Dryer Family Deaths, Town of Cazenovia, Madison County,
Location of Burial Unknown (New Woodstock?)
Research by Daniel H. Weiskotten, 1994
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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.
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.
"With their family of
thirteen children, death had never entered the charmed circle until the
youngest son was twenty three years old. Then within three months
and nine days from the Father's death (Allen Dryer Jr.) followed the mother
(Esther Bullock Dryer) and four sons (Barzilla, Rufus, James, and Benjamin
Dryer), all from gastric fever, and all in the same house, except the oldest
son (Barzilla). He helped take care of the others until he was sick,
and then went home to Nelson and died.
"We surmise that the
mortality might have been caused by the burials around the Meeting House,
as they were also at Delphi, and many other places in the country.
We wrote to Mr. (William) Dryer of Lansing, Michigan, and received the
following statement. "Our house was perhaps a quarter mile from the
cemetery. There were at least twenty-five families within the same
distance. Four others of our family came near dying at the time,
but recovered. Harvey Morris, a near neighbor died at the same time
with the same fever. There were no other cases, and it was a time
of general health in the vicinity. ..."
Those that died were:
Allen Dryer Jr., father,
died September 10, 1842.
Barzilla Dryer, died at
Nelson, September 29, 1842
Benjamin Dryer, died October
Rufus Dryer, died November
Harvey Morris, neighbor,
died November 25, 1842
James Dryer, died November
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
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.
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
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
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
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