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Jotham Bemus of Bemus's Heights online

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3 1833 00669 3821



Considerable interest naturally attaches to the family which
owned and occupied the ground chosen by General Gates on the ad-
vice of Count KosiVsUiOfor the American defensive works against
Burgoj'ne's onward march in 1777, in view of the fact that the
family name became forever associated with the im.nortant bat-
tles fought in the vicinity, and that members of the family to<:ik
part in them upon the American side, literally defending their
home and fireside. There is a considerable amonnt of informa-
tion in regard to this family existing, but scattered through
various volumes and never Ijefore collected together in a single
article it has been of little use to the historical reader or to the
descendants of the original settlers. To briefly give a summaiy
of this information is the object of this sket:h.

At the time of the Burgoyne campaign there was living up(jn
the west bank of the Hudson, about four miles north of the vil-
lage of Stillwater, Jotham Bemusandhis family, which consi>red
of his wife anUsix children. Bemus was a farmer, energetic
and enterprising, engaged in buying cattle and in other tratlu-
and was evidently a man in ea^fy circumstances. He kept the
only tavern of any note between Albany and Fort Edward, ;is
Lossing relates in his Fifld Book of the Rcvohttinn, volume I.
page 4.J, and wa^ wel' known through all tlie region. Accoifling
to the Emjlish Manid^cript.-^ in the State Library, page *^2^, he
was in 1774 a justice of the peace. He. -was born about 173,S and
consequently was about 40 years of a^e at the time of the Bur-
goyne camijaign. He is described as of stout^build and of a vig-
orous and determined character. From Charles Nellson's account
of Burgoyne's cami>aign, j)ublished in l.'<44, it is learne<l at p.-ige
289 that Bemus's house was the <mly frame dwelling included
within the limits of the military operations at the Heights.


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in 2010 with funding from

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center



At the time of the battlt-s the family had been residents in the
virinity fov at least 17 years, for the Calendar of Land Papers
in the State Library, 164, Sept. 9, 1768, ])age S'io, records that in
17pU the families of Bemus, Gritfith and Park were occupying
lands in this region. There Is a strong probability that these
families came to this region from Norwich, Conn. Jeremiah
(Griffith, who afterwards .settled in Chautauqua county, was born
in Norwich in July. 17')X. went to Rensselaer county from which
he emigrated to Chautauqua county (See Young's Histoi-i/ of
Chaatamiua Connty, pp. 315-323.) In Hurd's History of New
Loudon County, 1882, among the inhabitants of New L(indon in
16.")l occur the names of Beuias and Park. Jotham Bemus. the
subject of this sketch was married to Tryphena Moore, and the
History of New London County gives the names of a family of
Moores as living in that county previous to 1689. These facts
indicate strongly that the Bemus family came to Saratoga frum
near Norwich, Conn., and this is further corrobated by the fol
lowing from Bonds Genealogies and History of Wi/firtown,
J/o.s.s., 2d edition, page 6S(). 2d volume: "It is conjectured that
"the following Bemis family are descendants from Kphraini
"Bemis; Jotham Hemis and wife T ryphenia, from Connecticut
"settled early in Saratoga ounty, N. Y., on the margin of the
"Hudson river, etc. "

Though the genealogical chain between Ephraim Bemis of
Watert'Avn, Mass., and Jotham Bemus of Saratoga county is
not complete, the presumption is strong that the latter was a de-
scendant of the former and this presum^jtion is strengthened by
the fact that the family given-names common to the Massachus
etts branch are of frequent occurrence among the descendants
of Jotham Bemus. Po.ssibly this sketch may result in the dis
covery of the "missing link" in this genealogical chain.


It is b,?lieved by tliv; writer that in the battles occurring near
the Heights Jotham Bemus and three of his sons took part. Tliis
has always been a family tradition and consideralde evidence ex-
ists to prove its truth. William Marvin of North East, Pa., a
descendant of J(jthatn Bemus now living (180-1), recently wrote:
' "I think f n;m what I have heard that your great-great grand-
"father (Jotham Bemus, Sen.) and his two .s(jns. Jotham and Wil-

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"liam, were all in the army and all in the battles of Bemus's
"Heights." Mr. Marvin also writes that he has heard William
Bemus, son of Jotham. Sen., relate his army experiences, and
that his iuipressions of the occurrences are thus derived from
personal conversation with one who participated in the battles.

Jotham Bemus, Jr., the first child of Jotham. Sen., certainly
was in the American army as shown by the Archives of ^eve
York, volume I, page 2'>0.

"Bemi'S, Jotham, Corpl. Rhode Island Regi., Jeremiah Olney, Lt. Col. command-
"ing'. Enlisted in Col. Van Schaick's for i year, '76. Served 6 years, i month, lO
"days. Dischari^'ed by General Washington Jan. 15, 'S3. A. P. 17-62. Town of
"Saratoga, badge of merit."

William Bemus, the second child of Jotham Bemus. Sen., was
a member of Captain Ephraim Woodworth's company, the 4th. in
the 13th regiment, Saratoga district, known as the Saratoga regi-
ment. Col.VanVechten (or Van ^'eghten), who was on Gen. Gates's
staff, was the regimental commaLder. He lived at Dove-gat, or
Van Vechtens Cove, between Bemus's Heights and Schuyler-
ville. Captain Woodwoi th was also a neighbor of the Bemuses,
his house, less than half a mile back of theirs, being used by Gen.
Gates as headquarters, after he left the Bemus house. Col. John
McCrea was at one time commandant of the "Saratoga regi-
ment" The tragic death of his sister, Jane McCrea, formed a
leading incident of the BurgoyTie campaign. (See Archives, vol-
I, page 302 for reference to William Bemus; also page 271, vol-
ume 1, for reference to Saratoga regiment. )

That the third son, John, also took part in the struggle Is evi-
dent from the fcjUowing extract from his obituary notice pul)
lished in the Saratoga Sentinel Sept 1. '5, 1829: <■ * * Though
"young he was in the American service at the capture of Bur-
"goyne as a teamster * *."' / ^rT

The Bemus house was used by General Bm'gor ne as headquar-
ters for a time. When the extension of the American fortifica-
tions after the first battle was completed. General Gates moved
his headquarters to the house of Captain Ephraim Woodworth
on the Heights. After the battle of Sept. 19 the Bemus house
was also used by General Lincoln as headquarters. The fate of
the Bemus house is established by a letter from Rev. S. Ha^^'le^'
Adams, of Jamestown, N. Y., printed in Stone's Biinjoyne Bal-
lads, in which he says: "My grandmother, Salley Bemus Craw-
"ford, (daughter of Jotham Bemus, Sen.,) was born at Bemus
"Heights May 1708. ' * She has spent hours in telling me of

..•'...:. X

" 'Burgiue" and bis army which she saw; of the buminpr of her
"fatliei-'.s liouse by tlie British, and of the sufferings of tlie family
•for a time while they were winterinj? in a Itarn — Bur;^-oyne
' having- destroyed all their buildings and crops." Though no
mention of the destruction of the house appears in any of the
accounts of the battles, it is evident that it was burned in some
foray of the enemy after it had been abandoned by Gates and
Lincoln as headquarters. It was on the extreme flank of the
American lines, and probably more or less unprotected after the
tirst day's fighting, the troops being massed at some distance
fnmi t!ie river, near Fort Neilson.

The site of the Bemus house is now marked by a stone tablet
bt'ariug the foll<»\ving inscription;




The gift of ^l^CUA -

Giles B. igi]i.i.riittii.


JoTiiAM Bemus, SEX.^who was bom about 1738. died, it is be-
li<'ve(l, about the year 178G at the age of 48 years. His first wife
was Tryiihona Mofire, who was of Scotch descent. She was a
witnian of nuK-li refinement and culture. In an old family Bible
in jx»«v«'>>.i<)n of some of the descendants of Jotham Bemu.=, Sen.,
at I'«-m;is P<,iiit. Thaut. Co., N. Y., is the following list of his

"i. J>THAM— No sons, 4 daughters.

"a. Wii.LUM.

"■: t..MN— N"., -hiM't-ii.

• ■ " ■;• M.trrieri a C'rawford.

"5. J\\«K<. — Went South.

"6 Nancv— M.-irried a Hudson."

This meagre record can be filled out to some considerable ex- ?» •<

tent in the case of two of the children, William and Sail}-. Con- \/^ Nj

cerning the others but little is known. Following is the in for- i^ N^

mation concerning each of the children so far as obtained. The v*

first four children were by Jotham Bemus' first wife. Tryphena \s^ ^

Moore, the fifth child by a .■second wife whose maiden name is • ^ ?S-

unknown. The '• Nancy " whose name is given above was not a y

child of Jotham Bemus, but was the child of his second wife by "O ,4 ' v

a previous marriage, bhe man led a Hudson, and lived in Chat- ,^ i
ham, N. Y., and had one son whose name was ordinarily called
"Plin," but in reality was probably Pliny.

Th9 second wife of Jotham was a woman of violent temper
and made the home unhappy for the children of the first wife,
and it would seem from the recollections of Mrs. Sally Crawford,
the youngest of these, that it was not long after the second wife
came into the household before the children of the first wife had
to leave it.

Following is what is knov.-n of the children of Jotham Bemus: hr
I. Corporal JoTHAii Bemus, Jk. , remained in the army >*
until ITSfi, serving with distinction and receiving the " Badge of ^
Merit." In l8()o (Turner"s history of the Holland Purchase, page v
460) he took "articles'" to land in Western New York in towni^hip ^ «5
8, range 7, and township 9, range 7. In the library of the But- ^ '^
falo Historical society, in the letters to Joseph Ellicott, agent of ' S

the Holland Land company, is a manuscript letter from him "~^ ^
dated Jlay 4, is06, in which he says he "has surveyed lot -14.
"township 9, range 7, and is building on lot 37, township 9,
range 7." The letter is No. 1^7, Vol. 8, B. The lots mentioned
were situated in the present town of Hamburg, Erie Co. near
Buffalo. He was a member of the first grand jury west of the
Genesee river, which was cho.sen in 1803 and sat in the court
house just completed at Batavia. Nothing of his descendants. vj

beyond the meagre record of the family Bible — "no sons, 4 ^ j-*
daughters" — is known to the writer. It would seem not a diffi
cult matter to trace this branch of the familv further



^ ^

IT. William Bemus, the second son, was bom at Bemus
Heights, Feb. 25, 1726 and died at Bemus Point, (Town of Filer}',
Chaut. Co., N. Y.) Jan. 20, 18:30, in the 67th year of his age. He
moved from Bemus Heights to Pittstown, Rensselear Co. and on
Jan 29, 1782 was married to Mary Prendergast, who was Ixjrn at
Pawling, Dutchess Co., March 13, 176(i. and died July 11. I^"",.
Her fatlier w.i^ ;i l.M,ir»r hi his section and for his patriotic re.SLst-


ance to the obnoxioiis rent laws was in ITfifi condemned to death
for high treason Imt was subsequenaly pardoned by the king.
William Bemus. in 180."), left Pittstown with his OAvn and his
father-in-law's family and journeyed to Kentucky aiid Tennessee,
but came back to New York state and settled on the shores of
Chauttiuqua lake, at Bemus Point, March 9, 1806. In 1804, ac-
cording to Turner he had taken articles to land in township 2,
range 12, the site on which he settled in 1800. Ho evidently
visited the region before the trip south. He was a man of mark
in the community, of high character, benevolent instincts and
public spirit. He wielded large influence. His children were as
follows :

1. Dr. Daniel Bemls, born Sept. 4, 1784 and settled in meadville. Pa., where he
died in 1866; married, first, Jane Miles, aecond, Jane Brooks Clark.

2. Thomas Be.vus, born May q, 17S6. Settled near Westfield, N. Y. where he
died June 23, 1829. Married Jane Atlcins Jan. i, iSc-j.

3. Elizabeth Eeml'S, born Nov. 3. 1789. Married Captain John Silsbee (who
was wounded in the war of 1812) Dec. 6, 1808, and died in Iowa.

4. LiEL'T. Charles J-!emi's, bcrn Aug. 31, 1791. Married Relepha Hoyd, Feb,
57, 1811, died Oct. 10, 1861; was a soldier in the war of 1S12.

SYFHENA Bemls, born April 23, 1793, married John Griffith Feb. 28, 1809,
died Feb. 19,

6. Mehitabel Bemus, born Jan. 10, 1795. Married Daniel Hazeltine Oct. i, 1818
died Sept. 22, 1889.

7. James Bemcs, born Feb. 2. 1797, married Tryphena Boyd Feb. 14, 1S19, died
June 2, 1874.

The descendants of William Bemus are numerous in Chau-
tauqua county and are people of influence and standing in the

III. JoH.v Bemus, the third son of Jotham Bemus, Sen., was
born on the Heights farm in 1703 and lived there until shortlj-
before 1829, when he removed to the village of Saratoga Springs
where he died Sept. 8, 1829, in the 00th year of his age. He was
married but had no children. He was quite well to-do and left
half his property to his sister Sally (Cemus) e'rawfoid. His wife
<lit'<l s. >int' vi-ars before his own death.

IV - u.LY, the fourth child of Jotham and Tryphena Moore
Bemu.s, was born May 0th, 1708: married Daniel Crawford of
Saratoga Springs, :March 22d, 1789; died June 8th, 180.') at Kvans-
ville, Ind., buried at Saratoga Springs beside her husband.

Slie wa.s a woman of great vitality, courage and energy, and
wa-> .1 lif.' long meijili.-r of the Baptist church. Her husband.
Diiniel Crawfoni was for many years owner and proprietor of

i f r Qi


" Highland Hall " situated in the southern part of the villaire of
Saratoga Springs. He died in 1809 aged T.j years.

They had eight rhildren : Mary, Jotham. John, Tn-phena.
Betsey, Margaret, Sarah, Martha.

M.\RV, m. Danus Davis of Saratoga Spiin-.;s, and had thirteeen children. She
died in 1S32 aged 42 years,

Jotham, m. Electa Jarv is, and had elt^ven children. He died at Saraioea
Springs, July 23d, 1S72, aged Zo years.

John, m. Louisa Harris, and had five children. When a young man he went to
North Carolina and was engaged in teaching until his death in 1S47 at c.loldsboro. N.
C, aged 49 years. His descendants live now at Goldsboro and Raleigh, N. C.

Tkvphena, m. Alvah Ostrander who died in i£2f, and in 1S31 she married Marvin
Holden of Elinira, X. V. She had one child by the ist marriage and three by the 2d.
She died in Hancock Co , 111., agrd 72 years.

Betsv, m. John Andrus, and had three children. Resided at Geneva. Ohio,
until 1S36, later at Saratoga Springs where she died in 1S61, aged 57 years. Mr. And-
rus's brother James was a leading citizen of Saratoga Springs and very wealtiiv.

Margaret, m. Samuel Hawley of Rochester. X. V.. he died iniS4i, and in 1S45
Rev. Augustus Pomeroy a Presbyterian clergj man. His pastorates alter ti- eir n ar-
riage were at Fredonia, X'. Y ; .Ashtabula, C). ; Groton, X. V. She died in iSij, aged
83 years. X'o children. Both are buried at Groton.

Sarah, m. Grant Adams of Powell, Oneida Co.. X'. Y., Tan. i, 1S14. He died in
1866 and .she in 187S, aged 70. One child. Samuel Hawley Adams, at ihis time
(1894) pastor 1st Congregational church, Jamestown, X'. Y.

Martha, m. Lzra Hall of Saratoga Springs. Removed to F.vansville. Ind., in
1864. There she died in 1833, a.^ed 82 years. Two dauchters.


The decendants of Jotham Bemus should spell the family
name Bem^s, if they propose to follo\Y the orthograjihy unduubt-
edly adopted by their ancestor. This is shown by the fact that
letters from Jotham Bemus, Jr., and AVilliam Bemus can be seen
in the Holland Purchase x.»apers above refered to, in which it is
signed in that manner. This spelling we believe is now coming
into general acceptance, though in the past the spelling has been
extremely varied. The Mas.sachusetts family adhere to the .spell-
ing Bem/.s. In the CaJfUflfif of Land Papers spoken of it is giv-
en as Z?f?fmis. In Justin Winsor's Critical Hisfori/ of the U. S.
on page 061 of Vol. VI it is given as Bracraxis. In Spencer s Ilis-
torji of the U. S., Vol. II, page ."iOO, it is given i?f.7(mus. Ilurd's
Histori/ of Xew London Co. gives the name Bema.s. Ejihraim
Benii'-s-Zt was a soldier at Groton in 1765. There are doubtless
many other forms of spelling the name to be found.

Daniel Hazeltine Po.st.

Jamestown. N. Y., June 1st, 1804.

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Online LibraryDaniel Hazeltine PostJotham Bemus of Bemus's Heights → online text (page 1 of 1)