Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Holcombe Family (4) - Colonial Generations

Part 4 - Nathaniel Holcombe III

Nathaniel Holcombe, the first of three Nathaniel's and son of Thomas Holcombe settled in the Town of Simsbury, Connecticut in the late 1670's in the remote wilderness at Salmon Brook. He was one of the first of the next generation of colonial pioneers to venture farther west and away from the settled areas along the Connecticut River. His son, Nathaniel II, would also raise his family in Salmon Brook. By that time, the small settlement had become more established but was still lay at the edge of the British Empire in America. The next generation, the third Nathaniel would grow up in this wilderness but as he came of age, he would raise a family in an increasingly more settled 18th Century Colonial America.

If you missed Part 3 of the story, go here . . .
If you missed Part 2 of the story, go here . . .
If you missed Part 1 of the story, go here . . .
From "The Brittle Thread of Live," The Town of Simsbury in the 1730's. Salmon Brook
 (the future Town of Granby) is toward the top. Hop Meadow (the main Simsbury settlement)
is toward the bottom. West of the Connecticut River and approaching the foothills of the
Berkshires, a number of settlements have been established along the colony's western frontier.

Nathaniel Holcombe III - 3rd Generation at Salmon Brook

The eldest son of Nathaniel Holcomb II and Martha Buell, Nathaniel III was born October 25, 1696. He would have the benefit of growing up in a large family and even larger extended family that included his grandfather and many aunts, uncles and cousins. He was 20 when he married Thankful Hayes; she was just 17. The second generation to be born at Salmon Brook were marrying earlier in life than their parents and there was a tendency to live a few years in their parent’s homes before moving on. It was not until 1719 or 1720 at the time of the birth of their second child, that they had a house of their own.

Nathaniel and Thankful would settle a bit farther west in Salmon Brook after being granted a six acre parcel by the Town of Simsbury, described as, “house-and-barn plots set amidst large areas of commons for Simsbury’s young men coming of age.” At the base of Bushy Hill along “crooked creek” they built their first home, still standing and recognized as the oldest surviving house in Granby. In 1733 they would build a new house on an 11 acre lot just west of their meadow lands.
Land description from Town of Simsbury Records . . . the piece beginning at the crossing of Crooked Brook and the road was granted to Nathaniel Holcombe III, a twenty-three year old man, married three years, with one daughter, child number two on the way, and who is ready to move out of his father’s house two miles east . . .  
From the Holcombe Website . . . Nathaniel would clear the stumps of huge trees, begin his orchard, and build a barn for the animals he hoped to raise. Thankful would keep her garden, process and prepare foods, probably with only a few utensils, and share in the care of the animals. Over the next twelve years she would give birth to five more children in the little borning room in the back south corner of the house. In their next house she would have six more, for a total of thirteen. Within a year, they would have a few neighbors - all young people they had grownup with at Salmon Brook . . .
Getting a land grant for his meager six acres was no easy task for Nathaniel III. His generation, frustrated with the politics of colonialism, ever shifting frontier boundaries in England’s struggles with France and Spain and the slow process of granting land, decided to take matters into their own hands and stake-out claims without legal title. In fact, as John Humphries was surveying land along “Crooked Brook” for new parcels, Nathaniel had already cleared the land and built his house. This is something that would never have been tolerated in previous generations.

From The Brittle Thread of Life . . . as we stand with Humphries, though, and look around, we soon encounter more of interest. For one thing, he does not seem to be pacing off his lines in the midst of forest. Quite the contrary, some of the landmarks for this and other nearby plats are stumps, the species of which he can identify – someone has taken down the trees. And not only do we see that the lot is already partially cleared, but we are astonished to find that young Holcomb, “being the third Nathaniel,” has already built a substantial house on this land! . . . Nathaniel and his wife Thankful, accompanied by a toddler and an infant, are probably watching Humphries mark out these boundaries for the house they built last summer. And the same can be said for other families in the immediate vicinity. Simsbury seems to be allowing its young people to pick a spot for their homestead, “improve” it, and by that act alone, get title to the land . . .
It was not a done deal, however. It was left to Nathaniel’s grandfather, Nathaniel Holcombe I to make the case for the land grants at the colonial court in Hartford. By this time, Nathaniel I was one of the most respected citizen of Salmon Brook, a respect which apparently stretched to Hartford. Small land grants where granted but it was not until 1723 that the inhabitants of Salmon Brook finally gained control of the process and their own destinies.

