Week 3: January 17, 2020 Bennington County, Vermont

This map of Vermont highlights Bennington County. It is taken from Wikipedia

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

“Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening,
Robert Frost, 1923

Robert Frost, one of America’s most important and well-loved poets, called Vermont his home (at least during the summer and fall) for over 40 years.  When I picture Vermont (which has not been all that often, to be honest), it is hard for me not to see the Vermont that Frost described in his poetry, including the verse above from one of his most well-known poems.

I don’t have very many ancestors in Bennington County, but I have discovered that they played an important role in the formation of that frontier territory.  Here’s a pedigree chart that shows the individuals I’ll be talking about a little later in this essay:

Bennington Vermont Pedigree Chart
My ancestors who are connected to Bennington, Vermont.  They connect through my Arnold family line

A (Very) Little History

The origins of the state of Vermont go back to the days of early French exploration of North America.  In 1535, during his second voyage in New France (Canada), the French explorer Jacques Cartier discovered the mouth of Richelieu River (which connects to Lake Champlain on the border between Vermont and New York,).  In 1603, Samuel de Champlain and his team again reached the mouth of the river.  Champlain returned to the river in 1608 and again in 1609, exploring upriver through Lake Champlain to modern-day Albany, New York.

A glance at a topographical map reveals why Vermont would have been settled by France earlier than by England.  The Connecticut River, which forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, was an early route of exploration from the Connecticut and Massachusetts Colonies. This route, however, did not open up exploration to the western part of Vermont.  Mountain barriers made this travel difficult, and the ease of access for the French through the relatively flat plains south of Quebec City, including a route using the Richelieu River, made Vermont a practical area for the French to explore.  The name of the state – Vermont –derives from the French words “mont verde,” or green mountain.  The mountains of Vermont would have looked green when viewed from the flat plains to the north.

Between 1700 and 1763, England and France fought many times over dominance in the world; this included skirmishes between the two colonial powers in North America.  The most significant of these skirmishes evolved into the French and Indian War (known in other parts of the world as the Seven Years War). After being defeated in 1763 in the Seven Years’ War, France ceded its territory east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain.  At this time, the population of Vermont was about 2,000 people.  Although outright ownership of Vermont was not settled at this time, it was being settled by people from both the British and French colonies.

In the first years of the settlement of Vermont, control over land was held by Massachusetts.  After 1740, however, control fell to New Hampshire.  Beginning with grants of land to the new town of Bennington in 1749, control over this land was given to New Hampshire.  At the same time, however, Governor Clinton of New York claimed land from New York east to the Connecticut – which means that no one agreed about who controlled Vermont.  At this point, the land that came to be called Vermont was know as the New Hampshire grants.

Throughout the 1760s this dispute over land ownership continued.  In 1667, a group called the Green Mountain Boys formed to protect the claimants to the New Hampshire grants from the encroachments of the government of New York. New York had sold land grants to settlers in the region, but these grants conflicted with earlier grants from New Hampshire. The Green Mountain Boys, a local militia, protected the interests of the established New Hampshire land grant settlers against the newly arrived settlers with land titles granted by New York.

The Green Mountain Boys were led by Ethan Allen and Seth Warner, both of whom would achieve later renown during the American Revolution.  Another leader, Remember Baker, was known to be of impetuous character, and led violent reprisals against New York interlopers.  In 1774, a group of Green Mountain Boys called the “Bennington Mob,” under the leadership of Allen and Warner, undertook lawless methods to combat the New Yorkers.  Parallel to these activities, the movement throughout the colonies toward rebellion and independence cast the Green Mountain Boys on the side of the rebels and the New Yorkers on the side of England.

All along, the population of Vermont was growing; by the outbreak of the revolution, 20,000 people lived in Vermont.

In 1777, a group of settlers with New Hampshire land grant titles established the Vermont Republic during the American Revolutionary War. One important battle of the American Revolution – the Battle of Bennington (August 16, 1777) – led to a rematch at Saratoga, New York, in October of the same year, where the British were defeated.  Bennington and Saratoga are recognized as turning points in the Revolutionary War because they were the first major defeats of a British army.

Evolution of the counties in Vermont

The evolution of country boundaries in Vermont is impacted by the controversy between Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York over the land that eventually made up the state.  The following maps  are all from the Map of Us website https://www.mapofus.org/vermont/). Bennington County (in the southwest corner of Vermont, bordered on the south by Massachusetts and on the west by New York) was one of the two original counties of the state.  Over the next 25 years, the other counties of Vermont were formed and Bennington County shrank; originally encompassing the entire western half of the state, it achieved its current shape and size by the time of statehood in 1791.  There has been minimal change in the counties of Vermont since that time.

Vermont 1764

Vermont 1777

Vermont 1790

My Ancestors in Bennington County

Although I have organized these location essays alphabetically (by county name), this organization is actually functional in the case of Bennington County; my earliest Vermont ancestor is Josiah Perry, who was descended from the Perry family that I wrote about in the Barnstable, Massachusetts, essay.

Let me fill in the gap.  When I left the Perry family behind, I identified Benjamin Perry (1669-1740) as the first of his family to leave Barnstable.  Benjamin moved with his sons Joshua, Benjamin, Nathaniel, and Eliakim from Sandwich to Stoughton sometime before 1735. For those of you keeping score, Joshua Perry (1709-1784) is my 7th great-grandfather.  In 1740, Joshua purchased from his brothers Eliakim and Nathaniel their shares of the 386-acre lot the three brothers had purchased from their father in 1735. That same year, Joshua married Mary Kingsley (1719-1784) in Stoughton. Shortly thereafter they moved again — to Easton, Massachusetts, in 1747 and to Norwich, Connecticut, before 1752.  They had six children, including my 6th great-grandfather Philip Henry Perry (1743-1775)  before the family moved to Shaftsbury, Bennington County, Vermont by 1775. I’m not sure when the family moved to Shaftsbury.  Philip had married Lydia House (1750-1800) in Connecticut in 1769; their first two children were born in Connecticut in 1770 and 1772, but their last child was born in Vermont four months after Philip died in 1775.

