9 An American Archive: Charles Carroll Truesdell


Charles was born in 1833 to Wheeler and Lucy Truesdell while they lived in Camilius, NY. Wheeler was descended from a line of Truesdells who made New York their home. The earliest direct ancestor that I could find was from England. William Truesdell, 1601-72, lived in England, and had ten children. While he and most of his children remained in England, he did send three children in 1653 to his brother Richard, who lived in Boston of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The reasons are not known, the Church stopped all record keeping between 1641-1649 because of civil disturbance and religious unrest. William had lost three children in infancy and there had been an outbreak of plague, so perhaps he thought it best to send three children to the colonies. William keep an account book for his farm and between 1663-1671 it went for 144 pages, he was not fabulously rich, but still very successful. Mary, Rebecca, and Samuel who were 21, 13, and 8 respectively, joined the family of their uncle Deacon Richard Truesdell, who was very prosperous in Boston. Rebecca and Samuel were effectively adopted, and Mary found a husband soon after she arrived. Samuel grew up in Boston and moved to Newton where he married Mary Jackson in 1671. According to records at Newton, Samuel was 26 years of age and the 26th settler of Newton. Samuel and Mary had eight children, and Richard, the eldest, eventual moved to Connecticut, after he married Mary Richards in Feb 1696, in Dedham, Massachusetts. Richard and Mary had five children, the eldest son was William born in Newton, MA but they moved to Connecticut with his father. William began as a shoemaker, then a tanner, and a miller, eventually purchased land in Branford, then Norwalk, then Ridgefield. William had discovered land speculation and from 1730 on spent most of the time traveling. William married Martha Tyler in 1719, and they had 11 children together, all but one surviving to adulthood. Perhaps spurned on by such a large family, William turned to big business. William went into partnership with Frances Harrison, who was a big time land speculator. Unfortunately, Harrison was also fraudulent, and twice William was jailed in New York City until cleared by the Court and awarded 150 pounds in damages. Eventually William retreated back to Ridgefield, sold his property there and moved to Egg Harbor, New Jersey. His eldest son John married Rachael Wright in September, 1743 in Redding, CT, and they moved to Hillsdale, NY. John’s second eldest son, Stephen, born in Redding, CT, in January of 1753 marries Ruhamah Keeler in Ridgefield, CT in 1774. The political events in the colonies were just heating up, perhaps this motivated the family move just across the border into New York and north about a hundred miles to Amenia, NY. Both sides in the war tried to involve the Indian Nations, in particular the Iroquois. “The decision made by the Iroquois to break their traditional unity (as well as their neutrality) was the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777, which occurred when the American General Nicholas Herkimer was on his way to relieve beleaguered Fort Stanwix. Herkimer failed, but the Seneca allies of the British in particular, suffered heavy losses. Seventeen of the thirty-three Indians killed were Seneca as were sixteen of the twenty-nine wounded. In Indian terms, where success in battle was measured by the smallness of one’s own losses, the battle was a disaster.“ “Shortly after the battle of Oriskany, the patriot cause seemed vulnerable to destruction at the hands of General John Burgoyne who had moved south from Canada in June 1777 in order to cut off the middle and southern colonies from those in New England. On the way, Indian auxiliaries in his command murdered a young lady, Miss Jane McCrea, in a celebrated incident which fed the fuel of patriot propaganda that (as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence) the King had “endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontier the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.” When General Philip Schuyler received word during a conference with the Oneidas and Tuscaroras at Albany, in September, that the American army had engaged Burgoyne’s at Freeman’s Farm he immediately asked for their assistance and received it. The warriors, fresh from their participation in Herkimer’s campaign, joined General Horatio Gates’ army and rendered invaluable assistance.” Probably no single event had a greater impact during the war than the death of Jane McCrea. The Boston Massacre may have ignited the people in Massachusetts, but it did not have the same effect in the rest of the colonies.
http://www.revolutionarywar.n2genealogy. com/battles/770806.html
(http://www.american revolution.org/ind1. html)

Jane McCrea was born in 1751 or 1752 in New Jersey, one of ten children born to the Rev. James McCrea and his wife Katherine. Her brother John was a colonel with the American side in the revolution, and her brother Creighton, was a Captain in the 75th Highlanders in the Queens Regiment for the British. She had a total of three brothers fighting for the Americans, and two brothers fighting for the British. Jane found herself aligned more with the British as she was engaged to Lt. David Jones, who was stationed at Ft. Ticonderoga after the British captured it. Jane was planning to go to see her British officer when she stopped by a neighbor’s home. While there they got word that a band of Indians had been spotted. The Indians were in the pay of the British; acting as an advance guard of a planned British push to come down from Canada through New York in order to cut the Colonies in half. The Indians were making war, burning farms and massacring the inhabitants, and engaging the American militia in the area. Jane and her neighbor, Sarah McNeil, were captured. Then the two groups of Indians separated, each with one of the women, to head back to the British base.
There are several stories of what happened next. What is factual is that Miss McCrea died while in custody of the one band of Indians that was led by the Huron Wyandot Panther, and that when this band returned, Wyandot Panther was carrying a scalp that appeared to be from Jane McCrea. The story that was spread at the time was that there was an argument between two Indians over the bounty that the British would pay, and that Jane was brutally tomahawked and then scalped as a means to settle the argument. The effect was electrifying; the British were paying savages to murder women and children for their scalps. Hundreds, thousands, of men volunteered, up and down the colonies as the story was repeated in every newspaper. Each time it was printed, the story become more and more horrific, and Jane become more and more tragically beautiful. And her hair was described as raven black, blonde, and reddish brown. Years later there was some notice that a witness suggested that pursuing Americans may have killed her with friendly fire and the scalp was taken after her death. Three different times her body was exhumed and reburied, a forensic examination at one of the more recent exhumations they found no sign of tomahawk wounds, and that she had been shot three times. So perhaps she was a victim of friendly fire.
This single event changed everything, the Iroquois were split, the Hurons sided wide the British and the Mohicans sided with the Americans. And when the War ended the Loyalists fled to Canada, leaving behind prosperous farms, and the Indians who fought for the British moved further away from the Americans. It is very hard for us in today’s economy to understand how “land ownership” motivated early Americans. The possibility of simply moving forty to fifty miles inland, clearing the land to farm, and thereby becoming self-sustaining, debt free, and moderately successful, was very appealing. The only difficulty was that natives who used the large tracts of forest as hunting grounds already occupied the land. The two cultures were antithetical. Farmers cleared the forest, planted crops to feed themselves and sell the surplus to the coastal cities. The game that fed and provided clothing for the natives simply left in large part. The Indian nations had their hunting grounds reduced and ere slowly pushed deeper and deeper into the continent or isolated in the most undesirable of their lands. In the Mohawk valley of New York, many of the tribes recognized that change was coming and while they maintained their culture they built European style homes and farms. It was much more difficult for the incoming American to say that the land wasn’t used or undeveloped. The most attractive land was farmed and many well-built homestead filled the valley. The Revolutionary War had a huge impact on the area.
While the Iroquois Nation had first attempted to stay out of the fight, eventually they were convinced to fight, and unfortunately the result was that some tribes were allied with the Americans and some tribes went with the British. At the end of the war the tribes that fought with the American cause were briefly honored then fell back into the difficulty that the cultures were not compatible, and the friction continued. The tribes that fought for the British had a very different future. For the most part they were seen as untrustworthy Loyalists and in the case of the Mohawk Valley they were driven from their lands into Canada. So how does this connect to the Truesdell family? Like most American families at the time there was an incrediable hunger for proven farmland and homesteads. The War left hundreds of deserted farms and potential farmland available for a new wave of American settlers, including the Truesdells. Onondaga was the center of one of the five founding nations of the Iroquois League, and historically the area acted as the capital of the entire league. After the War many of the Onondaga people left with their leader Joseph Brant to relocate to Ontario, Canada.
In 1794 the remaining Onondaga finally signed a treaty that guaranteed their right to remain in their homeland, but their original holdings were vastly reduced. John and Ruhumah have two sons, Stephen and John. Steven settled up the Hudson River and John went near Syracuse, NY. John W. Truesdell married Sally Wheeler in 1780 and by early 1805 there were settled in Onondaga Hills, NY. They had two children, Ruama Truesdell who married Miles Bennett, and Wheeler Truesdell who married Lucy Jerome in 1827. Wheeler and Lucy Truesdell had seven children; Harriet (died at 18), John (died at 1), Charles Carroll, Mary Elizabeth, John Wheeler, George, and Lucy. Charles was born in 1833 and he, and his family, provided all the documents in this archive.

