Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Stephen Harts of Pinckney and Turin, Lewis County, New York

Happy New Year, everybody!

When I was researching my three times great grandfather, the Honorable Stephen Hart of Pinckney, Lewis County, New York, I became confused by references to “Stephen Hart” living in Turin, Lewis County. After doing some further research, I discovered that they were two unrelated people with the same name, of about the same age, living in two different towns in the same small rural county. I thought it might be important to blog about this discovery, despite the fact that other Lewis County researchers are aware of the distinction, particularly because it is so easy from the extant documents to get the two Stephens mixed up.

In fact, this is precisely what happened in 1903 to James M. Hart, the author of The Genealogical History of Samuel Hartt, a book with a much longer title, which includes the lineage of my forebear, Nicholas Hart, whose name goes down in infamy. Finding this book on the World Vital Records website was one of my main discoveries of 2013, particularly as it is the one document I have found which clearly connects Jeremiah to Stephen to John Hart, my great great grandfather, in one fell swoop. James Hart states that Stephen “settled at Turin and later at Pinckney, N.Y., in the Black River section”. I feel I should set the record straight as many people are likely to take the word of James Hart, who has published the only in depth genealogy of the descendants of Nicholas Hart of which I am aware. In addition, the book, The History of Lewis County, New York written by Franklin B. Hough in 1883, mentions both Stephens without making clear distinctions between the two, except by where they live, therefore paving the way for future readers to amalgamate them in their minds. I am thinking that it is likely that James Hart partly drew upon Hough for his account of our Stephen Hart’s life, and thus made his error.

I know that the Stephen Harts are two different people because not only did I do my Stephen’s family tree, I also did the Turin Stephen’s. I felt it was important to do this so that I also did not mix up their families. I discovered that although the two Stephens were not related to each other, they are both related to me! The Turin Stephen is descended from my other Hart line, that of Deacon Stephen Hart of Connecticut, one of the forebears of my great great grandmother, Sally Wright Merriam. He is my second cousin five times removed. Our nearest common ancestors are Hawkins Hart and Sarah Royce, my six times great grandparents.

The Turin Stephen Hart was born on June 3, 1767 in Wallingford, Connecticut to Nathaniel Hart and Alice Hall. He was only about four years older than the Pinckney Stephen. He married Eunice Seymour in Colebrook, Connecticut, on September 9, 1790. They had a total of nine children of which I am aware: Jeremiah, Martin, Seymour, Melinda, Eliza, Sylvester, Anson, and twin boys who died at birth. He came to Lewis County, New York from Colebrook between 1803 and 1807, roughly about the same time our Stephen came to the area. Interestingly, he and his family came from the same general area in Connecticut as the Charles Wright extended family, within a few years of each other, as they are both reported to have set out from Colebrook. The families may have known each other before coming to Lewis County, and they were related, but may not have known this. He, like the Pinckney Stephen, was a farmer.

His brother, Levi Hart, however, who also settled in the Turin area from Connecticut, was involved in politics, as was the Pinckney Stephen. He served in the New York State Legislature in 1817 and 1818, a few years before our Stephen held that distinction. Levi’s daughter, Caroline, married Clinton Levi Merriam (also distantly related to me through Sally Wright Merriam), who became a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. They were parents of the famous naturalists, Clinton Hart Merriam and Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey, to whom I am therefore at least doubly related, however distantly. (I may blog about them in future).

The Stephen Hart of Turin died in Turin on August 13, 1857, four years before the death of the Pinckney Stephen; so as they were born about four years apart, they therefore died at about the same age, that of ninety years old. I think that it was highly likely that they knew each other, or of each other, especially considering the political activities of their families.