Yes, Philip died as quite a young man – in 1775 he was only 32 years old.  His death is part of the larger story I told before, about the Green Mountain Boys.  Philip joined this militia group sometime in 1775, and died on August 1 of that year in an encounter with a Tory spy, Hazard Wilcox, in Bennington County.  This was a particularly tragic event; Philip and Hazard were apparently neighbors and friends, and they were also probably distant cousins.  The names are too significant – a couple of decades later the War of 1812 military hero – Oliver Hazard Perry – would prevail over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie.  He bears the names Hazard and Perry, reflecting a marriage between these two families some generations back.  I haven’t been able to clarify that relationship yet, but I know it’s there.

There is yet more to this story.  Sometime around 1910 another descendant of Philip and Lydia – William C. Brown – presided over the creation of a plaque to be placed in the train station in Arlington, Vermont (north of Shaftsbury in Bennington County).  William’s family had moved west from Vermont in the 19th century; he was born in Iowa, and came back to Vermont only when he became a railroad executive with authority over the rail line that served Bennington County.

This is what the plaque looks like: (I’ve provided a transcription of the plaque under the picture):

Tablet Erected to the Memory of Parley Brown and Lieut. Philip Perry
Source: Teresa Hall Bristol, “More Notes on the Ancestry of Early Vermont-New York Settlers”, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volume 44, pages 334-338, 1913.

Here’s what the plaque says:


The remarkable thing about this plaque is that it honors two of my 6th great-grandfathers, Parley Brown (1738-1775) and Philip.  Yes, William C. Brown, the man who commissioned and erected this plaque more than 100 years ago, is my distant cousin – probably something like first cousin 5x removed or thereabouts.  Parley’s son Nathaniel would marry Phillip’s daughter Anna in Vermont in 1790.  Their son, my 5th great-grandfather Philip Perry Brown (1790-1876), was born in Vermont before the family moved to New York in the next generation.  I’m descended from Philip Perry Brown’s oldest son Harley Brown (1810-1863) and Cousin William is descended from Philip’s second son Charles E. Brown (1813-1901).  (I do have problems with Harley – he is difficult to pin down. He may or may not actually exist, which renders this analysis moot but still fun.)

Just a note about the “view from this site toward the west” being the basis of the Vermont State Seal.  Here’s the original seal:Vermont State Seal

This was what the website https://www.netstate.com/states/symb/seals/vt_seal.htm had to say about this seal:

“The design was a circle, bordered on the top and bottom by wavy lines suggesting sky and water. A sheaf of wheat stands in each quadrant of the circle. A cow, of course, stands as a cow does, and Vermont had its share of cows. The rolling hills and forests of Vermont’s landscape are depicted across the center of the circle. A lone pine stands at the top center of the scene. Across the lower half of the circle are the words ‘Vermont Freedom & Unity’.”  

I particularly like the phrase “A cow, of course, stands as a cow does, and Vermont had its share of cows.”  I also have questions about whether this was actually the view Governor Chittenden had from his window.

This story is one reason I do this research.  A week ago, I didn’t know much about Vermont and I didn’t know anything about Philip or the story I’ve told in this essay.  Now, I have a whole new outlook on this part of American history (and lots of new Facebook friends in New England who guided my research and tolerated my ignorance).

Week 2: January 10, 2020 Barnstable County, Massachusetts


“If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air,
Quaint little villages here and there,
You’re sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod.”

Written by Claire Rothrock, Milton Yakus, and Allan Jeffrey,
sung most famously in 1955 by Patti Page

Every American who was alive and listened to popular music in the 1950’s heard Patti Page sing “Old Cape Cod.”  I knew where Cape Cod was (its flexed arm is a defining feature of the east coast of the United States), and it sounded lovely and kind of mysterious to me.  I didn’t know that my ancestors not only lived on Cape Cod but were among the founders of its oldest towns.

Barnstable County currently encompasses all of Cape Cod, from Provincetown at the “hand,” southward through Chatham at the “elbow,” and then westward to Sandwich (shoulder) and Bourne (armpit) at the point where the cape meets the mainland of Massachusetts (the shoulder and armpit designations are my own, so far as I can tell, although I can’t imagine no one else has ever thought of them).  Although Plymouth, the site of the first Pilgrim settlement in Massachusetts in 1620, is not in Barnstable County, three towns that were established in 1637-1639 – Barnstable, Sandwich, and Yarmouth – share the designation as the oldest incorporated towns in Massachusetts.

As I began my exploration of Barnstable County, I realized I had to address the superficiality of my own knowledge of the early settlement of Massachusetts.  I knew about the two colonies that made up Massachusetts – Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay – but I hadn’t thought much about the geographical and historical distinctions between them.  This map helped me:

New England colonies in 1677

The evolution of the borders of Barnstable is also important, as evidenced by these two maps:

Barnstable 1643 mapofus
In 1643, the towns of Barnstable, Sandwich, and Yarmouth had been incorporated but there was no legal county structure in the New Plymouth Colony.  In the rest of Massachusetts, which evolved from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a county structure had begun to emerge in the 1640s.


Barnstable 1685 mapofus
In 1685, New Plymouth Colony was divided into three counties – Bristol, Plymouth, and Barnstable – joining the rest of Massachusetts in creating a country structure of government

This is important knowledge because researching Barnstable County probably means researching the New Plymouth Colony and the towns it encompassed for several decades before turning to records related specifically to Barnstable County.  Information about my Barnstable ancestors who were living in the town of Sandwich, for example, may be found in the records of the town of Sandwich or the New Plymouth Colony as well as in the county of Barnstable.

I have dozens of ancestors who have connections to Barnstable in the 17th century, mostly in the towns of Sandwich and Yarmouth.  All of them are through my father’s lineage – both the Arnold and Ellefritz components.  I’ll talk in more detail about these individuals a little later, but here are the people I’m looking at:

Pedigree Chart 1 Barnstable
These are my ancestors connected with the Town of Sandwich.  These lines come together with my paternal 7th great-grandfather, Josiah Perry (on the left of this pedigree chart). This is part of my Arnold family line.
Pedigree Chart 2 Barnstable
These are my ancestors in the Town of Yarmouth.  The lines come together with my paternal 5th great-grandmother Martha Marchant (on the left in this pedigree chart.) This is part of my Arnold family line.


Pedigree Chart 3 Barnstable
This disconnected branch also lived in Yarmouth.  This is part of my Ellefritz family line.

A (Very) Little History

The stories about the Mayflower and the hundreds of subsequent ships that brought passengers to New England in the 1620s and 1630s would have been well known to residents in Barnstable County in the 1640s.  Many of them were immigrants themselves; those who were not immigrants were the children of immigrants.  The stories of life in Europe (in England for the Puritans, in England and Holland for most of the Pilgrims) would have been the threads that held these little communities together.  And by little, I mean little; I haven’t found anything that suggests that the population of these towns was much greater than 500 people during the 1640s.

The early years of New Plymouth Colony were characterized by repeated efforts to figure out how to interact with the Native Americans who were living there at the time of settlement.  Observers described the Indians as both savage and hospitable; violence battled with diplomacy as the preferred way to navigate these tumultuous interactions.  As the inhabitants of the New Plymouth Colony moved out from their original location, their encounters with greater numbers of natives set up a recurring cycle that was not to end until the Indians were either eliminated or pushed away from the areas settled by the English at the end of the 17th century.

The early years were also characterized by the constant struggle to grow, trap, shoot, dig, or catch adequate food to feed the inhabitants of the colony.  The colony was almost wiped out during the first winter after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth; almost half of the settlers died that first winter.  Although subsequent years were to be better than those first few months, famine was never far away.

The death of King James I in England in 1625 set the stage for further immigration into Massachusetts.  His successor, Charles I, was pro-Catholic and anti-reformist, and when he dissolved Parliament in 1629 in an effort to neutralize his opponents, many Puritans began to make plans to leave the country.  Between 1629 and 1640 (when Charles I called Parliament into session again), an estimated 80,000 Puritans left England, with roughly an even number going to Ireland, the West Indies, Holland, and New England.  After 1640, emigration to New England reduced sharply, but the population of Massachusetts continued to grow, from approximately 9,000 in 1640 to 55,000 in 1700.

Everything I have read about Barnstable County in the 17th century identifies it as a farming and fishing community; in those early days, almost everyone in the county made their living either off the land or from the sea.  Those who did not pursue these two avenues made their living from the people who did farm or fish – by being lumberman or blacksmiths or tailors or tavern keepers or clergy.

Town of Sandwich:

The Town of Sandwich

Sandwich was founded in 1637 by approximately 60 families from the Plymouth Colony, including my paternal 11th great-grandfather, Edmond Freeman. Many of them came from the town of Saugus (north of Boston, where the town of Lynn is located today).  The town was incorporated in 1639.  A plaque honoring the Ten Men from Saugus (historically recognized as the founders of the town) hangs in the town hall of Sandwich My guy Edmond Freeman is at the top of the list. Here’s a picture of this plaque:

Great-grandpa Edmond occupies a place of honor on this plaque

Sandwich gained the reputation of being a town generally more tolerant of religious diversity than the rest of New Plymouth Colony.  In the 1650s, Sandwich became the home of the first Quaker community in Massachusetts after a group of Quakers who had been expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony settled there.

The travails associated with King Philip’s War in New England in 1675-76 largely bypassed Sandwich, due in part to the efforts of another of my ancestors, (in this case a collateral ancestor, my 9th great-uncle Richard Bourne) who became known as the “Praying Indians Pastor” for his missionary work among the Mashpee Indians.  The town of Mashpee in Barnstable County was originally founded as an Indian reservation.  Even today, 6.3% of the Mashpee population identifies as Native American, compared to .3% Native American in the neighboring town of Sandwich.

Town of Yarmouth:

The Town of Yarmouth

Yarmouth was incorporated at the same time as Sandwich – 1639.  Originally named Mattacheese, the town was renamed Yarmouth in 1640.  It was originally settled by 28 families who moved there from other towns in Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Yarmouth had the advantage of straddling Cape Cod, with open water access both to the north and the south.  Because it could take advantage of both fertile farmland and good access to fishing and waterfowl, the residents did not suffer the kind of food insecurity sometimes faced by other parts of the county.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Yarmouth in the 17th century:

“In 1642 and 1645, Yarmouth furnished soldiers for the Plymouth Colony’s expeditions against the Narragansett. In 1648, the Plymouth Colony’s legislature, the General Court, appointed Myles Standish to adjudicate land disputes among the Yarmouth settlers. Yarmouth soldiers served the Plymouth Colony in King Philip’s War: fifteen Yarmouth men participated in the Great Swamp Fight without casualties, but the town did lose five men at Rehoboth. Yarmouth troops also saw service in the early years of King William’s War.  In the early eighteenth century, some of the Yarmouth veterans of King Philip’s War were granted lands to settle in Gorham, Maine.”

My Ancestors in Barnstable County

As the pedigree charts earlier in this essay illustrate, I have a lot of ancestors who lived in Barnstable County during the 17th century.  My direct ancestors had all moved away from Barnstable by the early years in the 18th century, relocating both to other parts of Massachusetts and to other colonies.  The following descriptions focus on the earliest individual in each family line; within the body of each entry, I’ll identify the members of the later generations who stayed in Barnstable County.  In each case, the information I provide is the best that I have on each of these people.  I welcome any information that sets me straight on any of these folks.

Francis Baker (1611-1696)

My paternal 9th great-grandfather Francis Baker was born in Hertfordshire, England (north of London, between London and Cambridge) and died in Yarmouth, Massachusetts.  He arrived in Massachusetts on the ship Planter in 1635.  He was initially a tailor, then became a cooper.  Later in his life, he was a surveyor of highways and a freeman. He married Isabel Twining (1615-1706) in Yarmouth in 1641.  They had at least eight and possibly as many as eleven children, including my 8th great grandfather John Baker (1645-1712), who was their fourth child.  John’s son Jonathan Baker (1679-1754) lived his entire life in Barnstable County. According to an early historian of  Barnstable County, the descendants of Francis and Isabel “may be numbered by the tens of thousands.  None of them have been very distinguished, but among them will be found very many able seamen and good businessmen.”  Not a ringing endorsement, but I’ll take it.

Thomas Burgess (1603-1684)

My paternal 11th great-grandfather Thomas Burgess was born in Cornwall, on the west coast of England and died in Sandwich, Massachusetts.  He married Dorothy Waynes (1603-1685) in 1628 (probably in Cornwall) and came to Massachusetts with his family in 1637.  He came to Sandwich in that year with the Ten Men from Saugus (mentioned above), although his name is not on the plaque.  He lived in the part of Sandwich that later became part of the town of Bourne and owned a great deal of land there.  He and Dorothy had at least 10 children (three before they came to Massachusetts and the rest in Sandwich), including my 10th great-grandmother Elizabeth Burgess (1625-1689)Elizabeth lived her entire life in Sandwich.

Rebecca Freeman (1650-1738)

My paternal 9th great-grandmother Rebecca Freeman lived her entire life in Barnstable County.  Her grandfather, Thomas Prence (1600-1673), had come to Plymouth in 1621 on the ship Fortune.  Her grandmother, Patience Brewster (1600-1634), was the oldest daughter of Elder William Brewster, spiritual leader of the Plymouth colonists who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620.  She married Ezra Perry Jr.  (referenced below) in 1673.  They had 10 children, including my 8th great-grandfather Benjamin Perry (1669-1740).

John Marchant (1595-1645)

My paternal 9th great-grandfather John Marchant was born in Rotherfield, Sussex, England (South of London and about 25 miles inland from the English Channel) and died in Yarmouth in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.  He married Sarah Curtis (1599- ??) in Rotherfield and they had several children there before coming to Massachusetts.  John lived in several different locations in New England – including Braintree, MA, and Newport, RI – before settled in Yarmouth in 1648.  He served as constable in Yarmouth.  He and Sarah had arrived in Massachusetts in the 1620s – I think.  It is difficult to track a man named “Marchant;” the vagaries of spelling in the 17th century mean that sources could very well be talking about a man called John the Merchant when I think they’re talking about John Marchant.  His children and grandchildren did not stay in Barnstable – many of them end up in Dukes County (Martha’s Vineyard) over the next two generations.

Edmund Perry (1599-1659)

My 11th great-grandfather Edmund Perry was born in Devon, England (in the western part of England, near Exeter) and died in Sandwich in Barnstable County. He married Sarah Crowell (1592-1659) (I think that’s her last name but I don’t know for sure) in England before coming to Massachusetts in the 1630s.  By 1644, several of the children of Edmund and Sarah are noted as living in Sandwich, including my 10th great-grandfather Ezra Perry (1625-1689), who was their first child.  He was probably born in England and emigrated with his parents.

I don’t know much for certain about Edmund, although there is more information about his descendants, who stayed in Sandwich for three generations.  His son Ezra, who married Elizabeth Burgess (mentioned above) served Sandwich as a minister and as constable.  His grandson, also named Ezra (1652-1729), married Rebecca Freeman (mentioned above).  I don’t know very much about this Ezra, although his father’s will left all of his property to his two oldest siblings (Benjamin and Remember Perry) while leaving Ezra only one shilling.  Edmund’s great-grandson Benjamin Perry (1669-1740), who was born in Sandwich, was the first of Edmund’s descendants to leave the town; he was buried in Stoughton, in Norfolk County, and several of his children lived there.  It is possible that he moved to be near his children as he aged, although I can’t prove that.

Rebecca Prence (1627-1652)

My 10th great-grandmother Rebecca Prence was born in Plymouth and died in Sandwich. She was the daughter of Thomas Prence and Patience Brewster (mentioned in the paragraph about Rebecca Freeman, above).  She married Edmund Freeman III (1620-1673) in Sandwich in 1646, and they had only two children – including my 9th great-grandmother,  Rebecca Freeman (1650-1738), by the time she died at the age of 22.  It may be that the birth of Rebecca led to her death, as this birth and Rebecca Prence’s death both occurred in 1650.

William Swift (1593-1642)

My 10th great-grandfather William Swift was born in Bermondsey, St. Mary Magdeline Parish, Surrey, England (now part of London) and died in Sandwich, Massachusetts.  He married Joan (I’m not sure of her last name) in England in 1626; one story suggests that he and Joan had both lost their spouses and children in a plague epidemic in the year before they married.  I haven’t done much research into this, but a quick look shows that there was a plague outbreak in London in 1625 and that St. Mary Magdeline Parish was one of the sites that showed increased plague deaths during this outbreak.  William and Joan had several children in England before they came to Massachusetts as part of the first wave of the Puritan Great Migration, probably in 1634, and settled first in Watertown.  In 1637, he sold his land in Watertown and joined the other families who settled in Sandwich.  When the lots of land were distributed in Sandwich, he received the largest lot in the town.

William and Joan had (possibly) 13 children, including my 9th great-grandfather, also named William Swift (1619-1705).  (I say possibly because I haven’t been able to disentangle the children that William had with Joan from the children they had in their earlier marriages.  If my information on my 9th great-grandfather William is correct, either he was not Joan’s son or William and Joan were married earlier than 1625, as I have 1619 as the year William was born.  More research required here!)

Two more generations of Swifts lived in Sandwich until William’s granddaughter, Dinah Swift (1669-1740), married Benjamin Perry (mentioned above) and moved away from Sandwich.

Richard Taylor (1618-1673)

My paternal 8th great-grandfather Richard Taylor was born in England (I’m not sure where) and died in Yarmouth, Massachusetts.  I’m not sure when he came to Massachusetts.  After he settled in Yarmouth, he married Mary Wheldon (1621-1673) in 1645.  Mary was the daughter of Gabriel Wheldon (1590-1654) of Malden in Middlesex County. Richard was a tailor by trade, interestingly enough.  He is identified in many records as Richard “the tailor” Taylor, to differentiate him from another Richard Taylor – known as Richard “the Rock” Taylor, — who was a farmer in Yarmouth at the same time and who married Mary Wheldon’s sister Ruth.  “My” Richard and his wife Mary had at least nine children, including my 7th great-grandmother Mary Taylor (1650-1717), who was their second child.  Mary moved away from Yarmouth when she married Abishai Marchant (1650-1712), the grandson of John Marchant (mentioned above).

