Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ephraim Kingsbury (1681-1756) (52 Ancestors, #32)

Ephraim Kingsbury > Rachel Kingsbury > Esther Laurence > George Palmer Ransom > Samuel Ransom > Jameson Harvey Ransom > Charles Francis Ransom > Lillian Emma Ransom > Charles Lloyd Walters

Ephraim Kingsbury was born on April 13, 1681 in Haverhill, Massachusetts to James and Sarah (Button) Kingsbury. By 1699, the family had moved to Plainfield, Connecticut. He married Phebe Main, probably around 1700-1702 as their first child, Ephraim Jr, was born Oct. 15, 1702.

By 1709 Ephraim was voting for town officers. Between 1720 and 1741, he was selected 17 times to serve as Plainfield's representative to the General Assembly (selections were made in May and October). His daughter’s father-in-law, Daniel Lawrence, was also a representative during this same time. Ephraim was also part of a committee that selected a new location for the meeting house.

His will was dated March 5, 1756 and it was brought to the courts on October 8, 1756, so Ephraim died sometime during that time. He leaves his estate to his wife, Phebe. After her death, the estate was to be divided between daughters Phebe Cady and Rachel Lawrence. He had previously given his sons Ephraim and John a "deed of gift" which was to go to their heirs. His grandson, William Cady was to be executor.

Sources: Massachusetts Vital Records,; Connecticut, Births and Christenings,; The Genealogy of the Descendants of Henry Kingsbury, of Ipswich and Haverhill by Frederick John Kingsbury, 1905, Google Books

Monday, September 15, 2014

Richard “Bull” Smith, founder of Smithtown, NY (52 Ancestors, #31)

Richard Smith > Job Smith > James Smith > Temperance Smith > Keturah Tuthill > Elizabeth Lamoreaux > Samuel Ransom > Jameson Harvey Ransom > Charles Francis Ransom > Lillian Emma Ransom > Charles Lloyd Walters

The early life of Richard remains unclear, although tradition says he was born in York, England and that his father fought alongside Cromwell. After coming to the colonies, Richard may have resided in Boston for a short time before moving to Long Island.

According to the History of Long Island, Richard was a resident of Southampton, NY until 1656 when he was ordered to leave due to his "unreverend carriage towards the Magistrates." From here he moved to Setauket, NY before settling in an area on Long Island that would come to bear his name, Smithtown.

Richard is sometimes referred to as "Bull" Smith and there are several legends surrounding the man and his nickname. One tradition says he was called “Bull” because he rode a bull instead of a horse. Some stories carry this further, saying that before the founding of Smithtown, the local Native Americans’ told Richard he could have whatever land he could encircle from the back of a bull. Whatever the truth behind his name, it has become a piece of the history of Smithtown and a statue of a bull can still be found, in honor of the city's founder.

There was some disagreement over the rightful ownership of the land Richard claimed was his. In a document signed May 4, 1665, Richard states that he bought the land from Lyon Gardiner, a prominent settler and soldier. Meanwhile, some of the Native Americans said the land belonged to them, while others believed the land had been rightfully sold to Richard. In the end, Richard "thought good to buy the land" for which he paid one gun, one kettle, ten coats, one blanket, three hands of powder and three hands of lead.

Richard and his wife Sarah had at least 9 children. Richard probably died in 1693, as his will was proven on May 2, 1693.

Below I've included Richard’s entire will. It is a typical will of the day, “misspellings” and all. (Standardized spelling didn't come along until later, even in proper names. The will belongs to “Richard Smith” but it is signed “Richard Smyth.”)

One thing I noticed with Richard’s will that differs from other wills I've read, is that it seems to be written from both Richard and Sarah. The will asks that “our” bodies received a decent burial and items are given to “our children.” While Sarah’s name and seal are included at the close of the will, there is no mention of her in the will itself. Usually, when the wife is still alive, there are some provisions made for her. Maybe it was thought that Sarah wouldn't long outlive her husband, but in actuality, she outlived Richard by a number of years.
The will opens with Richard saying he is “of sound and perfect memory” and gives the reminder that it is God’s will that determines how long everyone lives.

