Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chapter 39 - Our Degraff Family Ancestors

The Huguenot Cross
The powerful influences of religion have played a profound role in the lives of many of our early American ancestors particularly with respect to their decisions to escape religious intolerances and persecutions in their homelands by emigrating to America.  The Pilgrims in the 1620s and the Puritans in the 1630s are perhaps the best known of our early American ancestors who came to America to find religious freedom. Another less well known group of religious freedom seekers were the French Protestants known as Huguenots, who began leaving France for other more religiously tolerant countries beginning in the late 1500s. The exact number of Huguenots who left France between the late 1500s and the mid-1700s is believed to be as high as one-half million including the many thousands who emigrated to America. One of George Washington's 3rd great grandfathers, a man named Nicolas Martiou, was a French Huguenot who arrived in Virginia in 1620.  There are at least eight U.S. Past presidents who are known to have Huguenot ancestors. Paul Rivere's father, Apollos Rivoire, was a French Huguenot who arrived in America in 1716. In Chapter 6 of this blog, we outline the lives of our early Ferree ancestors, who were French Huguenots who escaped religious persecution in France by emigrated to America via England in 1708. In Chapter 1 of this blog we tell the story of our Rappleye ancestors beginning with Joris Rapalje who arrived in America in 1624 and who is recognized by the National Huguenot Society as a French Huguenot. We have a number of other French Huguenot ancestors on our family tree including our 9th great grandfather Jean LeComte who arrived in America in 1674.  This chapter tells the story of Jean LeComte and his family and what he and the thousands of other French Huguenots had to face during this tragic period in French history. 

The progenitor of our DeGraff family in America was a man named Jean LeComte who was born we believe sometime in the late 1630s. His birth location is usually listed as Picardy, France although there is no confirmation that we could find as to its accuracy.  The first actual record that has been located lists Jean LeComte as a member of the Dutch Protestant church in Middelburg in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands and marrying Marie Laurens on 12 December 1660.  A subsequent church record dated 13 March 1661 records the baptism of their son Moses LeComte.  After that, the only other confirmed record of Jean LeComte and his wife and son is when they landed in New Amsterdam in America in October of 1674. What needs to be examined at this point is why did Jean LeComte leave his French home and move to the Dutch controlled Netherlands, and then why did he subsequently move to America. Unfortunately the most common answer is that his moves were a result of the persecution of the Huguenots by the French authorities, and while this is certainly true, it does oversimplify what actually happened.

Before the year 1500 all of Western Europe and England was Catholic. In the early 1500s however, with the dissentions of Martin Luther in Germany followed by the teachings of John Calvin in France beginning around 1630, the rise of a new form of church government began which ultimately lead to the Protestant faith and church. In 1534 King Henry VIII of England made an abrupt change by declaring himself the head of the church in England effectively throwing the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy out of England.  The Protestant Church in France later to be called the Huguenot Church grew rapidly in the early 1500s and by 1560 there were over 2,000 churches and as many as two million members which represented upwards of 10% of the French population. The largest concentrations of Huguenots were in the south and central areas of France. At first, the French government under King Francis I and later his son King Henry II welcomed the Huguenots as many of its members were wealthy nobles who played an active role in the government and its finances. This quickly changed however after the death Henry II in 1559 when clashes between the Roman Catholics and the Huguenots rapidly increased culminating with the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 that resulted in the death of thousands of Huguenots.  The French Wars of Religion between the French Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots spanned the period of 1562 through 1598. Finally in 1598 the French King Henry IV signed a document known as the Edith of Nantes which essentially restored civil rights back to the Huguenots.

These civil rights initially included political rights, military rights, and religious rights. Unfortunately by the 1620s the French government pretty much destroyed the private armies of the Huguenot nobles and gradually removed any Huguenot influences within the government. While the Huguenots still retained their rights to worship as they pleased, where they worshipped and how many churches they could build was gradually brought under the control of the government. We do not know the exact year that Jean LeComte moved out of France and into the Dutch controlled Netherlands.  We also do not know if he was moved by his parents when he was still young or he moved alone or with friends or relatives around the time he became an adult in his late teens or early twenties. Finally, despite the fact that almost all writings about LeComte state that he left France to escape religious persecution, we do not really know the real motivations behind his relocation.  Frankly, if Jean LeComte moved to the Netherland sometime between 1648, when the Protestant Dutch regained control of the Northern Providences of Netherlands from Spain, and 1660, the wholesale persecution of the French Huguenots was not taking place at least not to the extent that it did during the late 1500s before the Edith of Nantes or after 1685 when King Louis XIV revoked the Edith of Nantes and went after the Huguenots.

Here is what we believe about Jean LeComte's move to Middelburg in the Dutch controlled area of Netherlands. We have to believe that as Jean LeComte reached the age where it was necessary that he support himself,  he may have had difficulty finding a decent job.  He was after all a French Protestant living in an area in France, the northeast, where Huguenots were in the distinct minority. While he undoubtedly faced pressure to convert to Catholicism, he was a fervent Protestant and the option to relocate to better his life was a strong and probably his only real option. Middelburg in the province of Zeeland was an obvious choice to relocate.  First it was the closest Dutch Protestant area to is home in Picardy although to get there he needed to pass through the Spanish controlled Netherlands which is now mostly Belgium. Secondly, many other Huguenots from Picardy had previously settled in this area and more were being welcomed both by the political leaders and by the church.  Most importantly however, there were jobs available for young men of the Protestant faith. One of the largest employers was the Dutch East India Company that was headquartered in Middelburg. We do not know what Jean LeComte did for a living but the fact that he was able to afford to take his family to America certainly implies that he had accumulated money during the 14 year period of his marriage and life in Middelburg.  Jean LeComte most likely moved to Middelburg between 1658 and 1660.

King Louis XIV of France
Jean LeComte as it turns out got out of France at the right time.  While King Louis XIV became King of France at the age of only five in the year 1643, he did not actually begin his personal and absolute control over France until 1661 after the death of his chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin and not long after Jean LeComte had left France for the Protestant Netherlands. Persecution of the Huguenots under Louis XIV began as a mandate that all French Protestants convert to Catholicism and he even agreed to pay those who made the conversion.  When this effort had a limited effect, he continued to make it difficult for Huguenots to get jobs, he closed down their churches, and finally in 1685 he made Protestantism completely illegal.  Besides the outright murder of thousands of Huguenots, hundreds of thousands fled out of France to other European countries, the Americas, and even South Africa. As we have seen however, Jean LeComte had left France before all of these began so why did he leave for England and ultimately to America.

King Louis XIV is noted for many things besides the persecution of the French Huguenots. France during much of Louis reign was the most powerful military nation in the world. One of his actions that was to dramatically effect my 9th great grandfather, Jean LeComte, was when he ordered the French Army in 1672 to invade the Dutch Netherlands (shown on the map as the United Provinces (Dutch). This country is of course where Jean LeComte and many others had moved earlier to get away from the French. Jean LeComte with his wife Marie and his young son Moses made the decision to escape the French by fleeing to England.

As part of this same campaign, Louis XIV ordered in 1673 a portion of his troops to invade Germany including the Palatinate, home to many French Huguenots who had fled to this area and specifically the city of Mannheim in earlier years.  This is significant to this discussion as two families, Nicholas deVaux and his wife Maria Sy, and Maria's father Isaac Sy and his family escaped to England before the invading French army.  Here in England the deVaux family and the Sy family became acquainted with Jean LeComte and his family.  We have seen in writing several times when describing these families that they were all related and while obviously the Sy (sometimes written as See) family and the deVaux family are related by marriage, there is no evidence that Jean LeComte was related to any member of either family. It has also been written that Jean LeComte lived in Mannheim for a period, but here again no one has provided any evidence to support this believe nor does it make any sense.  Why would he have left one Protestant nation where he was able to freely worship, to move to another Protestant nation even further away from his original home.

Exactly how long these families remained in England before they decided to board a ship headed for New Amsterdam in America is not known.  There were many French Huguenot refugees in England at the time and they were for the most part welcomed by their new country. Unfortunately for France, a large portion of the Huguenots who left their home country were literate craftsmen and even in some cases French nobility, so France's loss of some of their country's better citizens was another country's gain. Most historical accounts report that the LeComte, de Vaux, and Sy families came to America on a fleet of ships also carrying the newly appointed English governor of New York, which was until his arrival the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam. His name was Sir Edmund Andros. The fleet of ships arrived in the New York Harbor on 22 October 1674.

New Amsterdam around 1670
Fortunately for the LeComte family who arrived in New York with few possessions and no friends or relatives to greet them at the dock as they departed their ship, there were many French Huguenots who had arrived earlier and were eager to help new arrivals.  This was particularly important since obviously there were no hotels to welcome the new visitors and empty rental homes were not available. One of the first individuals that the family may have met was a man named Claude Le Maistre who himself was a French Huguenot who had arrived in America more than 20 years earlier back in 1652. Little did Claude LeMaistre know at the time that he was destined to be the future father-in-law of young 13-year old Moses LeComte who was to marry his daughter Hester almost twenty years later.  This of course makes Claude Le Maistre my 9th great grandfather. As a total aside, one of Claude LeMaistre's sons, Johannes Delamater, also is one of my 8th great grandfathers although in his case he is an ancestor of my paternal grandfather as opposed to his sister, Hester, who is my 8th great grandmother on my paternal grandmother's side of my family. One very common occurrence in this still mostly Dutch speaking community of New York was that the spelling of names and their pronunciations were often changed to reflect the Dutch or in some cases the English language.  In the case of the LeComte family, the Dutch locals spelled the name as DeGraaf which means "the Count" in Dutch.  Claude LeMaistre's surname was changed over the course of a generation to the English name Delamater.

Like the early history of my LeComte family, the early history of Claude LeMaistre is also somewhat of a mystery. His birth year is listed as somewhere between 1611 and 1620.  There seems to be a consensus that he was born in the old province of Artois located just north of the province of Picardy in the northwest corner of France and that as a young man he moved possibly with his parents and siblings, to England around the years 1635 or 1636.  They were Protestants and like so many Protestants before and after them they were moving away from the intolerable treatment that they were receiving from the Catholic Church and the government in France. Their move may also have been motivated by the onset of the Franco-Spanish War which began in 1635.  By 1636 the Spanish forces in the Southern Netherlands were conducting raids in northern France where the LeMaistre family and many other Huguenots families lived. Claude was married in 1638 in Canterbury, England to a woman named Louise Quennell who also had come with her parents from France.  Together they had two daughters both of whom died before Claude and Louise subsequently moved to Leiden in the Netherlands around 1643. The English were applying pressure on the Huguenots to join the Church of England which undoubtedly motivated the move. A male son was born to the couple in 1646.  Unfortunately around a year later in 1647, Claude's wife Louise died.  Sometime following his wife's death, Claude moved to nearby Middelburg were he met and married his second wife Jeanne de Lannoy in 1648.  She too died after only two years of marriage in 1650.  Claude LeMaistre married my 9th great grandmother Hester DuBois on 24 April 1652 in the Walloon Church in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Shortly following their marriage Claude and his new 26-year old bride Hester boarded a ship headed for America and the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam.

Nieuw-Nederland or New Netherland was originally established by the Dutch back in the early 1600s to be a fur trading operation managed by the Dutch West India Company. The earliest settlements were actually not in the New York area but up the Hudson River in what is now the Albany region.  This began around 1613. It was not until 1626 that the first colonists actually began a settlement on what is now known as Manhattan Island and surprisingly the vast majority of these early settlers were not Dutch but Protestant Walloons from the area of the Spanish Netherlands and French Huguenots. At the very south end of the island a fort was constructed that they called Fort Amsterdam and soon after a wall was built along the northern border of this new settlement of New Amsterdam primarily to control the encroachment of the local unpredictable Indians. The location of this wall was along what today is called Wall Street. The original settlement consisted of around 30 families (including my Rapalje ancestors.)  By 1630 the community had grown to around 270 and by the time that Claude LeMaistre and his wife Hester arrived, there were almost 2000 people living in the area of New Netherlands and New Amsterdam.

Claude and Hester LeMaistre originally located in a new settlement called Flatbush (originally named Midwout and now part of Brooklyn) on Long Island where they lived from 1652 until 1662.  During this period they had four children and Claude worked as a carpenter along with operating his farm.  In 1662, they sold their home in Flatbush and moved to a new community in the northeast part of Manhattan Island known as Harlem. Here the couple had two additional children including our great grandmother Hester who was born shortly after the move in 1662. Claude DeMaistre (Delamater) apparently took an active role in his community serving three terms as a magistrate and in 1664 he and Hester joined the Reformed Dutch Church and for a short period Claude services as the Deacon of his church.

It is not really clear how Jean LeComte and his family ended up in Harlem after their ship landed in New Amsterdam in lower Manhattan Island in October of 1674. We have to suspect that since their onboard friends, Nicholas DeVaux and his family and Isaac Sy and his family all moved to Harlem, Jean and Marie LeComte may simply have followed them. It is also possible that DeVaux and Sy may have had old friends that they knew lived in Harlem. One of these friends may have been one David Demarest who while older than both Nicholas and Isaac, he did live in Mannhein, Germany (1651 to 1663) during the same time period as did Nicholas and Isaac. David Demarest also lived in Middelbury between 1642 and 1651 and while we believe that Jean LeComte did not move to Middelburg until the late 1650s, it is possible we suppose, that he did move earlier as a child with his parents and they may have known David Demarest.  Very speculative and therefore very unlikely. Most likely perhaps is that they all believed and were motivated by the opportunities to purchase good farmland in the Harlem area and it was better than in the more crowded New Amsterdam area. Fortunately for my 9th great grandfather Jean LeComte and his family, one of the local Magistrates, David Demarest as it turns out, seeing that the LeComte family had no place to live, took them into his own home until that had a chance to locate or build their own home.  On 13 December 1674 Jean LeComte and his wife joined the Harlem Dutch Reformed Church.  Unfortunately for the LeComte family, Jean LeComte died on 24 May 1675.  He was only in his late-40s and it is quite possible that the illness that killed him may have been easily cured by our modern doctors.  Marie Laurens LeComte was undoubtedly devastated by the unexpected death of her husband.  Unfortunately, although it is not unusual, history has not recorded what happened to my great grandmother after the death of her husband.  Some have recorded that she died in 1687 in Canada however, this is most unlikely.  What is likely is that she remarried and the records of the marriage and her thereafter have been lost. What has been reported if it is accurate is that David Demarest as the local magistrate, presided over the reading of Jean LeComte's will in July of 1675 and that at the court hearing Maria Laurens LeComte, my great grandmother, announced her intentions to marry a Charles Dennison.  She was concerned about her son Moses and his future upbringing. Strangely it would seem, Nicholas DeVaux and Simon Courier were appointed to "care for and educate the child."  What happened to my great grandmother thereafter is unknown.  The lag time between her husband's death and her announcement of her new marriage was less than two months which has to make one wonder if perhaps she was having an affair . . . .

Moses (LeComte) DeGraaf was only 14 years old when his father died. We know nothing about Moses' early life other than he did not live with Nicholas DeVaux or at least he did not move to Hackensack, New Jersey with DeVaux in 1678. We do know that around the age of 18 in 1679/80 he was married in Harlem to a Maria LeBlanck and sometime in 1680 their son Samuel was born. Apparently his wife died as did possibly their son, since in 1683 Moses deGraaf married the daughter of Claude DeMaistre (Delamater), Hester Delameter. We could find nothing more in the historical records about Moses' first wife and their son. Shortly following the marriage of Moses and Hester, they moved to Kingston in the newly formed County of Ulster located about 90 miles north of Harlem.  Presumably they made the voyage to their new home by traveling up the Hudson River.  Hester may have been pregnant when she made the trip or at least became pregnant shortly thereafter since their first child, a daughter, was born in July of 1685.  Over the next nineteen years they were to have eight more children including their second child and first son, Jan, my 7th great grandfather, who was baptized on 6 March 1687.  We could find very little mention about Moses DeGraaf in the historical records. We know that in the years 1685 through 1713 he and Hester are mentioned frequently in the records of the Old Dutch Church in Kingston as witnesses to the baptisms of some of their children, in one case a friend's child, and in 1713 as witness to the baptism of their grandson Moses, son of their son Jan DeGraaf. Moses through his life was undoubtedly a farmer and with his family attended the Old Dutch Church in Kingston and possibly later the Dutch Reformed Church in Marbletown in Ulster County.  We know that Moses may have lived in or near Marbletown in 1715 as he and his 2nd son Abraham are listed as privates in the Foot Company of Militia of Marbletown. Obviously the ever-present threat of Indian attacks were a part of life during this period of history, hence the requirement that all able bodied males must serve in the militia.  Despite having a large family we have to believe that the DeGraaf family lived in a small log cabin, the whole family worked hard maintaining the family farm, and most of their friends whom they socialized with primarily on Sundays were of Dutch and French descent. A very large percentage of the original inhabitants of Ulster County had migrated from other areas of New Amsterdam and were Walloons or Huguenots. Most likely the church records that listed the death of both Moses and Hester have been lost or destroyed.  We do not therefore know the years that my 8th great grandparents passed away or where they are buried.

My 7th great grandfather, Jan DeGraff was born in Kingston County in the year 1687. The spelling of his name in the historical records is interesting in that it was beginning to reflect the trend towards converting the older Dutch names into the English language or at least into the English spellings of the names.  His proper name of Jan was changed not unexpectedly to John.  DeGraff is written in multiple ways from De Graaf as it is spelled in the church records, to De Grave as it is spelled in a 1714 census record, and to De Graeff as it is written in his 1733 Will. Spelling was not a great strength of any of the recording secretaries in the early 1700s but then obviously there probably was no absolute correct spelling of the family surname especially during a time period when most people could neither read nor write.  Jan was around 19 years old when he married Marie Peacock (sometimes spelled Pekok) in 1707 or early 1708.  Together Jan and Marie were to have nine children including their fifth child, Abraham DeGraff, my 6th great grandfather, who was born in 1718.  In 1712 Jan DeGraff is recorded as having purchased land in Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County located near the Hudson River about 20 miles south of his parents' home in Ulster County. Considering that most of my ancestors when they left home moved westward to areas that were less crowded, it is a little unusual to find that Jan and his wife and their three very young children moved closer to New York City and into an area that was already developed.  In 1713 when they actually packed up and moved, Dutchess County had just become its own self-administered County whereas prior to that time, Dutchess had been governed by Ulster County. There is no evidence that this change encouraged Jan DeGraff to move although perhaps the notoriety of the change influenced his decision. In any case in a 1714 census in Dutchess County (their first census), Jan DeGraff (actually scribed as "John De Grave") is listed as living there with six members in the family. It is not clear who the six person was as their fourth child was not yet born by 1714. In 1715, Jan DeGraff is recorded as serving in the Dutchess County Militia. In 1717 there is an historical court record of Jan DeGraff (John De Grave) appearing before the local magistrate apparently for some violation that occurred while he was the owner of a local tavern that sold alcoholic beverages.  He was being fined 5 pounds for something he did wrong, perhaps not paying the proper taxes owed or not charging the required amount for the drinks he served.  The laws governing the sale of alcoholic were very strict and the taxes were high. Fortunately the Magistrate waved the very high fine because he did not think that Jan could afford the fine plus Jan DeGraff was a "great family" man.  His total assets at the time were around 11 British pounds.  Fortunately Jan DeGraf must have been a good business man for his total wealth in 1722 had risen to 30 British pounds and when he prepared his will in 1733, his net worth including the value of the land he owned was even greater.  My 7th great grandfather died in 1735 at the fairly young age of only 48 years old. His son, Abraham, my 6th great grandfather was only 17 when his father died.  My 7th great grandmother Marie remarried shortly after her husband's death but her story thereafter is lost in history.

My 7th great grandfather Abraham Degraff spent his entire life living in or near Poughkeepsie, New York.  On 17 April 1741 he married Marretjen van Wagenen whose great grandfather (my 9th great grandfather) Aert Jacobsen Van Wagenen was born in the Netherlands and emigrated to America around the mid-1600s. Aert is recognized as one of the earliest settlers in Ulster County arriving there in approximately 1661, back when it was still called Esopus.  Abraham and Maria (Marretjen) were to have nine children in total including my 6th great grandfather, Moses, who was born in Poughkeepsie in 1748.  Abraham's occupation was that of a cordwainer or in more modern terms, he was a shoemaker.  He was probably a well liked and respected individual as in 1739 he was listed as being a Deacon of the Dutch Reformed Church in Poughkeepsie.  Abraham died in the year 1775 at the age of 57.  Unfortunately history records have been unkind to women for we do not know what happened to my great grandmother Marretjen after her husband's death.

