Dryer Family Deaths, Town of Cazenovia, Madison County, NY
 Location of Burial Unknown (New Woodstock?)
Research by Daniel H. Weiskotten, 1994
 
updated 11/18/2001
 
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        From the writings of Henry Severance, who recorded many of his childhood experiences in Cazenovia (Owahgena: Being a History of the Town and Village of Cazenovia ... 1885:220-221), we have been told of the mysterious death of several members of the Dryer family.  The details of the story are sketchy and the historical data to confirm the story is slim but positive.  Indications are (as from the traditional story) that the family at the time lived in New Woodstock, and it is likely that they are buried in the cemetery surrounding the New Woodstock Baptist Church, but there is no record of the graves of those that died on the fall of 1842.
        Henry Severance notes that six members of the Dryer family, the mother, father and four children, as well as one of the neighbors, died of the sickness.  The mystery behind their deaths has remained, but now we ask about where they are buried.  Severance writes:

Additional information is available in the biography of William A. Dryer, who survived the sickness and moved to Michigan.  I have not yet incorporated this new material, plus some more that has been sent to me by a family descendant, but will work on that a.s.a.p.
 

Those that died were:
        Allen Dryer Jr., father, died September 10, 1842.
        Barzilla Dryer, died at Nelson, September 29, 1842
        Benjamin Dryer, died October 8, 1842.
        Rufus Dryer, died November 1, 1842.
        Harvey Morris, neighbor, died November 25, 1842
        James Dryer, died November 2, 1842.
        Esther Dryer, mother, died between September 30 and December 29, 1842

        It will be noted that these individuals did not all die within a short period.  From the death of Allen to the death of James is nearly two months and Esther may have died a month later than this.  According to the reminiscence, Barzilla, the oldest child, stayed with the sick before he also became sick and returned to his home in Nelson where he died.  As he was the second of the family to die he must have failed quickly or the others lingered on for a long period.
 

Place of Residence
        Henry Severance said that the Dryer family lived in New Woodstock at the time of the sickness, but Jabez Abell, who drew his material directly (almost word for word) from Severance, for some reason felt that they lived on Hurd Street in the village of Cazenovia.  I have found that they did live in New Woodstock, probably on the northeast corner of the intersection of Mill and Main Streets, which is "perhaps a quarter mile from the cemetery" as described by William Dryer.  I am still not sure exactly where the house was, and if it is in the center of New Woodstock it is less likely that they were buried in their back yard.
        The family came to Cazenovia in 1800 (Severance 1885:220) and they seem to have lived on Lot 38 and 40 of the 4th Allotment New Petersburg Tract along the West Lake Road.  Near here, in the Burr Cemetery are buried the wife and a child of Wheeler Dryer (died 1828 and 1830) and perhaps also the father of the family, Allen Dryer (died December 28, 1812) (Deeds M:520, Q:31).  Allen Sr. was living on the west side of the lake in 1809 (Town Road Book 1809 Dist #44).  Wheeler Dryer seems to have lived for a time with his brother, Allen Jr., near Rippleton Cross Road and East Road in 1809 and 1811 (1809 #32, 1811 #32), but must have returned to West Lake Road after his father's death, where he was living in 1813 and 1827 (1813 #43, 1827 #36).
        If Allen Dryer Jr. had lived on West Lake Road with his parents and brother William he did not stay there long.  He was living near the intersection of East and Rippleton Cross Roads in 1804 (1804 #57) and is also there in 1805 (1805 #61).  Wheeler Dryer is there in 1809 and 1811 (1809 #32, 1811 #32), and Edward Dryer is there in 1813 (1813 #32).  In 1810 he purchased parts of Lots 46 and 47 of the Road Township Reservation at that intersection from his son Rufus Dryer (Deed B:236).  The small stream that runs through the swamp here and into Chittenango Creek is still known by some as Dryer Brook.  It is not clear how long Allen Dryer Jr. stayed at the Rippleton Cross Road location.
        Severance (1885:220-221) wrote that Allen Dryer Jr. sold his farm south of the village and bought another on the west side of the lake, but this seems confusing in light of the other evidence presented above.  Severance does say that Dryer sold his farm west of the lake in 1817 and moved to Cazenovia Village where he operated a tavern until he moved to New Woodstock in 1825.  I have found no other evidence of his operating a tavern (or that he lived in the village) except that when he did move to New Woodstock he bought a lot from Lemuel White, who operated the well known Cazenovia House in the village.  The lot that Allen purchased in 1827 was a small lot on the north side of Main Street, the exact location of which is not presently known (Deed AK:143 - see also AK:142).  The year before this he had been listed in the Town Road Book as living near the center of New Woodstock (1826 #3 & 4, 1827 #3 & 4).  The next property record that I have for Allen Dryer Jr. is dated 1834 when he purchased a lot 132 feet east of the New Woodstock Baptist Church (Deed AK:141).  In 1839 he purchased 4 acres of the village of New Woodstock at the southeast corner of Lot 68 Road Township (between Mill Street and Damon Road) and another 2 acres just east of this (Deed AT:272).  The 1840 Census, taken two years before the family met with their affliction, listed them as living not far from the Webbers, Frizzles, Judsons, Lambs, Virgils, Lucases, Goodells, and Damons - all New Woodstock families (1840 Census, Page 199, Line 19).
 
Similar Deaths by Disease
        As my research into the mortality patterns of the people of Cazenovia, Fenner, and Nelson progresses I hope to be able to identify other similar patterns of death caused by virulent diseases which swept through neighborhoods and families.  Such occurrences are not as rare as one would think, and wide spread outbreaks of scarlet fever, dysentery, and other diseases, leading to quarantines and multiple deaths among families and neighbors, are oft noted in the newspapers of the day.
        An early cluster of deaths that has not been described in historical records is the deaths that occurred in the New Woodstock area in early 1808.  In that year 6 people died within three months of each other.  First to die was 6 year old Adelaide Morse in January 1, 1808.  Next to die were her immediate neighbors Samuel Cotes, age 36, and his adopted son Libert J. Talman Cotes, age 6 years.  Soon after their neighbors, 25 year old John Leet and 23 year old Ruby Underwood, were also dead.  By mid-July neighbor Silas Corbin, age 69, may also have fallen victim to this disease.
        Another significant series of deaths, in Cazenovia Village, also not mentioned by contemporary sources and identified in my research, is the decimation of the Chandler family in the Village of Cazenovia in 1851.  On January 22, 1851, 48 year old Lydia Chandler, wife of Lura Chandler, and resident of #17 Albany Street in the Village of Cazenovia, died.  Six days later her neighbor, Charles Foord, the 5 year old son of Dr. Alvin Foord, also died.  The disease was slow to take its course, and by the end of 1852 it had destroyed the Chandler family.  The known victims of this unknown disease include Grandfather Mathew, Mother Lydia, Father Lura, and six children (one a cousin?) (Frederick L., Julia, Lydia Ann, Mathew A., Susan, and Susan M.).  All of the Chandler family are buried in the family plot in Evergreen Cemetery (Lot J-125).
        My cemetery research has found other lesser clusters of deaths which will need more research and analysis.

 

Location of the Dryer Family Burials
        Severance made mention that the Dryers were living in New Woodstock prior to and at the time of the deaths, but later Town Historian Jabez Abell who drew all of his information from Severance, thought that the family had lived on Hurd Street in the village of Cazenovia.  Abell cited the former site of the Presbyterian Church at the head of Hurd Street and the nearby cemetery as the one spoken of by Severance as being the suspected cause of the sickness.  This cannot be the case as this cemetery was removed 25 years before the deaths occurred and because the evidence is that the family was living elsewhere.
        When Roberta Hendrix edited Severance's text she added a note that the family must be buried in the New Woodstock Cemetery in unmarked graves.  Still, under further examination, this is not clear.  The records of the New Woodstock Cemetery are compiled from the sexton's records and not from the tombstone inscriptions, and thus would also include the names of even the unmarked graves, unless they were not kept sufficiently at all times.
        Where then were the Dryer family buried?  If they had lived on a farm in the country I would suspect that because of the circumstances of their death they would have been buried on their own property or at least in their own plot away from other people.  This would not be the case in the middle of New Woodstock in the 1840s.
        The other person that is said to have died in the sickness, Harvey Morris, is buried in the New Woodstock Cemetery.  Other members of the Dryer family are buried in the Burr Cemetery on West Lake Road as noted above and two other Dryers of unknown relation are buried in the Delphi Baptist Church Cemetery.
        A more thorough and objective search of the New Woodstock Baptist Church Records are necessary to see if they are here, and if not, searches must be made of the records of other churches and cemeteries in the vicinity.
 
 END of Dryer Family Deaths by Daniel H. Weiskotten