2008 – The Jacob Wiltse Family


Historical Society Notes
Jacob’s son, John, arrived in the Springfield Township area in 1831 along with his wife Joannah (Barnes) and 9 children. Many of the family’s friends and relatives also came along from the Cayuga County, New York area; they included the Devine, Frost and, Barnes families who all had a part in the settlement of the area. They settled 80 acres on June 1, 1832 in what was then Wood County and close to the area where the Springfield Township Cemetery now stands. John became the first treasurer of the township in 1836 and served in that office until 1839. He also served as a school director, supervisor of highways and fence viewer. He and Thomas Wood influenced the building of the first church (Methodist) for the township that was built directly west of the cemetery. He died on December 26, 1857, and his wife, Joannah, died on September 16, 1840. They are buried next to John’s father and mother, Jacob and Esther, in Springfield cemetery on a small knoll facing where the church had been built. One of the sons of John and Joannah, Hiram Wiltse, was also active in the community, serving as a Township Trustee and Clerk in the 1850s and as a Justice of the Peace for 30 years. He was farmer, millwright and carpenter, building coffins when they were needed and made the benches for the church that his father helped build. During the Civil War he built bridges for the Union Army. For a short period of time he migrated to Saginaw County, Michigan, to work in the lumber business. He stayed for only a short period of time because he became homesick for the beautiful Maumee Valley. After he returned he lost all of his property in Perrysburg when he posted bond for a young man who worked in a bank. The trust he put in the young man was betrayed when he left the area with a large portion of the bank’s money. Hiram’s farm was a stopping place for Indians on their way to Detroit. He provided shelter for them, especially in the winter, and provided straw to insulate their moccasins from the ice and snow. Hiram was a big man, over six feet tall, and quite an athlete, usually taking part in barn raisings and the games of strength that followed. He also taught singing and his voice could be heard in the congregation on Sundays. Hiram married Jane Burdo, the daughter of Louis and Susannah (Guyor) Bourdeau, and the sister of John Burdo, who was also a pioneer of Springfield Township. They lived the later years of their lives in Maumee and died in 1896 (Hiram) and 1894 (Jane).

Jacob’s Story for Springfield Township Historical Society, April 30, 2008 Mary Lou (Bernecker) Mayer, West Hartford, Connecticut 3rd Great Granddaughter of Jacob Wiltse

Jacob Wiltse did not bloom where he was planted in 1757 in Beekman Patent, Dutchess County, New York. He, like the Wiltse men before him, was born under a wandering star like Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon. Jacob, the fifth of 14 children of Cornelius Wiltse, Jr. and Elizabeth Cornell, roamed all the way to Springfield Township, Lucas Co., Ohio – about 600 miles away. He was 69 when he died here in 1827. He is buried in Springfield Cemetery with his wife Esther, his first son John, and John’s wife, Joanna Barnes. Each generation of Wiltses in Jacob’s line headed for yet another wilderness in New York with their large families, so that their sons would have more land. Beginning in the early 17th Century, Hendrick Martense, a mercenary soldier from Copenhagen, Denmark, with the Dutch West India Company, became the first Wiltse in America. He married Margaret Meyers in New Amsterdam, repaired to Wiltwick (now Kingston, NY), was captured during the Esopus Massacre in 1662, but escaped. He moved the growing family to a farm at Hell Gate in what is now Astoria, Queens. Their son Marten Hendrickse married Maria Van Wyck and went East on Long Island to a farm and apple orchard in Flushing where he developed the Newtown apple. Their son Cornelius, Sr., Jacob’s grandfather, died about two years before Jacob was born. Cornelius didn’t stay put either. When he was 40, he, his wife Ruth Smith, and their 11 children left Success Pond in Newtown, New York to pioneer in Dutchess County. He bought 74 acres from the widow Madam Catharyna Brett who had inherited 28,000 acres that stretched from what is today Poughkeepsie east to Connecticut and south to Putnam County. Cornelius was also one of her partners the Frankfort Store, a cooperative at Fishkill Landing. They sold their local farm products in Manhattan about 70 miles down the Hudson River. Cornelius became a successful farmer, cooper, carpenter and merchant. His store in Hopewell sold goods imported from Europe. Jacob’s father Cornelius, Jr. was one of seven sons, so he inherited just 40 acres and a swamp in Beekman Patent. Because he and his sons would need more land, Cornelius also moved further north when Jacob was 2 years old, perhaps to Spencertown and/or Duanesburg. Here decades later Jacob volunteered to fight in the American Revolution. He and his father enlisted with four of his brothers of military age – Cornelius, Henry, Jeames, and Thomas. They served as privates in the 8th Albany County Regiment, 1st Claverack Battalion, commanded by Col. Robert Van Rensselaer, Lieut. Col. Henry Van Rensselaer, and Capt. Isaac P. Vosburgh. At some point Jacob married Esther Harris (or Sterling). Who was she? Like the majority of pioneer women, Esther’s resume is “wife and mother;” otherwise she is hidden for eighty years behind what genealogists term a “brick wall.” Before she died, she saw her ten children – seven daughters and three sons – produce at least 21 grandchildren. This is what French historian Alexis de Toqueville said about Esther’s peers in Democracy in America in 1840: “Most women had the everyday jobs of cooking, cleaning, ironing, sewing, laundry, care of the poultry, dairy work, butter churning, spinning, child care and more in an unending cycle of domestic work. She [the pioneer wife] has exhausted herself giving them life and does not regret what they have cost her. Esther left no diary to contradict Monsieur de Tocqueville. But after the war we can trace her wilderness whereabouts through documents about Jacob in census records, local histories, and a Cayuga county deed. Although the names of Upstate New York counties and towns changed frequently, we know they lived primarily in Stillwater and Sterling. By the 1790 Federal Census they were listed in Stillwater in Saratoga County with six daughters – Betsy, Anna, Sarah, Mary, Julia, and Esther – and – at last – “one male under 16” – John. He would grow up to be the first treasurer of Springfield Township, Ohio and die to share a gravestone with his parents and wife in Springfield Cemetery. The 1800 Census again lists them in Stillwater with 7 children; Ephraim and Cornelius had been born; the older daughters had probably married and moved away. Soon after Jacob’s father Cornelius died in the Mariaville section of Duanesburg that year, Jacob moved his family west, probably following the Mohawk River. He showed up in March 1803 at the first town meeting in Cato (later Sterling) about 150 miles west of Stillwater. He was elected an overseer of the poor and one of two assessors. Cato voted to pay a $5 bounty for each bear and a $30 bounty for each wolf killed in the limits of the town. In 1808 Jacob settled in the north-west corner of the town on Lot #14 in Little Sodus (now Fair Haven but then a part of Sterling). When the War of 1812 was heating up, the frontier town of Sterling raised a militia regiment to guard the harbor at Little Sodus and the nine miles of shore line to Oswego. They convinced Governor Tompkins to exempt them from the draft. He asked for a bond in return for 40 stands of arms and two kegs of powder. Endorsing the bond were Jacob Wiltse, Esq. and Captain Joseph Divine, Sr. who volunteered to command ‘The Home Guard.” The men, including John Wiltse and Linus Frost, another future Springfield Township pioneer, were released from the draft but stood as Minute Men stationed as guards at Little Sodus in case of an invasion. At an alarm from Oswego, Capt. Devine called out his company. They were present at the Battle of Oswego. During the War in 1813 Jacob left the Sotus area and moved to the eastern edge of Cayuga County where he bought 76 acres of Lot 13 in Sterling on the Oswego County line adjacent to the town of Hannibal. His brothers Henry and Benjamin soon became his next door neighbors when they purchased Lot 47 in what became known as the Wiltseville section of Hannibal. His brothers are buried in the Hannibal Cemetery. But ten years later in 1823, when Jacob and Esther were pushing 70, the Wiltse wilderness itch set in again. They decided to move West with Cornelius, the only child who was still living with them in the 1820 census. Jacob assigned 54 acres of his farm to Ephraim and John. In 1824 they headed for Ohio with Cornelius and his recent bride, Electa Cleaveland, her brother Jonah, and perhaps other pioneers. Electa’s less adventurous grandfather General Jedidiah Marvin joined the Shakers and stayed in Sodus. The Wiltses, Cleavelands, and later the Divines and Frosts settled in Georgeburg, Waynesfield Township, Wood County, Ohio, now known as Maumee. Soon after their arrival, Cornelius Wiltse went to the Wooster land office in April of 1824 and bought 80 acres of the 12 Mile Square Reserve in Section 21 of Lucas County. Not until after Jacob’s death in 1827 did Cornelius travel back to Sterling and join his brothers in selling most of Lot 13 for $500. In the 1830 census the families of Jacob’s sons Ephraim and Cornelius were both counted in Waynesfield. Esther was probably the “over 80 year old female” living with Cornelius. However, John Wiltse was still taxed that year in Sterling where all his and Joanna’s children were born and were still living with them – Lucy, Hiram, Mahala, Electa, Silas, Mary Anne, Esther, James and John, Jr., but in 1831 they also removed to Ohio. After his mother Esther died, Cornelius ventured further into the wilderness of Michigan. Like his ggg grandfather, the seaman Hendrick Martense Wiltse, Cornelius knew how to navigate on many waters. He piloted a flatboat in 1837 up the Maumee river, into Lake Erie, north on the St. Clair River into Lake Huron, then through Saginaw Bay, and finally up the Tittabawasee River. On its bank he built a blockhouse for his family of seven children. He moved two more times after that, both within Saginaw County where he and his descendents are buried in the Owen Cemetery. The Springfield Historic Society will honor Jacob Wiltse (and I hope Esther as well) on June 7 this year. Although I am unable to attend, I’ve written this memorial as a kin keeper. I descend from Cornelius’ Ohio born son Henry who married Louisa Frost, daughter of Linus Frost and Lucinda Devine whose roots go back to the Cayuga County militia men in the war of 1812. I left Michigan in 1962 for Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York again, Colorado, New Jersey again and finally Connecticut, home of Linus Frost who left Hartford in 1800 for Oswego, New York, then moved to Maumee, and died there when his Conestoga wagon was packed to head for Saginaw in 1854. Lucinda went anyway, taking with her my great grandmother Louisa and three other children. Jacob’s namesake – Jacob Tileman – was the first Jacob Wiltse’s ggg grandmother Teuntje Straatsman’s 3rd husband. Peter Stuyvesant had left him behind in the Caribbean when he set sail for New Amsterdam with Teuntje and her 3 children, each fathered by a different soldier in Dutch-occupied Brazil in the 17th Century. Teuntje was married to her fourth soldier when she died at age 44. But Jacob Tileman, ‘the risen father’ as the Dutch Domine (minister) Henricus Seljins dubbed him, came to New York after the British took over, reunited with the Wiltses, and as godfather, he witnessed the baptism of the first Jacob Wiltse on March 18, 1676 in Brooklyn, NY. Sources: http://www.rays-place.com/history/ny/cayu-sterling-ny.htm: History of Sterling, New York from: History of Cayuga County, New York by: Elliot G. Storke, Assisted by: Jos H. Smith, Pub by: D. Mason & Co., Syracuse, NY, 1879 Re War of 1812: Pioneers of Sterling, NY by Hallie DeMass Sweeting, pp. 19-20.