Phoebe H. Titus Crissey Durkee, a Pious Quakeress

Phoebe H. Titus Crissey Durkee, a Pious Quakeress

7uA Note to My Readers:  Researching my Quaker roots has been a beautiful and enriching experience.   The last practicing Quaker in my family is Phoebe Howe Titus Crissey Durkee (1813-1898), the sister of my maternal 3x great grandmother, Lydia H. Titus Downing Coapman (1810-1874).    Both sisters were members of the Scipio Meeting having transferred from the Bulls Head Meeting in La Grange, Dutchess County, New York.  Lydia’s life as Quaker was defined by the recordings in the meeting minutes.  When she remarried out of the membership after being widowed, she was declared MOU…as was her sister when she, too, remarried out the Quaker faith.  Both sisters were reinstated and that lead me to believe how devoted to their faith they each were.   Beyond assumption was the testimony of Phoebe’s life in her obituary and her will.

Pious Quakeress

Phoebe Howes Titus (1813-1898) is the sister of my 3x great grandmother Lydia H. Titus (1810-1874).  Phoebe was the youngest of nine children of Dutchess County Quakers Gilbert Titus (1765-1847) and Jane Hoag (1772-1849) – Anna, Naomi, Daniel D., David Sands, John H., Sarah, Lydia H. and Jane.

Like Daniel, David, Sarah and Lydia and their parents, Phoebe migrated to the northeastern shore of Cayuga Lake, married and settled down to raise a family.

In 1839 Phoebe married Alexander Crissey in the Village of Cayuga and in 1841 their son Isaac Orlando Crissey was born.   Phoebe was widowed that same year when Alexander died.  He was buried in the old Quaker Cemetery in Union Springs.  Alexander and Phoebe Crissey were members of the Scipio Meeting.

When Phoebe remarried a few years later, she was noted in the Scipio Meeting Minutes as MOU.  Married out of Unity.

Durkee Phebe ack Scipio mou (married out of unity) formerly Crissey.

However, in 1850 the Scipio Meeting Minutes report her as “mbr” member.

Durkee Phebe mbr Scipio Friend

LIFE ON THE CRISSEY FARM

Norman and Phoebe worked the Crissey farm until 1858 when she put the Springport Farm up for sale.

A SPRINGPORT FARM FOR SALE
THE SUBSCRIBERS OFFER FOR SALE
the well known CRISSEY FARM situated on the east shore of Cayuga Lake, two miles south of the village of Union Springs. Better buildings, more beautiful location or a better Farm in not in Cayuga County – A never-failing Spring of Pure Cold Water jets from a passtock? [illegible] in the Kitchen. The Spring also waters the Farm, and supplies an Artificial Fish Pond. It is also first Fruit Farm. The House is of brick, and its commanding location cannot fail to interest the attention of travelers by Steam Boat. The Farm contains 160 acres. Payments made to suit the purchaser. – Dated Springport, Oct. 18, 1858.
PHEBE DURKEE, Executrix
BENJ. F. COMSTOCK, Executor

As yet, I found no records of a completed sale, but the pair remained in Springport and in the 1855 census, Phoebe states she has lived there for 16 years.  It appears there was no sale after all.   In 1860 Norman is head of household and listed as the owner of the farm and its impressive value is $7000.  It is also likely that the Crissey farm was held in trust for her son, Isaac and Norman’s enumeration was just traditional male assumption.  Phoebe’s sister Lydia had been widowed in 1839 when Obadiah J. Downing died and her brother David Sands Titus became the executor and trustee of his estate.  When Lydia remarried, Obadiah’s estate remained in trust for their children.  This is probably the case for Phoebe.

Isaac Crissey was a bright young man and in 1859 launched his own newspaper “The Casket of Gems” which he wrote on the farm and had printed in Auburn, New York.  He had an impressive education studying at the Cayuga Lake Seminary in Aurora and continued his newspaper career publishing “The Cayuga Lake Recorder”.   His editorials were increasingly political as the period before the Civil War became more heated.   A staunch supporter of William Seward, he was disappointed when Lincoln won the candidacy for president.  He enthusiastically took up support for Lincoln and attended the inauguration in Washington, D. C on March 4, 1861 and considering that war was inevitable, wrote a passionate editorial

“Let the people of this great nation take courage – we have a great president.”

No doubt he was influenced by his uncle David Sands Titus who was a personal friend of Mr. Seward and a staunch Lincoln supporter.

Norman and Phoebe had three daughters, all who died in their youth.   By 1865 Norman was dead and her son Isaac was a married young man living in Buffalo, New York.  Phoebe and her daughter, Isabella were left to the lovely farm on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake.   Tragedy struck in 1868 and Isabella “Belle” died at the age of 20.     Alone at the age of 55, Phoebe packed up her belongings, left Union Springs and went to live with Isaac and his wife Harriet Simmons and their three daughters – Netta, Louise and Laura in Buffalo, New York.

A  LIFE IN BUFFALO

Phoebe continued to live a devoted Quaker life and was well known for her piety by her Buffalo neighbors.  Her home in Buffalo in 1869 was her own and located at 275 Ninth Street and her property was valued at $2000.   By 1873 Phoebe is listed as living at 275 Prospect Street in the directory and it is designated as “h” for home…not “b” for boarding so perhaps the street was renamed during that period of time.

The last of the Titus siblings, Phoebe provided a unique glimpse into her life on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake and her devotion to her faith as practicing Quaker.   Her obituary reports that she was found dead in her home kneeling at prayer.

DIED IN PRAYER

PEACEFUL END CAME TO MRS. PHOEBE H. DURKEE OF PROSPECT AVENUE.

Mrs. Phoebe H. Durkee, 86 years old, of No. 275 Prospect Avenue, was found dead yesterday morning, kneeling at the side of her bed.  She was the mother of Isaac O. Crissey, former Police Commissioner, and now an examiner under the State Board of Regents.

Mrs. Durkee lived alone.  Her son had lived  with her up to the time of his appointment under the State Board of Regents, when he found it necessary to move to Albany.  he wanted his aged mother to accompany him to that city, but her home in this city had become so dear to her that she refused to leave.  Mr. Crissy went to Albany and since that time Mrs. Durkee had been living alone.

She was a bright energetic, kind-hearted and excessively pious woman.  She was brought up a Quaker and during her entire life she adhered strictly to the doctrines of that sect.  It followed, therefore, that during the latter years of her life she spent a great deal of her time in prayer.

Some of the neighbors saw her about the house last Saturday night.  In the morning they missed her.  Most of the curtains remained drawn and the house was as quiet as if no one lived there.   About 10 o’clock yesterday morning some of the neighbors, fearing that all was not right, went to the door and rang the bell.  There was no response.  The shade at a side window of Mrs. Durkee’s bedroom was partly drawn.  One of the neighbors peeked into the room and saw its aged occupant kneeling at the bed.   She wore her night robe and it was thought at first that perhaps she had just arisen, and, in accordance with her custom, was opening her day with prayer.  After a time her neighbors rapped on the window, but no response came from the kneeling figure.

Patrolman Gorman of Police Station No. 10 was summoned and he forced the side door.  Mrs. Durkee was dead.  The bed had not been occupied during the night.  She evidently was offering her evening prayer when death came.

A dispatch was sent to Albany immediately, notifying Mr. Crissy of his mother’s death.  Last night a patrolman watched the body.  So far as could be learned, Mrs. Durkee had no relatives in Buffalo.

Coroner Tucker was called, but decided that an inquest was not necessary.

Buffalo Evening Express.  17 October 1898.

Buffalo Times NY 1 Nov 1898 p 4 Will of Phoebe Durkee

While no formal cemetery records exist of her burial site,  her will stated that she would be buried in the Old Quaker Cemetery in Union Springs where her brother Daniel and his family and her brother-in-law Obadiah J. Downing are interred.

 

 

 

 

A funeral notice in a Cayuga County newspaper reported

DURKEE – At Buffalo, Sunday, October 17, 1898, Mrs. Phoebe Durkee, aged 85 years, 20 days.

Interment at Friends’ cemetery, Union Springs, Wednesday, Oct. 20.

As her sister Lydia was also a member of the Scipio Meeting, it leads me to believe, she, too, is buried there as well.

042

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Genealogical Researcher, Historian, Contributing Writer and Author

© Copyright 2019

Author’s Note:

A few years ago I was contacted by a descendant of Phoebe and her son Isaac and we enjoyed sharing information and she provided photos of Phoebe’s spirited granddaughters taken in the early 20th century in bathing costumes of the day.  Of course, we are cousins and beyond the genealogical research, it was such fun to reflect upon the lives of Nettie, Louise “Lulu” and Laura and wonder what their grandmother would think of them and the very changed world.

 

 

 

 

Dark and Bloody Cayuga

A Note To My Readers:  Researching my Freece/Freese family (my paternal lineage) along Cayuga Lake, I found a Mr. John Freese that lived in the village of Cayuga.  As I have often discovered when I return to the peaceful little village in the 1800’s,  my paternal and maternal lines have multiple familial and social connections.   My cousin Charlie Baker and I are both family historians and share the same ancestral grandmother, Lydia H. Titus Downing Coapman who lived in Cayuga.  Over the years Charlie and I have marveled at how many of our family members have shared life altering events in that tiny community.

Henry Clay Hutchinson (1830-1878)

As I was trying to establish more information on John Freese, I discovered that he was at the death bed of the mortally wounded  Henry Clay Hutchinson, my cousin Charlie’s grand uncle.  An intelligent and ambitious young man,  Henry  was an engineer and submitted designs for the Cayuga Lake bridge, but his design was rejected.  It was around that time, Henry fell in love with a young beauty from Ohio and anxious not to lose her, promptly proposed marriage.  Henry was content in his marital bliss.   It wouldn’t last.  Henry’s lovely bride gave birth to a full term infant five months after their nuptials and embittered, he had the marriage annulled.   Thereafter, Henry was a surly, contentious man and never remarried.

Henry’s prickly nature led him to suing people so with his sharp intellect and litigious nature, he achieved his attorney’s shingle in his thirties. When his mother, Elizabeth Boardman Hall Hutchinson died in 1877, she had quite a bit of land and just below the grand Hutchinson house,  a Cayuga lakeside lot  which she had leased to Mr. James B. Robinson, a boat builder.

James B. Robinson (1823 – 1911)

Hutchinson House Lake St view

Hutchinson House.  Lake Street, Village of Cayuga

Henry wanted Robinson off the property, but Robinson had built a boat-making shed and ‘apartment for living’ and was running his business and was not about to go. Henry took him to the Supreme Court, but it appears that Elizabeth’s lease was in good faith.  Henry’s half brother, Cyrus Davis, managed their mother’s estate and agreed that Mr. Robinson could continue to live on the property.

Thwarted once again and  true to his disagreeable disposition,  Henry was livid.

He harassed Robinson…breaking out his windows…shooting at the building and chopping at it with an axe. He even tried to sabotage a little potato patch Robinson had planted.  Hutchinson would often rail at the situation and in one instance at the local store owned by John R. Van Sickle and Ransom Olds (two more kin of mine), Henry threatened

“If he did not leave he should put a hole through him, and if one hole was not enough, he should make another.”

The tension was very high,  constant and escalating so Robinson spoke with several members of the village and went to the law for advice. He had Hutchinson arrested on July 9th, but Hutchinson was from a respected family.  So free he went and the law told Robinson to just do his best to ignore him. Robinson tried, but Hutchinson became more and more threatening and even told Robinson’s adult son that he would burn him out. Robinson borrowed a shotgun and kept it by the living room door he was so afraid. Men from the village would walk Robinson to his door to try to help keep the peace. It wasn’t to be.

On July 19, 1878 Henry shot at the house and a confrontation ensued. Finally afraid for Newspaper Auburn NY Evening Auburnian 1878 - 0690 Killing of Henry C Hutchinson Dark and Bloody Cayugahis life, Robinson took up the borrowed shotgun and seeing Hutchinson with the gun, he shot in Hutchinson’s direction. Robinson was not familiar with guns and thought he aimed at Henry’s legs, but Henry was injured fatally…in his abdomen and wrist and leg.

David Coapman (1844-1911)

When the shots were heard, men came running and Henry, lying in a pool of blood,  told them Robinson had shot him. Doc A. J. Cummings, whose wife was a cousin of Henry’s, was summoned and Henry said he knew he was dying so John Freese was summoned to record his testimony and his last will in front of witnesses including Henry’s half brother, Cyrus H. Davis. James Robinson was arrested by Constable David Coapman (my cousin’s great great grandfather and my maternal 2x great grandmother’s brother).  Circles.

David Coapman knew Robinson to be a peaceable fellow and testified to his docile disposition at the trial.

When John Freese, a Justice of the Peace was summoned to the dying man’s bedside, Henry used his last breaths to declare himself harmless and to indict Robinson as a cold blooded murderer and that “this was all the work of Cyrus Davis”.  Then Henry’s focus was on directing his sister, Mary Rebecca Ferree (my cousin’s great great grandmother) to evict James Robinson from his late mother’s property…immediately.   Even to the end, Henry was intractable.

A coroner’s inquest was held on July 22 and after a long list of testimonies, the jury’s verdict was manslaughter in the first degree and the case was set for the grand jury.  The pronouncement of manslaughter was roundly criticized as outside of the province of a coroner’s inquest and only fitting for a trial jury.  On October 12, the grand jury convened and indicted Robinson with 21 indictments, one of which was murder.  He pled not guilty.

Thus James Robinson went to trial in Auburn, New York on October 19th attended by a  jury of his peers – twelve good men from Cayuga County.   From the beginning the testimonies given by several individuals who knew both men were clear about Henry’s  threatening and relentless  behavior.  A long time acquaintance of Henry’s,  James Cox, testified at the trail.

Hutchinson was passionate, unforgiving and vindictive.

Despite District Attorney Sereno Elisha Payne’s summation attempting to downplay the provocations against Robinson and his often declared fear of Hutchinson, the testimonies were irrefutable and Defense Attorney Milo Goodrich’s case was airtight.   Six months after Henry’s death, Robinson’s fate was in the jury’s hands.  After deliberating for a little over two hours, they returned with their verdict.   James B. Robinson was acquitted.   The audience which had been held rapt by the proceedings, rose and applauded the verdict.  Robinson’s wife, son and daughter-in-law, moved to tears, embraced James amid the hand shaking and congratulations.

During all of the trial,  a close friend had removed Robinson’s boat shop and personal belongings and took it to his place on Owasco Lake. James Robinson never set foot on the Cayuga Lake property again.

Henry Clay Hutchinson is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in the Hutchinson family plot- a few hundred feet from the Hutchinson house and the site of his death.

The news coverage was statewide and the village was described as ‘quiet’ and ‘idyllic’ and the shooting an ‘interruption of the peace’ and one headline declared “Dark and Bloody Cayuga”.  The drama of Henry’s life and death gave me a ton of reading material for the afternoon and provided insight into a good amount of characters from Cayuga.  Unfortunately, it left me with no clue as to my relationship to John Freese other than a familial name.

And another topic of conversation for my cousin Charlie and me.

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved