Ebenezer Foote, the Founder; being an epistolary light on his time as shed by letters from his files, selected by his great-granddaughter Katherine Adelia Foote

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Bibliographic Information

A medium sized book, in red boards, was published by Katherine Adelia Foote in 1927. It is a volume of annotated letters to and from Ebenezer Foote, the author's great-grandfather, who edited the letter in, rough, chronological order, with annotations.

Ebenezer Foote, the Founder; being an epistolary light on his time as shed by letters from his files, selected by his great-granddaughter Katherine Adelia Foote, Delhi, N.Y., Delaware Express Co., 1927. 224 p. port. 24 cm.

324 p.front.(port.)24 cm.


Public Domain.

[This book has been digitally scanned, Google-digitized, and available here.: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.$b61044] [There is also an OCR, text only version: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b61044;view=image;seq=1;size=125]

The Book

Morituri Salutamus

  • WITH time and eyes and strength beginning to fail me, I seem to find the quotation used by Longfellow at the Commencement exercises of Bowdoin in 1875 a fitting phrase to put at the beginning of my attempts (before they are lost) to get into some form accessible to those who come after me, such a part of the voluminous correspondence of my great-grandfather, Judge Foote, as I possess, hoping that some fragments may have some faint interest for those who have belonged in anyway to his village and mine. Therefore, not to Caesar, but to any who can be found to care to look them over, the letters and I say
    "Morituri Salutamus". Katherine Adelia Foote.
"I am putting capitals and spelling as I find them, both a matter of uncertainty in the early days, even with people of culture and station; history tells us and we know that many words obsolete now were considered in good form then."
  • But alas, with thousands of other letters, from Washington down to persons of little importance, preserved by Judge Foote, and a common subject of conversation with the elders of his family during his life, no proofs are left except the comparatively few contained in this volume. All through my girlhood the trim cases stood, from floor to ceiling, filled with the precious letters, which must have been mutely beseeching us to want and care for them, but all were too busy, and now I, at least, am filled with unspeakable chagrin over having helped to lose the treasures that at last have come to seem priceless to his family, if to no one else. We loved the traditions but were willing to take them on hearsay, instead of looking for ours ourselves, until fifty years after Ebenezer's death the house was sold, the letters destroyed, and opportunity fled forever. As I am about to die, I have determined to take the time and save from oblivion a good many facts concerning the life and times and friends of a man who was a soldier in the Revolution, a man of affairs in the State, and who died here at Delhi, New York, in 1829.
  • My disappointment is great, that I have so few letters of August and September, 1780, from Arnold's command at West Point to Andre's capture, September 23. Did the most methodical of men preserve them, and someone else not recognizing their value allow them to be destroyed? And also it is more than probable that in a journal that Ebenezer kept during his army days, these events were chronicled, and would have seemed invaluable to some of his descendants. My father as a boy and young man remembered it well, but later in life when he came to the point of wanting to read it carefully and make sure of its contents, it had disappeared, and he was never able to find any trace of it again.
One detail we get from an article by Judge Dyckman of White Plains, published in July, 1889, in the Magazine of American History, edited by Miss Martha Lamb. As a member of a Westchester family he liked to unearth items of [16] happenings of his own "terrain" and as Judge he possibly had easier access to old documents than most people. However this may be, I was intensely interested in 1889, on taking up an odd number of the above-mentioned magazine, to find my relative's name in one of the series of articles entitled, "The Last Twelve Days of Andre." To add to my other infinite regrets, a friend of mine, and also of Judge Dykman's, was also interested in the article, and said she would take pains when next I came to town that we meet, but alas, we never did, they both died, and I am unable to find as I might have from him, two facts which I know to be true, first the short details of Ebenezer's testimony at the trial of Hett Smith, which I once saw in a book at the Public Library in New York, copied and then lost and have never since been able to find the book again; second what Pierre or Philip Van Cortlandt said of Ebenezer in a speech in 1837.


Copies of two Original Letters from General Hamilton to his Excellency, General Washington:

Sir. Your Excellency will, I am persuaded, readily admit the force of this Sentiment, that though it is the duty of a good Citizen to devote his Services of the public, when it has occasion for them—he cannot with propriety or delicacy, obtrude them, when it either has, or appears to have none— The difficulty I experienced the last Campaign in obtaining a Command, will not suffer me to make any further application, on that head—As I have many Reasons to consider my being hereafter, the bare possibility of undergoing an equivalent, will not justify to my Scruples, the receiving any further Emoluments for my Commission—I therefore Renounce—from this time, all claim to compensation attached to my military Station, during the war, or after it—But I have motives which will not permit me to resolve on a total Resignation—I sincerely hope a prosperous train of affairs may make it no inconvenience to decline the Services of those persons, whose zeal in worse times was found not altogether useless—but as the most promising appearances are often reversed by unforseen disasters, and unfortunate events may again make the Same zeal of some value, am unwilling to put it out of my power in the line in which I have heretofore acted, to resume my exertions in the common cause— I shall accordingly retain my rank while I am permitted to do it—And take this oppertunity to declare that I shall be, at all times ready to obey the call of the public in any Capacity—Civil or military (consistent with what I owe to myself) on which there may be a prospect of my contributing to the final attainment of the object, for which I embarked in the service—

I have the Honor to be very Respectfully— your Excellency's Most Obdt. Servt A. H. Philadelphia, March— [210]

Sir. I need not observe to your Excellency that—Respect for the opinion of Congress, will not permit me to be indifferent to the impressions they may Receive of my Conduct—On this principle, though I do not think the subject of the inclosed letter of sufficient importance to require an official communication of it, yet I should be happy it might (in some way) be known to the members of that Honbl Body—Should they hereafter Learn, that though retained on the list of their officers, I am not in the Execution of the duties of my Station—I wish them to be Sensible it is not a diminution of zeal which induces me voluntarily to withdraw my Services, but that I only refrain from intruding them, when Circumstances seem to have made them, either not necessary or not desired—And that I shall not Receive Emoluments without performing the Conditions to which they were annexed—I also wish them to be apprized upon what footing my future Continuance in the army is placed—That they may judge how far it is expedient to permit it—I therefore take the Liberty to request the favour of your Excellency to impart the knowledge of my Situation, in such manner as you think most convenient.

I have the Honor to be with perfect Respect your Excellency's Most Obdt & Humble Servt A.H.

Nathaniel [Foote], the Settler [213]

Our first American ancestor, Nathaniel, was fifteen years old when Robert, his father, died in 1608. and it has been learned that Robert, Jr., thus become head of the house, apprenticed Nathaniel for a term of years to a wholesale merchant in Colchester, or as often called in those days, "a grosser," or one who sold by the gross instead of by the pound or small quantity.

  • Mr. Goodwin found long ago that Nathaniel was married to Elizabeth Deming, sister of John, in 1615, and that at least two of their children were born in England, but I believe I am right in saying that His Honor of Rochester, before mentioned, first found and procured a certified record of their baptism. According to this, Elizabeth, oldest child of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Deming Foote, was baptized in St. James' Parish Church. Jan. 14, 1617 (or according to our reckoning, 1618), and of Nathaniel, their oldest son, baptized March 5th, 1619 (1620), both in the same church of St. James'. Colchester. Nathaniel could not have turned Non-Conformist until later, or the children would have been baptized in one of their chapels, as some of the others may have been, as we know nothing more until 1630, when we find our relatives as part of the contingent of Governor Winthrop's 1630 coming at that time, Nathaniel with Sir Richard Saltonstall being in the brig "Annie." and settling at Watertown. Mass. (See Benjamin Trumbull's History, Conn., 1798). Later on, a large part of the Watertown settlers, consisting mostly of the Colchester party, went on and formed a new settlement on the banks of the Connecticut River, which they called Wethersfield, after the old Essex town they knew so well. Besides Nathaniel, we find included the names of Robert Francis, Thomas Welles, and John Deming.

John Deming was the brother-in-law of Nathaniel. He came over with them and followed all of their peregrinations. He was a Patentee in both the first and second Charters and a Magistrate in the Colony for the greater part of his future life. Concerning the important office of Magistrate in these early days, Trumbull says, (Vol. I, P. Ill): "Beside the court in each town, there was the 'Court of Magistrates,' the 'Particular or Supreme Court.' This held a session once in * I am indebted to Miss Caroline Foote Lester, who discovered this last interesting fact, over in England. [214] three months. To this lay all the appeals from the other courts. For a considerable time they were vested with such discretionary powers as none of the courts of this day would venture to exercise."

Nathaniel died in 1644. aged 51, so that he had not many years over here. In order to realize how early in the history of New England 1630 was, I will again quote from Trumbull: "The Patent of Mass. Bay was not signed by Charles the First, until March 4, 1629. Salem, the first settlement, was begun in June, 1630. and Charlestown soon after, and Boston and Watertown in July. Gov. Winthrop himself settled at Charlestown, Sir Isaac Johnston, the unfortunate, at Boston, and Sir Richard Saltonstall and his people at Watertown. and chose Mr. Phillips as their pastor." Later on Sir Richard and his party, including Mr. Phillips, went on to Wethersfield. Of the latter, Mr. Trumbull says:

"He had been Minister at Boxford in the county of Essex, and most of these emigrants bad been under his charge there, or were from other parts of Essex." In 1632 came over from Chelmsford, Essex, the well known clergymen, John Cotton and Thomas Hooker. Also with them came John Haynes, afterward Governor, leaving his fine estate, Copford Hall, to three of his children, one of whom, John, entered the ministry and settled at or near Colchester, in Essex. In 1646, Elizabeth married Thomas Welles, who had come with them, and outlived him as well, he dying in 1660 and she not until 1683, aged 88 years. Of our somewhat distant stepfather, Thomas Welles, I have gleaned these facts from Trumbull and other sources: In the eleventh century (1000 and something) William the Conqueror gave to one of his knights the name of Welles, and created him Baron Richardus de Welles. From him descended the Thomas who married Elizabeth. He became a Non-Conformist, his property was confiscated, and he had been summoned to appear before the Star Chamber. Over here his name is in the Hartford records of 1637 as a Magistrate of the Colony. He held the office every other year for 22 years. In 1689 he was made Treasurer of the Colony, holding the office many years until he asked to be relieved. In 1649, he was made one of the Commissioners of the United Colonies; in 1654, Moderator, to the General Court, and Deputy Governor; in 1655, the fourth Governor of Connecticut. [215]

He died Jan. 14, 1660, having been Governor or Deputy Governor for the last twenty years of his life. From Trumbull again we learn that, in 1662 "King Charles, the Second, granted a new Charter to Conn., confirming what Charles the First had granted. It begins, 'A goodly number of men shall be, forever after, A body Corporate of the English Colony of Connecticut, in New England and in America.'" Among the names given are John Deming and Thomas Welles. Unfortunately poor Thomas had died too soon to reap the honor, but I dare say Elizabeth went about pluming herself over the fact of having had both a brother and husband on the list of the new Charter. Nathaniel's youngest daughter, Rebecca, married Lt. Philip Smith. Of him Cotton Mather says in his "Magnalia": "Philip Smith was murdered with an hideous witchcraft." (Book 6; Chap. 7.) Thus connecting us with those days of superstition.

Ebenezer Foote

Descended from Robert Foote of Essex, England, and his wife, Joan, through Nathaniel, The Settler, and son of Daniel of Colchester, Conn. Born April 12, 1766; died Dec. 28, 1829; married Oct. 10, 1779, Jerusha Purdy. She died Nov., 1818. He married, 2nd, Matilda Rosecrans, the widow of a New York lawyer, and whom I once saw, but have no data.

From the Pension Office, beside tradition, we know that he served in 1775, at the siege of Bunker Hill, as a boy of 19. From the same source we find that he was a Corporal in Colonel Wolcott's regiment, was in the battles of Long Island and Turtle Bay. In the latter he was taken prisoner. Details of his escape are printed in many places, notably in John Parsons Foote's "Life of Samuel Edmund Foote," and in the New York "Commercial Advertiser." of Jan. 7, 1830, which we quote:

In the battle of Turtle Bay Mr. Foote was taken prisoner, but escaped at night from the old Bridewell prison, and crossed the North River on a board in the month of December. He was several hours in the water, finally floated down by the tide, and landed on the Jersey shore. He could not stand, but after awhile succeeded in crawling to a house where he was taken care of, but his [216] constitution received a shock from which it never recovered and enfeebled his health through life. He was however permitted by Providence to enjoy the blessings of prosperity, and unusual esteem through a long and busy life, and I recall to mind his beautiful Mansion on the Western branch of the Delaware, and his warmhearted hospitable reception of his friends, with mingled emotions of tenderness and respect.

The foregoing incident necessarily took the young patriot home to recruit, but there is something a little indefinite about his being with the French Fleet until they returned to Boston, when he returned home again. The account continues:

Still far from strong and unable to endure the privations of regular Army life, his patriotism would not allow him to be idle and he obtained a position as one of the Commissaries of the "Northern Army of the U.S." under the direct command of Gen. Washington, of whom he saw much.

The unit was called the Staff Department of General Washington, and although not considered in the Regular Line, had the same pay and whatever distinction as their ranking called for, as I have learned. He began with the rank of captain in this enlistment, and in 1780 was raised to major, remaining in the service until his unit was disbanded in 1782. He was stationed during all this time at Crompond; and chiefly occupied in the counties of Westchester, Dutchess and Putnam, but we find him at Hartford and out at the Great Lakes.

I have no letters previous to 1778, and only four of that year. So many of the writers bear the name of Foote that it becomes necessary to speak of these dignified gentlemen by their first names. A public document says: "Ebenezer Foote having died at a date prior to the passage of a pension law under which he would have been entitled, there is no statement on file of his services during the Revolutionary War—made by himself—in the usual form of an application." His widow was his second wife and had only the most general knowledge of his army life, so that I am especially grateful to a government which found much in Connecticut records, and to the Hon. John Davenport Clarke, who sent them to me from Washington. [217]

There are two genealogies, but they do not take the place of all those letters destroyed, of which I speak later.

Ebenezer let Andre go by his quarters as told later in letters. After the close of the war he started in business as a merchant at Crompond, going In a few years to Newburgh, as letters show—in the late '80's—and began his successful political career which lasted until the downfall of his party in 1800.

We find his name as Postmaster, Supervisor, Church Warden, Trustee of New Academy and Assemblyman from Ulster until he came out to Delhi in the spring of 1797, when he was elected State Senator. County Clerk, Assistant District Attorney and from their beginning. Senior Warden of St. John's of Delhi and President of Board of Trustees of the Academy. And, with one interval, Presiding Judge of the Common Pleas, of our county, until his death in 1829.

With the sacrifice of his wishes and interests, he gave up a flourishing business, great comfort and hosts of pleasant friends to come out to this almost trackless wilderness. Of this period I found at the Cannon Library, in Valentine's "Manual": "In 1800 the whole U.S. was a vast untamed wilderness. Jefferson coming to Washington as President, had to come on horseback through forests and over miles of blazed trails. Fifty miles from the seacoast it was almost impossible to sustain life."

This seems an exaggeration as regards the mere act of living, for one hewed down trees to find a place for an habitation, game and fish disputed one's claims to territory, wild grapes and cherries and plums looked in the new-made windows, and berries of all sorts could be used with the sugar from the pervading maple trees of Delaware. But tea and coffee and needed articles for building were difficult to get brought, after they had been ordered through uncertain mails or through the charity of a friend going "back on horse-back" to Albany, Kingston, or New York; to the latter place, leaving his horse at Catskill, which seems to have been the usual place, and taking one of the many sloops for the rest of the way. The letters tell all we can now know of details of E's life.

Ebenezer Foote was born Monday, April 12, 1756. Jerusha Purdy was born Tuesday, Dec. 15, 1755. They were married Oct. 10, 1779, at Yorktown. New York.

Ebenezer died at Arbor Hill, Delhi, Dec. 28, 1829. Jerusha died at Arbor Hill, Delhi, Nov. 9, 1818. [218]

The children were: Frederick Parsons (b. March 16, 1783; Charles Augustus (b. April 15, 1785); Harriet (b. November 9, 1787); Margaret Parsons (b. March 9, 1790). Ebenezer married secondly Matilda Rosecrans, widow of a New York lawyer, who survived him, and I saw her once when I was a very little girl, but she went back to her own people and I have no data.

Frederick married Charlotte Welles of Kingston, Feb. 6, 1808. He died Feb. 3. 1827. She died in 1824.

Charles Augustus married Maria Baldwin Oct. 10, 1808, daughter of Jesse and Margaretta De Hart Baldwin of Newark, New Jersey

Harriet married, 2nd, John Foote of Hamilton, N. Y.

Margaret Parsons married Rev. Ebenezer Maxwell of Schenectady, one of the first pastors of the First Presbyterian Church. Delhi.

Daniel Foote (From Goodwin's Genealogy.)

Nathaniel, a grandson of the Settler, was born at Wethersfield in 1648. In 1701 he projected the new settlement of Jeremy's Farm, later called Colchester. It is on the road between Hartford and New London, Conn. He did not live to remove there, but his family of nine did after his death, and there my great-great-grandfather, Daniel, was born, a son of the 5th Nathaniel.

He married Margaret Parsons. His obituary says: "He was a professor of religion, a grave and venerable man of the highest respectability, and a Magistrate for 60 years." With the exception of a few letters, occasional mention of him, and several notices of a long treatise or essay on the subject of "Original Sin," I can find nothing additional about Daniel, and the mention in family letters are too personal to be included, but they carry out the idea conveyed in the obituary.

Through his children Daniel became the ancestor of Mrs. Seward, wife of Governor and Secretary Seward; Mrs. Williams, wife of Supreme Court Justice Nathan Williams of Utica, N. Y.; Roxana, wife of Dr. Lyman Beecher, both of whom were clever and became the parents of eight clever children, of whom Henry Ward Beecher and Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe are the best known.

Daniel's tenth child, Ebenezer, was the man addressed in these letters, who was well known throughout the State during his life. [219]

Purdy or Purdie (French Huguenots)

Our Line. Francis Purdy died in Fairfield, Conn., in 1658. When he came over is not known, but this excellent account of his children I find in library at Rye, New York:

  • Francis begat Joseph, a leading member of the community, in 1677.
  • Joseph begat Daniel, who owned a thousand acres In Cortlandt Manor, 17—.
  • Daniel begat Daniel, who begat Abraham, my great-great-grandfather.
  • Abraham, born, 1716; died, April, 1778; married Phoebe Strang, born. 1721; died. 1759.
Their children were: 1st, Abraham; 2nd, James; 3rd, Frances; 4th, Jerusha, born Dec. 6th, 1754; died Nov., 1918; married Oct. 10, 1779, Capt. Ebenezer Foote, later Major, later still Judge Foote of Arbor Hill, Delhi, N. Y.

