Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs: Blaisdell

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[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 792-797 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The Blaisdell family, now residents of Coeymans, Albany county, New York, descend from a Scottish family of New England. Tradition states that the name comes from the bluebell blossom. Though it sounds somewhat fantastic, it may be true. There is also a tradition that the Blaisdells were French before they settled in Scotland.

The American record begins with one "Ralfe Blasdel" — for so it is spelled in the old records — who, on reaching this country went first to York, Maine, where he remained from 1637 until 1640. When he left Scotland he was already married, and the father of one child, Henry, born in 1632. He and his wife Elizabeth and their eight-year-old son are next heard of in the year 1640 at Amesbury, Massachusetts, where he received land, was keeper of the "ordinary," acted as constable, and was one of the five "prudential men." In 1648 we hear of him as acting as attorney at Hampton. He received land at various dates beginning in 1640; also, in 1641-44-45, and in 1648 he bought "rights" from John Harrison. The exact date of his death is unknown; but in 1650 his wife Elizabeth administered his estate. She died 1667. Children:

  1. Henry (see forward).
  2. Sarah, died 1646.
  3. Mary, born March 5, 1641; married (first) Joseph Stowers; (second), 1676, William Sterling.
  4. Ralph, born 1643, died, unmarried, 1667.

(II) Henry, son of Ralph and Elizabeth Blaisdell, was born in Scotland, in 1632, coming to America with his parents in 1637, making him one of the early settlers of Amesbury, Massachusetts, where he lived and died. Like his father he was usually one of the "prudential men," had a good education, and was prominent in the colony. He received land at different times in 1658-59; in 1660 a "township" was granted to his three-year-old son Ebenezer, when he came of age. Further, in March, 1662, a large tract of land was laid out between the "pond," Pine Hill, and the Po river, of which Henry Blaisdell received 160 acres. In 1668 the new town was incorporated and Henry Blaisdell took "the oath of fidelity and allegiance and was one of the thirty-six freemen." He appears to have inherited his father's profession of inn-keeper, for it is recorded that he was the proprietor of the "Garrison House." He married, in 1656, May, daughter of Jarret Haddon, who died in 1691. He married (second) Elizabeth ————. Children:

  1. Ebenezer, born (of first wife) 1657; married Sarah Colby.
  2. Mary, 1660; married Robert Rawlins.
  3. Henry, born 1663; married, (first) Mary ————; (second) Mrs. Hannah (Rowel) Colby; (third) Dorothy Martin.
  4. Elizabeth, died young.
  5. Ralph, died unmarried, 1691; his brother John administered his estate.
  6. John, born 1668; married widow Elizabeth (Challis) Hoyt.
  7. Sarah, born 1672; married Stephen Flanders.
  8. Jonathan (see forward).
  9. Samuel, died 1683.

(III) Jonathan, fifth son of Henry and May (Haddon) Blaisdell, was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, October 11, 1676, died 1748. He married Hannah, daughter of John Jameson, whose maternal grandmother, Susan North, wife of George Martin, was burned as a witch at Salem, Massachusetts, July 19, 1692. Jonathan, like his forbears, seems to have been a man of education, for he taught school, made deeds, settled estates, and was one of the "select men" of his town for twenty years. Children:

  1. Mary, born November 2, 1692; married, 1722, Gideon Lowell.
  2. Daniel, born March 5, 1701, died prior to 1750; married Naomi Trixbury.
  3. Anne, born October 23, 1704; married, 1729, Philip, son of Joseph and grandson of Robert Quinby.
  4. Elijah, born November 4, 1706; married, 1728, Mary Holmes, of Rowley.
  5. Jonathan, born August 15, 1709; married, 1731, Hannah, daughter of John and granddaughter of Robert Jones.
  6. David, born February 5, 1712; married, 1733, Abigail, daughter of Samuel Colby. In his day, David was celebrated as a skillful clock-maker. One of his clocks, made in 1750 — a tall "grandfather's clock," is still keeping good time in the house of his great-great-grandson, Mr. Charles Melville Blaisdell, of Chicopee, Massachusetts, who was one of the Blaisdells who served his country during the civil war. Of David, it is recorded that he "died in the army in 1756."
  7. Enoch, born July 9, 1714; married Mary Slatterly.
  8. Samuel, (see forward).
  9. Hannah, born January 8, 1720; married Gideon, son of John Challis.
  10. Elizabeth, married, 1741, Abraham, son of Thomas Colby.
  11. Henry, died at four years of age.