Kirkham’s Grammar book
Charles saved his schoolbook, an 1841 edition of Kirkham’s Grammar, by Samuel Kirkham, the fifty-second edition, published by William Alling in Rochester, NY. The volume is in very good condition with several stamps of Tyler, NY on the fronts piece, and two signatures, one in ink of Master C. C. Truesdell, and one in pencil of Mas. Charles Truesdell. I can see very faint three additional signatures down the page of the fly. The third signature has a date of Nov 12 1846, which would place Charles at thirteen. I’m assuming that this was his schoolbook from 1843 to 1848, from age 10-15 years of age. From the fact that this was the fifty-second edition of a book that first came out in 1824 proves that it was very popular. The following illustrates how the text impacted the early education of Abraham Lincoln. “Kirkham’s Grammar was ordinarily the first book, after the Bible, in the collection of every frontier library. Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon, wrote of the future president’s early days in New Salem: “Acting on the advice of Mentor Graham he hunted up an owner of Kirkham’s Grammar and after a walk of several miles returned to the store with the coveted volume under his arm. With zealous perseverance he at once applied himself to the book. Sometimes he would stretch out at full length on the counter, his head propped up on a stack of calico prints, studying it; or he would steal way to the shade of some inviting tree, and there spend hours at a time reading it.”
“Kirkham’s Grammar: The Book that Shaped Lincoln’s Prose,” Templegate Publishers, 1999

Charles Truesdell went to the local academies in Onondaga and Madison counties, and began his professional career by working under John McNair in building a railroad from Fort Niagra to Chippewa and from Lewiston to Niagara Falls. This was on the job training with very valuable experience. He obtained a civil position for the State of New York and worked with George Geddes in surveying the Seneca River, and maintaining the Erie Canal. From 1852-1862 he was Second Assistant Engineer for the State, Assistant engineer in 1863, 1867-1868 and from 1874-1877. In between positions for the state of New York Charles worked for several railroads as engineer or assistant engineer. In 1867 Charles took a trip to Echo City, Utah to look over the possibilities of working on the Transcontinental Railroad. At the end of his term as Assistant Engineer for the State of New York he went to Cleveland for several months in May of 1868, and by November of 1868 he was back in Echo City, Utah working for the Central Pacific Railroad as an engineer. On May 10, 1869 the Golden Spike connected the last section, joining the East and the West with a continuous railroad track. By October, Charles was back in Monclair, NJ and in November of 1869 he marries Mary Bradford Fessenden. There is evidence from his personal diaries that his brother George was stationed in New Orleans at the end of the war as Army Paymaster. Apparently George convinced Charles to come to New Orleans in October of 1865 to accept a clerkship working for George, who was charged with mustering out federal troops in the area. Charles was always looking at potential land, and as a trained surveyor he was very good at judging the value of land. Charles toured the South, taking several trips up and down the Mississippi between Vicksburg and New Orleans as a land speculator, essentially a carpet bagger, he leased a cotton plantation, and tried farming cotton during 1866. In 1867 he followed George to Washington D.C. and continued in a clerks position. George and his wife Fannie were very well connected in the social life of Washington. There is the possibility that George may may brought his older brother to a function where he met Mary and her father, the Colonel. While Charles impressed Mary, it is clear that the Colonel was not impressed with the clerk. By 1867 he was back in New York as an engineer, where he began his long correspondence with Mary Fessenden, or as he wrote, Fezzie.

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One Response to 9 An American Archive: Charles Carroll Truesdell

  1. Charles h. Truesdell iii says:

    John..any idea who Mary Truesdell married when she came to massachuttets? There is a connection with the witch trials and it appears the history is conflicting. Mary is said to be the mother of Sarah (newhall) Basset, but I cannot find reference to Truesdell that makes sense. How much Truesdell history do you have? Charles Henry Truesdell III….Erastus lineage. Truebuilt1@aol

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