The Nathaniel Holcombe III House on Bushy Hills Road in Granby.
Built in 1719 and a national registered landmark, it is, possibly, the
oldest  surviving colonial house in the town.

In addition to his own large family, in 1754, Nathaniel III was appointed guardian of his sister Sarah's three minor children, Ephraim Case, age 13, Amy Case, age 10, and Dorothy Case, age 7. Sarah’s husband had died that year and it does not appear that she remarried. Nathaniel III was not considered wealthy but he did manage to pay off all of his debts and build a substantial farm. As a Captain and militia leader he was highly respected in the community.

He was noted to have accompanied the force at Housatonic with his father and he would serve the British Empire in the French and Indian War. Connecticut State Military Records indicate that a Captain Nathaniel Holcombe of Simsbury commanded Company Eight of the Connecticut First Regiment during the French and Indian War in 1758. Another source indicated that he organized a company of men to participate in the invasion of Quebec by way of Crown Point. The British had been loosing the war on all fronts until 1758, when they turned the corner and began to push the French back. Part of the offensive was a major push into Quebec in that year. British forces assaulted the French fort at Crown Point twice before the French destroyed their own fort and abandoned the position.

The Family of Thankful Hayes

Thankful Hayes was born in 1700, the 9th of 11 children of George Hayes (b.1655, d.1725), from Scotland and his second wife, Abigail Dibble (b.1666, d.1725). Some sources have indicated that George was living in Dover, England prior to departing for America. Thankful Hayes was born at Salmon Brook. Thankful’s father, George, was the son of Robert Hayes (b.1629?) and Mary Margaret Molster (Malster) (b1633?) of Scotland (?).

It is not entirely clear when the Hayes family came to America. George Hayes seems to have arrived alone about 1682 and was possibly and indentured servant. He first lived at Windsor where he married his first wife Sarah? She died in 1683 leaving him with one son. He then married Abigail Dibble and they had seven more children at Windsor. The family moved to Salmon Brook around 1698 where four more children would be born. The Hayes family would figure prominently in the history and development of the Salmon Brook / Granby area. In addition, there were many marriages between the branches of the two families, Holcombe and Hayes, living in the Simsbury and Salmon Brook, including at least two in this line. Thankful’s brother, Daniel Hayes and his second wife (Daniel was first married to Martha Holcombe, the sister of Nathaniel III) were the great-great Grandparents of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States.

Abigail Dibble was the only child of Samuel Dibble (b.1643, d. 1709) and Abigail Graves (b. 1645, d.1668?) and was born in Stamford, Connecticut. Samuel Dibble’s parents were Thomas Dibble (b.1613, d.1700) and Mary Frances (b.1614, d.1681). Thomas’s father, Robert Dibble (b.1581, d.1641) came to America from Somersetshire, England. The Dibble family has been traced back to John Dibble (b.1505). Like the Hayes family, there are a number of Holcombe/Dibble marriages.

Abigail Graves was the oldest of five children of William Graves (d.1679). He is believed to have been married three times with his second marriage being to a women named Sarah who was the widow of John Dibble (Samuel Dibble’s uncle). It is not know when William came to America but in 1642 he was one of the original settlers of Stamford, Connecticut. Abigail Graves died of complications from childbirth. After that, her husband, Samuel Dibble, accused his father-in-law, William Graves of witchcraft in the death of his wife but it turned out that this was really a dispute over her dowry. It is believed that William Graves was indicted but apparently no action was ever taken against him.

The Children of Nathaniel Holcombe and Thankful Hayes
  • Daughter Hannah Holcombe (b.1718, d.1756) married John Reade or Read (b.1708), the son of Doctor Jacob Reade and Elizabeth Law, in 1736. He was in-turn the son of Doctor Phillip Reade and Abigail Rice. Hannah and John settled in Granby and had seven children.
    • One of Hannah and John’s sons, Ami, died in 1762 at the Battle of Havana. He was serving with the British during the French and Indian War.
    • Another son, Martin, served in the Revolutionary War in Captain Jonathan Buttolph's company, Eighteenth Regiment in 1776.
  • Son Nathaniel Holcombe (IV) (b.1719) married Margaret Cossett (b.1719), the daughter of Raney Cossett, in 1740. Nathaniel and Margaret settled in Granby and are believed to have had eight children, though the exact number is not entirely clear as there is some confusion among historians over the wives and children of Nathaniel IV, V and VI.
    • Zaccheus, who is believed to be the son of Nathaniel and Margaret, served in the Revolutionary War in Captain Thaddeus Weed's 5th Connecticut Regiment in 1779.
  • Son Ephraim Holcombe (b.1721, d.1808) married Dorcas Hayes (b1727, d.1798), the daughter of Samuel Hayes and Elizabeth Wilcockson, in 1741. Samuel was the brother of Daniel Hayes and Ephraim’s mother, Thankful Hayes. As they were all children of George Hayes that would make Ephraim and Dorcas cousins. They would settled in Granby and had 10 children.
  • Daughter Ruth Holcombe (b.1723, d.1784) lived to be 51 but it seems she did not marry and there is little information available about her.
  • Daughter Thankful Holcombe (b.1725, d.1827) married Captain Adonijah Burr (b.1726, d.1798) from Farmington, Hartford County about 1748. They settled in Wintonbury (now Bloomfield), Connecticut. Adonijah died of phenomena. Thankful and Adonijah had five children.
    • At least two sons of Thankful and Adonijah served in the Revolutionary War. Adonijah II and Asa are both known to have served.
  • Son Joseph Holcombe (b.1728, d.1813) and his descendants are covered in detail in the next part of this report.
  • Daughter Ann Holcombe died at the age one in 1731.
  • Son Amos Holcombe (b.1732, d.1814) married Mary Dibble (b.1738), the daughter of Abraham Dibble and Dorothy Hayes, in 1756. The Dibble family settled in Windsor and there are a number of Holcombe/Dibble marriages including two in this immediate family. It should be noted that Amos’s grandmother (Thankful Hayes’ mother) was also a Dibble. Abraham’s Dibble’s wife, Dorothy Hayes was certainly of the Hayes family of Salmon Brook and related to Thankful Hayes, probably a cousin. Amos was a farmer in Granby and served in Captain Prior’s Company, Colonel Samuel Canfield’s Regiment in the Revolutionary War. Amos and Mary first settled in Granby and later migrated to the State of Vermont finally settling in Grand Isle County. Amos and Mary had eight children. Today, there are at least 44 Holcombes buried at North Cemetery in Isle la Motte, Grand Isle County, Vermont.
    • Amos and Mary’s son Amos served in the War of 1812 guarding the frontier in Captain James Taylor and Gideon Spencer's companies of the 30th Vermont Regiment.
  • Son Elijah Holcombe (b.1734, d.1799) married Violet Cornish (b.1737), the daughter of Captain James Cornish and Amy Butler, in 1756. James was a farmer and leading citizen of Simsbury and his father, Deacon James Cornish was a large and prosperous land owner in Simsbury. A cooper by trade, Elijah settled in Four Corners (now Southwick) Massachusetts. It is likely that he served in the French and Indian War as five Elijah Holcombes are listed from Connecticut. He also served in the 3rd Company, 2nd Connecticut Regiment under Colonel Spencer in the Revolutionary War. Elijah and Violet had seven children. Today, there are at over 80 Holcombes buried at Old Southwick and New Southwick Cemeteries in Hampden County, Massachusetts. Elijah, however, may have returned to Granby before his death as he is buried at Granby Street Cemetery.
    • At least two sons of Elijah and Violet served in the Revolutionary War. Elijah II Served in 1778 and then again from 1781 until the end of the war in Captain Noah Phelp's company, Colonel Andrew Ward's Regiment of the Connecticut Line where he rose from the rank of Private to Lieutenant. Ladoce served in Captain Prior's Company, also of Connecticut in 1777-1778.
