The Travels of Abiathar M. Harris: South into Vermont

Abiathar was working at the Montreal Herald in late summer 1822. His final entries for the year are these:

Original in the University of Rochester Library

Original in the University of Rochester Library

Thomas A. Turner was a Scot from Aberdeenshire. In addition to publishing a newspaper, he was at one time the vice-president of the Bank of Montreal and, later, president of the Bank of Canada. He owned the Gazette for only a brief period, from 1822-1827.

Abiathar’s diary picks up again 8 months later. In company with a fellow by the name of Brown, Abiathar left Montreal, traveling by steamboat southward on the Richelieu River.

1824 Richelieu River steamboat“1823  On the 27th I left this place for Burlington, Vermont, in company with Mr. Brown – we arrived in St. John’s on the 28th – put up at E. Mott’s – I staid in this place a number of days. The village is very small and very muddy, but considerable business is done in the transportation line, it being the first Port of entry after crossing the lines.”

The place Abiathar refers to as St Johns is the site of the historic Fort Saint-Jean, first built in 1666. In looking for something about Mott’s Inn, I came across this excerpt from a traveler who took the same route about 20 years later:

Biog of W H Merritt

Google Books: Biography of the Hon. W. H. Merritt, M. P. 1875

Abiathar and companion Mr. Brown, continued their journey along the waterways of the Canada-U.S. border in early summer 1823:

Original in the University of Rochester Library

Major Josephus Vaughan (b. 1766) was a Loyalist who took his family from Connecticut to settle in the town of Noyan, Quebec. In 1804, he established the first ferry across the Richelieu River.

Capt. Sydney Smith had distinguished himself (in an unfavorable way) as a lieutenant of the American Navy in the War of 1812  at the Battle of Plattsburgh. His poor judgement resulted in two American sails being captured. Purportedly, the men did fight bravely for over 4 hours before surrendering to the British.

Maj. Wilson may have served in the Revolutionary War. I’ve spent a few hours trying to identify him but haven’t come up with anything definite.

When Abiathar arrived in Chazy, he may have encountered my 4th great grandfather, Asa Stearns, who was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Asa had settled in Chazy after the War.

More of Abiathar’s adventures in the towns surrounding Lake Champlain and beyond next time!

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The Poetry of Helen A. Harris Deming: The Old Farm House

Small-Blue-RGB-National-Poetry-Month-Logo_0April is National Poetry Month, so in celebration I want to get out there the Helen A. Harris Deming‘s poetry that I’ve found published in newspaper archives in order to acknowledge the amazing woman that she was.

Helen composed this poem to honor the early settlers of her adopted city, Cleveland. This clipping came from Cleveland Daily Leader, July 16, 1858.

Cleveland Daily Leader. Cleveland, Ohio. Friday- July 16 1858 - Page 1

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My Three Georges … and Fred, too

My husband and I were watching a comedian’s skit recently and the fellow mentioned something about being able to name all of your great-grandparents. As in: What a ridiculous thing for a person to be able to do!

Pfft! Quickly, I ticked off the eight names of my great grandparents to dear Hubby. He can name his, too, and he’s not even that into genealogy. As I named my great grandparents, for the first time, realized that 3 of my 4 great grandfathers were named GEORGE.

George Byron Garrison

Great-grandpa George Byron Garrison (1860-1943) was my father’s maternal grandfather. He was born in Rochester, Monroe County, New York. He lived in Rochester his entire life, and I’m awed to think of all he saw pass during his life: the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression. He experienced the beginning of electricity, telephones, the camera, motion pictures, sound recordings, automobiles, radio, and so much more.


George followed his father, Minard Garrison, into the mason trade and lived at home with his parents until he married. The family resided at 79 Pinnacle Rd. in Rochester and the house is still there.

M H Garrison and Son - 1889 Rochester City Directory

M H Garrison and Son – 1889 Rochester City Directory

79 Pinnacle


At age 27, George married Jennie Harris and they had four children: Edna, Howard (“Budd”), Florence and Mildred. Sadly, their only son died of scarlet fever as a child. George and Jennie raised their three daughters in a comfortable, middle-class area of the city, first at 4 Walton St. and later at 663 S. Clinton St. Neither house is still standing.

When George’s father, Minard Garrison, passed away in 1899, he left his only son all of his masonry tools and equipment along with a two deeds.

Bequests to George

New York, Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999 via

In 1923, George and Jennie celebrated 35 years of marriage by taking a spring-time cruise to Rio De Janeiro aboard the ship Vauban (Blue Star Line). What a couple of adventurers!

While WWII was raging and the fate of the world was undecided, George passed away due to atherosclerosis.

I believe George and Jennie enjoyed a good, comfortable life together. They had their share of tragedy with the loss of their only son, but hopefully their daughters and grandchildren were a great comfort to them. George, Jennie, Budd, and Florence are all buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, as are many other Garrison family members.

George FeisterGreat-grandpa George Ralph Feister (1885-1955) was my mother’s maternal grandfather.

I’ve already written about him here: (Curious (About) George).

GeorgeBeachIrvineGreat-grandpa George Beach Irvine (1885-1955) was my mother’s paternal grandfather. He was born in Duke Center, McKean County, PA. His father, Arthur Irvine, was born in Montreal, came to the U.S. as boy in the 1850s, and later served in the Civil War. George’s mother, Amelia, was born in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.

George grew up in McKean County, PA. His father was a machinist and George followed him into the trade; though, throughout his life he would try his hand at many different occupations, doing whatever it took to care for his wife and family. In 1909, at age 24, George married Clara Rose Snyder.

George and Clara started their married life in Duke Center where George ran a machine shop. Clara gave birth to two daughters and three sons: Katherine, Mary Genevieve, John (“Jack”), Kenneth and Richard. In 1912, little Mary died of pneumonia when she was only a year old. By 1920, business must have been slow, for in the 1920 Census George had switched to selling insurance and Clara was working in a shop. Ten years later, the 1930 Census shows George running his own machine shop again.

In 1932, with the Great Depression in full swing, George moved his family 370 miles northeast to Hudson Falls, Washington County, NY, near to Clara’s sister, Emma Snyder. The 1933 Hudson Falls directory shows George running a bakery and daughter Katherine listed as a pianist.

1933 Glens Falls Directry

A few years later, George and family relocated 350 miles west to Olean, Cattaraugus County, NY, where he again was back in the trade of machinist. (At last! Olean is where my grandparents met!)

My cousin Christine and her husband, Mike, were the trailblazing family historians and many years back they wrote a piece about the Irvine family in which they wrote about George and Clara’s final years:

On May 7, 1940 Clara passes away, leaving George with Ken and Richard still living at home. Ken is 17 and Richard is 14. Tragedy is ready to strike the Irvine’s again, as George is diagnosed with tuberculosis in October of 1940, just five months after their mother dies. George is sent to a sanitarium in Geneseo, NY and the boys are moved into a boarding house in nearby Dansville. George’s stay in Geneseo is short and he is moved to Rocky Mountain sanitarium back in Olean. Later he is moved to Liberty, NY. and the Bernard McFadden Health Camp. Ken and Dick are moved to Webster, New York, outside of Rochester to be near their older brother Jack and his new family. The are still living in a boarding house just half a block from Webster High School. In 1942, George is in remission and returns to Hudson Falls, New York. where he works in a liquor store. Ken has entered the U. S Coast Guard. Dick, now left alone, is moved out of the roaming house and moves in with his brother Jack to finish high school.

After Dick graduated from Webster High School, he moved up to Hudson Falls to be near his dad. Dick moved in with his aunt, Emma Snyder. He worked at W. T. Grant’s in the stock room for six months, but then decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy rather than be subject to be drafted into the Army.

