Thursday, June 29, 2017

Home of a Thousand Voices: Members of the Metcalfe Family in Ellicottville, New York

I have mentioned before that I frequently find myself doing research on local people who lived here in the past. I ran across the phrase “home of a thousand voices” in a fictional work recently (The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi). I thought it a fitting phrase, for I often find myself listening for the voices of those who have gone before and there are many. (The hard part is putting together this post and trying to get all the sources accurate.)

Most came from other areas originally, settling here briefly before moving on to other realms,
whether otherworldly or otherwise. Take the case of little Kate Mary, 6 month old daughter of James H. Metcalfe and his wife Erzelia. Little Kate was certainly from here, she was born here. She also died here and was buried in the Jefferson Street Cemetery. According to records of St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicottville, Kate Mary was buried from there on August 11, 1854. She was six months and eleven days old.[1] There are traces of her family in early records here but most moved on. Allow me to introduce some of them to you:

Little Kate's father, James H. Metcalfe, was in the occupation of tavern keeping during the 1850 U.S. census in the village of Ellicottville. His 18-year-old wife Erzelia and 67-year-old Thomas Metcalfe were listed with him as well as Charles P. Washburn, a 26-year-old lawyer from Vermont and others.[2] Two years before this census was taken, a George Metcalfe and Matilda Waterman, both of Ellicottville, were married by Rev. Thomas Morris, the rector of Ellicottville's St. John's Episcopal Church, in the presence of Mr. W. P. Angel and Mr. James Metcalfe.[3] These two witnesses were also present for the marriage of Mr. Rollin L. Henderson and Miss Salome Bently just two months earlier according to the church records.[4]

Gathering evidence from various records (or listening for the voices), it is determined that the Thomas Metcalfe listed with James in the 1850 census was likely the patriarch of the family and little Kate's grandfather. Thomas died just four months to the day after Kate was buried, on December 11, 1854. He himself was buried in Grove Cemetery in the town of Bath, Steuben County, New York[5] along with his wife Nancy who died in 1846.[6] It appears that Thomas ran The Franklin House, a hotel owned by Peres Gilmore in the village of Bath. In June of 1837, the hotel, along with other buildings there, sustained the most extensive fire that had thus far occurred since the village's settlement.[7] Thomas may have been the son of John Metcalfe who, according to an online history of Bath, was a pioneer log tavern keeper on the North side of Morris Street in 1797.[8] These are of course just clues; we will leave further speculation on the early history of the Metcalfe family for others.

According to a newspaper account, James H. Metcalfe was born in 1822 in Bath, Steuben County, New York and was the ninth of twelve children.[9] Including James, I have been able to identify the names of seven of those twelve. Further information on these seven follows:

Franklin Metcalfe (1811-1837) is buried in Grove Cemetery in Bath, New York and was likely a son of Thomas. He died December 21, 1837, aged 25 years.[10] He was apparently married, for the cemetery record states that his wife was Mary A. Metcalfe who died in 1890.[11] We will also note that there was a Frank C. Metcalfe who owned a general merchant store in the nearby village of Kill Buck around 1875. His son Percey Metcalfe died 25 August 1872 and is buried in the Kill Buck Cemetery. Percey's age was listed as 10 years, 15 months.[12] Though obviously not the same Franklin Metcalfe buried in Bath, Metcalfe researchers should take note of this individual as a possible member of the family.

From the Ellicottville [NY] Post,
digital image courtesy fultonhistory.com
Archibald C. Metcalfe (1814-July 1850) appears to have been somewhat of a pioneer. A brief entry in the local Ellicottville paper dated 26 February 1851 included the following: “Deaths—In July last, of cholera, at the crossing of Platte river, on the California trail, Archibald C. Metcalfe, son of Thomas Metcalfe of this village, and formerly of Steuben Co. aged 37 years.”[13] Likely a letter was sent to Thomas here in Ellicottville to break the sad news. This newspaper entry helps confirm that the same Thomas in Steuben County was the same one here in Ellicottville during this time.

Mary Ann Metcalfe (August 1816-25 March 1855) was the wife of William Pitt Angel, a prominent lawyer in Ellicottville back in the day. Historical accounts place W. P. Angel in the village of Bath at the time of the 1837 fire before mentioned regarding Thomas Metcalfe.[14] Prior to his entry into the bar in 1840, William was a newspaper publisher in Bath as well as Angelica, New York before removing to Ellicottville.[15] He also advertised his Angelica Bookstore in the Ellicottville newspapers in September 1835.[16] William P. Angel and his wife were admitted as communicants at
St. John's Episcopal Church, Ellicottville, NY built ca. 1838
(image from a 1906 postcard)
St. John's Episcopal church in Ellicottville in 1841.[17] One of their children, Franklin M. Angel, was born 26 August 1836.[18] He, along with a sister Mary E. (born 10 July 1839) were baptized at St. John's in January of 1842.[19] Perhaps Franklin was named for Mary Ann's brother. Wm. P. Angel and his wife Mary Ann had seven children altogether, five of them died young and were buried in the Jefferson Street Cemetery.[20] Wm. P. remarried after Mary Ann's death and left the Ellicottville area.[21] While here, he partnered with other attorneys including Ely S. Parker (a Seneca Indian),[22] David H. Bolles[23] and Charles P. Washburn.[24] The house Wm. P. built in 1840 still stands in the village.[25] He was elected district attorney in 1847 and 1856 and was also elected secretary and treasurer of the Ellicottville and Great Valley Plank Road Company when it was formed in 1850. He removed to Westchester County, New York in 1866 where he died on 11 February 1869.[26] He was born in Otsego County, New York to William G. Angel (also a lawyer who died in Angelica, Allegany County, New York in 1858) and his first wife Emily English. William P. had a brother James R. Angel (1836-1899) with whom he partnered with in 1868.[27] G. T. Angell, who on 13 April 1854 printed “thanks to his friends for their liberal patronage during his stay in town” after having “sold out his traveling union daguerrian gallery” in the local paper of Ellicottville,[28] may also have been a brother or other relative.

James Harvey Metcalfe (1822-1879)[29] appears to have ran the tavern/hotel establishment Irvine
Daguerreotype of Irvine Hall by A. Goodell, reproduced in the
1856 map by Samuel Geil (image courtesy paintedhills.org)
Hall in Ellicottville at one point in 1847 according to a local early newspaper ad.[30] He also operated a grocery/dry goods store in Ellicottville in 1846 according to an ad dated November 18, 1846.[31] On May 1, 1847, S. D. Nutting described his new stove, tin, copper and sheet-iron establishment in the village of Ellicottville as being “opposite J. H. Metcalfe's Store and two doors below Irvine Hall.”[32] Later on September 15, 1847, J. H. Metcalfe advertised that he had removed his goods to his new store “opposite the Post Office.”[33] His occupation was listed as the “keeper of drover yards” in Buffalo, New York during the 1860 federal census.[34] According to a 1940 newspaper account in the Buffalo Courier Express, James moved up to Buffalo at the age of 33 [1855] where he became a partner in a local meat packing firm as well as a partner in a meat distributor firm in New York City. He was a director of the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia Railroad and was the largest stockholder in the First National Bank. He also served as the park commissioner and contributed to the improvement of the Buffalo parks system. Metcalfe Street, from 1000 Clinton Street to 995 William Street, was named after him.[35] He married Erzelia Frances Stetson[36] and according to the 1940 newspaper account, had three sons and one daughter that lived to adulthood. Little Kate likely had been forgotten by then. A son, Guy Metcalfe (1868-1879), who died around the age of 10 is buried with the family in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.[37] James was listed as a livestock dealer during the 1865 state census. His county of birth is given as Steuben in this census. His wife's was listed as Allegany. Daughter Frances was born in Cattaraugus while the other children's birthplaces were listed as Buffalo.[38] During the 1850 federal census in Ellicottville, it was noted that James and Erzelia had been married within the year.[39] Indeed, a record of their marriage from St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicottville indicates that the marriage took place at the house of Mr. Asa G. Stetson in Bolivar, Allegany County on the evening of the 28th November 1849.[40]

George H. Metcalfe (1827-1891) was mentioned earlier as we discussed that his brother and brother-in-law were witnesses to his marriage to Matilda J. Waterman in October 1848.[41] During the 1850 federal census, we find him and his young 18-year-old wife listed in the village of Ellicottville. He was in the livery business according to this census. They had a ten-month-old daughter named Charlotte.[42] The 1855 state census shows him in New York City in a brick dwelling as a hotel keeper. The census indicates he had only been in the area for one year. His birthplace in this census is noted as Steuben County. His wife and all three children listed were born in Cattaraugus County. Along with 7-year-old Charlotte, George and Matilda had two other children by this time: Georgiana age 4 and Archibald age 2.[43] By 1880, George and Matilda were living on Prospect Avenue in Buffalo with only a niece named Mabel Love and a German serving girl named Catherine Aust in the household. George was back to keeping a livery stable by then.[44] He died in 1891,[45] Matilda in 1910.[46] They were buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. According to her entry in Find-a-Grave: “Matilda was the daughter of Simon and Ann (Hinman) Waterman, early settlers of Erie County. Her father was in the first group of teachers hired by the newly formed county. Matilda was born in Springdale and in 1845, married George Metcalf, a cousin of her Aunt Sarah (Metcalf) Waterman, also of Springdale. The couple had three children, Charlotte (1848), Georgiana (1851), and Archibald (1853). While George traveled with the circus for a few years, Matilda ran their boarding house, first located in NYC and later in Buffalo.”[47] Springville, New York is just over the Cattaraugus County line in Erie County and may be the town referred to here instead of Springdale the name of which I cannot readily find as a town in this state currently.

Ellen Metcalfe (1832-) was listed in the household of William P. Angel in Ellicottville as his sister-in-law during the 1855 state census.[48] She lived with the family there during the 1850 federal census as well.[49] Miss Ellen Metcalf and Mrs. Erzelia Metcalf (her sister-in-law) were confirmants at St. John's Episcopal Church in Ellicottville in 1854 and 1855[50]. This record seems to indicate that she was single at the time, but a marriage record from the church indicates that Ellen was married to Mr. Bushrod W. Gibbs on 10 October 1853 by the Rev. P.P. Kidder.[51] Further research may yield more information, but her voice, if you will, has faded from the area.

Thomas J. Metcalfe (-1845), his tombstone only states that he died on 23 June 1845 and that he was a son of T. and Nancy. It may be the only record of him.[52]

If you use your imagination like I do, you may also begin to hear these voices. Imagine these people strolling the village streets as they did back in the day. I feel honored to be able to trace their footsteps through the past, in records as well as the very ground they walked. I can go strolling through the cemetery and church building, passing the old homestead and the corners where other buildings once stood...right here in the village. I hear their voices and I in turn share their history with you.


Sources:

[1] St. John's Episcopal Church, Ellicottville (Cattaraugus County), New York Parish Records 1829-1869. Rev. Thomas Morris; Rev. P.P. Kidder. Hereinafter, St. John's Records. Burials, p. 77. The name is seen throughout records both with an "e" at the end and without.
[2] "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCTK-D7Q : 9 November 2014), James H Metcalfe, Ellicottville, Cattaraugus, New York, United States; citing family 52, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). Accessed 29 May 2017.
[3] St. John's Records, op. cit. Marriages, p. 72.
[4] Ibid. Marriages, p. 71. The record states that Mr. Henderson was of St. Clairville and Miss Bently of Clear Creek. It does not give the actual day, only says they were married in August of 1848.
[5] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com: accessed 29 May 2017), memorial page for Thomas Metcalfe (17811854), Memorial no. 77127742 by Jean Doherty, citing Grove Cemetery, Bath, Steuben County, New York with accompanying photograph.
[6] Ibid. Memorial page for Nancy Metcalfe (1788-1846), Memorial no. 77127604 by Jean Doherty, citing Grove Cemetery, Bath, Steuben County, New York with accompanying photograph.
[7] “Destructive Conflagration”, Geneva NY Gazette, col. 1, paragraph 1, noted from the Steuben (Bath) Farmers' Adv. June 22 [1837]; digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Geneva NY Gazette 1837-1849 Grayscale – 0048.pdf”
[8] Hakes, Harlo, editor, Landmarks of Steuben County, New York (Syracuse, NY, D. Mason & company, 1896); online text (page 6 of 123), (http://www.ebooksread.com: accessed 29 May 2017).
[9] “Metcalfe Street Named for Bank Founder Who Also Built Up Parks” by H. Katherine Smith, Buffalo Courier-Express, Sunday, January 7, 1940, page L 5, column 1 & 2; digital image of microfilm copy (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017).
[10] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com: accessed 29 May 2017), memorial page for Franklin Metcalfe (18111837), Memorial no. 134720827 by Rich Fedoush, citing Grove Cemetery, Bath, Steuben County, New York with accompanying photograph by Barbara Gibson.
[11] Ibid. Memorial page for Mary A. Metcalfe (17811854), Memorial no. 134720866 by Rich Fedoush, citing Grove Cemetery, Bath, Steuben County, New York with accompanying photograph by Barbara Gibson.
[12] Killbuck Cemetery, Rt. 417 Killbuck, NY, Town of Great Valley; information from Alan Robison & Rose McClune, 2009; Painted Hills Genealogy Society (http://paintedhills.org: accessed 29 May 2017).
[13] “Echoes From The Long Ago”, The Post [Ellicottville] July 8, 1914, p. 1, col. 2, extracts from the old “Republican” files Feb. 26, 1851, digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Ellicottville NY Post 1912 Jan-Dec 1914 – 1039.pdf”
[14] “History of the Village of Bath, Steuben County, NY” Landmarks of Steuben County, New York, edited by Harlo Hakes, assisted by L.C. Aldrich, & others (Syracuse, New York: D. Mason & Company, 1896). Transcription accessed 29 May 2017: http://history.rays-place.com/ny/steu/bath-v.htm
[15] “Echoes From The Long Ago”, arranged & edited by John A. Moffitt, The Post [Ellicottville] September 19, 19--, p. 6, col. 1, extracts from the Ellicottville Union files [1869], digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Ellicottville NY Post 1915 Jan-Dec 1917 – 1127.pdf”
[16] “Angelica Bookstore...”, col. 1, Cattaraugus Republican [1835], digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Ellicottville NY Cataraugus Republican 1834-1841 – 0150.pdf”
[17] Historical and Biographical Album of the Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin..., edited by George Forrester (Chicago, IL: A. Warner, publisher, 1891-2); ebook (https://books.google.com/ accessed: 29 May 2017). This biography of Franklin M. Angel confirms his mother's maiden name and the name of her father as Thomas Metcalfe “of Bath, NY, who was prominently known as a merchant and hotel man.”
[18] St. John's Records, op. cit. Communicants, p. 15. With a residence of Ellicottville, Mrs. Angel was the first entry of communicants for 1841. A Mrs. Smith is listed next (no day or month listed on either entry). The third entry is that of Mr. Wm. P. Angel with a date of 3 October 1841 [Sunday]. Mr. De La Fayette Clarke and Mrs. Sarah Clark were the next two entries after that on the same date.
[19] Ibid. Baptisms, p. 50.
[20] Jefferson Street Cemetery, Rt. 219 Ellicottville, online transcript from Painted Hills Genealogy Society (http://paintedhills.org: accessed 29 May 2017).
[21] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_P._Angel: accessed 29 May 2017). This and other online sources state that William married Laura Eliza Bigelow in 1851, but this date is more than likely erroneous as Mary did not die until 1855. I have been unable to locate any source cited as to the marriage date.
[22] “A Warrior in Two Worlds: The Life of Ely Parker,” PBS Documentary, produced by WXXI Public Broadcasting Council in Rochester, New York, in collaboration with the Rochester Museum & Science Center (http://www.pbs.org/warrior/content/timeline/opendoor/rochester.html: accessed 29 May 2017).
[23] Biographical record of the class of 1850, of Yale College, page 15, digital copy, Making of America website, collaborative effort between University of Michigan and Cornell University; (http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moagrp/about.html: accessed 29 May 2017).
[24] Adams, William editor, Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial of Cattaraugus County, New York, (Syracuse: Lyman, Horton & Co, October 1893), p. 326, ebook (https://books.google.com/ accessed: 29 May 2017).
[25] Ellicottville Historical Society files, early edition of Historic Walking Tour brochure (ca. 1980s). The brochure lists the home at 18 W. Washington Street (ca. 1840) as the Angel/Payne/Horning House with a description stating that William Pitt Angel owned extensive acreage around his home and that the wing was a later addition.
[26] Adams, op. cit.
[27] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_P._Angel: accessed 29 May 2017).
[28] “Echoes From The Long Ago”, arranged & edited by John A. Moffitt, The Post [Ellicottville] October 14, 1914, p. 1, col. 4, extracts from the old “Republican” files [1854], digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Ellicottville NY Post 1912 Jan-Dec 1914 – 1151.pdf”
[29] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com: accessed 29 May 2017), memorial page for James Harvey Metcalfe (18221879), Memorial no. 71198471 by “Athanatos ", citing Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, Erie County, New York with accompanying photographs by Jay Boone.
[30] IRVINE HALL, BY J.H. METCALFE, Ellicottville, Cattaraugus Co, NY “Every attention paid to the wants of his guests,” col. 2, ads on this page dated from July 1847 to March of 1849, digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Ellicottville NY Cataraugus Republican 1841-1859 – 0562.pdf”
[31] “Late Arrival. New Store and New Goods” ad dated November 18, 1846, Col. 4, digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Ellicottville NY Cataraugus Republican 1844 May-April 1854 – 0523.pdf”
[32] Stove, tin, etc. ad by S. B. Nutting, dated May 1, 1847, Col. 3, digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Ellicottville NY Cataraugus Republican 1844 May-April 1854 – 0690.pdf” Also on this page is an ad from Salmon Shaw dated November 3, 1847 stating that Shaw “has leased and now occupies the Tavern stand known as 'Irvine Hall'...
[33] “REMOVAL, J.H. Metcalfe”... Ellicottville, Cattaraugus Co, NY “Every attention paid to the wants of his guests,” col. 5, ad dated from September 15, 1847, digital image of microfilm copy, Fultonhistory.com (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017); search term: “Ellicottville NY Cataraugus Republican 1844 May-Apr 1854 – 0770.pdf”
[34] "United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MC7W-FTL : 30 December 2015), Jas H Metcalf, 1860. Accessed 29 May 2017.
[35] “Metcalfe Street Named for Bank Founder Who Also Built Up Parks” by H. Katherine Smith, Buffalo Courier-Express, Sunday, January 7, 1940, page L 5, column 1 & 2; digital image of microfilm copy (http://www.fultonhistory.com: accessed 29 May 2017).
[36] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com: accessed 29 May 2017), memorial page for Erzelia Frances Stetson Metcalfe (18321913), Memorial no. 71198482 by “Athanatos ", citing Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, Erie County, New York with accompanying photographs by Jay Boone.
[37] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com: accessed 29 May 2017), memorial page for Guy Thomas Metcalfe (18681879), Memorial no. 71724415 maintained by “Athanatos ", citing Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, Erie County, New York, originally created by Jay Boone with accompanying photographs.
[38] "New York State Census, 1865," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVNN-J19B, James H Metcalfe, Buffalo, Erie, New York, United States; citing p. 34, line 8, household ID 174, county clerk, board of supervisors and surrogate court offices from various counties. Utica and East Hampton Public Libraries, New York; FHL microfilm 825,683. Accessed 29 May 2017.
[39] "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCTK-D7Q : 9 November 2014), James H Metcalfe, Ellicottville, Cattaraugus, New York, United States; citing family 52, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). Accessed 29 May 2017.
[40] St. John's Records, op. cit. Marriages, p. 74.
[41] St. John's Records, op. cit. Marriages, p. 72.
[42] "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCTK-D75 : 9 November 2014), George H Metcalfe, Ellicottville, Cattaraugus, New York, United States; citing family 53, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). Accessed 29 May 2017.
[43] "New York State Census, 1855," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K67F-ZQD : 19 November 2014), Charlott Metcalf in household of George Metcalf, E.D. 3, Ward 18, New York City, New York, New York, United States; count clerk offices, New York; FHL microfilm 1,018,662. Accessed 29 May 2017.
[44] "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZ89-Q14 : 14 July 2016), George H Metcalf, Buffalo, Erie, New York, United States; citing enumeration district ED 160, sheet 52B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0831; FHL microfilm 1,254,831. Accessed 29 May 2017.
[45] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com: accessed 29 May 2017), memorial page for George H. Metcalfe (18271892), Memorial no. 113473720 originally created by Phyllis Meyer, citing Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, Erie County, New York, maintained by :gleasonfamily” with accompanying photograph by Phyllis Meyer.
[46] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com: accessed 29 May 2017), memorial page for Matilda J. Waterman Metcalfe (18271910), Memorial no. 113473773 originally created by Phyllis Meyer, citing Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, Erie County, New York, maintained by :gleasonfamily” with accompanying photograph by Phyllis Meyer.
[47] Ibid.
[48] "New York State Census, 1855," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K636-7GY : 19 November 2014), Wm P Angel, E.D. Southern, Ellicottville, Cattaraugus, New York, United States; count clerk offices, New York; FHL microfilm 583,830. Accessed 29 May 2017.
[49] "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCTV-TLF : 9 November 2014), William P Angel, Ellicottville, Cattaraugus, New York, United States; citing family 87, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). Accessed 29 May 2017.
[50] St. John's Records. Confirmations, p. 24. The two were among others named as having been “confirmed by the Rt. Rev. Bishop DeLancey in St. John's Church Ellicottville August 19, 1854 and October 14, 1855.”
[51] St. John's Records, op. cit. Marriages, p. 90. 
[52] Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com: accessed 29 May 2017), memorial page for Thomas J. Metcalfe (1845), Memorial no. 77127477 by Jean Doherty, citing Grove Cemetery, Bath, Steuben County, New York with accompanying photograph.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wishful Wednesday: To Stand Where My Ancestors Stood

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time. 
                              -From T. S. Eliott's Little Gidding

Every so often I get the opportunity to spend a weekend steeped in research. The definition of “steep” is: to soak in water or other liquid, as to soften, cleanse, or extract some constituent: to steep tea in boiling-hot water; to steep reeds for basket weaving. to wet thoroughly in or with a liquid; drench; saturate; imbue. That's exactly what I do, saturate myself in the research. The other part of the definition holds meaning for me as well. When I research, I not only soak up knowledge, I also try to extract something from it. So I think it is very fitting to say that I steep myself in research.

This past weekend I steeped myself in soaking up knowledge of the Watts family in Halifax County, Virginia. Saturday afternoon I was waiting for someone to come and take a look at the leak I have under my bathroom sink. I do not recall exactly how I stumbled online to the .pdf file of the form submitted in 2006 to register The Cove plantation and property in Halifax County, Virginia on the National Register of Historic Places. Nonetheless, that is the document that I began to study along with other records for the next several hours into the evening.

Mary Catherine Bateson writes in her book Peripheral Visions that “spiral learning moves through complexity with partial understanding, allowing for later returns.” This statement rings true with much clarity when I reflect on the process and journey my research often takes me. Today I was reminded that much of what I recently learned echoes what I had really already known, just a more in-depth version (partial understanding allowing for later returns). This time around the spiral, the knowledge contains richer nuances now that I know more about the family and the area.

The recent publication of the county's architectural history by the local historical society first clued me in to the fact that “Local tradition states that the Watts family lived on the plantation and oversaw its operation...” (page 69). The .pdf file, likely the source for the information in the architectural history book, contained more particulars about how the Watts family connected to this historic site.

I first heard of The Cove back in 1993 through an ad I placed in the local newspaper asking for information on the Watts family in the area. Robert Watts responded to me from Texas to tell me he was born in 1917 and grew up in The Cove. I did not know of any significance then and we never discussed his birthplace further. During the same time period of research, I made contact via letter with the Reverend C. H. Watts who still lived in the area. (Robert's father Ernest and C.H.'s father Samuel were half-brothers.) C.H. replied to my letter by telling me it would be best not to research the past as I might find “horse thieves or worse.” He was an elderly gentleman back then; he passed away at the age of 100 in the year 2000. Learning yesterday from that .pdf file that C.H. was born in the plantation house at The Cove in the year 1900 led me through that spiral again, adding more complexity to the partial knowledge I began with. I still have this correspondence and more in my research files. I note in my correspondence with G.C. Waldrep, author of a series of books on the cemeteries in Halifax County, that I had only been researching the family for four years at the time. This year makes 28 years of research.

The narrative of the .pdf file indicates that the plantation was sold in 1764 by John Randolph to David Lewis Sims (page 17). David had two brothers, William and Matthew Sims. Together the three settled in Halifax County before the Revolutionary War, established plantations and were active members of the community. As early as 1771, the Sims brothers established a ferry along the Staunton River. The ferry was located south of The Cove on lands that were part of the Black Walnut tract owned by Matthew Sims (another home that still stands today). The plantation house in the area of The Cove is said to have been built around the time of William Sims' marriage to Kezia East in 1773. William died in 1778 and his widow married John Hundley in 1781 (page 18). The Cove plantation remained with various members of the Sims family and in 1843 was sold to John Coleman, whose wife was also a member of the Sims family. John Coleman was described as one of the largest slaveholders and landowners in Halifax and Charlotte Counties (page 21).

The .pdf file speculates that the arrangement of the Watts family living on the plantation may have started with the sale of the land to John Coleman who at the time was living in Charlotte county yet had slaves on land he owned in Halifax County (page 22). The local tradition has it that the Watts family was still overseeing The Cove property after John Coleman's death in 1869 and they continued to live in the old plantation house well into the earlier part of the twentieth century (page 25). C.H.'s brother Samuel Durell Watts purchased part of the tract after 1954. He in turn sold his portion to Charles R. Saunders in 1965. Saunders purchased additional land which reunited much of the same land that was sold to John Coleman in 1843 (page 27). Today the property contains 1123 acres and is owned by the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation. Ward Burton shares in an online video that Charles R. Saunders was a friend of his and is buried near The Cove's plantation house.

The .pdf file (page 25) mentions that in 1850 there were three Watts families in the Northern District listed as overseers: Samuel R., Richard, and William T. (It should be noted that the researchers missed Linsey Watts also listed as an overseer in the Northern District.) Samuel R. was erroneously listed as James R. Watts during the 1860 census. The .pdf states that James was one more Watts overseer listed that year. That statement is not accurate. There were at least three additional Watts overseers listed in 1860: John H. Watts, James T. Watts, and George R. Watts. Nathaniel B. Saunders, also an overseer, lived two households away from John H. Watts. Nathaniel's wife was Sarah E. Watts and a sister to John H., Samuel R., and William T. (It would not surprise me in the least if I find out that Charles R. Saunders was related to this Nathaniel Saunders family.) All of these siblings have been established in my book as the children of Lindsey Watts and his wife Phoebe Rickman. The 1850 census grossly misidentifies Lindsey's family, giving his wife's name as Susan with two children Ann, age 10 and Thomas, age 8 in the household. I have never been able to reconcile this listing with Lindsey's actual family from other records. Although Lindsey would have had one son and daughter living with him at the time, their names were Martha Jane and George Richard. The latter would have been closer to age 10 as he was born in March of 1839, nothing more is known of Martha Jane. George R. Watts was my direct ancestor. His family bible was passed down to me and includes the notation that Lindsey died on 9 November 1852, two years after the 1850 census was taken.

C.H. and Samuel Durell's family line traces back to Samuel R[yland] Watts. In looking closer at the 1850 census, he and Richard Watts were within five household enumerations from John Coleman. This is undoubtedly the John Coleman of The Cove plantation. (Richard Watts, by the way, was a younger brother of Lindsey's and Samuel R.'s uncle). As far as clues as to which overseer each might have worked for: William T. Watts lived close to the Elijah D. Hundley household in the Mount Laurel area. Lindsey Watts was within five household enumerations of Thomas G. Coleman whose residence Longwood or Long Branch was listed just above the Scottsburg area but no longer stands. The sketch of an 1856 map drawn by William Green found here shows the location of plantation estates in the county. The map lists the residence of T.G. Coleman as Longwood.

I remember GC Waldrep telling me that the Wattses and Rickmans were not particularly wealthy and could be difficult to research, especially trying to find final resting places. I did not take offense to his characterization. I know that the families I descend had little and left less than little behind. Making connections between them and families that did leave something tangible behind stirs me deeply, though. This way I at least have the potential to stand where my ancestors stood. It is the best way I have to make a physical connection to them. Samuel Ryland's grandfather was Thomas M. Watts, son of the progenitor Samuel Watts. Both this Samuel and his son Thomas were listed as creditors and buyers in the estate of Matthew Sims. To confirm this connection between generations and between families means a lot to me. I so want to see and touch these buildings, ones my ancestors saw with their own eyes and perhaps touched with their own hands as well.


Main plantation house at The Cove, Halifax Co VA (2005)


Monday, April 3, 2017

Matrilineal Monday: A Female Ancestor's Voice From Years Ago

On 21 May 1788, Moses Fontaine took a deposition from Mary Watts for a chancery suit brought by Reuben Abney against Dr. Walter Bennett saying "that she had been for twenty years a practitioner of the obstetrick art and is a neighbor to Doctor Walter Bennett six or seven years...” 

http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1790-026
Halifax Co. (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1753-1911. Reuben Abney against DR Walter Bennett 1790-026. Local Government Records Collection, Halifax County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
It has taken me some time to process the information about Mary Watts who was previously unknown. It has been my experience that there is a genealogy corollary of sorts in that one will find lots of proof of a line for which there is already an abundance of evidence but less for a line that does not. Therefore, I at first was inclined to say that with my luck, she was not part of my family. But now analyzing the records with this new information, I lean towards the hypothesis that this Mary was the wife of Samuel Sr. 

My reasoning/proof argument:

First, the name Mary is plausible with Samuel's known daughter who was called Polly. Polly is a known nickname for Mary; therefore their daughter may have been named for her.

Second, as I explained in the post about Sarah the wife of Samuel Watts the younger, it was likely her listed in the 1812 tax list because of her actions to protect the property she had through her first husband and her second marriage that took place in 1812. In analyzing the records more, I realize the wife of Samuel Sr would no doubt have been deceased before 28 January 1812, when the first summons was written by the Halifax County clerk in regards to the chancery suit Samuel Watts Sr.'s son Thomas and others brought against Samuel's daughter and husband. His wife is not listed as a party on either side of this suit. 

http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1812-007#img
Halifax Co. (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1753-1911. Sally Watts widow etc. vs. Joseph Shaw and wife etc., Index No. 1812-007. Local Government Records Collection, Halifax County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
Third, Samuel Sr.'s wife was probably dead by 1810 and as early as 1808 when Samuel's daughter Polly states in her deposition that her father lived with her two years prior to him writing a deed of trust in 1810 conveying slaves to her. Him being aged and alone was a plausible reason for moving in with his daughter. It would make sense that he deeded the slaves to his daughter if his wife was already gone and there was no need to provide for her. Certainly we established in the second point that his wife was dead before his other children brought suit against his daughter regarding those slaves he conveyed. See this post for more information regarding this chancery suit. 

Fourth, Mary Watts was a contemporary of Samuel Sr.  In her deposition, she states in so many words that she was a midwife and had been since about 1768. This indicates Mary was no youngster at the time; at the very least we could safely assume she was at least 18 when she started practicing but perhaps even older. Another deposition in this chancery record referred to a Mrs. Lax as a “granny of report in the neighborhood.” (Deposition of Elizabeth Cox, wife of Elisha Cox). I infer this was a term used for older midwives in the area. If she was at least 18, that puts her birth at least 1750 and maybe earlier. From other evidence, I have Samuel's birth as taking place around 1738.

Fifth, the deposition shows she lived in the same area as Samuel Watts Sr. did. He purchased 128 acres of land on the branches of Difficult Creek in 1775. William Nichols' land was one of the boundaries. A description of a road that ran through his property was given in 1787 that included Walter Bennett as a neighbor. (Halifax County, Virginia Pleas No. 12, p. 268 (from microfilmed record). I do not know yet when Walter Bennett became a neighbor but obviously both Samuel and Mary were neighbors of the doctor as well as Samuel's children. Judging from a deposition in that same chancery case by a William Pride late of the county of Amelia as to Dr. Bennett's character, Dr. Bennett may have hailed from there a few years before being in Halifax County.

There are fragments of evidence of some other contemporary or older Wattses in the area, but they do not appear to have stayed in the area for any length of time. There is nothing that places them in the same neighborhood as Samuel and several of them already have wives accounted for. The early James Watts was married to Susannah Taylor in 1755. James died by August of 1787 as his son Richard was named his acting executor. There was a John Watts from Bedford County, Virginia who married Elizabeth (Betsy) Roberts in Halifax County in 1792. County records show a William Watts listed as an attorney in Halifax County who died in Campbell County, Virginia by 1802. John Watts of Bedford County, Virginia was his executor. It does not appear that William spent much time in Halifax County, the only records on him are court records. It does not appear that he ever purchased land there.

So here I have laid out my reasoning for putting forth Mary as the probable wife of Samuel Watts Sr. It is exciting to not only have a name but also to have a detailed glimpse of who and what she did from her deposition. It is like hearing a maternal ancestor's voice from all those years ago.    

Prints and Photographs Collection, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine.
Rueff, Jakob, ca.1500-1558, Author. Published Zürych: Christoffel Froschover, 1554.