Bolton's history of Westchester says Abraham's oldest son, Abraham, begat Alvan or Elvan. who erected the family homestead at Crompond in 1775. Also given as agent in land bounty rights in 1781. Abraham is quoted as paying rent for land in 1760, presumably a part or the whole of the thousand acres which his grandfather, Daniel, owned, as we learn from the same books. It should be remembered that none of the great Manors gave a warranty deed for lands sold, and therefore Abraham and undoubtedly his sons and grandsons continued to pay rent until "Anti-Rent" days of Delaware and other counties put an end to the exaction. But the rent had become nominal, and until the law was changed, was legal and had to be collected.

To us of Delaware County, who know of the tragedy of the resisters, disguised as Indians, killing young Osman Steele, while in the performance of his duty as an officer of the law, it would seem a better way might have been found to settle their grievances. Belonging to one of the best families in the county, young, energetic, just married, and fitted to become an honor to the community, he was ruthlessly shot at first sight.

Scharf's History says that Abram and Phoebe Strang, his wife, lived opposite the Presbyterian Church, and Daniel Strang and his wife, Phoebe Purdy, lived on Crompond Street in Yorktown, 1752. In 1730 Daniel and Samuel Purdy were appointed to appraise the property of Stephanus VanCortlandt, recently deceased. [220]

All of the Purdys and Strangs seem to have been in the Assembly at Albany and in other offices.

Charles Augustus Foote

Born April 15, 1785 at Newburgh, or Crompond, N. Y. Died August 1, 1828, at Delhi, N. Y. Married October 10, 1808, Marie, the daughter of Jesse and Margaretta de Hart Baldwin. She died August 29, 1824.

Their children were: Frances (b. 1809; m. Charles Marvine); Catherine Bruen (b. 1811; d. 1898); Rensselaer William (b. 1813; West Point, Capt; killed Gaines' Mills); Harriet (b. 1815; d. 1815); Charles Augustus, Jr. (b. Mar. 18, 1818; d. Feb. 28. 1896; m. Adelia Johnson, Sept. 11, 1845. who d. Aug., 1888); James (b. 1821).

One of Marie's sisters married the well known lawyer, Judge Aaron Vanderpoel of New York. While in Congress, Mr. Vanderpoel was one day called the "Kinderhook Roarer," which, as often happens, clung to him through life. When I was taken to see him as a child, I remember him as the mildest of white-haired old men, and much interested in Charles' little girl. The family now spell their name in various ways as regards capitals.

Another sister, Catherine, married James Bruen of Newark, N. J., a brother of Matthias of New York. One of her aunts, Laura Waldron, was the wife of the English Minister to France.

Jesse Baldwin was an importing merchant, silks and wines, doing business at 161 Broadway, living at Newark.

Charles attended private schools at Poughkeepsie and Kingston, until he entered Union College, Schenectady, where he was graduated in 1805, going at once to study law with Judge Peter Van Schaack at Kinderhook, then to Judge Josiah Ogden Hoffman, New York. While with the latter he married, and soon after, at the solicitation of his father, came back to Delhi to live, and began practice in the different courts of the State, which he continued until his death. He was in Congress, 1824-1825. His wife having died in 1824, he sank gradually into a melancholic state that increased until his death in 1828. but little over forty years of age. He served in the militia in the different grades, being at the time of his death Colonel and Inspector of the 6th State Division. He lies in the family burying ground at Arbor Hill, the estate of Judge Ebenezer Foote, now owned by the Hon. John Davenport Clarke.[221]

Justin had died in 1827; Charles, his only remaining son, in 1828; and the stricken father followed in 1829.

Charles, Jr., a little fellow at the time of his father's death, became in time a merchant, good, honorable, and filled some of the best local offices with great credit, never forgetting his courteous manners to all. The village paper said at his death: "The last gentleman of the old school in our midst, has passed away."

Katherine Adeilia Foote