When reading these old wills, I always find it interesting to see the differences in what each child is given. As was fairly common, the eldest son, Jonathan, was given a larger portion that his siblings. Also fairly common, and sadly so, two of the sons were each bequeathed a slave. Most of the children were given a specific piece of land along with “a share of land in division with the rest of the children,” however son Adam only received a share of the land. I wonder why he was given such a smaller portion. (There could be a number of reasons for this. Maybe there was a disagreement in the family, or maybe Richard had simply given Adam his share prior to his death.) 

Richard’s two daughters received land as well as his clothing which suggests how valuable clothing was in the day, especially when it was the only household item singled out in the will. Sons Jonathan and Richard were named executors and it was their duty to pay Richard’s debts and see that the estate was divided among the children.

The Will of Richard Smith
March the 5th 1691-2. In the name of God, Amen.

I Richard Smith Sen'r of Smithtown in the County of Suffolk on Long Island, in the Province of New York, being sick & weake in body but of sound and perfect memory, thanks be to God, calling to mind the uncertain state of this life and that we must submit to God's will when it shall please him to call us out of this life, doe make constitute and ordain this our land will & testament, hereby revoking and anulling any former or other Will or Testament made by us either by word or writing.
Imprimis. We give our soules to God who gave them & our bodyes being dead to be decently buried in such place and manner as to or Executors hereafter named shall seem convenient, and as for the lands, goods & Chattels wherewith it has pleased God to endue us withal, our just debts & Legacyes being first paid, we order and dispose in manner and forme following.
Item. To Jonathan Smith our oldest son we give & bequeath our house, barn and orchard joyning to his home log, and the homestead as far as the old fence Northward and halfe way from the said house to Samuel's house; and thence to the West ende of the barn, and the wood close on the East side of the little brook over against the house and forty acres of land more than his equall share in division with the rest of our children, and that lot of meadow over against the hiss on the West side of the River.
Item. To our son Richard we give and bequeath our negro Harry and an equall share of land in dividsion with the rest of our children.
Item. To our son Job we give & bequeath our negro Robin for the terme of tweleve years and an equall share of land in dividsion with the rest of our children, and at the end of sd twelve years the said Robin shall be free.
Item. To our son Adam we give an equall share of Land in division with the rest of our children.
Item. To our son Samuel Smith we give and bequeath the orchard Southward of the house, & half the pasture bounded by the little Creek, the Eastward parte thereof, & the lower or northward most fresh Island on the east side of the river, with an equall share of land in division with the rest of our children, and the swamp called the North swamp, with the land on the East side which is fenced.
Item. To our son Daniel we give and bequeath the other halfe of the pasture Southward of his house, the westward part of it, and an equall share of land in division with the rest of our children. & our will is that James Necke shall be and remaine for the use and improvement of my six sons above said and their heires forever.
Item. To our daughter Elizabeth Townley we give & confirm that land and meadow at a place called Sunk Meadow as it is mentioned in a deed made by us, & also the one half of my cloathing.
Item. To our daughter Laurence we give & bequeth an equall parte & share of land in division with the rest of our children where it shall be most suitable & convenient, also the other halfe of my clothing.
Lastly we doe hereby nominate and appoint our beloved sons Jonathan & Richard Smith, Executors of this our last Will, & Testament, to pay all our just debts and to make an equall partition amongst all our children, of all the goods & chattels & what moveable estate shall be left.
In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals the day and year above named.
Richard Smyth [seal]
Sarah Smyth [seal]
Sealed & delievered in presence of
John Roe
Jonathan Lewis
Thomas Helme
Proved May 2, 1693

Sources: A History of Long Island by Peter Ross, 1902; Portrait and Biographical Record of Suffolk County (Long Island) New York, from Google Books; will and other documents from Records of Smithtown, (In the will, “the” was written as “ye” but I changed it to make the reading smoother).