(IV) Samuel, youngest (living) son of Jonathan and May Haddon Blaisdell, was born in 1716. He was a shipwright at Amesbury Ferry. He married (first) Dorothy, daughter of Tristram and Ruth (Martin) Barnard. She bore him seven children, dying in 1769, too early to see her husband (already fifty-eight years old) march off to war, April 19, 1775, from East Parish, Amesbury. Though his service was but brief, he shared it with his son and grandson, as well as with his kinsman, Captain Barnard. He married (second), in 1758, Judith Osgood, widow of Nehemiah French, whom he probably outlived, as his son Oliver was granted letters of administration in the settlement of his father, Samuel's estate. Children (all by first wife):

  1. Oliver (see forward).
  2. Dorothy, born 1738, died young.
  3. Samuel, 1743, married 1762, Mary Thompson.
  4. Ruth, 1747, died young.
  5. Dorothy (2), 1749.
  6. Miriam, 1754, died young.
  7. Miriam (2), 1756.

(V) Oliver, son of Samuel and Dorothy (Barnard) Blaisdell, was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, April 6, 1736. He lived in Kendrick's Lane, where he followed his father's business of ship-building. He married, (first) Miriam Bagley, April 6, 1756. Children:

  1. Levi (see forward).
  2. Miriam, born 1759; married Joseph Waldron, of Greenville, New York, 1806.
  3. Joseph, 1761, died in infancy.
  4. Joseph, 1766, lived in Greenville, New York. (He is believed to have married and had one child, a daughter, who married ———— Finch. Their son, Levi Finch, still lived on the property of that branch of the Blaisdell family fifty years ago).
  5. Dorothy, born 1768; married, 1790, David Bagley.
  6. Judith, born 1769; married, 1799, Sylvanus Wait, of Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Oliver married (second) Judith Elliott, of Newton, Massachusetts. Children:

  1. Ruth, born 1772.
  2. Samuel, born 1777; married Abigail Downs.
  3. Hannah, 1780; married Richard Thomas.

(VI) Levi, eldest son of Oliver and Miriam (Bagley) Blaisdell, was born September 20, 1757, in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and died in Coeymans, New York, in 1833. The fact that there were three generations of Blaisdells — Samuel, aged 58 years; Oliver his son, aged 39 years; and Levi, his grandson, aged 18 years — all three serving in the war for independence at the same time, is a matter of more or less distinction. In addition there were cousins, nephews and uncles — all Blaisdells — privates and officers as well, who fought in the battles of the revolutionary war. From June 1, 1775, to 1780, Levi Blaisdell's time was spent chiefly in the revolutionary army; entering as a boy private in Captain Barnard's company, Colonel Little's regiment, he finished his military career as ensign in Captain Dubois's company, Colonel Benjamin Dubois's regiment. He was present at the surrender of General Burgoyne. After the war he settled in Coeymans, New York. He was twice married. August 15, 1782, he married Ariantje Coeymans Verplank (widow of Abraham Gardinier), daughter of David and his second wife, Catherine (Boom) Verplank. The first wife of young David Verplank was a lady of mature years, celebrated for her energy of character as well as for her riches — Ariantje, daughter of Barent Pietresse Coeymans, the founder of the Coeymans family in America, to whom Queen Anne in 1714 confirmed the Coeymans grant. Her "castle," as the old stone house built during her maidenhood was called, was rebuilt a century ago and still stands. It is said of her that in her enthusiasm she actually helped to carry the brick and tiles (brought over from Holland) for its erection. Her portrait, painted over two hundred years ago, is still in the possession of a direct descendant of the Coeymans family — Miss Charlotte Houghtaling, of Coeymans, New York. The picture is in a fine state of preservation, showing the lady at full length, standing, and dressed in a picturesque gown of green silk, and holding a rose in one hand. This portrait is one of the "features" of Coeymans. Visitors always ask to be taken to see it.

