Friday, January 25, 2013

Correcting A Birthplace for Betsey

Just finding a family member's name and information in a book or online family tree isn't enough, researchers should follow up on the information to check its veracity.  This additional step, while time-consuming, can result in new insights into your ancestor's lives.  Censuses, tax records, lineage papers, and town histories combine to make a case for a corrected birthplace for this ancestor

Elizabeth Kennicott was born 16 Oct 1801 in Northfield (now Edinburg), Saratoga County, New York.  She married James Wescott Whitman on 17 Oct 1819, at Avon, Ontario County (now Livingston), New York.[1]  She died 19 June 1873 at Oakfield.[2] Known as Betsey, she was the eldest daughter of twelve children to John Kennicott and Elizabeth Reynolds.[3]  Her parents and grandparents moved in 1798 from Warren, Rhode Island, to Saratoga and Rensselaer counties in New York.[4]  Betsey’s parents lived in Providence, Saratoga County, in 1799 and 1800, then moved to Pittstown, Rensselaer County by 1802 or 1803 to where Betsey’s grandparents, Daniel and Hannah (Kent) Kinnicut [sic] were living.[5]  While some family and online sources put Betsey’s birthplace as Genesee County, New York, it would appear from the census and tax records that Betsey was more likely born in Northfield (now Edinburg), Saratoga County on 16 Oct 1801.  Tax and census records show that John Kennicutt owned property in Providence, Saratoga County, in 1799 and 1800, and then owned property in Northfield from 1801 to 1803.  In each year, John paid tax on property worth $465, making it likely that he owned the same property in those years and that the town lines moved rather than him.  In fact, Northfield was formed from the town of Providence on 13 March 1801, and Betsey was born in October of the same year, so she is therefore more likely to have been born in Northfield.  Later, when residents of the town found that another city in New York was named Northfield, the town was renamed Edinburg.[6]  Betsey’s parents and grandfather Daniel all moved together to Avon, Ontario County (now Livingston), New York, sometime between 1810 and 1819.[7]  Young Betsey grew up with her grandfather Daniel nearby during nearly all of her youth, and perhaps heard stories of his time as a militia man from Rhode Island in the American Revolution.[8]  The Revolutionary War was only within two generations for Betsey, which made hers and her parents’ lives part of the great American experiment in those first years.  Betsey knew her grandfather Daniel until his death in April 1817, when she was about 16 years old.[9] 


[1] For Elizabeth’s name and parentage, see:  Whitman. Celia Orpha Whitman Collection.  “Family Record of John Kennicott” side note reads, “The copy of this record was sent to me, Celia by Anna E. Whitman [daughter of James and Elizabeth (Kennicott) Whitman].”  See also as “Betsey:” “Copy of Kinnicutt Record,” Katie Hoyt Armstrong Membership application (1932), no. 279722, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Library (DAR), Siemes Center, Washington, DC.  Attached to patriot Daniel Kinnicutt, ancestor no. A065393. For marriage date and place, see: Edward Whitman Civil War Pension (Co. H, 8th New York Heavy Artillery), Mother’s application 212503, certificate 164834; Father’s application 212503, certficate164834.  Records of the Veterans Administration, RG 15, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC (NARA).  Claim of Mother for Pension (20 June 1865) reads, "... that she was married to said James W. Whitman at Avon in the State of New York on or about the 17th day of October 1819, by Judge Riggs that she knows of no record evidence of said marriage..."  For further evidence of Elizabeth’s maiden name, see:  Town Clerks´ Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, ca 1861-1865, New York State Archives, Collection Number: (N-Ar)13774; box 25; roll 15, dated 1865-1866. [Partial transcription] “Name: Whitman, Albert Edward…  Names of Parents and Previous Occupation:  James W. [,] Elizabeth Kennicott [,] Clerk.  …” [Note: The instructions for town clerks, located at the front of the volume, instructed that maiden names of mothers be included, therefore concluded that Kennicott is Elizabeth Whitman's maiden name.]
[2] Hayes, Rev. Charles Wells, M. A.  St. Michael's Church Parish Register, Oakfield, Genesee County, New York, Sixth Edition, Revised.  FHL film 1,378,696.  “Baptisms” p. 50 – 51, “Burials” p. 120 – 121. The register notes that “entries have been made by the Rev. James R. Coe from such information as he could obtain.  The record is of course imperfect.” See also: Mrs. James Whitman obituary, Progressive Batavian, June 27, 1873.
[3] Whitman. Celia Orpha Whitman Collection.  See also:  Copy of Kinnicutt Record,” Katie Hoyt Armstrong Membership application (1932), no. 279722, DAR Library.  Research note: The Kennicott surname is found with a variety of spellings including Kennicutt, Kinnicutt, Kinnicott, Kenikut, etc.  The Kennicott spelling will be used throughout this narrative.
[4] Letter from Daniel Kinnicutt (Albany, NY) to Josiah Kinnicutt (Barrington, RI), dated 5 Jun 1798. Owned and transcribed in 1983 by Elisabeth Schaeffer (Mrs. John G., R.D. 1, Schoharie, NY 12157). Original found in a desk built by John Kennicutt (Daniel's brother).  Transcription forwarded to author by Martha Haidek ( in Jun 2010.
[5] Kinnicut to Kent, 23 Jul 1758, Warren Town, Births, Marriage & Deaths, Vol. 1, 1738 – 1844, page 67.  Rhode Island State Archives, Providence, microfilm 0907767.  “Mr Daniel Kinnicut and Miss Hannah Kent were married together (Both of this Town) by the Revd Solomon Townsend.” For residence, see: Daniel Kinekut [sic], 1800 US Federal Census, NY, Rensselaer, Pittstown, NARA, micropublication series M32, roll 26, p. 41.  Hannah Kinnicut obituary, Northern Budget, Troy, New York, 30 Oct 1799, page 3, column 3.  Troy Public Library, Genealogy Room, Troy, New York.
[6] Daniel Kinekut [sic], 1800 US Federal Census, New York, Rensselaer, population schedule, Pittstown, page 41; NARA micropublication series M32, roll 26.  John Kennicott household, 1800 US Federal Census, New York, Saratoga, population schedule, town of Providence, page 1094; NARA micropublication series M32, roll 27.  See also: Tax assessment rolls of real and personal estates, 1799 – 1804, New York State Comptroller’s Office.  New York State Archives, Albany, New York, microfilm series B0950.   Providence, Saratoga County, 1799, Box 41, Folder 8, reel 18.  Providence, Saratoga County, 1800, Box 41, Folder 8, reel 18.  Northfield, Saratoga County, 1801, Box 43, Folder 8, reel 18.  Northfield, Saratoga County, 1802, Box 44, Folder 9, reel 19.  Northfield, Saratoga County, Box 44, Folder 22, reel 19.  Pittstown, Rensselaer, 1799, Box 59, Folder 33, reel 26.  Pittstown, Rensselaer, 1800, Box 59, Folder 43, reel 26.  Pittstown, Rensselaer, 1801, Box 59, Folder 51, reel 26 (Daniel Kinnicut [sic] only).  Pittstown, Rensselaer, 1802, Box 59, Folder 59, reel 26. Pittstown, Rensselaer, 1803, Box 59, Folder 67, reel 26.  Compare with:  Alene Whitman, “John Kennicott – Elizabeth Reynolds family group sheet,” dated 24 Sep 1974, supplied in Apr 2003 by Bill Smith (Salt Lake City, UT).  Place of Elizabeth’s birth, handwritten as “Batavia, Genesee, NY.”  See also: Elizabeth Kennicott entry, International Genealogical Index [IGI] (Salt Lake City: Family History Library, 2008), citing microfilm 0,184,209, page 1095, reference no. 285387.  For the history of the towns, see: Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett.  History of Saratoga County, New York with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Everts & Ensign (1878), p. 372. 
[7] John Kenncut [sic] household, 1810 US Federal Census, New York, Rensselaer County, population schedule, Pittstown, page 413; NARA micropublication series M252, roll 35.  John Kinnecutt household, 1820 US Federal Census, New York, Ontario County, population schedule, town of Avon, page 186; NARA micropublication series M33, roll 62.
[8] Daniel Kinnicutt, ancestor no. A065393, DAR Library, Siemes Center, Washington, DC.  See also:  Letter from Rhode Island State Record Commissioner to Mrs. George W. Wilcox (406 W Third St., Sterling, Illinois), 28 May 1925; held in 2012 by the Rhode Island State Archives, Providence.  Second page of letter titled “Revolutionary Service of Daniel Kinnicutt.”  (Mrs. Wilcox claimed herself a descendant of Daniel through his son Edward, see: L. Wilcox Membership Application, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Siemens Center, Daughters of the American Revolution Library, Washington, DC, Membership no. 8854847).  See also: Smith, Joseph Jencks.  Civil and Military List of Rhode Island, 1800 – 1850.  Providence, Rhode Island: Preston and Rounds Co. (1901), 323, 429. 
[9] Ibid.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Where's Whitman?

Researching families in the 19th century is a
bit different than the research techniques we use for 20th century ancestors. Many records do not point directly at father-son or mother-daughter relationships, we have to glean these from combining many sources. To put it in mathmatical terms, if a+b = c, and c+d = e then a = e. Now, I know that looks a little funny, but it works when threading together the relationships between different family members without the types of documents (like birth, marriage, or death certificates, not available in New York until after 1881) that clearly show a parent-child relationship. In our continuing study we are looking today at time and location. When it comes to our ancestors, often we can find parents living near their children at important times in their lives, such as at birth (if you know when and where that happened) or at their marriage.
Where's Whitman?
Who are James Wescott Whitman's parents? Let's look at where he was living at the time of his marriage. James and his bride, Elizabeth "Betsey" Kennicott, were married by Judge Riggs on 19 Oct 1819 in Avon, Ontario County. Avon is now is Livingston County, shown at the top middle of the map here. In 1819, Ontario County's border began at the river and took up the right half of present-day Livingston. Genesee County was on the left-hand side of the river, and included the town of York at the river's edge. In 1820 there was a federal census of these counties. In 1821, the counties were split, and Livingston was created out of half of Ontario and half of Genesee.
Where's Whitman?
1810: Betsey's family is living Pittstown, Renssalear County, New York.
1810: James' residence is unknown.
1819: James and Betsey marry in Avon, Ontario County.
1820: James and Betsey are living in York, Genesee County.
1820: Betsey's father, John "Kinnicutt," is living in Avon, Ontario County.
1821: County lines change, Livingston is formed.
1824: James and Betsey bury a daughter near Avon, (now) Livingston County.
1830: James and Betsey are living in Avon, Livingston County.

Who are the other Whitmans/Wittmans/Whitemans/Wightmans/Widmans living near Avon or York between 1819 and 1820?
Despite looking at many spellings of Whitman, the standard "Whitman" or "Whiteman" seems to be the only ones used in this area. There are a few men surnamed Whitman, but only some of the right age (assuming that if James was born in 1794, his father would be about 21 or older, then the father would be born before 1773, and age 47 or older. Ages in 1810, '20, and '30 were approximate in the censuses).
1820: Israel Whitman, age 45+. Bethany, Genesee County. About 16 miles west of York.
1820: Benjamin Whitman, age 45+. Lyons, Ontario County. About 67 miles east of York.
1820: Daniel Whitman, age 45+. Perinton, Ontario County. About 35 miles NE of York.
1820: William Whitman, age 45+. Geneseo, Ontario County. About 9 miles SE of York.
Of these, the first to investigate are Israel and William. William's family is documented in online family trees on, and his burial monument is online at, but there are discrepancies between the different family trees. He had a son, apparently named James (who married Sabrina). Unfortunately for us, there are two documented James Whitmans of the same approximate age in or around York at this time. The other James lived closer to William. The question is, "Why would our Whitman be living so near William without some kind of relationship?" Perhaps they are cousins or other relation.
Israel Whitman is not well documented.
Both of these men need to be more carefully looked into, starting with deeds, probate, and tax records. Let the hunt begin!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ancestors Did Not Live In Bubbles

Ancestors, despite what we may think or suspect, did not live in a bubble. They did not live alone all their lives, they did not appear magically out of the air, were not hermits living at the tops of far-off mountain ranges, and only a few of them were actually dropped to the earth by aliens. They lived in families, near friends, and in communities. Those relationships are often the key to finding our elusive kin. The trouble comes when we still have a hard time pinning down even the relationships Granny X enjoyed.
So, I have a case for you. See if you can add to the solution (or the confusion) of who married whom. For every answer, there must first be a question, so we pose a project goal: Who are the sisters, one who married a Whitman and one who married a McAlpine and then a Dorris, both before 1794 in New York?

Family Legend: The mother of my ancestor, James Wescott Whitman (abt.1794 - 1878)is said to have had a sister who married 1)Mr. McAlpine, and 2)Mr. Dorris (or Dorus). We'll call the sisters Sister W (Whitman) and Sister MD (McAlpine-Dorris). Sister MD had three children, John McAlpine (1794 - ?, born NY), Samuel McAlpine (dates unknown, and Mary McAlpine (dates unknown). She was left a widow and then married Mr. Dorris. The oldest child of this marriage was Samuel Dorris (1802 - 1886, born Canada?) plus several other children. Sister MD was then left a widow. In the next generation, one of John McAlpine's (1794 - ?, born NY) children married a daughter of James Wescott Whitman and a child of Samuel Dorris(1802 - 1886, born Canada?) married a daughter of James Wescott Whitman. What we see here is the possibility of a close-knit family for multiple generations.

One of the first things I have to force myself to do is create a time-and-place-proof-line. This is different from a standard timeline of when events happened. I want to know who they happened to, where and when they happened, and how I know I can trust this information (ie: who says it's true and how do they know?)

Do you have DORRIS, MCALPINE, or WHITMAN families skipping merrily through your family tree? Let me know. For now, we will create a time-and-place-proof-line for the next installment.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Does a Man Think Before He Dies?

Written on the 15th Chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians by the late James K. Whitman, sometime in the weeks before his death in 1894. James attended the St. Michaels Episcopal Church (pictured below) church as a boy with his family in Oakfield, Genesee County, New York in the 1850s. He moved west with his bride and young family, settling in Delaware County, Iowa. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church at his death.
"What thinketh a man? So is he..."

Is there no God, no life beyond the tomb,
No joy, no light, but a perpetual gloom.
When we shall in the grave’s dark portals lie,
All there is left for man, to live, to toil, to die,
The few brief pleasures of this world to share,
The glory and the grandeur of it’s toil and care,
Why strain our minds and discipline our lives,
If the cold tomb shall end this earthly strife.
Why shall we, for another’s sake deny,
The joys of life, its comforts, tell me why,
If there no resurrection morn shall be,
And life shall end to all eternity.
If the dark confines of the silent grave,
Christ entered here, has he no power to save?
To rise triumphant to the realms of light,
To conquer death and hell or errors black as night,
There is a God of life, and being free,
All space doth occupy in Him and wisdom see,
With power omnipotent he doth existence fill,
All life, all light were given at His will,
The sun, the moon, He gave creation birth,
And filled with joy the utmost bounds of earth,
By sending Christ, Redeemer, Savior, Son,
To die upon the cross for sins that man hath done,
So great his love of us he shed his precious blood
And made us white as snow by washing in the flood,
He died to live again, entered the silent grave,
And then triumphant rose, a world from sin to save,
As He the victory won and took from death the sting,
So we shall rise at last and full salvation bring,
By giving unto Christ our love, our life, our all,
And coming to his cross in deep contrition fall,
Take thou our lives, we pray, our bodies take them too,
And make us pure in thought and give us grace anew,
Worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost praise,
And trust in Him till death shall end our days,
Then sanctified, redeemed, immortal shall we rise,
To sing the songs of praise forever in the skies.

The Manchester Democrat, Manchester, Iowa
June 6, 1894

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Genealogy is Hereditary - Thank You Celia Orpha Whitman

Celia Orpha Whitman was the oldest child of James Kennicutt Whitman and Sarah Ellen Vallette. She was born 21 May 1851 in Oakfield, Genesee County, New York. Celia was given her maternal grandmother’s name, Orpha (see her story below) for a middle name, and knew her. She also knew her paternal grandparents, James W. and Betsey Whitman, before she and her family moved west leaving Oakfield at about age 13. The family eventually settled in Manchester, Delaware County, Iowa. She and her younger sister, Louisa, were both unmarried and spent a lot of time living and travelling together according to collected family letters.

Celia is remembered by her great-niece, as having been a very tall and imposing woman, who was a “schoolmarm” by trade. She tells us that as a young child she was terrified of her stern Aunt Celia because of her severe and unyielding disposition. To a child, this very tall and commanding woman must have seemed intimidating. However, through some of Celia’s own correspondence and writings, we see a woman who is very concerned about her family and keeps in regular contact with cousins and extended family in an effort to find out more about her own genealogy. It is to Celia we owe a great deal for the things we know of the Whitman, Kennicott, and Polley lines. Celia wrote all over the country to various cousins and distant relations to find out the origins of her family. She protected the Whitman family bible (see below) begun by her parents in the early 1850s and saw that it was passed down to the next generations of Whitmans. She began a book, of sorts, handwritten at first and then asiduously typed retelling the stories and generations for her Vallette and Whitman heritage. For her time, Celia was an impressively organized genealogist. Her writings have clarified a few family mysteries and her facts, while unsourced according to today's genealogical standards, have proven reliable time and time again.

For a woman who wrote so much about her family, we know very litte about her personally. No diaries and not many letters have surfaced about her, excepting her genealogical writings. In the 1900 federal census we find the sisters, Celia and Louisa, living together. They were living in Kanosh, Millard County, UT, right next door to their married brother, Edward, and with their unmarried brother Wilbur. In 1910, Celia and Louisa have moved to Illinois and are housed with the John J. and Jessie L. Acker family, and both listed as “aunt.” Jessie Louisa Acker was Jessie Louisa Lewis, daughter of Celia’s sister, Jessie, and her husband Thomas Jefferson Lewis. Celia was a Dressmaker in 1910.

Celia’s obituary gives us a little look into her life. The news of Celia’s passing was reported in the Glen Ellyn News and The Glen Ellyn on December 14th, 1939.
Miss CELIA ORPHA WHITMAN, aged 88, a resident of this village for the past sixteen years, died December 11. Miss Whitman had lived in Lombard and Wheaton before coming to Glen Ellyn. She was born May 21, 1851 at Oakfield, Genesee County, N.Y. and is survived by one sister Miss Louisa E. Whitman of Glen Ellyn, and one brother Edward N. Whitman of Salt Lake City. Funeral services were held at the Pierce Funeral Home in Wheaton, Wednesday, December 13,at 2 p.m. Dean Cowan C. Williams of St. Marks Episcopal Church officiated.

Photos above: (Top) Celia, aged about 12, tintype. (Middle) Celia aged about 50, circa 1900. (Lower) Celia (with glasses, seated next to child in high chair) is enjoying dinner in her father's Manchester, Iowa home. The man across from her is recognized as the eldest brother, James Adolphus Whitman, and the man to her right in profile is her youngest brother, Wilbur Archer Whitman. Other women pictured are likely sisters Frances and Louisa. If the woman sitting next to James is Celia's mother, Sarah Ellen (Vallette) Whitman, then this picture was taken before her death in 1889.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"No One Would Want to Hear About Me..." - Ardis Cynthia Hutchens Waddoups Ruffell

When asked by her daughter why she never wrote a personal history or journal, Ardis answered, "No one would want to hear about me..." With forty-seven descendants and counting, how wrong she was!
Ardis Cynthia Hutchens was born almost at the turn of the century - 20 Oct 1899 in Ogden, Weber County, Utah, to Joseph Arthur Hutchens and Mary Lucina Fife. She was big sister to two brothers, Arthur (1901) and Joseph William (1908). No real letters or diaries were found for her, but we know a lot about her from her daughter. Ardis was a talented seamstress and enjoyed embroidery and lace crochet. Some of her beautiful pieces have survived and been preserved. As a young woman, Ardis was trained as a millner (hat designer) and had an opportunity to study in France, which she turned down to stay with her family. She made her own graduation dress at the age of 15.

In 1920 Ardis married a young veteran of the First World War from the next
county over, Omer Waddoups. One year and sixteen days later they welcomed their only daughter into the world, Mary. Omer worked on his father's farm and Ardis kept house until tragedy struck like lightning. Off on a fall hunting trip with friends, Omer was accidentally shot with his own gun and Ardis found herself a widow with an eight month-old baby. (See "Corporal Waddoups, World War I Veteran" blog entry 6 Sep 2009.) Family sources say that Ardis was never satisfied that Omer's death was truly an accident. Ardis went home to live with her parents in Ogden, Utah, to raise her daughter.

In 1928 Ardis married a second time to New Zealand immigrant, Heber Thomas Ruffell. Heber's sisters did not approve of his match with a woman who was already "burdened" with a child, but Heber paid them no mind. He was a wonderful father to eight year-old Mary, and a year later they enjoyed a daughter of their own, Edith. Edith remembers her mother as a patient woman. She rarely raised her voice and found humor in stressful situations. Stressful situations did not cease to come though. Ardis' youngest daughter had some medical difficulties and it was recommended that the girl live in a warmer climate. Uprooting the family was difficult, so they settled on having Ardis and Edith live in Arizona for a time while Mary and her new husband move in with Heber. It was early in 1941, and Mary kept house for her father and husband while Ardis was away. Soon, though, Mary was expecting and Ardis and Edith came back to await the first grandchild. Mary didn't make it. In November of 1941, Mary was delivered of her first son, but due to what is now considered medical malpractice, the doctor's mistakes ended Mary's young life. Ardis and her family had to take things in stride. Mary's husband died one year later, and due to the age of the paternal grandmother, Ardis and Heber took on the care of their much loved grandson. He knew them as "Mom" and "Dad" and the family was very close. Eventually the family moved to California - land of sunshine and opportunity. Ardis lived to see six of her great-grandchildren before her death in 1977. Those great-grandchildren remembered trips to Disneyland, rides on Grandma's wheelchair, and most of all, knowing that they were always welcome and loved. Each of Ardis' descendants long to hear more about a woman who kept a family together, in love and through loss.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Three Times a Bride: Orpha POLLEY

Orpha POLLEY (POLLY or POLLAY) was born 31 Aug 1804 in Cayuga County, New York, to parents we are still trying to prove. She died 23 Mar 1858 in Oakfield, Genesee County, New York and is possibly buried in Chili, Monroe County, New York. She married (first) Charles Boss VALLETTE on 21 May 1821 in Locke, Cayuga County, New York. He was born 9 Oct 1799 in Stockbridge, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and died there 10 Jun 1835. She married (second) Norman TULLAR in about 1839 or 1840, probably in Genesee County. He died sometime between 1840 and 1846. She married (third) Josiah HOWELL on 29 Jan 1846 in Batavia, Genesee County. He died aged 59 years on 27 Aug 1847 and is buried in Chili, Monroe County, New York.

Orpha apparently had relatives in the Cayuga area, her Uncle Warren and his wife Susannah (Vallette) Rowley. The exact relationship between Warren Rowley and Orpha is unknown. While she was living with them in 1821 her Aunt Susannah’s nephew, Charles Boss Vallette, came to visit. Orpha and Charles married in Locke that spring. They attended the First Congregational Church of Locke, of which her Uncle Warren was a founding member. Charles’ exact occupation is unknown, but it seems may have been involved with fancy weaving like Orpha’s brothers and half-brothers. Charles’ brother William may have also been a weaver, advertising his talents in a Berkshire County newspaper. Regardless of his profession, Charles seems to have needed to travel for work. While Charles was away Orpha continued to live in Locke, possibly with her aunt and uncle. A letter he wrote to her in 1830 finds him back home with his parents in Stockbridge. He mentions a coverlet that they sold at a premium of four dollars. He seems to have been concerned about the neighborhood in Locke and was considering moving his family. He said, “…I want you to write to me when you get this. I want to know something about the people in Locke, you say that it is seems as though the Devil was let loose among the neighbors. I think if Locke has got to be such a place, we had best not stay there. You tell of husbands whipping wives and wives whipping husbands, this sounds like our Irish neighbors here. Tell our friends if they are in this quarrel not to let the sun go down on their wrath.”

Charles and Orpha welcomed their first daughter, Maria Elizabeth, into their home on 8 Jan 1826 and then a son, James Madison, on 9 Aug 1832. As they were expecting their third child, Charles’ health began to fail, and he moved his little family to his native home of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to live with his parents. Some of the family felt Charles was lazy rather than sick. Contrary to their opinions, he died on 10 Jun 1835, only 35 years old. Orpha was only 30. Their youngest daughter, Sarah, was only 9 months old at the time of her father’s death, having been born in Stockbridge on 27 Oct 1834. It was reported that Charles’ Aunt Sarah Smith, who seemed to believe that Charles was truly ill, insisted on a post-mortem exam. The exam revealed that he had died of “valvular ossification of the Heart.” How were Orpha and her children cared for then? The family reports that there was a feeling at the time that a woman without means could not be responsible for the care of her own children. Under-aged children were often “farmed out” or apprenticed out through the Guardianship courts after the death of a father, especially if a financial provision had not been made for them. Orpha’s granddaughter relates, “…So Maria was bound out to Mrs. Sexton she was to have a good common school education and her clothes and board and when she was 18 years old was to recieve [sic] a good outfit & $100 which she was cheeted [sic] out of. James Madison was given to Charles’ sister Mrs. Phebe Manchester when they went west but must have stayed with his grandfather’s family and his mother untill [sic] then, for he was 7 years old when he came to Wheaton Ills. and he was with his mother and Sarah in Locke after she went back there.” Orpha lost the opportunity to care for Maria (age 9), but kept James (age 3) and the baby Sarah.
Charles’ parents and a number of his siblings moved out west to Cook County, Illinois, sometime around June 1838. Family letters to Orpha survive from this time, revealing a continuing and tender relationship between Orpha and her in-laws. “Father [Vallette] wishes me to send his best wishes to you and yours. I sometimes think that he has more regard for you than for his own children,” Orpha’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth Vallette, says playfully, “He feels grateful to you for your great kindness and attention to him and our family … Your lot may have been hard in former days…but look forward to better things to come.” It seems that by the time of the first letter in June 1838, Orpha’s children James and Sarah are still living with her, now in Byron, Genesee County. By September of 1839 little James has moved to live with the Vallettes in Illinois. They wrote to her to tell how he was doing and to congratulate and advise Orpha on her engagement to be married. She is addressed as “Mrs. Norman Tuller” by July 1840. The end of the letter is directly addressed to Norman Tuller, and from it we conclude that this is at least his second marriage as he is answered about his daughter living in Wisconsin. Orpha and Norman welcome a baby boy into their marriage, and named him Elbridge G. Tuller (or Tullar). He was born 4 Aug 1841, but died just after his sixth birthday on 30 Jan 1848. To complicate Orpha’s life even further, she had been widowed again before 1846. This time, she was merely 42.
Orpha married the third time a widower, Josiah Howell, in January 1846. Orpha’s “hard lot” doesn’t seem to have diminished though. Josiah died on the 27th of Aug 1847 and is buried in the North Chili Rural Cemetery. They had no children together. According to Orpha’s granddaughter, “Mr. Howell’s youngest son was not of age and Orpha stayed at the Howell home for about a year she recieved [sic] an annuity from the Howell estate of $100 per year. After leaving the Howell place she and Sarah moved to Cary (now Oakfield) Gen[esee] Co. N.Y. where she bought a home.”
On 4 July 1850 Orpha’s youngest daughter, Sarah, married James Kennicutt Whitman, and they came to live with her in the home she owned in Oakfield. Orpha was 46 years old at the time of Sarah’s marriage. To provide herself an income, Orpha ran a “student’s club” out of her home, providing shelter and cooking meals for the students attending the local Cary Seminary. The Seminary attracted students from all over the nation, and even boasted some international children of royal houses. Sarah is said to have been a student at the Cary Seminary, and her husband James certainly attended in 1847. James, who is trained as a mason, was also a common school teacher, perhaps even at the Cary Seminary.
Orpha’s health began to fail and she suffered paralysis, perhaps from a stroke, in the fall of 1856. She had to walk with a cane thereafter. Perhaps she needed money for medical bills, or perhaps she wanted to secure her property for her daughter’s family because in December 1856 she deeded her home and property to her new son-in-law, James K. Whitman. Orpha continued to live in the home with Sarah and James, and enjoyed welcoming four of their seven children into the home: Celia (b. 1851), James Adolphus (b. 1854), Frances Jesse (b. 1856), and Alvirus (b. May 1858, d. Jul 1858). Orpha finally succumbed to cancer and died at home on 23 Mar 1858 at the young age of 53. She is said to have been buried in Chili, New York. Orpha suffered and lost more loves in her life than most. She kept close to her family, through letters and by keeping as near to her children as possible. She was respected for her kindness to family, and remembered fondly by her granddaughter and namesake, Celia Orpha Whitman. Perhaps the counsel of her sister-in-law reflected Orpha’s own life motto. Elizabeth Vallette said, “I presume none of us will find substantial happiness in this world…[but] May peace and prosperity reside in your domestic circle, which we have every reason will be the case, as it is the reward of the virtuous.” Whether Orpha's life was virtuous or not, I don't know, I just know that she and her tumultous life have always facinated me.