioner. He may formerly have lived in England. Just under a year later, Catherine herself deceased and was buried on 18 August 1808.
Sleep in Peace
Catherine Jekyll Hicks Ceronio Servel Browne was interred at the South Park Cemetery, Calcutta, West Bengal, India.
Although her epitaph suggests otherwise, Catharine was actually born 21 March 1763 in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Her epitaph reads:
Here lies the Remains of
Mrs. Catherine Jeykell Browne,
who departed this life,
on the 8th day of August, 1808.
Aged 38 Years.
She was an excellent Wife, and a most affectionate Mother.
Note: Catharine is mentioned on page 88 of M. Derozario’s 1815 book entitled (in part) “The Complete Monumental Registry…” You can download a copy.