Several historical documents have been found and copies are included in future posts. These documents include Wills, Personal Property Inventories of the Deceased, Property Deeds, Death Certificates, Affidavits, Newspaper Articles, NYS Archives; both the actual archives and the new digitized archives.
The above map is a digitized map of Henry Birdsall’s farm and lock number 105 on the Chenango Canal. Notice the controls that allow you to make an inset map. This capability is found within the NY State Archives;
Or go to the front page of the NYS Archives Website for an overall view of what is available:
Abstractions from old books have been a fruitful source of information. These books were located in various libraries (which have been cited) including the “Making of America”, Cornell University’s on-line digitized library holding hundreds of historic books and periodicals.
The detailed documents above will be posted after the various aspects of this archaeology are investigated. These “document” posts will appear after the “conclusion”; approximately the 12th post of this series. Therefore the 12th to 18th posts will act as an appendix of documents related to this study.
HOWEVER; if you are like me, these documents may prove more interesting than this actual study itself.
Historical maps have previously been posted.
As noted, there was a very small sample of surface artifacts. This meant that other methods of collecting data had to be found. The historical documents offer insight and comparisons between the lives of the Henry Birdsall Family and the Benjamin Birdsall Family including some of their descendants.
These documents also allow one to:
- understand the pathway of property ownership prior to Henry’s purchase
- visit the NY counties where Henry and Benjamin lived prior to the Town of Greene
- understand the origins of Henry’s neighbors and their background
- gain insight as to how public policy effected Henry and Benjamin
- perceive what social forces may have modified the lives of Henry and Benjamin
- document gender issues that were obvious to the female members of the families
- see the change of culture through at least four generations
Some of these observations will be clarified on the following pages.
Henry Birdsall’s Life Prior to Residing in the Township of Greene, Co. of Chenango, NY
The origins of Henry can be seen in census documents for NY State in 1790 and proceeding forward. There were several ‘Henry Birdsalls’ in various townships and counties within NY, however, only one Henry had the same family structure. Henry Birdsall from Salem Township matched the family structure of Henry Birdsall subsequently appearing in the Township of Greene. That unique structure was seven daughters and two sons, of which a group of five daughters were the eldest, followed by two sons, who were followed by the youngest child, a daughter. (See Appendix A, “Census/Directory”)
Although there is historical data, in text form, to be gleaned about ‘Birdsalls’ in Salem Township, Westchester County, NY, there is no specific mention of Henry. Other Birdsalls had signed various petitions. Revolutionary War records listed other Birdsalls as members of the American Revolutionary forces but no direct record of Henry (other than census records) has been found in Salem Township. (See Appendix B, “Historic Books”)
This is not surprising as Henry could not write his name. This is evidenced by his ‘mark’ being placed on his Last Will and Testament. Affidavits associated with this Will also show that Henry’s namesake son, Henry Birdsall (no Jr. used), also could not write his name. Son Henry’s ‘mark’ appears on these affidavits and therefore attests to this inability. It would follow, then, that both Henrys could neither read nor write, often leading to a lack of record for those who could not assist in recording their own history; or even parts of it. (See Appendix D, “Surrogate Records”)
Henry Birdsall left the best record of his family on his land.
The cemetery document above fails to list some names in the cemetery. That may be due to some of the stones reading “In Memory Of – – -” and not verifying an actual burial. The totality of the cemetery will be covered in a following post.
Benjamin Birdsall’s Life Prior to Residing in the Town of Greene, Co. of Chenango, NY
On the other hand, Lt. Col. Benjamin Birdsall is listed as a member of the Revolutionary Army and as having accepted farmland(s) as a reward for his service. These farmlands were ‘abandoned’ (most likely confiscated from farmers that remained loyal to the crown). A point of interest regarding Benjamin’s religious beliefs; at one time he was a Quaker but rejected that creed in order to defend his country during the revolution. (See Appendix B, “Historic Books”)
Benjamin Birdsall moved to Chenango County and brought two of his sons with him. One son had moved to Chenango County prior to Benjamin.
Benjamin Birdsall’s last will and testament is missing from the Surrogate’s office. In place of it is a document stating that one of his sons had removed the will sometime after Benjamin’s death. The absence of this document does not allow us to determin if Benjamin could sign his name although it would be highly likely that he could, due to the various business transactions that he was involved in. His sons, being merchants and professionals, were surely literate.
Independent genealogical records would lead a reader to believe that both Benjamin’s and Henry’s families originated in the Oyster Bay area of Long Island, NY, with subsequent generations moving into Connecticut and the Hudson Valley. Oyster Bay and Dutchess County were both heavily laden with Quakers and loyalists. In fact, one recently generated genealogical record lists Henry as Benjamin’s brother. This is possible, however, as the data is assembled, various information leads the researcher to seriously question this purported relationship.
(See Appendix E, “Genealogy Documents”)
While Henry and Benjamin’s histories both originate in Hudson Valley townships the commonality between them tends to end there. Historical records for Greene, NY abound in the mercantile, professional and political accomplishments of the Benjamin Birdsall family. Additionally, the Benjamin Birdsall family and the other most prominent family in early Greene, the Juliands, are intertwined in business and marriage. The social structure that Benjamin apparently moved within was typical for upwardly mobile settlers carrying the credentials of ‘Lieutenant Colonel’ and businessman. (See Appendix C, “Newspaper Accounts”)
On the other hand there is little mention of Henry’s family other than in census, vital statistics and death certificates. In fact, government records of Henry and his descendants become very confusing. This results from the fact that Henry and his family gravitated towards families in North Fenton, Chenango Forks, and possibly the Town of Barker. Census records lump some of these areas into a geographical area called ‘Chenango.’ It is obvious that some Broome County census takers inadvertently collected data across the Chenango County line. Therefore, they included at times, Henry’s family as part of the Broome County census and leaving them out of the “Chenango County” census.
Additional pieces of information originate in historical documents that appear to have greater impact in other sections of this report. Therefore, the cultural impact will be discussed in those sections. This historic information indicates that Henry had three neighbors and a son-in-law who appear in cross documentation and, more importantly, in the family cemetery of Henry Birdsall as well as a single gravestone north of the Birdsall cemetery. These individuals are:
1. Abram Storms; an early settler, arriving before Henry. Abram was a member of the Revolutionary Army. Historical records identify Abram as the person who first brought grinding stones to Chenango County ‘from the Hudson Valley by Oxcart’ and as one of two men who constructed the first grinding mill within the town of Greene. Abram subsequently bought property along the eastern side of the Chenango and started a farm. He is buried, along with his wife Eve, in Henry Birdsall’s family Cemetery.
2. Jean Guillaume deBesse (also known as John Bessac), born 1760 in France, died 1824 and buried on his property north of the Birdsall Cemetery. Jean Guillaume (Bessac) is documented as having served under Count Rochambeau. Additionally a pamphlet was written about him by George Park, Esq., extolling Jean deBesse’s mental capabilities and personal traits. A copy exists in the Library of Congress. Abram Storms appears as one of two people who inventoried John Bessac’s personal goods after Bessac’s death.
3. David D. Davis lived directly to the north of Henry Birdsall. Davis worked his own farm. When the Chenango Canal was being constructed he contracted for some construction work. The gold rush of 1849 had its effect on Greene, as Davis and several others went west leaving their families behind. Davis was a hunter during the rush, making money by furnishing the prospectors with deer and bear meat. It appears, from the documentation, that he made as much money by hunting as others did by prospecting for gold. Davis, upon his return from California, was involved in a multiple murder and suicide. The impact of this will be discussed in following sections.
4. Thomas Tew was a son-in-law of Henry Birdsall. Thomas did not fit the mold of Henry’s other son-in-laws; he was not a rural farmer. Thomas Tew appears as an entrepreneur, mechanic, cabinet maker, member of the ‘new’ Masons (after the anti-Masonic movement had died down) and a villager. Nothing is known about where Thomas originated. Some “Tews” first appear in an ‘1820’ census.
A namesake pirate, “Thomas Tew”, appears in the history of New York State as the questionable friend of New York Governor Fletcher in ‘1696’. They apparently “exchanged presents” as described in appendix K, pages K37 through K41
[Editorial Note: For over three centuries things have not changed much in New York State. “Exchanging Presents” seems to remain a way of life in NY politics.]
(See Appendix IDs A, B, and D: Census/Directory, Historic Books and Surrogate Records)
(Also see Appendix F, Greene History: extracts from “Rafts to Railroads” & “Annals of Greene”)
I do not plan on putting ALL of the appendices on this blog. However, if there are points of interest please leave a comment on whatever post you wish. I will do my best to fulfill your interests.
© Copyright – Waldo Tomosky