Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mayor Richard P. Hart and the 1837 St. Patrick's Day Riot of Troy, New York

Richard P. Hart
from History of Rensselaer County
Richard Philip Hart, the second child of Philip and Susannah (Akin) Hart was born in Hart's Village, Dutchess County, New York on February 11, 1780. He went to work for his brother-in-law, Jacob Merritt, husband of his sister Mary, in Troy, New York. From there, he became a business man in his own right, making a great deal of money selling supplies to the U.S. Army and Navy during the War of 1812. This was in the tradition of his father Philip supplying the blue cloth for the uniforms of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War.  Richard went on to amass a fortune in banking, railroad, real estate, and other industries. Interestingly, Richard P. (as he was always known), was elected to the New York State Assembly for the 1820 to 1821 session as the representative for Rensselaer County. His first cousin, and my three times great grandfather, Stephen Hart, was also elected to the New York State Assembly for the same term, but from Lewis County. This was the only term either man ever served in state government. As Richard benefited commercially from the construction of the Erie Canal, the terminus of which was close to Troy, I imagine that he was likely of the same party as the governor of New York State, Dewitt Clinton, the driving force behind the canal's construction. Richard's brothers Philip Hart Jr., Jacob Akin Hart, William Hart, and Isaac B. Hart, were also a part of the political and economic development of the City of Troy, but none to the extent of Richard.

Richard P. Hart first married Phebe Bloom on January 10, 1800, and had a daughter Phebe Bloom Hart, born in 1800, who died at the age of twelve. The mother passed away on May 9, 1801. He then married Delia Maria Dole on February 10, 1805, who died five months later of tuberculosis. His marital fortunes were to change when he married his first cousin once removed, Betsey Amelia Howard, on February 10, 1816, daughter of his first cousin William Howard and Rebecca French (White) Howard. (William was the son of Richard's aunt Phebe Hart Howard). Betsey was born December 9, 1798 in Dutchess County. They had fourteen children: Mary Amelia, Harriette Howard, Phebe Bloom, William Howard, Elizabeth H., Jane Rebecca, Richard, Joseph Moss, Susan, Caroline, Julia Ann, Frances, Sarah Wool, and Austin Spencer.

Richard and Amelia lived in a mansion in the city of Troy, which was built for them in 1827 as a wedding gift from her father to the couple. It still stands today, referred to as the Hart-Cluett House, and is the home of the Rensselaer County Historical Society and museum.

Richard was the mayor of the city of Troy from 1836 to 1838. In 1837 he helped quell the St. Patrick’s Day Riot in that city, which had started with a group of men hanging St. Patrick in effigy to insult the local Irish people. He went to the scene of the riot and ordered the crowd to disperse. He later ordered in the Citizens’ Corps, the local militia. Their entry into the fray “caused the participants to retire without compulsion”. One newspaper account described how the “Mayor and Recorder” “acted with great decision—were personally in the midst of the disturbances—and in several instances seized and handed over to the watchmen with their own hands, those who were turbulent, insolent or riotage”.

Richard was also a patron of the arts and sciences in the city of Troy. He was a founding trustee of both the Troy Polytechnic Institute, the Troy Female Seminary, and the Troy Lyceum of Natural History. He was also a lover of literature and attending many lectures. His charitable interests also included the Troy Orphan Asylum.

While Betsey and the children were travelling in Europe, Richard was the victim of a terrible accident. He had been home with a bad cold, and was taking a “vapor bath”, when apparently the curtain around the bath caught on fire. A newspaper story states that a servant threw some liquid on him, thinking it was water, which turned out to be alcohol. He died related to his burns on December 27, 1843.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Philip Hart and George Washington's Blue Coats

Philip Hart portrait from the Millbrook Round Table Apr 18, 1902
Accessed via Fulton Postcards
Sometimes when I investigate the siblings of people on my direct lines I find information which helps illuminate the lives of my ancestors, and sometimes I also find fascinating stories about the sibling him or herself. This is certainly the case with Philip Hart, my fourth great grand uncle, and the brother of my four times great grandfather Jeremiah Hart, one of my five Revolutionary War ancestors.

Philip was the youngest of Richard and Mary (nee Taber) Hart’s ten children, born three years after Jeremiah, on January 12, 1749 in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Philip and his brother Jeremiah left Little Compton in about 1769 for Dutchess County, New York, in an area which was to be called “Hart’s Village” after their family. Their brothers John and Richard had moved there about fourteen years earlier, and possibly also his sister Phebe. Philip, Jeremiah and Richard were to own land in common there. Jeremiah left there permanently for Stillwater, Saratoga, New York in about 1775, and Richard likely moved to Orange County, New York. In 1786 and later Philip bought out his stepmother’s and brothers’ portions of the family farm.

Philip also appropriated the grist mill originally established by his older brother John, and possibly also Richard. (I am thinking that they may have learned about operating grist mills through working at the grist mill established by their kinsman Philip Taber in Adamsville, Little Compton, which my sister and I visited this summer. See my blogpost, Grist for the Mill: Harts and Tabers in Little Compton, Rhode Island). It is stated that John and his son John were loyal to the Crown during the Revolutionary War, and finding records about them is challenging. It is said that other members of the Hart extended family also moved to the Hart’s Village area, and I am working on discovering who they all were.

Philip was a young unmarried man when he came to Dutchess County, and likely also a Quaker. There is a story that Philip, at the age of twenty-five, fell in love with Susannah Akin, born November 7, 1759, a woman ten years his junior, but that her parents forbade their marriage, ostensibly due to the age difference. On December 18, 1774 the couple eloped on horseback to the next town while the rest of her family were attending a Quaker meeting or sleeping, and were married by a magistrate. It looks as though they were taking quite a risk of being shunned by the church by doing so.  It seems that Philip adored his wife his whole life, referring to her in his will as “my beloved bosom friend Susanna, the wife of my youth and constant companion of every waking hour”.

It appears that Philip was already prospering when he married Susannah, and had in addition to the grist mill a fulling mill, where wool was processed and made into cloth. Family lore is that Philip was a solider in the Revolutionary War, despite his Quaker roots, and there is evidence that he was a private in the Sixth Regiment. The story is that George Washington and his army came through the Hart’s Village area at one time, and that the village of Washington in the area was named after him because of this. Apparently, he “furloughed” Philip so that he could produce blue wool cloth for the uniforms of the officers of the Continental Army. Washington apparently also gave him permission to utilize the labour of prisoners of war to do this work. This all suggests that Washington and Philip could have met and conversed. Further evidence that Philip was a solider in the war is that he apparently was granted bounty land after the war, which was normally reserved for soldiers.

Philip went on to acquire large real estate holdings, and it is said that there were few deeds written in the area in his lifetime which did not have his name on them. At one point, after the war, he was able to acquire a great deal of land at bargain prices. There is a story that he bought a parcel of two hundred acres from a man for the price of “a suit of clothes”. His wealth increased when prices later rose. With real estate, farming, and his grist and fulling mill businesses, he was a well-to-do man. He built a house for his family, which still stands. It is said that his wife Susannah allowed him to be as decorative as he liked with the outside as long as the inside remained plain, reflecting her Quaker values.

Philip and Susannah had twelve children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood. They were: Mary, Richard Philip, Catherine, Philip, Jacob Akin, Benjamin Akin, William, Phebe, Susannah, William, Eliza and Isaac. His son Richard Philip Hart became immensely wealthy in his own right, and I hope to write about him next. Philip’s daughter Catherine married Dr. Alfred Tredway, and they lived in a house built for them next door to Philip’s. This house also still stands. In fact, it is currently an inn where you can stay. (See: Millbrook Country House). Philip’s House, as previously mentioned, still stands, and is still occupied. (See: The Philip Hart House-Sleeping Porch).

Philip was described as an “energetic business man” “who took a very active part in the church and town business”. He was also depicted as a “liberal and broad minded man”, and was known for his “hospitality to strangers”. It was said that he was of a “kind and genial nature, and always pleased to do an act of kindness for a friend”.

Susannah died at the age of sixty-nine on the 30th of September, 1829 at Hart’s Village, and Philip passed away on August 31, 1837, also at Hart’s Village. They were both buried in the Friends Cemetery.