Researching my 6th great grandfather Moses Degraff proved to be a little confusing in that there were several men named Moses Degraff living in Dutchess County during the same time period. They were understandably all related and all were named after the original Moses LeComte Degraff who immigrated to America with his parents in 1674.  The two men named Moses who caused me the most confusion were actually first cousins.  My Moses Degraff (1748-1828) ancestor was the son of Abraham Degraff (1718-1775) and Marretjen Van Weganen and the grandson of Jan Degraff and Maria Pekok.  The other Moses Degraff (1742-1828) was the son of Abraham's brother, Moses Degraff (1713-1800) and his wife Annetjen Kip, and the grandson again of Jan DeGraff and Marretjen Van Weganen.  There were a few other related Moses Degraffs but these two were the ones who were most often confused.  Incidentally, Moses Degraff, my 6th great grandfather, married my great grandmother Mary Churchill around 1764 and his cousin Moses married his wife Antoinette Van Kleeck two years later in 1766. One has to wonder if they attended each others wedding. Moses and Mary were to have five children including my 5th great grandfather and their second child, Abraham, who was born in 1771.  Unfortunately Mary died when she was around 50 and shortly following her death Moses remarried in 1809 this time to a much younger woman named Elizabeth Tabler and together they had four more children.  Moses was around 60 years old when he married for the second time and we have to hand it to our great grandfather as he undoubtedly must have had a lot of stamina to father four more children after the age of sixty.  He was 80 years old when he died after a long life and nine children. Actually we do not really know much about the life of Moses Degraff.  He was born in Poughkeepsie and sometime during his life he moved to Hyde Park also in Dutchess County, New York where he died and was buried in the
Stoutenburgh Family Burying Grounds along with his second wife. Jacobus Stoutenburgh was one of the original settlers of Hyde Park and his legacy was one of wealth. The fact that our great grandfather Moses Degraff was buried in this family's cemetery speaks highly of his character, stature, and perhaps his wealth in the community.  Based on his last will and Testament it sounds like Moses was financially successful as he left two hundred dollars to each of his children which was a lot of money in 1828 plus he left an annual income to his wife for the rest of her life.  One other very important event in the life of our 6th great grandfather Moses Degraff was that he served in the Dutchess County Militia during the American Revolution.  There are actually two Moses Degraff listed in the Dutchess County Militia records.  In the 2nd Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia we find a Moses Degraff along with a another man, his brother, Simeon Degraff who were both cousins of our Moses Degraff.  Brothers Moses and Simeon were from Fishkill in Dutchess County south of Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie.  In the 6th Regiment of the Dutchess Militia we find the name of our 6th great grandfather Moses Degraff.  Whether or not he saw any action during the War we could not determine and he died in 1828 before the Revolutionary War federal pensions were distributed.

My 5th great grandfather Abraham Degraff was born in 1771 in Hyde Park (which was part of the town of Clinton until 1821) in Dutchess County and he probably spent his entire life living not far from the place where he was born.  He married my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth Tillow sometime in the mid-1790s. As with many of our ancestors living during the earlier years of our country it is not always possible to identify the names of all of the children. Census records prior to 1850 listed only the name of the head of the household and since birth certificates were not issued at this time, and church baptismal records were sometimes lost, we never know for certain the names of all of the children. Based on what records we could find including a review of the later US census records, we believe that the following is correct.  Their first child was John A. Degraff who was born sometime between 1795 to 1798. Their second child was David A. Degraff who was born in 1799. Their third child was Maria Degraff born in 1808 and their fourth child was my 4th great grandmother, Jane Degraff who was born in 1814. Based on the 1820 US Census there may have been another daughter born between the births of David and Maria who may have died young or at least before the 1830 census or she may have married young, left the family home and then been lost to history. Unfortunately, we really know very little about the life of Abraham Degraff although he was undoubtedly a hard working farmer. Abraham died in January of 1832 at the age of 60.  On January 21 of 1832, John A Degraff (Abraham's oldest son) and Jacob Degraff (Abraham's 1st cousin and who was about the same age as his cousin John) petitioned the court to appoint them the administrators of Abraham's estate. Witnessing the petition was Robert Degraff who was Abraham's younger brother. Signing the petition was Abraham's wife Elizabeth and Abraham's son David A. Degraff, and a relative named Abram Degraff whose exact relationship with the family we could not determine. The contents of his will if one did exist, we could not determine although hopefully he left his family and especially his widowed wife with some funds to live comfortably.  Jane was 18 when her father passed away. 

On 20 October 1835 my 4th great grandmother Jane Degraff married William Reynolds in Dutchess County and not long after their marriage they moved to Elmira, New York along with her brother David A. Degraff and his wife and their mother Elizabeth Tillow Degraff who would have been around 60 years old at the time of the move.  Elizabeth, my 5th great grandmother died at the age of 74 and she is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York.  The story of my Reynolds' ancestors beginning with the son of Jane Degraff and William Reynolds, David Degraff Reynolds, is told in the preceding chapter 38.

More and more as I explore the lives of my distant ancestors do I begin to understand why my DNA test results revealed that my ancestral ethnicity is 63% western European. With so many French Huguenot ancestors on both my mother's and my father's side of my family, this high percentage of western European ancestry should not have come as much of a surprise despite the fact that my Baker surname is very English.  But then it would seem that my Baker ancestors easily feel in love with French Huguenot women.  Why else did my great grandfather Baker marry a woman with the surname of Rappleye (Rapalje), or my 2nd great grandfather Baker marry a woman named Hannah Harpending, or my 4th great grandfather Baker marry a woman named Sarah Bogart. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chapter 38 - My Reynolds Ancestors

Until recently I knew almost nothing about the Reynolds' line of my family tree at least beyond my great grandmother Ella McBlain Reynolds (1863-1935), who is pictured to the left, her father David DeGroff Reynolds (1836-1899), and her grandfather William Reynolds (1805-1870).  All Reynolds family members beyond these individuals were a total mystery despite no lack of effort on my part trying to uncover their identities.  Recently however, I discovered that my 2nd cousin, Liz DuBois, herself a descendant of the Reynolds family, had done extensive research on our Reynolds line and she successfully uncovered the identities of our early Reynolds ancestors in this county.  I must openly admit that Liz's bulldog efforts in this regard prove once again that she is the superior researcher. For this we thank her, particularly since it was because of her efforts that we were able to add this chapter on our Reynolds ancestors to our Baker Family History Blog. Ella McBlain Reynolds is the mother of my paternal grandmother, Helen Spaulding Baker. Ella married my great grandfather, Henry Clinton Spaulding in Horseheads near Elmira, New York in 1886.  Here is a summary of what we have learned of our Reynolds ancestors.

The first of our known Reynolds ancestors is our 7th great grandfather Electious Reynolds who is believed to have been born around 1653 in Massachusetts although there are no birth records to substantiate his birth year and birth location nor have the names of his parents been determined.  The year of his birth was estimated based on later public records as well as his death record which lists his age as 85 in 1738.  It is possible that he actually may have been born in England and come to Massachusetts at a young age with his parents as his name does not appear in any records until he was listed as a resident of Manchester, Massachusetts in 1674 around the age of twenty-one. There were a few Reynolds families living in the Massachusetts area during this time period, however no one has been able to definitively connect any of them to our Electious.  

The fact that Electious Reynolds was impressed into the Essex County militia in December of 1675 at the onset of the King Philip's War suggests that he was probably not a landowner, probably poor, possibly unemployed, and we know that he was not married or at least there is no record of a marriage until he married Mary Pease in July of 1686. From an article in The New England Quarterly published in 1999 concerning the Essex County Militia during the King Philip's War period, they describe the typical soldier as "The worst men, poachers, thieves, and drunkards . . "  or as described in a subsequent paragraph probably more accurately, as "marginal men" meaning men that if they were killed fighting their loss would have a lesser impact on their community.  Apparently as it would seem our great grandfather fell somewhere in these categories. Fortunately for our family, Electious survived the war and the battle known as Narragansett Fort where upwards of 300 Indian women and children were known to have been massacred.  We find him next in the public records this time in Salem, Massachusetts in 1678 where he is credited as having signed an Oath of Allegiance.

For the next eight years Electious Reynolds' name appears occasionally in the public records in Salem including one document that listed him in the tax rolls. There have been no records discovered however, that show that he purchased or owned land during this period. We might therefor assume that Electious may have been just a farmhand or perhaps he may have managed his own farm on land that he leased from others. It was not until he was around thirty-three years old that he met and married Mary Pease, daughter of Robert and Sarah Pease, our 8th great grandparents.  Their wedding was recorded in Salem on 16 July 1686.  Mary was around nineteen years old at the time of their marriage. Their first child, a son James, was born on 15 Jan 1687. Sometime between October of 1689 and 1691 the Reynolds family left behind Salem and Essex County and moved around 60 miles southeast of Boston to the community of Middleborough in Plymouth County. We do not know what motivated the family to move although relocation was a common occurrence during this period and it is likely that Electious hoped that opportunities existed in Plymouth Colony that were not available elsewhere. For a farmer like Electious Reynolds such opportunities most likely consisted of less expensive and more fertile farm lands. There are some family historians who believe that Electious' father was a William Reynolds of Plymouth Colony and that Electious was actually born in or near Middleborough. If this is true although there are no documents supporting this heritage, it might help explain why Electious and Mary moved to Middleborough not long after their marriage.

It is worthwhile at this point to digress for a moment to briefly discuss the parents of our Mary Pease Reynolds for they in a small and brief moment played a role in our country's history. Our 8th great grandfather Robert Pease was only four years old when he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from England to America on the ship Francis in 1634 with his father Robert and his Uncle John. His mother Marie and his brothers and sisters followed on a later ship and the family united finally in the village of Salem. Unfortunately Robert's father died when Robert was only 15 and his mother not sure of what to do with her young son apprenticed him to a man named Thomas Root for a period of five years. During this period Robert was trained to raise sheep and weave their wool. Robert married our great grandmother Sarah (maiden name unknown) sometime around 1658 and together they had around eight children including of course our 7th great grandmother Mary Pease who was born in 1666. Robert and Sarah lived a rather quiet but typical life in Salem with Sarah raising her children, keeping their home, and managing their small family garden and Robert other than spending some time in the militia in 1675/76 during the King Philips War, operating his small business as a weaver. It was not until 1692 when all Hell broke loose in the Pease family as the result
of an accusation made against Sarah that would change their lives forever. Sarah Pease was accused of being a Witch and she was suddenly caught up in the hysteria in 1692 in what is now known as The Salem Witch Trials. Much has been written about The Salem Witch Trials and we are not going to revisit this history other than to say that clearly it was a shameful period in our country's history. Fortunately we suppose, Sarah's trial and imprisonment occurred towards the end of the hysteria when the population of Salem was beginning to see the foolishness of what was taking place and their sympathies were beginning to turn away from the victims, the accusers, to the accused. Perhaps this was why Sarah escaped death on the gallows, however she was accused of being a witch on Monday, 23 May 1692, arrested the same day, "examined" the following day, and sent to a Salem jail on Wednesday, 25 May 1692. She was not released from jail until May of 1693 after suffering a year of deplorable conditions chained by leg irons in a small, cold, and crowded jail cell that must have been particularly unbearable during the long and cold winter months. Our great grandfather, Robert Pease, as a weaver, earned relatively low wages and with some children still at home requiring support and his wife in jail whom he also had to support, it must have been very hard on the family both financially and emotionally. While both Sarah and Robert lived more than a decade following her release, their lives and their relationships with others must never again have been the same. Sarah was in her mid-70s when she finally passed away. One has to wonder that perhaps towards the end she was thankful that her life was almost over.

