As You Are, I Once Was…

Presbyterian Cemetery Pioneer Burials
Enfield, New York

I spent this morning in my ancestral grounds of Enfield, New York…just above Cayuga’s waters…traipsing about the two old cemeteries in Enfield Center.  They are still active…meaning they have open lots and current burials…handsome new stones that neither tilt nor mildew and glisten in the summer sun.  But for the pioneer areas…Mother Nature is relentess and the presence of man is only embodied in the old epitaphs.  In the four years since I began to visit these cemeteries, the odds against these old monuments being here for another generation continue to rise.  My great great grandparents and my great grandparents are buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery. And my great great great grandmother, Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll.   Samuel D. Purdy and his wife, Semantha Ingersoll rest at the very back of the cemetery down a forbidding slope, but their monuments still sit fairly upright…the eight foot obelisk is a mighty sight.  More modestly…but more level and pristine sits the headstone of Elizabeth Weyburn, wife of Samuel Ingersoll, Jr. and daughter of Ovid and Ulysses pioneers Samuel Weyburn and Jane Bratton.

When my son, Mike, came with me a couple of years ago…he bullied his way down the overgrown slope and beat back the brush so we could visit their graves and lay a pink rose at each monument.   Mother Nature has reclaimed this grandson’s rude path and the blackberries with their prickly sentinels once again guard the way.   So I can only stand there from the high ground and zoom in with my camera to reassure myself that they are there for one more year.

I made my way down the Enfield Main Road to the Christian cemetery and walked up to the Van Dorn and Williams graves.  They remain as always…darker with mildew and pollen…but still upright and facing East as the Christian burial tradition dictated, but I cannot say that others have fared so well.  I still peek into the heavy brush at the back, but dare not enter…take a photograph or

Pioneer wife Lydia Baker’s broken monument

two…and then head south to the old debris pile to make sure that Judah Baker’s Revolutionary War Medallion is still stuck amidst the brush…and his wife, Lydia’s broken stone still sits…slowly being covered by broken wood, leaves and dirt.

I wish I were twenty years younger with my strong body and hands and fearless heart.  But I am a (gulp) senior citizen now and clearing and hauling brush and mending stone is for the next generation.  If they will.

As I drove away…it occurred to me that these pioneers settled this land…made the first roads and maintained them…most new ones follow the old turnpikes….many bear their names…Applegate…Harvey…Van Dorn.  Judah and Lydia Baker have a NYS historical marker at the road by Christian Cemetery.  And yet we shrug sympathetically…”there is no money…I don’t have time….someone else will do it.  Oh well…that’s how it goes…”.   Townships are strapped and spread thin and have priorities…that’s a reality.  The same holds true with cemetery associations.  What to do to preserve our history and honor those that struggled so that we could be free and live in this most amazing country?

I had put off joining the DAR…the economy has a grip on my purse. I still have the original papers from 2008…dated the day before Leaman fell.   But I think for me this might be the place to start…an organization that has in the past tackled these cemeteries…raising funds…getting grants…moving mountains to make sure our pioneer cemeteries continue to exist and stand as a testament to those that came before us.

I have told this story before…but it bears repeating.  Years ago I found an old cemetery and began to push through the rusty gate when an old and faded sign caught my eye.  It had hung on the gate at one time and had been as white as the snow.  Its letters once coal black as a raven’s eye were weathered and worn and the words barely legible.

“As you are, I once was.  As I am, you will be.”

I thought how poetic…it was as if the old sign whispered to me…the words as gray as a ghost.  I never looked at a pioneer cemetery the same way again…or the history and lives these old cemeteries represent.

It may start with a five dollar donation and rustling up some high school kids and college kids who love and study history…but the journey has to begin somewhere and if I cannot heft a sickle….I will tug at someone’s conscience and grab a hold of their change purse.

It’s just one Starbuck’s coffee away from reality.  And heck…THEY would approve…Starbucks were pioneer whalers….

What will you do to preserve history?

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved


Kindred Spirits

A Note to My Readers:

I spent most of yesterday in the company of two historians who generously shared their knowledge of Ovid, Seneca county, New York and its history.  But it was the scope of the generosity that moves me to write about the spirit of Gail Snyder and Naomi Brewer.  As I have done in the past, I contacted the current Ovid Historian, Gail Snyder, before my trip to Ithaca, New York in order to establish a working relationship.  I was also given the name of the past Ovid Historian, Naomi Brewer and spoke with her as well.  After the two preparatory phone calls, I felt their energy and knowledge and was optimistic that I would learn “some” things to add to my historical research for my ancestral grandfathers, Samuel Ingersoll and Samuel Weyburn. 

Some Things

When I arrived at Gail’s Ovid home, I was greeted by Gail’s exacting preparations neatly set out on her kitchen island.  I, too, had brought my printouts to facilitate a smooth collaboration.  Highlighters, pencils, paperclips, a stapler…binders and local history books rounded out Gail’s collection of working tools.  We were off to a good start!  She had identified the burial information for both Samuels and their kin…emphasized them with the bright yellow highlighter and annotated in Gail’s handwriting.  I was impressed!

“Is that a pen you are using?”, she asked.  I had brought my own materials as I said…strictly to make notes on my own notebook.  Gail handed me a pencil and explained that people had a tendency to write in the old books without thinking.  Now I knew she was not only a capable historian…she was a smart archivist.  I thought I couldn’t admire her more at that point.

After Gail and I had gone over the work she had prepared and what I had brought with me, Naomi arrived.  She was a bit late, but as we learned later, the eighty-seven year old had stayed up late to enjoy the Olympics.  I felt slightly sheepish that I am twenty-one years her junior and I was asleep by ten…Olympics or not.  But I came to learn that this was Naomi…engaged and engaging.

And I was about to learn more than some things.  About history.  About life.

Part of historical research is to connect with your fellow family historians.  After all, we are in the business of history…people history.  Over the years I have developed some wonderful relationships.  Dynamic partnerships driven by the research and some that have that “old soul” quality added.

Our friendly discussion of Ovid and history turned to my research goals.  I was prepared to take away the well prepared printouts and books that I had purchased from the historical society and the information from interviewing Naomi, when Gail surprised me by asking, “Do you want to drive or should we all go together?” I couldn’t believe this most generous offer.  They were going to spend time with me…in Ovid..specifically in Sheldrake and TAKE ME to the old cemeteries and drive me through Sheldrake Point so I could understand where Samuel Weyburn owned his land in the late 1700’s.

The drive was a short one…down County Road 139…past Amish farms and wineries and toward the lake shore, but Gail and Naomi kept a running commentary of local history wafting back to me…pioneer names and tales filled my head.   Despite the nature of the rambling banter, these ladies were laser focused on my initial goal…to find the burial site of Samuel Ingersoll.  I had found an old monograph…written in letter form…by Nathan Townley which told of his 1919 visit to the old Sheldrake burying ground.  He noted that he found the stone of Samuel Ingersoll and his third wife, Jerusha amidst the brush and tangle.  He also said that he had had to bully his way through. In 1919.

The Ovid historian’s record book, “Cemeteries Between the Lakes”, confirmed my information so I was sure that the ladies would get me to the site and perhaps I might take a photo of the general area to archive the site…GPS mark it…and be grateful that I had accomplished “some thing”.

As background, Gail and Naomi told me that the old grounds had been cut back and cleared decades ago, but that it had not been touched again for some time.  In other words, we most likely would find nothing but brush and inaccessible grounds.  The good news was that Gail had been contacted by a young man who wanted to reclaim and restore the burial site and fashion a sign to mark the historical site.  Money is a factor…isn’t it always?…but perhaps by next spring, he will begin the work in earnest.

Sheldrake Cemetery

“Pull over here”, directed Naomi, our shotgun tour guide.  Gail eased her van to a lush green spot alongside the road and the two of us hopped out and crossed the road to the erstwhile clearing.  I hadn’t brought my cemetery kit…or worn sensible shoes.  I hadn’t thought to change or prepare…or bring my “snake stick”…so unlike me…everything was back in the trunk of my car at Gail’s home.  But then…in for a penny….I could take a bug bite or the pokes and scratches from the brush and brambles.  Adventure time!

Gail had put on her sneakers and plunged in ahead of me.  There were a handful of broken and fallen stones and the ground was not just uneven, it was unpredictably so.  Carefully, we made our way deeper into the glade and there in the middle clearing stood two beautiful stones…side by side.  Slightly tilted but barely so…legible and with fine carving of sunbursts and linear hatchwork.  Samuel Ingersoll and his third wife Jerusha Gaylord had waited in the abandoned burial grounds for one hundred and ninety-four years for Samuel’s granddaughter to pay her respects.

Samuel Ingersoll Monument
Sheldrake Cemetery

Needless to say, I was deeply moved, but when I looked up at Gail, I saw she was astonished as much as I was.

I photographed the site and made note of the GPS location…not that I needed it with the likes of Gail and Naomi around!  Gail and I made our way back to the van…Naomi ensconced in her shaded perch and we were off to explore the world of Weyburn.  Samuel owned land from what is today Footes Corner Road down to the lakefront area of Kidder’s Beach and bounded by Deerlick Springs Road to the south and Morgan Road to the north.  PRIME beach front property as I would learn.  There was a bit of modern day discussion of taxes and I wondered what the pioneer Samuel Weyburn would think of his homestead as it stands today…vineyards and cottages…and taxes and tourists.

More things WEYBURN

On our way to the recorded burial site of Samuel and his wife, Jane Bratton at Lakeview Cemetery in Sheldrake,  Gail and Naomi treated me to a slow drive through the Sheldrake area, pointing out the old homes…some “grand old ladies” of a bygone era and the family stories that eventually wound their way back to Naomi’s own.

The cemetery of Lakeview in Sheldrake is beautifully kept, surrounded by a wrought iron fence and towering trees and shrubs.  We followed the map displayed on the cemetery’s administration building and found the Weyburns listed as buried in “frgrd” which stands for free ground and evidently is the area were the pioneers are buried.

Samuel Weyburn Monument
Lakeview Cemetery

Amid the old stones…in various conditions…broken, worn…, but fairly well intact…stood the WEYBURN monuments…perfectly level and still legible and very much in the fashion of the INGERSOLL stones.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the same stone mason made the monuments.  The shapes are identical…the heights…and the stone material.  But it is the etching detail that causes me to make that assumption…sunbursts and linear hatchwork…

I had more than met my research goals and couldn’t imagine a better morning when Naomi reminded me about her story…”the resting place of Samuel Weyburn.”  Seems local lore was that Samuel had been buried on the edge of his property which is now on Footes Corner Road…”by the ditch and near the hedgerow” as Naomi explained.

We were off to Footes Corner Road!

We sat for a bit considering the site, but I knew that Samuel had initially been buried on his property first and re-interred in Lakeview.  His son, George, had taken care of that and it was noted in the Weyburn Family Genealogy.  In a way, I hated to take the edge off of Naomi’s humorous story, but it is still a good one with some truth in it and at the end of our discussion, we were all satisfied that Sam’s bones are in Lakeview.

And Naomi can keep telling the story of Samuel’s bones in the ditch by the hedgerow.

Take A Historian To Lunch

Many of my readers know about my “Take a Historian To Lunch” policy.  I did it on a lark in the early days of field researching…after a morning of work.  “Hey, can I take you to lunch?” kind of thing.  A thank you and some human time.  Sometimes I have a group of people that I work with and we arrange some lunch time for history talk.  And sometimes…I am the one who is surprised.  I certainly didn’t expect to have a full morning of wonderful company in my research, but after a morning of pioneer talk, discovery, and Ovid history, the ladies began to discuss where we could have lunch.

I was like driftwood along the lake…I went with the flow which found us at “O’Malley’s”.   We sat on the deck and continued our conversation just as easily as if we had all been friends for decades.  Lunch on the deck was an extended affair as Naomi talked of her childhood…swimming in the lake and riding her bicycle along the lakeside….no mean feat in the days when you didn’t have a bike with all of “those fancy gears” as Naomi pointed out.  We spoke about the old ferries that traveled the lakes and the days when the lake froze.  Our lunch was long gone and cleared and we sipped our water, caught some afternoon sun and listened to the encyclopedic tales of Naomi.

But eventually it was time to go…Naomi had things to do…and she had been up late watching the Olympics…Gail was preparing for some folks coming from Utah to research Ovid and had to tackle more research.  And me?  My brain was full to bursting with information and I had to get back to the cottage to quiet the buzz…put it down in writing and make good sense of it all.

I have been doing this for a long time, but I don’t remember more generous and enthusiastic people as Gail and Naomi.  If I had a hundred years, I could not thank them enough for their kindness and invaluable help.  I would never have had such a profound understanding of the land of my forefathers.  I certainly would have missed out on one of the best research experiences.

And certainly I would have missed out on two kindred spirits.

Thank you, Gail and Naomi!  I can only hope that my future field work is as enjoyable and fruitful as the day I spent with you both.  And I wish that ALL historians could experience the same!

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved


Notes from the Field: Fortie Acers of Land

A Note to My Readers: A large part of my genealogical research has included locating the burial sites of my ancestors and eventually making a pilgrimage…single rose in hand…and spending quiet moments in front of the monument contemplating the life of  the individual who shaped my future.  For a good number of us it is the only tangible reminder of a life.  Estates and personal goods are dispensed and a lucky few of us have been gifted with those treasures handed down through the generations by the sentimental hearts in our families.  Buildings disappear.  Farms are bought and sold and subdivided and the knowledge about a long ago landholder is tucked away in civil archives.  A burial site is the one and final piece of property that gives the researcher…a place to go.

Crab medowe necke

I am entering a brave new world of my own….learning to parse the land records of my ancestors and relating the records to the bigger picture of history!

Researching my Ingersoll lineage has been an interesting journey through early American history…beginning with my 7th Great Grandfather and English immigrant, John Ingersoll of Huntington, New York.

A recorded deed states

” A Record of ye Land & medowe of John Inkersoll at Crab medowe…”

A land survey recorded on 11 Oct 1689 declared

“Laid out ye day above sd. fortie acers of land on Crab medowe necke in too parcels the eastermost lying between land of Thomas Scidmore beeing ten acers the other parcell thirtie acers beeing in length eaightie Rod ajoining to the Cart way on the north side and sixty Rod in breadth, southward from ye Cart path: wee saie Laid out by us for John Inkersolle.   Joseph Bailly  Thomas Wickes  A True Coppy as it was given to mee by the survaors, Isaac Platt Reco”.

Of course, like any curious descendant would do, I GOOGLED “Crab Meadow Neck and Long Island” and found some history…much of it entailing the cultural misunderstandings between the Europeans and sachem Nassaconseke and the years of complication about the purchase of the lands.  Eventually the disputes were between the European settlers and that means court records to read.  I will save that for further research and reading since it promises to be a complex history.  And the weather is beautiful calling for field research….outdoors.

So. What is there now?  It appears to be primarily a lovely beach and park…and a golf resort. Will there be any historic buildings or remnants of that long ago community?  Definitely more field research to do there…and if I don’t find anything…a trip to the beach will be a pleasant experience.   If my preliminary reading serves me right…the early settlers had a ferry between Crab Meadow and Stamford.  No doubt the Ingersolls traversed Long Island Sound when they migrated…and perhaps often for trade.  Yes, I will go to Crab Meadow Neck to stand at the beach and look out upon the Sound and imagine the journey to Stamford, Connecticut.

Long Ridge Road

John Ingersoll’s grandson, Samuel,  who is my 5th great grandfather bought land from his father

” On 19 Nov. 1735, soon after his marriage, Samuel purchased from his father for £250 ” a Certain Tract of Lannd in ye Bounds of Stanford at ye Long Ridg, Commonly so Called, viz., ye one half of that Lott Lying onn ye West side of Bedford Road, Bounded south by Nathanniel ingersoll and nnorth by Land that was formerly James Whites, east by Bedford Road and west by mianus River.” (Stamford Land Records, C:503)

Though I have just begun to delve into the Long Island and Connecticut history of my Ingersoll family and to hone my skills at researching land records, I did find a lovely surprise in Stamford.

Stamford Historical Homes Samuel Ingersoll. Photo taken circa 1984.

Samuel Ingersoll’s colonial home still stands and is on the National Historic Register.  Built in 1756 it is situated in the Long Ridge Historic District of Stamford (405 Old Long Ridge Road).  The photograph was taken in September of 1984 and is on file at the Connecticut Historical Commission.

Another 30 years has passed and I wonder about Samuel and Elizabeth Rowley Ingersoll’s historic home…and if I knock on the door…will the homeowner welcome a friendly stranger.  Perhaps it has been over 200 years since an Ingersoll crossed the threshhold.

What is ONE more?

Last year I stood in the parlor of the New Paltz homestead of my Huguenot 9th great grandfather, Hugo Freer.  The original part of the stone building was built in 1694 by Hugo Freer the Patentee.

I had long ago found an image of the deed of the property..from Antoine Crispell to Hugo Freer, but it was written in the language that the Hugenots spoke…French.  I studied four years of Latin and tried to translate Old French…found a word here or there, but the trip to New Paltz and historic Huguenot Street… Tres Joie, Arriere-grand-pere.

I was fortunate that though the museum was closed that day,  a wonderful docent learned of my visit and on her day off, hurried over to personally  escort me to the FREER HOUSE and gave me a most wonderful afternoon of Freer family history.

It was gently raining and still.  Standing in the parlor on the original wide plank floors and staring up at the old beams that still bear the soot of a thousand hearth fires, I felt such a part of American history and my Freer family.

Hugo’s son… Hugo,  who is my 8th great grandfather and his wife, Maria Anna LeRoy,  raised 15 children in that small room. One of them was my 7th great grandfather, Simon (Zymon) Freer.

I figured one more Freer in the parlor wouldn’t matter.

The Log Cabin at Taughannock Falls

Samuel Weyburn New York State Historical Marker

When I stood at the base of Taughannock Falls where Samuel Weyburn,  my 4th great grandfather built his log cabin, I was in the company of my daughters, their husbands, my brother and my first cousins.  I had been reading and researching about Samuel Weyburn, the Connecticut Yankee who first settled in northern Pennsylvania as part of the Susquehanna Purchase…survived the Wyoming Massacre and fought in the Revolutionary War.  An impressive history to be sure, but what always captured my imagination was Samuel and his wife, Jane Bratton, packed up their young family and migrated to the wilds (then) of New York State in the late 1780’s.  Samuel had gone ahead with his eldest son, Samuel, Jr.,   and cleared a wooded area and built a log cabin at the base of what is now known as Taughannock Falls.

An old publication “New York State Historical Collections” published in 1844 features an account contributed by George Weyburn.  The old man relished the story telling as it was his struggle for survival as much as it was his father’s in the year of 1793.

Samuel, accompanied by his dog, had come upon a bear and her two cubs on the north side of the creek.  The pair tracked the bears to one of the falls when the cubs took to a tree.  Samuel ran to the cabin and returned with his gun where he found the mother bear against the tree “standing on the brink of a gulf, defending herself from the attacks of the dog.”  Samuel fired and wounded the giant animal, but she disappeared “into the gulf”.  Jane and her children, alarmed by the commotion ran to the site and urged Samuel to come back to the safety of their cabin. The cubs who were now without their mother were shot by Sam Weyburn and the family returned home.

The next morning Samuel with his sons Samuel and George and their dog went in search of the wounded animal.  Samuel was only armed with a pitchfork  “having expended his only charge of powder the evening previous”.  Of the boys only George was armed “with a small ax; but my brother not being equipped for war, was allowed to accompany us bare-handed.”

When the Weyburns finally came in sight of the bear and the dog who had made chase, they were ascending the precipice …across the basin…a distance of eighty or one hundred feet.  Due to the animal’s wound…Samuel had broken her leg with the gunshot of the evening before…he was able to intercept the bear and engage in a most ferocious battle.  Wielding the pitchfork, he struck at the animal and she in turn rushed at him, knocking him over injuring his chest.  Repeatedly the two grappled in a free fall descent to the bottom of the ravine during which time the bear had bitten Samuel in his legs and arms.

When the pair came to rest at the base of the ravine, Samuel with his last strength wedged the bear between rocks…his back to hers bracing with all the might he had left.  George meantime had rushed to the fallen pair and struck a blow with his ax.  Samuel bleeding profusely from each limb, retrieved his pitchfork and ignoring his wounds joined George in the conflict and eventually the father and son finished off the bear.

I had just found a copy of the old tale a month before my trip to Ithaca in 2009.  When I walked along the trail from Cayuga Lake where the New York State historical marker stands…to the base of the falls,  I was walking where Samuel walked…where he and his sons once fought for existence…theirs and eventually mine.  It is a majestic spot to the nature lover and sight seeing visitor, but it is a place of real destiny to me.

Author’s Note:  Each pilgrimage has significance to the descendant researcher.  It is at once grounding and uplifting…a reminder of the march of life and that we each have a place in it. As an historian, I like to think that it has the potential to make us a better person…providing us with scope, perspective, humility and inspiration.   We are all enthusiastic researchers…reveling in the “finding”…so I like to encourage all to leave the confines of the computer, iPAD,  library and courthouse and walk among your ancestors with all senses open.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved