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Article Number Twenty-One - the Smith, Cornwall, Percival and Austin  Families

Written by Joshua G. Borthwick and originally published
on, April 23, 1881, in the Catskill "Examiner". Copy provided by the Durham Center Museum and retyped by Annette Campbell

Capt. Dan Cornwall
was born in Connecticut about the year 1753. He married Rachel Hall and came to Cornwallsville, and settled on the farm now owned by Benamin Hubbard, in 1788. His first log house he built some 30 or 40 rods S.W. of the present house.  He experienced some trouble in getting good title to his land, being obliged to pay for it twice over, before his right was undisputed. They were two weeks coming from New Haven in a sail vessel to Catskill, and when they reached their new home, they were far away "out west" to their friends they left behind. But they brought their faith and their religious principles with them. They were both members of the Congregational Church in Connecticut, and very soon after the formation of the Presbyterian Church in Durham, they both united by letter on the 13th of January, 1793.  He was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and commanded a company of Connecticut volunteers, and drew a pension as long as he lived.  When he became old and venerable, he was often appointed Moderator at the annual town meetings. He died on Christmas Eve 1843, and Rachel, his wife  died May 8, 1855, nearly one hundred years old. They had six children---David, Amos, Dan, Rachel, Nancy and Vina.  David married Mary Johnson, a sister of the late Edward Johnson. He went to California, and traveled somewhat in Mexico; received fatal injuries in Mexico during an earthquake there, returned to California where he died.  Amos married Elizabeth Hand, a sister of Alfred Hand Esq., of Durham. He became a merchant in Catskill, and died there.  His family now live in Catskill. One of his daughters married Hon. Lyman Tremain of Durham, and another daughter married Robert E. Austin Esq., of Catskill.  Dan never married, lived and died in Cornwallsville. Rachel married Charles Baldwin and lived and died in Volney, Oswego County. Nancy married Charles S. Hitchcock, and lived and died in Cornwallsville. Vina was never married---lived and died in Cornwallsville.
John and Paul Percival were among the first settlers of Cornwallsville. I cannot tell much about them, especially John; probably he was Paul's brother; he may have lived with his brother on the Charles Wetmore place, perhaps as joint owner. Paul lived there, and sold the place in 1806 to Moses Austin.  His son Elkannah owned the farm now owned by William Borthwick, and lived there until he became an old man, when he moved to "Broadway", near Durham, and finally he and his wife went to live with their adopted daughter, Gertrude Ames, who married Mr. William Pierce of Durham, where they both died in a good old age.
Moses Austin was born in Wallingford, Conn., about the year 1768; came to Durham at the age of 20 years, and bought land near where Asbury Strong now lives. The farm still goes by the name of the "Austin Place"; the house, long since disappeared, and the barn was destroyed by a fire two or three years ago. His neighbors were Charles Johnson, and a Mr. Ford who lived in the same house.  Mr. Ford was taken violently ill, and Mr. Austin rode on horseback, and in the night, to the city of Hudson for medicine. But it was in vain. Mr. Ford died, and Mr. Austin was often heard to say that it was one of the most melancholy recollections of his life.  In 1806 he bought the farm now owned by Mr. Charles Wetmore, and built the large house now standing; occupying in the meantime the old block house which stood nearby.  He was a prosperous business man, ---owned a woolen factory in Cairo,---was engaged in various business enterprises, and became very wealthy. He held several offices in the town, was at one time Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and, in 1819, 20, 21, and 22 he was one of the members of the New York State Senate from the Middle district. The whole State at that time was comprised in four Senatorial districts under the Constitution of 1777, and they were called the Southern, Middle, Eastern and Western districts. The Middle district, by an Act of 1815, was represented by nine senators, and consisted of the following ten counties, viz: Albany, Chenango, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Orange, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster.  The senators from this large district in the year 1819 were: Moses Austin, Jabez D. Hammond, John Lounsbury, John Noyes, Isaac Ogden, William Ross, Peter Swart, Martin VanBuren and Abraham VanVechten. in 1822 under the new Constitution, the Senatorial districts were very much changed.
