Area DAR members recall early ancestors

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New Hampshire militia member John Demeritt helped steal ammunition, during a 1770s raid on a British fort in New Hampshire.”He took 20-some barrels of gunpowder, dug a pit under the floor of his barn, and buried it in the pit,” according to one of Demeritt’s descendants, Patricia Evans, of 2961 Forward Road in McConnellsville.

When the Revolutionary War started, that stash of stolen small barrels of gunpowder came in handy. When the rebels were trying to get the British out of Boston, during the Battle of Bunker Hill, Demeritt dug up the gunpowder, loaded it onto his oxcart, concealed it under some firewood, and “walked 60 miles to deliver it” to his compatriots.

That “allowed Col. John Stark to hold the British back, long enough for the Americans to escape,” Evans said. As proof, she quoted from a book by Esther Forbes, “Paul Revere and the World He Lived In.”

“Old John Demeritt had carried” a fresh supply of ammunition “60 miles in his oxcart. It was this powder which enabled the rebels to hold out to the very last, and make an orderly retreat,” according to the book.

Demeritt is Evans’ great-great-great-great-great -grandfather. Evans is one of 79 members of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She retired from her antiques refinishing business after 33 years.

DAR members all share a common bond of having an ancestor who helped contribute to securing the independence of the United States of America. Any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution, is eligible to join.

Demeritt, Evans said, was born May 29, 1728, in Madbury, N.H. Besides serving in the Revolutionary War, he “built furniture,” and was “very active in town affairs,” including serving as town clerk for “over 25 years.” He died Feb. 7, 1826, -- at the age of 98 -- while living in the house his father had built.

Demeritt “was a captain in the militia when he took part in the raid on the fort in December 1774. Because of his trip to Boston in June 1775 to deliver the gunpowder, the New Hampshire Fourth Provincial Congress voted to make him a major. Since there are three Major Demeritts in our family history, he is referred to as ‘Powder Major’,” Evans said

“To this day, there is a low spot in the ground where the early barn once stood on the farm. The current owners are sure this is exactly where the gunpowder was buried!”

Evans still has a pewter mug that belonged to her “fifth great-grandfather.”

“The house is still there,” Evans reported. And the fort, from which the ammunition was stolen, is also still there and was “in use up until World War II, when it was abandoned.”

“The house hasn’t changed,” she said.”It was in the family for 200 years ... until 1930.Then it was sold to a family friend, with the stipulation:’Don’t sell anything’” in the house. The home has “stayed in the second family to this day” and “no one has ever broken that promise.”The house is “a time machine,” Evans said proudly.”I’ve visited several times,” and she lived there for a while when she was “doing stenciling in the old kitchen.”

Here’s a look at some other Revolutionary War-era ancestors of local DAR members:

-- Erin Hladun Gurdak/Gen. William Floyd.

Gen. William Floyd risked his life, family and fortune for his country. And for that, Erin Hladun Gurdak is very proud of the former Town of Western resident.

“He is my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather,” the new chapter regent of the Fort Stanwix chapter of the DAR said.”My grandmother was Eleanor Olney, my great grandmother, Katharine Floyd Olney, great-great-grandfather C. Frank Floyd, of the Olney and Floyd canning factory, now George J. Olney, Inc.

“I am very proud of ‘The General,’ as my family has affectionately referred to him throughout the years, because he sacrificed his Long Island home, property, life, as well as his family’s life and well being, to serve in the Long Island Militia and First and Second Continental Congress. His family was forced to flee to Connecticut while his Long Island home was looted and taken over by the British. He was the first signer from New York state of the Declaration of Independence, served in the federal House of Representatives after the Constitution was adopted, was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention, and a presidential elector several times.”

For his service, Floyd was awarded more than 10,000 acres of upstate property. He died in 1821, at the age of 86, and is buried in Westernville Cemetery.

Gurdak, a homemaker, lives in Liverpool. Although her ancestor was originally from Long Island, he spent much of his life in Westernville. His home there is now owned by Dr. Russ and Jackie Marriott. It is a National Historic Landmark.

-- Diane White Miller/Samuel Bailey.

“Samuel Bailey is my 6th grandfather,” Diane White Miller said. A resident of 3825 Miller Road in Blossvale, she is retired from Syracuse University.

“Samuel Bailey served in the French and Indian Wars in Connecticut almost continuously from 1755 to 1762,” she continued.”He entered the British army in 1755 at the age of 15 under Captain Street (or Strut?) ...He later served under various officers, among them Captain Joel Clark of Southington, probably the brother of the father of Ruth, whom he later married.

“Sometime before 1770 he moved with his family to Albany County, New York.(Kings District; now Columbia County). When the Revolution began he, again, entered the Army and was commissioned Oct. 20, 1775, as an ensign in Captain Elijah Hudson’s Company of Col. William Bradford’s Whiting’s Regiment (17th) of Albany County Militia (Kings District).

“A year later, on March 6, 1776, he was commissioned lieutenant in the same Regiment (17th) Colonel William B. Whiting, Albany County Militia.

“On Aug. 12, 1778, Samuel Bailey and others formed a company of Associated Excerpts of Kings District, Albany County.

“After the Revolution, Samuel and Ruth Clark Bailey, along with some of their children, relocated to the Whitestown area. Samuel and Ruth lie at rest together in a small, abandoned cemetery, on Gibson Road.”

White said she is proud of her ancestor, because, “Whether defending his colonial government against those who would overthrow it, as he did during seven years of service for the king of England, or fighting for independence from that very same authority when loyalty to the same became untenable, my grandfather Samuel Bailey fought to make secure his home and family in the country in which his posterity now honors his name. To paraphrase the preamble to the Constitution, he secured the blessings of liberty for himself and his posterity. He was a simple man doing the work of giants!”

--Pam Caringi/Jacob Clemens.

Pam Caringi has an ancestor who fought at the Battle of Oriskany. Jacob Clemens “is my great (x5) grandfather,” she said. He fought in Oriskany with his son, also named Jacob.

Caringi, of 9687 Taberg-Florence Road, Taberg, is a personal care aide. She said Jacob II left Germany with his family in 1766, when he was 6 years old. They sailed from England to America.

By 1777, Clemens was serving in the 4th Regiment (Bellinger’s) of the Tryon County Militia, German Flatts, Western District at Oriskany. He enlisted March 12, 1777. Just about five months later, he participated in the Aug. 6, 1777, Battle of Oriskany, against British forces commanded by Barry St. Leger -- one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War.

He fought with his father, and they marched to relieve the siege of Fort Stanwix. He went with the troops that retreated through the northern part of Herkimer County. He was discharged on March 12, 1780.

“I am proud that” both ancestors “survived such a bloody, brutal battle,” Caringi said.

For more information about local Revolutionary War descendants, go to:www.fortstanwixdar.com, or see their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StanwixDAR. The local Fort Stanwix chapter of the DAR members participate in numerous community and DAR activities, to promote education and patriotism. The chapter celebrated its 125th year this year.

This column was written by Chip Twellman Haley, retired Daily Sentinel news editor, utilizing the Rome Historical Society archive. Comments, old photos, suggestions for future columns or guest columns may be emailed to: chiphaley@yahoo.com. Copies of the books “Rome Through Our History, Volumes I and II,” collections of some of Haley’s columns, may be purchased from the Rome Historical Society.

The Rome Historical Society, 200 Church St., will be open “by appointment only” for the next 4-5 weeks, due to renovation work of the main entrance. Go online at www.romehistoricalsociety.org, visit their Facebook page, or call 336-5870 for more information.

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