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Revised: July 15, 1999

The Shires of Devon and Somerset

        Barnstaple is on the bay of that name off the Bristol Channel, which is the northern boundary of Devonshire and Wescote (now spelled Westacott) is two miles due East of Barnstaple. The shire may be compared in its general proportions to Otsego County, NY, both North and South, East and West, but the English county contains some 1,500 more square miles. One shire or county, Cornwall, lies between Devon and Land's End, the extreme South-west part of England. The English Channel is on the South and South-east and the shires of Somerset and Dorset are on the East and North-east.

        Near the close of the 5th century, the Saxon leader, Cerdic, with a second army from the continent, landed and carried the conquest of the Romans over the Hampshire and the Isle of Wright to the River Avon. Thus was formed, in the 6th century, Wessex, or the kingdom of West Saxony, which was probably third in chronological order of the eight kingdoms so founded.

        De Avon, or Devon, "the country of rivers," became part of Wessex. About the year 827, these kingdoms were united under Egbert and called Anglia, or England. The Anglo-Saxons continued to rule until William the Conqueror defeated them at Hastings, October 14, 1066.

        Devonshire is noted for its ancient mines, many of which have long been abandoned, also its rich deposits of marble and coal. Generally speaking, it is mountainous with fertile valleys, and about three-fourths of the land is devoted to agriculture and the raising of Devon sheep and cattle.

        There are ruins, Roman and English, in various parts of the county, among which are several abbeys and castles which have witnessed the rigors of war, being captured twice during the civil wars, once by the royalists and once by the parliamentarians.

        Like the general section in the town of Milford in Otsego County, where the Westcotts settled between 1795 and 1815, so the field of Wescote is identified in the parish of Marwood in the borough or twon of Barnstaple; West Raddon to the South is in the parish of Shobrooke, and Affeton to the North in the parish of Ilfracombe, all in Devon.

        The shire bordering Devon on the East, Somerset, from whence the Founder came to America with his family, William Arnold and his family and William Carpenter, is smaller in area than Devon and some six hundred square miles larger than Otsego. It is also noted for its diversified mines, manufacturing and sheep and cattle raising. The parish or town of Yeovil and that of Ilchester, is the immediate section of which the Westcott and Arnold families dwelled, (Carpenter coming from the adjoining county, Wiltshire), are in the South part of the county close to the border of Dorsetshire.