Mr. Austin was twice married. His first wife was Elizabeth Cooper of Chatham, Conn.  She was the sister of Miles Cooper, who married an aunt of Dr. J.B. Cowles of Durham, and lived in Western New York.  Mr. Austin's second wife was Salie Humphreys of Derby, Conn.  She was a niece of the Hon. and Gen. David Humphreys, who was a U.S. Minister to the Court of Spain and Portugal.  Mr. Austin had quite a large family. One of his sons, Elias, lived on the farm, and was at one time Supervisor of the town; he has two daughters and one son now living in Cairo.  His brother Aaron lived  on the "old Austin place," and died in Cornwallsville. Another brother lived in Durham, and his descendents now live in Windham. Aaron's children, mostly daughters, married and settled in Durham. Mr. Austin spent the evening of his life at Cairo, and died there on the 2nd of May, 1848, aged 80 years.
And now before we go over "Rose Hill," we will record some additional facts about the Smith's of Cornwallsville, which will bring it down to the memory of the present generation. Capt. Thomas Smith and Charity, his wife were buried at "Quaker Orchard," a locality about two miles S.E. of Cornwallsville, which received its name from the springing up of self-sowed apple trees, the seed of which were scattered by people attending a camp meeting at the place.  Thomas Smith, Jr., married for his first wife a Mott, and Bela T. Smith was their only child. His second wife was Clarissa Hubbard, and the children were Helen, who is the wife of Joseph M. Smith, and Isaac Smith, now of Tarrytown. 
Zoath Smith, the third son of the Captain, married for his first wife a Blakesley, and their children were Lucy Walker and Savilla Farrand, wife of Hollis Farrandof Ohio.  His second wife was Olive Merwin, daughter of Miles Merwin of Connecticut, who was a brother of David and Daniel Merwin of Durham, N.Y.  He lived on the farm where the late Zoath Smith, his son, died a few years ago. Fletcher, his oldest son married Rebecca Jerome, a daughter of John Jerome, formerly of Bovina, Delaware County, who at this time lived where Horatio Hough does. He died quite young, leaving a family of small children, (now living in New York), and greatly mourned by the Methodist Church, of which he was a very active member. Mary married Andrew Jerome, and their children now live in Cornwallsville. Vince was not married.  Samuel married Caroline Adams,  a daughter of Joseph Adams, who was half-brother of Col. Pluto Adams.  They lived where Bela T. Smith does, and Joseph A. Smith of Windham and Armenius Smith of Hervey Street, were their sons. He was a very earnest Christian man and his death was caused by exposure in attending camp meeting at Cooksburgh in 1869.
Phebe was the wife of Ellsworth Strong Esq.,  and Polly married a Mr. Lamb of Lamb's Corners, Albany County.  Zoath, Jr.,  the youngest, married Diantha Ingalls of Westerlo, Albany Co.  He died only a few years ago, after suffering uncomplainingly for a long time from inflammatory rheumatism. He was a good man.
Bela, the youngest son of Capt. Smith, was born in Connecticut in 1784, and consequently was four years old when the family came to Cornwallsville to live. He remembered one thing that took place on the journey; and that was seeing his oldest sister Anna milk the cow on board the vessel as they were coming up the river. He became a Christian at age 17, and an earnest and faithful preacher in the Methodist Church. Finally his health failed, and he bought the farm now owned by his son Joseph M., and died there in 1847, aged 64.  His wife was Rhoda Merwin, a sister of his brother Zoath's wife, and their children were Bela, Rhoda, Charles, Joseph M., Mary, Thomas and James.   Bela Smith, Jr., married Amanda Jerome,  sister to Mrs. Fletcher Smith, Mrs. Rev Gould, and Andrew Jerome.  They have one son in New York and three daughters living in Cornwallsville; one the oldest, married Calvin Borthwick.  Rhoda married John B. Strong late of Cornwallsville, and now lives very happily with her children.
Charles married Rachel Hitchcock, and was a merchant in Cornwallsville; they both died early, greatly beloved, leaving one daughter Hattie, the wife of Will H. Strong.  She has recently passed away. Joseph M. married Helen Smith, daughter of Thomas Smith Jr.  They have one son, Nathan Bangs, of Amsterdam, NY.  Mary was not married.  Thomas married Martha Buck, a daughter of Rev. Mr. Buck, who was a Presiding Elder in the New York Conference.  He is a minister, and lives in Morrisania, NY.  James,  the youngest, married Mary Pierson, and he now lives in New York City. He is also a preacher.
Mercy, the youngest child of Capt. Smith, married Harris Giddins, and removed to Ohio. He is spoken of as a very talented preacher of the Gospel. I am not sure about the orthography of the name; it was in early days spelled Giddins; but I have an idea that it may be the same as the Ohio name Giddings.  Be that as it may, there are few families that have exerted so great and so good an influence in this town as the Smith's of Cornwallsville.

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