After finishing up a couple of large research projects, I needed a break so I took a ‘road less traveled’. My research on my Purdy family only solidly goes back to my 3x great grandfather, Lewis Purdy (1790-1875) of Tompkins County, New York. His parentage is currently a mystery and other than New York stated in each Federal Census – exact place of birth is unknown. To complicate things…or maybe to simplify them….there are many Purdys in Enfield and surrounds and they all seem to have come from Westchester County, New York. Are they all related? Very likely. When I have researched in Enfield, the locals perk up when I inquire about the Purdys. They invariably have stories about all of them and their kin. Except Lewis. Untangling the familial knots to find Lewis’ parents are going to be a chore. Perhaps instead of the Gordian knot…I will call it the Purdy (Purdian?) knot.

When Lewis’ first wife Rachel died in 1839 in Enfield, New York, they had three living children (and maybe five)…including my 2x great grandfather, Samuel D. Purdy (21), his brother Andrew Brown Purdy (16) and sister Malinda Purdy Drake (22). I began with Samuel and my family records. The 1867 family bible. What my family knew. That seems to be where we all begin the research. Then on to the public records, historical publications and newspapers. Lewis died in 1875 before New York State required death certificates, but his death was recorded in the Ithaca Daily Journal. It was pretty sparse…no biography and only the mention of my 2x great grandfather.

” Mr. Lewis Purdy, father of S. D. Purdy of Enfield Centre, aged upwards of 85 years, was found dead in his bed yesterday morning. He had been ailing slightly with a cold for a few days, but retired as well as usual.”

Malinda Purdy Drake died in 1874 and like her father, there would be no New York State death certificate. If there is any clue to Lewis in her descendants’ lore, they would have been passed down through her son, Francis Edgar Drake. Her other son, Andrew Oscar Drake has no descendants. Malinda, like her half brother, Lewis, is buried in Trumbulls Corner Cemetery in Newfield. As of now, no news from this line that migrated to Kansas after his mother’s passing. Their online research shows no parents listed for her. Perhaps they have no records to prove her parents. Patience.

Samuel D. Purdy seemed to be in charge of his aging father and if there had been any knowledge of Lewis’ information, he took it with him when he died in 1898. His death certificate confirms his parents as Lewis and Rachel Purdy. His son, Elbert Purdy (my great grandfather) had died in 1888 and my great grandmother had remarried and moved to Ithaca. The Purdy-Williams 1867 marriage bible contains a clipping of Samuel’s obituary from the Ithaca Journal neatly attached next to his son’s 1888 obituary.

SAMUEL D. PURDY On July 23, 1898, as the sun was setting in the west, there passed from among us, the life of one of our most useful, and esteemed citizens, Samuel D. Purdy, of Enfield Center, aged 79 years. He leaves to mourn his loss a widow (second wife Mary McCoy Ink), one daughter, Mrs. Horace Russell (Mary), of Ithaca, and one brother, A.B. (Andrew B.) Purdy, of Brooklyn, N.Y. Mr. S.D. Purdy died nearly upon the spot where he was born; he spent nearly every day of his life in Tompkins Co., where his character as an upright, hones business man is well known, in his various pursuits as a builder, merchant and farmer. No one ever suffered any loss in dealing with him. He has reached the end of his journey, and we how most deeply feel his loss, believe he has passed through the gates and is at rest in the eternal city. Therefore we are willing to leave him in the hands of one who doeth all things well. The funeral was largely attended at his late home in Enfield, July 26, 1898.

ANDREW BROWN PURDY (1823-1907) married Malissa Ann Drake of Newfield and had one child – a daughter, Olive. They left Enfield, Tompkins county, New York and made their home in Brooklyn, Kings county, New York where Andrew plied his trade as a carpenter. After Malissa’s death in 1854, Andrew remarried and he and his second wife Mary carried on life in Brooklyn with Olive. When Andrew was once again widowed, he brought his half sister Lois Purdy into his household to help care for Olive while he pursued his new occupation as Superintendent in Providence, Rhode Island Water Works. Andrew married one more time in Providence, but his wife Priscilla Renouf and daughter died as a result of a difficult birth. Olive and Andrew stayed in Providence where Olive met and married Henry Blatchford in 1874. The Blatchfords and Andrew returned to the Purdy home on Lafayette in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn) where daughter and only child Stella was born. Eventually the extended family moved to a lovely brick four story home at 178 Columbia Heights. When his brother, Samuel died in 1898, Andrew made the journey to Enfield to attend his brother’s services as reported in the Ithaca Daily News.

In 1907 Andrew died in his daughter’s home at the age of 83. His death certificate states he was born in Hector, New York and his father was Lewis Purdy born in New York State. Mother unknown. The “B” was declared to be “Brown”…perhaps his mother’s maiden name? Stella grew up in Brooklyn ‘high society’ and the Blatchford home was constantly filled with music and the arts. When Stella died in 1948 in her Columbia Heights home, she had never married and had no children.

The Half Siblings

Within months of Rachel’s passing, Lewis had married a young woman 26 years his junior, Sarah Jane Kellogg. Their first born, a son, Lewis Purdy, Jr., was born in 1840. Lewis fathered eight children with Sarah Jane while he was in his fifties and while the couple were living in Newfield. One son and seven daughters.

In 1863 Lewis was widowed once again and left with several young daughters to raise. Lewis, Jr. (1840-1923), was fighting in the Civil War and when he returned home, he married another Newfield resident, Olive Sholes. Lewis and Olive had three children…none who survived childhood. Eventually Lewis and Olive moved to Van Etten where he owned a farm. Lewis, Olive and their little ones are all buried in Trumbulls Corners Cemetery in Newfield. With no descendants of Lewis and Olive to pursue, the chase was left to his sisters.


The Purdy sisters were dispersed among local residents as domestic servants.

Harriet Purdy (1842-1911) first married William Lyman Leonard and lived in Newfield where she gave birth to her only child, Estella Josephine Leonard in 1864. By 1880 Harriet was alone and Estella was working as a domestic for the Harding family in Ithaca. In 1890 Harriet remarried to Washington Newberry who was 27 years her senior and relocated to Liberty, Tioga county, Pennsylvania. Harriet died in Manhattan and is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Bergen county, New Jersey. Estella had married Dr. August Hassloch in 1893 and settled in Brooklyn. The couple had no children. Estella died in 1934 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Brooklyn. Harriet’s obituary in the Elmira, N.Y Star Gazette reads

She Was Widow Liberty Resident

Ithaca – Jan. 6. – (Special) – Mrs. Harriet Newbury, widow of the late Washington Newbury of Liberty, Tioga county, Pennsylvania, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Estella Hassloch, on December 27. Funeral services were held at her late residence on Friday, December 29. Interment at Fairview cemetery, Fairview, Bergen county, N.J.

Mrs. Newbury was born at Trumbull’s Corners, September 26, 1842; was a daughter of Louis Purdy and had many relatives and friends in Trumbull’s Corners and Ithaca.


Lois Purdy‘s (1846-1935) movements gave me the first clue in my search for the fate of the young girls. Lois first went to live in Enfield with her elder half sister, Malinda, wife of William Drake and then later she was sent to Brooklyn with her elder half brother, Andrew Brown Purdy, where in 1869, at age 23, she met and married her husband Truman Frear Wicker and moved to Wisconsin. Lois and Truman had one child, Olive Wicker, probably named after her niece – the daughter of Andrew B. Purdy. Olive married Louis E. Nigh in Wisconsin and had one child, Stephen Wicker Nigh. Stephen married Mary E. Gustin and the couple had one son, Stephen Wicker Nigh, Jr. and one daughter, Barbara Mae Nigh (Greenway). Since Lois was cared for by her elder half siblings, did SHE know Lewis’ parents. Or his first wife’s maiden name? Lois and Truman Wicker are buried in Union Cemetery in Campbellsport, Wisconsin.

Former Residents Answer Call

Mrs. Lois Wicker, widow of the late T. F. Wicker, died at the home of her son-in-law, L. E. Nigh, at North Lake, Sunday, Nov. 17, after an illness of several weeks duration.

Lois Purdy was born in Tompkins county, New York, in 1846, and was married to Truman F. Wicker Oct. 19, 1869, and came directly to Wisconsin, settling in Barton. They came to Campbellsprt in 1870 and resided in this vicinity until 1914 when they left to make their home with their daughter, Mrs. L. E. Nigh, who passed away March 4, 1932. Mr. Wicker, died July 22, 1922.

She is survived by her son-in-law, L. E. Nigh of North Lake, a grandson, Wicker S. Nigh, Jr. of Wautoma, two sisters, Mrs. Ida Matteson of Fairmont, Nebr., and Mrs. Elizabeth Krege (sp) of Ithaca, N.Y.

Campbellsport News. Thursday, November 21, 1935


Margaret Purdy (1849-1932)…”Maggie” worked for Lyman Hughley in Hector for several years before moving to Wisconsin near her sister Lois and in 1878 marrying Oliver Hendricks. They had two children: Grace Effie Hendricks (A. Fred Schmidt) and Ray Andrew Hendricks. Grace had no children that I can find and her brother married and had one son, Oliver. Oliver has living children. Do THEY know their Purdy roots? Margaret and Oliver Hendricks are buried in Union Cemetery in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. Her obituary in the Campbellsport News reads

Mrs. Margaret Hendricks, widow of O. G. Hendricks, 83, died at the home of her daughter, Mr. A. F. Schmidt, at 1:35 Friday morning, December 23, after a lingering illness.

Margaret Purdy was born in Tompkins County, New York, February 28, 1849, and came to Wisconsin in 1876. She was married to Oliver G. Hendricks on January 31, 1878. Mr. Hendricks passed away July 9, 1929.

Besides her daughter, Mrs. Henricks leaves on son, Ray A. Hendricks, a grandson, Oliver G. Hendricks, and three sisters, Mrs. Lois Wicker of North Lake, Wis., Mrs. Elizabeth Kresge of Ithaca, N. Y., and Mrs. Ida Matteson of Fairmont, Nebr.

Campbellsport News.


Ida May Purdy (1856- 1938) worked for Levi Potts in Newfield for several years before she went to live with Lois and Truman in Wisconsin and in 1875 married Wisconsin native Clark H. Matteson. She and Clark moved to Nebraska and had four children: Dee, Glenn, Edna and Aurilla. Only Glenn and Aurilla lived to adulthood. Glenn Matteson was married twice. The first Mrs. Matteson was Myrtle Walters. Glen and Myrtle had two children – Floyd Rolland and Francis Wilburn Matteson. Myrtle died in 1918. The following year Glenn married Mabel Benson and the couple had no children. Aurilla Matteson married Clifford W. Geyer in Nebraska and the couple had five children – Alma Mae Geyer (Carl R. Ryan), Doris Ruth Geyer (1.Edgar A. Allen;2.Henry L. Aumiller), Iva June Geyer (Walter E. Scheel), Ruby Lee Geyer (George Alfred Brinton), Norman D. Geyer. Ida May and Clark Matteson are buried in Fairmont Cemetery in Fairmont, Nebraska.


Zilla Purdy (1851-?) went to work for the Reverend Rumsey in Enfield and after 1870 is unaccounted for. Her sister, Lucy Purdy (1854-?) who was just nine at her mother’s death remains unaccounted for.

The youngest, Sarah Elizabeth (Libbie) Purdy (1859-1944), was adopted by Enfield residents Benjamin and Betsey Hungerford. She remained in the Ithaca area and married Jonas Kresga and had three children, Vosco, Guida and Reo. Vosco and Guida both died as young children and her son, Reo De Forest Kresge died in 1938 after a life plagued with illness (probably tuberculosis). He and his wife, Alice Loveless never had children. In 1944 when Elizabeth died, she was the last of the surviving Purdy children. She and her family are buried in Trumbulls Corners Cemetery in Newfield. Her funeral notice in the Ithaca Journal reads

Mrs. Elizabeth Kresge of 110 Hyers St., died early today, Mar. 31, 1944. Her only survivor is a daughter-in-law, Mrs. Reo Kresge of Ithaca.

Funeral Services will be conductd at 3 p.m. Sunday, Apr. 2, in the Baldwin -Davis Funeral Home, 421 N. Aurora St., by the Rev. Henry G. Budd, pastor of the First Methodist Church, of which she was a member.

Interment will be in Trumbulls Corners.


What is interesting is that despite the far flung destinies of the Purdy sisters, they kept in touch as their obituaries reported the surviving sisters- Lois, Ida May, Margaret and Elizabeth…three to the midwest and one left behind amidst other Purdys of Tompkins County. Did my mother know Elizabeth Purdy Kresga? Libbie as she was called by friends and family had been called Libbie Hungerford most of her life, but she KNEW her true name. And her sisters. Did she seek other Purdys in Ithaca and surrounds. Like me. To ask about Lewis?


So…now that we have run the gamut of Lewis’ second family and examining their records, no mention except for their enumeration as a family in Newfield in the 1860 Federal Census, is made of their father or mother…except for Maggie. Her Wisconsin records indicated she was born in Tompkins County and her father was…ta dah….Lewis and mother Sarah Jane…and Maggie’s maiden name was Purdy. Once I found that little tidbit, I was able to track down Ida, Lois and Elizabeth. Thank goodness, the sisters remained in touch. A social note in the November 26, 1896 Ithaca Daily News reports

Mrs. T. F. Wicker of Campbellsport, Wis. who has been visiting Mrs. H. Russell left this morning for New York.

Mrs. T. F. Wicker…Lois Purdy is visiting Mrs. H. Russell – Mary Purdy (Horace Russell), the sister of my great grandfather Elbert Purdy and Lois’ cousin. She left for New York so most likely she is going to Brooklyn to visit Andrew Brown Purdy, her half brother.

Where does this leave me with their father Lewis Purdy? Back to the drawing board in Enfield and Newfield. Lois was also a key relational component because she lived with her half sister Malinda Purdy Drake and then her half brother Andrew before she married and went off to Wisconsin. How much did the young women know about their father and their Purdy family? Their Aunt Malinda Purdy Drake died in 1874 and like Lewis, Jr. and his family…are buried in Trumbulls Corners Cemetery. As is Elizabeth “Libbie” Purdy Kresga and her children. Their Uncle Andrew died in Brooklyn in 1907 and I have his death certificate naming Lewis and Rachel Purdy as his parents. My 2x great grandfather Samuel D. Purdy died in Enfield in 1898 and I have his death certificate. Same data. Through the research journey, the family circle kept bringing me back to the shores of Cayuga Lake and Lewis Purdy. His name. His age. His birth place -New York State. His land ownership. His wives. His children. His death. So much information and yet, still I am missing THE piece of the puzzle. My analysis worksheet is nicely tied together and the evidence well documented and I suppose I should feel quite happy with finding the Purdy girls, but as any genealogical researcher can attest….THE quest continues!

Special Note: If you feel dizzy after all of this, take some comfort in the fact that as the hapless researcher in this project, I had to create an analysis report to keep track of all of the clues and where they lead me. Many times it resembled circles upon circles! And I still have NO idea who Lewis’ parents are. Be brave!

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Genealogist, Author and Contributing Writer

(c) Copyright 2021




104 Degrees in the Shade

104 Degrees in the Shade

Note to My Readers: Part of a genealogist’s research involves delving into the world around our ancestors especially when there is something that seems out of the ordinary.   I have recently found the indexed information on my great grandmother’s New York State death certificate and sent away to Albany,  NY for a copy.  Lillian W. Jennings Martin was just 47 years old and a patient at King’s Park Asylum in Smithtown, Suffolk County, NY for at least five years when she died on July 18,  1905.


I began to read about King’s Park and its creation in 1885 as a ‘farm colony’ to care for Brooklyn’s ‘insane’ patients which included anyone who’s diagnosis ranged from mentally handicapped (idiot) to ‘hysteric’ (as you can guess women were those patients) to schizophrenic. It was a pretty terrible place where patients were subjected to lobotomies and electroshock therapy and were essentially locked away from the world.   Lillian’s diagnosis remains unknown to me though two factors are in play.  She was committed shortly after her daughter Lillian Florence Martin was born and her maternal grandmother, Orinda Bennett James, had been an ‘insane pauper’ inmate at Whitestown Insane Asylum in Whitestown, Oneida, New York at the time of her death in 1852 at the age of 62.  Postpartum Depression?  Incipient Dementia?   The Asylum was shut down in 1996 and records of Lillian are buried in some snaggled and bureaucratic mess.   If they exist anymore at all.


I ran across dozens of articles about the Heat Wave of July 17-19, 1905 that struck down easterners in astonishing numbers. Citizens in major cities east of the Mississippi were in desperate need of relief.  New York City found itself without the funds to ‘wash down’ the streets thanks to Tammany Hall corruption and ice handlers threatened to go on strike, but fortunately that did not materialize.  Ice was being given away for free to ease suffering and it wasn’t uncommon to see people in the streets of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Long Island chipping off pieces from the blocks that were placed in the streets.  The unclean streets.

By noon on July 18th thirty horses had collapsed and died in Brooklyn alone.  At nightfall the toll of horses dead from heatstroke was almost fifty animals.  Infant mortality was almost 80%.  The first day of the heat wave ten human deaths and two prostrations were reported and physicians advised populations to “(1) eat little or no meat, but ‘subsist on fruit and dairy foods’.  (2) Dress lightly in weight and color and avoid starched clothing as much as possible.  (3) Avoid violent exercise of any kind and keep in the shade.”    Still the populace collapsed and died.


Daily Star 21 Jul 1905 Heat Wave and Typhoid headline

Brooklyn Daily Star, July 18 1905

And then came the spread of typhoid. It was rampant and devastating. The Health Department had its hands full and hospitals were under siege with the heat prostration victims compounded now by typhoid. Advisories against consumption of oysters and milk were everywhere. But not ice. Not ice that was accessed by everyone on the fetid and sweltering streets by the desperate folks trying to get relief from the suffocating temperatures that reportedly measured 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade for three straight days.   The Stock Market seemed to be a victim of the torpor as traders themselves sagged under the oppressive heat.   As reported in “Billboard”, New York’s theater district was a ghost town as the more well-heeled citizens fled to the shores and mountains in pursuit of breezes and cooler temperatures. The Heat Wave of 1905 was reported in newspapers around the globe…Japan, Australia, London, Paris.

I scoured the Brooklyn papers that reported deaths on July 18, 1905 and for weeks after in the hopes that she was acknowledged. Nothing. Her husband, Henry had declared himself a widower in 1900 so was there shame?  It wasn’t uncommon for families to deny mental illness especially when a family member is ‘sent away’.  Perhaps Henry had been struggling so mightily to manage their children in the heat that providing a death notice to the newspapers was not a priority?  As one New York Times correspondent wrote:

“The suffering of the dwellers in the tenement districts is terrible. People sleep on the roofs, on fire escapes, in doorways, on the sidewalks-anywhere to get away from the suffocating rooms.  Yesterday an order was issued throwing open the parks at night, and every green space in the city was covered with sleepers.  The effect was exactly that of a battlefield.  All the ordinary rules of decency forgotten at such a time as this. Children bathe in the public fountains without any interference on the part of the police, and outside the public baths long lines men and boys stand waiting eager to lose no time when they are admitted that they have already divested themselves of almost all their clothing.”

King’s Park Asylum with its hundreds of patients no doubt had its share of prostrations and deaths due to the oppressive heat wave.  Did Lillian die due to the heat?   Will her death certificate reveal a truthful cause of death?   The conditions in New York City and Long Island may also explain why Henry’s son Albert…my grandfather…went to live in central New York (Auburn) with his grandfather’s family. Where he met my grandmother, Sarah Leona Penird.

Is my existence the result of the 1905 Heat Wave and a typhoid epidemic?

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright October 2017. All Rights Reserved.