Written in Ink. Not Stone.

Confirmation with a bit of mystery…isn’t that always the way?

Analyzing evidence is an art as much as it is a science.  Not every thing is a slam dunk because we are always dealing with information provided by human beings.  Information with bias or best guess affected by faulty memory.  And then there is the challenge of reading unfamiliar handwriting.  Graphologists nod here!

I just received two death certificates from New York State in today’s mail….for my paternal 3rd great grandparents, Jonathan Bowker (1798-1891) and his wife Emeline Powers Bowker (1806-1888) of Lansing, Tompkins County, NY.  Through past research I pretty much proved my Bowker and Powers lineage, but since the Bowkers died after New York State began to require death certificates, I thought it worth spending the $22 each to secure an official document.    Names.  Check.  Dates.  Check.  Places…almost check.    And parents…Check with a mystery.

Jonathan’s father, John Bowker (1771-1855),  was purported to be born in Ulster County, New York, but his son’s death certificate states his father’s birthplace was “Mass”.   Both make sense as John’s father and mother (Silas Bowker and Esther Hobbs) were from Massachusetts and migrated to Ulster County where Silas was a scout in the Revolutionary War.   So…this is one of those toss of the coin at this point.

As for Emeline’s death certificate…everything checks out with my research evidence.  Except I cannot read the handwriting that states her mother’s first name.  My research shows that her mother was Ruth Roberts, second wife of Jacob Powers.  And everything points to it.  Jacob’s first wife, Rhoba Tabor, bore him ten children, but she died in 1804 and is buried in Sharon, Connecticut.  He then married Ruth and fathered at least five children with her…including Emeline. Emeline Powers Bowker DC Crop

But! (isn’t there ALWAYS a ‘but’) Emeline’s death certificate isn’t clear and it even looks like it says “Phebe” which I know isn’t right…could it say Rhoba?  Ruth?…it just doesn’t look like it.  Not even close and I am pretty good at this.  I take into account that my 2nd great grandmother, Sarah D. Bowker Case Johnson, cared for them in their elder years in her home and so I assume she would know these family details.  But then…could Phebe be Ruth’s real name and she chose Ruth as her ‘familiar’ name?  After all, the Powers were Palatine immigrants to the Hudson Valley who were originally Pauer.  Her grandfather was Joest Power with no “s” and he was often called Justus in Dutchess County records.  Or could the good doctor have interviewed Sarah and in the midst of the bureaucratic necessity of paperwork forgotten and guessed a name to get the chore done and over?

As line number 10 reminds us…

I hereby report this Death, and certify that the foregoing statements are true according to the best of my knowledge.  (signed by George Beckwith, M.D.)

Oh my…a genealogist’s challenge….but then we love a challenge, don’t we???

To keep my sense of humor and stay on track, I bow to Mark Twain.

The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved



The Powers That Be

A Note to My Readers: It’s January and research for this Northeasterner revolves heavily around reading and analyzing and organizing the work….with some networking via emails thrown in to broaden my knowledge and my ‘helper’ base.  Most of us have a brick wall or two…or seven…and we all have those TBD (to be determined) lines to pursue.  

For the longest time I had the information that my 3rd great grandmother, Emeline Power Bowker (1806-1888), was born in Dutchess County.  The longest time.  It took the availability of some books online to help me trace her parents,  Ruth Roberts and her husband, Jacob Power, from Groton, Tompkins, New York back to Amenia, Dutchess, New York.  “The Powers Family of Dutchess County” compiled by descendant Benjamin Mather Powers and published in 1968 was the first break.  It was based upon the work of Alfred Le Grand Powers (1847-1933) of Preston, Chenango, New York who began the work about 1890 and collaborated with Benjamin to publish the small and obscure monograph on the Joest Power family history.  Along with the pedigree breakdown, background information..small biographies and the etymology of the family name from the southern German root of  Pauer/Bauer to the anglicized Power and to Powers…straightened the research path.

And so I am back in Dutchess County (reading) researching my ancestors…what’s with the Hudson Valley and my roots? I find myself back there so often almost like being pulled by an invisible force.  This time it is to document my 5th great grandfather, Palatinate immigrant John Joest (YOST) Power who came to Rhinebeck in 1752 from Berenbach, Germany where he was a linen weaver.  The 21 year old man overcame hardship along with his indomitable mother who was widowed when Joest was young during the tumult of religious, political and economic upheaval in their region known as the Palatinate.  It was told that his mother, Elizabeth Appolonia  went without in order to educate her children and provide them with the tools to better their lives.  Joest learned resourcefulness from Elizabeth and with her assistance paid for his passage to the New World in full instead of as a “Redemptioner” (one who sold his services for a certain number years in return for free passage).

First settling in Rhinebeck, Dutchess, New York, Joest met and married Elizabeth Maul, daughter of Jacob Maul and Dorothea Trombauer.

The place (Rhinebeck) was on the Hudson River and among its settlers were many German families, including a few from the Palatinate.  In 1757 or 1758 Joest married Elizabeth, a daughter of Jacob Mowl, Sr., a man of considerable property for an emigrant to the new land.  Having paid for his passage, Joest had but little left, and so we find that when he landed in his new home his material capital consisted of a mattock (a digging tool) and a grubbing hoe.

Eventually Joest and Elizabeth moved their family to Amenia where he “bought a small farm about two miles from the present village of Amenia, then merely a crossroads with a few buildings.”   He and Elizabeth were noted for their ‘tireless energy and efficient labors.”

She was a worthy helpmeet (sic) and much of the family fortune was due to her ability as a spinner in the manufacture of cloth for sale.  It is said that she was one of the few who were able to run two flax wheels at the same time, one with the right and the other with the left hand.

A critical bond for the immigrants revolved around their faith.  As I read through the Dutch Reformed Church records during those early days of settlement in New York,  many members were Mauls and Trombauers and Powers.  Marriage and baptismal records further defined the family names, dates and places.

Joest died in 1794 after exhausting himself caring for his son, John’s family and toiling on his little farm.  In the summer of 1794 Yellow Fever had spread along the Hudson River.

The neighbors care for the sick by day while Joest worked in the hay field.  He cared for the sick at night until about the time the two began to convalesce when he found himself coming down with the disease.   He started on foot for Amenia, distance about twenty miles.  He reached there in life but died soon thereafter.  This was September 15, 1794.

Many of his descendants have inherited some measure of his ability unflinchingly to bear pain and to work under the greatest of difficulties.  None of them, however, have possessed it to the degree of this one of their forefathers.

Joest and his wife Elizabeth are buried in the old Amenia Burying

Joest Power stele.  Amenia Burying Grounds

Joest Power stele. Amenia Burying Grounds

Grounds and their monuments still stand.

The Mauls and the Powers were Revolutionary War patriots signing the 1775 Articles of Association and providing goods and services to the Continental Army and records exist that indicate the families’ political leanings and indeed their commitment to the cause.  Jacob was only 16 years old when he signed his name.  Shortly after the young man declared his commitment with his signature, his father, Joest added his name to the document.

Harlem Valley Times 9 Sep 1926

Harlem Valley Times 9 Sep 1926

Joest and his son, Jacob Power (my fifth and fourth great grandfathers respectively) are well documented in Amenia, New York history. Today I found that Jacob’s name was listed as a Revolutionary War soldier on a memorial erected in Amenia in the  mid 1920’s.  Around 1807 Jacob had moved to the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake.  When he could apply for a military pension in 1833, he was 73 years old and his old friends in Amenia were long gone to corroborate his service. His pension was denied.

Ironically, today I find all manner of information on Jacob’s service…including anecdotal stories of him at 16 acting as a teamster…driving through British lines and challenging Tories feigning ‘simpleness’ when challenged. He was a good actor and very youthful in appearance and was never held so supplies made it through to Continental Army stores because of his pluck.

A “must stop” in spring of 2014 is Amenia to see if the monument still stands. I find references to Fountain Square Veteran’s Memorial, but it appears it is a more recent installation…circa 1991. Perhaps some of the original memorial remains. I hope so.

It’s the least a grateful nation could do for Jacob, a sixteen year old young man who took up the cause for independence and alone except for his own team of horses and a wagon full of supplies and at times Continental soldiers, risked it all with great courage and spirit.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved