Our subject of interest here, William Longmire, was not always a hat thief. As it stands we can only say he was once a hat thief, and boy did he pay a price for that. So, who was this young fellow, styled a laborer in the London court records, at the time of this transgression? And where did he learn to write so well? From the scant records available it appears that our William was baptized February 4, 1704/5 at the Parish of St Andrew Holborn, London. His older brother, George, was baptized July 19, 1702 and a sister, Anne, baptized February 14, 1705/6 – both at the same Parish. His parents were George and Anne Longmire of Leather Lane, Parish of St Andrew Holborn. Other than that a search of London records and correspondence with other researchers shows a dearth of info regarding William and his family. It is believed by this writer that his father, George, died in 1708 and that his mother, Anne, then possibly residing at another address close to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the same fields William traversed with his ill-gotten hat, died in 1718. Sister Anne appears to have died at an early age and her brother, George, may have been the same who died in London in 1737. And simply put, that’s about it for any other London based assertions – for now.
Over the years vague notions of other related Longmires in London have surfaced but have fallen by the wayside of proof. There appears to have been a grocer by name of William Longmire who died in 1660 and later there were a couple of documented persons named Longmire and/or Langmore with no discernable connection. A famous travelling preacher by name of William Longmire visited London in 1728 and was known to correspond for many years with persons there whilst travelling the English countryside. Whispers of Longmire ties to the Lake District have always intrigued me and some interesting avenues of research point to a very real chance that our William was related to the Longmires of that vaunted land of poets, authors, and the like. But I digress, as is often the case with so many extraneous things to ponder and write about when it comes to my ancestor …
So, getting back to what is provable and can be found in the records lets start with the trial of William and how he allegedly not only snatched a hat from Thomas Warren, a fellow who may have had a checkered past himself some years later, but endeavored to take his wig too. And if you’re wondering, no, I am not proud of this small stain on our family legacy. I assure you though that William will make up for it later – bigtime. Anyways, to make a long story shorter, William was caught as he tried to run up Leather Lane by a couple of fellows his same age who, believe it or not, were baptized at the same church as was our William. And because you, gentle readers, are so well versed in the internet way of things you can simply type Olde Bailey Proceedings in your browser and find William’s case quite easily with the search button. Suffice to say that William was found guilty and sentenced to death. And while awaiting the “dead warrant”, a proclamation given out by the keeper of Newgate just prior to one’s imminent fate, our convicted hat thief wrote a most poignant letter. Whatever he wrote must have done the trick for his sentence was reprieved shortly thereafter. You can read the letter for yourself here. Not long after that however, William’s fate was not so easy on him as he then was taken to ship’s gaol in November to begin a long winter beneath the decks – a subject I will revisit later.