Monday, September 8, 2014

John Cortright (1714-1783) (52 Ancestors #30)

John Cortright > Elisha Courtright > Isaac Cortright > Mabel Dodson Cortright > Jameson Harvey Ransom > Charles Francis Ransom > Lillian Emma Ransom > Charles Lloyd Walters

John Cortright was born in New York in 1714. I’ve come across a wide variety of spellings and variations of his name, including Johannes and Hannes Kortrecht. His baptism is recorded in the records of the Dutch church of Kingston, Ulster Co., New York on August 15, 1714. His parents were “Cornelis Kortregt” and “Christina Roose-krans.” The Cortright family lived in the area, known as Minisink, a region that included parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. John married Margriet Dennemerken, and the baptisms of 7 of their children were recorded in the Walpeck Church (New Jersey) and the Wachackemeck Church (near Port Jervis, NY). 

Around 1744, John and his family moved near Smithfield, PA and the 1772 tax records for the area include John and his sons John, Christopher and Elisha. John died sometime between January 31, 1783 (when his will was written) and May 12, 1783 (when the inventory of his estate was taken). In a number of Cortright histories, I have seen mention that John’s sons John and Christopher were both killed in the Battle of Wyoming (My ancestor Capt. Samuel Ransom also died in that battle). However, according to the abstract of John Sr.'s will, while Christopher is deceased, his son John is still living. 

In the early days of every colonial community, the people’s attention soon turned to organizing church meetings. Beginning in 1741, the Dutch Reform Churches of Minisink employed Rev. Johannes Casparus Fryenmuth as their first minister.  On his vacation Sundays, Fryenmuth would spend them in the area of Rochester and it wasn’t long before the people of Rochester wanted him as their pastor. 

When the people of Minisink learned they could have their pastor “seduced” away from them, they sent the following strongly-worded letter to Rochester. The authors, including John Cortright, made no qualms about what they thought of the attempted theft. The fact that the Minisink people had only recently welcomed Fryenmuth back from Holland after paying for his voyage and education may also have had something to do with their fear of losing their new pastor. As Fryenmuth remained with the Minisink churches, it appears the letter had the desired effect.

Minisink, Dec. 6th, 1741
To the Rev. Consistory of Rochester, greeting:

We, your servants, having learned that you have had correspondence with our pastor, and have seduced him, so far as to send him a call, thinking that the large amount of salary promised him will induce him to leave us – the Lord who thus far has caused your acts of supplanting to fail will further direct them to a good end. We find ourselves bound to obey the command of the Saviour “Do good to them that hate you;” we therefore will deal with you hereafter, as we have before, “doing you good.” It is true you give us no thanks for his services among you. You are bold enough to say that he has eight free Sundays during the year, which is as true as the assertion of the Devil to Eve, “You will not surely die.”

If you desire, then, to have our minster four or six times during the year, we will grant your wish cheerfully, and leave it with our pastor to settle with you as to the amount of his compensation. If this cannot prevent the execution of your unjust intention, and the Lord wishes to use you as a rod to chasten us, we shall console ourselves with his gracious words, Heb, 12, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and he rebukes every son whom he adopts.” If it please the Lord to permit you to deprive us of our pastor, then we hope that your consciences will not be seared to much as to take away our livelihood amounting to £125 12s 6d. (over paid salary)

Should this however be the case, then we will not hesitate to give the matter into the hands of a worldly judge. We expect your answer, and conclude our discourse with the wish that the grace of our Lord and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, may remain with you until a blessed eternity. Amen. We remain your servants.

John Cortright
John Van Vliet
Abm. Van Rampen
William Cole

Sources: Letter and its English translation from A History of the Minisink Region by Charles E. Stickney, 1867,  emphasis is mine; Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications,; Minisink Valley Reformed Dutch Church Records, 1716-1830, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society,;  Baptismal and Marriage Register of the Old Dutch Church of Kingston,; History of the Van Kortryks or Courtrights, by Dudley Vattier Courtright, 1923; New Jersey Abstract of Wills 1670-1817,