Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Sweet Spot

I've been taking a bit of break from my NY Gillespy mapping project, but there's never a shortage of side topics to get my curiosity. Because the last place I studied was Walkill Precinct, I was reminded of a long-time mystery Gillespie, Robert Gillespie 1774-1857 who married Lea Crans. So I decided to reacquaint myself with Robert's life, and see if there's anything new to add to his story. You know, just for fun.

Who knew that following the genealogy trail to Susquehanna County, PA could be so much fun? There I found a deed between Robert's grandson, Joseph W. Gillespie, and Gilbert O. Sweet for one acre in Gibson, PA. Curiously, Gibson was the place where Almon C. Sweet lived with his wife, Caroline Foster. Caroline Foster was the daughter of Susanna Gillespie, ~1786-1829, who was in turn the daughter of James Gillespie and Mary Brown Bannerman, who in turn we can associate with the Rensselaer Gillespie family group. Much of my recent research has been devoted to the question of whether the Rensselaer Gillespies were connected to the Ulster/Orange Gillespies, as I believe they were. Now this little side trip to Susquehanna, PA gives us even more insight into all the possible connections.

All of which comes from recognizing the SWEET surname, (were their ancestors confectioners?), which in turn lead to another rather interesting discovery. Harford, Susquehanna, PA was originally a settlement called Nine Partners, Luzerne, PA. The settlers were nine families from Attleboro, Massachusetts, which seems to be the place of origin of the Sweet families I've been studying. One Sweet family intermarried with another Attleboro family: FOSTER -- the very same Foster family to which John Foster was directly related -- John Foster having been the husband of Susanna Gillespie and the father of Caroline Foster who ended up as the wife of Almon C. Sweet.  Read here for more details of my findings.

The complexity of this situation with all the nuances of myriad genealogical interconnections is almost beautiful. It could be that, like the Gillespies, seemingly, everybody was somehow related to everybody else. How sweet it was, is, and shall ever be.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Stewart State Forest

According to, the 6700 acres of Stewart State Forest was set aside as a buffer zone for an expanded Stewart International Airport just west of downtown Newburgh, NY. The idea was to insulate the noise coming from what was then expected to become NYC's fourth major airport.

Aside from the interesting history of the airport, the Stewart State Forest is now a vast preserve for naturalists and outdoor recreation that is somewhat unique in the northeast. Besides the abundance of flora and fauna, there are also the old farmlands and wide gravel roads of yesteryear. These lands were once occupied by our ancestors, including Gillespys.
  • Matthew Gillespy, 1740-1797, had married Jane Neely in 1766, and they had made an agreement with Jane's father, James Neely Sr., to help care for the elderly parents and the Neely farm in New Windsor. The farm of James Neely was located on the north side of Little Britain Rd. (today Route 207) probably between Ridge Rd. and Giles Rd. Matthew lived there probably as early as 1781 (he was an Assessor in New Windsor), and he continued to live there after his wife's death in 1788. The 1790 census shows that Matthew was living near to Henry McNeely, thought to have been a brother of James Neely Sr. Matthew remarried around 1791 and moved to NYC where he became a grocer. Matthew died in 1797 and a subsequent legal dispute involving the Neely farm was eventually decided by the NY Supreme Court in 1814
  • James Gillespy, (dates uncertain, but I'm speculating ~1739-1810), sold his lands near Gillespie Street south of Pine Bush in 1788 and together with his wife, Mary, subsequently bought 50 acres in Little Britain. The land of James was part of the Andrew Johnson patent, and from the property description, it was also north of Little Britain Road, probably between Ridge Rd. and Maple Ave. -- maybe along a dirt road today called Scofield Lane Trail Orange. I calculate that James and Matthew lived just over 2 miles apart. We can see from the 1790 census that James' neighbors included the names of many officers in New York's Revolutionary military command: Belknap, Moffat, Dubois, Burnet, Scott, Humphrey, Alexander Denniston, General James Clinton, and the widow of Col. James McClaughry. There is, in fact, a historical marker at the corner of the Route 207 and Beattie Rd. to mark the one-time residence of James Clinton. But even though surrounded by NY's military elite, James Gillespy had to mortgage his Little Britain property in 1791, which was later paid in 1794 by John McMickle. We must assume that James Gillespy had moved on by that time.

Still in all, I think we're looking at the heart of some important connections. According to New York Colonial Muster Rolls 1664-1775, Volume 2, pp 736-737, in 1763, Capt. James Clinton's company was enlisted to guard the western frontiers of Ulster and Orange counties; Lieutenants included William Stewart, Alexander Denniston, Matthew Smedes, and James McNeal (likely Neely). Among those enlisted were James Gillespy, age 24 (b abt 1739), born in Ireland, came from Capt. Neely's militia. In the same company was Samuel Gillespy, age 19 (b 1744), born in Ulster, came from Capt. Graham's militia.

What is all this telling us about our Gillespys? We know that Samuel Gillespy and Matthew Gillespy were brothers (by Samuel's will), and I'm building the case that this James Gillespy was also a brother. I would love to wander the woods and meadows of Stewart State Forest to see if the winds of history have some long forgotten tales to tell about this Gillespy family.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Gillespie Street in Pine Bush

In my recent quest to map Gillespie locations in New York, I finally came to the hamlet of Pine Bush, found in the town of Crawford. I personally visited Pine Bush in 2012, and even stopped in at the town library, just to say that I did. But what I really needed then was a tour guide because I couldn't fully appreciate where I was at the time. Now after mapping the homestead of Samuel Gillespy on the eastern outskirts of Pine Bush, I realize this locale was the home for several generations of Samuel's descendants.

But were Samuel's descendants the only ones to live in and around Pine Bush? We know now that Capt. John Gillespy and his grist mill were only 5 miles outside of town on the Dwaar Kill. But John sold his properties outside the Pine Bush area in 1785 and moved his family to New Windsor, and it doesn't appear that any from his family remained in Pine Bush. Did any other Gillespies spend time in Pine Bush? I contend there was at least one other, James Gillespy. Upon mapping the location of James' property as described in 1788, it was interesting to see from a modern satellite map that a corner of the property is bordered today by Route 48 on the south and Gillespie St. on the east, and 2.5 miles east of Burlingham in Mamakating Precinct where I recently discovered other Gillespy properties. I'm obviously still catching up to what other Gillespie researchers already know about these locales, but learning is half the fun.  You can read more about finding Gillespie Street here.

Now that I am getting my bearings, I think of a line from a Seamus Heaney poem:

If self is a location, so is love: 
Bearings taken, markings, cardinal points, Options, obstinacies, dug heels and distance, 
Here and there and now and then, a stance.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Deed Mapping

This past week, I've been following the Gillespy trail using two of my favorite sources, historical maps and old deeds. These sources often contain genealogy surprises, but they also teach us alot about compass bearings and distances measured by chain lengths. (See Life of a 1700's Surveyor for some great details.) Translating those old property descriptions onto Google Earth satellite maps could and does occupy me happily for days. Given that I am "sheltered in place" during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's a good use of my time.

This time around, my deed-digging lead me to recognize property that was near to James Gillespy who, in 1770, sold his Shawangunk property on the west side of the Walkill River. That lead to learning more about the Gerarrd Beekman Patent of 3000 acres where the Gillespy land was located. That lead to reviewing the property descriptions of the Gillespys in that patent, where I soon realized a mistake made in my earlier reading of them. I love finding my own mistakes and correcting them because that almost always explains something I couldn't quite understand before. See my latest article about Gillespy and Hunter homesteads in Shawangunk.

Oh, but once on a roll with maps and deeds, why not go on? My next task was to study more closely the deeds of Capt. John Gillespy. That lead to learning about the 10,000-acre Schuyler Patent to the west and south of the Shawangunk precinct, land located in the precinct of Walkill-then Hanover-then Montgomery. In the end, we discover that Capt. John resided on the Walkill/Hanover/Montgomery side, but his grist mill was just across the precinct line in Shawangunk on the farm of James Hunter. See my other latest article about Capt. John Gillespy living on the line.

So all in all, it's been a good week for understanding precisely where some Gillespy characters lived. I think the key to understanding relationships is to understand individuals. One by one, we are getting to know the Gillespy characters of early Ulster/Orange, NY. Eventually, I believe their relationships to each other, and to us, will reveal themselves.

And so ends my genealogy report on Easter Sunday 2020 when a spring snowstorm is blanketing Colorado as I write. It seems fitting that my world should be under a snowy hush given that, because of COVID-19, there was no sunrise service up on Flagstaff mountain this morning, there are no easter lillies being delivered, no easter egg hunts around the neighborhood, no gatherings of scattered family and friends except via Zoom. But then I realize that our Gillespy ancestors were also likely in their homes on their Easter Sunday. It seems most of the early colonists did not celebrate holidays, especially this one, in the way we do today. They were in their homes, resting and reflecting on a Sunday. Just as we are doing now.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Case Sensitive

Last fall, I ran across reference to a complicated legal case involving two Gillespy brothers which was heard by the NY Supreme Court in 1814. The case report stated specific Gillespy family relationships, i.e., who married whom, and names of children, which is information most often received by a genealogist as a dream come true. But as I have continued piecing together the Gillespy family groups of early Ulster/Orange, NY, the genealogical details from that NY Supreme Court case just don't fit with other evidence, which is not to say that I haven't really been trying to MAKE them fit. For Pete's Sake, the source is a case report from the NY Supreme Court, so it must be right! But alas, it would seem that every source, every single one, must be critically examined and corroborated. I think this particular case report was probably mistaken in some of the key details pertaining to Gillespy relationships. You can read about my analysis here.

Meanwhile, the best way to really corroborate any of the details in the NY Supreme Court case report is to find the minutes pertaining to the Gillespy case from the lower courts. This Gillespy case was apparently heard several times before reaching the NY Supreme Court - in the Ulster County Court of Common Pleas as well as the Orange County Circuit Court, and maybe others. But locating those records is easier said than done, especially knowing that other interested researchers have tried with determination and failed to locate these records. But are the negative search results because the records no longer exist, or because the records are simply not indexed (which effectively hinders any search), and/or they have been mislabeled or misfiled and/or they have been restrictively stored some place that is physically and/or financially inaccessible to the public? I'd love to hear from anybody who has experience or advise about successfully locating early (pre-1800) court records in Ulster or Orange counties, NY.

At this point, I'm going to give a plug to support any genealogical or historical society whose volunteers are attempting to index records and make those indices available online. Even better, support Reclaim The Records. This organization has made phenomenal progress, especially in New York, using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to see that public records are released to the public domain. The job of discovering and untangling our family history should not be hampered by government restrictions. My two cents.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Shawangunk Neighbors

Since the discovery of the 1770 deed of Shawangunk property from James Gillespy to Matthew Bevier Jr., I thought it would be productive to get more familiar with the Gillespy neighbors. Me and my bright ideas. The work is interesting and mind-numbing at the same time! Nevertheless, here is my research report, which is my best attempt to sort through the myriad details looking for Gillespy connections. Some of the highlights include:
  • mention of relatives in ARMAGH (KAIN)
  • James Gillespy as a deed witness (KAIN)
  • William, Matthew, and Mary Gillespy as will witnesses (ROOSA)
  • mention of Matthew Gillespie as a former landowner  (ROOSA)
  • mention of Ann Gillespie daughter of Matthew Gillespie, deceased (GRAHAM)
From the looks of things, after selling the Shawangunk property James Gillespy moved down into the Hanover Precinct (what became the town of Montgomery). I guess I'll be meeting the neighbors in Hanover next....

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

*Hunter Gathering*

The next phase of my research involves investigating more about associated families to the early NY Gillespy's, specifically those of the surname HUNTER and WILKIN(S). Each of these associated family groups have their own rich and complicated history, so I'm prepared for this study to take awhile. As true as that is to say, today a rather startling realization popped out which deserves making note.

First, to give a little context. The Hunter family history tells us that Robert Hunter I came to America about 1727 from Northern Ireland with three sons: Archibald, James, and Robert. The Hunters settled in Shawangunk, and their names can be found among those who served in the 1738 Walkill militia. As the story goes, the Hunters also brought a couple of Gillespy's with them from Northern Ireland, specifically Samuel (Sr.) and Elizabeth. We've not yet found any record of Samuel Gillespy Sr, and supposedly Elizabeth Gillespy (1715-1756) married Robert Hunter Jr. (1714-1776). To be honest, I haven't yet found an actual record of Elizabeth Gillespy Hunter either, but let's just say she did exist, and she had six children before her death. One of those children, Eliza Lily Hunter (1754-1828) married her first cousin, James Hunter (son of James, son of Robert I). I know I know, eyes are rolling, but bear with me.

Eliza Lily Hunter, daugther of Elizabeth Gillespie Hunter, had several children with James Hunter, the youngest of whom was James I. Hunter 1783-1863. He married Mahitable Haines and they lived in Montgomery, Orange, NY until the time his mother, Eliza Lily, died in 1828. Then James and his family moved. He moved west. Let's say 600+ miles west, possibly by land or possibly by way of the Erie Canal and then across Lake Erie. Destination? Bloomfield, Oakland, Michigan! Anybody who has followed this blog might remember that all my beginning posts pertained to Bloomfield and the discovery of Gillespie-Greer relations who tie directly into my family tree!

James I. Hunter purchased two 80-acre land patents in Bloomfield in 1831. The 1840 census shows us that his neighbors were Hiram H, William G, and Charles Hunter (James' sons), William Kidd, William Greer, and Henry Sloat. In the same census of the same place, we find the list of my family: Joseph, John, James, Thomas, and Robert Greer, George Slater, Charles Lemon, Elizabeth Gordon (Gillespie), and Thomas Gillespie. I estimate the distance between the Greer and Hunter farms to have been under three miles. It could be coincidence. Or not.

For fun, I checked my DNA matches for Hunter. And lo. Again, something small, 8cM across 1 segment for a 5th-8th cousin match, a direct descendant of James I. Hunter, and thus also, presumably, Elizabeth Gillespie 1715-1756.

So here we have yet another small link between our Michigan Gillespie-Greer families and the Gillespy families of early New York. But we're still fishing for the connection. When I lay it out with index cards on the table, I can speculate that James I. Hunter, Nancy Greer, Jane Greer, and Elizabeth Gillespie were all second cousins. Going up the line, I think that means that Elizabeth Gillespie Hunter (1715-1756) left behind a brother in Northern Ireland, one who was the father of our progenitor John Gillspie (b abt 1758), who in turn had children by his first marriage, Nancy, Jane, and Elizabeth, all who emigrated to NY before the War of 1812.

Clearly this post is about evidence that is highly speculative, so this is not a "dicovery," per se. But wherever we have found the name of Elizabeth Gillespie, we have learned more about our family history than we could have dreamed about.