James Townsend

Biography courteously provided by Joyce Riedinger, Delaware County Coordinator.


JAMES TOWNSEND is an influential resident of Middletown. Delaware County, N.Y., though his post-office address is Pine Hill, Ulster County. A proper sketch of this gentleman involves the history of the Townsend family, so we may begin with James's great-grandfather, Robert, who married Sarah Morehouse. Robert Townsend was in Bridgeport, Conn., whence he came to Middletown in 1817. Here Mr. Townsend bought a grist-mill where the one now owned by Mr. Doolittle stands. For this he paid eight hundred dollars in gold: but, as the property was under the cloud of a small mortgage, the new purchaser lost it by foreclosure. Then he went into the mountains, and bought a hundred and thirty acres in the valley ever since known as Townsend's Hollow, where he cleared land, at once cutting enough timber for a log house. There were wild animals to be faced, as well as hardships. Careful watch had to be kept over the stock by night as well as day, to guard from prowlers both two-legged and four-legged. Nevertheless, pluck and perseverance overcame all obstacles; and Pioneer Townsend established a reputation not to be forgotten in many generations. He raised three boys and a girl. Morris Townsend married Anna Johnson. Alfred Townsend married Kattie Blish, and with this line we are more especially concerned. Seth Townsend married Hannah Johnson, a sister of his brother Morris's wife. Their sister, Abbie Townsend, married Floyd Smith. Their father died at fourscore, and so did his wife, dying, as they had lived, in the Methodist faith. Politically, Mr. Townsend grew up a Democrat; but he lived to see the rise and growth of the Republican party, whose ranks he joined in his latter years.

Robert Townsend's son Alfred was born in Connecticut in 1805, eleven years before the removal of the Townsends to Delaware County. On attaining his majority, he bought the paternal farm from the other heirs; and he added more land thereto, till he owned some six hundred acres. Of course, the new land had to be cleared, and this involved plenty of hard work; and he also gave much attention to pulling bark, and article greatly in demand for use in tanneries, as well as for other purposes. His wife was a daughter of Silas Blish, and they raised four children. Sylvanus Townsend married Jane Barrett, and had five children. His widow now lives on Pine Hill. Of Isaac Townsend more will presently be recorded. Jane Townsend married Philip Lasher, whose family descent is elsewhere sketched in another volume; and one of his three children is still on the earth. Grandfather Alfred Townsend lived to be seventy-eight; and the grandmother seventy-six. Both were Methodists, and the husband was a Democrat. They continued on the farm till the end, though during the last nine years it was in the hands of their son Isaac.

Isaac Townsend was born in Greene County on September 13, 1836, and went to school in a log cabin. At twenty-two he married Hannah Woolheater, the sixth child and third daughter of Ezekiel and Betsey (Avery) Woolheater. The Woolheaters were among the early settlers, and Father Woolheater was a very enterprising man. He and his wife reared eight children--Margaret, John, Catherine, James, Noah, Hannah, Orrison, and Anthony Woolheater. Their father lived to be eighty, and their mother seventy-five; and they both were adherents of the Baptist church. Only one child has come to Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Townsend. This son, James Townsend, was born June 13, 1839, and on November 29, 1879, married Alice Winchell, daughter of John L. And Rebecca A. Winchell, of Brown Station, Ulster County; and they have four children, as follows: Henry A., Granville, Willobell, Rebecca A.

On coming into possession of the homestead, Mr. Isaac Townsend greatly improved it, putting up new buildings; and he and his son James have room for twenty-five city boarders in their spacious residence, known far and wide as the Townsend Farmhouse. Father and son own twin farms, about a quarter of a mile apart. On one are kept as many cows as there are boarders, twenty-five; and on the other there are the same number of sheep, but only ten cows. Both father and son follow Grandfather Alfred Townsend in their Democratic politics, but in religion they pride themselves on their liberality. Both belong to the Knights of Pythias, Lodge No. 233, and also to the Masonic lodge in Margarettville, No. 389. In fact they are one in sentiment and social tastes, more like brothers than like father and son. Their estates are in first-class condition, and are situated three miles from Pine Hill, and a half-mile farther from Griffin's Corners. It is delightful to be in such a home as the one here noted.


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