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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

From my searching I think this is my 4th great grandfather.