There is no way of knowing when Mary Pease Reynolds learned of her mother's imprisonment although the news of the witch trials in Salem must have spread rapidly through the New England Colony and Mary must have learned about her mother's predicament within a month if not within a few weeks.  Whether Mary or Mary and Electious returned to Salem to see if they could help we do not know although in mid-1692 Mary was taking care of three young children including her youngest, a three year old son named Charles, our 6th great grandfather who was born in Essex County in 1689 not long before the family moved to Middleborough. We suspect that what with family commitments and the financial cost of leaving there was no way that Mary and Electious could have returned to Salem. In November of 1692 while her mother was still in prison, Mary became pregnant with her fourth child who was born the following August.  In total, Electious and Mary were to have eight children.  Their last child whom they named Electious after his father was born in 1706.

We know very little about the lives of Electious Reynolds and his family after their move to Middlebourgh.  We can assume that his primary source of income was farming although we did find it interesting to learn of the number of land purchases and sales that he made according to public records during his later life beginning in 1703.  Between 1703 and 1731 he made at least a dozen purchases and sales of land which makes us wonder if he was a land speculator. Some of the land he purchased was occupied by his sons and according to the public records four of his sons inherited land from their father after Electious's death on 19 June 1738.  He was 85 years old when he died.  Mary's death date is unknown although there is some evidence that she was still alive in April of 1730.  Besides land records and records of the birth of a few of his children, the only other mention of Electious Reynolds was that his name appeared in a list of the founding members in 1725 of the Congregational Church in the West Precinct of Middleborough. It is written in the church records that the original founders of the church spent three days per week each helping to build the church. Electious was 72 years old when the church was built and if he helped construct the church he must have been in pretty good physical shape for a relatively old man in the early 1700s. While Electious Reynolds was clearly not an important historical figure in our country's history, we see him as a honest, hard working, and religious man who did his very best to help his family and for these reasons alone we think of him as another one of our important ancestors.

In contrast to his father, we know very little about the life of his third son, our 6th great grandfather, Charles Reynolds.  Charles was born in 1689 in Essex County shortly before his parents moved to Middleborough. In 1714 he married his wife Sarah Smith and together they bore seven children including their 6th child, a son Jacob, our 5th great grandfather, who was born in Middleborough on 8 May 1731. Charles Reynolds died in Middleborough at the age of 76 in 1765.  We did find in a publication of Massachusetts Vital Records for Middleborough County researched by Jack Mack Holbrook and published in 1992, the names and birth dates of the first five of Charles' and Sarah's children although the fact that Jacob as their 6th child was not in the list was disappointing since it would have positively confirmed that he was one of their children. With respect to the life of Charles Reynolds we learned very little. His name was included several times in some hand written records for Middleborough County beginning first in 1737 where he was included in a list of qualified jurors and then again in 1741, 1743, and in 1744 where his name is mentioned as a Surveyor of Highways.  Of all of the public offices available to male citizens of colonial New England it would seem that the position of Surveyor of Highways might have been the least desirable. The individual, Charles Reynolds in our case, was responsible for checking out the condition of the roadways in the community and when they required repair he was responsible for calling out all of the able men in the community to work on the repairs for free under the terms of the colonial law that made such compulsory labor mandatory.  As one might imagine very few of the men in the community looked favorably on a law that forced them to furnish free labor for one or more days per year, and they no doubt also did not look too favorably on the man who called them out and supervised their labor.  Whether or not our Charles Reynolds performed other public services we could not determine.  I believe however, that we can assume that he was primarily a farmer who provided well for his family and lived a long and reasonably successful and satisfactory life.    

While we could find no undisputable proof that Jacob Reynolds was the son of Charles and Sarah Reynolds most of the family trees, but not all, on show him as their child.  There are a few trees however, that show Jacob as the son of a possible brother of Charles' who was also named Jacob.  This brother Jacob (1692-1755) lived his adult life in New Bedford, Massachusetts where apparently his son Jacob was born. While we have doubts as to whether Charles had a brother named Jacob, we have little doubt despite only circumstantial evidence, that our Jacob, our 5th great grandfather, was the son of Charles and not a Jacob. For one thing, if Jacob was from New Bedford why did he post his intentions to marry his future wife  Martha Padelford in Middleborough where we know that Charles and Sarah lived but not in New Bedford?  Martha Padelford was in fact from nearby Taunton and her future husband our Jacob, as the son of Charles and Sarah Reynolds was from Middleborough. Furthermore, it is generally believed that Jacob had a younger sister named Rachel Reynolds (1732-1804).  While Rachel's birth location has not been definitely established, what is known is that Rachel married Zachariah Padelford, the brother of Jacob's wife Martha Padelford, in Taunton.  If our 5th great grandfather was born and lived in New Bedford as some have shown, it would have been odd that he and his sister would have announced their intentions to marry in Middleborough and then married spouses from nearby Taunton.  We believe that this clearly shows that Jacob Reynolds was from Middleborough and not New Bedford, and that he was obviously the son of Middleborough residents, Charles and Sarah Reynolds.


It should not come as a surprise considering how little we know about the birth of Jacob Reynolds, to learn that we also know very little about his life. What we do know is that he was born in 1731 in Middleborough, Massachusetts (Mark A on the above map), that he moved to Taunton, Massachusetts (Mark B) after his marriage in 1751 to Martha Padelford, and he later moved with his family to Killingly, Connecticut (Mark C) sometime after the birth of their 7th child in 1767, and finally Jacob died in East Killingly in 1786 at the relatively young age of 55.  The value of everything he owned at the time of his death according to his will was only a modest 105 English pounds which in American dollars equaled around $511. The inventory value of his will would have included everything that he owned including land, his home, all of the furnishings, farm animals, crops, and any cash and considering that the total value amounted to only 105 English pounds was certainly reflective of the fact that Jacob was not a wealthy man. Jacob Reynolds undoubtedly lived a quiet and somewhat  obscure life which would explain why we find so little about Jacob in the public records.  According to his will Jacob and Martha had ten surviving children at the time of his death including their youngest child, our 4th great grandfather Sullivan Reynolds who was born on 25 June 1777 and was around nine years old when his father died.  Our 5th great grandmother, Martha Padelford Reynolds remarried a man named Phineas Greene not long after Jacob's death and Sullivan may have gone to live with his mother and her new husband.  The marriage was short lived however, as Phineas died in Killingly in 1794.  One other thing worth mentioning about the Jacob Reynolds' family is to note that the family's life spanned the years of the American Revolution.  Four of the sons of Jacob and Martha are credited with serving in the war and their names each come up during a search of the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Although Jacob was only in his mid-40s at the beginning of the war and certainly many men his age either served in one of the State militias or they enlisted in the Continental army, we could find no record that he served in any capacity. That is not to say that he did not serve in his local militia for a short period although it is probably a safe assumption that he was never participated in battle. It is also possible of course that Jacob may have had a physical impairment in some capacity that would have prevented him from serving.  Our 4th great grandfather Sullivan Reynolds, born in 1777, obviously did not serve in the American Revolution.

On a website titled the "History of the Old Mill" we are informed that "Authentic records reveal that Sullivan Reynolds, in 1791 moved his family by ox cart from what was then Sidney Plains into the Unadilla Valley. He was the second white man to settle there . . . "  In a history of the Town of Guilford in Chenango County we are also informed that Sullivan Reynolds built the first store and the first mill on the Unadilla River in Chenango County in the year 1791.  The only problem with both of these histories which probably originated from the same source, is that in the year 1791 our 4th great grandfather Sullivan Reynolds was at the most only 14 years old.  We suspect that either the date is wrong or more likely Sullivan was living with his older brother Jacob who helped him with the new store and mill and our historians simply overlooked this fact.  Here is what we believe is correct.

It would seem that at some point after their father's death Sullivan went to live with his brother Jacob who was 20 years older than his younger brother and then the two of them possibly with Jacob's wife moved west to settle the land along the Unadilla River valley in south central New York State that had recently opened up to settlement following the close of the Revolutionary War.  Jacob had served three years in the Continental Army on one of the Connecticut lines and he had probably heard repeatedly from his fellow ex-soldiers about the new lands opening up in New York.  Prior to the Revolution all of the land that was roughly west of the Unadilla River and north of the Susquehanna River was by a 1768 treaty (see the above map) Indian territory but since the majority of the tribes in this region had supported the British during the war and in 1779 been chased off their lands by American troops, the tribes had no choice after the war but to accept treaties permanently removing them from their ancestral homes.  In the case of the land in what later became Chenango County, the Oneida Indians were forced to sell their land to the government under the terms of a treaty that was signed in 1785.  Settlers began to move into the area almost immediately after hearing about the treaty and the now available and inexpensive land.

While a Chenango County history story informs us that Sullivan Reynolds arrived in this new territory as early as 1791, the first mention of Sullivan in the public records that we could find did not occur until the year 1799 where his name appears in the Tax Assessment Rolls.  These records show that Sullivan did not as of 1799 own any real estate and the small amount of tax that he owed was based only on the value of his "Personal Estates" that was valued at only 42 dollars.  Jacob Reynolds on the other hand in 1799 on the Tax Assessment Rolls had real estate valued at $500 and personal property valued at $60 dollars. By 1799 Sullivan Reynolds was a full adult as he was around 22 years old in that year and the tax records certainly did not reflect that he was the owner of a store and grist mill that he built back in the year 1791. Since there is no doubt that Sullivan Reynolds owned and operated a store and a grist mill on the Unadilla River and that the mill was later operated by one of his sons after Sullivan's death, we can only assume at this point that in the early years of his life his brother Jacob was his guardian and helped his brother financially.  One interesting thing that we did not mention earlier was that in his father's will Sullivan was left 1/3 of his father's real estate.  He would not have received any money from the estate until he turned twenty-one and therefore it is conceivable that Jacob was helping out his brother until he received his inheritance.

Inheritance money or not, there is a strong suggestion based on both the 1800 and the 1810 US Census Records that Sullivan was living in his brother's home during this time period and most likely he was with Jacob earlier than 1800.  According to the census in 1800 there were two males and one female in the Jacob Reynolds' household.  One of the males was obviously Jacob; the other male was between the ages of 16 to 25 and this was most likely Sullivan who was 23 years old in 1810.  The woman in the census record was Jacob's wife Sarah.  In the 1810 US Census it would appear that not only was Sullivan still living with Jacob but so was his wife of almost ten years Margery (alternate spellings: Margey, Marchery) as well as their children.  Jacob's wife had died in 1807. We think that Sullivan Reynolds and his wife and children were probably living on land that was owned by Jacob but they were most likely living in a separate house. Jacob's home for most of his life in Chenango County was in a small hamlet that is now called White Store. Today White Store is noted primarily as the location of the White Store Church and the Evergreen Cemetery where both Jacob and Sullivan and Sullivan's wife Margaret are buried. Both the church and cemetery have been designated as a National Historic District. White Store is within the Town of Norwich in Chenango County.  Sometime after 1810 Sullivan and his family moved out of Jacob's home site and moved south around three or four miles where they probably built a home near Sullivan's now busy grist mill and store which were located about a mile north of the community of Mount Upton within what is today Rockford Mills in the Town of Guilford. The small hamlet which contained the Sullivan Reynolds home and their store and mill is today known as Rockwell's Mills named after a Chester W. Rockwell whose brother Erastus acquired Sullivan Reynold's mill on the Unadilla River sometime after Sullivan's death in 1834, reportedly purchased from the Reynolds' family as late as 1849.  It is possible that Sullivan's son also named Sullivan, continued to run the mill after his father's death however when the mill was purchased by Erastus Rockwell in 1849 it was reported to have been closed and in ruinous condition. Today nothing remains of Sullivan Reynold's original mill structure although the remains of one of his successor's buildings has been converted into a restaurant which is named the Old Mill Restaurant (See photograph above). The restaurant's website includes a link to the history of the old mill wherein it provides historical references to our Sullivan Reynolds.          