Ken and Dick both returned to Hudson Falls after there stints with the military. Shortly after Ken and Dick returned, George fell ill again, this time he was placed into a “Cure Cottage” on the shores of Saranac Lake in the Adirondack mountains. The accepted cure for TB at that time was to get plenty of fresh mountain air. George never recovered from this last battle with TB. He died on Christmas eve in 1955, in Saranac Lake, Essex County, NY. [Irvine Family McKean County Pennsylvania, PAGenWeb]

Fred Verres MarshNot a George, but also my great-grandpa, was Fred Verres Marsh (1870-1943), my father’s paternal grandfather. Fred was born and lived his entire live in Rochester, Windsor County, VT.

Fred was born on his father’s farm and would be a farmer, too.  Some of the land was wooded with maple trees used for sugaring or lumber. In 1892 he married Nellie Hunton. The had one son, Merle, and three daughters, Mildred, Anna and Adeline (“Addie”). There were many Marshs,  Huntons and allied kin in the area, many of their families having been on the land since the just after the Revolutionary War.

Perhaps due to hard times brought on by the worldwide economic collapse, the 1930 Census shows Fred was off the farm and found a new trade working as a carpenter at a marble quarry. (Vermont is known for its marble.)


Wikimedia Commons


Fred continued to work as a carpenter after the Great Depression ended. He lost his wife Nellie in 1937 when she died of heart failure at age 67. Fred went on for another 5 years, passing away in 1943 from complications of arteriosclerosis.

Did you notice that my two paternal great grandfathers, George Garrison and Fred Marsh, both died in 1943? And my two maternal great grandfathers, George Feister and George Irvine both died in 1955? Weird.

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March or Marsh? An Example of Fluid Spelling in the 18th & 19th Century

One of the members of an online genealogy forum in which I participate recently posed the question, “How far back can you trace your maternal lineage (mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc…?”

Researching family history is something I put a few hours into several times a week, and each time I log into or open up the Family Tree Maker application on my computer, I am presented with a graphic of my family tree. But I’d never thought to consider it from that angle. As it turns out, I can only trace my maternal lineage back to my 5th great-grandmother, Rhoda March … or is it Marsh? I say “only” because I’ve traced my paternal lineage back to my 9th great grandfather,  John Marsh of Braintree, Essex, England.

Here is the maternal lineage I have to Rhoda March/Marsh:

Great Grandmother, Laura Jane Tidd Feister(1883-1957)
2nd Great Grandmother, Delia Jane Rice Tidd (1854-1942)
3rd Great Grandmother, Martha Rebecca Bancroft Rice(1829-1918)
4th Great Grandmother, Mary G Conant Bancroft (1808-1872)
5th Great Grandmother, Rhoda March/March Conant (abt 1776-abt 1846)

The first vital record I came across for Rhoda records her marriage to Nathaniel Conant on Aug. 17, 1798. Her surname is given MARCH.

Conant March marriage record

Disappointingly, her parents are not listed on the marriage record. But that isn’t so unusual. Rhoda’s husband, Nathaniel, was the only son of Joshua Conant, who died in 1777 at the Battle of Bennington during the Revolutionary War. I have yet to identify the surname of his mother, Mary.

Nathaniel and Rhoda had eight children:

When I found the birth record of their 4th son, Samuel Marsh Conant, it seemed a strong probability that his middle name reflected his mother’s maiden name. Naming patterns are something often seen in genealogical research. So, was it March or Marsh? I’d need to study more vital records to find some kind of consistency.

Five of the children are identified in birth records naming their father, Nathaniel Conant. But their mother is simply listed as, Rhoda. I have not yet found the birth records for Mary G., Jane E. or John P.. Mary G.’s death record identifies Nathaniel and Rhoda Conant as her parents, as does Jane E.’s 2nd marriage record. The death record for William lists her as Rhoda March.

I have not located a death or burial record for Rhoda. Her husband, Nathaniel, entered a 2nd marriage on 25 Nov 1847 to widow, Mariah Stratton Manning. Presumably, then, Rhoda passed away some time between the birth of her youngest child, John, in 1823, and Nathaniel’s remarriage in 1847.

Having just completed an application to the Daughters of the American Revolution tracing my lineage to Col. Joel Marsh, I had a lot of Marsh family lines stuff floating through my head. I search different Marsh family genealogies to see whether Rhoda would show up there. No dice.

To discover Rhoda’s parentage, knowing she was married in Londonderry in the year 1798, I searched the 1790 U. S. Census for the March/Marsh surname indicating a teenage female family member. Bingo! The 1790 Census record for the family of Samuel March (note the same name as Nathaniel and Rhoda’s 4th son) indicates 3 females. Unfortunately, the ages of the women is not recorded. However, with this information, I search for more records on this Samuel March of Londonderry.

It didn’t take long for me to locate Samuel’s will, dated 18 Feb 1800 in Londonderry. His will names a daughter, Rhoda. Here is the will, snipped into two parts from the county record books. Rhoda is named on the 2nd part, about half-way down the page with her sisters, Sarah and Abigail.

Samuel March will part 1 Samuel March will part 2

Mystery solved! Now I have the names of Rhoda’s parents and siblings.

But whether the surname is March or Marsh is still a question. In Samuel’s will and probate records, the spelling of the surname is recorded both as March and Marsh. Mostly March. Yet, the birth records for several of his children indicate Marsh.

So, March or Marsh? Historians and genealogists have found that it wasn’t until toward the end of the 19th century, when literacy became more widespread in the United States, that the normalization of word spellings came about. So, at one point another, families decided how they wanted to spell their names. In earlier times, it didn’t seem to matter over much. So, I’m going to let that particular issue go. I doubt this was something they lost sleep over, so neither will I!

Now on to the next mystery: who was Rhoda’s mother?


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Col. Joel Marsh of Windsor County, Vermont

One of my genealogical research goals is to identify as many Revolutionary War patriots as I can among all the branches of my family tree and have my lineage to them verified through the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In tracing the line of my paternal surname, initial research permitted me to link generations via vital records (birth, marriage & death), as well as obituaries, headstones and census records, to my 4th great-grandfather, John Marsh (1779-1837). But I couldn’t seem to locate any document which proves his parentage.

According to Marsh Genealogy: Giving Several Thousand Descendants of John Marsh of Hartford, Ct. 1636-1895 (p. 184),  John Marsh was the son of Col. Joel and Ann Marsh. While the book, published in 1895, doesn’t cite references which would meet any standard of genealogical proof, the text asserts that the information compiled by the Marsh Family Association was gathered with diligence. The book remarks upon meetings of the Association, the election of officers and their ongoing mission:

We must ransack public libraries and town records, and records in the old family Bibles and on gravestones, and hasten to gather what is in the memory of the aged. We must compare notes. Different members of a family line have partial records, which, put together, give often great increase of light. Places of birth, and dates of removal and places of ancestral residence, and full names, are of utmost importance. Often a middle name hints a family connection. Do not neglect this pleasant work, nor think your parentage of no importance. Let us each be faithful to those who who have gone before us, and honor our family name.

Family genealogies are considered derivative sources, as opposed to original sources, and I’ve had reason in the past to be dubious of the information they contain. But whereas many of these published family histories were compiled by persons with no real vested interest in the accuracy of the information (i.e. they were paid to produce the work), the Marsh Genealogy was put together by highly learned individuals dedicated to documenting their family line.

The Marsh Genealogy includes the following sketch on Joel Marsh:

b. at Lebanon, Ct., June i, 1745, son of Jonathan and Alice (Newcomb) Marsh ; m. Jan. 25, 1770, Ann, b. Nov. 18. 1743.  Their first child was born at Lebanon, Ct., April 15, 177 1. Then we have record of four b. at Hartford, Vt., from 1775 to 1781, and then two b. at Bethel, Vt., Oct., 1783 to May, 1786. These show where the mother was and probably the home. Col. Joel Marsh figured largely in the early history of New Connecticut not yet Vermont. With his cousins. Col. Joseph, Capt. Abel and Elisha Marsh he was an early proprietor of Randolph and also of Bethel, Vt. The embryo state had a southern regiment with Joseph Marsh as colonel and a northern in which Joel was captain and major and apparently colonel, early in the revolution. He was a member of the convention to adopt the constitution of Vermont. The proprietors of Bethel, Vt. “Voted,'” “Dec. 13, 1779,” “that Col. Joel Marsh be an additional proprietor,” “and the said Marsh do accept of the Mill Lot which contains 450 acres” also that he “do build a good sawmill by the first day of September next and a good gristmill by the first day of November following upon the forfeiture of five thousand pounds, extraordinary Providence excepted.” He drove an ox team up the bed of the White River, built a log house and commenced on the mill as supposed in 1780, but Indians, “extraordinary Providences, burned Royalton in October and settlers hurried away. He finished the mill in 1781 which was for several years the only one in that region and Col. Joel Marsh was known as the miller. He soon built the first frame house which 100 years later was in good preservation. Col. Joel d. March 11, 1807. His widow d. May 6, 1813.

Children :

Jonathan, b. April 15, 1771 : m. Irene Ainsworth, 2317.
Peleg Sanford, b. Oct. 18, 1775 ; m. Mary Mills, 2350.
Mary, b. March 26, 1778; unm. and d. at Peleg S. Marsh’s, ae. over 70.
John, b. April 25, 1779 ; m. and had family and resided at Stockbridge, Rochester and Bethel, Vt.
Ann, b. Dec. 30, 1781.
Joel, b. at Bethel, Oct. 28, 1783 ; m. and had one son and two daus, (unm.) went to Maryland.
Mason, b. at Bethel, May 1, 1756.

Reading this, it seemed I’d identified another Revolutionary War veteran. (Yay!) The next step was to check whether my 5th great grandfather, Col. Joel Marsh, was in the DAR Genealogical Research System. A quick search produced two men of the name, from the same area and with birth & death dates very close in time.

DAR GRS screenshot

But there’s a problem here. “My” Joel Marsh was a colonel who died in Bethel, VT, in 1807. Yet, the DAR records designate him a private, and the Joel Marsh of Sharon, VT, has the rank of colonel. Did the Marsh Genealogy get it right? I’ve seen how later generations tend to inflate the rank of their war heroes. This set me about finding evidence to my own satisfaction to distinguish between the two men.

We have these two death records from

1807 death record 1811 Joel Marsh Esq death record

Further, there is this newspaper item from The Weekly Wanderer, Randolph Vermont, Vol VII, Issue 18, Pg 3 (Monday, March 16, 1807) found on

1807 death notice

There are ample records of births, marriages, deaths, deeds and wills locating Col. Joel Marsh’s descendants in Bethel, VT. The mills which the Colonel built are still functioning (Bethel Mills, Inc.). As noted in the Marsh Genealogy, the Colonel’s son, John, married in Bethel and later relocated to Stockbridge, about 10 miles west of Bethel.

I’ve prepared and submitted an application to the DAR establishing myself as a descendant of Col. Joel Marsh. In the summer of 2016, I hope to see the home the Colonel built in Bethel, which still stands.

Joel Marsh home

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The Travels of Abiathar M. Harris: Off to Montreal

We continue following the travels of my 3rd great-uncle, Abiathar Millard Harris, on New Years’ Day of 1822. Abiathar was still in Kingston, Ontario. He had just recovered from a lengthy illness and spent an unhappy Christmas holiday. Here is his diary entry for January 1st:

"1822. On the 1st of January, I spent the day very agreeable with my friends – and in the evening, the Americans had a Ball at the Royal Hotel – at which [I] was one of the number. The evening passed in great harmony there being 19 couple[s]. The society in this place is very indifferent except with the Americans."

Original in the University of Rochester Library

It’s good to know that after his disappointing Christmas, Abiathar enjoyed a festive New Years’ celebration.

Several months passed before he took up his diary again to record that he was moving on from Kingston.

On the 18th June, I started for Montreal, a distance of 180 miles, in a bateau principally manned by Canadians – and spoke no English – I however made them understand. We stayed at Gananoque, a little settlement 22 miles distant.


In the early years of the 19th century, boat travel along the St. Lawrence became very popular for upper-class people taking pleasure cruises. Steamships of various sizes embarked out of Montreal.


Diary entries for the remaining days of June 1822 record Abiathar’s continuing journey to Montreal, where he found employment for a few weeks.

On the 19th we started early, the weather very fine – about 2 P. M. we passed Brockville, a little village pleasantly situated on the bank of the St. Lawrence on the Canada side. Nearly opposite on the American shore is a little village called Morristown. We arrived in Prescott 6 o’clock P. M. This place is small and the houses are very shabby, but considerable business is done in the transportation line. Opposite this place lies Ogdensburgh, a small village, but pleasantly situated, it being on high ground – much business is also done here. I crossed the ferry into this place, enquired for work, could get none – returned to Prescott, put up at J. Warner’s Inn.

On the 20th we started at 4 o’clock, passed Johnstown, C. shore – weather fine and fair wind. About noon it began to rain very hard. We arrived in Cornwall about 3 o’clock – 50 miles from Prescott. Here we took dinner at Chester’s/Charter’s Hotel – at 4 P. M. we started, it rained, thundered and lightened very hard. At 8 P. M., we arrived at the head of Lake S. François, in the County Glengary. Here we were obliged to stop here, the darkness of the night prevented us from proceeding. We put up at a farm house 11 miles from Cornwall.

On the 21st at 3 in the morning we proceeded to cross the lake, with fair wind, and at 8 we reached the Cedars, a distance of 40 miles. Here we went on shore – but soon resumed our journey – the Long Sault commences at this place. We came through, however, very dangerous, without any difficulty – at the foot Salmon River enters Lake St. Louis, we crossed the lake and arrived in Lachine 12 o’clock noon. During the passage from Prescott, Mssrs. Long & Wilson, of Niagara, were in company with me. We took a Caleche for Montreal, 9 miles, and arrived 3 P. M. Put up at Cushen’s Inn, Hay Market.

On the 22nd I walked about the town, inquired for work – got work at Gray’s Herald office – commenced work on the 24th.

On the 30th I took an excursion to La Prairie, in the steam boat, in company with the Mssrs. Burrells and Mr. Demarse, here we met a lady living No. 574 Broadway, etc.

The Montreal Herald was published by a Scottish immigrant, William Gray. Gray began the publication shortly after arriving in Montreal in 1811. Sadly, Gray died shortly after Abiathar started work for him. In February 1822, Gray fell ill while on a business trip to Toronto. He was only 33 years old.

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Asa Stearns: A Veteran Honored 200 Years Later

It’s an interesting thing to me that though I never knew my father or any of his folk, I’ve learned that he and many others on that side of my family tree were, like myself, very much interested in family history. They traced their roots, wrote out their lineages, saved newspaper items and obituary clippings, belonged to lineage societies (DAR and SAR), and even wrote books about their family heritage.

They had much to be proud of, as their ancestors were part of the founding of this nation. Most of  my father’s family lines trace back to the earliest settlements of the English in America in the 1600s. Some arrived in Winthrop’s Fleet and there are even Mayflower  passengers in the family tree. As would be expected, there are also many Revolutionary War patriots in my paternal lines. So far, I’ve verified 18 men who served in the War for Independence.

Asa Stearns was my 4th great-grandfather:

    • Asa Stearns m. Lucy Cady (25 Mar 1784)
      • Curtis Jasper Stearns m. Mary Ann Dana (abt. 1836)
        • Sarah Elizabeth Stearns m. Minard H. Garrison (15 Dec 1856)
          • George Byron Garrison m. Virginia Louise Harris (22 Nov
            1888) [my great-grandparents]

In the book, Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns (1901), the following information is provided about Asa:

ASA STEARNS (6269), b., July 30, 1758, son of Samuel and Jemima (Hoyt) Stearns, of Worcester, Mass.; enlisted in Col. Ward’s Mass. Regt., the day after the battle of Bunker Hill. He was with the Americans when they were drawn off from Long Island in 1776, and was in the battle of White Plains. He served twenty months in Col. Ward’s Regt., and then joined Col. Cilly’s N. H. Regt., in which he served three years. During the service he was not sick a single day. He was at the capture of Burgoyne, in the battle of Monmouth, and with Gen. Sullivan, at Wyoming, where he suffered excessively from privations. After this, he was at sea in a privateer and helped to capture the “Hannah,” richly laden with merchandise, which was taken into New Haven. After the war, he went to Claremont, N. H., and md. (i). Mar. 25. 1784, Lucy Cady, b., Mar. 30, 1764, dau. of Lieut. Elijah Cady. of Wethersfield, Vt. They lived successively in Wethersfield, Cavendish, Moretown, Waterbury, and Benson, all in Vt. At the last place, his wife d.. Aug., 1825. of a casualty, being thrown from a carriage. He then moved to Chazy, Clinton Co., N. Y.. where he md. (2), Mrs. Phoebe Dunham, then sixty years of age, who d., Mar.. 1849. After her death, until his decease. Feb. 2, 1852, he lived with his dau.. Mrs. Laura (Stearns) Heaton, of Chazy; twelve children.

While some of the information from this book about Asa’s military service is true, some is not.

The Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogy Research System verifies that Asa Stearns served as a private in both the Massachusetts and New Hampshire militias  (Ancestor #: A109274) under Capt. Joseph Fay and Col. Jonathan Ward. It turns out that his father, Samuel Stearns (1720-1776), has also been verified by the DAR as a patriot (Ancestor #: A109431). Samuel was 55 years old when he marched on the Lexington Alarm with Capt. Luke Drury’s Company of Minutemen on April 19, 1775.

The Fold3 website includes numerous documents which verify Asa’s service, including his application for pension in April 1818.

Fold3 Revolutionary War Pension and BountyLand Warrant Application Files

In reading Asa’s own description of his service, discrepancies with the account printed in Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns include that Asa states he enlisted in Capt. Fay’s Company in May 1775, which was a month before the Battle of Bunker Hill. There is no mention of serving aboard a privateer.

One thing Asa doesn’t mention is that while with Capt. Scott’s Company, they were encamped at Valley Forge with Gen. Washington that fabled winter of 1776-1777. The website, Valley Forge Legacy, includes an entry for Asa Stearns which also debunks another claim in Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns, i.e. he did indeed fall sick.

Valley Forge

In looking into Asa Stearns, I bumped into a cousin who honored Asa’s service to his country in a special way: he commissioned a headstone for Asa’s unmarked grave.

Press-Republican-June 13 1986 Page 6

Press Republican (Plattsburgh NY) June 13 1986 Page 6

Press Republican (Plattsburgh NY) 18 Jun 1986

Press Republican (Plattsburgh NY) 18 Jun 1986

These newspaper items are what tipped me off that Asa was present at the Valley Forge encampment. Mention of service aboard a privateer and “accounts of several acts of bravery” has yet to be verified. I’m trying to discover the titles of these “area history books.”

According to the book, Connecticut Pirates & Privateers (Arcadia Pub., 2015), the Hannah was captured by the American privateer Minerva under the command of Capt. Dudley Saltonstall. Further research is need to discover whether a crew list exists.

The headstone which Bob Elliott had erected to honor Asa Stearns is quite lovely.

Asa Stearns d.1852 headstone


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