John and Margaret Curtis and their Family
Several years ago, upon finding two old gravestones in the area of Co. Rt. 68 and No. Hoosick Road, I photographed them and put the photos online. I hadn’t intended to get into White Creek history, but decided to try to find out something about them as I had seen no mention of them in the published histories. In any event, I soon found the subject very interesting! It started me on the path to becoming the Town Historian in 2016.
While at this time I was restricted to online research (with it’s risk of inaccuracy), it seems certain that John Curtis was born in Stonington, New London County, Connecticut 1 Jun 1720. He married Margaret Davis, widow of his brother James, 11 March 1745 in Westerly, Washington County, Rhode Island. Margaret had married James about 1734 and they had three children, Stephen b. 1735, Hannah b. 1737 and Ann b. 1739.
John married Margaret in March 1744/5 in Westerley, RI. He cared for her children and they had six more:
1. Ephraim b. 1742
2. John b. 1752 based on his military record, maybe 1747 based on published genealogies.
3. Comfort b. July 17, 1746
4. Margaret b. ?
5. Hannah (unless the first Hannah died, this must be his brother's daughter).
6. Content b. ?
If John and Margaret moved directly to White Creek, they would have been here during the French and Indian war and among the earliest known settlers.
However, some Curtis researchers have them first moving around 1753 to Dover, (Pawling Patent), Dutchess County, NY. Church records, https://archive.org/details/recordsoffirstba00firs , of the Dover Baptist Church show a John Curtis and a Comfort Shaw being received into membership in 1762. (This would fit nicely if Comfort Shaw was a relative of Lydia Shaw Cole, who also later settled in White Creek). In 1766 John got in trouble due to the Rent Wars (“On 15 Sept.1766 "The Church labored with John Curtis and Ebenezer Marcy, to convince them, that they was wrong in joining the Mobb, in going against the Regulars in Philips Patent." “)
John shows up in Dover through 1769 and may have moved to White Creek shortly after that date – IF this information is correct. The “Memorial of Simeon Covell, 1784” shows that John Curtis, Joseph Morgan, and Joseph Bruton leased 340 acres of land in White Creek in 1771 from John Delancy (of NYC), which lease was sold to Covell in 1773. This would indicate John Sr. was still alive in 1773, but probably died soon after. This land most probably was all of Great Lot #9 of the Walloomsac Patent. At present, based on a deed of sale of land by John Bishop Curtis in 1829 which appears to be John and Margaret’s original property (though John B. was a cousin), I believe John and Margaret’s home and principal land was either on the northeastern edge of Great Lot #10 or the northwestern edge of Great Lot #11.
The Curtis's seem to have been fairly well off in White Creek. Besides John's farm, Comfort owned a house and a fairly substantial amount of land on what is now Chestnut Woods Road in the Lt. James Bain Patent, which seems to have been part of Duncan MacVicar’s “Clarendon Township” and was being administered by John Munro after 1772. John Jr. and Comfort also both owned other land in Clarendon, Vermont. They lost this land to confiscation for being Tories. Paul Jones has a short paragraph on Comfort in the book “Our Yesteryears”, where he says Comfort was a skilled cabinet maker and coach builder. However, he made no attempt to link him with the rest of the family.
Comfort was a member of the Cambridge Committee of Public Safety, which would mean he had leanings towards the American side, but John Jr. and Comfort both took up arms in aid of Baum and his Hessians at the Battle of Bennington. This probably didn't make them too popular in the area. Reportedly they fled to Canada, but they were in Shaftsbury, Vermont in September and October of 1777, just after the battle. It is possible, but they may have gone only as far as Clarendon, where they owned land.
In the book “Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont: General conventions in the New Hampshire grants ... July, 1775 to December, 1777. The first constitution of the State of Vermont. Council of Safety ... July 8, 1777, to March 12, 1778. Record of the Governor and Council, 1778-1779 “ ( https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=1VgSAAAAYAAJ) it is recorded that John had had his property confiscated in Clarendon, and that Comfort also would lose his but was allowed to return to White Creek to the home of his brother John. So the Curtises lost their Vermont land holdings for supporting the British, but held on to their New York ones.John may have been living with his mother and running the family farm.
In September of 1777 Comfort Curtis was permitted to return to White Creek on John’s guarantee that he would answer a call to appear before the Vermont authorities and a bail of 200 pounds put up by John. The next month both John and Comfort were permitted to travel to Clarendon to collect family and effects and then return home. Apparently Comfort did just as instructed and lived peaceably in White Creek for the rest of his life. John, on the other hand, seems to have joined up with a man named Timothy Hill in Clarendon and gone off to join Joseph Brant’s Volunteers. It would seem likely that this is the time when he actually went to Canada, or through it, as Brant was at Fort Niagara during this winter. (Brant was normally headquartered in southern NY at Oquaga near the PA border).
John appears to have been the committed Loyalist of the two Curtis brothers and probably had swayed Comfort to fight at the Battle of Bennington.
Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) was a Mohawk chief whose sister Molly had married Sir William Johnson. He was well educated and could function in both the Mohawk and White worlds. He intended to put together a force of his own people to fight on the British side, but few Mohawks joined him. In the end, most of his men were white men disguised as Indians to avoid being identified. The British refused to support him, so there was no pay and no supplies and the unit supported itself by robbing and pillaging. Because of that they were not well liked (hated!) by the Americans and if captured would have been hanged. Brant kept no known written records of their exploits. Both John Curtis and Timothy Hill were dead before the end of January 1778 according to Vermont records. Or at least supposed to be dead – the Vermonters proscribed both John and Comfort in the Act of Proscription in February of 1779. There would have been no death records or proof, and it is unknown to this day where or how John died. However, both he and Timothy show up in the active roster of the Queen's Loyal Rangers at Fort St. John in 1781, along with other White Creekers such as James Parrott and Francis Hogle!
This was the summer that James Parrott, also of White Creek, conducted his abduction raid and shot John Younglove. There is no record of John accompanying him, but as he knew the area and had been a neighbor of James, he may well have. The Queen's Loyal Rangers were disbanded in 1781 and the remaining members moved into the Loyal Rangers and the King's Royal Regiment of New York. Timothy Hill seems to disappear. There is a John Curtis listed in 1783 in the e-book "Rolls of the Provincial (Loyalist) Corps, Canadian Command American Revolutionary Period" – by Mary Beacock Fryer, William A. Smy as being in the Kings Royal Regiment when it was disbanded in Quebec.
If that is the same John, he never seems to have applied for land to compensate for what he lost in Clarendon, and I have as yet found no record of his settling along the St. Lawrence or in the Bay of Quinte area where the rest of the unit settled. His family disappeared from Clarendon and can't be located either.
In March of 1778 a David Hoggis of Cambridge, (probably Hodges), put up a large sum of money to provide a guarantee that the families of John Curtis and Timothy Hill would be supported
Bond In Re Support Of Families of John Curtis And Timothy HIlls
( Mss State Papers of Vermont, vol 42 pg 6)
Know all men by these Presents that I David Hoggis of Cambridge in the county of Albeny (sic) and State of New York yeoman am holden and firmly bound and obliged unto the Township of Clarendon and State of Vermont in the Penal sum of one thousand Pounds Lawful money to be paid and to the which payment well and Truely to be made I bind myself my heirs Executors and administrators and asines firmly by these Presents sealed with my seal Dated this 21st Day of March A D 1778
The Conditions of this obligation is such that if the above said David Hoggis his heirs Executors Administrators or asines or any of them shall or Do well and Truly acquit Clear and Indemnify the Above said town and State of all cost trouble and charge of supporting maintaining and bringing up of the familys of John Curtis and Timothy Hill of Clarendon aforesaid Then the above obligations shall be void and of none effect but if not to stand and remain in full force and Virtue in the Law.
There is only one record of David Hodges in Cambridge, though there were other Hodges’ around. He seems to have owned no property there. Nor do I know why he would have put up so large a sum of money, $158,000 in today’s money, or where the money came from. There must have been some relationship there. Perhaps their wives were his daughters.
Comfort died in April of 1817 and was buried on his home farm in White Creek. The authorities in Vermont seem to have believed John died in 1778.
By 1840 this branch of the Curtis family seems to have largely left the White Creek area.
There is a lot of research still to be done here. Some of the above information is uncertain, some can be interpreted various ways. Actual records are in short supply. There were a number of John Curtises. There were two Clarendons. I haven’t yet done any research on other members of this family. But this is the best information I have at this time.
Ted Rice, February 19, 2018.