A Tonic For What Ails You

A Note To My Readers: A gray day…thunder and rain. No wonder my muscles hurt. OUCH. Hauling out the aspirin. I think of my 2x great grandmother, Deborah Jane Tyler Curry and her granddaughter (my grandmother) Florence L. Curtis Purdy who had rheumatism. My turn.

A Tonic For What Ails You

Deborah took a ‘remedy’ called “Kenyon’s Blood and Nerve Tonic” that was pretty much cannabis. That was no secret as other ‘druggists’ sold tonics with the same ingredients. Some even added chocolate for flavoring! Evidently Ithacans in the nineteenth century swore by J. C Kenyon’s Tonic. The newspapers were full of testimonials that declared their appetite had returned and they felt much better after one bottle. Uh huh.

Kenyon’s ‘agents’ for the Owego firm….were Judson Bryant Todd and Arthur B. Brooks, druggists in Ithaca. Todd also sold oils and paints which were treatments for corns and skin ailments at his mercantile on 6 E. State St in Ithaca. He was a regular CVS..selling cigars, manicure sets, perfumes.

And ‘Hot Weather Colognes’. A display ad in the “Ithaca Daily News’ reads:

“You can get them at TODD’s PHARMACY. Those odors due to perspiration can be covered with colognes until the bath-tub is conquered. You can find a large variety there, and unless your education in such things has been sadly neglected you should have them, and at TODD’S PHARMACY they are legion.”

Brooks sold his own brands – “Jamaica Ginger” and “Brooks Hot Drops” and “Sun Cholera Mixture” at his pharmacy at 30 East State St. He called himself “The King of Tonics” and his own concoction was dubbed “Brook’s Calisaya and Iron Tonic” and advertised as having the nourishing properties of ‘Beef and Wine” at 50 cents a pint. Calisaya…an herbal liqueur. Booze.

Well, look at this way..my straight-laced Methodist 2x great grandmother lived to be almost 90 and evidently bore her suffering cheerfully. Bless that tonic…






Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright March 2017.  All Rights Reserved.

Much Reason to Fear

A Note to My Readers:  It’s been a deep plunge into early American history and my German-Swiss immigrant families…the Learns and the Brinkers…and their pre-Revolutionary life in northeastern Pennsylvania. I found a number of colonial Pennsylvania archives online that witness the months, weeks and days before the Learn family massacre on July 3, 1781. It becomes a warren of circumstances that entail personal grudges, slander, political clay feet, atrocities and the fog of war.

Pennsylvania Historical Marker-The Learn Massacre

Pennsylvania Historical Marker-The Learn Massacre

For quite sometime I have researched Tannersville and Wyoming Valley during the pre-Revolutionary period because my maternal 4th great grandfather, Samuel Weyburn, fought with the Pennsylvania Rangers as part of Washington’s Continental Army and was under General Sullivan’s command. Journals from officers encamped in Tannersville, refer to John Learn’s tavern as a favorable and strategic bivouac point in the Pocono Mountains. General Sullivan and his troops used the Learn site to gather and prepare for Sullivan’s Campaign in 1779.  Not far from the site of John Learn’s tavern is Brinker’s Mill which still stands today. Jacob Brinker is my paternal 6th great grandfather. His daughter, Anna Margaretha, married George Learn (son of John Learn) and they are my paternal 5th great grandparents.  On July 3rd, 1781, Jacob Brinker would lose his daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and close friend in what has come to be known as “The Learn Massacre”.

As the story unfolds, John Learn and Jacob Stroud (Stroudsburg, PA was named after him.) were not on the best of terms. It seems that Stroud got it into his mind that John Learn was a Tory sympathizer and as the local in charge of militia, left Learn’s tavern without protection during the restless and uncertain days of the Revolutionary War. Though the Learns often traded with the local native population and according to survivors had no issue of any kind, they still worried. Tory sympathizers and British soldiers under the command of the infamous Captain Joseph Brandt, a Mohawk,  and Colonel John Butler were providing the local tribes with liquor and guns and fostering ill will against the settlers. The situation was escalating and becoming unpredictable and perilous.  John Learn and Jacob Brinker petitioned over Stroud’s head for more military protection. While witnesses testified Stroud’s behavior was concerning and promised a tragedy, nothing went further up the line to get help. It seems a junior politician (Robert Levers) worried about his fledgling career though he did have the honesty to admit it in a letter to his superior after the massacre.

On July 7, 1781 a grieving Jacob Brinker came to the quarters of Robert Levers and gave the account of the Learn Massacre and what led up to that unfortunate day. I transcribed the letter that Levers wrote to Joseph Reed, President of the Supreme Council (a position analogous to Governor).

“Jacob Brinker, whose daughter was the Wife of George Lerne, Two of the late unhappy Victims slain by the Indians, was with me last Evening, with young John Lerne, who killed and scalped an Indian soon after his Father was shot, desiring a small party of men might be posted at the place of his late Father deceased, for the Protection of his Crop and of his mother and younger Brethren – upon what occasion I know not, but Lerne tells me, that a few men were posted at one Jacob Lewis(?) about a mile & and half within Lernes’. Here a Regard to Truth, and a Commiseration of this unhappy Family, constrain me to reveal to Council what has long lain on my mind with deep Concern; it is in the Line of my duty now I apprehended if I interfered some Persons in County might have given an ungenerous Construction to my good design.

These Families, there is too much reason to fear, have unhappily fell a Sacrifice to malicious Resentment; -Frequent application had been made to Col. Strowd for Guard, by the late unhappy John Lerne, whose Place is so situated that it is certainly a proper Post, and he was as often refused; and, as the deceased some time past told me himself, because Col. Strowd asserted he was a Tory, and he only wanted men there to have them destroyed, and on which Account John Lerne, in his Life Time, brought and action of Slander against Col. Strowd. On the 30th June, when Col. Chambers was with me, he produced to me a paper directed to him, & delivered as he said, by one Mr. Denis (?) to him; the Paper contains a Number of Charges against Col. Strowd, and I have taken the Liberty to enclose a Copy; and I was desired to put Col. Strowd under Arrest.

‘It occasioned me much Uneasiness of mind, and I declined the matter, telling Col. Chambers I was young in office, the Military duty never having engaged much of my Thoughts; and that as it was well known that I had an unfavorable Opinion of Col. Strowd, which however well grounded, my Interference at such a time might rather be injurious, and frustrate my design, which was rather to cement different Parties than divide; nevertheless, I would take a Copy of them, and if upon strict Enquiry, I should find the Charges well grounded, I would transmit them to your Excellency and sollicit advice and Instructions from you on matters of that Nature. What has since happened, has made me conceive it to be my duty to represent the Whole to Council without Reserve.

From the Account I have received from young John Lerne, the Indian attack was thus: – his Brother George was mowing Grass in a meadow where he was attacked; upon endeavoring to make to the House, his Retreat was cut off and he killed & scalped. The old man with Son John were in a Rye Field, and attacked by Two Indians, who both fired; John Lerne the Elder having first fired, but missed, he was shot and began to run; his Son escaped, and whilst he was watching the Fate of his Father, the Two Indians running after him to scalp him, Young Lerne saw another in the Rye, with his Head down as if he was doing something to his Rifle, upon which Lerne immediately fired & shot him through the Head, but dared not venture to scalp him at that time. He thinks he could have shot another of the Indians after he had loaded, but his Weakness of body being such that he could not make his Escape if he should have missed, he judged, as his Father and Brother were killed, it was best to secure himself. He says had there been Four or Five Persons then present, beside the Family, all the Indians must inevitably have fallen into their Hands –From every Circumstance it appears there were but Four. The Indian he killed was of those who formerly lived at Chemung, named Edsky, but about Five years ago gave himself the name of Jacob Stroud. His Brother George’s Wife and Child were taken & carried off by the Indians, with some Plunder, the House, &c, not destroyed – and after the Prisoners were taken some distance were both killed. That upon Col. Strowd coming up with a Party, the Indians were pursued to the Edge of the Great Swamp; and upon one of the Party’s going into the Swamp & whistling in the Indian Fashion, he was answered by the Indians, and by the Sound at a very small distance, it is imagined the Indians supposed it to be the Comrade that Lerne had killed – But it is said that the Party Col. Stroud had the Command of, had taken out a Ten Gallon Keg of Whiskey, and some of them had become so intoxicated with Liquor, and began to whistle, hoop & haloo, that they might have been heard a mile, by which unhappy Accident the Indians were alarmed, when that had collected wood to make a Fire, and went off in a great Fright, leaving their Plunder, besides other matters of their own, behind them.

It is generally conjectured old John Lerne wounded one of the Indians, and that he died somewhere of his Wounds; because Two Indian tracks were only seen on their Retreat. – Young Lerne tells me a strange circumstance of Col. Strowds’ Conduct, which I have heard from others, and is difficult to be accounted for – That after having marched some distance with Party on the Pursuit along the Indian Tracks, and had passed the Place where the Woman and Child had been killed, he lost his party, and was afterwards found on the Road leading from his house to Wyoming, (about Four miles, supposed to be across from the Indian Track pursued, by a party that had come out to strengthen him, and had reached Lernes’ after he and his Party had marched about two Hours; with which latter Party her returned & proceeded to the great Swamp. The Two Companies is said to have been about Fifty men. I cannot say how far this Report is to be depended on, as I have heard nothing from Col. Chambers; but it appears of too serious a nature not to mention it in Council.

I have the Honor to be,
your Excellency’s
most obedient Servant,

John Learn Monument.  Miller Cemetery, Lansing, NY

John Learn Monument. Miller Cemetery, Lansing, NY

Other accounts of the event are more specific. John was killed first and then his son George, as in the testimony given by George’s surviving brother, Margaretha was carried off with her infant daughter, Susan. Both were scalped and gutted. Their two year old son, John, survived the attack after being gathered up by his aunt who hid with him in the unmowed rye. The young family dog threatened to give them away so she kept it and the child silent until it was clear to run for help.