Just to keep things confusing, around 1655 both Richard Taylors joined their brothers-in-law in a lawsuit against the widow of their father-in-law Gabriel Wheldon for withholding part of Wheldon’s estate.  Both Richards also became freemen in Yarmouth – one in 1652 and the other in 1656.  The records of Yarmouth contain several mentions of Richard Taylor; this is probably Richard “the tailor;” the other Richard, a poor farmer, was probably not involved in town matters.


Week 1: January 3, 2020 Augusta County, Virginia

Augusta County, Virginia, lies in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  It was formed in 1738 from Orange County, which lies in the central part of the state. (Orange County itself had been formed only four years earlier – things were changing very rapidly in Virginia.) The county was named for Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, the mother of King George III of England (who would become King before the American Revolution).  Augusta had married Frederick (Prince of Wales) in 1736, the second newly added county (to the north of August) was named Frederick.

Augusta County Va map 1


This physical map of Virginia shows the geographic features that impacted the settlement of Augusta County.  It lies to the west of the first range of the Blue Ridge, which was an impediment to earlier settlement of the valley.

Augusta County Va map 2


As early as 1716, the self-proclaimed “Knights of the Golden Horseshoe,” under the leadership of acting Royal Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood, had crossed the first range of the Blue Ridge at Swift Run Gap (at the eastern edge of what would become Augusta County, about 30 miles north of modern-day Charlottesville, Virginia).  Virginia, which had been settled by Europeans for more than 100 years, had been experiencing what the residents perceived as population pressure as more and more immigrants arrived from England and increasing numbers of landless men from the older parts of the colony moved west in search of land.

It is likely that Spotswood and his men were less interested in gaining more land for the residents of his colony and more interested in claiming the Valley to fend off the French, who were coming to dominate the Ohio Valley (just on the other side of the mountains).

At roughly the same time, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians (who were fleeing Ireland after decades of religious persecution) had begun to make their way to America, settling first in the Philadelphia area.  They were not entirely welcomed by the original settlers of Pennsylvania – the Quakers seemed to take a specific dislike to them – and they soon moved down the Great Wagon Road (sometimes called the Great Valley Road) into the valley of Virginia.   Here’s the route of this road:

Great Wagon Road Map

Virginia was not a bastion of religious toleration in the 1730s, but the Shenandoah Valley was quite distant from the population centers in the eastern part of the colony, and settlers there could count on being pretty much left alone by the powerful people in the colony.

At the time of this earliest settlement of Augusta County, the agricultural value of the land was unknown – no one had tried to farm it in any systematic fashion.  However, the natural growth of trees and meadows spoke to the likely fertility of the soil, and attracted interest. At that time abundant wildlife filled the Valley — including herds of buffalo that had not yet been chased to the West and to virtual extermination over the next two centuries.

The first documented white settlement in Augusta County is in 1732, when some Germans from Pennsylvania claimed land on the side of Massanutten Mountain just east of Staunton.  In the early years of the area’s settlement, land ownership was not formalized, and settlers simply claimed land as they moved to it.  As the county’s population increased, the need surfaced for a more regularized form of land ownership, and disagreements with the planter aristocracy from the eastern parts of the colony continued over some years.

One key figure in the settlement of the county illustrates the haphazard pattern of settlement; James Patton, an Irishman who sailed from Hobbs Hole, Virginia (just east of the fall line on the Rappahannock River in the eastern part of the state), made 25 crossings of the Atlantic, bringing hundreds of Irish immigrants who worked off their time as indentured servants in the Valley of Virginia.

Key Events in Augusta County

In compiling a narrative history of Augusta County, it is important to recognize that events described as occurring in the county did not necessarily occur within the current boundaries of the county.  As the following maps illustrate, the territory labeled “Augusta County” changed rapidly in the middle of the 18th century.

VA Map 1730

The map below shows the growth of the United States as late as 1770; the line slanting to the northwest from the middle of Virginia is the border between Augusta County (northeast of the line) and Botetourt County (southwest of the line).

US Map 1738


Apparently Augusta County went on forever, far past the 1763 Proclamation Line.  I am pretty sure that some of my ancestors on this part of my family tree lived west of the Proclamation Line both before and after 1763.

Augusta County Map 1770


This was the county map of Virginia at the beginning of the American Revolution:

Augusta County Map 1776

This is what the Virginia counties looked like at the time of the formation of the new state of Kentucky.  At this point, Augusta County has boundaries almost identical to those of today.

Augusta County Map 1791

From 1753 until 1764, Augusta County experienced what were known locally as the “Indian Wars.”  Although traditionally no Indian nations claimed the land in the Shenandoah Valley, several tribes hunted on the land and fought over access to it.  As the white population in the area grew, it impinged on the hunting rights and free access that the Indians had counted on for centuries.  When white settlement increased, the enmity of the Indians focused on the white settlers who were impeding anyone else’s access to the land.

The first well-known skirmish with the Indians took place in 1755, when George Washington accompanied British General Braddock to the Ohio River in an effort to scout the French settlement there.  The French were joined by 100 or so Indians in rebuffing Washington’s foray, in which General Braddock was killed.  The remaining troops withdrew under Washington’s leadership to Virginia.  This was the beginning of what the Americans’ called the French and Indian War and what the rest of the world called the Seven Years War.

In the Valley, Augusta men were encouraged by Governor Dinwiddie to fight the Indians.  These were violent times in the Valley.  Although the French and Indian War is counted as one of the most important military conflicts of the pre-Revolutionary era, it was most significant to Virginians, whose leaders were most interested in gaining access to the land in the Ohio Valley that was at that time controlled by the French.  Apparently large numbers of settlers in Augusta County abandoned their land in the Valley and fled east, back over the Blue Ridge, at least temporarily, to escape the Indian attacks.

