January 1995

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The Descendants of

Hopestill Bigelow

introduction by

Helena Howard

Samuel Bigelow, my great-great-great-grandfather and a son of Hopestill Bigelow came to Yates County and settled at Bennets Settlement which was on a road crossing the Dundee-Himrod Road. The only remaining evidence of the settlement is a small cemetery on the Charles Malloy farm.
Samuel served as a drummer boy in the militia when he was 14 years old and again as a chaplain in the War of 1812. He was at Quick's Patent in 1811. When he lived at Bennets Settlement he helped build houses at Eddytown, now Lakemont, and later he preached there and in Tyrone. Reverend Bigelow held an early service at Eddytown and then road his horse to Tyrone for an afternoon service. In 1840 he was living with Benjamin Carpenter at Weston, and finally received his pension. He died in 1842 and is buried with his wife and granddaughter in the abandoned cemetery between lakes Lamoka and Waneta. The Bigelows of Dundee and Altay are his descendants.
In the now rare Bigelow Genealogy, published in 1890 by Gilman Bigelow Howe, is this letter written in 1833 by Hopestill Bigelow the younger to his son Artemus:

My Son,

That you may not be ignorant of the patriotism and character of your forefathers and the value I place thereon, I send you the following information: At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, your two great grandfathers, Hopestill Bigelow and Aaron Fuller, lived in Whitehall, New York, then called Skeensborough. Of my remote ancestors I have no definite knowledge. My great-grandfather had ten sons and two daughters of whom I only know the names of Ebenezer, Joshua, Samuel, Bemorah, Silence, and my grandfather Hopestill. Grandfather Hope-still Bigelow had three sons: Samuel (my father), Ebenezer, and Thomas, and three daughters: Hannah, Nabby, and Esther. My father Samuel had six sons, Hopestill (myself), Niram, John Whitlock, Samuel Liscomb, James, and Asa Barney, and four daughters: Mary, Elizabeth, Tyla, and Roxina. All I know of my grandmother Bigelow is that she was an Olmstead. Of my mother's, I know nothing beyond her own family.

My grandfather, Hopestill Bigelow, was a Baptist preacher and lived in No. 1, now Tyringham, Massachusetts. In 1759 he removed to Skeensborough at the head of Lake Champlain, New York, now known at Whitehall. It was called by its former name from a wealthy Englishman, Major Skeens, who moved from Canada and settled there.

At this place grandfather Bigelow became pastor of the Baptist Church. Adjoining him lived Aaron Fuller, a justice of the peace, a very noted man in public business in that region. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Fuller was appointed Postmaster and Public Storekeeper. At the "falls" (so called by the falling of Wood and White Creeks about 20 feet into Lake Champlain) was Major Skeen's borough or plantation, which he left in charge of a son and a daughter and went to Canada to join the English. Soon after, the son and daughter also went to Canada, leaving the farm, stock and everything, even the body of their own mother in the cellar of the house enclosed in a leaden coffin which the Major had kept unburied for several years for the sake of her income. The Skeen's property thus being left without protection and belonging to an enemy, grandfather Fuller was ordered to confiscate it for the use of our country's new army. When Skeen heard of it he offered 1,000 crowns for Esq. Fuller's scalp. The liberal bounty made it very dangerous for him to attend to his business, as the Tories and Indians were numerous and on the lookout for Fuller. He was therefore obliged to ride out on his business in the night, and in the daytime hide in a cave in the edge of a dense swamp.

Well do I remember when I was a small boy of my mother leading me and two older sisters to the cave, and telling us the story of her father till the hair on my head would stand erect and every rustle of a leaf would appear to be the step of an Indian or a Tory. I have suffered more thereby, and from fireside war tales, in the years afterward, than by the actual roar of cannons, the rattle of small arms, and the beat of the muffled drum, the groans of the wounded, the sting of the bullet, and the flow of the blood in the War of 1812. But to return to my tale.

Not caring to leave the cave by day his food was stealthily carried to him, but at night he would put on his wife's long scarlet cloak and her bonnet (well do I remember the cloak) and mount his horse. If likely to meet anyone he would fling his legs both on one side, as a lady rides, pass on, as quickly as possible, then with one each side put spurs to and haste away to buy supplies for the army.

He had a son about the age of my father, then 14, and a daughter about 12, Elizabeth, whom my father afterwards married, and to whom I shall refer to as Mother. The boys had both entered the army, my mother, Elizabeth Fuller was left at home to take charge of her father's affairs. She was now the only dependence for all outside work and was a stout and rugged girl. Adapting herself to her business, she laid aside her female dress, and adopting her brother's trousers, she foddered the cattle, yoked and hitched them onto the sled, then she drove to the woods, chopped down trees, cut them into proper lengths, loaded and drew them home, where she prepared the wood for the fireplace. Thus she did all necessary work during the winter. The bounty for her father's life, standing good, the family was all the while kept in a frightful expectation that the house might be set on fire at night in hopes of getting Mr. Fuller's scalp.

During the next summer and fall Grandmother Fuller would send the children to the woods at night with blankets. After spreading one on the ground my mother would sit in the middle of it and gather her brothers and sisters around her, then spreading another blanket over them, she, sitting up, would keep them secure from suffocation and mosquitos while they slept. During this time Grandmother Fuller with the babe in her arms walked the house from side to side, looking out through peepholes, between the logs to see if any destroyers were near. She dared not have a fire or a light in the house, lest it would attract attention. Because of some sudden fear or alarm she often thus aroused her children in the night and sent them into the woods, and they were accustomed to go without a murmur.

Amid all this anxiety and excitement the news came that the British were coming up Lake Champlain. Men, women and children were running from neighbor to neighbor inquiring what to do next. Finally it was agreed to meet at my grandfather Bigelow's, he being the Baptist pastor. After consultation it was thought best for all the people to move to Sandy Hill about twelve miles distant, and after prayers and a blessing pronounced on the trembling group, they started, leaving their farms and all unnecessary property behind.

The alarm having blown over, some returned while others stayed at Sandy Hill, among whom was my grandfather Bigelow, who occasionally went up to Skeensborough to see his farm, as it was wheat harvest, with his wife, babe and my father, leaving three daughters at home, the oldest eleven, the youngest four years of age, and one between them, in the care of a family called Prindle, distant relatives.

Sandy Hill, being a noted place and quite a village, was looked upon as a place of safety. Therefore many had resorted to it.

During their absence for harvesting, the Tories with some Indians made an assault upon Sandy Hill, burned the place, and having robbed the houses and killed the stock fled to Canada. Grandfather Bigelow had five cows and six hogs killed. The Prindles went with the Tories leaving no trace behind. Picture to yourself, if you can, the grief and sorrow of my grandparents Bigelow, when on their return from harvesting instead of joyfully embracing their little daughters, they saw only the ruins of their home and the embers still burning. After a diligent search they concluded they were burned up in the house. The shock was at first severe and painful almost beyond endurance, but sorrow gradually passed away and they assumed their wonted cheerfulness.

Thus three years passed by, when a messenger rode up with a letter addressed to my grandfather. How great was their surprise to find it to be from their long-lost children, then in the British camp in Canada. Although preparations were made to send for them, almost three months passed before my father, Samuel Bigelow, could set out for his sisters. After six months more of negotiation and entreaty he safely returned them to their parents' arms.

Strong and clear is my remembrance how when a small boy I used to sit by the winter's fireside, the blazing back-log throwing its weird bright light and dancing shadows on the walls of the room, myself at my mother's knees, and my two older sisters on each side of her while her busy foot was making the flax wheel hum, spinning for our clothing, and father with his awl and thread, as was then common in every house, to make shoes for our feet, and hear them tell of the horrors of war, trembling as if it was a present reality, and I would look up at the old long gun which my father had carried, and say to myself, "Well, Father is a patriot and will fight when needs be."

You doubtless think it would be impossible for a young girl of twelve to do in this day and age such work as your grandmother did at that age, but she was large and strong, and with sparkling eyes and cheerful heart would tell us of her work and sufferings, and rejoice that she had been able to do it, that her father and brother might battle for freedom.

Now my son you can judge from the above why I shouldered a gun and took the field in the late war with England, more especially when you consider the patriot spirit of your forefathers, and I think by this time you begin to esteem more highly the republican stock from which you have emanated.

The day on which you were born was a glorious one to our fathers and hence I hope you will ever support the principles which we were fighting for on the day of your birth.

Hopestill Bigelow

Artemus Bigelow the son to whom Hopestill wrote this letter, was born in 1813 on the day that his father was wounded in battle.
Hopestill Bigelow's younger brother Asa Barney Bigelow went to Michigan. He and his son Lewis are buried in Gratiot County, Michigan. Asa's son Rosil Bigelow stayed near his grandfather Samuel and married Mary Jane Shaw. They lived in a tenant house of the Bigelow farm on Bigelow Hill, Altay, when their children were born. They had four children: George who married Alma Moss (their son Alvah Bigelow lived in Hammondsport for many years), Calsina who married Elmer Moss and lived at Sonora, Viola who married Frank Jayne and became my grandmother, and Leora who married John Fleet and lived at Himrod. Parents Rosil and Mary Jane later moved to Bradford; both are buried in the Bradford Cemetery. She was a daughter of Elijah and Betsy Grimes Shaw of North Urbana. I would like to hear from anyone who has information about her father Elijah, or possibly Elisha, Shaw. Please email me in care of the Crooked Lake Review.
Helena Howard, Rock Stream, NY
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