The little boy is John Learn, my 4th great grandfather. He was raised by his father’s family and when they migrated to New York State, he settled in Lansing, New York. John is buried in Miller Cemetery along with his wives, Elizabeth (my 4th great grandmother) and Linda.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c)Copyright 2015.  All Rights Reserved.


A Note to My Readers:   Family lore often assists in uncovering mysteries.  Breaking brick walls.  On the other hand, it can also be the cause of those brick walls as well.  Or the very least throw a cloud over the real lives of the people you are researching and removing an important aspect of the times in which they live.   For years I was under the impression that one family’s deafness was due to so many first cousins marrying.  It was perpetuated by other Tyler researchers like the proverbial ‘whisper down the lane’.  The more it was repeated, the more it became fact.  That is, until I began to find out more about my second cousins, the Doty Family of Cayuga County, New York.  I looked for the ‘signs’.

Researching my maternal 4th great grandfather, William Tyler (1773 – 1860) and his wife, Abelina Bartlett (1772 – 1855) also involved the extended family – the Dotys. My second cousins.  William and his wife, Abelina Bartlett Tyler, were feeble in their final years. William suffered from senility and so the pair were separated by 1850. Abilena spent her remaining days with her two daughters, Marietta Roberts and Almyra Swain in Aurelius. William went to live with his daughter, Anna Tyler Doty in Sennett. Anna married her first cousin Jason Martin Doty.  Jason’s mother, Deborah, was William Tyler’s sister and she was married to Timothy Doty.

New York Institute for Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb

New York Institute for Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb

It wasn’t uncommon in the Tyler line for first cousins to marry. Kin was a big deal…family wealth was kept close and family loyalty was paramount. It wreaked havoc on the gene pool back then among many families that practiced the tradition.  At first I thought that was borne out by the number of individuals that are recorded as ‘deaf and dumb’ in the family of William B. Doty…John Mason Doty’s brother. Will and his wife, Lucretia Pierce, had eleven children. Three of them were deaf and dumb and were sent off to New York City to the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb to learn to read and write, but more importantly to learn to sign to stay connected to the greater world. After their education, the children returned and married fellow students of the institution.

Several poignant records came to my attention regarding the Dotys. The first was the 1850 Federal Census that shows sisters Phebe Doty Cuddeback (1833-1930) and Rebecca Doty Gilbert Cross (1829-1915) living at the NYC school as students and enumerated as ‘inmates’ and ‘deaf and dumb’.  Inmate is a term frequently used for students and patients in institutions when enumerating in the censuses.

I also came across Phebe’s marriage announcement in a local newspaper – the Auburn, NY Weekly Journal from November of 1852.

“At Weedsport on Tuesday, November 9th, by the Rev. S. R. Brown, Mr. CORNELIUS CUDDEBACK, of Phelps, Ontario County, to Miss PHEBE DOTY, of Weedsport. Both were graduates of the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. The ceremony was performed in the language of signs.”

U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages

U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages, Rebecca Doty weds George M. Cross

For Rebecca Doty, I found her first husband, Gustavus O. Gilbert and his sister, Lucy, each listed as an ‘inmate’ at the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in the 1850 census. Rebecca and Gustavus were students there at the same time. When Gustavus died in 1865, Rebecca married George M. Cross, another young man who was profoundly deaf. Their marriage record in the U.S. Census on Deaf Family Marriages tells the real story about why the three Doty siblings were afflicted. The cause was attributed to WHOOPING COUGH. The Dotys were not ill at the same time as their ages ran a span of decades.  Rebecca and Phebe most likely were ill at the same time as they were just four years apart, but the youngest, who was also deaf, was not born until 1846.   All lost their hearing at a young age which in turn affected their speech.

As I read through Auburn area newspapers from the 1840’s and 1850’s, it became apparent that whooping cough was a widespread problem during that time.  Along with whooping cough, scarletina, diphtheria and consumption (phthsis),  the area residents had suffered for several decades prior to the 40’s and 50’s as well.  It was a constant threat and institutions had been established to manage the long-term effects.  The New York Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb was established in 1817.  The U.S. Census on Deaf Family Marriages (1888-1895) read more like a medical report defining the cause of the deafness and details on the parents and other siblings.  This was a society looking desperately to manage infectious diseases that clearly impacted large segments of the population and remained unchecked.

Adelmor Doty Monument.  Throopsville Cemetery

Adelmor Doty Monument. Throopsville Cemetery

I mentioned three siblings…the last was Adelmor Doty (1846-1864) who died at the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb of typhoid when he was just 18 years old. Adelmor is buried among his Doty family members in Throop’s Community Cemetery. His monument is particularly touching. It features three signs that spell out G. O. D. and the inscription:

“The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped”. Isaiah 35 Chap 5 Vse. Selected by his teacher.”  ADELMORE. SON OF WM. & L. DOTY.  DIED AT WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, N.Y. CITY

In my initial research of this Doty family, I found Adelmor’s monument first as I did Tyler work in the old Throopsville Cemetery.  Walking cemeteries in the process of documenting my family’s old pioneer burials, I happen upon monuments that capture my attention.  They have a character that tells you that there is a bigger story to tell.  The unusual engraving and the inscription on the stele of Adelmor Doty was the beginning of that deeper research.



Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian, Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

Asenath, Speedy, Zepheniah…Heritage with Poetry

Sometimes I have a rhyme AND a reason to research an ancestor. This time it was because her given name is so intriguing. ASENATH ROBINSON (1766-1847). She is my maternal 4th great grandmother and the daughter of Reuben Robinson and Esther Palmer of Scotland Society, Windham, Connecticut and a direct descendant of the Reverend John Robinson who was the spiritual leader of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Asenath had ELEVEN children including my maternal 3rd great grandmother SOPHIA GREENE (wife of DAVID CURTIS).

What a journey to follow all of the children of ASENATH and LEVI GREENE! AndZepheniah Greene what fun. The given names were a poetic blend of biblical and historical. Zepheniah Ripley, Aurelia and yes…Speedy Greene! I love Speedy Greene! Speedy married Scotsman Gerothman McDonald and they had eleven children of their own…with some pretty spiffy names. Gamaliel Barstow and (this one rolls of the tongue)…Beebe Galusha McDonald.  A lively and celebrated family from Livonia, Livingston county, NY.

ASENATH is a favorite given name and many of her granddaughters and great granddaughters were named after her including the granddaughter of Fanny and Orange Chapin. Because of that family affection for her, I have been treated to flowery obituaries filled with poetic family lore. It impressed me how many other descendants lived and died in Auburn, New York or the surrounding area.

I HAD to do a bit of research on the origin of ASENATH and found the story of the Egyptian woman who was given to Joseph as his wife by Pharoah. Biblical, Hebrew and Egyptian scholars alike have studied the saga of the pair…what her name meant…her Egyptian father’s priesthood. Her conversion and the perils that the two encountered.   What did her parents, Reuben and Esther Palmer think when they beheld their infant daughter and chose such a name?

Asenath met Levi Greene when he came to the Robinson home to Scotland, Connecticut to stay with his friend and fellow Revolutionary War soldier, Reuben Robinson – Asenath’s older brother.  She was just 18 years old when she and Levi married in Scotland, Connecticut in 1785.  The pair moved to Venice, Cayuga County from the Albany, NY area sometime around 1811 and eventually left Venice to establish themselves in Livonia before moving to Oakland county, Michigan with son Zepheniah Ripley Greene and his wife Zilla Gould (don’t you just love it!) leaving behind a large extended family in Livingston and Cayuga counties.

Like all naming trends…the descendants finally lost track of their ancestral names and heritage and “modern” names left the Asenaths and Aurelias and Zepheniahs and Beebe Galushas to the past.

Newspaper Auburn NY Democrat - Argus 2 Mar 1900 Asenath Robinson Chapin obitThe last Asenath I found was Asenath Robinson Chapin Benedict (1831 -1900). She was the daughter of Orange Chapin and Fanny Greene and born in Venice, Cayuga county, NY. Her memoriam in the Auburn NY Democrat, was her gift to me…her first cousin, 4 times removed. A grand life, well spent and a tribute to the earliest Cayuga County pioneers.Orange Chapin Tombstone

Asenath Robinson Chapin Benedict and her parents are buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, NY along with a great number of descendants.





Fanny Greene Chapin’s sister and my maternal 3rd great grandmother, David and Sophia Greene Curtis TombstonesSophia Greene Curtis is buried beside her husband, David Curtis in Oakridge Cemetery in Livonia, Livingston county, NY.  Oakridge, too, is the site of burials for a great number of ancestors including the wonderful Speedy Greene McDonald and her descendants.




Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2015.  All Rights Reserved

The Old Pedestrian Rivalry

A Note to My Readers:  In search of my Frear family ‘comings and goings’ in central New York I am back to reading old newspapers and found an intriguing article in a June 1913 edition of the Auburn, New York Democrat Argus. The story revolves around a promotional photograph purchased by Auburn and Union Springs jeweler, WILLIAM STANSELL LAWRENCE FREAR (1849-1930), the first cousin of my great grandfather, HENRY A. MARTIN (1857-1932) and the rivalry of two old ‘athletes’, Edward Payson Weston and John Ennis.