The Indian Wars cooled down with the end of the French and Indian War and the establishment of the Proclamation Line of 1763.  The British didn’t want white settlers to move beyond the Proclamation Line because of the continued danger to these settlers from the French and the Indians who, despite their defeat in the war, were still a threat to British expansion.

Map Proclamation Line 1763


However, events a decade later, in 1774, further disturbed Augusta County.  A 1768 treaty that attempted to acknowledge native claims to use the land beyond the Appalachian chain as a hunting ground resulted in pacification of the area for a while, and white settlement into the trans-mountain area surged.  In 1773, Daniel Boone famously led the first party of white settlers into what was then Kentucky County, Virginia (later to become the state of Kentucky).  Boone followed a route that came to be identified as the Wilderness Road, and his party was subjected to Indian attacks, one of which resulted in the death of his 16-year-old son.  This tragedy began a series of skirmishes between Indians and white settlers that came to be called “Lord Dunmore’s War,” which many historians see as a precursor to the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” at Lexington and Concord a year later.

Wilderness Road and Great Valley Road Map

My Ancestors in Augusta County

So this is the situation in which my Augusta County ancestors lived in the second half of the 18th century.  My ancestors in Augusta County include the following individuals.  The first seven are from my Ellefritz family tree):

Joseph Wilson (1720-1798) (5th great-grandfather)

  • I don’t know anything definite about Joseph.

Ephraim Wilson (1750-1816) (4th great-grandfather)

  • I don’t have evidence of when or where he was born or who his parents were. I think there were two Ephraim Wilsons in Augusta County during this time period and I can’t tease them out.
  • One Ephraim Wilson served in the American Revolution from 1775-1783, identified as a private in the 1st Virginia Regiment in a number of documents from this time period. This regiment fought under George Washington in his New York campaign, including the battles of Princeton, Trenton, and White Plains.
  • The regiment then retreated to spend the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. I cannot place Ephraim at all of these places, but since his enlistment period covers this time period I am assuming that he participated in these battles.
  • After the war, Ephraim and his wife Agnes, who were married in Augusta County in 1777, left Augusta County and lived briefly in Bourbon County, Kentucky. They then moved to Greene County, Tennessee. Ephraim appears as a signatory to a letter petitioning for the formation of a new state of “Franklin,” projected to encompass the following counties:
  • 8 Counties of the State of Franklin


  • This state was never formed, and all of these counties are now in Eastern Tennessee.
  • Ephraim’s will was probated in Greene County, Tennessee, in July of 1816. He disposed of his property by giving his wife, Agnes, authority to administer his estate; the only specific bequests he made were to his grand-daughters, to each of whom he left “a negro and her increase for ever,” and to his grandson, to whom he left “a negro boy.” He directed that his property be sold or divided at Agnes’s death.

James F. Wilson (1792-1852) (3rd great-grandfather)

I don’t really know anything about James Wilson, either.

Although the Wilson name appears in the lists of founders, prominent land-holders, and public figures of the county, I have not been able to link “my” Wilsons up to the better-known members of the family. Court records identify William Wilson as a “gentleman” and “one of the justices” in 1754, but his name is not in the official records of the justices at this time. Reverend William Wilson is identified as a minister in 1805 records; Reverend James Wilson is also noted in records through 1840. Apparently following family tradition, Reverend Joseph Wilson served through 1854. George Wilson, “gentleman”, was involved in a court action in 1776.

Several men bearing the Wilson surname were involved in Lord Dunmore’s War (1774) and in Virginia units during the American Revolution. John Wilson is noted as having been buried in the “Old Glebe burying ground”, and he is described as a member of the House of Burgesses for 17 years – which dates back to the organization of Augusta County in 1745. The earliest evidence of Wilsons in Augusta was in 1739, when John Wilson received 540 acres of land in two grants.

Agnes Kirkpatrick (1750-1816) (4th great-grandmother)

  • Everything I don’t know about Ephraim Wilson, I equally don’t know about Agnes. She is indicated as owning land in Augusta County and as dying in Tennessee.  I think this might be an Agnes married to the wrong Ephraim.

Benjamin Stuart (1732-1813) (5th great-grandfather)

  • He was apparently born in Spotsylvania County but moved to Augusta County. He shows up on the Revolutionary War rolls from the 1st Virginia regiment.
  • He is mentioned as one of the “subscribers” who pledged to support Dr. James Waddell of Tinkling Springs congregation, near Staunton. He is mentioned one other time as part of a group that was involved in the purchase of land associated with the church

Charles Stuart (1774-1840) (4th great-grandfather)

  • One record shows that he was born in 1774 in Kentucky County, Virginia. This is almost definitely incorrect. I have good evidence that he was married in Kentucky and raised his family there.

Elizabeth Stuart (1797-1862) (3rd great-grandmother)

  • Yeah, once again, nothing concrete.

Charles Simpson (1751-1810) (5th great-grandfather)

  • Same

Philadelphia Simpson (1776-1849)(4th great-grandmother)

  • Same

Here’s how they connect:

Augusta County Ellefritz lineage pedigree chart
William Wilson (on the left in the tree above) is my paternal 2nd great-grandfather. He died in Hancock County, Illinois,  where my father’s family lived for almost 100 years before they moved to Arizona in the 1930s.

My other two Augusta County ancestors are connected to me through my Anthis family line.  The name “Coil” was changed over the generations to “Kyle;” my mother’s great-grandmother was Susan Overman Kile (later changed to Kyle).

Valentine (Felty) Coil (1715-1766) (5th great-grandfather)

  • Valentine Coil immigrated to America on the ship Edinburgh and landed at the port in Philadelphia on September 15, 1749.  He brought with him from Rotterdam, Holland his wife Margaret and their children Gabriel, Jacob, George, Martin, Elizabeth, and Barbary, settling in the colony of Virginia. Felty and his three oldest sons, Gabriel, Jacob, and George served in the militia of Augusta County in 1756. From records in the Augusta court the four men appear to have supplied the militia with flour, potatoes and beef for the company during the time of their service. In 1761 Felty purchased two tracts of land from James Trimble containing 230 acres located on the South Branch of the Potomac River above Trout Rock. The family became established on their new farm in Augusta County where Felty was naturalized August 22, 1764.  He died in Augusta 2 years later and is buried there.

