Sunday, December 13, 2009

You Say Potato, I Say Potaaato; When it's Carved in Marble it's Forever

Alternate spellings sometimes make a researcher wonder who they are following through the maze of documents. Some name changes were deliberate, due to family arguments or delusions of grandeur. We know that naming patterns of children can sometimes hint at the names of their grandparents. How did you choose your children's names?

George and Sarah Haith were British immigrants in the first half of the 19th century, who lived in Springfield, Otsego County, NY with their large family. In various records, the name is spelled Heath, Heith, or Haith, indicating that they may have been illiterate. “Haith” would sound like a cockney pronunciation of “Heath.” George was born about 1800 and Sarah about 1805.

The family first appears in the 1840 census in Springfield, although their children born in the 1830s were said to be born in NY. They do not appear to have owned land. In the 1865 NYS census, Sarah was said to have borne 13 children. Eight are known from census records, born between 1825 and 1849, which would have been Sarah's likely childbearing years. Two sons who are also found in the Otsego County census, born in England, may be among their children:

  • Mary, born about 1825 in Lincolnshire, married Dewitt C. Colman about 1844 and had 11 children in Otsego County. Sarah was living with Mary’s family in 1870;
  • Edward, born about 1826, married Elizabeth
  • John, born about 1827 in England
  • Dennis, born about 1830 in England, married Mary A. Rhyde;
  • Sarah Jane, born about 1833, married Henry Wiltse and moved to Hamilton, NY, mother of pro baseball players “Hooks” and “Snake” Wiltse;
  • Ann E., born about 1839, married Tunnis V. Leroy after 1855 when she was working as a dressmaker and living with her sister Mary;
  • Henry, born 1841 in Otsego County, married Martha O. Willsey before 1865;
  • Albert C., born in Springfield, NY in 1842
  • Fannie, born 1843, married Eugene O. Ayres
  • Prudence born 1849 in Otsego County, was said to be “idiotic by fits for 16 years” in the 1865 census. By 1870 she is no longer listed with her mother, and it is not known what happened to her.

At least one son served in the Civil War. Albert C. Heith mustered into Company D of the 152nd Regiment of NY Infantry at Mohawk, NY on 15 October 1862. He gave his occupation as a farmer, and was listed at 6 feet 2 ½ inches tall, light complexion, blue eyes, brown hair. He was appointed as Corporal on 20 September 1862, after enrolling for three years on 18 August in Springfield. He was promoted to Sergeant on 12 March 1863. On 19 September 1863 Albert was detailed as Sergeant of the Guard at the Headquarters of the Provost Marshal of the Fifth District in New York City. Nine “substitute volunteers” were committed to his custody, three of whom escaped. He was charged, reduced from the rank of Sergeant to Private, and placed under arrest. Parker D. Fay, Captain of Company D, vouched for his character, stating that he had never been “censured or reprimanded” in the past. On 3 November the prisoner was received at Fort Columbus NY. By the time the muster roll was entered for March/April 1864 he had been promoted to Corporal once again (April 24). On 5 May 1864 Albert was mortally injured at Wilderness, Virginia. Three officers and 10 enlisted men died in battle; 36 were injured. Albert was one of the four who did not recover. He died on 12 May 1864.

Henry Haith named his son Albert C. Heath in 1869.

George died 20 February 1869. Although his headstone gives his age as 56, census records indicate he would have been 69.

Sarah R. Haith died 25 January 1874, aged 69, and is buried in the Springfield Center cemetery on Route 20. In 1870 she had been living with her daughter Mary Colman in Middlefield, but she is also listed with Sarah Wiltse's family as a “domestic servant.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Notable Women Ancestors: Rachel Andrews Colman

Can you imagine the changes and experiences of a woman who lived through almost an entire century in colonial Massachusetts? Details are scant, but her life of 92 years would be remarkable in any time. She survived the hard work of everyday life on the frontier, bearing eleven children, wars and diseases. The family's attitude of stepping up and participating in each new governmental process is attested by her husband's activities in the community. If only "women's work" had been included in the historical records we might know more about her part in the settlement of north-central Massachusetts!

Rachel Andrews Col
man was born about 1716. Her parents were Ezekiel Andrews and Abigail Curtis. The place of her birth or marriage is uncertain, likely in or near Ipswich, MA. She was married to James Colman, and their first child, Elizabeth, was born in Ipswich in 1734. Church records of Chebacco (Essex) parish list four more children born in the following years: James in 1736; Rachel in 1738; Ezekiel Andrews in 1740; Job in 1741.

About 1743 the family moved west a distance of 50 miles, and transferred their relationship from the Ipswich church to Lunenburg in 1744. She was 27 with four children under ten as they left "civilization" of a colonial port town which had been in existence for over 100 years for the unknown wilderness.

More children are enumerated in the Lunenburg church records, although it is believed that the family settled in the northeastern part of “Dorchester Canada,” which became Ashburnham and is now in Ashby. They were among the earliest permanent settlers of the area. The years between 1744 and 1749 were dangerous times on the “frontier” and many settlers gathered at the fortifications in Lunenburg during periods of unrest during the French and Indian war.

The remaining children born to Rachel and James include: Mary in 1744; Aaron in 1746; Benjamin in 1749; Solomon in 1752; Ruth in 1754; and Abigail in 1758. That same year her 20-year-old daughter Rachel married Daniel Harper in Lunenburg. Her children spanned 24 years and had names chosen to honor grandparents and biblical figures.

In 1760 a church was established in Ashburnham and the family transferred their church relations there. Her husband, James, was an active member of the community and was named to committees by the proprietors. Records state that James was granted “about one acre and one hundred rods between the house where he now dwells and the saw mill yard which belongs to Moses Foster Jr. and Zimri Heywood” for “his good service in said township in promoting the settlement there.” When Ashburnham was incorporated in 1765, he was chosen as a selectman and surveyor of the highways at the first town meeting. When Ashby was set off as a town, one of the boundaries was delineated along the land of James Colman. James was also one of the first Selectmen in Ashby. When the church was established, the Colman family was assigned the first pew, signifying their place first on the tax rolls based on assets.

Their other children married and began families. Job and Benjamin married sisters, Elizabeth and Susannah Martin in 1766 and 1770, respectively. James died in 1773 and is buried in Ashby in the “front row” of the old cemetery in the town center. Rachel was 57 and had many years ahead of her. Their youngest child was 15. Sons Job and Aaron gave permission to Benjamin to administer his estate, indicating that neither James or Ezekiel were still alive. Solomon was of age but he was not a signatory to the document. Job had continued the westward migration, moving west to Shelburne, MA

What was her life like in the 35 years after her husband’s death? A nation was born, a constitution written, and Ashby remained a quiet, farming community. Sons fought in the Revolutionary war, daughters bore children of their own. Sons Benjamin and Solomon remained in the area and gave her grandchildren. Rachel died on April 27, 1808 and is buried with James and some of their adult children. Her death is not listed in the Ashby records. Was she living with one of her children elsewhere at the time? This a woman with whom I'd love to have a long conversation...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Notable Women Ancestors: Trypheuny Powers Lawrence

In the early 1700s our British settlers had begun to move west, from the port towns in what we now call the North Shore area, north of Boston, to begin farming the inland areas of Massachusetts. In addition to the dangers of infectious disease, French and Indian wars, poor diet or accident, women were subject to the potential complications of childbirth as often as every two years or so during a 25 year period of childbearing. After 250 years, this memorial of one such woman survives in the cemetery at Littleton Common.

(or Trypheuny) Powers was born 22 May 1711 in Watertown, MA. She was the fifth and last child of Isaac Powers and Mary Poulter. Mary had had 5 children by her first husband, Samuel Winship. It was the second marriage for both parents. It appears that Isaac also had four older children.

The name Tryphena was used by English Puritains on both side of the Atlantic until the 18th century. It was mentioned by Paul in Romans, and comes from the Greek, meaning delicate.

When she was sixteen, she married Jonathan Lawrence about 1727 in Groton, in northern Middlesex County, MA. He was born in 1703, so was nearly eight years older than his bride. The Lawrance/Lawrence family, in several variants of spelling, was numerous in the area. His grandfather Peleg has purchased land directly from the Nashoba Indians in Groton/Littleton.

Their 11 children were born over a period of 24 years, from the time Trypheuny was aged 17 to 41. The first 9 were listed in Groton records:

  • Jonathan, born 27 August 1728
  • Isaac, born 19 May 1731
  • Abel, born 16 July 1733
  • Tryphenia, born 26 September 1735
  • Betty, born 24 February 1737

The Littleton records indicate a vote on 8 January 1738 accepting the Lawrance brothers Peleg, Jonathan, Eleazer and Samuel as voters in Littleton. This does not necessarily indicate a relocation, but a change in the boundary between the two towns. Children registered in Littleton are:

  • Olive, born 19 May 1740
  • Peter, born 17 October 1742
  • Abigail, born 26 July 1745
  • Timothy, born 31 March 1748
  • Lucy, born 15 May 1750
  • Benjamin, born 2 August 1752
In 1748 her 20-year-old son Jonathan enlisted as a soldier in the French and Indian War. In July of that year he was captured after a skirmish just across the Connecticut River from Fort Dummer VT. Eight were taken to Canada through Crown Point at a rate of 20 miles per day. The were released in October. Ephriam Powers of Littleton was also one of the eight prisoners who returned. He may have been a son of Tryphena's brother Ephriam. Jonathan married 31 October 1751 to Martha Leighton.

Just three weeks after the birth of her last child, Tryphena died on 25 August 1752 in her forty-second year. Her oldest child Jonathan was 24, and her daughter and namesake was 17, and would have been well able to care for the younger children, with help from her sisters.

Two years later Jonathan remarried to Lydia Fletcher. He lived to be 86 and is buried beside Tryphena in Littleton.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Notable Women Ancestors: Bessie Coleman

How difficult was it for a woman to go into business for herself in 1912? My mother had five aunts who never married and I was lucky enough to know four of them. Aunt Bess taught me to pick out a few notes on the piano in her parlor, and built Lincoln Logs with me. In her younger days she was a Cooperstown businesswoman

Bessie Mary Colman
was born 3 May 1884 in Middlefield, Otsego County, NY. She was the first child born to Horace Colman and Maggie Gilgun. Horace had also been born in Otsego County, as were his father and grandfather before him. His great-grandfather Samuel Colman was an early settler of Springfield, and his forebearers had lived in Massachusetts for as many as six generations before. Maggie was reportedly born in England of Irish parents and came to the U.S. as a young child.

Her brother, Thomas William Colman, was born when Bessie was six years old, on 19 November 1890. They grew up in the Brooklyn Avenue home that their father had built near the Susquehanna River. They had many cousins living nearby from Horace’s large family. Town league baseball was an important recreational activity, and must have been a part of Bessie’s early life, with games played on the field adjacent to their home. Her father Horace was a catcher for his brother John, and the pair was so good that they were asked to tryout for the Philadelphia Athletics professional baseball team in the 1880’s.

Bessie attended Cooperstown Union School and Academy. She was proud of her academic achievements and preserved the records of her progress. A certificate issued on 15 March 1895 documented her promotion to the Academic Department 9th Grade. She was not yet 11 years old. In January of 1897 she passed reading, writing, spelling, elementary English, arithmetic and geography and was awarded a Regents Preacademic Certificate – eighth year. In June of 1898 she passed English composition, botany, United States history, rhetoric, physiology and hygiene, and drawing to receive her first year (12 count) certificate. She placed second in reading in the Caleb G. Hall Washington Address Prize Contest.

In 1899 she added competency in English literature, English selections, Latin, and algebra in January exams, and in June: American literature, American selections, German, and plane geometry. In 1900 she completed a second year of German, Caesar’s commentaries, physical geography, English history, civics and bookkeeping.

Her Academic Diploma from the Cooperstown High School was awarded in June of 1900 under the name of Elizabeth M. Colman. She was only sixteen. The 21st annual commencement exercises were held at Firemen’s Hall on 21 June 1900 and a class of 25 graduated. Bessie’s essay was entitled “Cultivation of Friendship.” She performed a duet, presumably on piano, with Lizzie Cruttenden playing “The Dragon Fighter.”

In 1901 she received an Advanced Academic Diploma for completion of an additional school year. Courses included advanced English, history of literature, zoology, advanced U.S. history, advanced drawing, and commercial geography. On the first of August, she received a certificate from the State of New York for completion of the Teachers Training Class at Cooperstown and was certified to teach public school for the next three years. The certificate was renewed and validated twice by the school commissioner for Otsego County, extended once for three years and again for five years to 1911. For at least part of that time she taught in Fly Creek at a one-room school. Her contract for 1907-8 for District #5 in Middlefield paid $9 per week, payable monthly.

In 1902 she was appointed organist at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cooperstown, a position which she must have retained for many years. Her niece Betty remembers sitting in the choir loft with her during Masses in the 1930’s.

In 1907 an event occurred which must have shaken Bess deeply. Her cousin Edith Colman Clark, who had grown up just up the street, disappeared from her home in Middlefield. Bess had played the organ at her home wedding a few years earlier. She was eight years older than Bess and had a 4-year-old son. She left a note saying she would never be seen again. Three years went by before Edith’s remains were found not far from her home, with a bottle of laudanum indicating a suicide.

In the 1910 census she was enumerated as a teacher, living at home with her parents and brother. At some point after that Bess considered a career change. In 1912 she received a letter of reference from the First National Bank in Cooperstown to establish credit as she went into the millinery business. The letter stated that she had experience in this area. Many years later, hat forms and materials were found in the attic of her home. Her shop was on Main Street, and photos show that she employed other women. Later, the shop was contained within the Ellsworth and Sill department store. At some time she began spelling Coleman with an “e”

Although her brother Will was included with the family in the 1910 census as a farm laborer, as a young man he did quite a bit of traveling, reportedly fueled by problems getting along with his father. He was a regular correspondent with his sister, sending penny post cards from across the country. He and his friends seemed to be traveling looking for work, and he found it in New York City periodically.

Horace Colman died at home at 59 in 1915 from a heart ailment, which had bothered him for about two years, according to his obituary.

Brother Will joined the Army in May of 1918 and served in France during WWI. He continued to write regularly to Bess at home. His letters provide a personal view of Army life and his strong connection to his sister.

In the 1920 and 1930 census Bess was a described as a milliner.

Her mother died in 1922 at age 63, when Bess was 38. They had always lived together.

Will married Sara Meeneghan of Springfield on 27 October 1923. Bess was their attendant. The newspaper report said, “The bridesmaid was attired in black roshanara crepe. Her hat was black and silver and her corsage bouquet was of pink roses.” They shared the family home with Bess and had two daughters in the next two years, Betty (Mary Elizabeth) and Peggy (Margaret Ellen). She enjoyed playing the piano, which was in the front “parlor.”

In 1930, Bess served on the committee for the Cooperstown World War Memorial, which was dedicated on the anniversary of Armistice Day. Included in those memorialized on the stone was a cousin, Joseph Coleman, who died of influenza in France just after the armistice.

Bess enjoyed her nieces as they grew up, went on to further education, and married. Her brother Bill died in 1953, having worked at the Iroquois Mill lumber mill near his home, as his father had before him. Although Bill didn’t live to see his grandchildren, Bess did get to enjoy visits from Betty and her two daughters from Clinton, NY.

Bess died at 79 on 21 October 1963 in the Clark Nursing Home in Richfield Springs, NY. She had selected and revised her list of poll bearers in her later years. She did not wish to be buried in her glasses because they were not worn when she slept. She did not need false teeth.

She is buried in the Irish Hill cemetery in Cooperstown with her parents. Her estate was valued at over $10,000 and divided between her two nieces. Sara continued to live in the family house until shortly before her death in 1969.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Colman Family Establishes Themselves in Otsego County in the 1800s

Our family grew and prospered in Otsego County, New York in the 1800s. In the second generation born in NY, Dewitt Clinton Colman was born in Springfield on 20 December 1822. He was the only son of Horace Colman and Mary “Polly” Main. His father, named after the classic Roman poet, continued the practice of giving his sons ambitious names. Dewitt Clinton was prominent in New York State politics during that time. He was mayor of New York City from 1803 to 1815; spearheaded the construction of the Erie Canal from 1809 to 1825; was an unsuccessful candidate for President in 1812; was governor of New York 1817 to 1822 and 1825 to 1828. He was responsible for establishing the public school system throughout New York State. We don’t know if one or all of these achievements appealed to his parents when the name was chosen.

Dewitt was of “Yankee” stock, the Colman family having been in Massachusetts since at least the early 1700s and the Main family in Stonington CT before 1670. Dewitt’s great-grandfathers, Job Colman and Peter Main, both fought in the Revolutionary War. His grandfather Samuel Colman had settled in the Springfield "wilderness" about 1794.

Dewitt’s only known sibling, a sister Cynthia M. was born in 1828. The 1840 census indicates another girl under 5 in the household, but no information has been found on this child.

The 1830 census paints a picture of the geographic relationship of the extended Colman family in Springfield. Dewitt's uncles Hamilton and Nelson were listed adjacent to his grandparents Samuel and Abby. Horace and his brother, Franklin, are listed in the "neighborhood" only two households away. His uncle Nelson Colman and his other grandfather, Joseph Main, appears on the same census page as well.

Dewitt’s mother, Polly, died on 23 January 1844, when she was 44 years old. She was buried in the Drake family cemetery on Thurston Hill, overlooking Otsego Lake. Before the year was out, 22 year-old Dewitt married in November 19 year-old Mary Haith or Heath, a Springfield resident, born in Lincolnshire, England. They began their family in Springfield. Children included:
  • Mary b. 1845
  • Joseph b. 23 April 1847
  • John Herbert b. 5 October 1851
  • Lucien & Lucius b. 31 March 1854
By 1850 the extended family had separated as children grew up and moved on. Some headed west to Ohio and beyond. Dewitt was a “laborer” living next to his father Horace in Springfield, probably further south, near Otsego Lake, according to the census. Before 1850 Horace remarried widow Nancy Thurston Delmater. On one side of Dewitt’s family were Horace, with his new wife and step-daughters. On the other side were Cynthia and her husband, Erasmus D. Cotton, and their two children Mary and Richard.

About 1854 Dewitt's growing family moved to Cooperstown, in the town of Otsego. The 1855 NYS census lists their five children, and Ann Heath, dressmaker, Mary’s 17 year old sister. Their home is shown in the upper left of the Beers Map.

More children were born in subsequent years:

  • Horace b. 4 April 1856
  • Fenimore b. 2 May 1858
  • Alice Worthington b. 6 August 1860
  • Ellen b. 22 November 1861
  • Edith b. 22 November 1862
  • Charles Gregory b. 15 May 1864

The children are listed in the records of Cooperstown’s Christ Church (Episcopal). Edith died as an infant on 14 June 1863 of scarlet fever.

The family operated a saw mill on the Susquehanna River at Mill Street. Dewitt’s occupation is listed on the 1860 census and following years as “sawyer.” The 1868 Beers Atlas shows the family home on First Street, now River Street, near the Otsego town line, which had been bought from William Schmidt late in 1867 for $1,000.

In 1870 Dewitt bought land from Dorr Russell in Middlefield, just across the river from the village of Cooperstown. His holdings included a 4.5 acre parcel on the east side of Brooklyn Avenue and 18 acres on the west side, abutting the Susquehanah River.

Dewitt’s oldest son Joseph died 17 June 1869 of inflammatory rheumatism. At 22 years old, he was also working at the mill.

In the 1870 census, mother-in-law Sarah Heath was living with Dewitt and Mary, upon the death of her husband George. Daughter Mary had married George Becker in 1865 and was listed next on the census form with children Carrie b. 1868 and later Lucy b. 1873. Sarah Heath/Haith died in 1874 and was buried in Springfield Center.

Dewitt is listed in the 1872-3 County Directory as head sawyer with Johnson Brothers. When the property was sold by Francis Johnson to the Cooperstown Aqueduct Association (water department) in 1879, the sale was subject to the lease to D. C. Colman.

In 1880 Lucian and John were married and lived nearby, Alice, at 20, may have married and moved out, and the remaining four children still lived at home. The 1880 census includes neighbors Dorr Russel and Dennis Heath as well as son John Coleman and his family, which included Dewitt's father, Horace. Dewitt and his sons John, Horace and Fenimore all listed their occupations as “sawyer.” The 1880 and 1892 census list the Colmans as Middlefield residents. Dewitt’s father, Horace, died in 1884 and was buried in Lakewood cemetery.

Baseball must have played an important part in their recreational life. Son John was said to be the only pitcher in the county to throw a curve ball, and he and his catcher Horace were asked to try out for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1880’s. Fenimore was also on their town team, which played games on the field adjacent to their homes.

In 1895 Dewitt and Mary lived with son Charles, his young wife and son Albert. At that time sons John, Horace, and Lucius were all neighbors.

Dewitt and Mary celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at a party in 1894.

Dewitt died on 13 July 1896 in Cooperstown at the age of 74. The cause of death was carcinoma of the face. His occupation is listed as “farmer” on his death certificate. His land was transferred to his son Fenimore. He was buried in Lakewood cemetery. Mary died four years later. The family marker includes Dewitt, Mary, and their children Edith and Joseph. His father, Horace is buried in the same plot.