John B. Swain of Throop (1799-1891) was the husband of my maternal 4x great aunt Almira J. Tyler (1804-1873). Almira is the sister of my 3x great grandfather, Lonson W. Tyler (1794-1872).  In 1890 John Swain’s recollections were published by the Auburn, NY Daily Bulletin on January 18th.  His reference to his father-in-law in his recollection is to my 4x great grandfather, William Tyler (1773-1860).

L to R: John B Swain, his son-in-law Martin Van Aken and his daughter Martha Swain Van Aken.

L to R: John B Swain, his son-in-law Martin Van Aken and his daughter Martha Swain Van Aken.



How He Came to Auburn and the Many Things He Remembers About the Early Days.

To the Editor:
Seeing in the BULLETIN your request to old inhabitants of the city to write of the early recollections of Auburn, and observing the meagre details thus far, I was prompted to submit a few facts which I hope you will consider of sufficient interest to publish. I am not a resident of the city, but have lived within three miles of the prison gate for sixty-nine years.

I was born in New Jersey June 15th, 1799, and consequently nearly 90 years. When eighteen years of age I left home with my brother for the State of Ohio, then considered the far west. We traveled in a one-horse wagon, there being no railroads, and landed in Smithfield county, Ohio at the end of thirty days. I visited Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland until 1820, when I started for this county the called the lake region. I made the journey afoot, the distance about 500 miles, in just twelve days. I came by way of Pittsburg, Finch creek and up the Allegany river to Olean, then across to Pike Ferry, Moscow and Geneseo, and thence through Lima, Bloomfield to Canandaigua, and east to Auburn. There was about a foot of snow on the ground when I arrived but the weather was quite pleasant. The place was known as Hardenburg Corners in those days.

The walls of the first few acres enclosed for the prison were built by Lawrence White and Ralph Decamp of New York. At the conclusion of the work White built a house at the corner of Van Anden and North Streets, and lived there, rearing a large family. Decamp settled on a farm near Fosterville and remained there until his death. West Van Anden and Seymour streets were a wild swamp. The land from the site of the State asylum to Hackney was covered by heavy timber. It was in the woods at a point about where the asylum gate is now that the eccentric Lorenzo Dow used to preach. From that point south, to Clark Street, was a wilderness almost impenetrable.

Jack Harris was the first man received at the prison. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for burning the Rome, Oneida county jail. At the expiration of twenty years he was pardoned. He learned the coopers trade during his confinement, and upon his release he worked for John Hepburn, counting staves at the corner of Wall and Cross streets, until he was nearly blind. He was finally removed to the county house, where he died about ten years ago, aged 100 years. My father-in-law’s brother, Gideon Tyler, a small boy, was the first person buried in the North Street cemetery. The prison chaplain was Mr. Bowser, a Methodist preacher who conducted a chair factory on Market street.

On the corner of Mechanic and Genesee street in 1821 there was a general merchandise store owned and conducted by two brothers named Patty.  Mrs. Arnett, of whom Mr. Bostwick speaks, was a relative of the Patty’s.  Mrs. Arnett’s husband had the Cooper contract in the prison and I worked for him nearly five years.  Richard Steele’s drug store stands to-day in the same place it did then.   Walter Weed had a hardware store just below.  When boats began running on the Erie Canal, Mr. Weed built a basin for the craft to load and unload cargoes.  The point was then called Weed’s Basin, but it has since been changed to Weedsport.  In a two story building where the Auburn Savings bank now stands, U. F. Doubleday, published a weekly newspaper, the Cayuga Patriot.  A Mr. Lounsbury was employed in the office, also a Mr. Allen who finally became a partner.  Finally Mr. Doubleday got out of the business and the paper was published by Allen & Lounsbury.  There was also a two story building where Seward’s bank now stands.  The ground floor was occupied by Abijah Fitch, who conducted a dry goods store.  The second story was occupied by the Auburn Free Press office, a newspaper published by a Mr. Oliphant.  In a room in the upper story of a building which stood about where Hunt’ drug store is now located, Judge Miller had a law office and William H. Seward studied law with him, and Enos T. and Geo. B. Throop were then residents of Auburn.  The former was afterwards Governor of the State.

The only hat store was owned by Nathaniel Garrow, afterwards Garrow & Linds, and finally the firm name became Carpenter & Linds.  The latter was soon after appointed principal keeper at the prison, and then the firm name became Carpenter & Bodley for a short time when A. T. Carpenter bought out the business.   When Charles Carpenter became of age the firm name was changed to Carpenter & Son.  The store is now run by A. T. Carpenter’s grandson, Charles.

In 1820, Milton Sherwood, a son of old Colonel Sherwood who was then keeping the Stage house at the foot of Skaneateles lake, came to Auburn and built a stage house called the American hotel.  He conducted the house until the railroad was finished and there being no further use for stages he retired from the business, settled on a farm, near where the fair ground is now, and engaged in breeding fancy cattle.  There were two whiskey distilleries and one beer brewery in Auburn in 1820.

There were four churches – one Episcopal, a little wooden building on West Genesee street which was burned in 1826; the First Presbyterian, a wooden building, corner of North and Franklin streets; the Baptist meeting house on Exchange street; and a Methodist place of worship on Chapel street.  The place where Richardson’s furniture house now is was formerly a Universalist church.

In 1824 a company of light infantry was organized in Brutus, Sennett and Mentz.  It was named the “Brutus Blues.”  One night a man rode up to my house and notified me to be at Auburn early in the morning, well equipped, to escort the Marquis De La Fayette into the village.  The company mustered early and marched out some distance and met the distinguished visitor.  He was in an open two seated carriage with three or four of the prominent men of the village.  I do not remember the names.  We escorted him to the hotel, fired a salute and then broke ranks.

The first building of the Theological Seminary was began in 1825.  I could write a volume of early recollections but I will forbear for this time.


Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright November 2017. 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.

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

Hey, Sullivan Shults Davenport! Haven’t We Met Someplace Before??

A Note to My Readers:  I am sure I am not the only historian who has run into a familiar stranger or two while researching a family line.   That is very likely to happen as you go back to the earliest days of American history.   After all, there were less people and somebody HAD to marry someone in that small, small world.  Somewhere along the process you are going to ask yourself…”where have I seen this name before?”

I’M A “Central” NEW YORKER

I am a Tyler descendant and have been researching my Tyler ancestors for years.  The fact that I was born and raised in central New York and that it is the geographic nexus for my ancestral lines over several generations pretty much guarantees I will run into a relative.  First cousins marrying was not an unusual occurrence in the earliest days, but as the population grew and its consequences became clear…madness, deafness, etc., relationships became more distant and diverse.  Another trend that you fairly trip over are siblings of one family marrying siblings of another.   Again, as the population grew and migration became more common and far flung,  that circumstance fell away.

Families sharing common ancestry had reunions, wrote family histories and in general provided current day historians with the bridge information that we all appreciate.  The Tylers were especially enthusiastic celebrating their heritage up until the Great Depression.  Reunions of the Tyler Kindred of America ceased to be planned as the generation of  historians Rollin U. Tyler and William Irving Tyler Brigham died off.  My grandmother and her sisters were the last to attend one of the reunions held in Auburn, New York in the summer of 1929.  Tylers came from all over America and they all knew each other and despite the ‘twice removed’ kind of thing…only referred to each other as “cousin”.  Kin was kin.

Sometimes when you are NOT looking, an individual pops up in the work and your brain puts on the brakes and does the old double take.


Lately, I have been exploring my Davenport and Smith families in the generation of my 4th great grandparents, Ira Smith and his wife, Sarah Davenport, of New Haven, Connecticut and Newfield, Tompkins county, New York.   I had great success with the Smiths as they settled in central New York…despite the epic challenge of the Smith surname.  Ira and Sarah had settled in New York just before 1800 along the western side of Cayuga Lake in what is now Ulysses.   I hadn’t explored the Davenports as they migrated from New Haven so it was time to see if like the Smiths, they sought new opportunities along the Finger Lakes in the post Revolutionary War era.  Did Sarah Davenport Smith’s family members find the same path to the rolling hills above Cayuga Lake?

As I had supposed,  one of Sarah’s siblings heeded the call.  Her youngest brother, A Supplement to The Davenport Family title pgStreet Davenport and his new wife, Nancy Maria Shults, came to New York State shortly after their 1827 marriage where their children, Sullivan Shults Davenport and Mary Hetty Davenport were born.  Sometime between 1835 and 1840, the Davenports migrated one more time…to Townsend, Sandusky, Ohio.

We all know New York State covers a great deal of territory and the Davenports could just as well have settled in Albany or Long Island as anywhere else.  But the argument that they homesteaded with the Smiths along Cayuga Lake can be made because Sullivan Davenport married central New York born Lovina Twiss.  Lovina is a Tyler…her mother was Polly Tyler and her father was Benjamin C. Twiss of Cayuga County, New York.  The Twiss family likewise migrated to the Sandusky County, Ohio area in the period between 1836 to 1850.

So what, you say?   So…I had Polly Tyler Twiss and her daughters Lovina and Permelia entered into my family tree…as a good and faithful Tyler historian when I first began creating the family tree.  Years ago.  Lovina’s husband…yep..Sullivan S. Davenport.  And their progeny.  And I had moved on.  At the time I had no knowledge of my Davenport heritage so Sullivan Shults Davenport was just another Ohioan that had been born in the great state of New York.

Now that I have been putting my Davenport family history in apple pie order, I ran into Sullivan Shults Davenport and had the “deja vu all over again” moment.  I went to enter him into the tree from the Davenport research perspective…with a wife possibly named Lavinia and found…HIM.   Already there.  And Lovina Twiss…not Lavinia somebody or other.  And their children…Ellen Maria and John Elliott and Cora Ada…all of that generation of Tylers that would travel back to Auburn.   Travel back and listen to the speeches from the historians and the songs written and performed for the occasion.  To stand in front of the Pavilion at Owasco Lake for the big group photo of the 1929 Tyler Kindred of America.  The photo that hangs on the wall of my sitting room.  Somewhere amid the throng are individuals that are both my Tyler and Davenport family members.

Circle closed.  And kin is kin.


“A Supplement to The history and genealogy of the Davenport family, in England and America, from A. D. 1086 to 1850”.  Printed for the family, Stamford, CT in 1876 and entered into the Library of Congress in 1877 by Amzi Benedict Davenport.

“The Tyler Genealogy: The Descendants of the Branford, Connecticut Line of Roger Tyler”. By Willard I. Tyler Brigham and Calvin Cedric Tyler, Volume 3.

Tyler Kindred of America Genealogical Records.  University of Connecticut.

Family Records,  Tyler Collection.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

A Dose of Kenyon’s Tonic

A Note To My Readers:  Over the years I have toiled over lengthy posts to share my stories of genealogical research…maybe a family musing or two…but detailed and like I said…lengthy. 

This year I set up a FaceBook page-www.facebook.com/thegenealogistsinkwell-to post random thoughts as I plow through research and develop stories.  I thought it a wiser move to begin to post on my blog instead as it posts automatically to my FaceBook page anyway and I can share these bits of flotsam with my blog readers.

Ithaca New York and Finding Deborah

In the March 8th 1897 Ithaca Daily News my 68 year old great great grandmother, Deborah Jane Tyler Curry recommended Kenyon’s Tonic for rheumatism.  I would have missed this little item if I had narrowed my research to  newspaper social sections for family events or by looking for obituary mentions or for legal notices.

Advertising items like these recommendations that are in old newspapers can give you a timeline for residence, too.

Ithaca Daily News

Deborah had been widowed in 1884 and lived in Montezuma, New York until her early sixties when she moved to Ithaca to live near her married daughters, Kate Curtis and Jennie Sinsabaugh.  In the New York State census of 1892, she was still in her home in Montezuma.  So when did she leave her longtime home?

Piece by piece I built the timeline by reading old newspapers from Auburn and Ithaca.  This was the earliest piece of evidence I found of her residing in Ithaca.  I did find a second item a bit later that showed her moving to Ithaca in November of 1893, but this odd bit of trivia still intrigues me…especially since my career was in marketing and newspapers….and I am her namesake, Deborah Jane.    And by the way…totally without knowing my great great grandmother’s children names, I named my daughters…Jennie and Cate.
Deborah lived to the ripe old age of 89 years old.  Could ‘the tonic’ have been her secret?  And what was in it?  Chances are alcohol was an ingredient…one that a lovely Methodist widow of a Civil War hero could put in her tea and sip delicately with a clear Christian conscience.

And you know,  my aches and pains might just need some of Mr. Todd and Mr. Brooks’ Kenyon’s Tonic now that I think of it…

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

Enfield and Keys, Violets and Cows – Notes from the Field

Dear Readers, I wrote this piece while doing site research in central New York State in May of 2009 and with some judicious editing, I think it is definitely worth a blog post.   My apologies to my family and fellow researchers who plowed through last year’s field version.  I have an inexplicable propensity to use three dots…

Monday Evening

Monday was an absolutely gorgeous day.  It was warm and sunny and promised to provide ideal weather for field research in the Finger Lakes.  After the previous day’s six hour drive to Skaneateles from Pennsylvania and a good night’s sleep, I  treated myself to a  leisurely breakfast on the large front porch of my lodgings, the Sherwood Inn.  The two hundred year old inn overlooks the deep blue waters of Skaneateles Lake and has always been a favorite of mine.  Fortified by a the inn’s excellent coffee and fresh pastries, I was off to pick up my oldest brother, Gale,  for field research and family reminiscences.

Our first stop in Enfield Center had a dual purpose.  First,  find the burial sites of our ancestors and then check out Van Dorn Corners for a possible group photo location for our upcoming Purdy Family Gathering.

Enfield was and still is a farming community.  Rural and stubbornly resistant to change.   One local explained to me, “We like it that way.  City people want to come in here and change it, but it isn’t going to happen.  It’s fine just the way it is.”

Enfield Historic Map circa 1866

That resident, Steve, is an import really.  Just second generation.  Early in the day, we had found Steve and his co-worker, Jack, whose pedigree was several generations’ worth of Enfield history.   Gale and I had someone to talk Purdy and Ingersoll history with!   But I am ahead of myself.

Despite my field research preparations which included a Google map with latitude and longitude and a GPS device talking at us all along the way, we found actually driving the rural roads and navigating them in search of the little pioneer cemeteries was still a bit of a challenge.  NOTE TO SELF – stop and ask directions!  It still works and you get to talk with people and is part of the process for me.  So there on the main road which is no more than a two lane country road that rises and falls and curves with the terrain, we found the Enfield Township garage.  And Steve standing out by his big truck preparing to head out to clean up after a recent windstorm.

Steve took a couple of minutes to warm up to two strangers.  After all,  we could be “comin’ into town lookin’ to change it”.  Within a moment or two of explaining our presence there,  Steve was a one-man welcoming committee.  He would introduce us to his co-worker, Jack…an old timer (my age for God’s sake) and a fellow who knew just about everything that ever happened in Enfield.  The problem was Jack was just pulling out of the garage in his big truck to go down the road a bit to look at some cleanup work and so for the moment we just had Steve.  And Steve was ready for some good old fashioned conversation.  Heck,  it was a nice day and we were interesting enough and things move…well… how they move in Enfield and it didn’t look like we were going to change that.  “Stick around a few minutes and Jack will be back and he can tell you anything you want to know.”   In the meantime Steve filled us in on Steve…his folks being from Scotland though he had never been.

In less than twenty minutes and a few Steve stories later,  Jack at last arrived back at the garage and we shook hands. Dirt and all.  Honest Enfield dirt.   Jack warmed up to the talk of the Purdys right away and began his small town, rambling style of tale telling.  The Purdy topic spun into a description of the old Purdy “market” down the road and then there was Mabel Purdy,  the town historian,  who was an Enfield encyclopedia…and dead.  So no interviewing  Mabel, I guess. But the good news is Mabel’s daughter is alive.  The bad news is she is poorly and probably off to the nursing home by now.  But wait.  HER daughters are around.  Sometimes.  Steve had obviously embraced the Enfield story telling technique from his friend, Jack.

After patiently listening to Jack’s  “Enfield past and present meanderings” while he comfortably leaned on his big tractor in the late spring sun, I knew we were burning daylight and tactfully brought us back to the business of getting directions to the two small pioneer cemeteries in the area.  Jack was delighted that he could at least provide us with something useful and informed us that we were just three houses down the road from the Presbyterian Cemetery and a quick “turn around” would take us to the Christian Cemetery around the curve past the old Baptist Church.  “Oh, and watch the curve,” he warned.   Grateful for the directions and charmed by our immersion in Enfield character, I thanked Steve and Jack and we were finally off to find the cemeteries of our ancestors.

Presbyterian Cemetery Entrance

Just moments later we found ourselves at the Presbyterian Cemetery.  Ready and anxious to archive my research, I had my list of burials with me and my video and still digital cameras.

True to the old pioneer cemeteries there is NO driveway or parking.    So spotting a “friendly” driveway across the curved road, I pulled in and silently thanked the neighbors of Enfield for their hospitality.  Gale figured it was okay, too.  They had a Marine Corps flag flying below the American flag.   SEMPER FI!

A quick look…left and right…and a dash across the road had us at the entrance to the old cemetery.  I stood there for a moment impacted by the fact that this cemetery held the history of this area…and our young country.  Graves  dated back to the early 1800’s and earlier.  Some of the tombstones were at least five feet tall.  Many were tilted precariously to the side and some had broken and now resembled stepping stones.  Some were lichen covered.  Some were barely legible and were clustered tightly together while some stood alone.  A curious landscape within the deep green shade.  Violets grew among the gravestones and their merry color gave it a little garden appearance.

I was prepared to find my ancestral grandparents,  Samuel D. Purdy and his wife, Samantha Ingersoll Purdy and her mother, Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll.  What I found was great great grandfather,  Elbert Purdy and his two small daughters, Henrietta and Emilie.  There at the back of the cemetery stood the five foot granite obelisk.  Not the humble tombstones of a Methodist that I had expected,  but the serious mark of a man and his family.  To impress.  To remember.  I had hoped that his father and mother and grandmother would be close by, but after half an hour of tombstone-to-tombstone searching,  I had come to the back of the cemetery that had a precipitous drop filled with thigh-high brambles and a cluster of more obelisks and tombstones ensnared in the collapsed terrain and wild growth below.

Dangerous?  You bet!  And tantalizing?  Oh, yes.  But, let’s see.  I am a sensible adventurer.  I am 61 years old and plan to live a long time and, oh.   I hate snakes and that looked like snake habitat to me.  Having left Gale behind to commune with the Williams and have his cigarette…oh, dear the Methodists wouldn’t approve…I traipsed back to pick up my wayward brother and head to my illegally parked car.

The car was just fine and with a salute to the flagpole and a hearty “Semper Fi”, we drove the mile or so down the road to the Christian Cemetery.  This very different cemetery was  open terrain and  smack dab in a cow pasture.  It was a simpler affair with straight rows and a tree or two, but uphill a bit toward the pasture and its cow neighbors.  It was a fine weather day and Gale was enjoying the electric controls of his window so I had abandoned my “big city” proclivity to lock the car up tight.   I figured the cows didn’t want anything I had in the car anyway.

So the window stayed down.

I was energized to at last find the Van Dorns and pay my respects.   I grabbed the cameras.  AND my car keys.  You never knew about cows.  We headed to the left to start scanning the rows for our ancestors.  Left to right.  Front to back.  Name after familiar name.  I knew these folks from my research and said my hellos as we went.  Cows don’t care if you are crazy.

And as my luck would have it, our ancestors are buried at the far back right section.  I did note something I thought curious.   You see the inscriptions were facing the BACK of the cemetery so when you come in the front, the uninscribed back sides of the monuments are facing the entrance.  Subsequent research revealed the earliest settlers had their feet pointing toward the east and the head of the coffin toward the west, ready to rise up and face the “new day” (the sun) when “the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised” or when Christ would appear and they would be reborn.

Gale Martin ponders his great great aunt, Deborah Van Dorn

And there were the Van Dorns…like soldiers in a row.  Some of the tombstones had broken so low to the ground that just the death dates were left.  But Deborah Van Dorn was there…next to her mother, Mary Irwin Van Dorn.  Mary’s death date was still was visible though the top half of her tombstone was long gone.  To Deborah’s right was her sister, Margaret Van Dorn Holmes.

Deborah was Peter Van Dorn’s eldest child and when his wife Mary died, Deborah took over the household duties.  She finally married in her thirties to a widowed farmer named Samuel Burlew who was considerably older and died leaving Deborah alone and childless.  Deborah married again soon after to Obadiah Chase, another elderly widower.  The inscription on her tombstone declares her as Deborah Van Dorn Chase,  wife of Obadiah.  Gale settled in the meadow grass near the tombstones and I was once again off to see what the remainder of the cemetery could reveal.

Spirited and energized by the beautiful day and the realization of almost two years of research,  I headed back to Gale seated at Deborah’s grave and began to photograph the cemetery and surrounds.  With the field work completed, Gale and I headed down the gentle slope to the car only to discover that I had both cameras but NO car keys.  And the car has an automatic, electronic locking system.  You know, in case of cows.

Deborah Van Dorn Burlew Chase Monument

Had I left the keys in the car?   A car window was down thanks to Gale’s fascination with the electronics and my newly found sense of “what the heck”.  I opened the car through the passenger’s window and the alarm began to reverberate across the cemetery and into the peaceful Enfield countryside.  After a quick, frantic look in the car for the keys, I realized that in my enthusiasm to begin the cemetery walk  I had absent- mindedly clutched my cameras with my keys in one hand before beginning the typical methodical walk up and down every row.  My slacks had no pockets.    Everything had been in my hands.

So with the constant clarion of the car alarm ringing in my ears,  I settled my elderly brother in the passenger’s seat while I began to retrace my steps to find the set of keys.  Somehow, though a sinking feeling lurked, I knew…I KNEW…I would find those keys.

Putting logic aside, I visualized the set of keys in the grass and after walking one short row, I lifted my head and made a bee-line for Deborah Van Dorn.  The thought of Deborah had just popped into my head and I went straight to her monument.  There were the keys in the meadow grass, metal winking in the sunlight in front of Deborah’s tombstone.  I swallowed hard and placed my hand upon her tombstone.  And I thanked her…for a lot of things…not just the keys.  It seems Deborah continues to watch over her family.

Within two steps of her grave, I tapped the button to stop the alarm, turned,  apologized to the cows and headed down to the car.

Gale laughed and I did, too, but with considerable relief because we knew that with no keys…in the middle of nowhere…and a bleating alarming system, we might just have to settle in among the good people of Enfield.   Jack.  Steve.  Semper Fi.

NYS Historical Marker Peter Van Dorn

In a few moments we were once again on our way and headed toward Mecklenburg Road (the old Catskill Turnpike) where my 3rd great grandfather,  Peter Van Dorn had built  and run his tavern in 1820.  We were on the next quest for a possible group photo site for our upcoming  Purdy Gathering.   And there, it was…the old New York State historical marker…weathered and askew along a deep roadside gully.  Where the bustling Van Dorn tavern once had stood, now a rusted house trailer sat anchored by an old apple tree that was rotted, split and black as midnight.  Definitely not a scenic or poetic backdrop for our family photo.  I took a picture of the New York State marker anyway…positioning myself to avoid the ugly reality of what was now sitting atop the grounds of the longgone historic tavern.

The food and the adventures of the day tamped down the energy we had been thriving on earlier in the day and we did have an hour long drive back to Auburn.  We headed northward finally arriving in  Auburn just before 4PM.  Seventy five year old Gale was tired.  He had thoroughly enjoyed the day and was sleepy after all of the excitement and with the local diner’s meatloaf, mashed pototoes and gravy settling comfortably in his stomach.  After a good hug and a promise to begin again early tomorrow, I left Gale at his Auburn home and headed back to Skaneateles for a well deserved, ice cold vodka martini and a serious writing session.


In Auburn I was so tantalizingly close to the North Street Cemetery and burial site of  5th great grandfather, Gideon Tyler and his family that I just had to make one more stop.  One more.   At that point I was becoming aware that my luncheon beverage was now beginning to have an effect.  Do archaeologists pee? And where?  I should research that, I thought.  Uncomfortable, but determined, I  found a parking space nearby and walked to the front gate.

Gideon Tyler Tombstone in North Street Cemetery

The Tylers are the very first row next the front gate so that was a no brainer, but I understood that William and Abalena may be in the back and it couldn’t be THAT big a cemetery and I am not THAT uncomfortable and it IS a nice day and it IS early.

I walked back and forth through the rows of tombstones and up the hill and …oh…my…God….it went back and back and fanned out beyond my sight line.  Old tombstone after old tombstone and I had left the cemetery burial information in the car.  At that point I was definitely tired of guessing how much longer my body would allow me to talk myself out of …well you know.  So another day.  Forgive me, William and Abalena.  Another day.

Tuesday Morning

Today we are off to Cazenovia in search of Martin lore and gravesite visits.  It is another beautiful day.  Now dear ones and fellow researchers,  I have to take a quick shower and grab breakfast.  And wear pants with pockets!

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2010.  All Rights Reserved