Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 23

Another bright morning here in upstate New York. I love walking down to the shore and going out on the jetty first thing every morning. Today, a papa duck was standing guard on the dock by the boat house while his 9 adolescent children were huddled in a heap trying to stay warm and sleep. Like any bunch of teenagers, they jostled for prime position cheerfully squashing each other rather than sleeping.

After breakfast and a bit of work, I headed for Springwater, NY about 1.5 hours west and south of here. Once again Fiona the GPS guru was at her finest. Although I was looking for Coatses, I found the Peabodys.

The trip to Springwater led away from the lake district into the folded, timbered hills of the west. How anyone decided to make their way here and farm is still a mystery. The hillsides are steep with much of the current farming along the tops of ridges. There are larger farms in some valleys that were scraped wider by the glaciers. The Springwater area was surveyed by Col. Maxwell. The township survey begins "Began the north line of the town August 25, 1789 between lot 7 and 8 in the fifth range at the small mountain oak, which is the east line running west, the first mile is 160 rods, down a steep hill. The growth is mountain and black oak and chestnut. The soil is hard and dry. 126 rods on a better soil, the growth black and white oak, chestnut, maple and basswood and others to a handsome brook running northward the rest of the mile is good; -------the rest of the description is three times longer and just as interesting, although the town would be impossible to find by this description in current times.

The town of Springwater is home to about 2,000 residents and was the birthplace of George Washington Coats (remember Michigan?) in 1838. His parents, Ezra P. Coats and Roxanna Peabody have always represented the end of that line on our genealogy sheet so I came to find them. I had discovered just before leaving home, that Ezra was born in Connecticut not New York. This enabled me to hook up with several generations from his family. But I could never figure out why/how he met up with the Peabodys and went from NY to Michigan. The people in Springwater were very nice but I struck out finding a birth certificate for GW Coats. However, the city clerk is going to keep looking and will call if she finds something.

From there it was on to Mt. Morris, the county seat for Livingston County. As I followed the directions to the top of a wooded hill about 20 miles from Springwater, I came to this incredible campus of buildings. A dozen large edifices of brick with white wood trim. I was sure I had stumbled onto the campus of some college, but no - each building had a different set of county offices. Building 5 was home to the county historian. Turns out the facility was a tuberculosis sanitorium in a previous life. I'm not sure I would ever want to get well and go home. It is gorgeous.

In building 5, I hit pay dirt. I turns out that Sheffield Winslow Peabody (1830 - 1914) kept diaires. He wrote a line or two each day from 1849-1914. A descendent, bless her forever, had typed up all the entries and indexed them - it must have been a mammoth job because the result is four large binders plus three smaller ones. And lo and behold, we find Roxanna and Ezra, and George, Miner and David - the children. It turns out our Roxanna was Sheffield's sister.

In the diaries Sheffield sketches the genealogy of the Peabody family back 7 generations. We have had a list of the generations before but only the male lines, so I had no idea where Roxanna fit. We now know her parents are William Peabody and Roxanna Burdick, her grandparents were William P. and one of his 3 wives, and back to John who came to Plymouth, MA by 1636. His son William married Elizabeth, daughter of John and Priscilla (Mullens) Alden. Both Roxanna's father and grandfather are buried in the Springwater area but there is no master list of graves so finding the gravesites will be difficult and left for another time.

The diaries of SWP are a wonderful look at farm life over more than 60 years. The parents of SWP and Roxanna lived in the area as did many other family members (there were 8 children in that generation). Roxanna and Ezra seemed to have struggled to make a go of it but are mentioned regularly in the diaries. A fire May 3, 1851 burned Roxanna and Ezra's home to the ground and the family got out with just the clothes on their backs. On May 5th, Ezra took a wagon and picked up donations from various neighbors to help restart their home. On the 8th, SWP and Ezra scored timber for the new house which was then erected on the 9th by a "bee" (house raising). Can you imagine losing your house and rebuilding it within a week? We couldn't do it today. Ezra often worked for SWP and on Oct. 13, 1857, SWP helped pack up the family goods for their move to Michigan. The party going to Michigan included Elvina and Marella Stiles (cousins), Roxanna, Miner and David Coats. George W. goes seperately with his cousin Millard Stiles. I don't know where Ezra was in all this. He may have gone ahead or come to Michigan later. SWP lists him in 1885 as living with GW in Coats Grove. There were other Peabody relatives already in Michigan in 1857 so this may have been a motivation for moving.

Coming out of the history center, I had to wade through a downpour. I was wet from my belt to my underwear but that couldn't dampen my excitement about what I discovered. All in all, a great day.
That's all for tonight. On to Geneva tomorrow for a look see.

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