Newspaper Auburn NY  Democrat  Argus 1912 - 1913 - 1243. WSL Frear Headline

Auburn NY Democrat Argus Headline June 1913

The present “hike” of Edward Payson Weston, the veteran pedestrian, who is now plodding his way Westward along the Southern Tier on his way from new York to Minneapolis, Minn., where he is to lay the cornerstone of the new Minneapolis Athletic Club building, recalled to W. S. L. Frear, the Market Street jeweler, the fact that he had in his possession a photograph of the aged hiker when he was a youngster in the game half a century ago. The Citizen herewith presents the picture, and as many Auburnians are familiar with the striking physique of the Weston of today they will be astonished to note the similarity of carriage despite the effects of 50 years on the famous walker. As he walked through Port Byron two years ago on his “Frisco-to New York hike he bore himself in the identical erect manner and his short cane was carried in the same stiff manner, convenient for an occasional automatic smite on his right flank.
Bought Picture in 1867.
Mr. Frear bought the picture from Weston’s agent who accompanied him on his first important “hike,” from Albany Edward_P_Weston_1861to Chicago, in 1867, as Weston was passing through Newark (Wayne county New York). Then as on his walk across Cayuga County two years ago, Weston went through Port Byron and Weedsport, following the old New York Central lines and the Albany-Buffalo turnpike. At that time Weston walked alone, but his agent rode in a buggy and besides selling photographs of the walker, the drive carried articles to be used in an emergency. Today Weston is accompanied by an automobile. Then he was 22, today he is 76. The original picture has been put on display in the window of the owner in Market Street.
Corning gave a hearty welcome to Weston and John Ennis, 71, who has set out to beat the easy schedule set by Weston, when they passed through Corning together yesterday.
Have made 300 Miles.
“Corning marked the completion of the first fifth of the 1,500 mile journey which the two men have undertaken on foot. It is 292 miles from Corning to New York City by the lines of the Erie Railroad which the walkers are following along parallel highways. Before leaving New York City the pedestrians had walked seven miles, so that they had walked 299 miles when they reached Corning. Weston, despite his delay of the past two days, reached Corning a full day ahead of schedule he mapped out before leaving New York City and he was in an optimistic mood. Ennis, too, was highly elated. He had predicted that he would pass Weston before Buffalo was reached although Weston had 24 hours the start of him, and he had succeeded sooner than he had anticipated, thanks to Weston’s poor limb. The four or five years difference in age is also in favor of Ennis.
Not a Race, Says Weston.
Ennis is bent upon forcing the public belief that there is a race on between the two men. This Weston denies and he refuses to be forced into a race with Ennis. Weston mapped out a schedule and published it long before Ennis was heard of in connection with the trip. Weston states that he is simply following the schedule and not attempting to extend himself.
“Although I have allowed 60 days for the trip to Minneapolis, I could cover it in 45 days if I wanted to extend myself,” said Weston to a Corning reporter.
“Ennis has been my competitor only once – that was in England in 1879 when we were competing for a belt offered by Astley for a 100 mile walk,” said Weston. “Ennis was in the race one day and then dropped out. I take Ennis’s action in starting out on this walk after I had planned as just a joke. He is trying to get a reputation from reputation, and by doing what he calls beating me, he hopes to make money giving lectures on this trip.
“As an instance of how ridiculous he is making himself is the statement that he is reported to have made that in six days he walked 348 miles between North Platte, Neb., and Rock Springs, Wyoming – a route through the worst kind of roads in the United States. This is an impossibility. Ennis also claims that he walked from Toledo, O., to Bryan, O., in one day, a distance Ennis gives as 72 miles. The chief of police of Toledo told me that the distance is but 57 miles. If things turn out as I hope and expect there be some fund for the people here when Ennis and I come back.
“I am making this walk to lay the corner stone of the Minneapolis, Minn., Athletic Club’s new house on August 2. I am not making this walk as a race – and I will not be forced into a race. I am making the walk to show that at 76 I can walk more than half the distance that I could at 50 years. I am now making about 158 miles a week, and I am going to average a little more than 26 miles a day. I am not extending myself to see how far I can walk in a day.  My schedule was made out for 60 days but cutting out the Sundays the walking will be but 52 days.

Calls Walk a Picnic.
“I am being shown such courtesies by everybody along the route that the walk is proving no labor, but a picnic.
“I live very carefully whether on or off the road. We I am off the road I eat but two meals a day – breakfast and supper. On the road I eat but one meal a day, breakfast. For breakfast I generally eat three poached eggs and bread and butter and two or more cups of coffee with occasionally a glass of milk. Along the road about once an hour I am given liquid refreshments of egg and milk beaten together with sugar added. I also have vichy water and milk. Occasionally I take sarsaparilla and ginger ale. In the evening I take ice water and sometimes bread and milk.
“When I left New York’s week ago last Monday noon I had a 36 inch waist line. It is now reduced to 34.”
Weston carries with him a cane that was given him 30 years ago by Lord Algernon Lennox, a son of the Duke of Richmond, while he was in England. Weston also has a belt from the same donor.
Weston walks without a coat or hat. A towel wrung out in ice cold water is worn by him in place of a hat. An automobile proceeds him, and occasionally ice water is supplied him from the auto and he is given liquid refreshments. From time to time he stops during the heat of the day in the shade of a sheltering tree for brief refreshments and rest. At times members of the part traveling with him pace him.

Doctor Cobb Accompanies Weston.
When Weston left Corning at 4 o’clock this afternoon for Addison, he was accompanied by Dr. W. S. Cobb of that city. When Weston was on a walk 36 years ago from Portland, Me., to Portland, Ore., Doctor Cobb’s father, George Cobb of West Stockbridge, Mass., walked with Weston from West Stockbridge toward Albany. George Cobb is still alive at the age of 85. Doctor Cobb took the walk yesterday to make the acquaintance of his father’s old friend. (NOTE: The article’s writer incorrectly stated that the walk was from Portland, Maine to Portland, Ore.  The route was from Portland, Maine to Chicago, Illinois.  Thanks to reader, Paul Marshall for catching the article’s error.)

John Ennis "King of Pedestrians" advertising card.

John Ennis “King of Pedestrians” advertising card.

Ennis An Irishman.
Ennis was born at Richmond Harbor, County, Longford, Ireland, June 4, 1842. He celebrated his 71st birthday the day after he took the road with the intention of beating Weston to Minneapolis. Ennis’s home is at Stamford, Conn. He served in the American Civil War in the Army of the Cumberland Engineering Corps. He has a record as an athlete. For 14 years he held the world’s long distance skating record and he has also held records as a rifle shot.
“I left the College of the City of New York, Tuesday, June 3, at noon – just 24 hours to a minute after Weston left the same spot,” said Ennis. “I predicted that I should pass Weston by the time Buffalo was reached – and I have more than made good my prediction,” continued Ennis with a broad grin. “My purpose in making this walk is two fold. First, I desire to clean up an old dispute with Weston and shiw him that I am his superior as a walker, as I have previously demonstrated, and second to show people that all a man of 70 needs to do to be able to as active at that age as most men are at 40 is to to keep exercising – keep doing hard work.

An Ocean to Ocean Walk.
“Three years ago I beat Weston’s coast to coast record by 25 days. Weston walked from New York, to San Francisco in 105 days. I made the journey in 80 days. I bathed in the waters of the Atlantic off Coney Island before leaving New York and I plunged into the waters of the Pacific in Golden Gate Harbor completing a truly ocean to ocean walk. I have been in contests with Weston for upwards of 35 years, and I have beaten him or his records on many occasions. It was my intention in seizing upon this opportunity to prove once and for all that I am Weston’s superior. I am not walking to Minneapolis for a prize or anything when I get there – I am walking to beat Weston, and I am going to do it.

Calls Weston “Sly Fox”.
“Weston is as sly as a fox. He has been doing his best to cover his trail and to keep me off the scent, but I have managed to follow his trail all right, and now I’m ahead of him and he will have to follow mine. I am not unfolding my plans as to where I’ll be tonight, and I leave town quietly when I go. Weston wants the whole town to know about it when he leaves a town. You can say I passed through on the way toward Minneapolis. I suppose I shall follow about the same route that Weston has mapped out. I am going through Addison at any rate this afternoon.
“Yesterday I walked from Owego to Elmira -50 miles. I reached Elmira at 8 o’clock last night and stopped at the Hotel Langwell. I left Elmira at 6 o’clock this morning, and came through to Corning without stop. The first man to walk with me from the time I left Elmira was the Leader reporter. No one travels with me. My son goes ahead of my by train with my luggage. He carries a coat which I use on cold days, and also an umbrella which is the only protection I use on rainy days.”
Ennis is a man of very rugged appearance. He walks in his shirt sleeves, with a long swinging stride. He has a sense of humor and a pleasant smile which wins him a welcome anywhere.

The Auburn New York Democrat Argus, June 1913.

W.S.L. Frear Jeweler Ad 1887.  Courtesy of The Frontenac Museum.

W.S.L. Frear Jeweler Ad 1887. Courtesy of The Frontenac Museum.

Author’s Note:  WILLIAM STANSELL LAWRENCE FREAR was born in Arcadia, New York to JOHN LAWRENCE MYERS FREAR and JUDITH O. STANSELL.    In addition to his jewelry and clock repair business in both Union Springs and Auburn, William and his brother, CHARLES HENRY FREAR owned and operated the ASTORIA HOTEL in Unions Springs.   It is so easy to narrow down research focus and forget the history revolving around our ancestors…or to go ‘too big’ and think national or global…wars, economic news, politics.   Every once in awhile I come across a local or regional story that reminds me about the character of the day and my family’s humanity becomes so very real.  Like the rivalry between two old ‘pedestrians’.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved



Becoming Smithsonian; Discovering Personal History

A Note to My Readers:  Victorian Advertising Cards. Chances are if your ancestor was a merchant during that period in history, they used this print method of advertising. My paternal great grandfather (Albert S. Martin) advertised his sewing machine business with several styles of this type of card.   I found one for sale on eBay and put in a bid to purchase it.  At a cost of a modest $5.99 plus shipping, it has taken its place in the family memorabilia.  Another set is archived in the Smithsonian.  Most of these cards were…in the parlance of advertising…a co-op item. Typically the manufacturer printed up thousands of them and the merchant bought them blank and had the back printed up by a local printer.  According to collectors some rare cards can be worth several thousand dollars.  

A S Martin Victorian Business Card FrontUp to this point I had only the digital images of scanned newspaper advertising -blurred and ‘muddy’ – to add to my research base and upon discovering the card set being archived at The Smithsonian, I kept an eye out just in case one might be ‘floating’ about some antiquarian or dealer’s hoard.  It was brought to my attention by someone on my hometown Facebook page that one was up for sale on eBay.  Quicker than a flash, I was on the site and put in a bid and held my breath for five days.  The email notice came in that I had won the bid.   I posted to my Facebook page that I was awaiting my treasure’s arrival with the hash-tag #dancing to the mailbox.    A S Martin Victorian Business Card Back

When it arrived, I was one happy genealogist.  The colors are bright and crisp and it appears the delicate paper has been stored carefully.

Out of curiosity I checked out other collectibles from my hometown area and found another piece available and put a bid of $3.00 in for it…again with bated breath awaiting for the bidding to close.  Once more I was a genealogist in waiting and for the next few days I was at the mailbox before the red, white and blue jeep could pull up.  It put me in mind of the childhood experience of sending away for a Captain Midnight secret decoder ring and the giddy sense of anticipation.

Trowbridge and Jennings 1876 Exhibition CardMy latest eBay treasure arrived in yesterday’s mail…an advertising piece for Trowbridge and Jennings of Auburn, New York. William H. Jennings is the brother of my great grandmother, Lillian W. Jennings Martin and her sister is Emily R. Jennings, wife of John J. Trowbridge. The brothers-in-law went into business with one another in 1869 when William was just 21 years old. William had opened an art store in Oswego when he was just 19 and when the partnership was formed, the pair moved the store to Auburn. They had great success and the business continued to operate and thrive until the death of John J. Trowbridge in 1926.

The photo on eBay was very low resolution and I couldn’t quite make out the detail…though it promised to be a beautiful piece. Inspecting it this morning, it is indeed a piece of art…and something more. It appears this might be part of the catalog and trading cards of the International Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876.   There was nothing imprinted on the back as was the practice and that is a bit of mystery.

Fortunately for me, the Library Company of Philadelphia founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 has a wonderful collection of Exhibition materials including the catalogs and loose advertising materials and that fact calls for a day trip in to the city for me to view the collection and speak with the librarians about reviewing the David Doret Collection. A grand research adventure to learn about the experience of two young men from Auburn, New York who participated in The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World’s Fair in the United States!

Under it’s official name – the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine, it attracted about 10 million visitors which was about 20% of the population of the United States at the time. Auburn was a growing city of over 18,000 souls. It must have been quite a heady experience for the two young men.

While a collector’s definition of treasure might be measured in dollars, my family finds have a different value scale for me as an historian and genealogist.  It is a sentimental bit of personal  family history and a priceless addition to my own Smithsonian effort.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

Christoffel “Kit” Davis, Esopus Pioneer

Quite by accident (don’t you love when that happens?) I found  a 1914  publication online with the story of my paternal 8th great grandfather, Christoffel “Kit” Davis…”The Esopus Pioneer”.  The first paragraph sets up the tale of Kit Davis.

Olde_Ulster_an_Historical_and_Genealogical Magazine Vol 10 Kit Davids bio_Page_01 Header CropEarly in the settlement of Fort Orange (Albany)there drifted into the colony of van Rensselaer an Englishman who seems to have been the first white man who thridded the woods and explored the lowlands about ‘the Esopus.’ The story of his life, the picturesqueness of his character, his influence with the Indians, his conformity to their customs and usages, his hatred of restraints of civilization and his enjoyment of the life primitive among the men of the woods, his dislike of obedience to the ordinances and rules civilized communities felt compelled to lay down reveal a pioneer character whom it would have delighted the heart of Bret Harte to delineate.

Kit Davis was a rugged individualist and used his fists as much as his words when confronted with too much ‘civilization’ as told in the Minutes of the court of Rensselaerswyck.  On one occasion he was called  before the authorities charged with telling the local tribe that Petrus Stuyvesant was coming to the Esopus “to break the necks of all the savages there which caused the Indians to commit a great deal of mischief”.   He succeeded in clearing himself, but he left an unfavorable impression with the authorities.   Records in Albany contain several incidents in which he was in conflict with other settlers including “striking Rijck Rutgersz on the head, for beating his servant,  wounding Jan Dircksz, from Bremen”.   The Dutch Records of Kingston (1658-1684) translated and published in 1912 for the New York State Historical Association shows a lively community engaged in not only the usual land deals and transactions, but reveals the contentious nature of the individuals who settled along the Hudson.  No doubt Peter Stuyvesant earned every guilder managing such a feisty group and dynamic point in history.

In many records Kit Davis’ surname was spelled “Davits” and  “Davids” as influenced by the Dutch language of the settlers along the Hudson River valley.    A trader and an interpreter between the settlers and the Esopus tribe, he made his home on the “Strand” as that part of Kingston was known in 1658. Over a period of time he had acquired small and separate parcels of land about the Rondout Creek and it grew to be referred to as either the Esopus or “Kit Davietsen’s river”.  Kit’s second wife was Maria Meertens, my 8th great grandmother. Together they had eight children.  Their daughter, Deborah and her husband, Pieter von Bommel are my 7th great grandparents.  During this time he and Maria were driven from their homestead as it was burned to the ground during hostilities with the Esopus tribe.  Kit was on record as the negotiator during the “Second Esopus War” arranging the return of the white women and children held in captivity. In addition he was a messenger to the Mohawks who also acted as mediators in the hostage exchanges.

His exchanges with regard to Peter Stuyvesant and his role as a frontier messenger and negotiator are really intriguing.

Stuyvesant replied that Kit was just arrived in Manhattan. He said he would send him but spoke slightingly of him except as a messenger. On the 19th of August Kit arrived at the Esopus, having paddled from Manhattan in a canoe. He brought with him a letter from Stuyvesant. He also brought some personal information. He had slept one night on his voyage with the Indians in their wigwam; that some Esopus Indians were with them who had four Christian captives with them; that one of them, a woman captive, had told Davis that forty Esopus savages had been spying about the stockade of the Esopus; that the Indians were getting supplies of liquor from the sloops trading along the river and he, Davis, warned the settlers from exposing themselves away from the fortifications.

In an 1861 publication “The Documentary History of the State of New York, Vol. IV” the accounts of “The Second Esopus War” make it very clear how perilous the times had become.  A stockade was built at the direction of Peter Stuyvesant;  nevertheless there were raids on the settlers ending in murder.  Homesteads were burned and hostages taken.  Esopus Indians were rounded up and sold into slavery.

Esopus Creek

Esopus Creek

Old Kit wasn’t above selling liquor to the local tribesmen and ‘tattling’ according to a complaining letter to Peter Stuyvesant. Despite Kit’s shenanigans, he was also considered a genial fellow among his fellow outdoorsman and was a great sportsman. He was noted for taking long journeys on the Hudson in his canoe.   I lived in the Kingston area for a period of time back in the 1980’s…though I had no clue at the time that I was living in the land of my settler ancestors.   It is a majestic and mysterious environment with the land rising high above the Hudson River and waterways like Esopus Creek meandering through the verdant Catskill foothills.   No one knows where Kit is buried, but it doesn’t take much imagination to think his spirit is in the mists that haunt the Esopus.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

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


Notes From the Field: Not Enough Sense to Come In Out of the Rain

Notes from the Field:  Recently I traveled to central New York…my childhood home and the sites where my ancestors lived and died.  I am 65 years old and have lived away for more years than I lived there, but it is and always will be the place I call ‘home’.   I concentrated on Cayuga County instead of including explorations in Tompkins, Seneca, Wayne and Madison Counties as I had in the past.  Partly because I wanted to be more disciplined and focused…partly because I am not the kid I used to be and my energy only goes so far these days.  And partly because I could take time to visit with my high school friends…and embrace my very own history.

I had a game plan as usual, but it was more relaxed and open to hanging out and experiencing the moment versus intense information gathering.  Good thing, too, because it rained every day I was there.  And I am a field historian by nature and don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.


Though it had been just past lunch time when I arrived in Auburn, I had skipped lunch and headed straight to my first research site.  Here is where my kids yell…MO-O-O-MMM!

I drove the few miles west of Auburn, NY to the little Village of Cayuga and to the Lakeview cemetery where my maternal ancestors and my dad are buried. I always look forward to that visit. As the name implies, the cemetery sits just above Cayuga Lake. I can imagine that when it was cleared to become a burial ground, there was indeed a generous view of the lake that sat just a few feet away. Over the century and more, large pines and elms grew up and shaded the monuments..some crowding the tombstones and engulfing others within the trunks and roots. Once I turn onto Center Street, I am home (owning in 1971 the historic Federal period home called Tumble Inn built by Dr. Jonathan Whitney in the early 1800’s) and just a block away from the cemetery entrance and my father’s grave. He is always my first and last stop.  “Hey, Dad.”

I drove down toward the lakeside entrance as is my practice so I can work my way up the hill visiting my ancestors and noting burials of newly discovered family. Turning down the old path I came upon an orange cone sitting smack in between the tire worn grooves.  I thought…must be a funeral below…or maintenance going on.   It was then I saw the large truck and tractor and the two men below.   And the enormous damage.  On Thursday, May 30th a violent storm swept off the lake with microbursts that tore 40 foot elms right out of the ground and twisted others so violently that their huge trunks snapped like mere twigs. I walked down the crude road and met one William (he told me to call him Bill) Patterson and his workmate who were cutting up the debris and clearing the monster trees out of the cemetery.

May 30, 2013 Storm Damage at Lakeview Cemetery

May 30, 2013 Storm Damage at Lakeview Cemetery

At first glance I saw one tree down, but as I approached, it was clear that several of the old sentinel trees had fallen and the men had a Herculean task ahead. I asked Bill…he was the chatty one…his younger workmate was no nonsense and ‘gettin’ on with it’… to pause for a few moments to share his storm experience. I introduced myself and shook Bill’s rough hand firmly and asked if he would stand next to the massive and broken tree trunk for a photo so I could show scale. He hitched up his well worn jeans and adjusted his suspenders and struck a pose. It was clear old Bill was enjoying his momentary celebrity.

Then it was back to loading the truck with the cut up limbs some as thick as Bill’s waist with a quick and nonchalant toss into the truck bed.  Bill..a self-described “old farmer who mows the cemetery and sees to burials”…took a shine to the talk of my ancestors buried there asking me for the litany of  family names. “Yep, know that name.  Buried a family with that name just recently,”  he said. I asked him about whose monuments were under the biggest fallen elm and he said, “We’ll find out when we get the rest of the tree cleared,” when his associate chimed in, “Damn mess and we got clearing all over the place to do..not just here.” He shook his head and climbed into the truck and hauled away the load. Bill stayed behind…muttered “damn mess” as an echoing sentiment and continued his chores while I headed into the debris to see if the monuments of my “people” had escaped damage. And they did in a remarkable twist of fate.  The fallen trees had found other directions and my family burials were just outside of the large canopy of the ruined elm.  I stopped to say “Hey” to my maternal great great grandparents, Deborah Jane Tyler and her husband, Francis J. Curry and up the slope a few steps to their daughter’s in-laws and my other set of maternal great great grandparents, Susannah M. Downing and Henry Eugene Curtis.  Someone newly discovered by me just before the trip, I found Deborah’s oldest sister, Abbie Tyler and her husband James Jenney just strides away.  Just across the road, my maternal great great great grandparents, Lonson Tyler and his wife, Betsey Tyler.  Cousins of some kind…the Tylers had a habit of that…and the parents of Deborah Jane Tyler.  Just to the north of the huge tree, my Titus family members and their monuments remained free and clear.  “Hey, everyone.”

“Hurts me awful when I see a fallen stone,” called out Bill. “Can’t do anything about either.” He made his way up to where I was taking photographs and listed all the burial grounds along the lake that he tends and his chagrin at his limitations. “Money,” he says, “and time.” Finishing up my video and photo session, I continued to make my way up to my car and Bill stopped me one more time to express his apology for his language…he had said “damn” a couple of times. “Just an old farmer”, he sheepishly reiterated and climbed aboard the tractor and made his way up the old dirt road that meanders up the cemetery.

They had a lot of work to do…those two men with just a chain saw…a truck and a tractor. And I had chewed up a bit of their time talking about the terrible storm and the lakeside damage. They advised me to take a drive down Lake Road to see the roof blown off one historic home and the big old elm that was lifted out of the ground with the exposed root ball….which I did.

I noted for my research cousins that the beautiful old Hutchinson mansion was untouched…a few small branches still sat on the portico, but the lakeside properties to my right and directly on the lake took a beating and looked like a giant had played pick up sticks with the huge trees. Yep, Bill…a damned mess.

After treating myself to an icy martini and a steak and a salad, I fell asleep sometime around 9PM.  I was wicked tired from my drive up from Philadelphia and the field work at the cemetery so I gladly gave up the idea of making notes or even pondering the plans for the next days work.  Waking at 5:30 in the morning rested, but content to snuggle into the super comfy pillows…in the dark, I stayed in bed until 6AM when I saw dawn peeking through the crack of the darkening hotel drapes. A decent cup of in-room brewed coffee and I was returning emails from the day before and organizing my research materials for the day. It was rainy and gray in central New York after the incredibly crystal blue skies that graced my northward drive up route 81 the day before.


My first appointment was at the  Cayuga County Museum to view the Civil War material archived there and to discuss a proposed exhibit with images of the family collection from my great great grandfather David Penird who served the entire war with the 75th Regiment formed from the ‘boys’ of Cayuga County.  The sky had opened up and gutters and downspouts struggled to keep up with the pouring rain.  Teeming, pouring rain, as my mother would say.   Tucking my head under the umbrella, I made a dash to the back entrance of the museum with one of the staff and her most handsome dog.   As I walked to the work room that obviously doubled as the staff lunch room, I felt instantly at home.  Two huge boxes and a large number of books were placed at the table in front of me and I dug into the as yet uncatalogued material.  Folder by folder the years fell away and the letters home to loved ones played out with the old cabinet cards and post war G.A.R. programs and songbooks capturing my every heartbeat. 

It was with the tender experience of holding the field arm band of a Cayuga County doctor who served in the 9th IMG_0547Corps…and the buttons and badges from the uniform of another young man who served in the old 75th regiment that I found myself having to remember to breathe and I sat back from the box and knew this was something special.   After awhile, I took a break and found my way down the hall to the office of Lauren Chyl, the museum’s curator.  We chatted for a few moments and she rose to walk with me back to my work area and to refill her mug.   While I was going through the boxes of Civil War memorabilia and old newspaper articles and she sipped at her coffee, I reminisced about my childhood days at the museum.  I took art lessons with Dr. Walter Long in the Case Research Lab and spent several summers there learning to draw and paint and listen to the wandering and amazing stories that only Dr. Long could tell.   He loved history and would often tell his students to visit the museum before we dashed home.   Even though we had seen the exhibits many times, we would dutifully walk across the parking area and scoot into the back door…the very one I had just entered and made our way through the museum.  The favorite stop for Dr. Long and ours as well was the velvet draped exhibit with the phosphorescent rocks that glowed in the gloom.  “Did you stop to see the rocks that glow?” he would ask.   Of course we had and pleased that we did, he bade us goodbye until our next lesson.   And the predictable gentle command to visit the exhibits before we went home.   I chuckled when I told Lauren about how many times his wife would come to the classroom with a brown paper bag neatly packed with his lunch…that he had characteristically forgotten on his way out the door.   Of course, sharing the well-known story of how he had returned home from a conference absentmindedly leaving Mrs. Long behind left Lauren and I smiling and nodding.  She had never met Dr. Long since he passed away many years before Lauren took up her position, but it was as if he was still there wandering about his beloved museum and its collections…forgetting that he had left this realm perhaps and looking for the rocks that glow.

Rain and More Rain

It was just after noon when I left the museum and the rain seemed to have circled around to have another go at me.  I grabbed my poncho from the trunk and ducked into my car.  Peering through the rivulets streaming down the windows I could just make out the interior of the Case Lab.  It seemed like yesterday that I had spent so many hours drawing horses and sweeping watercolors onto endless reams of paper.  But enough reverie.  There was an entire afternoon to work with and along with my own list…a request from a research cousin had landed in my email.   She was on the hunt for more Parcells information and ‘if I had time”, could I check on some burials at Soule Cemetery.   No time for lunch…maybe an early dinner…a hot shower and early to bed.  But later.   I was off to Soule Cemetery in Sennett where my great great grandparents, Albert S. Martin and Harriet M. Frear, are buried.  My father’s great grandparents and always another stop I make when I am home.

When I pulled into the entrance off Pine Ridge Road, the work truck sat outside of the office like a huge and hapless creature.  The bed was filling with rain water and the dirt that had been there was becoming a muddy mess and spilling over the edge in a sepia cascade.  I pulled around the truck and windshield wipers on full and hazard blinkers on made my way to the Martin plot.  Slipping on the rain poncho and my Wellies, I carefully made my way up to the slope to the monuments.  “Hey, Grandfather and Grandmother.”  The rain let up for a few moments as I paid my respects when the Parcells name caught my attention and I moved further up the hill.   I had found what Marj was looking for and pulled out my iPhone and began taking photos of the family plot and the stones and their inscriptions when the rain returned in earnest.  Slip sliding down to the road, I made it inside the dry interior of my car and though it was June, turned on the heat to chase away the chill.    As I drove to the entrance and near the truck, I spotted a cemetery worker standing in the open door of the office and staring out at the deluge and the hulk of the truck.  Not one to miss the opportunity to visit a cemetery office, I pulled up behind the truck avoiding the Niagara end, flipped up the hood of my poncho and hauled it to the door.  He must have been startled at the sight of me…or the thought of someone running in the storm.  “Hi!”, I said, out of breath.  Sticking out my hand, I introduced myself and asked his name.  “Michael,” he stammered.  “Well, Michael, I sure hope you can help me.   Can I look at the burial cards?  I am an historian researching here and standing in a dry office sure beats bashing around the cemetery in this weather,” I said.  Michael must have been thrilled at the thought of a dry few minutes and he swung open the door and waved his hand at the big set of drawers housing the cards.  In just a few moments I had pulled the Parcells cards and had photographed them…I am an old hand at such things.  I thanked Michael and headed out the way I came.   “Are you sure you have everything?” the young man asked.  I had the feeling that I had worked too fast and he wasn’t anxious to deal with the mess outside.

When I checked the time, I realized that I had just one hour before meeting two of my friends for “Zumba” whatever that was.   Was it a restaurant?  I texted them and got directions.  Okay…I thought I was pretty current on things, but this wasn’t going to be a cocktail with Brazilian liquor.  This was THE Zumba!   Luckily I had my sneakers on and my friend Marie coaxed me onto the floor.  I Zumbaed left.  I Zumbaed right.  I shook my butt and shimmied my shoulders for three-quarters of the class and took a break.  Leaning against the wall I posted the Zumba class on FaceBook and my daughter, Cate,  simply posted “!!!!”   With an “LOL”, I sat out the rest of the class and Marie and I scooted over to the neighboring restaurant for a bowl of soup and gal talk.   It wasn’t long before our friend, Sheila popped in the booth and after a round of hugs and laughs, we got down to a serious visit.  I was tired from the day’s work and the unexpected Zumba lesson, but the time flew by and the years left us all and we were girls again for those few hours.


Naturalization Testimonial Francis Curry 1856A good breakfast with some welcome cups of coffee and I was off to the County Records Department and then on to the new office of the Cayuga County Historian on Court Street.  The records clerks were barely in their offices when I was at the counter waiting to acquire copies of the 1856 naturalization papers of my great great grandfather, Francis J. Curry.  I had to put on the charm that morning.  Poor souls had probably not had an early bird come into the office right on their heels and disrupt a perfectly good routine.  But I was prepared with the index information and it was an easy find for the clerk.  He made copies for me…of copies, that is…and I asked where the originals were kept.  Oh, how I would love to see them!  He cocked an eye at me as if I had asked where Moses had ditched the tablet shards and told me that originals were destroyed after copies were made.  No room for all of that paper ‘stuff’.  While my exterior was calm, inside…from my toes on up…my historian spirit shrieked like a banshee.  “What if a descendant PAID for the originals?”.  County makes money and space is saved and descendant genealogist is giddy with archival love. Win. Win.  I was making sense to me anyway.  It was then that the truth of public records and the bureaucratic heart (or lack of one) brings down a harsh reality.  “Can’t sell public records,” came the reply.  I sighed and packed up the photocopies that had cost me 65 cents apiece and tried to be grateful for that.

The historian’s office is in the same building and just around the corner, but it still requires a walk around the exterior..and back in the rain.  My poncho was getting a workout.    The librarian was puttering about and hurried up to the counter to sign me in and instruct me as to the rules.   I had to leave my purse at her desk which was weird because it was just big enough for my car keys and some lipstick with my driver’s license nudging the seams.  But who knows the cleverness of a history thief, right?   No cameras, either.  Okay.  And of course the menu of costs for photocopies.  Got it.  Now it was my turn to ask questions.   Is there a catalog of what is here?  I think I asked an impossible question because she patiently told me that she couldn’t possibly tell me  what they had.  I just had to tell her what I was looking for.  HUH?  How do I know what I am looking for if I don’t know what is here?   If nothing I am a practical soul and just went for the obvious..how about surnames?  Jackpot.  She had just begun the task of indexing the files of surname loose material and now we had traction.  I spent two hours there and we began to talk genealogy…a lot about her family which was interesting, but I hadn’t traveled all the way to Auburn to talk shop.  While the librarian was photocopying (GAD I hate the word now), I wandered about the public room and found a binder full of material that was a gold mine for me.  Cayuga Historian Ruth Probst’s transcriptions of the Village of Cayuga Records.  Ruth was the quintessential historian.  A virtual encyclopedia herself…”was” being the operative word.  Ruth has joined her ancestors and I regret not having met her before I started my work, but she left behind a remarkably savvy and worthy effort.  But, oh what she took with her….

It was closing upon lunch time – which as you know by now I forget to indulge in – and the office closes down.  So I retrieved my purse and my poncho and in a naughty or was it saintly moment, I told the librarian that my iPhone was not only a still camera…but a video camera…AND a scanner and it had been visibly on the desk next to me the whole time I was working with the files.    “Just food for thought,” I told her and reassured her that I was as Mary Tyler Moore as you can get and had observed the rules, but that was me….    Out into the rain again and to the parking garage with my photocopy treasures, I decided to head to Fort Hill Cemetery.

I was a bit hungry and fished out an energy bar and washed it down with bottled water while I made my way to the old Gothic administrative building of Fort Hill.  Greeted by the secretary, Kristen,  who warmly welcomed me in to her office, I stood among the old burial records and books and found myself admiring the beautiful map of the cemetery…almost as tall as I am…that hangs on the wall behind her desk.  She graciously stopped her work for my impromptu visit and explained the records to me…pulled some cards for me from the files secreted away in the walk-in safe and showed me the beautifully bound records books.  I sat at the big table snugged against the stone wall and pulled out my iPhone and took pictures…with permission, of course.  After the visit at the Cayuga historian’s office, I felt a bit wicked even so.   The topics of conversation wove in and out of Auburn’s history and that of my family and I shared my findings about Fort Hill’s predecessor,  North Street Cemetery.  Secret burials and cholera.   Remarkably I knew so very little about Fort Hill and she began to share her knowledge with me.   I could see she had work to do and I had taken up her time when she suggested that I purchase “Auburn’s Fort Hill Cemetery” compiled by Lydia J. Russell.  She retrieved a fresh copy for me and for $16.50 I had a lovely little publication to take back with me for background research.   It was time to leave…back in to wet weather that had gone from steady rain to clinging mist.

For the first time, I went beyond the usual visits to my grandparents’, Sarah Leona Penird and Albert H. Martin, graves in Fort Hill.  “Hey, Grandparents.”

I drove and walked the 22 acres marveling at the stately monuments of Auburn’s notable families.  Some were IMG_0663soaring edifices, columns and obelisks of amazing craftsmanship and intended to impress.  It was misty and comfortably cool.  A perfect atmosphere for the experience.   I recognized a good number of the names…some of them my Tyler family members.   One Tyler monument that I came upon was more marvelous than all the towering stone tributes.   Fort Hill is not one hill, but a collection of them.  Steep hills.  I was mindful as I walked about the cemetery…careful of each footfall because the grass was wet and the ground so soggy as to defy even the most careful mountain goat…which I am not.  I gave up walking at one point and drove slowly along the winding, curving road and happened upon the tombstone of Almyra Doty Pierce.  She was the daughter of Jason Martin Doty and Anna Tyler.  Anna Tyler was the sister of my maternal 3rd greatgrandfather, Lonson Tyler.   Along side Almyra is the monument of her daughter, Helen and son-in-law, John Llewellyn Tyler.  Oh, the Tylers were still marrying cousins even then.  The monuments are lovely and modestly impressive, but that wasn’t the boggling aspect.  Wedged at the very edge of a high rise of earth, one would expect them to come popping out of the hill at any given moment.   I still ponder how they were put in the ground…and managed to be kept there.    At those uneasy thoughts, I turned off my hazards and made my way out of the cemetery…back to the hotel…a martini and a salad…a hot shower and a good night’s sleep.


Breakfast with friends!   I keep track of my high school chums on FaceBook and know that they gather once a month for breakfast so I had planned my research trip around that time to join them.  Though the skies continued to be gray and promising to rain, I left my poncho in the back seat of my car and joined my friends for a couple of hours of coffee and reminiscing and catching up with news of grandbabies and retirement challenges and joys..keeping the ‘who died’ to a minimum.    We sang Happy Birthday to one of our friends with great gusto and took a group photo before we all dashed off to our lives.   It went so quickly, I wanted to snatch their car keys and hold them hostage for another hour or two.

I had an unscheduled afternoon ahead of me that I had saved for spontaneity.   I drove the entire way around Owasco Lake.  That was a first for me.  I am a Cayuga Lake kid.   Before I was born my paternal grandmother had a summer cottage on Owasco Lake and rented ‘camps’ along Cayuga Lake for summer visitors.  A picture of her with my father and my two older brothers sitting outside her cottage hangs on my wall.  It is black and white and curiously formal and devoid of cheer like the somber weather that followed me around the lake and colored everything in shades of gray.

I stopped at Green Shutters on White Bridge Road and chatted and dallied with locals…ate a hot dog, fries and a root beer along the lake while listening to the 1961 hit “Blue Moon” sung by the Marcels play on the jukebox.  It was still early and going back to the hotel was not an option.  I was fourteen again and immune to the cholesterol and salt and sugar in my lunch.  It was Saturday and there were no afternoon hours at Seymour Library for researching historians.  After considering my options and observing the lift in the clouds, I drove back to Lakeview Cemetery to see how Bill was doing with the clean up.  Maybe I might be able to see what monuments were effected and record them before whatever fate was to befall them in the process.

May 30, 2013 Storm Damage LakeView Cemetery south

May 30, 2013 Storm Damage LakeView Cemetery south

This time I drove from the opposite direction and it provided an entirely different perspective .  In for a penny…I found my way via the side entrance and began thoroughly walking the pioneer section to inspect the damage and the progress of removing the debris. Clearly it was going to take more than one old farmer and a middle-aged man with a chainsaw to get the job done. I peered into the largest fallen tree and could only make out a single obelisk still standing and tightly wedged in among the huge limbs. The canopy was so dense that there was simply no way to tell if anything else survived the crush or if the obelisk is standing on its base.

I will go back to findagrave and see what is posted…and my notes from visits over the years to make sure no information I have is lost…that may be the only thing left in that area of the cemetery after the old giant is removed…my notes and some photos.

Union Springs is just a short drive south of Cayuga and I had one more cemetery to visit.   The sun was peeking through and shafts of light were finding their way to brighten the lake.  The waters looked blue again instead of leaden gray.  I had just found Chestnut Hill Cemetery for the first time and began to drive in when my cell phone rang and it was the Newfield historian from Tompkins County.  Did I have time to come down for a quick visit?    I pulled over and chatted with him for 20 minutes and though I really wanted to make the trip down and spend time, I had used up my energy and was ready to get back to the hotel and get some rest before the four and a half hour drive home the next morning.

At one time or another I could run rings about those many years my junior, but these days I respect the limits put upon me by the passing of time.   That doesn’t stop my historian spirit from chafing at those limitations, but it does provide me with an excuse for another field trip.   Back to Cayuga Lake and home.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

Bachelors, Spinsters and History. Oh, My!

Normally research for a line goes on and on…and spreads out wide with each generation unless some catastrophic event wipes out or diminishes a family dramatically at some point. The family tree grows.

During the past few days I have been researching the descendants of James THRESHER and Almena SMITH of Cazenovia, New York through their daughter, Climena E. THRESHER.  Almena SMITH THRESHER is the sister of my 3rd great grandmother, Dorothy “Dolly” SMITH MARTIN.

As every family historian comes to know…”sideways” investigations…researching siblings of our direct descendants…can yield a vital piece of family information that would never have been found if we only work with our direct grandparents.  The Thresher descendants were a close knit group and each a distinguished and respected community member in the Cazenovia, Madison county, New York area.

James and Almena SMITH THRESHER had four daughters…Climena , Parmelia and Sarah Elizabeth and Mary THRESHER.


Climena THRESHER married Madison ELMORE and the couple had only one child, a son, James.

James ELMORE and his wife, Amelia AINSWORTH had three daughters Climena, Mary and Mabel. Only Climena ELMORE married.

Climena ELMORE and husband Frank W. LOOMIS had two children, Laura and Burton Elmore LOOMIS.  Neither Laura or Burton Elmore LOOMIS ever married.

Thus ended the line of THRESHERs through daughter, CLIMENA THRESHER.


Daughter Parmelia THRESHER and Ira SNOW  had three children, Sarah Jane, Elizabeth Parmelia “Libbie” and Franklin J. “Frank” SNOW. Only Sarah Jane SNOW married.

Sarah  Jane SNOW and Erastus SEYMOUR had five children. William Delos, Ira Wellington, Lillian Gertrude “Gertie”, Fannie H. and Henry J. SEYMOUR.  Only Henry married and had children.

The unmarried SEYMOUR siblings lived together until old age and were prominent in the education of the young people of the area.

DeRuyter Gleaner Oct 1941

When Parmelia SNOW SEYMOUR’s line began to die off – bachelor brothers William Delos Seymour in 1936, Ira Wellington Seymour in 1941 and spinster sister Lillian Gertrude in 1955,  only the youngest remained, Fannie H. Seymour MCPHERSON.  Fannie was a spinster until she married Ivan MCPHERSON at the age of 63.  When their brother, Henry had died in 1933, his siblings rallied around his widow, Harriet BUELL and their small children Marion Esther SEYMOUR and Mason Buell SEYMOUR.  Marion and Mason were practically raised by their father’s siblings.

Mason married a widow and there were no children. Marion was educated at some of the finest schools and I found no record of her marriage. In fact unmarried cousins Marion, Mason, Laura and Burton were the last of the descendants of Climena THRESHER and JAMES ELMORE.


Sarah married David P. Eigabroadt and the pair had three children, Edmund THRESHER EIGABRODT, Eva May EIGABRODT and Bell EIGABRODT.

Edmund married Florence SLOAN, but the couple had no children.  Eva May married Samuel F. BEARDSLEE and they had no children.

Sarah’s line continues on through just one of her children, Bell EIGABRODT. Bell married Henry Deloss RYDER.  The RYDERs moved to Boonville in Oneida county and  had two sons,  Donald EIGABRODT RYDER and Ronald Henry RYDER.  Donald and Ronald both married and had children.  Sarah’s blood line continues today in New York state.


I have tentatively identified Mary’s husband as Henry WHITE, but as of this post I am still trying to find Mary and determine what happened to her and if she had any descendants.  She is 17 years old in the US Federal Census living with her widowed father and older sister, Sarah in Cazenovia.


When I finally completed the lineage to modern day and sat back to analyze it all, it occurred to me that the tree was “upside down”. Throughout all of the research, the spinsters and the bachelors and the married folks with one or no children, each had remarkably active lives and were considered valued elders…pioneers of their community.

That left this researcher with a rich and comprehensive historical view of the entire family and its community from the early 1800’s to the late 1940’s.  Newspaper accounts of family events and lengthy and descriptive obituaries of a good life lead provided this researcher with an enviable pool of family data.  The THRESHER descendants…though they were bachelors and spinsters or childless were contributing citizens to their communities in central New York and proud of their family and its history.

I know many researchers see the unmarried or childless member of a family as a “dead end”, but as this case clearly shows, those folks are often the family custodians of history and are worth researching. Through them I was able to work backward to Almena and James and gain some unique knowledge to my 2nd great grandmother’s family members. The old pioneers were great storytellers and embraced their heritage and kept the family history alive as long as they drew breath. And when they left this earth…their obituaries in one final gesture told a history of generations past.

One of these days…I hope to explore Mary THRESHER to prove her history and perhaps find descendants  For now, I have an incredible picture of life in Cazenovia and Boonville, New York and the ELMORE, LOOMIS, SEYMOUR, SNOW and EIGABRODT families.  And the tantalizing adventure to find Mary THRESHER.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved

Jersey Boy

A Note to My Readers:  On May 1st of this year, I sent a request in to the New York State Vital Records in Albany for the death certificate of John R. Case, my 3rd great grandfather.  It is now September 1st and I have put patience aside and a phone call to the department on Tuesday is on my “to do” list.  This isn’t the first time the seven weeks wait advisory on the form turned into months…seven months to be exact…and two of the four documents were not my requested information.  At that point, I made my way through the frustrating automated phone message maze and happily found a real live person who was incredibly helpful.   I had the correct documents within a week.  I kept her direct phone number in my contact database.  I learned to ask for that kind of information in my career.  Networking with helpful and knowledgeable people is a must have tool for anything we do and genealogists can certainly benefit from developing a contact database…an address book for you non-marketing people.  And make sure you say PLEASE and THANK YOU. 

I do think I know why my second and third requests are bogged down though.  The first time I ordered from the NYS Vital Records Department, it was for ONE death certificate.  It arrived within a month. The second time it was for four.  That took seven months.  And this time…two.  I have a feeling that ordering multiples puts a wrench in the research process for some reason only the folks there know.  So the next time, I will send separate requests in…in separate envelopes with separate checks.  I will let you know if my theory bears fruit.

Working Around the Edges

In the meantime I have been working around the edges of  my 3rd great grandfather John R. Case with what I do know.  John was born in New Jersey in 1809.  At some point he arrived in the area of Summerhill, Cayuga County, New York where he met and married Sarah Learn, daughter of  John Learn and his wife, Elizabeth Freece.  The Cases had three sons, William J. (my 2nd great grandfather), James Henry and Adam A. and a daughter whose name is unknown to me at this time.

Summerhill New York 1859

John and Sarah Case ran a farm in Locke, New York on what is now Route 90 just past the Summerhill line.  Sarah died in 1851 and must have been ill for some time because her 11 year old son James was living with her parents in 1850.   Sarah was just 41 years old when she died and most likely was the victim of consumption…a disease that plagued families in the area for decades.  She is buried in Miller Cemetery on Breeds Road in Locke and  just a row away from where her parents were laid to rest.

After Sarah’s death in 1851, John married again to the spinster Huldah A. Loomis from nearby Groton.  Huldah was 22 years his junior.  In 1860 James Henry Case was living with his father, John and his second wife, Huldah on the farm where she had stepped in to mother the young man who was just 8 years younger than she was.

During the 1850’s William and Adam continued to live with their father John and helped run the 45 acre farm.  They plowed the rich fields above Cayuga Lake with a pair of oxen to sow the crops of barley, corn, winter rye, peas, beans and potatoes.  In spring they tapped the maple trees and made maple syrup for market.   The small apple orchard of about 75 trees produced about 20 bushels a season and the five milk cows on the Case farm produced about 400 pounds of butter every year.  Holsteins were the favored breed of milk cow and it is easy to imagine the big black and white “bossies” dotting the rolling hills above the lake.  It is still one of my favorite sights when I drive through the central New York country side.  Seven chickens produced eggs for market that brought in a neat $500 in the year 1865.  There were two horses and pigs for meat and sheep for wool. In fact, the Cases produced flannel for market as well.  Large stands of woods were part of John’s farm…large enough for deer to inhabit.  In fact the farm that is there today still is thick with trees.

John’s Boys

Before 1860 William and Adam had married and were off their father’s farm.  Twenty-six year old William was farming in Lansing with his maternal grandfather, John Learn and living with his first wife, Mary and their daughter, Sarah and infant son John J. Case.   Adam was a new bridegroom at twenty-three, working as a farm laborer in Genoa and living with his nineteen year wife, Lucy Boyce.

William J. Case had lost his wife, Mary in 1861 leaving him to raise their daughter, Sarah and newborn son, John J.   In 1862 William married Sarah D. Bowker, my paternal 2nd great grandmother.  Sarah was barely 14 years old when she became 28 year old William’s wife.  The young teen bride barely out of her girlhood took over the duties of his household and became a mother to his 7 year old daughter and 3 year old son.  Sarah’s parents, Jonathan and Emeline Bowker, owned one of the largest farms in the Groton, New York area and were descendants of Revolutionary War soldier Silas Bowker who had settled the area after the war for independence.  Before she turned 15 years old,  Sarah bore a son, William J. Case, Jr. followed by a daughter, Emma Lillian, my great grandmother  in the winter of 1865.  Sarah was a capable girl.  She was the youngest child and  had after all seen to her aging parents household on their large farm.

And in the fall of 1869 Sarah became a widow when she was nineteen years old.  Like so many in the area, 36 year old William had succumbed to consumption.

1860 Federal Census Death Enumeration

Though Sarah was a strong girl and had an extended family of Bowkers and Powers, she could not care for her stepson, John, her own children and manage the large farm in Summerhill.  It fell to his grandfather, John R. Case to take in the 10 year John and see to his upbringing.  Huldah was now mothering her stepson, James and her step grandson, John.  And the farm needed the extra hands.  John R. was aging and son Adam had just lost his wife, Lucy in 1865 and was newly remarried and they were raising his young ones, Alice, Katy and Samuel.  Martha died in the 1870’s leaving Adam once again without a mother for his children.

Will’s widow, Sarah remarried to a local farmer, Sylvester Johnson, and together they raised Will’s children, Will, Jr. and little Emma.  Sarah and Sylvester moved on to the Bowker farm where she could help her parents and where Sylvester could care for the Bowker farm business.

The Road to Jersey…is through Albany?

With his son, Will, gone and his son, Adam with troubles of his own,  John and Huldah increasingly turned to James and little John for help on the farm.  When John R. Case died in 1890 at the age of 81, he had owned and run his farm for over 50 years.  Every morning of those 50 some years John rose to milk the cows and turn them out to pasture.  He had hitched up the oxen and turned over the fields and sowed the crops for endless seasons.  And in the spring he walked among the tall maples, his breath sending wisps of clouds into the air, crunching through the snow and finally driving the taps into the trunks to catch the amber sap.  In the autumn with the geese honking overhead and the shortening days, he harvested the crisp apples from the orchard.   The Jersey boy had fought the hard winters, managed through the difficult years of the Civil War, buried his wife and son and his daughters-in-law and raised his grandson, John.  He was a good neighbor, father, husband and grandfather and part of the Cayuga lake pioneer community that rings with the names Learn and Bowker, Boyce and Powers, Miller, Robinson and Freece.   He lies among them in Miller Cemetery next to his wife, Sarah Learn.  In the middle of the glade stands the obelisk, encrusted with tufts of mold and a skim of lichen, but tall and straight among his extended family members.

John R Case and Sarah Learn Monument

And yet unlike the others I have not found him among his own.  I believe Mariah Case who married Jefferson Learn to be his sister…and perhaps Isaac Case of nearby Genoa…and another Jersey boy… to be his brother.  But I am guessing…a good guess with reason to believe I am right…but with no documentation or direction…except to Albany…where for six months someone is “processing” my request for his death certificate.    Enough time to sow and harvest a crop or two.  Pick some apples.  Churn some butter.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved

Silence is Golden

Collaboration…the grownup word for sharing and Sesame Street’s “cooperation” lesson in the 1970’s is a fact of life for successful genealogists.  It’s that tiny tidbit of information…that magical morsel…that knocks down the brickwall haunting generations of researchers.   And frankly, this important discovery is going to let me do the “I told you so” dance. I will try not to gloat.  But just a little bit is okay…please forgive me.

I was the lone Tyler researcher that believed my 4th great grandmother was one ABILENA BARTLETT of Litchfield, Connecticut.  It was pretty much circumstantial, but the building blocks…the analysis and conclusion were pretty compelling and worth working to prove.  Long ago I had a hint that her sister was SILENCE BARTLETT.   It was in old Tyler notes in a handwritten file at the Cayuga County historian’s office.  No confirming proof.  Just a tentative, scribbled note by EVELYN TYLER next to Abilena/Abalena Tyler’s very brief statistics.

Sister of Silence Bartlett?  Jewett?

That was it.  Faint.  Barely discernible on my photocopy of untold generations of the original, but nothing should be ignored.  Especially when it was from a Tyler family member written in the last century.

A Debt Owed to an Old Veteran

I found a Silence Bartlett of Russia, Herkimer, New York…married to THOMASSilence Bartlett and Thomas Hubbart monument  Gravesville Cemetery Herkimer New YorkHUBBART/Hubbard and just went for it.  She was reported to be from Litchfield, Connecticut as was WILLIAM TYLER and his wife, Abilena.  And the Tylers were proved by New York and Connecticut documentation.  So close.  I was in and out of records in Herkimer county and Litchfield, but just couldn’t get that proof to connect the women.  And I was EVERYWHERE there was a Bartlett.  Wills, land records, censuses and all manner of local flotsam and jetsam.

And then it came to me.  Thomas Hubbart was of an age to be a Revolutionary War soldier!  And Silence had outlived him.  Ye Olde Widow’s Pension?  NARA – National Archives and Records Administration!  Be there!  PUH_LEEZE!  Oh, how I hoped for another building block.

Page after page I read through letters to the War Department that vouched for his participation, his identity and his dire need.  Seems the old boy suffered for decades and his doctor wrote of his terrible pain and resulting need for drink to ease his suffering…which contributed to his poor financial state.

On March 12, 1821 his physician and friend of twenty years, Westel Willoughby wrote to Secretary of War, J. C. Calhoun…

…have never known the time when he was able to pay me one dollar for my services, he has always been so poor that I never thought of making any charges against him –

…and nothing but the charity of the citizens, keeps him and his family from suffering for the most common necessities of life.  He like most of the old soldiers likes liquor too well, & has by intemperance materially injured his health, as well as invited his poverty.  From an injury he sustained during the revolutionary War in one of his leggs (sic) he is at all times disenabled (sic) from enduring severe hardships, and is at this time confined to his hovel, for such is the building that shelters him.

After old Thomas finally quit the earth, it was Silence’s turn to request a widow’s pension…and to prove her identity…and her marriage to Thomas.  And who vouches for Silence Bartlett Hubbart?  Why her dear sister, Abilena Tyler in Cayuga County.

A nation’s debt owed to an old soldier…and his widow, Silence Bartlett and a moment of inspiration to consider the history of the times, brought together the sisters Bartlett.

And so generations later, we descendants of William Tyler and Abilena Bartlett owe soldier and patriot Thomas Hubbart a grateful salute.


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

Chains and Links and Stumps

A note to my readers:  The crocus…or is that croci?… are peeking out of the ground and there are tiny buds appearing on the maple trees.  February will soon be a memory and that can only mean one thing.  FIELD TRIP!   My field pack is open and the contents lie on the floor in front of me.  Digital cameras.  Check.  Digital Voice Recorder.  Check.  Batteries.  Check.  Notebook…the old fashioned kind…low tech…but better safe than sorry in the field. Check.  And the padded space that awaits my laptop.  I have added a new device this year…a Christmas gift…a wand scanner.

And there is my “cemetery kit”…much smaller than in previous years as I have learned what I really need.  My digital cameras are high resolution and the detail that I achieve is astonishing most of the time.  There are those old stones that tantalize with the faint and almost indistinct impressions…is that an “A” or an “R”?  Does that say 1863 or 1836?  There are tips and tricks to reveal what the naked eye cannot do unassisted, but CAUTION! is the word.  A good number of well meaning folks spray the old monuments with shaving cream…or rub mud into the inscription…a few throw on talcum powder.  I might be a fussy preservationist, but those practices don’t sit well with me so I carry distilled water in a spray bottle and a generous sheet of Mylar to fight the good fight without compromising a weathered and fragile tombstone.   Distilled water darkens a stone and the Mylar sheet reflects sunlight at the best angle to bring up the contrast.  If it needs a more delicate touch, I spray a water color brush and apply it to the impressions.  I have been known to gently adopt a Braille touch…fingering the inscription…but, oh so gently.   AND only if I cannot accomplish a discerning image with my digital cameras.

Lichen and mildew are a natural occurrence and though they, too, act on the stone, scrubbing it away is a bad idea.  I have a soft brush to tease it away and if it doesn’t yield….it stays.  Believe me, it goes against my inquisitive nature and my Virgo need to be pristine and scrub the world clean.  That is outweighed by my respect for it being someone’s monument…not a stone…and to preserve it at all costs.

Of course, the monuments are not the only considerations.  Even well kept cemeteries represent challenges.  I have only visited one cemetery in all of the years that I have been “in the field” that was even close to level or on firm ground.  But I trek the pioneer cemeteries of central New York where the Ice Age glaciers dug out the deep rivers and lakes and deposited soil forming the drumlins and rolling hills.   Mother Nature rolled out the welcome mat for all manner of beasties.  Mosquitoes.  Ticks.  Gophers and Woodchucks.  AND snakes.  Hence, my walking stick…my Wellies…my long pants, and sleeves and cap and two fresh pair of socks.  My poncho is neatly rolled up and tucked in the kit…I have been known to spend hours in a cemetery…pouring rain or not.

This year…a NEW walking stick fashioned by Native Americans…I love it on a number of levels!…and the order is in for the new Wellies.  A few years ago, I would spend ridiculous amounts of money on high fashion shoes and designer label clothes tiptoeing on the balls of my feet and giving Paris Hilton a run for her…well…money.  Now I am so terribly content with my sensible mud boots and a walking stick to scout out uneven, unstable ground, critter holes….and the hapless snake that wants to get away from me as much as I want to run from it.  Dolce Gabbana who?


While I find a sentimental dedication to locating ancestral burials, archiving them with hand written notes or by voice recording, digital still and video images and using my iPhone for GPS coordinates, I have begun the task of learning about land records…where they lived.  After all, life is what we are seeking.  Some of us are fortunate to find ancestral dwellings still standing…or places of business…where we can stand in the moment…still…slow breathing…and letting the dust motes drift in and out of instant syncopation…and sense the bending of temporal existence.  Our ancestors voices and footsteps…the smell of a hearth or sawdust underfoot…or the gentle nicker of a horse.  Senses wide open to a rift in time.

And so I go home twice a year.  Something I did not do in my youth…I was so busy with  the frantic nature of everyday life…and the pleasure of a great wardrobe.  I worked like a marathon runner…raised my children…cared for my mother and my dear Tim in the last two years of his life.  Life was full and challenging and I was everywhere at once.  On demand…a cable TV term now…

This year I go once again to the little rural community of Enfield with a fresh spirit.  I know where you are buried GGG Grandparents, Peter Van Dorn and Mary Irwin.  I spent time at your resting place with my brother…and then my son.  And I found you GGG Grandparents Samuel David Purdy and Semantha Ingersoll after my son pushed his way through thickets to access your obelisk.  Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll…you surprised us a few feet away and I was in one of those “time stops” moments that you never forget.  But this year…this year…I know where you lived.

Lura’s Message

Lura King Williams Probate Record

I am Lorinda “Lura” Smith Williams great great great granddaughter.  And she left me everything in her probate records.  Everything.  Her signed probate records spoke to me…”I am your grandmother.”  It is the one confirming document that I have that tells me my analysis was 100% accurate.  It also is pages and pages of legalese and surveyor language that tells me where the boundaries are for their home and the surrounding property.  Property which includes a saw mill and the creek that runs through Enfield.  The very creek that flooded in 1935 and that probably compromised the eastern end of the Presbyterian Cemetery in Enfield where Samuel Purdy and his family were buried.

Reading the description of the property…chains and links and rods…with the occasional reference to a stump or a blacksmith shop, the dam and the creek, left me agog.  Now I am not THAT anal that I have to dot those i’s and cross those t’s, but getting a sense of where they trod and toiled, laughed and ate, gave birth and died was important to me.   Their lives are important to me and the land that provided them with footfall is the bridge.

I was fortunate enough to find a map on Bill Hecht’s wonderful site...all FREE!

Enfield New York Applegate Corners 1853

And there is Enfield, New York in 1853 with its inhabitants and their homesteads written in the neat script of the day.  So..no surveyors needed…I know Applegate Corners and Enfield Center and Van Dorn Corners and I can go back home and slow down time…let the dust motes drift…breathe and listen for my Grandmother Lura.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved