The Connecticut Yankee.  Fit For Mischief.

The Connecticut Yankee. Fit For Mischief.

A Note to My Readers:  Our ancestors are more than names, dates places…and shared DNA.   Some we take a shine to and thus we begin to explore the history in which they played a role.   Genealogy is history,  after all.  One of my favorite ancestors is Samuel Weyburn (1746-1825), my maternal 4x great grandfather.  I have a substantial bit of data on Samuel and some special antiquarian publications in my personal library. Somewhere in the flurry of researching…reading and note taking,  I forgot about “A History of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Volume 1”.  It is chock full of some of most interesting details of the colonization of Pennsylvania AND the conflict of the settlers from Connecticut who came to the Wyoming Valley under the Susquehanna Purchase.

Fit For Mischief

The clash between the “Connecticut Yankees” and the William Penn colonists was the result of two conflicting charters issued by King Charles II and complicated by the fact that in 1754 the English had secretly purchased the land from the Mohawks (the easternmost Iroquois Nation) not from the main inhabitants -the Delawares. [1]

In 1762 the Connecticut Yankees began to arrive and settle in the Wyoming Valley under the Susquehanna Purchase and establishing their first permanent settlement by 1769. By this time, Pennamites (settlers loyal to Pennsylvania colony) also claimed ownership to the area thanks to a purchase they made with the Iroquois. The two groups of settlers, as well as the various Indian groups, repeatedly clashed over rights to these lands—with sometimes deadly consequences. This period of time was called “The Pennamite-Yankee Wars”.

Among those “Yankee” settlers was Samuel Weyburn.

On the morning of Friday, May 12, 1769 twenty-four-year-old Samuel joined 24 of his fellow Yankees who, in a show of force and determination, rode up the Susquehanna to establish a fort under Major John Durkee. The group would pick up additional men along the way and eventually arriving in Wyoming Valley, numbered 146 individuals. Word went out to the Pennsylvania colonists and their authorities that this advance group would soon be a full complement of 500 men. It caused one of the Pennamite officials, Charles Stewart, to write in alarm to Governor William Penn describing the men and pleading for armed assistance.

“This afternoon about three o’ clock 146 New England men and others, chiefly on horseback, passed by our houses and are now encamped on the east side of the river.”

“From the view I had of those gentry, in their procession by our houses, they appear to be – at least an equal number of them – of the very lowest class, but are almost all armed and fit for mischief.”

In this letter, Stewart recognized a number of the men and listed them by name. Samuel Weyburn was among those ‘gentry’ listed.

As I am building the timeline of my ancestor in these turbulent pre-Revolutionary War days in Pennsylvania including his miraculous survival of the massacre on July 3, 1778 at Fort Wyoming as a member of the Continental Army Pennsylvania Rangers, I am compelled to consider what kind of individual could manage the continuing threat to his very existence.  Perhaps Mr. Stewart’s description of ‘fit for mischief’ would prove to be more accurate than he would ever know.

Migration Trail of Samuel WeyburnSullivan’s Campaign

As conditions continued to be dangerous and uncertain and after his survival at Fort Wyoming, Samuel’s response in 1779 was to join forces with his neighbors and enlist in Washington’s Continental Army leaving his wife, Jane Bratton and their four children to manage the homestead in Derry, Cumberland county, PA.    Serving under Colonels Dearborn and Zebulon Butler, the Pennsylvania Rangers became part of Sullivan’s Campaign, the cruel response ordered by Washington to force the indigenous peoples from their homes and to punish them for their support of their English allies.

Sullivan’s Army followed the old Indian trails up the Susquehanna, through the Chemung Basin near Owego and on to the heart of the Finger Lakes.   There was little to no resistance and in many instances, the native Americans had fled in anticipation of the superior numbers of Sullivan’s Army.  Furthering my research on this experience, I have read several military journals and came across historian General John S. Clark (1823-1912) and his prolific knowledge regarding the Sullivan Campaign.   In one of his writings, “Aboriginal Footprints”, Clark describes Dearborn’s exploration of the west side of Cayuga Lake and Samuel Weyburn and his settlement at “Taghanic” and his interviews with the Carmans – direct descendants of Samuel’s through his daughter, Jane.

I have taken some pains to learn what traditions exist in that locality in regard to this matter and my interviews with many of the old residents have only resulted in strengthening the conclusions arrived at from the statements contained in Dearborn’s journal.  Samuel Weyburn was one of the first settlers at this point and his descendants state in the most positive terms that he never knew of an Indian town there.

When Samuel returned from his participation in Sullivan’s Campaign, he continued to serve in the Continental Army under Captain Robert Samuels.   At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, there was still the issue of just who owned the land in the Susquehanna area.  Once again tensions flared and the Yankee-Pennamite War resumed.   Eventually the newly formed nation found common ground and the Connecticut Yankees were granted ownership of their land.  By that time, Samuel had already returned to Taughannock with the intention of settling in New York State.

This was the route followed from Taughannock Point southward by Co. Dearborn with 200 men, on their raid along the west side of the Cayuga Lake in September, 1779.  At the intersection of two county roads just south of Willow Creek crossing, along the Indian Trail, is a little-known boulder monument commemorating this brave expedition.

Over this trail, in the year 1790, came Samuel Weyburn, who traveled from Tioga Point (now Athens, PA) with his wife and four children. He built the first log cabin at Taughannock Point.[2]

Samuel and his wife Jane Bratton traversed the same Indian Trail to Taughannock with not four, but seven children: Samuel, Jane, Rachel, Sally, George, William and Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Weyburn (1785-1865) is my maternal 3x great grandmother.  Three more children were born to the Weyburns in their new home along the western shores of Cayuga Lake: Oliver, Clarissa and Isabella.

Samuel Jane and Oliver Weyburn monuments Interlaken NYSamuel and his wife Jane are buried in the “Old Farm” section of Lake View Cemetery at Sheldrake’s Point along with son Oliver and daughter Clarissa – eleven miles north of Taughannock Falls.



Deborah Jane Martin-Plugh

Genealogical Researcher, Historian, Contributing Writer and Author

© Copyright 2018

[1] Iroquois Land Deed, 1754, DAR.1925.13, Darlington Collection, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

[2] Old Indian Trails in Tompkins County. W. Glenn Norris.  DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County.  Ithaca, NY.  1944.  Chapter IV. P. 22.

The Transcriber and The Descendant, The Fight With The Technician and The Romantic

A Note to My Readers:   Transcribing takes patience and focus and a dispassionate mood.   On occasion I put my scientific mind in charge and take on the task.   And then sometimes the technician and the romantic collide and it is a thing of great joy and revelation.   Today I tackled an old monograph and sorted through some old images.

One of my favorite stories comes from “The Falls of Taughannock: Containing A Complete Description of this the HIGHEST FALL in the State of New York” compiled by Lewis Halsey and printed in 1844.  Among lovely passages of prose and poetry dedicated to Taughannock Falls, it provides a rare glimpse into pioneer life as told by George Weyburn, the brother of  my maternal 3rd great grandmother, Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll.


The following simple yet graphic account of a fight with a bear in the ravine of Taughannock was contributed by Mr. George Weyburn  to the “New York State Historical Collections,” published by John M. Barber and Henry Howe in 1844.
It is amusing to note what importance this old veteran gives to the least incident of the great “conflict,” which he describes with as much zeal and earnestness as if he were discoursing concerning a Waterloo, upon the issue of which the destinies of the world were depending.
His enumeration of the numbers, positions, and the arms of the combatants is worthy of a careful chro-


nicler, and he is unable to conceal his joy when, after recommencing “the conflict,” his friends are at length left “masters of the field.”
“One Sunday evening in October, about forty-seven years ago, as my father, Mr. Samuel Weyburn , was returning from feeding his horse on the north side of the creek, near where the distillery now stands, his dog started up a bear and her two cubs.  They followed their course up the hill on the south side of the creek until near the summit, a few rods above the mill-site fall, where the cubs took to a tree.  My father ran to the house, and, having obtained his gun, pursued.  Being directed by the barking of the dog, he passed about twenty rods beyond the tree in which the cubs were, and there he found the bear with her back against a tree, standing on the brink of a gulf, defending herself from the attacks of the dog.
“He fired, and, as it was afterward found, broke one of her fore-legs.  The animal retreated into the gulf, and was seen no more that night.
“In the mean time my mother , brother , and myself, who had followed in the pursuit, came to the three in which the cubs had retreated, who, being frightened at the report of the gun and the sound of


our voices, began to cry ‘mam! mam!’ in the most affecting tones, strongly resembling the human voice.
“My mother having called my father, he shot the cubs and returned home.  The next morning, my father thinking that he had either killed or severely wounded the animal, for the want of a better weapon, (having expended his only charge of powder the evening previous,) took a pitchfork, and proceeded in quest of the enemy, accompanied by myself and brother.
“I was armed with a small ax; but my brother, not being equipped for war, was allowed to accompany us bare-handed.
“Thus accoutered and followed by our dog, we proceeded to within about forty rods of the great fall, when my father, apprised of the nearness of the enemy by the barking of the dog, ran and left us in the rear.
“We soon came in sight of the bear and dog, who were passing from the left wall of the precipice across the basin to the right, and ascended almost to the perpendicular rock, a distance of eighty or one hundred feet.
“My father, climbing up lower down, was en-


abled to intercept her passage in consequence of her broken limb.
“Here the action again commenced by his giving her three thrusts with the fork.  The first and second were near the heart, the third struck her should-blade, when she turned upon him, and he met her with a thrust in her face, putting out one of her eyes with one prong and tearing her tongue with the other.  She then rushed toward him, his feet gave way, and as he fell she caught him by the clothes near his breast.
“At this juncture he seized her and threw her below him.  This he repeated two or three times in their descent toward the bottom of the ravine, during which she bit him in both his legs and in his arms.  At the bottom, in the creek, lay a stone whose front was not unlink the front of a common cooking-stove, the water reaching to the top.  Near this, four or five feet distant, stood a rock on the bank.  Into this snug notch it was his good luck to throw his antagonist, with her feet and claws toward the rock in the stream.  In this situation he succeeded in holding her, with his back to hers and braced between the rocks.  With his left hand he


held her by the back, and with his right held her by the neck, until I came up.
I struck her with all my might on the back with the ax.  At this my father sprang from her and seized his fork.  The bear turned toward us with a shake and a snort.  I gave her a severe blow.  She fell, but, recovering herself, endeavored to retreat.  We recommenced the conflict, and ere long the life-less corpse of the animal proclaimed us masters of the field.
The victory was dearly bought.  The blood was running in streams from my father’s hands, and from his limbs into his shoes.
On examination, he found that she had bitten him in each limb, inflicting four ugly wounds at each bite, besides a slit in his wrist, supposed to have been done by one of her claws.


Taughannock Falls, View from Halsey's Hotel at Sunrise

Taughannock Falls, View from Halsey’s Hotel at Sunrise.  Albumen Print.  Repository: New York Public Library

Of note is the fact that one of biggest advertisers in the monograph was the Taughannock House which was located just opposite the falls.  Its proprietor was one J. S. Halsey.   No doubt the Halseys were not only promoting history, but this was a clever advertising piece to encourage patrons.  The ad describes the accommodations with particular romance.

This favorite Hotel, having been this season enlarged, refitted, and refurnished, is now open for the accommodation of visitors.
All than can make a hotel attractive and interesting to tourists or pleasure-parties may here be found.

The Taughannock House is situated just opposite the Falls, two and one half miles from the village of Trumansburgh, and ten miles from Ithaca.

Cayuga Lake boats, touching four times per day at the landing near the Falls, connect with the New-York Central and the New-York and Erie Railroads.  A carriage will be in readiness at the landing to convey visitors to the hotel.

The far-famed Cayuga offers ample accommodation to the sportsman for fishing and boating.

Park at Taughannock Hotel.  Albumen Print.  Repository: New York Public Library

Park at Taughannock Hotel. Albumen Print. Repository: New York Public Library

Being off from the line of direct communications with Atlantic cities, near the banks of the beautiful Cayuga, surrounded by a pure, clear, and bracing atmosphere, it presents peculiar inducements to travelers in search of healthful summer residence.

Particular attention will be give to orders for rooms during the summer.

J. S. HALSEY, Trumansburgh, New-York.

I visit Taughannock every summer…drawn to it with some kind of primitive urge I suppose.  In my younger days I marveled at it as a geophysical wonder…my ‘pre-genealogy’ days if you will.   After discovering the little publication a few years ago, I hike the 3/4 mile trail to the cataract pondering the tale of the fight with the bear all the while trying to calculate the location of the battle between my 4th great grandfather and the great bear.  And so it goes with transcribing the passage, the technician is in a fierce struggle with the romantic…carefully and perfectly typing the words while my imagination plucks at my sleeve urging me to join the tale.

The Author at Taughannock Falls Overlook

The Author at Taughannock Falls Overlook

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved


You say Potato…I say Potahto…

A Note to My Readers:  So much for soundex.   I mean, let’s face it, it can only go so far and sometimes too far giving you a plethora of odd results.  My fifth great grandfather is Samuel Weyburn.   Sam finally settled on spelling his surname as Weyburn after generations of Wiborn(e) and Wyborn(e) ancestors.  And I learned to use variations of the name working through the research.  Soundex was pretty responsive to the whims of spelling and so the search results were decent enough.  Just decent.  Like most genealogists, I am a greedy goose and I want more than a decent amount.  I decided to forgo the crutch of technology and use my own brain and begin to change my research strategy.

What did I know about Samuel Weyburn besides his name?

Samuel Fletcher Weyburn’s genealogical publication “Weyburn-Wyborn genealogy: a history and pedigree of Thomas Weyburn of Boston and Scituate, Massachusetts, and Samuel Weyburn of Pennsylvania with Notes on the Origin of the Family in England and Several Branches in Kent County in Particular”, copyrighted in 1911, provides the researcher with a glimpse into what he found as he went through old documents.  Mentions of our common ancestor with spellings of Samuel Waburn and Weaburn settled me back into the job of using different spelling options as I poured through archival material myself.  A tip of the hat to S. Fletcher Weyburn’s  hundred year old research and using the variations he documented, I dug deep into Pennsylvania Archives and found the muster rolls of the Eighth Battalion of Cumberland Pennsylvania and Samuel serving under Captain Robert Samuels.

Of course, the surname variation is something we all expect to see in our research.  It occurred to me as I read through the old archives that first name variations can trip you up as well.   Even a simple name like Samuel.   I found Sam, of course, but then Sam’l popped up from time to time and it occurred to me that I had to broaden my thinking and be prepared to find my ancestor as S., Sam, Samuel, Sam’l, Wiborn, Waborn, Waburn, Weaburn, Wyborn, Wayburn, Wyburn and even Wibron…a transcription error that I almost missed.

As a primary research parameter, Samuel Weyburn, was obviously not a good option.    Going to the biography that I had assembled, I decided to use life events, dates and places as the primary parameter and to use his surname variation as a second qualifier.   He was from Connecticut and he migrated to Pennsylvania where he served in the militia and participated in the Pennemite War.  His wife was Jane The_falls_of_Taughannock fight with a bear_Page_2 cropBratton from Juniata, Pennsylvania.  In the late 1780’s they migrated to the head of Cayuga Lake with their seven children including my 4th great grandmother, Elizabeth Weyburn (Ingersoll) and where Samuel and his oldest son, Samuel had built a log cabin at the base of Taughannock Falls.   Where he fought a bear.

A New York State Historical Marker sits at the trail entrance commemorating when Samuel Weyburn rescued Abner Tremain during a blizzard.   And there is the 1790 Federal Census…the very first one, that has Samuel Wayburn and his family living in what was then geopolitically Chemung, Montgomery County, New York.    In 1794 New York State land records show that Samuel Weyburn bought 150 acres from Abner Kidder in Ovid in what is now Seneca County.   His probated will records are archived in Waterloo, Seneca County, New York where he is Samuel Weyburn.  As is the simple inscription on his monument in Lakeview Cemetery in Interlaken, New York.

Samuel Weyburn  Died March 29, 1825 at 78 years, 9 months & 29 days.Samuel Jane and Oliver Weyburn monuments Interlaken NY

Reading and researching old history books about Pennsylvania and the Connecticut Yankees that settled the Susquehanna Valley,  I found Samuel with Weyburn spelled in a number of ways and serving with Captain Samuels and the activities of the Paxton Boys. “A History of Wilkes-Barre, from its First Beginnings to the Present Time, Including Chapters of Newly Found Early History of Wyoming Valley, volume II” compiled by Oscar Jewell Harvey in 1909 lists Samuel Weyburn “or Wibron or Wybrant” as one of the eighty-nine Susquehanna settlers who were ‘inmates’ of Fort Durkee.

Of course, no Boolean online tricks there.  I was back to the days of S. Fletcher Weyburn, my second cousin 3 times removed.   Back to turning pages and comprehensively reading books and footnotes and bibliographies which lead to more books.   I even own a few now.   Hard copies.   Early editions.  A bit of an expensive indulgence, but then I don’t like foie gras and champagne so I am good with that.  Besides…I gained an enormous understanding of the Scots-Irish that came from Norwich, Connecticut and claimed the Susquehanna Purchase in Pennsylvania and the colonial tug of war between the Yankees and William Penn’s Quakers.    They were a particular thorn in the side of Ben Franklin, but as England along with their native American allies and the colonials began to clash, the two groups found their common interest and joined forces.

And amidst the militia men I find Sam Weaburn and his brother-in-law, Edward Bratton.   I close my eyes and say “Weyburn” and imagine that Captain Samuels was spelling Private Samuel Weyburn…Weaburn.  And in each case, it is the ‘soundex’ of an individual way back in 1781 that gets me there.   And so it goes with enumerators and clerks, authors and any one who could put pen to paper…or keyboard to cyberspace.  And now we have to worry about voice recognition.

Author’s Note:   I will be back in central New York this summer haunting libraries, historical societies, and pioneer cemeteries.  As always, I will take some time to enjoy Cayuga Lake and surrounds…where I was born and where Samuel Weyburn settled over 150 year ago.   The journey back to his Pennsylvania and Connecticut days up until now has been by the written word and  I plan for a field trip armed with the combined work of S. Fletcher Weyburn and a number of old history books, a handful of documents and the sure knowledge that I will be challenged with creative spellings.  But then that is the fun of it, isn’t it.   The ‘aha’ moment.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved


Kindred Spirits

A Note to My Readers:

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

Some Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheldrake Cemetery

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

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

Samuel Ingersoll Monument
Sheldrake Cemetery

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

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

More things WEYBURN

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

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

Samuel Weyburn Monument
Lakeview Cemetery

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

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

We were off to Footes Corner Road!

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

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

Take A Historian To Lunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved


Notes from the Field: Fortie Acers of Land

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

Crab medowe necke

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

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

A recorded deed states

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

A land survey recorded on 11 Oct 1689 declared

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

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

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

Long Ridge Road

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

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

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

Stamford Historical Homes Samuel Ingersoll. Photo taken circa 1984.

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

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

What is ONE more?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Log Cabin at Taughannock Falls

Samuel Weyburn New York State Historical Marker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved

Sunday, Serendipity and Survivors at Cayuga Lake-Notes from the Field

Notes to My Readers:  Sometimes our history reaches out to us as a reminder of just how precious and serendipitous our existence is.  It is a wise researcher who recognizes the circumstances of our ancestors and takes the time to consider just how we…you and I…come to be…or not.
Sunday, Serendipity and Survivors at Cayuga Lake

It was Sunday.  My son and I had experienced a most wonderful Saturday in the field.  Mike had found the obelisk of his maternal 3rd great grandparents, Samuel D. Purdy and Semantha Ingersoll and the monument of Semantha’s mother, Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll in the old Presbyterian Cemetery in Enfield, NY.  I was thrilled for Mike and grateful for his enthusiasm to assist me in my two year struggle to find them among a dense tangle of bramble and treacherous collapsed earth.  Everything that Saturday seemed a path of fateful synchronicity.

Sunday was supposed to be our day without intense purpose.  The sun was shining.  The leaves were beginning to show their glorious autumn colors.  The lake was sapphire blue.  And we were visiting a pioneer cemetery in Lansing for the first time.  The plan was to photograph the Miller Cemetery which is the resting place of my Case, Bowker and Learn forebears.   With the use of iPhone technology we would archive each burial using digital photography and establish GPS coordinates for each individual burial location.  And pay our respects to my paternal 4th great grandparents, John and Elizabeth Freece Learn and their daughter, Sarah Learn Case and her husband, John R. Case…my 3rd great grandparents.

Miller Cemetery

Small rural cemeteries are a source of valuable information for family researchers.  In the last century individuals and organizations such as the D.A.R. had walked the cemeteries and recorded their observations in various methods.  There was no standard, scientific manner and so you will find the burial listings as simple as name, birth date and death date or thanks to a literal soul a more detailed accounting that would include the location and condition of the stone.  On occasion a local would provide personal knowledge regarding the individuals buried in the cemetery such as a maiden name or military service or family relationship.   These databases are a solid way to begin.  To begin.  They are as fallible as the collectors and those that typed in the information.  In the past year or so, I have taken on the task of validating the burial data with field visits.  A curious mix of practical, data mining for my research and an intensely personal, sentimental journey.

The country road was lined with what was left of this year’s corn crop only interrupted on occasion by a modest home or a stand of woods.  It was peaceful.  After pulling off the road next to the old cemetery which was surrounded by tall woods, we approached the rusty farm-style gate.    The only sounds were the gentle wind soughing through the trees and the half-hearted bark of a neighboring dog.  Stepping through the gate, we found ourselves in a well-kept glade.  Among the old pioneer stones, one or two new granite monuments sparkled in the dappled sunlight.  Small American flags fluttered next to the graves of long gone veterans of past conflicts…the Civil War and WWI.   It was clear that these pioneer families had modern-day caretakers who saw to Miller Cemetery and Mike and I wondered if those caretakers just might be descendants of those who rested there.  And we understood they were our family, too.

John Learn (20 Apr 1779-1867)

John was the son of George and Anna Brink Learn and the grandson of Johannes Martinus and Cadarina Learned of Tannersville, Pennsylvania.  Johannes Learned came to America before 1750 and moved his family from Philadelphia to Tannersville, Northampton (now Monroe) County, Pennsylvania  in 1750.  The Learns, as they eventually spelled their name, operated a tavern in Tannersville, a small settlement nestled in the Pocono Mountains and strategically located in the Delaware Water Gap.

As reported in HISTORY OF WILKES-BARRE LUZERNE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA FROM ITS FIRST BEGINNINGS TO THE PRESENT TIME; INCLUDING CHAPTERS OF NEWLY-DISCOVERED EARLY WYOMING VALLEY HISTORY, Volume II BY OSCAR JEWELL HARVEY,  “Learn’s was at that time the outpost of Northampton County civilization on the road to Wyoming”.  The Learn family was one of a handful of white pioneers in that area of Pennsylvania.

During that time the colonies were not only fighting with the British for the survival of a nation, but the pioneer families also were engaged in periodic violent conflict with Native American tribes.  A pivotal event in Pennsylvania and New York State history was an expedition across the Pocono Mountains known as “Sullivan’s March” in June 1779.  Planned by General George Washington, the purpose of Sullivan’s March was to exterminate and destroy the hostile tribes of the Indians of the Six Nations. It was a mission to which the Congress assigned as a high priority.

Pennsylvania Historical Marker-Sullivan’s March

There is a historical marker on the corner of Route 611 and Old Mill Road in Tannersville. It reads: “Learned’s Tavern marked the end of the second day march from Easton to Forty Wyoming at Wilkes Barre. The army camped here June 19th 1799 after a 16 mile march from Heller’s Tavern.”

The Massacre

Journalist and Author  Charles Miner, in the History of Wyoming writes about the Larned (Learn) family tragedy: “On the 3rd of July 1781, a bloody and most melancholy tragedy was enacted on the road leading from Wyoming to the Delaware at Stroudsburg. Mr. Larned, an aged man and his son George, were shot and scalped near their house. Another son, John, shot an Indian, who was left dead on the spot where he fell. The savages carried off George Larned’s wife [Anna] and an infant [baby daughter, Susanna], four months old.”

The book Genealogy of Western Pennsylvania – Volume II by J. W. Jordan (1915) adds that “At the time of the massacre George Learn’s little son, John (my4th great grandfather), was taken by an aunt, who escaped (family tradition says) out a window with him, to the shelter of some bushes, where they remained concealed. A little dog followed them from the house, and in order not to be betrayed by him, the aunt muffled his head in an apron she wore.”

John Learn Monument – Miller Cemetery

Standing next to John Learn’s monument, I briefly told the tale of his miraculous survival to my son.  “Wow, Mom,” Mike exclaimed after a brief silence.  “Yeah, Wow,” I replied.    By now we had had a number of conversations about the struggles of pioneer life and have a keen respect for just what that means to our own existence.   Wow, indeed.

Taughannock Falls

The sun was strong and the day was young so Mike and I decided to continue our meanderings along Cayuga Lake and in the footsteps of our ancestors.  After a visit to my grandparent’s graves in Cayuga Heights, and wandering among the many monuments and mausoleums of Lakeview Cemetery, we made our way into Ithaca.  Our morning’s trekking had left us ravenous and in need of a break.  Refreshed after a leisurely lunch at Simeon’s Bistro and one of their signature Bloody Marys, we headed to Taughannock Falls.   At the overlook we joined a dozen tourists snapping photographs of the breathtaking view, but our visit was more of a pilgrimage.

In 1790 Samuel Weyburn had left his homestead in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania and with his family built a log cabin at the base of Taughannock Falls.

The Massacre

Our young country was in the throes of war with England and the hostilities were not limited to the battlefield.  A force of eight hundred Tories and Indians under Colonel John Butler swooped down from New York upon the settlement of New Englanders in the Wyoming Valley. Samuel was one of the Connecticut Yankees that had settled in the Wyoming Valley as part of the Susquehanna Purchase. The settlers numbered something more than three thousand souls. Though there was local militia men which included Samuel, they were ill prepared for defense, as most of their young men had joined the fighting in the battlefields with the Continental army. The local militia of some three hundred men, commanded by Colonel Zebulon Butler went into battle on July 3, near the site of Wilkes-Barre.

After an hour of fierce fighting, the Americans broke and fled for their lives, but more than half of them were slain in the battle or in the massacre that followed. The British commander afterward reported the taking of “227 scalps,” and laid all the blame on the Indians. During the night the Indian thirst for blood seemed to increase, and next day they began anew the massacre. The fort in which many had taken refuge surrendered, and the lives of the occupants were spared by the English commander, but the Indians put many of the others to the tomahawk. All who could do so fled to the woods, and a large number perished in crossing a swamp, which has since been called the “Shades of Death.” Others perished of starvation in the mountains.

Samuel is my maternal 4th great grandfather and on July 3, 1778 thirty-two year- old Samuel was one of just over two dozen men who survived the Wyoming Massacre.

Taughannock Falls October 2010

For the second time that day Mike and I had the same exchange.  “Wow, Mom”.  “Yeah.  Wow.”

And there we stood, mother and son, descendants of the two massacre survivors, over two hundred years later, standing in the October sunlight after a day of walking in the footsteps of our pioneer grandfathers.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2010.  All Rights Reserved

Brambles and Bracelets….Notes from the Field

Notes to My Readers:  I spent the last weekend in my hometown of Auburn, New York.  It was my 45th high school class reunion and my central New York field research had been delayed while I recuperated from the aftermath of shingles.  I was especially excited to be “in the field” again and to share the experience with my son, Mike.  The research coupled with seeing old friends again for the first time in fifteen years was a definite double win.

While I accomplished a great deal of field work at pioneer cemeteries this past weekend and had the pleasure of sharing this work with my son for the first time,  I had some unexpected history of my own.  It is worth sharing this personal moment  to serve as a special reminder that history is just yesterday and we are every bit a part of the human experience that history is.


It was going to be a beautiful early October weekend.  Mike and I began our five hour drive from southeastern Pennsylvania to central New York State after a drenching rain storm that had begun the day before.  As we travelled north on Route 87 nearing Cortland, we drove through the tail end of the big storm.  At one point we caught sight of the flooded valley below us…farms and buildings were inundated with deep muddy water.  We had no idea what we might encounter in Auburn, but by the time we arrived that afternoon, it had just stopped raining.  The sky was already clearing and the weekend promised to be one of crisp air and blue skies.   And we were burning daylight.  We checked into the Holiday Inn, stowed our gear and jumped back into the car.

Mike and I headed to the little village of Cayuga which is seven miles away and to the cemetery that holds the remains of our Tyler, Curtis and Curry ancestors.  We took several moments to visit my father’s grave which is located near the Center Street entrance.  It was Mike’s first visit to his grandfather’s grave.  As Mike laid his hand on my father’s monument, he spoke a soft “hello” and gently moved aside the fading geraniums to read the inscription.  He took out his iPhone and displayed a photo of his family and promised my father that they would visit him some day.  This was the first moment of Mike’s understanding of what drives me to be a family researcher.  I could tell he felt it, too.

Lonson and Betsey Tombstones

Within the next few minutes, we began the trek down to the pioneer section.  Our first stop was at Lonson and Betsey Tyler’s graves.  They are my maternal great great great grandparents.  It continues to astonish me that the stones are in such remarkable condition.  The tombstones are still solidly affixed to their bases and stand tall and perfectly placed.  The only signs of their age are the inscribed dates and the clinging mildew and lichen.

A short walk further down the steep and rutted road and a climb up several levels of soggy earth, we arrived at their daughter, Deborah’s burial site.  She lies alongside her Irish born husband, Francis J. Curry.  Frank, as he was called, was a Civil War Veteran, serving with the 111th New York State Volunteers, Company C and his grave is marked with a simple monument that was provided under the act of Congress of 3 February 1879 (20 Stat. 281) that extended the privilege of government-provided gravestones to soldiers buried in private cemeteries.  Deborah has no marker and it is unclear that there ever was one.

Two or three rows back from the Currys stands the tall, polished pink marble obelisk of my maternal great great grandparents, Henry Eugene and Susannah M. Downing Curtis.  Their son, George married the Curry’s daughter, Kate.

Mike was hooked with the human history that surrounded us and began to walk row upon row reading the names and dates and wondering aloud about the lives of the individuals each stone signified.  We went on through the entire cemetery… up the steep slopes together until the light began to wane and the air became uncomfortably chilly.  I could see the “field fever” in Mike’s eyes as we left the small village behind and headed to the warm hotel and a cocktail and a good meal.


We had a full day ahead and we were ready to go early…anticipating a day in the field…and Mike was excited to see my 76 year old brother…his uncle Gale.  Gale was excited, too.  That morning the car was full of conversation – mostly the monologues of my brother ranging from Cornell…Einstein…Keith Olberman…Bill O’Reilly…Karl, a heavy metal guitarist acquaintance of Gale’s… all intermixed with tales of my father.

I picked up a dozen rose buds to lay at each ancestral grave that we planned to visit that day…three more than I needed.  All through the morning, we stopped and paid our respects…back to Lakeview to my father and the Tylers, the Currys and the Curtises with a rose for each grave and then on to Enfield in Tompkins County and to the two small pioneer cemeteries that held my Van Dorn, Williams and Purdy ancestors.  I had walked both these cemeteries last year with my brother and have written an earlier post about our experience…cows, violets, lost keys and found family.

Mike Plugh Field Researching in Christian Cemetery

This was Mike’s first field trip to Enfield and unlike Lakeview Cemetery, Christian Cemetery was in open country and had unkempt areas with fallen and broken stones…many stacked on the perimeter of the cemetery and overgrown with tall grasses.   I know the perils of tromping through heavily tangled growth and unstable earth in old cemeteries and I also know the thrill of pushing through those obstacles and uncovering old monuments.  Mike’s intrigue about the monuments that peeked above the grasses had him pushing through and reading the old pioneer stones.  Oh yeah.  Field Fever.  After laying a rose on each ancestral grandparent’s grave, I prodded Mike away and cajoled him on to the next cemetery, but I knew how he felt.

The Presbyterian Cemetery was just about a mile away and on the same road and presents an entirely different environment.  It is heavily treed and lushly carpeted with wild flowers.  It is trim and neat and the protected stones and obelisks are mostly level and intact….until you reach the very back of the cemetery…just four feet from the gravesites of my great grandparents, Elbert Purdy and Elizabeth Williams Purdy.  I took a moment and placed two of the last five roses with  Elbert and Elizabeth and pointed out the terrain at the back of the cemetery…just steps away.  Elbert’s parents and grandmother -Samuel D. Purdy and his wife, Semantha Ingersoll and her mother, Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll – were recorded as buried in this cemetery.  I had visited the cemetery in May and August of last year and alone ventured into the fallen area in an attempt to find their monuments, but to no avail.  The tantalizing view of the top six inches of  some tall tombstones and an obelisk left me frustrated, but I knew it would be dangerous and foolhardy to attempt to penetrate the area alone.  Several yards of the eastern section of the cemetery had dropped at least 10 to 12 feet from below the level of the rest of the cemetery.  It had been undermined by erosion and the occasional flooding that devastates the Ithaca area and was tangled with growth that was several feet over my head.  But I was not alone this time and Mike was keen on finding Samuel, Semantha and Elizabeth.

Purdy Obelisk in the Bramble of Presybterian Cemetery

Before I could utter the words “Be careful!”, Mike had charged down the steep and slippery incline and began to push and stomp his way through the bramble.  As his mother, I couldn’t help but constantly call out to watch out for the possiblity of unstable earth…snakes…and poison ivy.  “I’m fine, Mom.  I’ve got it.  Don’t worry,” he assured me as I watched him create a discernable path to the obelisk.  His assuring words became a shout.  “PURDY…MOM…PURDY!”  I turned to my brother and told him to stay put and tore down the slope…my heart pounding and shouting, “Samuel! Semantha!  Elizabeth!”  Without one worry about falling into the brush, I plunged ahead to find Mike standing in front of a seven foot tall stone obelisk.  Once again, he said, “Purdy” while pointing to the base.  Mike had crushed the grasses away to reveal the base and the six inch tall letters.

Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll Monument

As my gaze travelled up the obelisk,  I was transfixed by the words S. D. Purdy and his wife Semantha.  My brother, Gale, despite his age and some health issues was damned well not going to stand by and not be part of the action.  He made the difficult journey down and joined us while we stood reverently before the obelisk of  Samuel and Semantha.  Mike broke ranks and continued his method of probe and stomp and within four to five feet of the obelisk, there was Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll’s tall tombstone.  It was in perfect condition, but had a troubling woody growth wedged against it and threatening to undermine it.  Elizabeth Weyburn Ingersoll.  Wife of Samuel.  Daughter of Ulysses pioneers, Samuel Weyburn and Jane Bratton.  And I had three remaining roses…one for each grandparent.

GPS positioning and photo archiving accomplished,  we left the cemetery with an incredible high spirit and a shared experience that few people have.  After a quick late lunch and a farewell visit at Gale’s home, we headed to the hotel to rid ourselves of the dirt and clinging bits of brush and bramble and ready ourselves for my class reunion.

The Reunion

Clean and groomed and still elated over the discovery of the Purdy obelisk and the lovely Ingersoll tombstone, we drove the short distance to my class reunion that was held at my friend, Jim Hutchison’s beautiful old Victorian home on South Street.  We ran about twenty minutes late and entered the gathering of West High graduates that was in full swing.  It wasn’t long before dozens of hugs and kisses later, we were part of the laughter and happy conversation.  At one point, my friend, Marie Raymond Phillips, pulled me aside explaining she had “something” for me.  Marie is one of my classmates and friends that year after year works with other fellow West High graduates to organize our 1965 class reunions.  This was the first one I had attended since 1995.  I figured it was an old picture of us that we would laugh about-bemoan the current state of our waistlines and then go on to the business of old friends catching up with each other.  She opened her hand and I saw the glint of metal and I immediately recognized it as an “ID bracelet”.  Friends and sweethearts often gave a personalized bracelet as a token of their relationship.  My first thought was she was sharing a treasure of hers and I thought it a very lovely gesture as we hadn’t seen each other all these years.  She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I wasn’t sure whether to give this to you” and I was even more confused as I stared at the item she held in her open hand.  I looked up to meet her eyes and saw some of my closest “guy” classmates standing close behind her and looking at me with a tender expression I couldn’t understand.

Marie took a deep breath and explained to me that some time ago, one of our male classmates had given this to her with the instruction that it was to be given to me.  And she couldn’t remember who it was.  And no one at the reunion was that male classmate.  I looked down at the bracelet again.  What was this about?  What classmate?  How do I understand the expressions on everyone’s faces?  That moment seemed to hang in the air as the world stood still.  I then became aware Marie was speaking to me again and I snapped back to attention when she said “Chappy”.  Chappy was Charles Reed, my high school sweetheart.

All through high school, I was “Chappy’s girl” and remained so to all of my high school chums.  I had just told Mike that story on our trip up.  Though Chappy and I had both gone on to very different lives and to have families of our own, he and I were frozen in West High School history…together.  In 1990 we saw each other again at our reunion and had caught up on our lives…visited his brother, Bob and his wife, Mabel…sat on their front porch with a cold beer…and reminisced with our close high school pals.  We walked along the lakeside arm and arm with our closest friends and felt a special love that was just ours.  It was sweet and kind and eternal.  We all laughed… a lot.  Remembered…a lot.  And we went back to our lives.

In 1995 we were once again all reunited and celebrating our high school reunion, but with the terrible news that Chappy was very ill with cancer.  But he was fighting it and the reunion was important for him to attend.  So we once again laughed and reminisced though we felt the presence of his illness.  And then he was gone.  From our lives and this world.   Buried in Arlington Cemetery.

A Sweetheart’s Message

And so standing in front of my friends so many years later, I realized what she cradled in her outstretched palm.  The inscription read “CHAPPY”.  It was the ID bracelet that I had given to him for his sixteenth birthday…47 years ago.  I took the bracelet and held it gently. And cried.  When I looked up, there wasn’t a dry eye among the people around me…the sixty-something faces of the men and women that are the friends of my youth… the friends of my old age.

When Marie finished our embrace, she told me that as he was dying,  Chappy had given instructions to one of our friends that he wanted make sure that I be given the bracelet.  I turned it over and read “LOVE DEBBIE”.  I don’t think anyone was breathing at that point.  I know I wasn’t.  Marie said what was in my heart. He had kept it all these years and he thought of me at the very end.  AND I understood his message.  LOVE DEBBIE.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2010.  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

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