      Amassa Holcomb
    • A notable descendant was Amassa Holcombe (b.1787, d.1875) the son of Elijah II. Amassa was a scientist, clergyman, genealogist, inventor and manufacturer. He grew up almost without access to schools or instructors, but used his remarkable intelligence in self-instruction. By age 16 he was teaching school, had acquired a collection of scientific books and was studying surveying and astronomy. In 1806, at 19, he correctly predicted the eclipse of the sun. In 1807-08, he published his own almanac. Later, he turned his attention to inventing and began manufacturing surveying equipment, magnets, telescopes and other devices. His reflecting telescope, the first by an American, is on display at the Smithsonian. He was also an ordained minister, family genealogists, served in the Connecticut state house and Connecticut senate and for years served as Justice of the Peace.
  • Daughter Elizabeth Holcombe (b.1736, d.1812) married Lieutenant Moses Dibble (b.1735, d.1815), the son of Abraham Dibble and Dorothy Hayes. Moses was the sister of Mary Dibble (see above). Elizabeth and Moses settled in Granby and had two children. Moses and Elizabeth are buried at Granby Center Cemetery.
  • Daughter Sarah Holcombe (b.1738) married Joseph Wilcox. Little is know about this couple but they are thought to have had at least one child.
  • Daughter Mercy Holcombe (b.1740, d.1826) married Obed Holcombe (b.1736, d.1789), the son of Deacon Azariah Holcombe and Hannah Loomis.  Azariah was the son of Jonathan Holcombe and Mary Buell (see Nathaniel Holcombe I in previous pages), which would make Mercy and Obed cousins and it should also be noted that Obed was quite a bit older than Mercy. Obed served under his father-in-law, Nathaniel in the French and Indian War and also served in Captain Jonah Gillett’s Company, Wadsworth Brigade of the Connecticut Line in the Revolutionary War. Mercy and Obed had seven children.
    • At least two of Mercy and Obed’s Sons served in the War of 1812. Oliver was an Ensign in the 9th New York Regiment in 1815. Luman served under the command of Sereno Pettibone in 1813, at New London, Connecticut.
  • Son Roger Holcombe (b.1742, d.1824) married Mercy Gillett (b.1745, d.1826), the daughter of Joseph Gillett and Elizabeth Hayes in 1766. Sometime after 1788, Roger and some of the family moved on to Attica in Genesee County, New York. Roger served in the 18th Regiment in the Revolutionary War. Roger and Mercy had 10 children. Roger died in Attica, Wyoming, New York but is buried in Granby Center Cemetery.
The gravesite of Rodger Holcombe at Granby Center
Center Cemetery. His wife's stone in nearby.

Thankful Hayes died in 1771. After her death, Nathaniel married Mary Buttolph, the daughter of Sergeant David Buttolph and Mary Buck. She was a widow, her first husband being Joseph Wilcockson. He had been a widower who first married to Elizabeth Holcombe, Nathaniel’s cousin. As noted in the previous section, two of Nathaniel’s brothers and two of his sisters were married to brothers and sisters of Mary.

Life was hard, and sometimes treacherous, on the colonial frontier. Yet, each of the three Nathaniel's lived very long and fulfilling lives. Nathaniel III would live long enough to see a new nation form. He would die about 1782. Like his father and grandfather before him, he would leave a large family. Some would continue in the newly formed town of Granby and others would venture out into the new and expanding United States.

Joseph, Micha and Apollas would be the next generations in this line to live in Salmon Brook / Granby and move west as the country expanded. You can read about them in Part 5 of the report here . . .

For additional information: One of the best on-line sources about the Holcombe family can be found at Holcombe Family Genealogy. For a great source of information about Salmon Brook and with some information about the three Nathaniel Holcombes that resided there, read: "The Brittle Thread of Life" by Mark Williams (2009).

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