Dennis GENEALOGICAL HISTORY
††††††††††††††††††† THE DENNIS FAMILY
†††† The first Dennis in my line in the New World was Thomas Dennis.† Although he supposedly came from Devon, England, I know of no "hard"† evidence to prove this.† I searched genealogical records in England in vain for a Thomas Dennis of the right age. Thomas Little of Hartford, CT† (A Genealogy of Rev. Rodney Gove Dennis, His Forbearers and Descendants, 1911) indicates that a tradition exists, unauthenticated, that Thomas Dennis came from England to America with his brother John, and that John settled in Wenham, Mass.† According to Little and references cited therein, John married Ruth White (b. Wenham 1662) on 12 June 1679 and had 4 children ‑‑ Joseph, John, Rev. Josiah and Sarah.† Little provides available data on the lives of these children (see genealogical section), then turns his attention to Thomas.† He indicates that the town of Dennis, Mass., incorporated in 1793, was named for Rev. Josiah Dennis.
†††† Little provides many details on Thomas Dennis's house and land purchases and sales, offices held, and his will, as well as information on his coworker, William Searle. A resident of Portsmouth, NH, Dennis bought on 26 September 1663 a house and lot in Ipswich, MA, of Searle.† Subsequently he bought land in Portsmouth, was chosen a Constable, and was a joiner there between 1663 and 1666/7.† According to the Ipswich Historical Society Newsletter of December 1990, both Wm. Searle (ca. 1611‑1666) and Thomas Dennis (ca. 1638‑1706) were furniture joiners from Devon who immigrated to Ipswich in the 1660s.††† "From the "west country" of England they brought with them a unique technology of joinery, of which some methods distinctly harken back to medieval times, as well as an elaborately florid style of carving.† Today, the work of these two Ipswich joiners is considered to be some of the finest and most important furniture ever made here in the American colonies during the 17th century."
†††† Robert Tarule, a Ph.D. candidate in American Material Culture at the Union Institute of Cincinnati, wrote his dissertation on 17th century furniture joiners and their trade (Ipswich Chronicle, December 6, 1990), focusing on the work of Searle and Dennis.† He "basically resurrected the "lost" art of furniture joinery; namely, the production of framed furniture by "riving" or splitting oak logs while still live and green, in order to fashion the necessary parts which are then fitted together by an intricate system of mortise‑and‑tenon joints.† Tarule made a replica of a chest, owned by the Historical Society, that is attributed to Searle and Dennis.† The front of the original apparently was painted in a polychrome pattern. According to Tarule, it bears a striking resemblance to a chest made by Dennis dated "1676" now owned by the Henry Francis DuPont Wintherthur Museum in Maryland. Other items of furniture attributed to Searle and Dennis are owned by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Essex Institute, the Metropolitan Museum, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, and Bowdoin College. An announcement from the Ipswich Historical Society, dated September 13, 1974, indicates that the President's chair at Bowdoin, as well as a Bible box, a tape loom, and a chest, were Dennis's work, the last three being "carved oak products of this great 17th century craftsman."† Dennis is mentioned in numerous articles dealing with early American furniture.† Davidson (1967) provides photographs of a press cupboard "in the style of Thomas Dennis" (although it may have been made by one of his contemporaries), and a spice chest "attributed to Thomas Dennis of Ipswich, one of the few seventeenth‑century joiners and carvers whose name is known to us today."
A six-part series of articles by Irving P. Lyon in Antiques magazine (Vol. 32:230, 298; Vol. 33:73, 198, 322; Vol. 34: 79) describes some of these pieces.† However, Homer E. Keyes, in a sub sequent article (Antiques 34:296), suggested that many of these were made by joiners with similar styles; however, those that remained in the family, including items given to Bowdoin College, are considered authentic.†
William Searle died 16 August 1667, and Thomas Dennis was administrator of his estate.†† William's widow Grace (b. ca. 1636) married Thomas in Ipswich on 26 October 1668 and bore him 3 children ‑‑ Thomas (1669), John (1673), and Elizabeth (b. 1675, married Ebenezer Hovey ca. 1704).
†††† During King Phillips's War Thomas served in garrison at Marlborough, MA (1675‑1676), and was Constable and Collector of Ipswich from 1685 to 1692.† His home, now known as the Dennis‑Dodge House, still stands at the corner of County and Summer Streets.† This was purchased by the Heritage Trust, organized in 1964 to preserve historic properties in Ipswich.† The house was a two‑family dwelling, but uninhabitable when purchased.† It was sold with the proviso than an ell be removed and the interior painted.† The house is classified as early American Gambrel Saltbox, has 8 rooms, 7 working fireplaces, a kitchen with a beehive oven, and a hand‑carved staircase (advertisement...).
††† Grace died in Ipswich 24 October 1686.† Thomas married Sarah _____ in _____.† Following his death in 1706, Sarah married Capt. John How of Topsfield, Mass. (intentions published 7 Dec 1706).† Both died in Topsfield, he in 1728 at the age of 91, she in 1730.† Both Thomas and Grace are buried in the Old High Street graveyard at Ipswich.† Thomasís gravestone is inscribed: "Here lyes buried the Body of Thomas Dennis, Aged about 68 years. Departed this life May ye 23rd, 1706."† Graceís epitaph reads: "Here Lys ye Body of Mrs. Grace Dennis, wife of Mr. Thomas Dennis, who died Octo. ye 24, 1686, Aged 50 years.† Reader consider, and thy Redeemer seeke For in this bed a friend of Christ doth sleep."
†††† John 2/ Dennis (b. 22 September 1673) was also a joiner, and worked with his father.† He was commissioned an "Ensign of Foot Company, on the North side of the River in Ipswich" in the Province of Massachusetts Bay 15 August 1723, and was instructed in his commission, signed by Wm.† Dummer, Lt. Governour and Commander in Chief, "carefully and diligently to discharge the Duty of Ensign, in Leading, Ordering and Exercising, said Company in Arms, both Inferiour Officrs and Souldiers; and to keep them in good Order and Discipline; hereby Commanding them to Obey you as their Ensign and your Self to observe and follow, such Orders and Instructions, as you shall from time to time receive from Me, or the Commander in Chief, for the time being, or other [of] your Superior Officers, for his Majesty's Service, according to Military Rules and† Discipline, Pursuant to the Trust Reposed in you."† He was made Captain in 1756.
†††† In 1699 John married Lydia White (b. 1672), daughter of George White and Lydia Lampson (Sampson?) of Ipswich, in 1699, and had 5 children ‑‑ Lydia (1701), Elizabeth (Day) (1704), Thomas (1706), John† (1708), and William (1710).† A year after Lydia's death in 1712 John married Sarah Tuttle Ward, daughter of Simon Tuttle and widon of Samuel Ward.†† She died in 1756; he died intestate in 1767.† The heirs had difficulty dividing the inheritance, and finally resorted to arbitration. Johnís possessions were appraised at† L 499/7/0 [561/12/10 ?] + 62/5/10 with debts and administrative costs of L 371/16/3/4.† Lydia was buried at Ipswich. The stone was subsequently found with others in a tomb presumably built by Col. John Wainwright, but has been replaced in the cemetery. Although part of the epitaph is now illegible, it was inscribed "Here Lys ye Body of Mrs. Lydia Dennis, (wife of Mr. John Dennis,?), who died June ye 10, 1712, and in the 40th year of her Age: A tender mother, A prudent wife/ At God's command Resigned her life/ And at her flight Let this word fall;/ Submit my friend Now God doth call.† John was probably buried in Ipswich, but the place of burial is† unknown to me.
†††† John 3/ Dennis (b. 1708) was the only one of my direct line of Dennis ancestors to graduate from Harvard University (1730), and the only one until 1917 to pursue a college education.† His biography is published in Sibley's Lives, authored by C. K. Shipton, a former curator† of the Harvard Archives.† Shipton listed alumni, not by alphabetical† order, but by social status.† Unfortunately, John's biography appears† toward the end.† I quote verbatim from Shipton:
†"John Dennis, army chaplain and first minister of Charlestown, New Hampshire, was born on November 3, 1708, the second son of Captain John and Lydia (White) Dennis of Ipswich.† The Captain was a joiner by profession, but John's conduct at college was poor as if he had been a gentleman.† He returned to Cambridge and rented a study in May, 1731, but, to judge by President Wadsworth's diary, he did not make the best of his year of graduate study:
I punish'd Sir Dennis (April 21, 1732) 5s for not preparing as Respondent for the Bachelours disputation .... He was then order'd to prepare against the next Friday, when that day came I waited for his calling me, but he was out of Town So on April 29. 1732 I punish'd him 5s more for neglecting his duty in disputing.1/
Sir Dennis did not return again until Commencement, 1733, when he qualified for the M.A. by holding the negative of a curious Quaestio:† "An Diabolus Hominum Cogitationes cognoscat ?"
†††† On December 12, 1736, Dennis registered his intention of marrying Martha, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth (Hodgkins) Wilcomb of Ipswich.† The bride, who was twenty, probably anticipated the distinction of being the first lady of the town in which her husband might settle as minister, but she was fated to live a lonely life at Ipswich or suffer with him on the frontier.† He enlisted on September 22, 1737, to serve as chaplain at Fort St. Georges, in modern Thomaston, on a salary of† L100 a year.† The General Court appropriated L30 to purchase "Furniture S necessary Utensils for the Chaplains room at said Fort," but there being no money in the Province treasury, he had to pay for these things himself.† This distressed him, as did the unkindness and disrespect of his commander, Captain John Giles, which drove him to the point of resignation.2/† Moreover, his health was poor, for on May 28, 1740, he petitioned the General Court for further compensation:
†Your Petioner during his abode S being in the service at St. Georges has contracted a very hazardous distemper which incapacitates him from being further serviceble there S obliges him to be at great Expence on physicians S having a considerable Family S being reduc'd to very low Circumstances humbly apprehends himself to deserve the Compassion of this honourable Court And prays your Excellency S Honours to take his said Case into your wise consideration S to make a him a grant of a small Tract or Parcell of the unappropriated Lands.3/
†††† The House of Representatives voted him &50(English pounds) and two hundred acres of his own choosing adjoining some former grant, and held to its vote despite the efforts of the Council to kill the land grant clause.4/† He was sick during the summer of 1740, but by the following July was well enough to accept appointment as truckmaster at St. Georges.† Apparently his wife and family joined him in Maine about this time.
†††† By the summer of 1744 Dennis was chaplain of Richmond Fort and Fort Frederick at Pemaquid, from which he repeatedly petitioned to have his salary increased to equal that of other chaplains.† Beginning in 1747 he added to his regular petitions the statemnt that he had acted "in the Capacity of a Physician and Chirurgeon," for which he requested additional compensation.† In 1750 Captain Samuel Moody (A.B. 1718) gave his this recommendation:
Mr. John Dennis Chaplain of his Majesties Fort Frederick hath behaved Himself in his Office in a sober Circumspect Manner and in all other things within the Notice of My Observation in a Decent Prudent Manner and Particularly Hath Been very Helpfull in Assisting such sick and wounded Persons from time to time as I have Often Been Informed and can Evidence from such as I have seen Received from under His Care Who Must in all Probability Have Been Cripples During Life Had it Not BeenforhisPrudentManagement.5/
†††† About this time he left the Province service, but his petitions for veterans' benefits continued as long as he lived.††††††††††††††
†††† In June, 1750, Dennis was preaching at Dracut, and for the next two years he hopefully tried the vacant pulpits in that part of the Province.6/ †In March, 1753, he gave up the search and took the job of keeping the Ipswich Grammar School.† On May 13, 1754, the proprietors and settlers of Charlestown, New Hampshire, better known as Fort Number Four, gave him a call to settle in the ministry, offering a salary of &50 (English pounds), which was to be calculated in silver at 6s 8d an ounce.† In addition the settlement taxed itself L8 to pay the expense of bringing his family through the Wilderness to the Connecticut.† Perhaps the prospect was too much for Mrs. Dennis, who died on July 1, 1754.† If the parish clerk was right, this was a second Mrs. Dennis, named Mary; but more likely it was Martha.† On July 15 Dennis accepted the call, asking for a little more money on account of the size of his family.7/† He was dismissed from the First Church of Ipswich on July 28, and was ordained on December 4 at Northfield, where the council was held because of the Indian hostilities which had broken out along the Connecticut since his call in the spring.
†††† Within six months of his ordination Dennis was in difficulties, not because of the Indians, but because of his own conduct.† By cutting off his pay the town forced him to give a written promise to "drop his addresses and suit to Eunice Farnsworth" which appearently he did not keep.† There was a temporary reconciliation in which he promised that he would not in the future "give the town occasion to fault him for fallacy and prevarication," but he was finally dismissed by a council meeting at Deerfield on March 31, 1756.8/† Although at this time he signed a discharge for Charlestown's obligations to him, he later sued the town, and in 1764 recovered L 74 in proclamation money and L 17 in new tenor,9/ which would suggest that he had received little or no salary.† Perhaps the whole trouble at Charlestown was that he was hungry and Eunice Farnsworth was a good cook.†
†††† Soon after leaving New Hampshire, Dennis began to supply the† Harwich pulpit, and there, on May 1, 1756, he registered his intention† of marrying Mrs. Ruth Bacon of Eastham.† Evidently he was plagued with† debts, for in 1757 he conveyed all of his extensive real estate claims† to his brother.10/† His ministry at Harwich was a failure, for he was† never installed there, and he added only one member to the church during† his severel years of service.† His salary was not paid, and after† leaving Harwich he brought suit against it in December, 1760.† In vain† he besieged the General Court for further compensation for his military† service, anticipating the demands of a later generation of veterans by† asking for adjusted compensation for the depreciation of the currency† while he was in the service.11/† Dennis settled again in Ipswich, where† his family had risen considerably in the social and economic scale† during his years of absence.† As a poor relative he was, in February† 1771, given the job which as a young graduate he would have scorned,† that of keeping the reading and writing school of the First Parish at a† salary of $ 10 a month.† He died on September 2, 1773.† His widow† remained in Ipswich and died there on October 2, 1804.† Apparently he† had ten children, all by his first wife:† (1) John, bap. July 31, 1737.†† (2) Martha, bap. Oct. 8, 1738; m. Abraham Safford.† (3) Lucy, bap. Mar.† 27, 1740; m. William Robbins of Ipswich, Mar. 26, 1772.† (4) William,† bap. Oct. 12, 1741; m. Abigail Smith and Priscilla Burnham. (5) Samuel.†† (6) Arthur, m. Mary Goodhue, Dec. 11, 1766.† (7) Elizabeth, bap. Feb.† 28, 1747. (8) Nathan. (9) Moses, bap. May 27, 1750; m. Sarah Frye, June† 11, 1782.† (10) Mary, bap. Aug. 23, 1752; m. Samuel Hyde.
1/ Publ. Colonial Soc. Mass. XXXI, 485. 2/Jonathan Belcher to John Dennis, Belcher Letter‑Books (Mass. Hist. Soc.), Dec. 31, 1739.† 3/ 2 Coll. Maine Hist. Soc. XI, 209‑10.† 4/ Mass. Archives, XII, 161.† 5/ Ibid., p. 631.† 6/ Ebenezer Bridge, Diary (Harvard College Library), 1750‑51, passim.† 7/ The letter is printed in Henry H. Saunderson, History of Charleston, N.H., Claremont, , p. 213.† 8/ New Hampshire Hist. Soc. Coll. IV, 122‑4.† 9/Winifred Lovering Holman, The Dennis Line (Am. Antiq. Soc.), p. 42.† 10/ Winifred Lovering Holman to C. K. Shipton, Apr. 28, 1942.†
†††† Ipswich Marriages records (C.R. 2) that John 3/ Dennis's intentions† to marry Salome Hodgkins were published 13 May 1773.† Information† obtained by Leora Drake indicates no children named Samuel or Mary;† Rebecca appears as the last of 8 children.† Her records also show that† John's intentions to marry Martha Wilcome (Wilcomb) were published 12† December 1736, and that Martha was born in Ipswich 12 March 1716 and† died there 1 (or 11) July 1754.† She was the daughter of Richard† Willcomb (b. ca. 1690 on the Isle of Shoals) and Elizabeth Hodgkins.††††††† Moses 4/ Dennis was the first of the line to leave the relative† comfort of the Atlantic seaboard and venture into the interior as a† pioneer.† His experiences as both sailor and settler are recorded by† both Jonathan L. Ordway (The Dennis Family, Press of R. C. Park,† Woodhull, NY 1890) and by Wm. W. Hayward (A History of Hancock, New† Hampshire, 1764‑1889, Vol. I, 1889).† [Ordway became a member of the† household of Moses Dennis's grandson, Franklin Dennis, when a boy of 8.†† His daughter Vira married Franklin's son Boardman. (Landmarks of Steuben† County, p. 363.)]† The two accounts are too similar to have been written† independently, some sections being identical.† One would assume that† Ordway had borrowed from Hayward, given the dates of publication.†† However, Ordway includes numerous details not found in the Hayward† account.† He may have used Hayward's information as a framework, and† have added information provided by the "main character" in his book ‑‑† Moses's grandson, Franklin Dennis, or perhaps by Moses himself, who died† when Ordway was 15.
†††† Ordway describes Moses's escapades as a cooper and sailor:
††† "He would take a cargo of staves, hoops, heading, of all kinds and sizes and pack them into a ship promiscuously, and ship them to the West Indies, and there they would set up the casks of all kinds and descriptions, and finish them off and sell them at a big profit. ... All things being ready they started on their return.† When they had got to American waters they were sighted and chased by a British cruiser.† The British could outsail them, but they could run the shallowest water; so they entered a channel and were hopeful of getting away, when lo ! another cruiser was discovered coming from the opposite direction, leaving them between the two.† No hope now.† Taking to their boats, putting in such effects as they could get hastily, one armful of muskets among the rest and then pulled for the shore.† The British sent a volley of balls which struck all about them, but they kept right on, determined to get away if they could.† The woods were near, but when they came to that the cannon balls went screeching over their heads, cutting limbs from the trees, which fell like hailstones all around them, notwithstanding not one of the whole crew of twelve was hurt.† This stripped Dennis of everything, and it rather stuck in his crop, for he enlisted as soon as he could get a chance, on the American side; was taken prisoner by the British and was kept on the old prison ship, old hulks anchored in New York harbor.† Here he was kept without much food or clothing; and then they would offer the prisoners plenty of both food and clothing if they would desert.† Their sufferings were terrible while in that condition.† Some were overcome by hunger and cold and did desert, and received an abundance of food.† The British would bring such and compare them with the starved prisoners, they being plump, while those who remained were skeletons.† But Dennis despised food and clothing on such conditons.† Then they offered him large sums of money; but none of these things moved him.† He had rather die than disgrace himself and his country.† Many did die, but he was strong and held out until exchanged.† At another time he had the care of the medicine chest, and assisted the doctors in their work.† One day a cannon ball came through the house and took off the back part of a man's hips. He wished Mr. Dennis to do it up.† He replied that it was too big a job for him."†
†††† "Again as he was on a retreat with Washington a cannon ball cut the sign‑post off, and in its fall it killed three Americans.† Again, he tells of being parolled as prisoner of war; was being taken on a vessel from New York to Boston for exchange.† On the route they were taken thirteen times from their vessel and examined, and as many times returned to their vessel.† At the Declaration of Independence he was at Castle Garden; assisted in making the mock King out of lead and placing him on the horse made of the same material, and hurrahed for Lord North, the King, and the Devil; and then tore the same to pieces and cast them into bullets."
†††† I have no way of knowing how accurate this account of Moses's adventures is.† However, his application for a pension for services rendered in the Revolution are on file in the National Archives.† It reads as follows:
State of New Hampshire
County of Hillsborough [js?]
†††† On this sixteenth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, before me Edmund Parker [Circuit] Judge of Probate for said count at Greenfield in said county personnally appeared Moses Dennis of Hancock in said county aged eighty years who being first duly sworn, according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the provision made by the act of Congress passed June [9th] 1832.† That about the first of January in the year 1776, at Winter Hill, he enlisted in the Army of the United States in Captain McFarland's company of infantry in Col. Nixon's regiment in the Massachusetts line.† That he served at Winter Hill until the enemy evacuated Boston, when the regiment marched to New York & afterwards to White Plains.† While at White Plains a Detachment was called for and he volunteered and marched through New Jersey to the Deleware and across that river ‑ thence to Trenton and Princeton and wasin the battles fought at these places,and was discharged at Chatham New Jersey in February 1777.† Col. Nixon had been promoted and Col. Little commanded the regiment when he was discharged.† At the time of his discharge he was in Capt. Taggart's Com. ‑ While in the Army he kept a little paper book in which he noted the most remarkable events.† When about to be discharged paper was wanted and his little book was all taken but one leaf on which a discharge was written but not signed, as Colonel Little [not] about.† The leaf of the book is presented and annexed to this Declaration.† He hereby relinquishes every claim whatever to a pension or an annuity except the present and he declares that his name is not on the Pension Roll af any Agency in any State.
††††††††††††††††††††††††† [Signed]†††††††††††† Moses Dennis
††††† Sworn subsribed this day & year aforesaid.
†††† †††††††††††Edmund Parker Judge of Probate
†††† And the Judge hereby declares his opinion that the above named applicant was a revolutionary soldier and served as he states.† And the said Judge further certifies that the said applicant by reason of bodily infirmity is unable to attend in open court.
†Edmund Parker Judge of Probate for the County of Hillsborough
†††† I Charles H. Atherton, Register of the Court of Probate for said county of Hillsborough, do hereby certify that the foregoing contains the original proceedings of the said Judge of probate in the matter of the application of Moses Dennis for a pension.
†† In testimony whereof I have herewith set my hand and the seal of the said County this 28th day of August A.D. 1832.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† C. H. Atherton, Regr.
Other items in the file include the following:
Statement 12 May 1841 (paraphrased).
†††† Sarah Dennis appeared before me, Luke Woodbury, Judge of the court of Probate of Wills, Hillsborough County (Antrim, NH), Sarah 87, widow of Moses Dennis.† Heard him speak of services in Revolution, believes he served a portion of his time as surgeon or surgeon's mate and was at the battles of Trenton, Princetown, and White Plains. ... She married Moses 11 June 1782.† [Signed by Sarah X (her mark), with John Dennis as witness.]
†††† 1782 11 June ‑ Moses and Sarah Frye of Andover married by Jona French, pastor of the church in the South Parish in Andover, County of Essex.† [Signed by Samuel Johnson Jr., Town Clerk of Andover 7 Apr 1846, and sworn before Samuel Merrill, Justice of the Peace.]
†††† A letter of John Dennis at Hancock 7(?) May 1850 (?) states that† "Moses d. 18 Dec 1845.† My mother lives with me and draws the same amount of pension† [$ 44 and some cents]."† John was resident of Hancock in 1850.
†††† Included in the file is a discharge, written on a small piece of paper ‑ "Chatham, Feb. ___ 1777".
†††† A statement by Sarah Reynolds, Boxford 1 May 1833 attests that she is the wife of Enos Reynolds, and† that "I well remember a man residing in town of Boxford by name of Moses Dennis who spoke of army service." Sarah Barker of Andover stated on May 1, 1833, that† "Moses Dennis resided in my father's family 10 years, and I distinctly remember his enlisting.† He returned to my father's house after the Revolution, where he resided occasionally for several years.† He purchased a lot in Hancock of my father and removed from my father's house."
††††† In 1780 Moses, with several (7 according to Hayward) others from† Ipswich, migrated to Hancock, NH, where he bought 640 acres of land† known as Blanchard's Square Mile.† He sold 2 farms, reserving about 360† A on the banks of the Contookook River.† He spent 3 summers here, living† in a hut, returning to Ipsich in the winter.† He reportedly made a† wooden plate, "washing it when I forgot what I ate on it last."† (Hayward, p. 511).† "There was an abundance of fish in the river, from† which he drew a plentiful supply.† On one occasion he was somewhat† startled while fishing, to discover that the fish he had thrown behind† him had disappeared.† On investigation, he found out that a fox was the† thief, not an Indian, as he at first had supposed." (Hayward, p. 511)†† Moses built a log house the third summer and brought his wife Sarah† (Sally) Frye (b. 1758, daughter of† Samuel and Eliz. Frye of Andover,† Mass.) to Hancock in the spring of 1784.† She rode horseback the 50† miles from Andover, carrying her baby, Moses, Jr., in her arms, and a† glass window strapped on behind. "This window had six small panes of† glass, and for several years was the only glass window in town."† (Ordway, p. 4)† A frame house was built a few years later, to be† followed by a larger house in 1800.† Here they lived for most of the† remainder of their lives.† (This burned to the ground in 1876 and was† never rebuilt.)
†††† " Mr. Dennis was a man of great physical strength, lots of grit, and applied himself steadily to his work.† The country was poor.† The government was hardly established.† No money but continental money which was depreciated in value much worse than our greenbacks in time of war.† When Dennis first started he had to pay $ 100 of this money for a barrel of pork, and fifty dollars for a spider to cook it in; and seventy‑five dollars for a small cow; his being in the army not helping him much in the money line.
†††† "Mr. Dennis was a man to know best was to know (sic) at his home, where had had (sic) kind words and thoughts for his family.† He had some town offices given him, but his own affairs engrossed the most of his attention.† He ordered his merchant not to let his account to get above $ 5.00.† It is said that he made the most of his money by keeping cattle and Merino sheep."† (Ordway, p. 4‑5)
†††† Moses and Sally had 8 children:† Moses Jr. (1782), Sally (1784),† Martha (1786), Samuel (1788), Betsy (1790), John (1793), Parmelia† (1795) and William (1797).† Both parents lived to a ripe old age, Moses† dying at 94 years and Sally at 92.† Both are buried in the village† cemetery at Hancock.
††††† Moses Dennis Jr., as the eldest son, worked on the home farm. He† later ran a saw mill and grist mill combined. In 1810 he married Lois† Eaton, daughter of Moses Eaton and Lois Scott.† A son, Samuel Frye, was† born in 1811.† Lois died in May of 1816, shortly after the birth of† their second son, Franklin.† According to Ordway, she "called her family† together the night before she died, and talked with them of her† departure, with great composure, and prayed for them and committed her† children to the care and keeping of a covenant keeping God, and† dismissed them with a mother's blessing."†† Jane Graves, who had cared† for Lois, remained with the family, and in 1818 became Moses Jr.'s† second wife.† Two children, Fidelia (1819) and Mary Ann (1821), were† born to the couple in New Hampshire, and one, Martha (1826), after they† moved to New York.
†††† Several children of Moses 4/ migrated to Jasper, NY in the early†† 1800s.† Why they selected this area is unknown to me, but Parmelia† Dennis and her husband, Arcalus F. Whittemore, moved there about 1821† (Ordway, p. 27).† He taught school in the Crosby district in Canisteo (††† ), then brought his family from New Hampshire in the spring of 1822 (?).†† Samuel Dennis, younger brother of Parmelia and Moses, was the first† settler in Hampshire settlement in 1824 (Landmarks), and later served as† assessor and Justice of the Peace (1827).† Ordway (p. 28) reports that† he drove a cutter from Hancock to Jasper and spent most of the winter† with the Whittemores, "trying to make ax‑helves, but without much† success at first.† He afterwards became an expert at the business....He† made maple sugar on Whittemore's that season and had a good run of sap."†† He chopped a fallow, then returned to New Hampshire in the fall. The† following year he built a log house, and chopped more trees. In the fall† he returned again to New Hampshire to marry Alice Whiting, daughter of† Oliver Whiting, in Lyndeboro, NH, and brought his bride to Jasper, then† "went into business for all he was worth, clearing land, surveying,† cutting out roads through the wilderness, etc."†
†††† According to the History of Steuben County (p. 343), Samuel, "a† surveyor from New Hampshire", made the first settlement in the northern† part of the town of Jasper, known as Hampshire Settlement, in the spring† of 1824.† Here he remained alone for nearly 2 years clearing land,† establishing a farm, and building a house "with only the howl of the† wolves for company."† He brought his family from New Hampshire in 1826,† and was soon followed by his brother Moses.† Thomas Whiting of† Lyndeboro, brother‑in‑law of Samuel's wife Alice, came in 1827.† A† biography of Thomas is given in the Family Sketches section of† "History of Steuben County".† Ordway lists 2 marriages for Samuel† (Eliz. Frye, b. 1796, m. 1818, d. 1822, and Alice Whiting, b. 1796, m.† 1825, d. 1856), whereas Hayward lists two additional marriages (Lucy† Whitcomb, m. 1822, d. 1823, and Olive (Whiting) Boardman Pettee, m.† 1856, d. 1860).† Elizabeth Frye was an own cousin of Samuel's, and bore† him 2 children in Hancock ‑‑ Elizabeth, b. 1819, and Sarah (Lamson), b.† 1820.† Both later joined the family in Jasper. Samuel and Alice had four† children ‑‑ Alice (1826), Samuel Jr. (1830), Rodney (1834), and Abigail† (1839).† Olive was a sister of Alice Whiting, and had been widowed twice† prior to her marriage to Samuel† (info from Drake).
†††† In 1824 Moses Jr. went to Jasper to clear land and† establish a farm.† He "chopped five acres on it and burned it and logged† some, finally let the job to Jedidiah Talbot to finish and sow, and† fence the wheat."†† He boarded with the families of Enoch Ordway and† Elijah Peak while building a house, then brought his family from New† Hampshire in the spring of 1825.† His brother‑in‑law, Mr. Monroe, "brought the goods in a lumber wagon with three horses, and the family with one horse and wagon.† When they came to the North River all hands drove on to the scow boat and were propelled across by horse power, instead of by steam as now, and when they came to the shore on this side they quietly drove off the boat and came on their way rejoicing.† There was on the boat, an Indian with a papoose strapped to a board.† The girls thought it a funny way to carry a baby.† The Indians tie their babies to a board to keep them straight.† These overland trips from N. H. with teams were occasions of much merriment and no small amount of fun, as it needed something for spice in connection with the hardships.† They usually put up at hotels.† After being on the road seventeen days they arrived here in N.Y., May 27, 1825, and moved in with Mr. Ordway's folks while he built the log house that used to stand the opposite side of the road from the Ordway house.† It was an extra house of the kind, the logs having been hewn in the inside in such a manner that they could be ceiled up, and this way have a fine finish.† The last log on each end, and also through the center projected 8 or 10 feet; a plate being put on, and the rafters or roof extended clear out, forming an open stoop on the south side of the house; a chimney in the center and good room in each end.
††† Getting settled in Jasper required considerable effort, leaving time† for clearing only about 3 acres of land in 1825.† Soon thereafter,† tragedy struck:
††† "...about the First of Jan., 1827, he was suddenly taken sick.† He had had similar attacks before, in N.H., but the doctor was unable to tell what ailed him, but at this time it was more severe, the doctor still ignorant of the trouble.† Dr. Wm. Hunter had commenced practice at that time, but was gone when he was first taken, and returned a few days before his death, but too late to save him by an operation, for it was a rupture, only higher up than usual. ...Mr. Dennis was in full strength, and although his sufferings were untold, he held out for 17 days.† The boys built a log barn with bay floor and stables, after the father's death.† His body was buried in the Spencer burying ground, and his grave is there to‑day without anything to mark the spot, yet can be seen.† Frye knows not where it is located."
†††† Moses Sr. had deeded 80 acres of land to both Frye and Franklin,† purchasing it for $ 1.25 per acre with money "from the Frye family".†† The boys, now 16 and 11 years old, respectively, cleared about 5 acres† of land each year for 7 years, eventually buying a yoke of oxen and a† cart.† They raised wheat, together with cattle, colts, and sheep, the† sheep providing wool for the family clothing.† Maple syrup was also† produced.† Apparently they did not always see eye‑to‑eye with their stepmother.†
†††† "One Saturday the boys thought that there was too much sap to finish, so they quit in good season for the Sabbath.† Their mother thought they might have worked longer. There had been a long run, and the boys were tired, but they went back and went to boiling, and stuck to it all night until late Sunday morning, when they finished up and brought the syrup to the house, feeling that thay had matched the old lady after all."† (Ordway, p. 7) ...
†††† "One year the boys did not get the peas sowed "in the moon."† Mrs. Dennis said more than the boys thought was called for.† The next year they told her they wanted to know the time to sow peas.† One night she said, "to‑morrow is the time to sow peas."† (Mrs. Dennis did not seem to understand how to get along with boys).† When they got up in the morning it was raining, had rained all night; but the peas were to be sown in the moon this time, so one of the boys got the oxen, the other the peas, an (sic) went to work.† The ground was wet.† It was still raining; but the peas were sown and plowed in as she had said.† When they came to the house at night, they felt that they had had their own way after all.† Result:† no peas, but the ground was as hard as the road." (Ordway, p. 7‑ 8)
†††† After living in New York for 9 years, Frye returned to New† Hampshire to work for his uncle, William Dennis, on the old Dennis† homestead. The trip, on foot, required 2 weeks.† He earned $ 12 per† month for 3 years, then returned to Jasper with $ 300 cash "after† clothing himself in good shape."
†††† "Frye and Franklin bought the Punches place together, running it two or three years together.† Then Frye bought Franklin out for $ 1,000.† These two brothers were mutual helps to each other in their business matters, being almost exactly opposites.† One had lots of go‑ahead, he other was cautious.† It needed the one for sail and the other for ballast, and their influence upon each other had its effect in leveling up.† ... They lumbered together for about five years."
†††† Franklin worked for McMaster, a sawyer.† "It was while here that Franklin formed his taste for lumbering, for I have heard him say that the rattle of Mack's old mill was the sweetest music in his ear.† So it is that circumstances in early life often make an impression on the mind that is never effaced." (Ordway, p. 10)
†††† In March of 1837 Franklin married Martha Lamson, daughter of† Charles and Chloe Hicks Lamson, who had come to Jasper from N. Hadley,† MA, in March of 1837. Franklin and Martha lived in Frye's house, built† by their father, until Franklin built a house of his own, and cut the† hay on both farms.† "Old Dinah" the cow provided milk and butter, and† some of the butter was sold.† The wheat was cut with a sickle, but was† threshed with an 8‑horsepower "mullay thrasher" and cleaned with a† fanning mill.† The new house "on the farm over the hill" was built about† 1840.†
††††† "Uncle Ben Lamphire, his stone layer, got the cellar just the width of the wall too narrow, but did not find it out until the wall was two feet high, then he dug right out the width of the cellar and commenced a new wall, which caused a jog that was always in the cellar and was often handy to lay things on.† The house was raised the 3d of May. ... Dennis was handy with tools and ceiled the kitchen up himself, and done considerable more to make things comfortable, but the chamber floors were only thrown down, nor was the east room.† I have often wondered, as handy as he was with tools, that he did not work at it for a couple of weeks and lay these floors.† But he had always so much else to do.† The chambers were open ‑‑ the snow would blow in so I could be tracked down stairs many a time in the morning.† But people did not know that they could have things in those days, so as to take any comfort." (Ordway, p. 11)
†††† Franklin was "considerably wrought upon" in 1838 during a† protracted religious meeting led by Rev. Robert Hubbard from Dansville.† Subsequently (1846‑47) he was "fully aroused to a sense of his need of† Christ", and joined the church on May 7 1848.† "This dedication was the† most important act of his whole life" (Ordway, p. 27).
†††† Ordway reports that Franklin formed a partnership with a Mr. Knapp,† and later with U.W. Metcalf, in the "mercantile business", in 1860. He† devoted himself to lumbering, with cattle and sheep as a sideline.† "Where he found strenth to carry through all of his schemes I could† never see.† And yet he was like a river, no end to this kind of supply;† full of vim, ready to attack any new scheme that promised success."† (Ordway, p. 22).† He began cutting lumber in Pennsylvania.† "He went on† to work, put in money, hired lots of help, and drove it through on a† large scale all winter." (Ordway, p. 22).† Then the Civil War began, and† the price of lumber fell from $ 20 a thousand board feet to $ 2, with a† loss to Franklin of $ 5000.† He took this loss in stride, however, and† continued operating the sawmill in Jasper for 15 years.† In 1865 he left† the operation of the mill to sons Andrew and Albert and bought another† farm, where he produced maple sugar, wheat, cattle, and milk (for† cheese).† Three daughters (Martha, Augusta and Abbie) were married† during this period of time.
†††† "It always seemed to me that this was a happy part of his life.† His family were where they had church and school privileges, and he entered into society; went to parties and had parties at his house and seemed to associate and mingle with people on a friendly scale and took much delight in such associations.† His neighbors all seemed to think so much of him, everything must must (sic) have been pleasant to him at this time." (Ordway, p. 23)
†††† He exchanged the farm for a house and lot in the village of† Canisteo, and his family "began to divide off; Truman and Willis went† into the shoe factory; but Willis did not follow this business very† long."† According to Ordway, some dishonest lumber dealers in Canisteo† took advantage of Franklin during the year he lived there.† Subsequently† he bought a farm on the Hornellsville road where he lumbered and raised† wheat on his own and rented land.† But farming was not his first love.
†††† "Somehow he was not in his element until he bought the saw mill at† Hornellsville; for lumbering is his element as much as water is for† fish." (Ordway, p. 24).† He bought, cut, and drew the timber, and sawed† it into boards, with the help of Truman and Willis, with profits of† some $ 1000 per year.† In 1889 600,000 feet of lumber were processed,† all but about 30,000 of which was pine, with a gross value of $ 8200.
††††† Franklin is listed in the Hornellsville directory from 1884 to 1895 as a† lumberman/lumber dealer/saw mill operator on Glen Ave. (He is no longer† listed in the census as living in Jasper beginning in 1880.)
†††† Abby's health grew progressively worse, and she died in February† 1891 at the age of 67.† On October 18, 1891, Franklin remarried; his† third wife was Mrs. Nancy Stryker of Howard, NY.† He died July 2, 1896† at 80 years of age.† Despite an apparently prosperous lumber business,† his estate was so small that Willis and Truman contributed over $ 400† (?) to allow Nancy to receive† $ 600, as specified in Franklin's will.†
†††† Willis Dennis was born in 1860, but little is known about his† activities aside from his association with his father on the farm and in† the lumber business.† In 1884 he married Olive Shaul, daughter of John† Shaul and Orissa Owens.† Olive died childless after four years of† marriage.† According to Leora Wilson Drake, she may have taken tansy to† induce abortion (?), but there is no hard evidence for this.† Olive is† buried, not in the Dennis plot in Jasper, NY, but with her parents.† We† have an autograph book of Olive's, dating from before her marriage,† containing verses,etc., from friends and relatives, including Alma† Rowley, Willis's second wife.† According to my mother, Corinne Smith† Dennis, Alma considered the marriage to Olive to have been a "breach of† contract" with her, and never forgave him.
†††† Willis and Alma were married in 1889; Alma was the daughter of† George and Emily (Loghry) Rowley of Jasper.† Willis is listed as a† clerk in his father's lumber business between 1895 and 1900, but was a† rural mail carrier in 1904.† Two sons arrived in due course, Frank† George (named for his two grandfathers) in 1893 and Rowley Clarence† in 1895.† They had many adventures, and ranged far from home.† Frank† describes these days in a brief autobiography written while in college:
†††† "I was born in Hornell, New York in 1893.† Being of an agricultural trend of mind, naturally the first thing I learned to do was to milk.† Since that time I have learned, to a limited extent, the art of spreading B.S."
†††† "The first few years of my existence I amused myself by running away, catching minnows in the creek and exercising a slingshot on a neighbor woman's multiferous cats.† I also have several scars on my head as souvenirs of accidents recieved in my grandfather's sawmill at that time."††
†††† "At about five years of age I began grammar school.† I found myself in a pretty tough bunch of six warders where I began by licking a kid of about my own age.† This, I supposed, had elevated me, but I was surprised to find that all the bullies desired a rousing scrap to prove their superiority."
†††† "I soon became a regular little gutter pup for I had no desire to be a goody with this bunch."
†††† "I found myself, (I don't know how it came about) in a gang of five or six led by Bill Huber.† Our principal occupation was looking for trouble and we found it in many forms. Some of these were stone fights and snow fort fights with other gangs who we went out of our natural courses to find.† Out in the country we tore down peoples fences and stole their axes and saws to build shanties which would soon be destroyed by some gang on the war path.† We had a dog who could snatch a chicken from under any farmer's nose.† Summer vacation my brother and myself were sent to the homes of relatives living in the country or to Silver Lake.† At times we were slightly troublesome to these relatives."
†††† No wonder Alma and Willis looked for a better place to raise their† children !† This they found on what was to become the Rose Valley Fruit† Farm, a mile south of Rose, in Wayne County.† Frank records this as† follows:
†††† "When I was twelve years of age my father bought a farm in Wayne County.† Here my brother and myself learned to work with the greatest delight.† We did not care to go to town.† Our revenge was taken out on woodchucks.† Our most prized treasures were two little 22 rifles."
†††† Alma later said that it was a great relief to her to be able to† see, from her kitchen window, those two pairs of overalls moving down† the lane.† Some devilishness persisted, however.† Their Sunday School† teacher, Mr. (Ira ?) Soule, grew watermelons in his garden.† He knew† that the boys would steal some, but asked that they please leave the† biggest ones for the gardener.† Unfortunately for him, the big ones were† among the first to disappear !
†††† After completing grade school at Rose, the boys enrolled in Clyde† High School, using a horse and buggy for the four‑mile trip:
†††† "In 1908 I began high school at Clyde.† I graduated from there in 1911 after which I took a year post graduate.† My life while there was uneventful no love affairs and my studies were a bore to me.† I dreaded to go to class because I was afraid to recite.† I played baseball first right field then left and at last second base.† My playing was not extra good because I was always so nervous in a game but I could†††† bat well."
†††† Rowley enjoyed playing pool, and often neglected chores to stay in† Clyde after school to indulge his passion.† Frank recounted that he once† met Rowley on arrival and the boys duked it out.† According to Frank, he† taught Rowley a lesson.† Rowley soon became adept at driving a car.† One† of his specialties was spinning a car on the ice so that it was facing† in the direction from which it had come.† He once offered an elderly† gentleman a ride home.† Once they were under way, Rowley did his car† trick.† At that point the man got out of the car, commenting that he† guessed he'd walk the rest of the way !
††† On completing high school, Frank enrolled in the College of† Agriculture at Syracuse University.† Here he joined Delta Upsilon† fraternity, and became a devoted fraternity man:
††† "Because of the fore stated agricultural trend of mind, which I had cultivated all this time, I entered the division of agriculture of this university in 1913.† After I began the work I came in contact with present brother Foskett, known as Skeets.† I saw him several times as we were out interviewing the cows on the farm.† Subsequently he invited me up here at the house to dinner one evening.† I learned a great deal favorable to this fraternity in the next few days.† I also noticed that there was a more quiet and better appearance amongst the fellows up here than at another fraternity where I went, and I was glad to wear its pledge pin, when it was offered me.† Since that time I've often thought that I have found the best fraternity on the hill for me."
†††† Among his closest fraternity brothers was Ben Tracy; on completing† college Ben returned to Syracuse to become a partner with his father in† a lumber and coal company (?).† Frank graduated in 1917 and accepted a† position with the Agricultural Extension Service in Onondaga County.†† Soon, however, he joined the Navy and served with the lighter‑than‑air† division, first at Hampton Roads, VA, later (?) at Pensacola, FL. The† division was responsible for kite balloons and dirigibles, and Frank† brought home numerous pictures of these craft.† At one point the unit in† which he served had a pet bear "Whiskey", and a photo of Frank with the† bear survives.
†††† I remember a few stories that Dad recounted about his adventures.†† One was of a visit to the home of a fellow sailor in Virginia's† plantation country.† A group went out on a rabbit hunt, and the others† apparently let Frank have the first shot at the rabbits.† He bagged so† many that the boy carrying the trophies remarked, " He sho' am a rabbit‑† killin' white man."† A sailor acquaintance, Eddie Wyczinski (sp?) was known as an easy‑going type, but got into an altercation with† another sailor.† The rules called for "grudge fights" to be settled with† boxing gloves in the ring, so Eddie and his opponent squared off one† evening.† Eddie clowned around most of the time, but at one point cut† loose with such a flurry of blows that the other sailor wouldn't come† near him again.† Only later did the group learn that Eddie had fought† professionally as Stanley Ketchall (sp?) ‑‑ a name well‑known to the† boys.† After the Armistice ended the war, Frank, now a Chief Petty† Officer, returned to work with the Onondaga County Extension Service.† His story of the first car he ever bought, a Model T Ford, remains vivid† in my memory.† The car cost about $ 600, and it stalled repeatedly as he† drove down Salina St. in Syracuse.† Either the carburetor wasn't properly adjusted or else Frank hadn't yet got the hang of driving it.†
†††† After a few years (?) in extension, Frank accepted a position in† Rochester with the Beechnut Packing Company, a processor of fruits and† vegetables (?).† He often swam at the YMCA, and claimed that he was the† second fastest swimmer in Rochester at the time.
†††† Although Rowley also attended Syracuse University, extra‑curricular† activities limited his concentration on his studies and he returned to† the farm before completing a degree.† In February of 1918 he married† Gertrude Henderson, daughter of Frank and Leona (Allen) Henderson of† Rose, then served as a military policeman in Europe following the war.†† He then returned to work with his father on the home farm.† Son Robert† was born (where?) in 1923.† However, Gertrude contracteed tuberculosis† and the couple decided to move to Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks in the† hope of improving her health.† There Rowley worked as a lumber† inspector (?) for the Ovalwood Dish Company.† When Rowley and Gertrude† left Rose, Frank felt obligated to return to the farm ‑‑ a decision he† often regretted later when freezes reduced the apple crop or hail† damaged it.† He expanded the apple orchard ‑‑ then an estimated 10 or 15† acres ‑‑ to 30 or 40.† One of the oldest orchards ‑‑ the Blacktwigs ‑‑† were planted on the day Frank and Alice Closs were married.† One of my† jobs 40 (?) years later was to chop up the trunks to feed the wood stove† in the kitchen.
†††† In 1923(?) Frank fell head‑over‑heels in love with a blind date.†† Grace Putnam, who later married Bert Valentine, was teaching at Auburn High School.† She brought Corinne Smith, homemaking teacher and daughter of Arthur and Alice (Osburn) Smith of Auburn, home with her one† weekend and arranged for Frank and Corinne to meet.† Corinne later observed that Frank had his arm around her before the evening ended.† Soon thereafter (June 1923) they were married at Corinne's aunt Isabel† (Osburn) Tuttle's home in Washingtonville, NY.† Although Arthur Smith was let in on the secret, Alice was not informed until after the knot was tied.† (Both Frank and Corinne were 30 years of age in 1923, so they didn't really need parental consent.)† Grace had married Bert by this time, and they served as matron of honor and best man.†
†††† Corinne, although a city girl, readily accepted life on the farm in Rose, although she gave up running water and many other "luxuries".†† Alma was grateful for Corinne's help with household chores, as she didn't like to cook.† Willis and Alma remained in the farmhouse and Corinne and Frank slept upstairs.† Late in the fall the elder Dennises moved to a house in Rose.† Willis, together with his dog, walked the mile from Rose to the farm every day and took a pail of milk home each night.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ---F.G. Dennis, Jr.†† 1994