A Note to My Readers: Researchers find information in so many sources to fill in a biography…censuses, wills, land purchases and birth, marriage and death records. Sometimes there are personal documents and memorabilia such as letters and family bibles to provide a detail or two. Nine times out of ten these types of records give us timeline events and relationships, but few and far between give us the slice of life stuff. Of course that leaves most of us tingling with curiosity and with little or no way to touch that personality. But…controversy shows up in newspaper articles like the village gossip inviting you to sit a spell and listen to a yarn or two.
And so it is with Lewis Purdy, Jr. (1840-1923)
Goodness me. I long had the gist that Lewis Purdy, Jr., the half-brother of my maternal 2nd great grandfather, Samuel D. Purdy (1818 – 1898) of Enfield, NY was a bit of a character with a life of highs and lows, but today’s research tells me that ‘bit of a character’ isn’t exactly an apt description.
Samuel’s mother, Rachel died in 1839 when he was a young man and his father, Lewis, Sr (1791- 1875). remarried a much younger woman named Sarah J. and had several more children.
Lewis, Jr. was born in 1840 so Lewis, Sr. had wasted no time. Sarah died in 1863 and left behind several daughters who as young girls were farmed out to various families in Tompkins county working as house help. Lewis, Jr. was off to fight in the Civil War with the 109th Regiment that year. When he returned and mustered out in 1865, he married Miss Olive Sholes of Newfield on February 5th in Enfield. Probably under the watchful eye of his staid and respectable brother, Samuel. Olive and Lewis initially lived with her parents in Newfield. The Sholes were neighbors of Lewis, Sr. and his third wife, Esther Eddy Purdy.
Lewis and Olive went off on their own buying a farm at Van Etten (Swartwood Station) in Chemung county, New York. Immediately Olive gave birth to daughter Fannie in 1866 and in 1870, son Freddie was born. Death came to the Purdy household in 1873 and both children perished. In 1882 Olive gave birth to daughter, Murtie, but she, too perished, dying at the age of 7 years old. All three children are buried in Trumbull Corners in Newfield.
Life goes on as they say and Lewis seems to have followed a dark and angry path. He was in conflict with his neighbors…far beyond verbal, many set-tos turning to violence. In 1888 after another angry dispute, Lewis suffered a “body execution” upon being sued by Lewis Smith and so his brother, Samuel had to travel to the jail to retrieve him. In one 1893 fray, Lewis sued a Mr. Thompson for false representation of ‘hoss flesh’.
But it was the bitter feud between James R. McKay that festered and boiled over and by 1910 the duo were in Chemung court after 70 year old Lewis was assaulted by Mr. McKay. He was dragged to the ground from a wagon by Mr. McKay, his clothes torn and two teeth broken and one loosened causing Lewis to purchase false teeth. Before you want to dig up Mr. McKay and yell at him, the court testimony states that
Mr. Purdy is a man of violent temper, of a quarrelsome nature and given to brawling and fighting; that prior to April 1 the defendant was forced to eject Mr. Purdy from the defendant’s hotel in Van Etten and on April 1 was forced to remonstrate with Mr. Purdy because the man was using profane language in the presence of a woman with whom the defendant was conversing.
While I did not find the conclusion of the court case, I did find that the quarreling men were not done with one another. No, sirree.
In 1911 they were back in court when Lewis sued James McKay…oh, I can hardly type this without shaking my head….because Lewis’ Holstein lost her tail to the jaws of Mr. McKay’s dogs. The saga went on for six weeks, calling 23 witnesses and finally going to the jury.
Lewis lived to be 83 years old passing away in 1923 at the Old Soldier’s Home. He had been widowed since 1916 when patient Olive went to her peaceful reward.
The Purdys are buried in the family plot in Trumbull Corners with their three children – a quiet and bucolic spot where matters of ‘hoss flesh’ and cow tails are of no consequence.
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher
(c) Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved