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.
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.
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.
Deborah J. Martin-Plugh
Genealogical Researcher, Historian, Contributing Writer and Author
© Copyright 2019
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.