David Verplank had no issue by his first wife, whose large estate he inherited, and Levi Blaisdell, by his marriage with Ariantje Coeymans Verplank, came into possession of a portion of the Coeymans land grant, some of which is still the property of his descendants. Besides his wife's estate, Levi Blaisdell owned land in various places, including a large tract in Massachusetts and many farms in Greene county, New York. Some of these he disposed of in "perpetual leaseholds." In Coeymans, on the corner of Main and Westerlo streets, he built a large house which under the name of "Music Hall" still stands, being the oldest frame building in the village. Here he and his wife lived, entertaining freely, especially the travelling clergy, as Lorenzo Dow, Bishop Asbury, and others. Both he and his wife were active in good works, helping to organize churches and schools, besides adding materially to the social life of the community. Levi Blaisdell lived the life of a country gentleman, wore his hair in a queue, dressed in knee breeches, and ruffled shirts. His rent roll was ample for his simple wants, though some of it came from Greenville in bushels of wheat and other produce. He stored it all in the great "loft" of the mansion. He was the owner of slaves, but gave them their freedom in 1814, a few years before the state took action in the matter. After thirty years of serene married life, Ariantje died, and her husband married (second) Mary (Farr) Johnstone, October 23, 1814, daughter of ———— Johnstone, and his wife, Mary (Farr) Johnstone, a Scotchman, reputed to have estates in his own country. Before the birth of Mary he left his young wife in Coeymans and sailed for Scotland to succeed to his property. He was supposed to have been lost at sea, as the ship was never afterwards heard from. Children:

  1. Wesley, born October 12, 1815, died 1864. He was a graduate in medicine and served as brigade surgeon during the war of the rebellion, dying at Fortress Monroe of yellow fever, on his way to rejoin the service after leave of absence at New Orleans. He married Margaret Collins, of Coeymans, who died in 1835, leaving four living children:
    1. Edward C., born 1840, married Miss Henry, of Illinois;
    2. Mary, born 1842, married Levi Seabridge, of Coeymans;
    3. Virginia, born 1844, married Duncan MacFarland, of Troy, died 1882, no children;
    4. Euphemia, born 1846, married Dr. Washington Akin, of Troy; children: Josephine, Isabel.
  2. Fletcher, see forward.
  3. Ariantje Verplank Gardinier, born December 27, 1821; married, March 11, 1841, Alexander E., son of Austin and Lucy Benedict Willis, of Rensselaer county, New York. They settled in Coeymans, building a fine frame house on Church street, which is now the property of a member of the old Bronk family. Here many children were born, most of whom died in infancy. Three sons remain, viz:
    1. David Benedict, born 1842, married Alice Whitbeck; one living child, Wilberta.
    2. Blaisdell, M.D., married Alice Bell, of Schodack; children: Lilian, Harriet. Blaisdell Willis died in middle life.
    3. Wilber Fisk, born 1851; married Blanche Soup, 1908; lives Castleton, New York.
    4. Charles Clifford, born 1854, married Alice Leedings, practiced dentistry in his native village; died; child, Clifford, born 1885; mother and son live in Albany.
    5. Francis Sarell, born August, 1855, married Katherine Clough, 1902; child, Euphemia, born 1904.

(VII) Fletcher, son of Levi and Mary (Johnstone) Blaisdell, born June 20, 1817, died 1865; married, in 1838, Sarah Ann, daughter of Anthony and Maria Van Bergen Houghtaling, who brought Coeymans blood into the family which had inherited Coeymans land:

  1. Matthias Houghtaling, 1644-1706.
  2. Hendrick, son of Matthias.
  3. Thomas, son of Hendrick, 1731-1824, captain in revolutionary war; married Elizabeth Whitbeck, daughter of Marytje Coeymans and great-granddaughter of Barent Pietresse Coeymans, who received the land grant from the crown.
  4. Andrew, son of Thomas, married Polly Van Benthuysen, of Dutchess county, New York.
  5. Anthony, son of Andrew, born 1793, married Maria Van Bergen, granddaughter of Colonel Anthony Van Bergen, of revolutionary war record, and his wife, Maria (Salisbury) Van Bergen, of Salisbury Manor (now Leeds, New York). Children: Sarah Ann, born May 2, 1821, died August 23, 1874; married Fletcher Blaisdell, 1838, who had already built for her reception a commodious brick house, on land assigned to him by his father, known as "Blaisdell Farm," which has been the home of their descendants now to the fourth generation. The land was entailed by Levi Blaisdell (1) to his grandchildren, but divided into three equal parts for the use of his children during their lifetime. It covered largely the site of the present village of Coeymans.

Fletcher Blaisdell lived and died a farmer, but he had other interests, running his own sloops to New York. In his farm journal are entertaining descriptions of trips made with his wife when by sloop they visited the metropolis for supplies, uniting with business the pleasures of the city, hearing music and listening to lectures and sermons from the great preachers of the day. Life was leisurely in the early "forties," when William Henry Harrison was the idol of the country; when the names of Webster and Clay were on everybody's tongue; when the tariff "compromise" was the topic of the day. Then people had time to make visits. The house at the farm was headquarters for the clergy. People up and down the Hudson river gave dinners to their kins-people and neighbors. Distance then meant far less than it means now, regardless of the motor car. There was even time for friendship! The hospitality of Fletcher and Sarah Blaisdell has not yet been forgotten by the older generation. Children:

  1. Ariantje (Hattie) Verplank, born April 30, 1841, died January 1, 1848.
  2. Levi, born October 20, 1845; died unmarried, March 24, 1003; he spent his entire life as a bachelor farmer, living in the house where he was born, which fell to him as eldest son, in the division of the property. His mother was mistress of the house during her life, and his grandmother, Maria (Van Bergen) Houghtaling, ended her days at the Blaisdell Farm.
  3. Anthony Houghtaling, of whom further.

(VIII) Anthony Houghtaling, son of Fletcher and Sarah Ann (Houghtaling) Blaisdell, was born at Blaisdell Farm, December 23, 1848; he died September 9, 1905. His early schooling he received at the academy, a building erected at his father's expense, still standing at the corner of Blaisdell avenue and Westerlo street, where the two Blaisdell brothers and the children of friends and neighbors were fitted for college under the not unknown Professor McKee. Anthony H. was a studious boy, much interested in mathematics. He was a favorite of Robert H. Van Bergen, his mother's cousin, at whose house he often spent his vacations and who was himself a graduate civil engineer. Under this influence, at the age of fifteen years, he had made such progress that he attempted a survey of his father's Greenville lands. The map he then made has always been a satisfactory one. At seventeen years of age he entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, from which he was graduated with distinction in the class of 1870 — a somewhat notable class, too, made up of men of the caliber of the late Robert Forsythe, of Joseph Mellen and Strawbridge, all members of θ δ χ. His father was already dead, his elder brother in charge of the estate. In the autumn of 1870 he started west to enter professional life, first at Des Moines, Iowa, where he rendered important service in the construction of Des Moines Rapids canal, and surveyed and helped carry on improvements on several inland rivers west of the Mississippi. In particular he was connected many years with the improvement of the Missouri river, making St. Louis his headquarters from the year 1871, when he became associated in the government work as chief assistant to Major Charles R. Suter, Corps of Engineers, U. S. A., (now General Suter, retired). Anthony Blaisdell was an expert designer and builder of boats, especially skilled in iron, of which the great snag boats were constructed. Many of these he designed and superintended the building of, at the docks, while in government employ.

In the year 1879 he resigned his position to go into private business as a contractor for boat building, bridge building and the manufacture of boilers, under the firm name of Western Iron Boat Building Company — Allen and Blaisdell, equal partners. After a few phenomenally successful years — years when "iron" was the synonym of success, from 1879 to 1884, then cautious men shut down their works and waited on events. Failures in iron began then to be painfully frequent. Anthony Blaisdell held on until the autumn of 1885, priding himself on doing just enough work to keep from turning off his big force of men altogether. He held on too long. The crash came. He settled with the firm creditors by drawing on his eastern resources. Then he went back to his professional work, still under Colonel Suter, but associated with Captain Chittenden in work connected with the Missouri and Osage rivers. In 1903 his health failed. While considering the climate of Sioux City, Iowa, the news came of his brother's fatal illness, and he went directly to the bedside of Levi Blaisdell. He never again left Blaisdell Farm, ending his life where it began.