Sullivan and his wife Margery were married sometime in the year 1800 although the commonly accepted birthdate of their first child Sally Reynolds, reported to be 28 July 1800, would suggest a marriage in the year 1799. This would of course conflict with our belief that Sullivan was single and living with Jacob and his wife at the time of the 1800 US census. We could not verify Sally's actual birth date and at this point we believe it is probably incorrect at least with respect to the month. Sullivan and Margery were to have eight children in total between the years 1800 and 1821 including their 3rd child and our 3rd great grandfather William Reynolds who was born in November of 1805.  Sullivan was probably delighted that five of his children were sons whom he could put to work in the grist mill as soon as they were old enough to be useful in the mill.  The grist mill was undoubtedly very popular in the local neighborhood where the local farmers could bring their corn and wheat to the mill where large stones turned by paddle wheels in the flowing waters of the Unadilla River would grind the corn or wheat into a flour. The farmers in turn would pay the Sullivan Reynolds family either with cash or other services that probably allowed our Sullivan Reynolds family ancestors to enjoy a rather comfortable life style.  Perhaps as a result of increased competition or simply new innovations, at some point the grist mill was no longer profitable and following its later purchase by the Rockwell family, the original mill was converted and vastly enlarged into a highly successful woolen mill.  Unfortunately, even the woolen mill at some point succumbed to changing conditions and it was forced to close in 1907.  Today on the land originally settled by our great grandparents Sullivan and Margery Reynolds we have a restaurant. We hope that the Old Mill Restaurant offers great food, will continue to honor our Sullivan Reynolds family, and continue to be highly successful for many years into the future.

In the 1860 US Census records we find our 3rd great grandfather, William Reynolds, living in Elmira, New York with his family. His profession or occupation was listed in the census as a "Gentleman" and his age was listed as a relatively young 54 years old.  Since the occupation of Gentleman is probably not a paid profession, we must assume that William was unemployed at least in 1860.  In fact, a review of the other census records where we could find his name and the few other history accounts where we found him mentioned, it is unclear whether or not he ever worked in a paid position unless we count his profession as a "landlord" as mentioned in the 1850 census as an actual job. We found in Wikipedia a definition of the term Gentleman at least in modern usage as follows: ". . that a man has sufficient wealth and free time to pursue an area of interest without depending on it for his livelihood." That is, our William Reynolds had wealth, money, so there was no need for him to be employed or even manage his own business.  If this is true we are completely confused since there is no evidence that he inherited money nor is there any evidence that he earned sufficient money in his younger years so that he could retire early. Unfortunately, there are a number of years before William Reynolds moved to Elmira for which we have little information about his life.  Here however, is what we do know.

According to the 1830 US Census records it appears that neither William Reynolds nor his older brother John were living at home with their parents.  Furthermore we could not find our William Reynolds in any of the 1830 census records although the name was so common that we did find at least 29 other William Reynolds listed as living in New York State.  Unfortunately none of these men matched what we know about our William with respect to age and marital status.  What we do know about our great grandfather William Reynolds, thanks again to research by cousin Liz Dubois, is that sometime before 1835 he moved about 100 miles east of his parents' home in Chenango County to the town of Ellenville in Ulster County and from there he moved again another 40 or so miles east to Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County where he met and later married Jane DeGroff on 20 October 1835.  The only other information that we know about the life of William Reynolds in Poughkeepsie was that he and Jane had a son born there on 22 July 1836 whom they named David DeGroff Reynolds after Jane's older brother David DeGroff.  Why exactly William Reynolds moved to Poughkeepsie and exactly what he did for a living for about a decade before he moved his family to the Elmira area in Chemung County just before 1840, we do not know. In fact, despite spending a lot of wasted time on research we failed to discover exactly what William did for a living for his entire life. We did find a William Reynolds living in Poughkeepsie during the 1830s who was in the pottery business but if this William was our William, his pottery business was essentially a failure.  There was also another William Reynolds in Poughkeepsie during this time period who later became quite wealthy in the shipping business, however this William was clearly identified as the son of a James Reynolds, no relationship as far as we know to our Reynolds ancestors.  Both William and his wife Jane Degroff likely inherited some money from their fathers who died shortly before William and Jane were married, however it seems unlikely that their inheritances would have amounted to much. 

Since we find our William and Jane and one young child listed as living in the village of Veterans in Chemung County in the 1840 US Census, we know that they moved west sometime after the birth of their son David in 1836.  Incidentally, this census lists their child as a girl under 5 years old but knowing how notoriously inaccurate many of the census takers were with the records, it seems likely that the census taker looked at the small child running around the room, assumed the child was a girl, and checked the box accordingly. In fact if we were to rely on census records as our sole source of facts we would be in trouble.  For example, William's age according to multiple census takers was very much in dispute. According to the 1850 census William was born around 1810.  In the 1860 census he was born around 1806, and in the 1865 New York State census they listed him as born about 1807.  Finally in the 1870 census they got the year correctly, listing him born about 1805. There is one other census record error that as it turned out, was somewhat revealing.  In the 1850 US records we find William and his wife Jane living with their two young children in Elmira, New York along with a 72-year old woman named Elizabeth Reynolds who if we did not know better would have been William Reynolds' mother.  In reality, the woman was actually Jane's mother, Elizabeth Tillow DeGraff, who obviously had followed her daughter from Poughkeepsie to their new home in Chemung County sometime after her husband's death in 1832.  Jane's father was Abraham DeGraff (1771-1832).  During further research on Jane's side of the family we learned that Jane's older brother David DeGraff (1799-1868) had also moved to Chemung County sometime before the 1840 US Census was taken which strongly suggested to us that William and Jane and their young son David moved to Chemung County along with Jane's brother and young David's uncle David DeGraff and his wife Hannah.

In the 1850 US Census records in Elmira, Chemung County, New York, we find David DeGroff and William Reynolds living in separate homes however they are both listed as "Landlords" and in David's case he and his wife are living with sixteen other unrelated individuals all of whom are young adults and they are all undoubtedly renting rooms from David.  While William and his family live nearby, there are no renters living in their household.  William's home is valued at $600 whereas the building that David is living in is valued at $3,000.  Since both William and David are neighbors and both list themselves as landlords the suggestion is that the two brother-in-laws were partners.  We might also draw the conclusion since David's and Jane's mother was living with the Reynold's family as of 1850 that more money may have been inherited from Abraham DeGraff than we had originally assumed.  On the other hand, we find in other Elmira public records where David DeGroff is listed as a "merchant" which might suggest that his primary source of income was a business other that just being a landlord. In William's case, we did not find any records that might indicate he had other employment although he was appointed in Horseheads in Chemung County in 1844 to be the Postmaster and in 1854 also in Horseheads he was appointed as one of two Overseers of the Poor. In both cases William undoubtedly served with little or no pay.

As we have previously stated one of the most interesting aspects of the life of our 3rd great grandfather William Reynolds is what is missing. That is, there is nothing in any of the historical records about any of his businesses nor did we learn much about the source of his income.  It is also interesting that at some point he and his family moved to downtown Elmira and lived in what appeared to be a commercial district containing all types of businesses from hotels, offices including those of doctors and lawyers, shops including butchers and grocers, banks, factories, and boarding houses. In an Elmira City Directory dated 1857 we find William living with his wife and family at 39 Baldwin Street at the corner of Gray Street.  William continued to live at this address up until his death in 1872. To show what this district looked like we need only to look at the photograph above of the Rathbun Hotel located about two blocks up the street from the Reynolds' family home. Also on this same street and across from the Rathbun were the offices of coal shipping magnate, Jervis Langdon, father-in-law of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).  Clearly during the 1800s zoning laws did not exist as single family homes like where our Reynolds' family lived were located nearby commercial buildings like the six story Rathbun Hotel.

The above map shows the City of Elmira in the late 1800s.  Baldwin Street is the street immediately to the east of the Chemung Canal which runs into the Chemung River.  The Reynolds' family home was located at the intersection of Baldwin and Gray Streets (Gray appears as Gry on the map due to the fold in the paper). 

The photograph to the left was taken sometime during the period that the William Reynolds' family lived in Elmira and it provides us another view of the neighborhood in which the Williams lived.  The street that runs along the bottom of the photo from right to left is Gray Street and although it is hard to tell in the photo, Gray Street is crossing the Chemung Canal shown on the lower left side in the photo.  In the bottom right hand corner of the photo are several house one of which may be the Reynolds' home or more likely, close neighbors of the Reynolds as the first street east of the Chemung Canal and running parallel to the canal is Baldwin Street. It is worth pointing out that other members of our ancestral family from Elmira also lived on streets shown on the above map. John Sly (1767-1856) and his family lived just across the Chemung River on a street named Sly Street after my 4th great grandfather John Sly.  Nearby the Sly home in later years lived Henry Clinton Spaulding (1863-1889) and his wife Ella McBlain Reynolds (1863-1935), granddaughter of William Reynolds.  Henry Clinton Spaulding's grandfather also named Henry Clinton Spaulding (1812-1902) lived on Main Street three blocks east of Baldwin Street.  This Henry lived next door to Jervis Langton, the wealthy coal merchant and father-in-law to Samuel Clemens.  South of the Chemung River on a street just off the map was the home of my grandfather Charles Schenck Baker and my grandmother Helen Mary Spaulding and their son, my father, Charles Asbury Baker. My 3rd great grandmother Jane Degroff Reynolds outlived my grandfather William by almost sixteen years and she died at the family home on Baldwin Street at the age of 82 in the year 1896.  She lived long enough to see the birth of her great grandchild, my grandmother, Helen Mary Spaulding who was born on 24 September 1887.

My 2nd great grandfather and son of William and Jane, David Degroff Reynolds, was in his early twenties when he started his grocery business sometime around 1860 probably with financial help from his father. In the 1860 US census David, still living at his parents home, is listed as having a "Personal Estate" worth $3,500 whereas his father's personal estate is valued at only $1,000.  The $3,500 value is most likely the value of his goods for sale at the store and we have to suspect that he carried a debt against the value of the goods.  Also in 1860 David married 19-year old Ellen Livesay whose father, Joseph Livesay, was a prominent farmer in nearby Big Flats in Chemung County and whose mother, Sally Bennett, was the daughter of Comfort and Abigail Miller Bennett whose families were both early settlers in Chemung County.  Apparently David while still a young man, had quickly became a successful businessman in the area operating his store on Lake Street only one block east from his parents' Baldwin Street home. By 1863, David had teamed up to operate the store with a Albert S. Satterlee who was later to marry David's sister, Mary Jane Reynolds, and who later purchased the business from David along with his brother Elias Satterlee and they renamed the store E.B. Satterlee and Co.
David D. Reynolds' name appears frequently in Chemung County records.  His name shows up in an 1863 listing of Civil War draftees although there is no record of his ever serving in the army and it is possible that he may have found someone else to serve on his behalf. In 1864 we learn that David visited his Uncle John Reynolds up in Pultneyville, New York located on Lake Ontario just east of Rochester and there he invested $1,000 in Star Petroleum Oil and Mining Company stock being offered by his uncle. In 1866 David Reynolds was listed as an alderman in Elmira and in a biography of his life it is reported that he was also a town supervisor. Over the next decade it seems that David Reynolds became more of an investor in companies managed by others as opposed to directly managing the companies himself.  In the later part of the 1860s David moved his family to the Village of Horseheads located a few miles north of Elmira.  In 1868, he invested in a bank in Horseheads that they named Reynolds, Bennett & Company. The other investors were Schuyler Reynolds (no relation to David that we could discover), George Bennett (his wife's uncle), and Joseph Livesay (his wife's father).  We could not determine whether David was an active manager in the bank operations.  Four years later however, around 1873, David invested with a young man named Collins L. Hathaway, a former employee of the bank, in a business dealing in coal, hay, and grain.  They named the company C.L. Hathaway & Co.  In the 1880 US Census records, David D. Reynolds is listed as a "Lumber Dealer" living in Horseheads with his family.  In the 1892 New York State census he is simply listed as a "Merchant."  On the 3rd of November in 1899 David D. Reynolds died at the relatively young age of 62.  Throughout his life he obviously operated as a financially successful businessman and therefore when he finally departed he left his wife and family with financial security.  My 2nd great grandmother and David's wife, Ellen Livesay Reynolds, outlived her husband by 28 years and she was eventually buried in 1917 alongside her husband in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira.  A photograph of Ellen Livesay Reynolds, David mother, appears above.

David's and Ellen's daughter Ella McBlain Reynolds, my great grandmother was born in Elmira, New York on the 22nd day of December in 1863.  She married at the age of 22 the son of a wealthy lumber dealer in Elmira by the name of Charles Henry Spaulding (1841-1875) who was undoubtedly well known by Ella's parents.  The son was my great grandfather Henry Charles Spaulding.  A brief history of my Spaulding ancestors is told in Chapter 4 of this Blog.

Ella McBlain Reynolds and Charles Henry Spaulding had two daughters, Helen Mary and Henrietta, before Charles early death in 1889 at the young age of only 25.  Helen Mary Spaulding (1887-1937), my grandmother married my grandfather Charles Schenck Baker (1885-1952) in 1915.  One year later on 26 June 1916 my father Charles Asbury Baker was born.

And thus we end another chapter on the lives of our early ancestors.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chapter 37 - Archibald Campbell and Elizabeth Seely

My 3rd great grandparents Archibald Campbell and Elizabeth Seely were married in Southport in what is now Chemung County, New York in the year of 1806.  Their sixth child of a total of fourteen children was a daughter named Jane Taft Campbell who was born in 1819.  Jane, whose picture is to the left, married Joshua Wyckoff Rappleye. Jane and Joshua were my great, great grandparents. Their daughter Helen Rappleye married Asbury Harpending Baker and they are my great grandparents. In the photograph below we see Helen Rappleye Baker with two of her grandchildren and their mothers.  The little boy on the bottom right is yours truly, your family historian, Charles Asbury Baker Jr. The story of Jane's parents and Helen Rappleye's grandparents and their heritage is the subject of this chapter.

Archibald Campbell is one of the mystery men in our family tree as we know very little about him and most of what we do know for certain we obtained almost entirely from the U.S. Census records.  One of the problems in researching Archibald is that the surname Campbell was a very common name during this time period. Even the proper name of Archibald was fairly common and was used frequently in the numerous Campbell family lines. In a brief research of the Revolutionary War pension records we found upwards of sixty soldiers with the surname of Campbell and incredible as it would seem, we found eight soldiers with the name Archibald Campbell. Furthermore, it appears that the various Archibald Campbells were not closely related as they were scattered among five different states from Connecticut to South Carolina and none of these eight Archibald Campbell soldiers were our ancestor.  And then finally just to make research all that more difficult, in the 1810 US Census in Seneca County, New York where Archibald and Elizabeth moved after their 1806 marriage, we found nine males with the surname of Campbell including our Archibald although as far as we can tell, none of the other eight individuals was related to our 3rd great grandfather. Obviously it is going to be impossible under the circumstances to know the exact details of our great grandfather's early life, although we believe there is enough historical information available to draw a few conclusions.

In many of the family trees on and on other various genealogical websites it lists Archibald Campbell's birth date as 30 June 1770 and his birth location as either Cork County, Ireland or Argyll, Scotland. Despite a rather detailed online search, we have no idea as to the origin of this information although at this point we believe that none of it is accurate. While Archibald clearly had Scottish heritage based on his name alone, we can dismiss the Scotland birth location as wrong simply because Archibald told the 1850 US Census taker that he was born in Ireland.  We also believe that his birth location in Cork County, Ireland is wrong because had he been born almost anywhere in Ireland other than Northern Ireland, referred to then as Ulster, he would have been most likely a Catholic, which he was not. Mass migration of the Catholic Irish to America did not really begin until the middle of the 19th century whereas of the estimated 400 to 500,000 Americans with an Irish heritage living in America as of 1790, approximately two-thirds of them had emigrated from the province of Ulster.  Ulster was originally settled beginning in the early 1600s by Presbyterians most of whom had emigrated from Scotland. In Scottish history, the Clan Campbell goes back three or four thousand years and we believe that it is natural to assume that the Clan's history was all part of Archibald Campbell's heritage. One of his ancestors was probably Sir Neil Campbell who died in 1315 but not before he fought along side Robert the Bruce in the Wars for Scottish Independence.  It is also possible that this Campbell ancestor and possibly other Campbell men supported the legendary William Wallace who was later made famous by literary works of his life such as one written by Sir Walter Scott and by the movie Braveheart starring Mel Gibson. We even found a website that provided us with a detailed but improbable lineage showing that the Campbell family was descended from none other than King Arthur of the Round Table fame. Anyway, as far as Archibald's birth date, we think that we can dismiss the 30 June 1770 date.  His name appears in five different US Census records with three of them clearly showing he was born later than 1770 and one of them, the 1850 Census, shows him to be 76 years old which would place his birth year about 1774.  Also in this 1850 Census we see that his youngest child, Ann Campbell, was only 14 years old.  Archibald was 60 years old when Ann was born which is wonderful that he was still sexually active at the age of 60 particularly considering this was during the first half of the 19th century.  Had he been born four years earlier in 1770, he would have been 63 or 64 when his daughter was conceived which would be even more impressive were it were not so unlikely. But then, we are really digressing.

We know from history that very little immigration occurred from the British Isles to America during the period of the American Revolution. Unless Archibald Campbell was brought over with his parents at the age of only one or two just before the start of the War, we have to assume that he came over alone after the war perhaps sometime in the 1790s and maybe as late as 1800. We do know that in 1798 a large number of the Irish, both Catholic and Protestant, unsuccessfully rebelled against British rule in Ireland and after numerous battles and the loss of thousands of lives over the course of the three months of fighting, the Irish were soundly defeated. Their defeat sent many exiles seeking asylum in America and it is possible that our Archibald Campbell was among this group. It is also possible although less likely that Archibald Campbell arrived with his parents as a baby particularly since we find in the 1810 US Census that an older man was living in the Archibald Campbell household in Lodi in Seneca County who might very well have been Archibald's father. Had Archibald's parents immigrated to America just before the American Revolution and landed in Philadelphia which was a common landing place for Scotch-Irish immigrants from Ulster during this time period, they may have made their way to the Wyoming Valley near Wilkes-Barre, in Central Pennsylvania. We find living in this area around 1776, a number of Campbell men and their families, including a John Campbell.  The name John Campbell peaked our interest because Archibald and Elizabeth Seely Campbell named their first son John. This may be important because during this period it was very common for the early Scotch-Irish families to name their first son after the paternal grandfather.  This is all wild speculation of course, but we do know that many of the early settlers in the Wyoming Valley relocated to the southern tier of Central New York in the area of what is now Elmira in Chemung County, New York following the close of the American Revolution. While Elizabeth Seely's family did not live in Pennsylvania before the war, we do know that after the war they too settled in this Central New York community.  We will discuss this side of our family in subsequent paragraphs.  Whether Archibald Campbell immigrated to America with his parents or not and how and when he got to the Chemung County area we probably will never know.  What we do know is that sometime in the year 1806 he met and married Elizabeth Seely, daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Sayre Seeley.

There is one very unusual coincidence that took place in 1789 that must be mentioned before we move on to describe our Seeley ancestors.  In June of 1789 a man named Archibald Campbell was granted 3,000 acres of land along the Susquehanna River near the present day city of Owego, New York.  In 1790 this same man was granted another 1,200 acres in what was known as the Military Tract. Then sometime later probably after 1793, another record was made this time of the transfer of 1,000 acres to the "heirs of A. Campbell." While this last transfer of land was a little confusing, it was easy for us to assume that our Archibald Campbell had arrived in Chemung County area as early as 1789 and he was successfully purchasing large grants of land.  We were however, somewhat skeptical that this Archibald Campbell was our 3rd great grandfather as it seemed highly unlikely that a young 25-year old single man was being granted such enormous grants of land along a major body of water especially land that cost in excess of 200 dollars. Our further research proved that this man was not our Archibald.  He was a much older man born in 1736 and he lived much of his life near Albany, New York.  He was after the war the Deputy State Surveyor and he had surveyed the "Tioga" area and subsequently either purchased or was granted land in the area.  He died in 1793 which explains why some of the land was passed to his hiers. As it turns out one of his heirs was his son Archibald Campbell but after a brief rise in our heart rate, we quickly realized that his son was not our Archibald Campbell.  Who would have known that the name Archibald Campbell was such a common name.

As we have learned in other chapters in this blog, many of our ancestors on my Grandmother Baker's side of our family immigrated to the Elmira, New York area shortly after the Revolutionary War. Many of the families with names such as Hammond, Sly, Tubbs, Maxwell, Miller, Spaulding, and Wisner became prominent citizens in the Chemung County community and their surnames come up frequently when searching the early public records.  On the other hand, on my Grandfather Baker's side of our family it was only the Seeley family and Archibald Campbell, who immigrated into this area.  The Seeley Family came early however, and they came in force such that the land upon which the family first settled was to be called then as it is today, the Seeley Creek Valley.  On the above map which principally shows the location the Newtown Battlefield, the Seeley Creek appears running off the Chemung River at a point just under the island in the Chemung on the left hand side of the map.  As a point of reference Elmira is located just north of this area and the Susquehanna River to which the Chemung River is a tributary is to the east. In the very early years of the settlement, the Chemung River was called the Tioga River as it is labeled on the map below.  The area on this map where the Seeley family and many others settled is called "Chemung Town."  In the 1790 Census taken in the Chemung area there were 648 males listed over the age of 16 and a total of 2,391 total individuals including 37 members of the Seeley family. Two of the Seeley households owned slaves including our 5th great grandfather Nathaniel Seeley Sr.  Archibald Campbell's future wife, Elizabeth "Betsey" Seeley, was born in December of 1790 shortly after the census taker had visited their Seeley home and therefore she was excluded from the total count.  On this same map located north of Chemung Town is a section labeled "16 Ovid."  It was to Ovid (or specifically the town of Lodi) that Archibald Campball moved with his new wife Elizabeth sometime after their 1806 marriage to raise a family and live their lives.

The patriarch of the Seeley family, at least the part of the Seeley family that emigrated to Chemung County in 1788 or '89, was Nathaniel Seeley Sr. who was born in 1732 in New Canaan, Connecticut. When Nathaniel was in his mid-teens his parents Ebenezer and Mercy Dean Seeley, moved their entire family which included his ten brothers and sisters to Goshen in Orange County located about sixty miles north of New York City and around 16 miles west of the Hudson River. Gradually through the late 1740s through 1761 Nathaniel's brothers and sisters married including Nathaniel who was married in 1757 to Jemima Collins, granddaughter of the pirate Adam Baldridge whom we write about in Chapter 30 of this Blog. The families for the most part remained in the Orange County area at least until the close of the American Revolution and the opening up of the former Indian territories in Central New York in the late 1780s.
In 1775, six of the Seeley brothers, sons of Ebenezer and Mercy, including Nathaniel, plus two of Nathaniel's oldest sons including Nathaniel Jr, our 4th great grandfather, signed in Orange County what was called the "Revolutionary Pledge."  By signing this pledge they were agreeing "to resist and defend themselves against the oppressive acts of the English Parliament" which included taking up arms against the British if necessary. In the end, Nathaniel and his brothers, plus two of his sons, and some of his nephews joined the local militia groups in the Orange County area.  In the case of Nathaniel and his son Nathaniel Jr, we know at the very least that they enlisted in the Westchester County Militia - Fourth Regiment under the command of Col. Thaddeus Crane.  Westchester County is located immediately east of Orange County.Whether or not Nathaniel or his son saw any action during the war is unclear, although they may have been involved to some extent in the Battle of White Plains that was fought in Westchester County in October of 1776. Militia soldiers typically were called out only when needed and usually only served for short periods of time in their local area. George Washington was not a big fan of the local militias as he believed them to be undependable and their typical three month enlistments were too short to allow for proper training. For the most part all men between the ages of 16 and 60 were expected to serve or face possible penalty of fine or even imprisonment. This may in part explain why all of the Seeley men enlisted in one of the local militia regiments and why over 40,000 men in New York State alone are credited with having served during the war.

The following paragraph taken from a journal written by a Lieutenant Erkuries Beatty, one of the soldiers in the General Sullivan Campaign against the British and their Indian allies in 1779 explains in part why so many Americans after the Revolutionary War flocked to the Chemung County area in the southern tier of Central New York.  He writes:

"Monday 30th. Rained a little last night and partly all this day by Showers near half the army out today cutting corn which is in great Abundance here; the party out of our Brigade went up the River [south side of Chemung River], where the corn Chiefly grows, went up the River about 2 miles, then took up a large branch [Seeley Creek] of the River which bears near S.W. one Mile burnt 5 houses [Indian homes] and destroyed all the corn in the way. Our Brigade Destroyed about 150 Acres of the best corn that I Ever saw, some of the Stalks grew 16 feet high besides great Quantities of Beans, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Cucumbers, Squashes & Watermellons, and the Enemy looking at us from the hills but did not fire on us."

Obviously when many of the soldiers in this campaign returned home they spoke of the fertile lands along the Susquehanna and Chemung Rivers and how they had removed the Indians and made the lands available for new settlement. Shortly following the Revolutionary War the new United States government worked out treaties with the six Indian nations whose lands had been confiscated during the war.  The ensuing treaties basically paid the Indians for their lands and forced them to move elsewhere principally to reservations.  The terms of the various treaties were basically dictated to the Indian tribes who had no choice but to accept the terms with the hope that peace would follow and that they would be left alone. History has long ago shown that the Indian lands continued to be taken as white settlement moved westward across the new American states.

It was probably Nathaniel Seeley Sr., the father, who gathered his sons and son-in-laws together to urge them to consider the benefits of moving their families westward into New York State and to the Chemung River Valley.  He would have told them of the large acreages of fertile land that was being offered for sale at a fraction of the cost of the land that could be purchased in Orange County and he undoubtedly would have pointed out that the soil in this new location was much better for growing crops than the hard and rock filled soil found around their present farms. In 1788 when this conversation probably would have taken place, Nathaniel and Jemima Seeley had four married sons, three married daughters, two single sons, and many grandchildren with more on their way. He may have convinced them to move by offering to pay the cost of purchasing the land for in November of 1788 a survey of 2,553 acres of land was recorded for Nathaniel Seeley Jr, James Seeley, Adam Seeley, and two of their brother-in-laws, Abner Hatfield and Samuel Edsall. Two of the other married Seeley brothers, Samuel and Israel, for some reason delayed making a decision although they eventually moved to Chemung County and the youngest Seeley boy, Caleb, who was still living with his parents may have been too young at the time to be included in the initial purchase.  Only the oldest daughter of Nathaniel and Jemina Seeley who was living with her husband in New Jersey at the time did not eventually move with the rest of the family.

It is not clear as to the exact date that the family moved to Chemung County although if the land survey was completed in November of 1788 they may have delayed the move until the Spring of 1789. What is known for certain is that the parents and all but two of the children had relocated by 1790 since their names appear in the 1790 United States Federal Census. If we were to drive from Orange County to Chemung County today we would travel a distance of around 180 miles and it would take us about three hours.  In 1789 there were no roads and few trails and much of the trip would have been by water first down the Susquehanna River and then up the Chemung River and it could have taken as long as two or three months or more to complete.  If the family all traveled together there would have been at least 10 adults and as many as 10 to 12 children and that is assuming that no other families traveled with them. They undoubtedly carried all of their family possessions, clothes and furniture, plus their farm animals and tools and everything else including food and crop seeds that they would need to start a new life in a new community. Since there were probably no boats waiting for them when they reached the Susquehanna River after traveling around 120 miles overland from their former homes in Orange County, they would have had to construct some sort of flatboat which they then would have filled with their supplies and poled the boat down the river. Most likely some members of the family rode horses or walked along the banks of the river following the boats. When they reached the point where the Susquehanna River meets the Chemung River near present day Athens, Pennsylvania they left the Susquehanna and continued westward up the Chemung.  At this point the flatboats were going against the current and the work moving the boats became much harder and much slower. It is difficult to imagine that they could have traveled any more than one mile each day up the river following a long hard day of work.  It is truly amazing when we realize that around 2,400 individuals had already migrated to the Chemung County area within just a few years prior to the taking of the 1790 Census. We have nothing but admiration for our ancestors who took upon themselves such a hardship in the hopes of bettering their lives and the lives of their children.        

If we are correct about the Seeley family departing from Orange County in the Spring of 1789, then the family probably arrived in Chemung County sometime in mid-summer of the same year. They must have all been ecstatic when they first visited the land they had just purchased the prior fall. Their vast acerage of land was situated on both sides of a small creek that ran off the Chemung River and surrounding the creek on both sides were gently rising hills. It must have been an absolutely beautiful sight. The creek as we know was later named Seeley Creek. Much of the land had already been cleared by the Indians who had previously occupied the land for many generations. Here and there were even the remnants of small apple orchards left by the Indians. The family began almost immediately to build their small cabins knowing that soon enough the winter weather would set upon them. Unfortunately they were soon told by their neighbors who had arrived only the previous summer, that in the spring of the current year there had been a late and very severe frost that had killed most of their newly planted crops.  The Seeleys were told that they must not expect help from their neighbors with respect to their providing them with any food for the coming winter. While the Seeley family had maintained some food supplies from their long overland trip knowing that their late plantings would yield little food for the coming winter, they were still forced as were others living in the Chemung Valley area to survive on little else but beans and roots and what livestock they could spare once their supplies ran out. It was not a good start to their new life, although fortunately everything improved in the following spring. History books refer to the winter of 1789 in Chemung County as a winter of great "famine" and "as an event to be remembered with something like horror."  There is nothing in the historical records however, suggesting that any Seeley family members died during the winter of 1789.

The Seeley family name appears a number of times in the Chemung County records over the next decade although most of the records involve the transfer of the title of the land that they original purchased in 1788 plus a later purchase in 1791 of another 1,426 acres.  The land was gradually divided up among the sons and son-in-laws of Nathaniel and Jemima and in a few later records in the early 1800s land transfers were made to some of the grandsons. There are also a few records of the sale of land to other families perhaps for the purpose of raising money or in a few cases to families known to the Seeleys back in Orange County.  It is not surprising considering the huge acreage of land originally purchased by the Seeley family that the area upon which they lived became known as the Seeley Creek Valley. There are a few other interesting historical notes that are worth mentioning such as the fact that Nathaniel and Jemina Seeley are credited with building in 1792 one of the first framed houses in the area and the first framed house in the Seeley Creek Valley.  We also learn that Nathaniel Seeley Jr, my 4th great grandfather, was part of a group of men including his brother James, who helped establish in 1793 the first Masonic Lodge in the area. There is also in the history records some evidence that Nathaniel owned and operated an inn or tavern on what is now Lake Street in Elmira.  When we read this it was not hard to believe as it is known that his father operated a tavern for a period in the early 1780s while the family lived in Sussex County, New Jersey.  It is not clear however, than Nathaniel was living with his parents when they briefly lived in New Jersey.    

My 4th great grandparents, Nathaniel Seeley Jr and Elizabeth Sayre, were married in Orange County in 1785 and they had four children before Nathaniel's early and untimely death in 1796.  He was only 39 years old when he died.  The birth location and  birth year of their second child and their only son whom they named Nathaniel after the child's grandfather, is listed in most Seeley family history accounts and on as being in Chemung County in either October or November of 1788.  We mention this because if this date is correct then our comments about the family arrived in Chemung County in mid-summer of 1789 would not be accurate. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that Nathaniel's mother, Elizabeth Sayre Seeley, would have made the long trek to Chemung in the summer of 1788 while pregnant with her second child and at the same time caring for a two year daughter. Furthermore, if the family did arrive by the summer of 1788, they arrived before their land was granted to them which took place in October of 1788. But then who knows, and we should never be surprised or amazed by the stamina and determination of our early ancestors.  Our 3rd great grandmother and their third child, Elizabeth, whom they quickly nicknamed "Betsey," was born in their log home on Seeley Creek on 19 December 1790.

Not surprisingly, Elizabeth Seeley quickly remarried following Nathaniel's early death.  We know that Nathaniel died sometime in late 1796 as his will was probated in January of 1797.  We also know that Elizabeth and her new husband, Robert Starrett, married shortly following Nathaniel's death since their first child together was born in October of 1797 which meant that they probably married before the probate of Nathaniel's will. In any case, the new marriage between Robert Starrett and Elizabeth Seeley may not have gone as well as my great grandmother might have hoped as there is some evidence to suggest that Robert may have married Nathaniel Seeley's wife for her money or at least for her late husband's assets.  Nathaniel's older brother Samuel was appointed in 1805 to be the guardian of Nathaniel's four young children. Almost immediately following the appointment, Samuel started suing Robert Starrett for using the assets owned by the heirs of Nathaniel Seeley, his children, without paying for the assets.  The case made its way slowly through the court system before finally settling in August of 1807 wherein the property was declared to be seized from Robert Starrett. One of the parcels seized was the one acre parcel containing a tavern which apparently Starrett had used for free without payments to the children. Elizabeth Sayre Seeley Starrett died sometime between 1806 and 1809 after giving birth to four children with Robert Starrett.

We need to mention that the ancestry of our 4th great grandmother Elizabeth Sayre is a total mystery at least with respect to our not knowing the names of her parents.  We have spent literally hours reviewing the Sayre family trees on as well as studing the numerous Sayre family histories including the "Sayre Family: Lineage of Thomas Sayre" published in 1901 without being able to find the name of Elizabeth's parents. There is always the possibility that Elizabeth's maiden name was not Sayre although there was nothing that we could find that suggested this possibility.  One thing that we do know is that the Sayre and Seeley families were close knit families.  For example, Nathaniel Sr's sister Susannah Seeley (1730-1807) married a James Sayre (1720-1788).  Following James' death in 1788, Susannah and most of her children followed her brother Nathaniel and his wife Jemima to Chemung County. Even more interesting is that three of James and Susannah Sayre's children married spouses with the surname of Seeley and six of their nine children moved to Chemung County.  One of the children's name was even Elizabeth Sayre and she was about the same age as our 4th great grandmother, although it is pretty clear that she married a Jonas Seeley and they never moved to Chemung County.  It does seem like a real probability however, that our Elizabeth Sayre was a daughter of one of the five brothers of James Sayre although unfortunately the historical records for each of the brothers is lacking and after a lengthy search we found nothing conclusive. We guess that at this point our Elizabeth Sayre's lineage will have to remain a mystery.

Another mystery of course is when did Archibald Campbell come in contact with the daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Sayre Seeley. Archibald is believed to have been in his early 30s when he married 16-year old Elizabeth Seeley in 1806. If Elizabeth's mother died in 1806 as some believe, than Elizabeth was an orphan when she married and despite her large age difference with her new husband, arranged marriages which this probably was, were not that unusual in the early 1800s. This assumes of course that Archibald was believed to be a man capable of providing for his new and very young wife. We believe that he was more than capable at least financially. The first mention of Archibald Campbell in the history records we found in the Chemung County Historical Society's website where they informed us that Archibald Campbell along with a few other men were among the "prominent early traders" in Newtown (which is now the city of Elmira.) There are numerous documents in their files that mention our Archibald Campbell including bills, bill of ladings, business letters, and various references to "stores" all beginning as early as 5 June 1800 and ending in October of 1805. Apparently in the Chemung County area as far back as 1784 there was a site for a trading post where farmers and hunters could gather to sell or trade their products in exchange for processed goods such as maybe tools or lumber. It appears that one of Archibald Campbell's partners was a man named Stephen Tuttle who lived during that period in Athens, Pennsylvania. Apparently what was transpiring was that Archibald was buying goods from Stephen Tuttle and then hauling the goods up the Susquehanna River and then up the Chemung River for re-sale in Newtown. Their trading business may have ended around 1809 since it is known that around that time Stephen Tuttle relocated to Wilkes-Barre.  We mentioned in one of our earlier paragraphs that we believed that Archibald Campbell may have immigrated from Ireland into this country via the Port of Philadelphia. As many others had done before him, he may have left Philadelphia traveling up the Susquehanna through Wilkes-Barre to Athens where he then met Stephen Tuttle and where they setup their trading business. This probably occurred sometime in early 1800.  All of this seems to tie in with some of the Tax Assessment Records for Chemung County (which was then part of Tioga County) that we found online for the years 1800, 1801 and 1803. In the year 1800 we find Archibald Campbell listed as owning no land and having "personal estate" valued at only 12 dollars. By 1802, his personal estate had skyrocketed to a value of 4,160 dollars which undoubtedly reflected the value of the goods he had in his care for trading. In 1803, his personal estate dropped back to a more modest 1,245 dollars but here again this was probably just a reflection of the current market value of his trading goods.  In each year, Archibald Campbell is shown as owning no land. The tax assessment records for the other years of his business may have been just lost as there is no reason to believe that he ceased doing business, at least not until he moved with his new wife to Lodi in Seneca County which we believe occurred in the year 1809 or early 1810.  The location of the birth of the first child of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Seeley Campbell who was born on 24 December 1807 is shown on all of the family trees on to be in Lodi in Seneca County. We believe this to be false. Their second child, their son Robert, who was born on 3 May 1809 is also shown to have been born in Lodi and it is possible that this birth location is also incorrect. These children may both have been born in Newtown before their parents moved to Lodi.  Lodi was located on the east side of Seneca Lake about 40 miles north of Newtown. If Archibald's trading business closed down simultaneously with Stephen Tuttles relocation to Wilkes-Barre in 1809, then it is reasonable to assume that their move to Lodi would have taken place after this date.  We also know from other records that Archibald Campbell did not purchase land in Seneca County until the year 1810.  

Archibald Campbell certified as part of a lawsuit over the ownership of his land in Seneca County on which his family had lived for over 30 years, that he had purchased his land in 1810 and that he had paid 50 dollars for the land which was one of four parcels within Military Lot 75. His parcel he stated consisted of 76-2/3 acres. It is possible of course that the Campbell family moved to Seneca County by 1807 although it is more likely that they moved in 1810 after Archibald had made this great purchase of farmland at an incredibly low price. The map above shows in much too small detail all of the military tracts of 1797. The Military Lots were located in the center of New York State running from Lake Ontario on the north to almost Pennsylvania on the south. Military Lot 75 is located between the two long thin "Finger" lakes on the left hand side of the map.  Lot 75 is about 1/3 up from the bottom of Seneca Lake which is the lake on the left.  The lot runs down to the shores of the lake.

The US census records identify Archibald Campbell as a "Farmer" as he had undoubtedly abandoned his trading business once the family moved to Lodi.  Having personally spent many summers in the area of their farmland as well well as four years at college in nearby Ithaca, I can attest both to the beauty of the area as well as to the high quality of the farmland.  When General Sullivan marched his army through this area in 1779 during the Revolutionary War chasing out the Native American Indians, they encountered acres of cornfields and apple orchards that had been abandoned by the Indians. Driving north up Hwy 414 from Watkins Glen to the small village of Ovid, we find that even today the countryside is still rich farmland much the same as it was when the Indians occupied the land.  It must have come as quite a shock to Archibald Campbell when he discovered around 1818 that the title on his land might not be worth the paper that it was written on.  The State of New York had initiated a lawsuit to force the Campbell family and the three other farmers who were living on land within the boundary lines of the old Military Lot 75, to vacate the land. Apparently ownership of the 600 acre Military Lot 75 had originally been assigned to a Walter Parks, a New York soldier during the American Revolutionary War.  Walter Parks however, had died during the war therefore he never took possession of the land and he apparently left no heirs to inherit the land. Then sometime after 1791 when the land had originally been patented to Walter Parks, along came a couple of con-artist brothers by the name of Hagaman who presented a forged deed showing that they owned the land and they then proceeded to sell various parcels.  One of these buyers of these parcels, a man named Henry Skiffington, resold in 1810 what he believed was his land to our Archibald Campbell.  The State of New York in 1818 declared that they wanted the four occupants of the land evicted and the land advertised for sale. The litany of actions by the state against Archibald Campbell and the other owners to get them off the land is outlined in a publication titled "Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 5" which is available online. The report outlining everything that had taken place to get them off the land was written in 1846 so apparently Archibald Campbell had to contend with battling the state and what ultimately appeared to be the State's incompetency from the year 1818 until at least the year 1846, a total of 28 years. Unfortunately, the story is like reading a good book with no ending since we could not determine from the document exactly in the end what happened to Archibald with respect to his land.  Did the State eventually give up or did the Campbell family get evicted, or perhaps did Archibald reach a settlement so that in some way he could stay on his land. In 1846 when the report was written, Archibald was around 72 years old, Elizabeth was 56, and only five of his children were still living at home with the youngest around eleven year old.  In the 1850 Census record, four years after the 1846 report, Archibald is still listed as a farmer in Lodi which suggests that he may still have been on his farm. This is confirmed by an alternate census in Lodi titled the "Schedule of Production of Agriculture" dated 25 July 1850 wherein Archibald Campbell is shown owning 105 acres of land worth 8,000 dollars as well as owning 5 horses, 5 milk cows, 20 sheep, and other animals with a total value of 470 dollars. There is also a listing of bushels of crop including wheat, corn, rye, and oats all of which confirms that Archibald Campbell continued to operate a large farm. Archibald died in 1855 so he is not in the 1860 Census. In 1860 however, we find that 67 year-old Elizabeth was still living in Lodi with one son and three daughters. Her son is listed on the census record as a "Farmer" and so is another young man living with the family who is listed as a "Farm labor".  It would appear to this researcher that the State of New York may have given up trying to take the farm and land away from the family.  

In total, Archibald and Elizabeth Campbell were to have twelve children who lived to adulthood including our 2nd great grandmother, Jane Taft Campbell, their sixth child who was born in 1819.  Archibald it appears despite his years long battle with the State was a successful farmer who lived a long life with his wife and family. He died at the age of around 81 in the year 1855. Elizabeth outlived her husband by 14 years dying at the age of 78 in the year 1869. Jane Taft Campbell married in 1841 to a George Clark Wickham Ely. Together they had one child before George died, supposedly of typhoid fever, in the year 1646.  Jane married for a 2nd time, our 2nd great grandfather, Joshua Wyckoff Rappleye (1814-1888) who himself had lost two wives to early deaths. Jane and Joshua spent their lives in Interlaken, New York (then called Farmer) raising five children including my great grandmother Helen Ely Rappleye (1860-1944) who later married my great grandfather Asbury Harrpending Baker.  The photograph to the left is my 2nd great grandfather Joshua Wyckoff Rappleye, son-in-law to both Archibald Campbell and Elizabeth Seeley Cambell.