Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Apollas Holcombe - Short Biography

One of a series of short biographies of individual ancestors. These are undertaken, from time-to-time, when enough information becomes available about an individual.

Apollas Holcombe - Patriot and Pioneer

Apollas Holcombe was born in 1791 in Salmon Brook, Granby, Connecticut. He was one of six known children, all boys, of Micha Holcombe and Hannah Hayes. Micha, a Revolutionary War veteran, was the son of Joseph Holcombe and descendant of a puritan colonist named Thomas Holcombe who came to the new world around 1630.

Apollas Holcombe was born in Granby, Connecticut. Originally called Salmon Brook, this
was the home of five generations in this line of the Holcombe family. Located in north
central Connecticut, the area between the branches of the small stream called Salmon
Brook is still home to many Holcombe descendants from other lines of the family. 
Records of the Congregational Church of Turkey Hills in East Granby show that Micha Holcombe and Hannah Hayes were married on October 13, 1784. Not much is known about Hannah Hayes but she is certain to be a descendant of George Hayes and the Hayes family of Windsor, Connecticut. The most famous Hayes descendant was Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States. Micha is buried at Washington Cemetery located in the Town of Washington, Macomb County, Michigan. Apollas would be the last in this line to be born in the ancestral home of Salmon Brook, first settled by his great-great-great grandfather Nathaniel Holcombe 100 years earlier. Micha, was raised in Colonial Connecticut but Apollas was born into a new country, formed just 15 years earlier with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. At the time of Apollas birth, George Washington was just two years into his first term as President of the United States.

The combination of economic stagnation at home and new opportunities in the west enticed young men like Micha to take their families and head out into the frontier. Sometime after 1800, Micha and family left Connecticut for western New York. They would settle in the Town of Bloomfield just south of present day Rochester. Apollas would spend his late youth and young adulthood in this area of the state on the family homestead. About 1810, Apollas married Mehitable Bunnell. She was one of 12 children and the daughter of Jonathan Bunnell and Mehitable Morse. The family had come west from Massachusetts and settled in Bloomfield about the same time as the Holcombes. They had been living in Blandford, Massachusetts in the 1780’s and 1790’s before coming to New York. The Micha Holcombe family and Jonathan Bunnell family were neighbors and can be found on the same census page in 1810.


The 1810 Federal Census for the Town of Bloomfield, New York. Micha Holcombe
and family are listed toward the top and six lines below is Jonathan Bunnell and his
family. Most of the Bunnell children have come of age and are no longer living at
home, including a son, Isaac Bunnell, who is listed three lines above Jonathan.
When another war broke-out with the British, Apollas, like his father before him, would join the effort. He served in the War of 1812 with Blakeslee’s Regiment of the New York Volunteers at the rank of corporal. He would serve in 1813 and 1814 until wounded in battle. A personal account of his service is told in a book on the history of Macomb County, Michigan (Ira, noted in the story is his son).
. . . born in 1791; was a soldier of 1812, and wounded at the burning of Buffalo by the British in 1814; a bullet struck his uplifted arm and sped to the shoulder; the “knuckle” of the elbow joint was cut off and came out of the wound, which was in a state of suppuration two years, occasionally capping over; one day, he remarked to his son (Ira) that he believed the bullet had returned to the place of entry, and, taking his knife, probed the cavity and took out the bullet, which, with the fragment of bone, is in the possession of Mr. Holcomb (Ira) . . .
War of 1812 Pension records showing Apollas Holcombe
A brother of Apollas, Virgil Holcombe would also serve in the same regiment. After the war, Apollas and Mehitable would settle in Hartland, New York. The Town of Hartland is near Niagara Falls and was organized in 1812 with a population of only 126. The Holcombe’s would farm and raise five children: Hannah (b.1812, d.1896), Horace (b.1814, d.1830), Reuben (b.1816, d.1898), Ira (b.1817, d.1898) and James (b.1821, d.1860).

The 1920 Federal Census for Hartland, New York. The listing shows six living
in the household: 3 males under 10, one male between 16 and 26, one female
under 10 and one female between 16 and 26. Youngest son, James is not yet born.
Apollas would die on April 16, 1823 at the young age of about 32. It is unclear what caused his death but complications from his war wounds may have played a role. His wife would stay in western New York and raise the children with the help of her extended family. By the 1830's and 1840's, as the children came of age, much of the family, including Apollas’s father, Micha Sr., would head further west into Michigan and settle in LaPeer and Macomb Counties. Sometime after Apollas’s death, it seems likely that Mehitable married her brother-in-law Micha Holcombe Jr. They were recorded as living in the same house in Dryden, LaPeer County, Michigan in the 1850 census. About that same time, she traveled to southwestern Wisconsin to stay with her son Reuben. He had first visited Wisconsin in 1844 and eventually settled in the Town of Adams in Green County. Mehitable died in Wisconsin in 1853.

Two of the children of Apollas and Mehitable would stay in Michigan. Ira would raise a family and farm in the Town of Washington near Romeo in Macomb County and Hannah would raise a family in the Town of Dryden in neighboring LaPeer County. Reuben, as mentioned above and brother James would venture to Wisconsin but James would eventually come back to Michigan and settle in Dryden. Reuben would stay in Wisconsin but two of his children would head west into the Dakota Territory. Apollas Holcombe lived a short but important life. He served his country in the War of 1812, was a pioneer in western New York and must have instilled his colonial values on his children. They would follow the example of his ancestors and push farther into the frontier, settling in Michigan, Wisconsin and parts farther west.

Additional Information:
-Read about the War of 1812 in Ontario County, New York here.
-Read about Reuben Holcomb here.

Research Notes: Apollas gets a mention in two county histories written in the late 19th century. One is about the Town of Washington in Macomb County, Michigan (article about Ira Holcomb) and the other is about the Town of Adams in Green County, Wisconsin (article about Reuben Holcomb). Additional information was obtained from the United States Census, Holcombe Family website and a few other sources.

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