While in private business he became greatly interested in the St. Louis public schools, serving as director for four years. His was an organizing mind. He applied his rather military standards to the shaping of school affairs, connected with grading and with the division of office work. Things took on system and order, under his advisement, with permanent results. The suburb in which he lived and carried on his "works" — Carondelet — was almost made over educationally. In 1880, March 3, he was elected a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and thereafter he was an active member at conventions. He wrote for technical journals on engineering topics. Some of his articles carried weight and were copied into more popular periodicals. In his later years he contributed some to newspapers and journals on subjects connected with historical questions and matters of local interest. It was sometimes said of him that he could invariably, "put his finger on the right man for the right job." This ability made him a valuable head for an office. And the time never came when his old employees ceased to seek his advice and assistance, however distant in point of time their service had been. He loved work for work's sake. Nothing was too unimportant to do well if it was to be done at all. He was not an ambitious man. His mind did not instinctively dwell on the rewards of action. It was the action itself which stimulated his energies. Sincerity marked every act of his life. He was faithful to every obligation. In disposition he was reserved and dignified. He was never spoken of as "a good mixer," but he was always accredited with true chivalry. In his youth people often turned to look twice at a head not unlike the statue of Shakespeare in Central Park, New York City. In politics he was a Democrat, a member of a Masonic lodge, and he died a communicant of All Saints Cathedral, Albany.

He married, August 6, 1878, Mary McConnell, of Chicago, daughter of John and Maria (Eden) McConnell, of early New England ancestry. Their life in St. Louis for twenty-five years was closely interwoven with the history of that quarter of a century, not only socially, but in all the activities of a great city that make for betterment. Their children were born in St. Louis:

  1. Robert Van Bergen, (see forward).
  2. Elizabeth McConnell Epiphania, born January 9, 1883, died June 3, 1889.

(IX) Robert Van Bergen, son of Anthony Houghtaling and Mary (McConnell) Blaisdell, was born July 4, 1879, in St. Louis, Missouri. His early education was received in the public schools from kindergarten to high school, supplemented by outside instruction in languages, music and study at the Art School. In the autumn of 1898 he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a student of architecture. At the beginning of his third year an attack of fever prohibited his return to Boston. He decided to go west for a trip, to see the country and to recuperate. After six months on one of the great ranches of Wyoming he found the western life so attractive that he abandoned the idea of architecture as a profession, and never went back to complete his studies. But he studied the life about him, spending some time at Casper and Green River, considering the question of trade; he was draughtsman in a land office in Cheyenne, and put what knowledge he had of electricity to the service of the electric plant for a time until plans were mature for a partnership in the Wyoming Sheep Company, of which he also became manager. In 1904 he was called east by the serious illness of his father, and again in 1905 he came on to his father's death bed. From this time on he led a divided life; his interests in the east were as great as those in the west. Finally, in the spring of 1907, the sheep ranch in Wyoming was sold, and he came east to undertake the care of the family property, turning his scientific knowledge into practical channels. On October 19, 1907, he married Marguerite Virginia, daughter of John Newton and Elizabeth (Trego) Briggs, a fourth cousin, both being lineal descendants of Colonel Anthony Van Bergen. Children of Robert Van Bergen and Marguerite Virginia (Briggs) Blaisdell:

  1. a son, Thomas Houghtaling, November 3, 1910.

(The McConnell Line)

On her father's side, Mary McConnell Blaisdell descends from a family of McConnells living in the early part of the sixteenth century on one of the little islands between Scotland and Ireland. The founder of the family, spoken of in history as, "McConnell of the Isles," was knighted and sent by Henry VIII into Ireland to quell the chronic disturbance there. For two generations the McConnells continued to live in a state of perpetual strife with their neighbors, when they went back to their island home, again under the aegis of clan Campbell, to which they belonged.

The next event of moment in the family history was more than a century later, when they espoused the cause of Stuart "pretenders" and lost. Then, in 1741, the McConnell who founded the American branch of the family, with his young wife, settled on the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut river. They had one daughter, Mary, who was just old enough to sit on the neck of her father's horse when they "swam" (it is related) the Connecticut river "to explore the Vermont side," where they finally settled. Mary McConnell, the eldest child, married the son of an Englishman of title and disappeared from the family group, so that even her name is lost. Three sons were born after the family settled at Hyde Park, Vermont. John went to Montreal, Canada to live, and later became a member of parliament. The second son never married. He was of a roving disposition and wandered off to trap from time to time with the Indians; he was finally killed by them. The youngest son, David McConnell (2), married at twenty-one years of age, Agnes Gragg, and had many children by his sixteen-year-old wife; none but the eldest lived to marry and carry on the name. David was a large land owner, was called "Squire," and "Uncle David," and filled one after another the local offices. He and his wife kept open house, entertaining freely. The connection between the Montreal branch of the family was more or less closely kept up by the eldest son John (3), namesake of the member of parliament, who went to Montreal by sleigh to pass the holidays and do famiily shopping. The McConnells were comparatively newcomers in this country at the time of the revolutionary war, and they remained loyal to the crown, even "giving help and comfort to the enemy." But the father of Agnes Gragg, an American born Irishman, served as private in the war for independence. He lived to hear the guns at the battle on Lake Champlain in the war of 1812, and with difficulty was restrained from engaging in the fight. John (3), son of David and Agnes (Gragg) McConnell, was born October 28, 1799, at Hyde Park, Vermont. A crisis came to him in his peaceful life when he was thirty-six years old. He had submitted to his father's wishes, gone into the lumber business, built on the land which his father had given him when he abandoned the study of medicine; by a turn of fortune David McConnell suddenly lost the greater part of his property, including what he had not yet deeded to his son. Discouraged, John went west to seek his fortune, taking as his bride Maria Louisa Edes, of Cambridge, Mass. They went first to Peoria, Illinois, and later to Chicago. Five children were born to them:

  1. Elizabeth Stone, died July 5, 1877;
  2. Luther W., a well known business man of Chicago, died January 14, 1907;
  3. Helen Agnes, died November 4, 1895;
  4. Joseph Bradley, a young poet of some promise, died August 4, 1871.
  5. Mary (4), the only living child of this union, the only one to carry on the blood, married, in Chicago, August 6, 1878, Anthony Houghtaling Blaisdell.

On her mother's side she was a member of the Edes family, of Puritan blood, descending from an Edes who came over in the "Mayflower." Later one of the family, then editor of a newspaper, held the celebrated "tea party" at his house; some of the chairs in which the patriots sat are now in the possession of the Washington branch of the Edes family.

The maternal grandmother of Mary McC. Blaisdell descended from Captain George Barbour, born in England, in 1615, died in America, in 1685. He came to this country in 1635, was deputy to the general court, a captain in King Philip's war, and was one of the founders of Medfield and the puritan leader of Dedham, Massachusetts. He married, and had issue:

  1. John, son of George.
  2. George (2), son of John.
  3. John (2), son of George (2).
  4. Hannah, daughter of John (2), married a Loker.
  5. Abigail, daughter of Hannah (Barbour) Loker, married Jonathan Smith.
  6. Elizabeth, daughter of Abigail Barbour (Loker) Smith, married Amos Edes.
  7. Maria Louisa, daughter of Elizabeth Barbour (Smith) Edes, married John McConnell.
  8. Mary, daughter of Maria Louisa (Edes) McConnell, married Anthony Houghtaling Blaisdell, August 6, 1878.
  9. Robert Van Bergen, son of Anthony H. and Mary (McConnell) Blaisdell, born July 4, 1879, married, October 19, 1907, Marguerite Virginia Briggs.
  10. Anthony Van Bergen, son of Robert Van Bergen and Marguerite V. (Briggs) Blaisdell, born March 10, 1908.

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