Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Chapter 9 - The Harpending/Baker Family

The Dundee Family Connection

A six mile drive from our cottage on Seneca Lake is the historic old Village of Dundee, New York. Dundee is by no means a beautifully restored village like so many towns in New England. For the most part, it has not been restored and it has not changed much in the past 100 years. Fortunately the village although showing some wear for its age, has retained its character and its charm. The main street consists of a half block of two and three story commercial buildings plus a gas station, a drug store, a library, a funeral parlor complete with an outdoor display of head stones, a bank, a supermarket, two churches, the area school, and a number of partially restored Victorian homes.

There is only one signal light in Dundee located at the intersection of Main Street and Seneca Street. Traveling east down Seneca Street we pass a liquor store and a Laundromat on the right. On the left, we pass the Dollar General store, the old Baptist Church, the Dundee Area Historical Society (in an old school building), the Starkey Town Hall (in an old church building complete with an old cemetery in the rear), and again, many mostly old Victorian homes in need of restoration.

Dundee is located approximately midway between two of New York State’s Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake to the east and Keuka Lake to the west. Between the lakes and surrounding Dundee are beautiful rolling farmlands, and acres of magnificent vineyards. The land is rural and unspoiled except for the occasional farmhouse and barn, and many cornfields and cow pastures. Not withstanding the beauty of the area and the excellent climate and soil conditions necessary to support farming, it is not immediately clear why the Town of Dundee developed where it did. There was no railroad passing through the area nor was the town located in the center of a bustling farming community, at least not in the early 1800s. What did happen is that in 1807, Isaac Stark constructed a sawmill on Big Stream Creek located just south of the future village. The sawmill was conveniently located at the midpoint between the Town of Watkins at the south end of Seneca Lake and the Town of Penn Yan at the north end of Keuka Lake and the fast moving stream and the abundance of trees in the area made this location ideal. Five generations of my family lived and are buried in the Village of Dundee.

Gerrit Hargerinck, my great (x9) grandfather, was the first member of the Harpending family to immigrate to America. He sailed from Amsterdam in the Netherlands with his two sons ages 9 and 15 on the ship “Hope” and after eight weeks at sea they finally landed in New Amsterdam (New York) in June of 1662. There is little available information about Gerrit and his two sons, one of whom was Johannes Hargerinck (1642-1722), other than they both resided in New York City for their entire lives. We have been able to learn more about Johannes’s son, John Harpending, my great (x7) grandfather. John was a large landowner in New York and a pioneer tanner and shoemaker and we know that he donated in 1723 a large section of land in south Manhattan to the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, that they still own today. As a result of the valuable location of the land, a substantial annual rental income is still earned every year by the Collegiate Corporation. We have also learned that in March of 1716 John married Leah Cossart. Her grandfather, Jacques Cossart, arrived in New Amsterdam in October of 1662 shortly following Gerrit Hargerink’s June arrival in the same year.

Hendrick Harpending, son of John and Leah and my great (x6) grandfather, was born around 1720 probably in New York although he may have been born in Sommerset County, New Jersey where his parents had moved sometime after 1719. Hendrick married Mary Coons (of German ancestry) on January 12, 1742 in Bound Brook, New Jersey. We know that Hendrick continued with his father’s trade of tanner and shoemaker and we also know that his home in Bound Brook was later turned into a tavern that was owned and operated by his son, Peter Harpending. A New Jersey historical marker is erected on the site of the tavern. Hendrick died in 1793. Peter Harpending, my great (x5) grandfather, was born in Sommerset County, New Jersey in 1754 (his gravestone incorrectly, I believe, lists his birthdate as 1744. In the 1830 US Census Peter was listed as being between 70 and 80 years old which means he could not have been 96 in 1840 when he died as indicated on his gravestone. Furthermore, the age of his children, the age of his wife, and his age when he fought in the Revolution all tend to indicate that he was born around 1854 rather than in 1844.) History records that Peter Harpending fought in the Battle of Monmouth during the American Revolutionary War. His gravestone in the Harpending Cemetery on Seneca Street in Dundee, informs us that Peter fought as a Corporal in the 1st Regiment of the New Jersey Militia.

When I first learned that Peter Harpending had fought at the Battle of Monmouth I was not particularly impressed. I was proud of course, to be related to another Revolutionary War veteran, but I assumed that the Battle of Monmouth was just another skirmish in a war of many skirmishes. After a little research however, I learned that was not the case. The Battle of Monmouth was fought on land that is now part of Freehold, New Jersey, and was an engagement between 13,000 American troops (2,000 of which were New Jersey militia) under the command of General George Washington, and 10,000 highly trained British Regulars. It was the first direct confrontation of the war where American forces faced off with the British, and as it turned out, it proved to be the largest single day battle fought in the American Revolution. The day long battle was fought on Sunday, June 6, 1778 in 100 degree temperatures. Thirty-seven Americans were recorded that day as dying of heat stroke on the battlefield including the husband of the legendary “Molly Pitcher.” I remember reading as a child of the heroics of Molly (Pitcher) Hayes who as a camp follower and wife of a gunner in the 1st Pennsylvania Artillery, delivered water in a pitcher to the gunners during the long and hot afternoon battle. When her husband collapsed she joined his gun crew and fought bravely alongside the men. Not only were her heroics recognized by General Washington on the day of the battle, her heroics have ever since made her one of the legendary figures of the American Revolution. It is unlikely that Peter Harpending ever met Molly Pitcher, but he did fight under the same conditions and he was part of the American troops that proved for the first time that they could successfully battle the British on their open terms. While the battle proved to be a draw it no doubt instilled the British with a new respect for their enemy. Corporal Peter Harpending was only 24 years old when he fought at Monmouth. Peter married Anna Compton sometime in the early 1770s. Together they gave birth to five children, three of whom died in infancy. Samuel Harpending, our great (x4) grandfather was born in 1778. His mother, Anna, died in February 1780, shortly following the birth of Samuel’s younger brother, Peter, Jr.

Samuel Harpending’s arrival to Dundee in 1811 was described by his great grandson, Asbury Baker, in his book “Memories” as follows: My great grandfather arrived to Dundee “accompanied by his wife, who rode on top of the load of furniture, which was piled onto a hay rigging and drawn by oxen. Uncle Sam, as he was called, walking by the side of the oxen and driving them.” It must have been quite a sight. There upon arrival, the family constructed a log home on the banks of Big Stream joining the other five or six families living in the area. Samuel’s original trade was that of a hatter. The hats he made from furs purchased from local Indians or from animals that he had hunted along Big Stream. Samuel’s mother had died when Samuel was only two and his father unable to care for his two young sons had sent Samuel and his brother off to live with his grandfather. His grandfather bound Samuel to a hatter in Germantown, NJ to learn the trade. When Samuel completed his indentureship in 1795, he returned home, and later married Hannah Cozad on December 6, 1806 in Sommerset County, NJ. Together in the spring of 1807 they moved to Genoa, NY located just west of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes. Four years later they relocated to Dundee. Sometime during the mid 1820s, Samuel opened a tavern in the rapidly growing settlement then know as “Harpending’s Corners” (the name was changed to Dundee in 1834). The town now consisted of “about thirty buildings scattered along four principal streets. It had a dreary and desolate appearance with rough and uneven streets filed with piles of lumber, shingles and staves and profusely decorated with stumps.” When it rained the streets and walks were mostly mud. Notwithstanding the town’s appearance, business at the tavern must have been successful thereby allowing Samuel the financial capital necessary to expand his business. In 1830, he constructed the Harpending House, Dundee’s first hotel. It was located at the intersection of Waters and Seneca Streets. Uncle Sam by this point was a leading figure in Dundee and financially well-off. He was described in the “History of Yates County, NY” published in 1892 as follows:

“The original proprietor, “Uncle Sam”, as he was familiarly called, was a character in his way. Large and burly of figure, the ideal of a country landlord, clear headed and shrewd in business affairs, kind and generous of heart withal, through tempestuous of temper.”

It was also reported that he loved to argue and he loved to hunt and fish.

Samuel Harpending was a generous man. In 1832, he donated the land and a large sum of money towards the construction of the Baptist Church on Dundee’s Seneca Street. Again in 1833 he donated land and money toward the construction of the “Free Church” (later to be sold to the Catholic Church) on Main Street in Dundee. Also in 1833 he donated land and money for the construction of the Methodist Church on Main Street in Dundee. Samuel was also to serve as Dundee’s first postmaster and he continued to own and managed the financially successful Harpending House (Hotel). He also was during his lifetime, one of the largest landowners in Dundee. It is no wonder that there is a large portrait of Samuel Harpending hanging on the wall in the Dundee Area Historical Society. The history of Dundee and the history of Samuel Harpending are intertwined.

Together my great (x4) grandmother Hannah Cozad (of English descent) and my great (x4) grandfather, Samuel Harpending, bore eight children, including my great (x3) grandfather, Asbury Harpending who was born on April 1, 1814. Samuel died in 1852 and Hannah died in 1880 at the age of 90. They are both buried in the Harpending family cemetery behind the Starkey Town Hall on Seneca Street in Dundee.

Asbury Harpending, nicknamed “Berry” by his father, was the oldest son of Samuel and Hannah. It is said that as a young man he spent many hours with his father hunting and fishing in the woods and streams around Dundee. His grandson, Asbury Baker in his book “ Memories” noted that “He [Asbury Harpending] was looked upon by his brothers and others as the most courageous and self reliant member of the family. His independence of character often led to unpleasant contact with his father. Apparently, like his father Samuel, he enjoyed a good debate. On January 22, 1840, Asbury married Mary Sayre, reported to be the “handsomest girl in Yates County.” Together they had three children, Hannah Elizabeth, my great, great grandmother, and two twin boys, Henry and William. Asbury was fairly prosperous during his short life. He owned and operated in Dundee a livery stable and a farm. In 1853 at the age of only 39, he died suddenly from a heart attack. It was thought to have been the result of over-exertion in a fight over a game of cards. Apparently, his hot temper inherited from his father, in the end, got the best of him. Asbury’s wife Mary outlived him by 24 years. They are buried side by side in the Harpending Family Cemetery.

By the time that Hannah Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Harpending was born on September 19, 1842, the small Village of Dundee had grown considerable from the time of her grandparents arrival in 1811. The population was approaching 1,000 and there were more than ten businesses operating on Main and Union Streets. There were mercantile businesses selling food, clothes, and other household supplies, drugstores, a store selling animal feed and farming supplies, a blacksmith shop, a hardware store, and a store that sold carriages and other livery supplies. There were now two hotels in town, a post office, and a regular stagecoach service. In the year following Lizzie’s birth, Dundee published its first newspaper, the Dundee Record. It was true that the streets were still not paved in 1842 and farm animals occasionally ran wild on the streets. Nevertheless, growth was continuous and new homes and businesses were being added each year. In 1848, the Village of Dundee voted to incorporate and by 1850 the village board finally directed that all sidewalks must be built of plank, brick, or flat stone. Gravel was no longer acceptable and the gravel roads were being replaced with wooden planks. It was the time of great change and the community was full of optimism.

Lizzie’s future husband, Charles Schenck Baker (my great, great grandfather) was born in Burdette, NY on December 27, 1836. Burdette was a small farming community located about five miles north of the Village of Watkins on the east side of Seneca Lake. His father, Elijah Baker, my great (x3) grandfather, ran a general mercantile business in Burdette where Charles worked when he was not attending school. At the young age of fifteen, Charles went to Elmira, New York to commence the study of law by apprenticing at a local law office. He was admitted to the practice of law at the age of twenty-one. According to Asbury Baker’s book “Memories”, Charles, his father, was approached in 1856 by some of the citizens of Dundee and they encouraged him to open a law practice in the village. He accepted their invitation and moved to Dundee in early 1857. He was just twenty-one years old. Shortly after arriving in Dundee he began courting the beautiful young Lizzie Harpending. She was one of the most popular girls in town and her family were prominent and prosperous citizens of Dundee. Notwithstanding his status as a newcomer, he finally beat out her other suitors and they were married in Dundee on December 27, 1859. It was his 23rd birthday. Lizzie was just 17.

After their marriage, Charles and Lizzie moved in with the family in a house on Seneca Street directly across the street from the Baptist Church and ten months later their son Asbury was born on October 23, 1860. Between 1859 and 1861, Dundee went through a series of disastrous fires that destroyed large portions of the commercial and residential buildings in the town. The first fire in 1859 destroyed most of the commercial buildings on the east side of Main Street between Hollister and Seneca Streets. The second fire in November of 1860 started on the west side of Main Street and ran north up to the intersection at Union Street. The “Big Fire” commenced around 1:00 AM on Saturday morning, March 1, 1861. A gale was blowing at the time and the fire spread quickly in every direction. Soon more than forty buildings were simultaneous burning including the Harpending House at the intersection of Main and Seneca, and the family home of Charles, Lizzie, and their newborn son, Asbury. There was no time to waste to make their escape. Asbury was carried away from the burning house while still in his crib. The crib blankets actually caught fire during the escape and had to be slapped out as the family rushed from their home. It was dark and cold, but fortunately they were incredibly lucky and all of the family escaped with their lives. The town survived the fires and was quickly rebuilt. The Harpending family however, moved out of Dundee to a farm house on the state road, two and one-half miles south of Dundee. There they remained until 1867.

In 1867, Elijah Baker, Charles’ father, and George Baker, Charles’ brother, urged Charles and his family to join them in New York City where the two of them were engaged in a produce business. The family moved and Charles joined a law firm in New York. Financially things went well as his law business prospered, however during their stay in New York, Charles loaned a lot of money to his father and brother. Unfortunately, their produce business was unsuccessful and the loans could not be repaid. In 1869, Charles and his family returned to Dundee.

From 1869 until 1884, Charles continued to practice law in Dundee. In 1872, Charles led a group of citizens intent on encouraging the railroad to build a track through Dundee. They were successful and by 1878 the Fall Brook Railroad was completed and Dundee had railroad service. Charles was to be the attorney for the Syracuse, Geneva and Corning Railroad for the remainder of his life. In 1884, Charles and his wife moved to Penn Yan where he continued to practice law. At the time of his death in 1891, he was serving in his second term as the District Attorney for Yates County.

On March 27, 1891, Charles died of pneumonia at his home in Penn Yan. Less than 40 hours earlier, Hannah Elizabeth, his wife, also died of this same dreaded disease in the room next to his. They were both transported in a special train car donated by the Syracuse, Geneva and Corning Railroad from the station in Penn Yan to Dundee, where they were buried together in the Harpending Family Cemetery. Five hundred mourners attended their funeral. A passage from his Obituary in the newspaper read as follows:

“He was a splendid man socially. He will be missed at the bar, in the house and the church. He never lost himself in anger – no provocation seemed great enough for him to yield his self-possession, and if he had an enemy we are yet to find him. No man of all our acquaintances would be more missed then he.”

My great grandfather, Asbury Harpending Baker, was born in Dundee on October 23, 1860, one year before his life was saved from the Big Fire of 1861. When the family returned to Dundee from New York, Asbury was only nine years old. He attended the local school until he reached the age of 15 at which time he was sent to school in the village of Farmer Market (now called Interlaken) near the western shores of Cayuga Lake. While in Farmer Market he met his future bride-to-be, Helen Ely Rappleye, the daughter of Joshua Wyckoff Rappleye and Jane Taft Campbell. As a frame of reference, I remind you that Joshua’s father, Peter Rappleye, built the grandfather clock that sits in our living room in our Florida home. The Rappleye Family History is the subject of Chapter 1.

Asbury returned to Dundee after completing school in 1877. Here he worked odd jobs for around a year, finally accepting a position in the summer of 1878 as a typesetter with the local newspaper, “The Dundee Observer”. In 1879, using money borrowed from his mother and his uncle, he invested in the newspaper, formed a partnership with the owner, and operated the newspaper under the firm name Vreeland and Baker until he sold out to his partner in 1881. Being encouraged by his new business venture, he married Helen Rappleye on December 31, 1879. The marriage took place at the log home of his new in-laws in Farmer Market. They were both only 19 years old when they married.

After selling his share of the Dundee Observer, Asbury was determined to take up the study of medicine. He apprenticed with a local Dundee doctor for about one year and then attended the Buffalo Medical College from 1882 to 1885. He returned to Dundee after graduation and opened a practice of general medicine. On November 20, 1885, the last of my relatives to live in Dundee, his son and my grandfather, Charles Schenck Baker, was born in the Harpending House. The Harpending House had been reconstructed following the Big Fire of 1861.

After one year of struggling to make money as a doctor in Dundee, Asbury decided to call it quits. He accepted a position as a doctor in Antrim, Pennsylvania working for the Fall Brook Coal Company. The family spent seven years in Antrim. In 1893, the family moved again, this time to Elmira, New York. In 1898, He joined the staff of Arnot-Ogden Memorial Hospital. After some additional post graduate work, Dr. Baker commenced to perform surgery. He remained at the hospital until his retirement sometime around 1921. On June 11, 1933 he died. Shortly following his death, the hospital staff wrote a letter to my great grandmother that included these words:

“His gentlemanly behavior and exemplary professional attitude towards his conferees were outstanding traits. His care of his patients was characterized always by rare devotion and conscientious concern for their best interests. The Staff, deeply appreciative of his sterling qualities as a man and physician, and of his long-time association with the hospital, realizes the loss sustained.”

It was a most worthy tribute. In 2006 we noted that Dr. Asbury Baker’s photograph along with other members of the early hospital staff, hangs in the lobby of the Ogden Memorial Hospital as a tribute to and a pictorial history of the hospital.

My great grandmother Helen Baker, died on October 15, 1944, eleven years after her husband’s death. I was two years old when she died. My great grandfather and grandmother were the last of our family to be buried in the Harpending Family Cemetery.

In all, five generations of my family are buried in Dundee. My wife, Kathleen, believes that our recent purchase of a cottage on Seneca Lake, close to Dundee, is pure providence. Perhaps she is right.

2 comments:

Henry said...

Thank you for writing this essay.

Henry Harpending
Age 63
(from Dundee, now in Utah)

neko said...

I am so pleased with this excellent article you have written. it has helped solidify what I have found in my own research of the Harpending family, which is a more difficult research, as my fiance' Edwin Moore descends from "Uncle Sam's" brother Peter's elusive son Samuel.
I am also pleased to see that Henry commented on this blog. my father was anthropologist and archealogist at CSULB, the late J. Franklin Fenenga, and I have been noting Henry's work with some interest, both because of my connection with the archeo/anthro world and with DNA in genealogical research.
I have posted Edwin's ancestry online at Rootsweb's WorldConnect, and am working with a descendant of "Uncle Sam" and Asbury, Ronald Pavelas, and we spend time occasionally working together on a tree built at Geni.com. WorldConnect is open to everyone, but Ron will have to invite you to Geni.
let me hear from you and I'll send it on to Ron...and Henry, you're more than welcome to join, this is for the whole Harpending tree, each of us working a branch of it.