Jacob Coil (Goil) (1734-1810) (4th great-grandfather)

  • Jacob was one of the sons who accompanied his family to America in 1749. He married Margaret Collup in Virginia (probably in Augusta County) in 1763, but appears to have moved to Pendleton County shortly thereafter.  He died in Pendleton and is buried there.

Here’s how they connect:

Augusts County Kyle lineage pedigree chart
My paternal great-grandmother, Susan Overman Kile, was the great-granddaughter of Jacob Coil

This has turned out to be a not-very-auspicious beginning of this blog series.  I don’t know very much concrete at all about my ancestors in Augusta County, Virginia — even that I really have ancestors in Augusta County, Virginia.  Fortunately, Augusta County is only about three hours from where I live, so I guess a research trip is in order.



INTRODUCTION to “52 Locations in 52 Weeks”

My genealogy research can best be described as “an embarrassment of riches.”  I have traced all my family lines back to pre-Revolutionary America, in 11 of the 13 original colonies (only Delaware and Georgia didn’t make the cut).  I have written a dozen family histories about various aspects of my family tree, and I still find that I am struggling to make sense of this information.

As I have been doing my research over the past 6 years or so, I constantly run into new and creative ways to organize my research.  One approach that I’ve been reading about for a couple of years now is to write one blog post a week focusing on specific aspects of a family tree, so that at the end of a year you have an organized volume of work that answers important questions about your ancestors.  Some people have picked an ancestor a week; others have selected people from specific parts of the country, or specific family lines.  None of these caught my attention so I continued to look around.

While I was looking around, I began a new project – I called it Over the Hill, and it focused on the generation of my ancestors who moved from the colonies on the east coast to the interior states during the 50 years after the American Revolution.  As I began to try to make sense of where and why they moved, I found myself digging into the locations they came from.

I realized that I couldn’t understand their movement until I understood their origins, and I came up with the idea of writing about 52 locations that were significant in my family history.

I began to make a list of the counties that were important to my family and came up with 52 without having to stretch too much.  These counties were in all of the colonies in which my ancestors settled as immigrants – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina – as well as in the states where their travels took them after the Revolution – Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona.

Each of the chapters in this collection focuses on one of the counties, and for each county I have tried to do at least four things:

  1. Set the county in space and time. Where is it and when was it settled?
  2. Explore the evolution of the county’s boundaries. How did its boundaries change over time and what challenges does this pose to research in the county?
  3. Describe the county as it existed when my ancestors settled there. How did the people live? What were its resources and economic base?  How was it impacted by larger events – what national or world issues influenced population changes in the county? What impact did those larger events had on the way of life of the people who lived in the county?
  4. Identify my ancestors whose families lived in these counties. Which ones lived there at the same time, and were they geographically close to each other?  Did they live in the same towns or attend the same churches?

Here’s the outline for these 52 blog posts.

52 weeks outline page 1

52 weeks outline page 2

We Think It’s Hard Now!

I have been “doing” genealogy seriously for only about seven years, but I have known about genealogy for a long time, ever since Thelma C. Anderson published her meticulously researched Workman Family History in 1962.  In almost 900 pages Ms. Anderson documented the Workman family, which came to America in the 1640s, settling in New Amsterdam and beginning a family history that spanned 12 generations and established a presence in 48 of the 50 states in the United States – only New Hampshire and Vermont are left out, and Rhode Island squeaks in with only one Workman appearing in the book.

My mother’s maiden name was Workman, and as a family member she received a copy of Thelma Anderson’s book when it was published.  I remember paging through it randomly when I was still living at home, wondering at all of the names and other information in the book, but not thinking too much about it.

Here’s an example of what can be found in the Workman Family History – this is page 73, showing my grandfather, his three children, and their children.  I am the Karen Sue Arnold highlighted in yellow in this image:

Workman Family History snip of page 73, my immediate family

This book illustrates an organizational approach to genealogy that I had no knowledge of the time, but which I understand today.  It is an Ahnentafel (German for “ancestor table”) that allows you to trace each entry to an ancestor in the tree.  For example, this Ahnentafel tells that my mother Violet Henrietta Workman (number 209) is the daughter of Thomas Calvin Workman II (187), who is the son of Thomas Calvin (154), the son of James Abraham (121), the son of James (116), the son of Abraham (69), the son of Jacob (6), the son of Abraham (1) – the first of the line that Ms. Anderson was able to construct in America.  If I want to learn more about each person on this page, I just have to find the reference number (116 for James, for example) and go to the page where his information appears.

A note about the lineage before Abraham – by all accounts, she got this wrong.  She identifies the Workman family in New Amsterdam as being descended from English and Irish ancestors, and later research proved that this was incorrect.  There were people with the surname Workman living in Ireland and England at the time, and some of them may have come to America, but they were almost certainly not the ancestors of her (and my) Workmans.  I don’t fault her for this – her work is of enormous importance to my understanding of my ancestors, and the fact that later research has altered our understanding of who our earliest Workmans in America were is of little importance.  I assume that, had she had access to the information that we have access to today, she would have drawn different conclusions.

Ms. Anderson was working in the era before computers, when all genealogy research was done by letter, phone call, or physical searching in libraries, archives, courthouses, and people’s houses.

In the introduction to her book, Ms. Anderson talks about how this book came to be.  She describes her mother, Mary E. Workman (1883-1956), as a “fragile” child growing up in Utah, who spent a lot of time in bed recovering from various illnesses and accidents.  To occupy the child, her father put her to work, recording facts and information about her immediate family.  Mary’s family had come to Utah as part of the Mormon migration there in the middle of the 18th century, and the family had a strong sense of family history.

When she reached adulthood, she married and had five children, putting aside her family research for a time.  Her husband died unexpectedly in 1913, leaving her to raise her children by herself.  This she did by becoming a schoolteacher.  But she never forgot her early interest in family history, and secured a teaching position near Salt Lake City, where even in the early part of the 20th century the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) were establishing a genealogical research library. In 1856, her grandfather Jacob Lindsay Workman (who was part of this Mormon migration from Illinois to Salt Lake City) had compiled a family history that Mary was able to use as the nucleus for her research.

By 1920 Mary and her father had created a Workman Family Organization formed around the descendants of John Workman, the earliest family member to come to Utah in the late 1840s.  At their first meeting, the group collected a small fund to allow Mary to make a research trip to gather more information about the family.  She went to Ohio that summer, where a branch of the family had settled in the early 19th century, and collected a lot of information there.  On this trip she met a distant cousin, Delmon S. Workman of Danville, Ohio, who was to become an important part of her research – and of her life.

Mary went back to Ohio in 1925, this time accompanied by her daughter Thelma (the eventual author of the Workman Family History).  They gathered information in Ohio, but also expanded their travels to Kentucky and Tennessee, where branches of the family had lived.  Delmon Workman and his wife Hattie became collaborators in this work and traveled with them.  However, Hattie soon died, and Delmon traveled to Salt Lake City to try to persuade Mary to retire from teaching and to pursue her genealogy research full-time.  She agreed to do this, and after she and Delmon were wed (in 1927) they spent the rest of their lives doing genealogy research.  Before Delmon’s death in 1939, they had collected thousands of documents, written hundreds of pages about their findings, and founded several chapters of the Workman Family Organization in Ohio.

They tried for years to find an avenue to publish their research, but were unsuccessful.  However, Mary’s daughter Thelma picked up the project and was able to get backing from a variety of sources to compile the research and produce the book.  Mary died in 1956, before the book was published in 1962.

I have found copies of the Workman Family History in a number of genealogy libraries, including the Library of Virginia (Richmond, VA), the Clayton Genealogy Library (Houston Texas), and the Oklahoma Territorial Museum Library (Guthrie, OK).  I assume it is in the collection of many other libraries across the country.

So hats off to Mary Workman Chidester Workman, Delmon S. and Hattie Workman, and Thelma Chidester Anderson.  They left us a precious document and gave us information to work with as we move forward in documenting our family history.

Tracking My Family’s Movement

As I have worked on my genealogy research over the past six years, I have discovered a pattern that makes my research both more complex and more interesting than I thought it would be.

I knew almost nothing about my family tree before I retired and had time to pursue this hobby that has come to occupy virtually all my free time.  I knew my mother’s family had come to New Amsterdam in the 17th century; a genealogist has written and published a comprehensive family history in the 1960s, and every family member received a copy of it.  We had that book around the house while I was growing up, and I thumbed through it occasionally, but I didn’t study it in any detail and didn’t pay much attention to the information it contained.

I knew next to nothing about my father’s family – the most recent surnames were classically English and German, and I assumed that meant my ancestors had come from England and Germany.  But I had no idea when they came or where they settled.


That all has changed a great deal.  I discovered that both my mother’s and father’s families were in America in the 17th century – and that they settled in 11 of the original 13 colonies (only Delaware and Georgia failed to make the cut).  I then discovered that literally none of them stayed put in the areas where they originally settled; I had no direct ancestors still residing east of the Appalachian Mountains by the 1840s.  Every one of them had moved west – to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee – and after the Civil War they had continued moving – to Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The Great Depression led both of my parents’ families to become part of the “Depression Diaspora” as economic hard times moved them to Arizona – my mother’s family migrating from south Texas in 1931 for reasons of health and poverty, my father’s family leaving western Illinois where no one in the family had a job in 1936.

My parents met in Tucson in the late 1930s and married there in 1940.  World War II relocated them as it did many people in their situation, leading them to move to the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, by 1945.  My older brother, my younger sister, and I were born there over the next 10 years.  We all stayed in Virginia through our early adulthood; my brother moved on, never to return to Virginia permanently, while my sister lived in North Carolina for 30 years until she moved back to Virginia 15 years ago.  My parents lived in Virginia until their deaths – my father in 2001, my mother in 2012.   I have lived in Virginia my entire life.

5 generation where people lived chart

This chart, reading from right to left, shows where my ancestors lived over the course of their lives.  For example, the top line shows that my father’s great-grandparents (my 2nd great grandparents), lived in Maine, Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, and then moved back to Illinois, where they died.  Their son, my great-grandfather, was born while they were living in Illinois, moved to Ohio, Illinois, and Kansas with his parents, and then lived the rest of his life in Illinois.  His son, my grandfather, was born in Illinois and lived in Arizona, where he died.  His son, my father, was born in Illinois, and lived in Arizona before moving to Virginia, where he died. I (the red box on the left) have lived my entire life in Virginia.

How They Moved Around

For my current genealogical research project, which I’m calling Over the Hill, I’m researching how my ancestors (generally 3rd great-grandparents) moved from the eastern seaboard, where all of my family lines lived before the American Revolution, to the West – the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys – by 1830.  I think I’ve figured out one thing today that I want to share with you and get your reactions.

I have ancestors who lived in Maine and Vermont in the 1790s or so and ended up in Ohio by 1830.  An overland route seemed very difficult.  So I began looking at possible water routes.

Lake Champlain (on the border between Vermont and New York) connects to the St. Lawrence River by the Richelieu River.  I thought that they maybe could travel north to the St. Lawrence and then west through the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie to Ohio.

Then I discovered a couple of things:

  1. The Champlain Canal (connecting Lake Champlain with the Hudson River) was opened in 1823, on the same date the Erie Canal was opened.  This provided a water route between Lake Champlain and Lake Erie.
  2. The Erie and Ohio Canal (in Ohio, eventually connecting Lake Erie and the Ohio River) was opened between 1825, and the first leg of this canal went from Lake Erie to Newark, Ohio, in Licking County (which is where my ancestors moved to when they left Maine and Vermont.)
  3. If they went up the Richelieu River to the St. Lawrence and then west by boat to Lake Ontario, they would then have encountered the need for a portage around Niagara Falls, between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie on their way west. But the Welland Canal, which completely bypasses Niagara Falls to provide a navigable waterway between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, was also built around 1830.

So what do you all think of this as a possible route for people to get from east to west in the 1820s and 1830s?