The photograph to the left was taken around 1949. I am in the foreground, Charles A. Baker Jr., age 7. My mother, Marian Coapman Patterson named after her grandmother, Marian Coapman, is in the center. The older gentleman in the rear is my great grandfather, Eugene Hutchinson Ferree, the husband of Marian Coapman. He was around 81 when this photograph was taken and he passed away in 1952, 56 years after the death of his first and only wife. I did not attend his funeral but I remember visiting him in a nursing home shortly before his death.
In Chapter 6 titled “The Ferree Family” of the Baker Family Tree Blog that I wrote back in mid-2006, I reported that I not been able to learn anything of the parents of Marian Coapman. Whether additional information such as copies of the US Census have been added to the web since 2006, I do not know, however in the past year I easily discovered that David Coapman and Elsie Yawger were the parents of Marian Coapman. With this knowledge the ancestral branch of our family tree beginning with Marian Coapman opens wide and is the subject of this chapter of our family’s history.
We have learned a great deal about Marian’s father, David Coapman, from four sources: the US Census, his service record in the military, the local newspaper, and a county directory. David’s name first appears in the 1850 US Census where we find a David “Copeland”, age 6, living with his mother Lydia “Coapeland”, age 40. David and his mother are listed as living next door to a Walter “Copeman”, age 37, and his family. The misspelling of the last names and sometimes even first names in the early US Census records is not uncommon. From this census we have learned that David Coapman was born in 1844 in the township of Aurelius, in the County of Cayuga, in the State of New York. We have also learned that David’s father probably died before the 1850 US Census or before David’s sixth birthday, for David’s mother Lydia Coapman is listed as the head of the household. We might also conclude from this Census that David and Lydia are living nearby David’s Uncle Walter, or his mother’s brother-in-law. The population of the Township of Aurelius in 1850 was relatively small and it is likely that the two Coapman families would have been related. David’s name is listed again in the 1860 US Census living with his mother and they are still living near to Walter Coapman and his family. On a copy of an old 1853 map of the Town of Aurelius it shows the locations of the major property owners in the township including the home site of Walter Coapman. According to the 1850 US Census Walter Coapman’s property had a value of $12,000. His property was located about 1-1/2 miles east of the Village of Cayuga on present day Genesee Street. Lydia Coapman’s nearby property was valued at $4,000 in 1850, apparently not quite valuable enough for her name to have been included on the 1853 property map.
Cayuga County which includes the Township of Aurelius is located at the north end of Cayuga Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes Region (Cayuga County is shown in red on the adjacent map of New York State and the Township of Aurelius is shown in the lower map of Cayuga County located to the east of the large lake on the left, Cayuga Lake, and to the west of the City of Auburn outlined in yellow.) Prior to the end of the Revolutionary War the land that is now Cayuga County was occupied by the Cayuga Indian Tribe, one of the six tribes that made up the Iroquois Confederacy. In 1779, General Washington in response to the Cayuga Indians and some of the other tribes siding with the British against the Americans, sent a detachment of soldiers under the command of General John Sullivan to dispatch the Indians from their lands. The Indians aware of the movement of Sullivan’s army fled the area before the arrival of the Americans. Sullivan’s army without any resistance from the Indians burned their villages and their crops. After the War in 1789 a treaty was signed that created a 64,015-acre reservation for the Cayuga Indians which included much of the area of present day Cayuga County and all of the present day Township of Aurelius. Unfortunately for the Cayuga Indians this land was very valuable to the growing number of land hungry American settlers and in 1795 New York State acting under the terms of a new treaty with the Cayugas, purchased much of the new reservation back from the Indians. Then in 1807 acting once again under yet another treaty, the Cayuga Indians sold the last pieces of their reservation land to the State. While not relevant to our family’s history, it is interesting to note that these Treaties negotiated with New York State were never ratified by the U.S. Congress as required. Over 200 years after the last treaty was signed, the Cayuga Indians in 1980 filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court claiming that because the treaties were not ratified, the sale of their land was illegal and they demanded the return of their land plus monetary damages. While the claims of the Cayuga Indians may have had merit, they ultimately failed to prevail in court primarily based on the doctrine of laches that requires lawsuits to be filed within a reasonable time period. Apparently the United States Court of Appeals felt that 200 plus years was not a reasonable period of time. A young lawyer named Mark Stephen Puzella early in his career had the opportunity to work on this lawsuit between the Cayuga Indians and the State of New York. His law firm I believe, was representing the defendants who ultimately prevailed. The irony of course, is that Mark is married to my niece, Karen Ferree Fanton, the daughter of my sister Anne. Many of Karen’s ancestors including the Coapman, Titus, Ferree, Hutchinson, Starkweather, and Yawger families were all early settlers in Cayuga County and all lived on land that was originally part of the Cayuga Indian Reservation.
The announcement of the wedding of David Coapman to Elsie Yawger on October 29, 1863 in Union Springs in Cayuga County was published in the Aurelius Daily Advertiser. Union Springs is located in the Township of Springport immediately to the south of Aurelius. The wedding took place at the home of Elsie’s parents, John Yawger and the late Adaline Starkweather. [In case you are not taking notes from previous chapters, my grandmother, Florence Adaline Ferree (Patterson), is named after her great grandmother, Adaline Starkweather.] David was 20 when they married; Elsie Yawger was only 19. Less than one year after they were married David Coapman on September 14, 1864 enlisted as a Private in the Union Army in nearby Seneca Falls. The Civil War was currently raging in the southern states and it seems likely that young David, who had recently turned 21, may have been drafted. The first and very unpopular conscription laws were passed in the United States Congress in March of 1863. He obviously would not have had the financial wherewithal to hire a replacement to serve on his behalf or pay a fee to get out of serving as both options were allowed under the conscription laws. Many of his contemporaries with parents of more means than David’s would have followed this common practice to avoid service in the military. David was shipped almost immediately to Virginia to fight with the 3rd New York Regiment of the Light Artillery. His regiment must have been an active participant in the Siege of Petersburg which began in June of 1863 and in the ultimate fall of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, in June of 1865. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox in April of 1865. David Coapman was mustered out of the army in Richmond, Virginia on June 24, 1865 and he made his way home to Aurelius no doubt traveling north with thousands of other soldiers. Marian Coapman, the first child of David and Elsie Coapman was born on March 17, 1867.
David Coapman was never to become a wealthy man. In an 1867/68 Directory of Cayuga County he was listed as a grocer working for the Mud Lock Canal Stores. In the 1870 US Census at the age of 33 he listed himself as a “Railroad Watchman”. His home in the Village of Cayuga was listed as having a value of only $1,000, a modest sum even in the 1870s. In 1879, his name is listed in a “History of Cayuga County” as being one of five men elected to serve as a Constable in the Town of Aurelius, a position likely to have paid very little. The last we know of David from historical documents is the 1880 US Census, wherein David now 36 years old, lists himself as a “House Painter” which probably equated to his being self employed. The 1890 US Census records are incomplete and there is no listing of a David Coapman in Cayuga County. His name does not appear in the more complete records of the 1900 US Census and it is assumed that he died before 1900. [Since writing this history chapter, Deb Plugh, a descendant of Susannah Downing, one of Lydia's daughters with Obadiah Downing, sent me a copy of an article from The Auburn Bulletin dated June 12, 1888, that states that David Coapman actually abandoned his wife and children and moved to California possibly with his lover and a widow women from their hometown, Village of Cayuga. The article also suggests with a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek that David Coapman was not respected as a Constable. Please contact me if you are interested in a copy of the article.] In the 1900 US Census we discover that his wife, Elsie Coapman, is living in Lockport, New York with her son-in-law, Eugene Hutchinson Ferree, my great grandfather. Before the 1910 US Census, Elsie had moved to live with her son, George Coapman, who was currently working for the E.H. Ferree Company in Lockport. Elsie Coapman does not appear in the 1920 US Census and it is assumed that she died after 1910. Despite a rather long search, I have been unable to locate the burial location of either David [maybe in California] or Elsie Coapman [maybe in Lockport]. Marian Coapman is buried in Lake View Cemetery in the Village of Cayuga along with Walter Coapman and his family and David Sands Titus and his family. David Sands Titus as we will discuss later is an in-law of the Coapman family. John and Adaline Yawger, the parents of Elsie Coapman (Yawger) are buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springport, New York. In neither of these cemeteries did we find David and Elsie nor did we find their names in any of the other cemetery records in Cayuga County.
We will probably never know with absolute certainty the names of David Coapman’s parents although DNA testing of the descendants of David and the descendants of his likely parents and the Titus family would go a long way towards solving this mystery. We do know based on the US Census that David’s mother had a given name of Lydia and his father had a surname of Coapman. We also know that at the time of David’s birth there were two other Coapman families living in Aurelius, Walter Coapman and his family and John Coapman and his family, both brothers. In the 1850 US Census, Lydia was listed as 40 years old, Walter 37, and John 34. They were all contemporaries and it seems likely that Lydia may have been a sister-in-law of both Walter and John. Further evidence of this possibility shows up in an 1855 Census taken in the Town of Aurelius wherein both Lydia, Walter, and John are all listed as originating from the County of Dutchess, New York before moving to Cayuga County. In Lydia’s case her arrival date in Cayuga County is listed as being 26 years earlier than the 1855 census or an arrival year of 1829. Lydia was only 19 years old in 1829 and it is unlikely that she traveled alone from Dutchess County which is located on the Hudson River north of New York City, to Cayuga County. She was either married or traveling with her family. In the 1855 Census there are only two other individuals listed as arriving from Dutchess County in 1829. They are David Sands Titus, age 27, and his wife Julia Ann Coapman, age 22. On the 1853 map of the Town of Aurelius that I referenced above, the property of David Sands Titus is shown located just up the road from the property of Lydia Coapman and Walter Coapman. Lydia Coapman (her married name) was either a family friend of the Coapman’s and Julia Ann’s in 1829 or less likely a family friend of the Titus’s, and she had elected to move with David Sands Titus and his wife (and family)to Cayuga. On the other hand some genealogists believe, including me, that Lydia Coapman’s maiden name was Lydia Titus and she moved to Cayuga from her home in Dutchess County with her older brother David Sands and his wife. If this is correct, which I believe it is, then David Sands Titus is my 3nd great uncle, and his parents, Gilbert Titus and Jane Hoag, are my 4rd great grandparents. Gilbert and Jane Titus will be discussed further in subsequent paragraphs.
Of course, Lydia Titus moving to Cayuga County with her brother and his wife in 1829 does not help to explain how Lydia Titus became Lydia Coapman. Obviously the fact that Lydia was very familiar with the Coapman family, Walter, John, and Julia Ann, gives us a clue as to whom she eventually married in the Coapman family. The one piece of compelling evidence as to whom she married and who is the father of David Coapman, comes in the form of a handwritten letter and family tree written by Mrs. Kate L. Tompkins on March 10, 1912 to her younger relatives whom she refers to as cousins Kate and Irene. The original letter was located in the office of the Cayuga County Historian’s Office in Aurora, New York. Kate Tompkins as it turns out is the daughter of Abraham Coapman who is the brother of Julia Ann, Walter, and John Coapman as well as the eight other Coapman brothers and sisters including Jacob Coapman, the second oldest son of John Jacob Coapman and Catherine Rappleye. Jacob was born in Dutchess County on June 28, 1803. On the family tree prepared by Kate Coapman (Tompkins) she lists David as the son of Jacob. There is no reason not to accept this document as accurate therefore David Coapman is without question the son of Jacob Coapman, and Jacob is the husband of Lydia Titus (Coapman).
Lydia Titus (Coapman) was 34 years old when she gave birth to David in 1844 and Jacob was 41. Since David appears to be the only Coapman son born to Lydia based on the Census records beginning in 1850, it seems likely that both Lydia and Jacob were married to others before they married each other in the early 1840s. Jacob Coapman did not appear in the 1840 US Census in Aurelius nor did he appear in the 1850 Census which leads to the conclusion that he died before 1850 and married Lydia following the 1840 Census. I could find nothing more about Jacob Coapman other than the family information listed in the Kate Tompkins’ letter. There is however, compelling evidence to suggest that Lydia was married before she married David’s father in the early 1840s.
In the 1850 US Census there are three children living in the Lydia Coapman household: David Coapman, age 6, George Downing, age 12 (born about 1838), and Phebe Downing, age 16 (born about 1834). In the 1860 Census, George Downing and David Coapman are still living with Lydia Coapman. In the earlier 1840 US Census we find a Lydia Downing listed on the same census page as John and Walter Coapman as well as David Sands Titus and in fact her name immediately precedes that of John and Walter on the list which suggests that Lydia Downing and Lydia Coapman are one and the same person. The Lydia Downing household in 1840 consists of one male under 5 (George Downing?), one male 20-30 (?), 2 females 5-10 (one might be Phebe Downing), 1 female10-15, and I female 30-40 (Lydia Downing). If Lydia Downing is in fact Lydia Titus and later Lydia Coapman, the additional members of her 1840 household are not obvious. Lydia Titus was only 30 years old in 1840 and it is unlikely that she had any children older than around 10. Following this same line of thinking I reviewed the 1830 US Census in Aurelius and discovered an Obadiah Downing living in a household consisting of one female child under 5, one adult male, 20-30 (Obadiah) and one adult female,20-30 (Lydia?). Is this our Lydia Titus who married Obadiah Downing? It appears likely. [Since writing this history story I have been in contact with Deb Plugh who is a descendant of Susannah Downing, one of the children of Obadiah and Lydia H. (Titus) Downing. Based on Obadiah's will, she informed me that the couple had four children: Phebe and George (mentioned in the Census) plus Susannah and Mary. She also sent me a copy of a wedding announcment for Phebe Titus, daughter of Gilbert Titus, which clearly suggests that Lydia H. named her daughter after her sister Phebe Titus thus providing us with further evidence that Lydia's maiden name was Titus.]
Based on the above scenarios, we might draw the following conclusions: Lydia Titus married Obadiah Downing and they had a daughter before 1830. Before 1840, Obadiah Downing died leaving Lydia Downing a widow in 1840 with one son under 5 (George), one daughter under 10 (Phebe), and one daughter just over 10 years old. Also in her household in 1840 was a young unrelated adult male who probably helped her with the farm, and one unrelated female under 20 helping her with the children and household chores. Lydia Downing, a widow at this point, married Jacob Coapman, the brother of John, Walter, and Julia Ann. Lydia had known Jacob while she was still in Dutchess County although she was seven years younger than Jacob and he was probably married in 1829 when Lydia Titus only 19, left for Cayuga County. Jacob probably lost his first wife and his family had made him aware that Lydia had also lost her husband. They were married around 1842 and their only child David was born two years later in 1844. Much to Lydia’s misfortune she lost her second husband Jacob before 1850. Lydia’s first daughter with Obadiah Downing, who was born in the late 1820s, was in her early 20s by the 1850 US Census and was not living with Lydia during the census. She may have married. That would explain why there are only two Downing children in the Lydia Coapman household in 1850. All of the above is speculation of course, but it does explain in part why Lydia Coapman is found living with two Downing children in 1850. So far in this chapter we have developed the following family tree.
John Jacob Coapman (1774-1864) m.
Catherine Rappleye (1782)-1873)
Jacob Coapman (1803- Before 1850) m.
Lydia Titus (1810-after 1870)
parents ofDavid Coapman (1744-Before 1900) m.
Elsie Yawger (1745 – After 1910)
Marian Coapman (1867-1895) m.
Eugene Hutchinson Ferree (1866-1952)
and for the parents of Lydia Titus
Gilbert Titus(1765-1847) m.
Jane Hoag ( ? - 1849)
Lydia Titus (1810-after 1870) m.
Jacob Coapman (1803 - before 1850)
The trip for Lydia Titus and her brother David and his wife and family, (and one slave according to a biographical review of David Sands Titus in the “History of Cayuga County” published in 1879) from their hometown of LaGrange In Dutchess County to their new home in the Town of Aurelius in Central New York was much easier than it had been for their predecessors who made the trip before 1829. In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed which meant that once they boarded a boat in Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County on the Hudson River, they remained on the water in relative comfort, at least compared to the much longer overland trip previously required, until they disembarked just north of the Town of Aurelius for a short wagon ride to their new home. The Erie Canal and its many laterals that opened in the following few years was an amazing engineering marvel especially considering that it was built in the early 1800s using only the muscle power of men and horses. The main part of the canal was connected via a lateral canal to the north end of Cayuga Lake followed a few years later by another canal lateral to Seneca Lake. Additional canals were built connecting Seneca Lake to Keuka Lake, and Seneca Lake to the Chemung River (and subsequently to the Susquehanna River) running south. The effect of the canals was immediate and dramatic for the development of Central and Western New York. Not only did settlers flood to the west as a result of this new inexpensive form of transportation, but agricultural trade exploded as the many new farmers discovered the ease of shipping their farm commodities at costs 90% below the previous costs of shipping overland. The Town of Aurelius in the County of Cayuga was ideally suited to take advantage of this new prosperity and it is not surprising to discover that many of our ancestors in this area including Great Grandfather Ferree’s side of the family, the Hutchinsons, benefited financially from the effects of the Erie Canal.
Individuals in our branch of the Titus family tree are all descendants of Robert Titus and his wife Hannah Carter, my 9th great grandparents and the 5th great grandparents of Marian Coapman. Robert, Hannah, and their two children John and Edmond, boarded a ship in London on April 3, 1635 bound for America and the Port of Boston. The family originally settled in what is now the town of Brookline just south of Boston, but they later moved to Weymouth, then to the town of Rehoboth, near Providence, Rhode Island, and eventually in 1654 to Long Island, where the family was to remain for the next five generations until Gilbert Titus, Robert’s 3rd great grandson, moved his family to Dutchess County, New York in the late 1700s. Robert Titus was probably not a Puritan when he arrived in Boston which may have motivated his move to Long Island away from the predominately Puritan New England colonies. It is not clear at what point the family took up the Quaker faith although it was undoubtedly around the time when the first Quakers settlers arrived in New York from England on the ship “Woodhouse” in 1657. It is known that Robert Titus had some trouble with the Authorities prior to his moving to Long Island for harboring a known Quaker “being of evil fame,” which probably signified that they were or were soon to become Quakers. Edmond Titus, Robert’s son and my 8th great grandfather, and his wife Martha were among the earliest adherents of the Society of Friends and “as a consequence suffered reproach and injury” including being fined in 1687 for refusing to contribute to a fund towards the construction of a new house for the priest. The fine consisted of confiscating one of Edmund’s cows. The Titus family were to remain Quakers through a number of generations. While it is not clear whether David Sands Titus and his sister, Lydia Titus (Coapman) remained Quakers after they moved to Cayuga County in 1829, according to a biographical review of Hiram Titus (son of David Sands Titus) written in the “History of Cayuga County” published in 1879, it refers to David and Lydia’s parents as being “worthy Quakers of that place” (Dutchess County.) We do know that Lydia’s granddaughter, Marian Coapman, was married to Eugene Hutchinson Ferree in an Episcopal Church suggesting that Marian Coapman may have been an Episcopalian, the likely denomination of her father David.
One final interesting and somewhat humorous look at our family’s past is the final will of Hannah Titus who survived her husband Robert Titus. The will was dated 14th May, 1672 and reads in part”
“Add also I give to my son John my mare, and to my son Edmond I give a horse, and to my son Samuel a brown cow and a yearlen stear, and I give to my son Samuel’s wife my warming-pan, and to my son Abiall’s wife my smoothing iron, and to my son Content’s wife my skimmer . . . .”
Kathy and I have decided that we need to review our wills. . . “and to my son Charles I leave my favorite shovel, and to my son Geoffrey, his mother’s old frying pan. . . .”
I was unable to locate any concrete evidence as to the arrival time or the country of origin of our immigrant Coapman ancestor although in a biography of John C. Coapman in the 1879 publication of the “History of Cayuga County” it indicates that Jacob Coapman, my 5th great grandfather (and Marian Coapman’s 2nd great grandfather) “was born of Holland parentage.” Jacob’s father is believed to be Johannes Coapman and based on his estimated birth date of 1715 and the fact that his son was born in America around 1740, Johannes probably arrived from Holland in New York around 1720-30 and he may have moved to Dutchess County (shown in red on the map of New York State) immediately following his arrival as prior to 1725 almost all the settlers in this area of Dutchess County were of Dutch descent (as the county name obviously implies.) This is all pure speculation. The existence of Jacob Coapman on the other hand is fairly well documented as living in Dutchess County, at least during the period of the Revolutionary War where is he found to have signed a Revolutionary War Pledge on August 15, 1775 shortly following the Battle of Bunker Hill. His name is also mentioned a number of times in the Records of Christ Church, an Episcopal church in Poughkeepsie and in the tax rolls in Dutchess County, where his name appears in 1774, 1775 and 1777. Furthermore, there is a Jacob “Copemen” listed as a private on the New York Line during the American Revolution although I was unable to find any clear evidence that this was our Jacob Coapman from Dutchess County. There was also a Jacob “Coopman” who fought in the 2nd Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia who is more likely to have been our Jacob Coapman. We know that Jacob’s wife’s name was Maria LeRoy and we know that one of their sons was named John Jacob Coapman. This information comes from the handwritten family tree prepared by Kate L. Tompkins that I mentioned earlier. Jacob Coapman would have been her great grandfather. This same family tree lists the name of John Jacob’s son Jacob, and his son David Coapman, father of our Marian Coapman. John Jacob Coapman married Catherine Rappleye and they lived their entire lives in Dutchess County which is well documented in US Census lists from 1810 through 1860. There is one final note about the Coapman family. Catherine Rappleye (1782-1883), the wife of John Jacob Coapman, is my 4th great grandmother on my mother’s side of the family. However, as we have learned from many sources, all of the Rappleyes (and the many spelling of the name that are found) in American history are all descendants of Joris Jansen Rapelje and his wife Catalytje Jeronymus Trico, my 8th great grandparents on my father’s side of the family. Since my mother and my father are both descendants of the first Rappleyes in this country, then my parents must be distant cousins.
At this point it is only fair that we also cover the ancestor’s of Marian Coapman’s mother’s side of the family, the family of Elsie Yawger. Philip Yawger, Elsie’s great grandfather and my 5th great grandfather is the most interesting of Marian Coapman’s ancestors. He is also the earliest of her ancestors to settle in Cayuga County and as a result of a history of the Yawger family written in 1893 by Rose N. Yawger and by a family history written by Mary Eliza Davis, both that features Philip Yawger, we know more about his life history than the other men and women ancestors of Marian Coapman previously discussed.
According to a family history of the Yawger family written by Mary Eliza Davis (1841-1923), great granddaughter of Philip Yawger, Philip’s father, the Count Philip Von Jager brought his four sons from Goblenz, Germany to America in 1755. His youngest son Philip, born on June 22, 1753, was only two years old when the ship disembarked in Philadelphia. The family eventually settled on a large estate in Flemington, New Jersey. In 1774, Philip married Catherine Kuhl from nearby Kingwood, New Jersey and together they had eleven children including our 4th great grandfather, John Yawger. There is some evidence that Philip Yawger fought with the New Jersey militia during the American Revolution although additional research is necessary to confirm this. Two years after their last child was born in 1799, Philip with his wife, nine of the children (the two oldest girls were married and remained behind in New Jersey), and his son John’s wife packed up all of their family belongings and household goods in canvas-covered Jersey wagons, and driving their stock, headed west into the forested mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. After many long hard days of travelling they eventually entered the Susquehanna River valley and followed the valley north along the river until finally stopping and settling in the small settlement of Owego (located on the Susquehanna about 20 miles west of the present day City of Binghamton, New York). Less than two years later after a visit to the Cayuga Lake area, Philip fell in love with this new Cayuga wilderness country, purchased 130 acres of land that was covered with oak and hickory forests, incredible fertile soils, and bordered on the west by the beautiful Cayuga Lake, and in the spring of 1802 he moved his family once again. The land that Philip first purchased was part of “The Military Tract” which was land that had been set aside for distribution to New York soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary War. The idea was that they would receive the land in lieu of pay for their services as soldiers. Unfortunately for the soldiers much of the land was still owned by the Cayuga Indians at the end of the war and many of the soldiers tired of waiting for the Indian claims to be settled before they could occupy the land, elected to sell their claims to the land. Many of these claims were sold to speculators who figured they would buy the land cheaply and sell it later at a huge profit (it’s called “flipping” today.) Unfortunately for Philip Yawger, when he purchased the land in 1802 the seller’s title was cloudy, and it was not until 1812 after he had made major improvements on the land, was he able to obtain a clear title to his property from the State of New York. Family history records that he was aided in his quest to clear the title by an acquaintance and a future President of the United States, Martin Van Buren. Is it possible that my 5th great grandfather slipped some money under the table to this big shot in Albany so that his problem would go away? Anyway, by the time that Philip Yawger was finished, he had acquired almost 1,000 acres of land in Cayuga County and he had prospered greatly.
But it was much more than just farming the land that made Philip Yawger a prosperous man for in the fall of 1809 while plowing his land he uncovered a soft grey stone which he learned later was a high grade soft gypsum stone. This gypsum stone when ground to a powder made both an excellent fertilizer as well as a plaster material for building construction. Soon Philip owned a fleet of 50 or 60 boats and he was shipping both the ground powder and the stone all over the lake. Some of the stones were hauled overland south to the Susquehanna River where they were then hauled down river to the large cities to the south. It is said that the Yawger quarry was the only known quarry in the United States at this period of time. The only other source of gypsum material was hauled all the way down from Nova Scotia, Canada. When President Thomas Jefferson placed an embargo from shipments from England and Canada in 1809 preceding the War of 1812, this should have been good for the Yawger quarries, however when the war began in 1812, a disaster was soon to occur.
At the start of the War of 1812, Generals Dearborn and Van Rensselaer were ordered to make an invasion of Canada. To prepare for the invasion their militia army passed through Union Springs where the Yawger boats were docked, and they confiscated all of the plaster shipping boats. The boats were then hauled to Lake Ontario where they were fitted out for the transportation of the troops to Canada. In the meantime, Philip Yawger was unable to fulfill his plaster contracts, he was sued by his customers, and nearly financially ruined.
General Van Rensselaer operations were equally ruinous although in his case it was due almost entirely to his inexperience as a soldier and to his incompetence. On April 13, 1812, Stephen Van Rensselaer led his troops across the Niagara River at Lewiston, New York to Canada to engage the British forces at Queenston. The major battle that followed became known as the Battle of Queenston Heights where the Americans were soundly defeated. As a consequence of his defeat, Van Rensselaer resigned his position as General of the militia and for the most part the plans for the invasion of Canada were abandoned. Unfortunately, Philip Yawger’s boats were not only abandoned, they were burned on the shores of Lake Ontario.
In 1812, Philip Yawger was almost 60 years old and it was to late in his career to start over. Fortunately he still owned the land and during his life he had provided for his children by giving them large farms holdings free and clear of incumbrances. Only his two youngest sons were still living at home and through their efforts and the efforts of two of the other brothers, they were able to secure compensation for the value of the boats although unfortunately, not for the financial loss of the plaster contracts. These sons were also successful in securing some financing to keep the business afloat. Philip was so grateful to his two youngest sons for rescuing the business, that when he died in 1830, he left them the original 130 acres of land and the quarries. Four of the Yawger sons eventually joined a partnership and thereafter the business again prospered. Philip’s life is a wonderful story and might make a great movie.
The photographs of the two very similar homes shown below belong to two of Philips sons, Henry’s on the left, and Peter’s on the right. Both of these sons were part of the partnership that continued the plaster business after their father’s death and both homes reflect the wealth of these two brothers. Philip and Catherine Yawger built a home at the corner of Route 90 and Backus Road north of Union Springs that was described by their great granddaughter, Mary Eliza Davis, as a Greek Revival House similar to the homes they remembered back in New Jersey. Without question it would seem that the two brothers followed the design theme of their parent’s home.
The left photograph below is my great Uncle Henry (1793-1865) and on the right is my great Uncle Peter (1787-1869) and his wife.
Philip’s and Catherine’s oldest son, John Yawger, my 4th great grandfather and the great grandfather of Marian Coapman, was born in 1776. He married Elizabeth (Elsa) Cole in 1800 in New Jersey before their move with John’s parents to Cayuga and for most of his life until he died in 1826 he was a farmer on land granted to him by his father. His death according to family history, was an accident caused by a runaway horse. He was only forty-nine when he died. John is also credited with operating an inn/tavern in Union Springs at the corner of Schoby and Cayuga Streets. In 1823 the first town meeting of the newly organized town of Springport was held in his tavern. John and Elsa Yawger had five children including a son, John Yawger (Jr.), my 3rd great grandfather, who was born in 1817. John Jr. was a farmer all of his life in Springport. Around 1840 he married Adaline Starkweather, the mother of Elsie Yawger. Elsie’s mother died in 1849 when Elsie was only 4 years old and her mother only 31. John Yawger described himself in the 1860 US Census as 42 years old and a “farm laborer.” In 1870 he is described as only a “laborer” and in the 1880 Census he now refers to himself as a farmer. It appears unlikely that when Elsie Yawger’s father died in 1895, Elsie received little in the way of an inheritance which might explain why in the 1900 US Census, Elsie is listed as living with her son-in-law, Eugene H. Ferree, in Lockport, New York.
There are many more branches of the Marian Coapman family tree that we have yet to explore. For example, Marian Coapman’s grandmother’s family, the Starkweathers, could trace their family back to a Robert Starkweather who emigrated to America in 1640, and there is a Johnson branch who can trace their family tree back to an Isaac Johnson who came over with his father in the early 1630s and fought as a Captain at the “Great Swamp” fight to end the King Philip’s War in 1675. There are many more interesting stories but too many to write about in this chapter which is already too long. These stories will have to be told at another time.