East Hill Where Heritage Lives. 100 Acres.

East Hill Where Heritage Lives. 100 Acres.

Purdy Family Bible

Family Bible of Elbert Purdy and Elizabeth A. Williams of Enfield, NY

A Note to My Readers: Going back to the heirloom that is the root of my genealogical interest and ultimate passionate life long study, I began to parse the details from the clippings that my maternal great grandmother, Elizabeth A. “Libbie” Williams Purdy Smith (1848-1940), carefully secured to her family bible.  Details matter and more often than not, offer us a greater picture of our ancestors’ lives.   In the case of Samuel D. Purdy (1818-1898), it gave me a pivotal clue as to where his farm was located and the knowledge that Semantha, his wife, co-owned the property.

ENFIELD, TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY

When Libbie’s father-in-law died in Elizabeth A. Williams Purdy with son, Burt Samuel1898, she had been a widow for ten years and pasted not one, but two newspaper clippings of Samuel D. Purdy’s death into her bible. By then she had remarried to a widower, Charles R. Smith, and relocated from Enfield to Ithaca, but she clearly maintained her Purdy and Enfield relationships. Perhaps she felt her matrimonial bible was not just her anchor of faith, but it also would serve as a treasured family time capsule. A remembrance of her and our entangled family history.  The tiny, distinguished and iron-willed woman who her descendants recall as Mrs. E. A. Smith of 309 Eddy Street, Ithaca, New York.

MERCHANT.  CARPENTER.  FARMER.

Samuel D Purdy obit 1898So…what is Libbie telling me with her inclusions? In my many trips to Enfield, I carried with me the 1866 map which indicated where Samuel D. Purdy’s mercantile – cum – U.S. Post Office and carpentry shop stood in Enfield Center. It was easy to identify the site of his business operation, but his obituary said he had a farm.  On East Hill.  Samuel bought and sold multiple parcels over his lifetime as an Enfield resident and I realized that I didn’t clearly understand exactly where his ‘farm’ on East Hill stood.

 

Without finding an official designation of what East Hill was/is, I assumed it is informally named by locals and not necessarily a bona fide geo-political name. I started to read references to East Hill of places in the area of Enfield Center (Harvey Hill and Bostwick Road intersection) and considering the steep inclination of Enfield Main Road to Enfield Center, I deduced that East Hill refers to Enfield Main Road.  Surely there was a stronger and more precise case to be made.  On to more official clues.

MAPS.  LAND RECORDS.

A record of a 1867 transaction selling 2/3 of an acre of land gave me another important benchmark location when a piece of property was sold by Samuel and his wife, Semantha.

“in the Town of Enfield in the County of Tompkins and State of New York being part of lot no. 60 in said town of Enfield as follows: to wit; Beginning at the south east corner of a lot of land on said great lot no. sixty & at the centre of highway running north and south through the village of Enfield centre & which lot is owned by Eliza Barber running from thence westerley as the fence runs on the south line of said Barber to lands owned by Gertrude Bailey hence southerly as fence now stands to the northwest corner of a certain piece of land owned by Sylvester Wright on said lot no. sixty….Being the same premises conveyed by deed  by S.D. Purdy & Semanthia (sic) his wife on the twenty seventh day of March 1867 to Elizabeth Kellogg.”

In a 1918 classified notice in the Ithaca Daily News I found a more precise description of Samuel and Semantha’s farm.

“All That Tract or Parcel of Land situate in the Town of Enfield, Tompkins County, N.Y., known and described as being subdivisions No. (blurred, but appears be ‘2’) and No. 5 on the north side of Lot No. 61 in the said Town of Enfield, and bounded as follows: Subdivision No. one thence running south thirty-nine chains and sixty-nine links: thence east twenty-five chains and twenty links; thence north thirty-nine chains and sixty-nine links; thence west along the north line of said lot No. 61 twenty-five chains and twenty links to the place of beginning, containing one hundred acre of land, more or less, and being the farm at one time owned by Samuel D. Purdy. Being the premises described in a deed recorded in the Tompkins County Clerk’s Office in Book 147 of Deeds at page 560, and also in Book 150 of Deeds at page 593 in said Tompkins County Clerk’s Office. Being the farm owned by Frank Cummings at the time of his death.
Dated, April 4, 1918”

1920 Enfield MapWith all of these elements…references in transactions dating back to the 1850’s to Military Lot 53, Lots No. 52, 60 and 61 owned by the Purdys and consulting a 1920 plot map of the Enfield area,  I will take Grandma Smith’s ‘hint’ and begin to diagram the mentioned lots, neighboring landowners, dates to develop the history and timeline of the Purdy properties.

Next spring upon returning to my ancestral roots in Enfield…diagram in hand… instead of having the general sense of  heritage presence, I hope to stand with surety upon the farmlands belonging to my 2x great grandparents.

 

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright October 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Hoss Flesh and Cow Tails

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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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.

Ithaca NY Daily News 1911 Lewis Purdys Cow Loses TailIn 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.

Lewis and Olive Sholes Purdy Monument

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.

 

 

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

 

 

Legacies and Heirlooms – Past and Future

A Note to My Readers: We spend years and countless dollars, travel to ancestral grounds and haunt offices of county clerks,  libraries and museums – looking for new research material…new information to feed our habit.  That’s all well and good…I love it, too, but taking the time to organize and maintain your home archives is one of the most important things a family historian can do.  You are a personal museum if you think of it and your inventory is irreplaceable.  Put down your Indiana Jones hat and pick up the white gloves and become an archivist for a bit.  You might have new revelations about your ancestors providing a new path for research, but if nothing else you will find comfort and confidence knowing that your legacy will be passing down the knowledge of what your family heirlooms are.

Family Bible Front CoverMy family bible is 146 years old.  It was the marriage bible for my great grandparents Elbert Purdy and Elizabeth Williams of Enfield, Tompkins County, New York.   The wedding certificate is a page that is one of the illuminated pages at the very center of the bible that contains pages of marriages, birth and deaths.  Other than the fact that the front cover is separated from the binding…the pages are in remarkable condition.  The bible has survived house fires, many moves…from Enfield to Ithaca to Auburn to Cayuga, New York to New Hampshire and Rhode Island cross country to California and back to New York state to New Jersey and finally here to Pennsylvania…thousands and thousands of miles over 146 years.  It has been passed down through several generations and I hope it continues to do so.  For years it was in a box…in my mother’s closet…and then in mine.  Until I started working on the family genealogy…and was bitten by the bug.

I work with historians and archivists…museums and libraries…and have learned how to protect my valuable family treasures.  Mementos is too small a word.  Treasure is more fitting.  The bible is in my barrister bookcases…behind glass…not exposed to sunlight and in a temperature controlled environment.  The newest expert opinion is out on the subject of handling old paper with or without gloves.  Making sure your hands are clean before perusing old books and documents seems to be the prevailing wisdom of the day though I still run into museum and library folks who maintain the glove requirement protocol.  The standards I have hung my hat on come from the National Archives…and you don’t have to be a big institution with vaults and expensive methods to use their guidelines.

Digital is nice for sharing with multitudes of people…and I have an ongoing project to scan old photos, documents and ephemera to do just that, but the real thing…the tangible items are dear and touching and a digital image can never evoke the same awe.

Store your items well…organize them.  If you are a Virgo, Type A like I am…catalog and index what you have.  When you pass them down, there will be no guess work for the next generations about what they are and to whom they pertain.    I spent over a decade working out mysteries and I still have some ‘orphan’ material and photos, but they are few and far between, thank goodness.  After all, we all have expressed regret because we didn’t get that information from the previous generation and we are left wondering.

Lots of stuff?   It’s not going to get any less, so choose one small box at a time starting with the oldest material and settle down on a rainy or snowy day and begin.  Your great grandchildren will be glad you did.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

The Lovely Daughters of Ithaca

A Note to My Readers: My great grandmother’s family bible is an amazing ‘go to’ source for me. She was meticulous…her reputation of propriety and a stickler for detail was borne out by her record-keeping. She died in 1940 at the age of 90 and by the time my mother passed it along to me, the ‘who was whom’ became ‘they are Grandma Smith’s family – the Williams and Van Dorns’. So it was up to me to begin the task of putting these folks -the lovely daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters of Peter Van Dorn of Enfield – in their rightful place in the family pedigree.
Mary J Holmes Stamp Obituary Barely yellowed and still clear as a bell and neatly clipped as would be her style, Norma Stamp Griffith’s obituary was adhered to the pages of the family bible. And nearby was the obituary…likewise aged and with tidy corners…of Mary J. Stamp. A bit of researching using my great grandmother as a nexus…and I had my connection. Mary J. Stamp was Mary Julia Ette Holmes, my grandmother’s first cousin…and Norma Van Dorn Stamp Griffith was her daughter. Mary’s mother, Margaret Van Dorn, had married the handsome sheriff, Samuel Holmes from Enfield who later purchased the Tompkins House in Ithaca and with his son-in-law, Abial B. Stamp ran the hotel for a number of years.

Norma was the only child of Abial and Mary- the Stamps having lost a young son so she was the source of their love and devotion…educated and refined. The lovely Norma caught the eye of a successful young attorney, John Samuel Griffiths. He whisked Norma away to New York City where he had already established a successful practice. Once more…a lovely daughter was born in Ithaca, New York. Juliette Holmes Griffith, a debutante and gifted vocalist who was the darling of New York society. She was a sought after young lady for marriage…listed in the Blue Book, but she only had eyes for one Dr. Burr Burton Mosher, an accomplished (and very married) physician thirty years her senior. He had a fine education…he was born in Union Springs, Cayuga, New York and attended Oakwood Seminary before going on to his higher education.

In fact, Dr. Mosher had a glorious reputation as a pediatric surgeon and philanthropist, but his marriage woes were very Juliette Griffith Brooklyn Eagle engagement photopublic and decidedly fiery. Their rows were public record and subject of much gossip. Tiring of the embarrassment, he packed the first Mrs. Mosher off to Europe ‘for a vacation and rest’ and set the legalities in motion and secured his home against her return. They were divorced in 1915 and he married Juliette in 1918…his daughter Harriet attending her new stepmother. He was 55 and she was 25. Harriet was three years older than her father’s new wife. Burr and Juliette were to have only three years together. Dr. Mosher was seriously hurt in a trolley accident in 1920, but seemed to recover. Unfortunately his injuries and trauma were such that eventually, he collapsed and died in 1921.

And the lovely Juliette with the voice of angel? What of her? She was still a young woman and her voice was considered spectacular so she went off to Europe and trained her voice with the finest coaches eventually returning to her home in Brooklyn…visiting Ithaca. Eventually she met Dr. Harmon Hadley of Princeton, a widower and successful doctor. The pair married and raised Harmon’s two children.

Juliette Holmes Griffith Mosher Ashley is buried with her parents and brother in Ithaca City Cemetery.

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

A Saratoga Trunk with a Stranger’s Name

A Note To My Readers:  Family historians have a penchant for heirlooms and many of us are fortunate to be the keepers of family treasure.  Some of us haunt antique stores searching for a talisman of the past.  Perhaps great grandpa was a cobbler and and a vintage shoe last calls out to you from a shelf and you take it home to remind you of him.  Perhaps a Saratoga trunk with a stranger’s name.  Deborah Chase.

I always marvel at those folks who have seemingly endless family heirlooms still in their possession.  I have been reading old wills from the 1800’s which spell out the usual estate holdings followed by the distribution of goods and money.  In those formal documents the trail of an heirloom exists.  After all, these vintage things that we possess today were inherited down a line and have a history.  Practical, personal and human.

Elbert Purdy and Elizabeth A Williams Matrimonial BibleThe heirloom centerpiece of what I have belonged to my great grandmother, Elizabeth A. Williams Purdy Smith.  Her marriage bible…the family bible…from 1867 and its companion pieces tucked away in its pages.  Tintypes and cabinet cards, yellowing obituaries, handwritten birth, marriage and death notations.

And her rosewood parlor chair…delicate and Libbie Williams Purdy chair 2small with a horsehair filling.  It crunches when the seat is touched.  I have recovered it a couple of times.  It’s original ivory white silk cover was deteriorated and worn when I received it from my late Aunt Elizabeth’s belongings.  I wished I had kept a scrap of the silk, but I was young when I reupholstered it the first time and what did I know about such things.  I kept the horsehair fill though…it…spoke to me, I guess.

My mother told me of a stack of letters “from a loved one” that my great grandmother kept bundled in a blue silk ribbon and a marble topped table that sat in her parlor with the Brussels carpet.  Her grandmother would carefully untie the silk ribbon and read aloud the contents of  the letters while my mother sipped tea.  Ceremoniously the letters would be tucked back in the envelopes….the ribbon neatly tied and Grandma Smith would finally pour her own cup of tea.  My mother knew that parlor and could recall every detail of it right down to the marble top table and the lovely patterned carpet.  It was because of the recall of my mother that  the words from the 1887 will of my great great grandmother’s sister, Deborah Van Dorn Chase, leaped out at me when I read them.

“I give and bequeath to my grand neice (sic) Libbie Johnson the sum of four hundred dollars and the following named goods one Piano one parlor bedstead with high top one common bedstead one cane bottom rocking chair three can bottom chairs one marble top table eighteen yards brussells carpet and one Syrtoga (sic) trunk said property to be paid to her at the age of twenty-one years to have and to hold during her lifetime and in case she should die without child or children then the aforesaid money & goods or what shall be left of them shall go to my sister’s daughter, Elizabeth Purdy or her heirs.”

Deborah had been been married twice, but had no children of her own.  In her last will and testament she bequeathed money and goods to her sister, Mary Williams (my great great grandmother) and her daughter, Elizabeth Purdy (my great grandmother).  Deborah also left money and goods to her grand niece Libbie Johnson .  Libbie’s mother, Mary Lorinda Williams Johnson, would die one year after Deborah leaving the young girl without a mother.  Her father, Captain Albert Johnson, was a highly educated man, a Civil War Veteran and a career internal revenue man with the Federal government.  Albert left the little village of Enfield behind after his wife’s death, remarried and his career took him to New York City and Chicago.  Libbie found maternal love and support in her Williams and Van Dorn families and at age 20 married her second cousin, William Van Dorn who was almost twenty years her senior.  And she had a child.  Julia Burton Van Dorn.  Her heir.  Libbie and William eventually had separate households.   While William remained in Ithaca , Libbie and her daughter lived in Rochester where Libbie ran a boarding house and Julia worked at Kodak.  As a young woman Julia played the piano and spent many afternoons in my great grandmother’s Ithaca parlor serving tea.    A parlor with a marble top table and Brussels carpet.

It might be a leap to think my great grandmother’s table and carpet might be the ones mentioned in Deborah’s will…especially because they were willed to Libbie Johnson, but I do wonder.  And then there is the trunk.  My mother never mentioned a trunk and she had a memory for those details so it leaves me to think that Libbie passed the trunk on to her daughter, Julia.    Julia Burton Van Dorn became the wife of  John Fulmer Davis in 1925 in Trumansburg, a small town near Ithaca, New York.  Her father, William had died in 1922 and it is reasonable to think that she and her mother returned to settle William’s estate.    Libbie and  the newly weds moved to Binghamton, NY where Libbie’s father, Albert Johnson, had earlier retired and left a small estate upon his death in 1920.   Julia and John Davis had no children.   When Julia died in 1993, there was nowhere for the “Syratoga” trunk to go.  The close family connection was long gone.  My mother was the last of the Van Dorn Williams Purdy line to live in Ithaca and we had moved away in 1953.  Mom never mentioned Julia and if there had been a relationship, she most definitely would include her in our afternoon trips down memory lane.

Perhaps the trunk ended up in an antique store in Binghamton.  Perhaps a stranger treasures Deborah’s trunk.   I hope so.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

 

I am Dr. Parvis Austin Williams’ ancestor and I approve this message

Speaking of politics…I know. I know. We all have campaign trauma. But I began to be curious about my ancestor’s political activities a few years ago and gathered some information to read for a rainy day.

My 3rd great grandfather, Dr. Parvis Austin Williams, was not only a practicing physician in the Ithaca area, but he was a political animal as well. He was an original member of the Tompkins County Medical Society, a Republican delegate for Tompkins County in 1819 and Ulysses Town Delegate in 1820. In 1821 he was a Tompkins County Commissioner of Turnpikes and Roads.

He ran for New York State Assembly in 1834 as a Democrat and won a seat for the 58th Session in Albany.  I read with great interest about the celebrations in Albany, NY.

The Democratic citizens of Albany held a celebration on Tuesday evening last….At sundown a salute of 100  guns was fired and in the evening there was a brilliant display of fireworks.  After the republicans of the city had partaken of the refreshments which were prolific, they “separated in high spirits, with renewed zeal in the cause of the democracy.”

While he still practiced medicine….Tompkins county had more than its fair share of babies named Parvis…, he devoted his time to Temperance issues and published opinions on the effects of alcohol on the body.

Though I have no documentation, Parvis was also a Mason.  The giveaway is his tombstone

Quaker Settlement Cemetery

which is deeply etched with the Masonic symbol.  And could be my pathway into the doctor’s political leanings.  There was an anti-Mason movement in the 1830’s which became an element in the Whig Party.   This is not doubt the critical factor in Dr. Williams’ choice of political affiliation in the 1830’s.  The anti-Mason movement was bitter and violent fomented by suspicion and not fact.
A Politician’s Work is Never Done

In the 1850’s he continued his political interests closer to home and was Supervisor of the Poor and Coroner for Enfield.

Doc Williams’ activities were numerous and he brought along my 2nd great grandfather, Oliver S. Williams who was a Democratic convention delegate and county secretary for a number of years. After his father’s death, it doesn’t appear that Oliver had much of a political ambition and turned his energies to business.

The little town of Enfield was a hotbed of contrary opinions during the early years of its establishment…speeches and resolutions abounded. That said, I singularly gathered the individual mentions of politics and never built a picture from the pieces. The early mentions of the doctor in Republican activities to find him in his fifties in the 1830’s as a Democrat surely has a connection to the history of our nation and the attitudes and political sentiments of one country doctor.
Time for a dive into the history books to learn more about the world in which my 3rd great grandfather lived and what shaped his politics.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved

Politics and Passion…History in the Making

It’s election day…I voted….and like most of us, I eagerly await the results. The past few days I began to assemble some of the political references that appeared in my ancestors’ obituaries, biographies, newspaper items, etc. Found it interesting that many obituaries…after the usual history…end up stating something to the effect that he (it was always a male relative when it came to political reference) was a lifelong Republican or whatever. After a period of time in the last century that quaint custom fell out of favor unless someone held office.

The Life and Death of Nicholas Bogart

Several of my ancestors were tavern owners and all manner of meetings…political and otherwise…were held at their taverns. Loco Foco rabble rousers met at the tavern built and run by my great great great grandfather, Peter Van Dorn, in Enfield, New York and the newspaper accounts of resolutions and speeches were full of exciting rhetoric including the colorful term “barnburners…disgraceful and unprincipled” . One meeting in the little village of Cayuga along the lake of the same name…at the inn run by Major David Sands Titus…my great great great grandmother’s brother…fairly brought the house down with its intense nature.  Yet the attendees were of ‘gentlemenly character”.

William Seward was a lifelong friend of the Major and the politics of the nation at that time were full of the passion of abolition. The Major had traveled with his family from Dutchess County to Cayuga County in 1829 with their hired man, Nicholas Bogart,  who was a former slave and a valued member of the Titus household. He eventually became Seward’s hired man and traveled by his side wherever Seward went for his entire life. I learned so much about the politics and sentiments of these men just by studying their relationship. I wish everyone had the opportunity to understand the living history of our nation and why passionate men and women must step up for change and equality….we might be better citizens of today.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved