Saturday, July 29, 2017

Gibbons Jewett Ackley and His Family (1789-1851)

Gibbons Jewett Ackley (my 3rd great grandfather) was born in East Haddam, Connecticut.  He was the fifth of five sons born to Ephraim Ackley and Hannah Jewett.  There seems to be some confusion about his birth date.  Records from East Haddam, Connecticut indicate he was born on October 2, 1789 [1]. However, in the 1850 census he is listed as 55 years old, which would put his birth year around 1795 [5].  In his obituary, his age is given as 56 years and 6 months upon his death in 1851, which would also put his birth year around 1795 [6].  Also, records filed with his son Franklin’s Civil War pension application list Gibbons’ birth date as January 7, 1795; these records were supposedly from an Ackley family register, (Possibly a family bible?  Note that on this register, Gibbons’ first name was incorrectly given as Gilbert, but other information in the register is consistent with other records.) [20].   One possible explanation for the discrepancy in birth dates is that Gibbons might not have been the first Gibbons Jewett born to his parents; could he have had a sibling with the same name, whose birth date was October 2, 1789 who died at an early age, and this Gibbons was actually born later as some records suggest?  I have encountered other instances where parents gave a subsequent child the same name as a child that died.  However, I have found no evidence of either the death of a previous child or other records for this Gibbons’ birth.

Gibbons Ackley birth record

Ackley Family Register

In the 1820 Census shown below, Gibbons is found living alone in Versailles, Woodford County, Kentucky (last name misspelled Acley) [2].  

1820 Census

By 1822, it appears he had moved to Ithaca, New York where his brothers Henry and Julius lived, as evidenced by this ad from the Ithaca Republican Chronicle newspaper on January 9, 1822 announcing his participation in the Ithaca Rhetorical Society.

In March of 1822, Gibbons joined in a partnership with his brother Julius in a hat store in Ithaca and Ludlowville, New York, as announced by this ad from the Republican Chronicle.  Their store was advertised in various newspapers in the area.  According to the ads, they preferred cash for their hats, but would also accept other forms of payment, including wheat, rye, oats, corn, beef, pork, butter, cheese, lard, and lumber.

Gibbons’ partnership with Julius was dissolved in August, 1825, as announced in the Ithaca Journal on August 24, 1825.

Gibbons married Amanda Cady of Moravia, New York on April 11, 1822 [8],[9],[20].  Amanda was born March 10, 1803 in Moravia, New York [20], and was the daughter of Zadoc and Lucy (Little) Cady. In 1825 Gibbons and Amanda were living in Lansing Township, Tompkins County, New York, which is near Ithaca [11].  Four of Gibbons and Amanda’s children were born in New York; Lucy Ann (1823), Nancy Jane (1825), Amanda Helen (1827), and Franklin Jewett (1829).  Amanda Helen died in 1828, and Franklin Jewett died in 1832, after the family had moved to Ohio [9], [20]. According to "History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins, and Schuyler Counties, New York", Gibbons was a merchant in McLean in 1828 [10]. 

Gibbons owned property in McLean, selling it in June of 1829 [13], [14].  In November of the same year he purchased property in Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio [15], which would naturally lead to the conclusion that the family moved from New York to Ohio sometime between June and November of 1829.  The trip from McLean to Chardon would be an easy 5-hour drive by car today, but in 1829 the journey must have been difficult.   According to an article in Past Pursuits:

“There were essentially two ways to get to northeast Ohio, either through New York State and along Lake Erie and southward, or through the mountains of Pennsylvania and north up the rivers.” [12] 

There were no railroads or automobiles, so travel over land would have been by horse and wagon.  Although not known for sure, it is likely that Gibbons and his family chose the route along Lake Erie.  McLean is at the southern end of Cayuga Lake (circled in blue on the map below), which was connected to Seneca Lake and the Erie Canal in 1828 (shown in red on the map below).  A trip by boat on Cayuga Lake north to the Erie Canal would have been much easier than a trip through the mountains of Pennsylvania.

Geauga County, which was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, was formed in 1806.  The following, from gives a brief description of the early history of the Western Reserve and Geauga County, up to the time Gibbons arrived:

In the years before the American Revolution, the colony of Connecticut claimed all of the land from its western border to the Mississippi River. This included parts of New York and Pennsylvania. After the United States Federal System of Government was established, Connecticut ceded all of its claims to these lands except for a 120 mile strip in the Ohio Country. This land became known as the Connecticut Western Reserve. Funds obtained by the state from the sale of this land were to be used for public schools in Connecticut. The western end of the Reserve (later Huron and Erie Counties) was set aside as the "sufferer" lands. It was to be given to Connecticut residents to compensate them for losses from British military actions during the Revolutionary War. In the Reserve it was called the "Firelands".  The remaining 3,000,000 acres was sold by Connecticut to the Connecticut Land Company. This group of 35 men paid $1,200,000 for the Reserve. This amounted to $.40 an acre. In order to sell the land it had to be surveyed and Moses Cleaveland was hired as the land agent to do the job. Cleaveland settled prior Native American claims by signing a treaty with the Indians in Buffalo, NY on June 22, 1796. The surveying party then continued to the Reserve and arrived at Conneaut, Ohio on July 4, 1796, 20 years after independence from England had been declared.
The surveying party split into town groups. One party surveyed along the north-south Pennsylvania border. General Cleaveland continued along the lakeshore and arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on July 22nd. This was to be his only visit to the site that would eventually become the city of Cleveland. The surveyors laid out Townships in 5 mile square grids beginning with Township One, Range One in what is now Poland, Ohio, Mahoning County. The surveying work was slow and difficult due to the terrain and the dense forests. The entire area was called Trumbull County and Warren, Ohio was the county seat. Beginning in 1798 a steady stream of settlers began arriving in New Connecticut to begin a new life in a new land. The difficult 600 mile trip transplanted the culture of New England to the northern Ohio frontier. Groups of related people or people from the same town moved together to the wilderness to begin new lives. By 1805 Geauga County was thinly settled but had enough voters to separate from Trumbull County. At that time Geauga County also included all of what later became Lake County. By 1820 the population of Geauga County was 7791 and it had doubled by 1830. The total population of the Western Reserve was 55,000 in 1820. Completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 was a great economic factor in the continued growth of the county. It provided an outlet for agricultural products to be sent east.

Once again Gibbons set himself up as a merchant in Chardon.  As mentioned previously, he bought property in Chardon to be used as his store.  According to the deed to this property, shown below, Gibbons paid $800 for the property he bought from David Bruce.

Gibbons took out an ad in the local newspaper announcing the wide variety of goods he was offering for sale (see below).  According to the ad, he had purchased the “Brick Store” formerly owned by Bruce & Pease (presumably the property described in the deed above), and “intends to make Chardon his permanent place of residence.” [26]  Note that under “GROCERIES” the ad says that the store sells “Nearly every article in the line (Ardent Spirits excepted)”. Ardent spirits is another name for distilled liquor.   Although I have found no other evidence to support this theory, this could indicate that Gibbons was at least sympathetic to the temperance movement that was popular at the time. This ad was dated May 12, 1830, and appeared in the Plainesville Telegraph on October 26, 1830.

Gibbons was on the census in Chardon in 1830 [3].  He purchased an additional parcel of land in Chardon in August of 1831 [16].  Another child, Benjamin Franklin, was born in Chardon in 1832, but sadly he only survived for about two years [9], [20].  The notice of his death appeared in the  Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette on Apr 19, 1834 [30]. Gibbons sold the property in Chardon in September of 1833 [17]  and April of 1834 [18], presumably in anticipation of departing Chardon for Akron. In November, 1833 he ran the notice below in the Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette announcing his intention to discontinue his business and sell off his inventory [31].

Apparently Gibbons was having difficulties collecting the debts owed him by customers at his store in Chardon. Shortly before he left Chardon, he ran the notice below seeking payment before resorting to legal measures to recover his debts [32].

According to his obituary, Gibbons was one of the early settlers in the part of Akron known as North Akron [6].   The town of Akron (later known as South Akron) was laid out in 1825 (see map below).  The Ohio and Erie Canal was completed in 1832.  The Village of Cascade (later known as North Akron) was founded in 1833. The first school was built in 1834.  School records indicate that two of his children were enrolled in Portage Township district 6 schools in 1834. North and South Akron incorporated into Akron in 1836, with a population of 1,343 [21].  He bought property in Akron, with evidence of taxes paid in 1838 [19].  In Akron, four more children were born – Charles Homer (1834), Helen Caroline (1839), Franklin Cady (1841), and Lucy Maria (1843) [9], [20]. 

Gibbons was apparently a forward-thinking man, as evidenced by the fact that he sent his oldest daughter, Lucy Ann, to Oberlin College in 1838.  Oberlin was one of the first colleges in the U.S. to admit women, with the first four enrolling in 1837, and was also the first in the U.S. to regularly admit black students beginning in 1835.  Concerned about word of some of the activities at Oberlin, Gibbons wrote a letter to the college in November of 1839.  A transcription of the letter follows.

Akron Nov 29/39
Dear Sir,

My desire to arrive at the truth in relation to some of the charges against Oberlin must be my apology for addressing you, as I have not had the pleasure of making your personal acquaintance.  Some two years since my attention was first called to & my feelings first enlisted in the affairs of Oberlin since which time my mind has been alternately agitated by hope & fear in relation to the first results of your course of providence.  I have however had such confidence in the wisdom & prudence as well as piety of the managers of the institution that I placed a daughter under their guidance at a very early age (16 years old).  She is at home during vacation with the expectation of returning at the commencement of the next term.

Among the charges against Oberlin, is this, that that portion of them who believe with the President & Prof. Phiney on the subject of Perfection are becoming “Ranters” notes an article in the New York Evangelist Nov 23 under the head of “News from Oberlin”.  You will probably see the article before this reaches you.  I have enquired of my daughter whether she has any knowledge of such meetings as the one spoken of in that article.  She informs me that in the summer of 1838 there was one or two at the Fletchers of like character but that she understood that Pres. Mahan used his authority in putting a stop to them.  As she has no knowledge of the one alluded to it has probably happened (if at all) since the close of the term.  I read the article alluded to with feelings of mingled grief & alarm.  Grieved at the occurrence & alarmed in view of the consequences if persisted in.

If it is not too great a demand upon your time will you do me the favor to answer the following interrogations

1.  When did the meeting alluded to take place

2.  Has there been more than one of this character this season

3.  Are such proceedings encouraged or countenanced by the faculty or any portion of them

4.  Are the circumstances true as related in the NY Evangelist

5.  Who was the professor alluded to

6.  From what source did the NY Congregationalist & Observer obtain their information on the subject

If Sir you will make it convenient to spend a few moments in answering these questions with such suggestions as you think proper to make on the subject you will very much oblige.

Yours very Respectfully,

G. J. Ackley
Gibbons was listed as a resident of North Akron in the 1840 Census [4], and was in the 1850 Census for Akron [5].  Gibbons was active in the local affairs of Akron.  In 1834, he joined other citizens of Akron in forming the Akron Lyceum and Library Association.  This group established “quite a respectable library of books, by purchase and donation…” [22].  The association held weekly meetings “for the purpose of listening to addresses from the members and others, and of discussing the ‘burning’ questions of the day…” [22].  When a new select school was set to open in Akron in 1837, Gibbons threw his support behind it, serving as a trustee.  In 1838 Gibbons was part of a group that established the first Akron High School [27].  In 1839 he was one of the original stockholders in an organization that was formed to establish a rural cemetery in Akron.  This group went on to establish Akron Rural Cemetery, now known as Glendale Cemetery [23].  Gibbons and many of his family members are buried in Glendale.

Gibbons was appointed town treasurer of Akron by the town council in 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843, 1844, and 1845 [24].  In 1849 he was elected by the people to serve a three-year term as a director of the Summit County Poor House. While on this board, he served as clerk until his death in 1851 [25].  An article that appeared in The Summit County Beacon after his election discussed his politics, identifying him as “a whig in sentiment” and that he “desires the perpetuation of Whig policy” [28].  The Whig Party was established in the early 1830s and dissolved in the late 1850s.  The party was established as a response to the authoritarian policies of President Andrew Jackson.  Henry Clay was their leader, and according to Wikipedia: 

The Whigs celebrated Clay's vision of the "American System" that promoted rapid economic and industrial growth in the United States. Whigs demanded government support for a more modern, market-oriented economy, in which skill, expertise and bank credit would count for more than physical strength or land ownership. Whigs sought to promote faster industrialization through high tariffs, a business-oriented money supply based on a national bank and a vigorous program of government funded "internal improvements" (what we now call infrastructure projects), especially expansion of the road and canal systems. To modernize the inner America, the Whigs helped create public schools, private colleges, charities, and cultural institutions. Many were pietistic Protestant reformers who called for public schools to teach moral values and proposed prohibition to end the liquor problem. 

These ideas perhaps explain Gibbons’ active participation in many of the activities discussed previously.

According to “Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County”, Gibbons was in business in Akron in a concern called “Ackley & Austin”; his son-in-law Allen Hibbard is known to have clerked for this business during his early years in Akron [22]. It is not known for sure when this business was established or when it was dissolved, but an article in the Akron Beacon informs that property belonging to Ackley & Austin was taken in 1843 and offered at a sheriff’s sale as result of a suit against the two men [33].

At some time after he was in business with Alvin Austin, Gibbons partnered with Allen Hibbard in a business under the name A. Hiibbard & Co. In March of 1849, they announced the addition of a third partner, Joseph Wesener, to the business. Below is the announcement, as well as an advertisement detailing the types of goods they had for sale at the “Old Green Store” [34]. Below that is another ad announcing the various items available at their store in February 1851 [35].

Just one week after the previous ad appeared in the Akron Beacon, the article below reported the sad news that the “Old Green Store” of A. Hibbard & Co. as well as several other businesses had been severely damaged or destroyed by a fire in downtown Akron. Fortunately, the structure and inventory were covered by insurance [36].

Gibbons died just five months after the fire, on July 9, 1851 [6].   Following is his obituary from The Summit Beacon, July 16, 1851 [6].

As mentioned previously, Gibbons was buried in Akron Rural Cemetery. Below is a picture of his headstone next to his mother Hannah’s headstone in Section 2, lot 107, taken many years ago by Paul Hibbard, a 3rd great grandson of Gibbons. These headstones are no longer standing.

A transcription of Gibbons’ will follows [7].  Question marks represent unreadable portions of the hand-written will.

Be it Remembered that at a Special Session of the Court of Common [Pleas] begun and held at the Court House in the town of Akron County of Summit and State of Ohio on the fifteenth day of August in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and fifty one by and before Sylvester H. Thompson, John Hoy and Peter Voris ? Associate Judges of the Court of Common Pleas within and for the County and State aforesaid, the last Will and Testament of Gibbons J. Ackley late of Portage in said County deceased is this day produced in Court for probate and William J.C. Otis and Alexander Fisher the subscribing witnesses to said will appear and in open Court on oath depose ? ? that they saw the the said Gibbons J. Ackley the Testator subscribe said instrument and heard him publish and declare the same to be his last will and testament and that the said Testator was at the time of executing the same of full age of sound mind and memory and not under any restraint and that they subscribed said will as witnesses in the presence of the Testator and in the presence of each other whereupon the Court considering said will as duly proved do approve the same and order that said Will and Probate be recorded.  Which said Will and Probate follows ????? 
In the name of the Benevolent Father of all, I Gibbons J. Ackley of Akron in the County of Summit and State of Ohio do make and publish this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills made by me. 
I give and bequeath to my brother Julius Ackley of Ithaca in the State of New York the sum of two hundred dollars to be paid by my executrix herein after name out of my estate in discharge of a moral obligation which I am under to my said brother. 
I give ? and bequeath all my estate of whatever ? real personal and mixed to my dear wife Amanda Ackley subject to the payment of the legacy above mentioned and all just debts and charges to be by her controlled appropriated and expended in the maintenance of herself and in the maintenance and education of our children as she shall see fit without being accountable therefore to any ? ?.  And I also wish my dear wife to extend the benefit of this pension to Dwight Hibbard the son of my deceased daughter to such extent as she may at any time see fit. 
I appoint my dear wife Amanda Ackley to be the Executrix of this my last will and testament and also to be the Guardian of our children.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 4th day of July 1851.  Signed and acknowledged by the said Gibbons J Ackley as his last will and testament in our presence and signed by us in his presence. 
W.J.C. Otis, Alexander Fisher 
We William J.C. Otis and Alexander Fisher the subscribing witnesses to the last Will and Testament of Gibbons J. Ackley late of Akron Summit County deceased being duly sworn depose and say that we saw the testator sign said Will and Testament that we attested and subscribed the same as witnesses in his presence, that the testator when he signed said Will and Testament was of a sound mind and memory of full age and not under any restraint. 
Sworn and subscribed in open Court August 15th AD 1851

Attest W.B. Stone Dept Clerk

Link of the Day

Much of the information in this post came from the Summit County Public Library. The physical library has a large genealogy section, and has much information online. Below is a link to their website:

Quote of the Day

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."

-- Wernher Von Braun


1.  East Haddam (Connecticut). Registrar of Vital Statistics, Records of births, marriages, and deaths, 1687-1915, Volume 2,  (Births, marriages, deaths v. 2; Family History Library Microfilm 1398798), page 227.
2.  1820 U.S. Census, Versailles, Woodford County, KY; page 136; NARA Microfilm M33, Roll 29.
3.  1830 U.S. Census, Chardon, Geauga County, OH; page 251; NARA Microfilm M19.
4.  1840 U.S. Census, North Akron, Summit County, OH; page 379; NARA Microfilm M704, Roll 428.
5.  1850 U.S. Census, Portage Township, Summit County, OH; page 426, lines 15-20; NARA Microfilm M432, Roll 732.
6.  Obituary for Gibbons J. Ackley, The Summit Beacon, July 16, 1851, p. 3, col. 4.
7.  Will and Probate of Gibbons J. Ackley.
8.  LDS IGI Record
9.  George Thomas Little, The Descendants of George Little, Who Came to Newbury Mass in 1640,  (Auburn, ME.  1882), p. 57.
10.  History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins, and Schuyler Counties, New York,  (Philadelphia: Everts & Ensign, 1879).
11.  Tompkins County Genealogical Society, 1825 New York State Census,  ([Ithaca, New York : The Society], 1991 ), 117.
12.  Jane Gramlich, “Connecticut Yankees in Summit County”, Past Pursuits, Volume 6, Number 3, Akron-Summit County Public Library, p. 3-5.
13.  Tompkins County NY County Clerk, Deed records, 1817-1906; index, 1817-1967,  (Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by Reproduction Systems for the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971 ), Volume O, p. 344-345.
14.  Tompkins County NY County Clerk, Deed records, 1817-1906; index, 1817-1967,  (Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by Reproduction Systems for the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971 ), Volume Q, p. 47-49.
15.  Geauga County (Ohio). County Recorder (Main Author), Deed records, 1795-1921,  (Cleveland, Ohio : Micro-Photo Service Bureau, 1947, 1971, 1980; Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah ), Vol. 13, p. 228-229.
16.  Geauga County (Ohio). County Recorder (Main Author), Deed records, 1795-1921,  (Cleveland, Ohio : Micro-Photo Service Bureau, 1947, 1971, 1980; Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah ), Vo. 14, p. 453-454.
17.  Geauga County (Ohio). County Recorder (Main Author), Deed records, 1795-1921,  (Cleveland, Ohio : Micro-Photo Service Bureau, 1947, 1971, 1980; Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah ), Vol. 18, p. 402-403.
18.  Geauga County (Ohio). County Recorder (Main Author), Deed records, 1795-1921,  (Cleveland, Ohio : Micro-Photo Service Bureau, 1947, 1971, 1980; Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah ), Vol. 18, p. 218-219.
19.  Duplicate tax records : 1816-1838, Portage County, OH , p. 241.
20.  Franklin C. Ackley, Ackley Family Register, Filed with Civil War Pension Application, 30 Oct 1906.
21.  City of Akron website,
22.  Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, Samuel A. Lane, (Akron, 1881), p. 169.
23.  Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, Samuel A. Lane, (Akron, 1881), p. 237.
24.  Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, Samuel A. Lane, (Akron, 1881), p. 267.
25.  Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County, Samuel A. Lane, (Akron, 1881), p. 303.
26.  “New Goods”, Painesville Telegraph, October 26, 1830, p. 4.
27.  “Acts of a Local Nature, Passed at the First Session of the Thirty-Sixth General Assembly of the State of Ohio, Begun and Held in the City of Columbus, December 4, 1837, and in the Thirty-Sixth Year of Said State”, Vol XXXVI, Columbus, OH, Samuel, Medary, Printer to the State, 1838.
28. “Poor House Directors”, Summit County Beacon, October 31, 1849, p. 3.
29.  “Whig Party (United States)”, Wikipedia,
30. “Died”, Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette, April 19, 1834.
31. “Selling Off at Cost!”, Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette, April 12, 1834.
32. “The Last Call”, Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette, April 12, 1834.
33. “Sherrif’s Sale”, Akron Beacon, January 3, 1844.
34. “Copartnership Notice”, Akron Beason, March 7, 1849.
35. “The Cry Is Still They Come”, Akron Beacon, February 12, 1851.
36. “Another Conflagaration”, Akron Beacon, February 19, 1851.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Where Did Nicholas Ackley Come From?

The short answer to this question is we don't know, and I'm afraid I won't be able to answer the question in this post. But just like the question of Nicholas' wives surnames covered in an earlier post, the information about Nicholas' origins has been widely reported without any reliable sources to back up the information. While it is somewhat dissatisfying to ask the question without providing an answer, I believe we should bring the issue out in the open so it can be discussed, and hopefully inspire someone among us to do further research.

There has been much speculation about where Nicholas Ackley came from. All of the various locations mentioned have one thing in common -- there are no sources cited for any of the purported origins for Nicholas. What is also notable is that none of the commonly cited sources for information on Nicholas Ackley even mention where he might have come from; for example, the Dawes-Gates genealogy cited frequently in this blog mentions nothing about Nicholas' birthplace or place of origin. The first line of the section on the Ackley line in that work simply says "Nicholas Ackley was of Hartford, Connecticut, probably as early as 1649, and certainly in 1655..." [1]. Another respected source for information on Nicholas, "Memoranda Relating to the Ancestry and Family of Sophia Fidelia Hall" by Sophia Fidelia Hall Coe also has nothing to say about Nicholas' origins [3]. "The Ancestry of Lorenzo Ackley & His Wife Emma Arabella Bosworth" does mention England, but provides no source for that information [4].

Frequently Mentioned Places of Origin for Nicholas

Before getting to the discussion at hand, permit me a small rant. One of the things that has always been puzzling to me is how information like this gets propagated all over the place without a reliable source attached to it. I don't think someone would make this stuff up (at least I hope not), so someone somewhere had to have seen this information in a source, and either chose not to list the source or it got copied all over the place without the original source. Either way, this is something that baffles me and I will continue to fight the good fight to include sources for everything I post. OK, rant over. Here are the most frequently mentioned places of origin for Nicholas:

England - England is a logical choice if one wanted to make an educated guess as to Nicholas' origins. Given that Connecticut was founded by Puritans from England under royal charter, it would not be a stretch to assume that Nicholas came from England. Many online trees list England as his birthplace, but as mentioned above, no source for this information can be found.

Shalford, Essex, England - This location is reported on many Ancestry member trees, WikiTree, and many Pedigree Resource Files and International Genealogical Index on Family Search. There are thousands of member trees on Ancestry that have Nicholas Ackley in them, and over 3,000 of these trees state he was born in Shalford, Essex, England. Although I couldn't check every one of these trees for sourcing, I checked the first 50 and not one had a source for this information (other than user supplied information such as other trees, Millenium files, Find-A-Grave, etc.). WikiTree and the Family Search resources are similar to Ancestry member trees in that they contain user supplied information, and like the Ancestry member trees they do not typically have any source citations associated with them.

Hopton Castle, Shropshire, England - There are some trees online that cite Hopton Castle as Nicholas' birthplace (a much smaller number than Shalford). Although none of those trees gave a source for the information, I would guess that most people who cite Hopton Castle as Nicholas' birthplace probably got the information from the Hackley manuscript discussed in a previous post.

Wales - I have even found a few trees online that give Wales as Nicholas' birthplace. As with the other locations mentioned, no sources are given to support this information.

Other Theories

Before beginning this discussion, I want to point out that I have absolutely no proof that any of the locations mentioned below could be Nicholas Ackley's birthplace or place of origin. I bring them up as food for thought and as a starting point for further research.

The Secretary of the State (SOTS) of Connecticut has a useful web page discussing the origins of the cities and towns in Connecticut. According to that page:

"Until 1700 almost the only official action of the colonial government (General Court) in regard to town organization, was to authorize the town name, usually chosen by its leading man, from his home in England." [2]
Knowing that, could the places where Nicholas lived in Connecticut provide a clue to his origins? We know that Nicholas first came to Hartford, Connecticut, possibly as early as 1649. Here is what the SOTS web page has to say about the origins of Hartford:

"Hartford, Dutch trading house, 'House of Hope,' 1633; settled as Newtown in 1635; named 1637 from Hertford in Hertfordshire, Indian name, 'Suckiag.'" [2] 

There are a couple of things to think about here. First, Hartford took its name from Hertford in 1637, at least 12 years before Nicholas arrived there, so he was not around to have had any influence over the naming of the town. Further, according to Wikipedia, Hartford was named for the hometown of Rev. Samuel Stone, one of its founders [5]. Having said that, it is entirely possible that Nicholas was from Hertford and was drawn to Hartford because there were people there from Hertford with whom he or his family were acquainted.

We also know that Nicholas was one of the original proprietors of Haddam, Connecticut; i.e., one of the group of 28 young men who founded the town. Here is what the SOTS says about Haddam:
"Haddam, settled in 1662; incorporated, and named Oct., 1668, from Much Haddam parish in Hertfordshire." [2]
So, the situation with Haddam was slightly different than Hartford; Nicholas was present when it was named, and being one of the original proprietors could have had some influence on deciding the name. Again, there is no evidence that this was the case, but it is at least worth considering as a possibility.

It is worth noting that Hertford (blue marker on map below) and Much Haddam (red marker on map below) are both in Hertfordshire in England; in fact they are only about 12 miles apart. Further, although Shalford (green marker on map below) is in the county of Essex in England, it is only about 25 miles from Much Haddam (Hertforshire and Essex are adjoining).

Google Map showing Hertford, Much Haddam, Shalford

Again, I should emphasize that I have no information that actually suggests that Nicholas came from either Hertford or Much Haddam; I am only proposing that these locations might be logical places to look.  Naming conventions for early Connecticut towns could provide a clue as we try to solve the mystery of his origins.

Discussion Questions

  • Does anyone have any reliable sources for any of the more popular birth places cited in various trees? 
  • Does anyone have any other viable possibilities for Nicholas' origins (supported by sources)?

Quote of the Day

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." 

--Thomas A. Edison

Link of the Day

Today's link is for the Connecticut Secretary of the State web site mentioned several times in this post:


1. Ferris, Mary Walton, Dawes-Gates Ancestral Lines: A Memorial Volume Containing the American Ancestry of Mary Beman (Gates) Dawes Vol. II (Wisconsin: Cuneo Press, 1931), p. 33-54.

2. Connecticut Secretary of State, "Connecticut Towns in the Order of Their Establishment; With the Origin of Their Names", (accessed June 27, 2017). 

3. Coe, Sophia Fidelia Hall, Memoranda Relating to the Ancestry and Family of Sophia Fidelia Hall (Meriden, Connecticut: Curtiss-Way, 1902), p. 217-223.

4. Jacobus, Donald Lines, The Ancestry of Lorenzo Ackley & His Wife Emma Arabella Bosworth (Woodstock, Vermont: Elm Tree Press, 1960), p. 1.

5. Wikipedia contributors, "History of Connecticut," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed July 13, 2017).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ephraim Ackley and His Family (1751/52-1822)

Ephraim Ackley (my 4th great grandfather) was born in East Haddam, Connecticut. He was the son of Nathaniel Ackley and Mary Williams.  Ephraim was the seventh of nine children of Nathaniel and Mary, and was born on February 25, 1751/2.  Below is a copy of his birth record from East Haddam public records. [1] 

The reason for showing the year as 1751/2 is that England and its colonies switched to the Gregorian calendar in that year. Prior to 1752, England and her colonies had used the Julian calendar, under which the year began on March 25th.  Although much of Europe had adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582 because of inaccuracies in the Julian calendar related to leap years, England had not, and by 1750 the English calendar was 11 days out of sync with the rest of the world.  To correct this situation, in 1750 Parliament passed an act requiring England and its colonies to change calendars in 1752. England's calendar change included three major components. The Julian Calendar was replaced by the Gregorian Calendar, changing the formula for calculating leap years.  The beginning of the legal new year was moved from March 25 to January 1.  Finally, 11 days were dropped from the month of September 1752. The changeover involved a series of steps:
  • December 31, 1750 was followed by January 1, 1750 (under the "Old Style" calendar, December was the 10th month and January the 11th)
  • March 24, 1750 was followed by March 25, 1751 (March 25 was the first day of the "Old Style" year)
  • December 31, 1751 was followed by January 1, 1752 (the switch from March 25 to January 1 as the first day of the year)
  • September 2, 1752 was followed by September 14, 1752 (drop of 11 days to conform to the Gregorian calendar) [2]


Ephraim married Hannah Jewett, daughter of Gibbons Jewett and Rhoda Hyde. Although no primary record of their marriage has been found, the divorce petition filed by Hannah in 1799 gives their marriage date as January 20, 1780 (more about this petition later) [3]. Ephraim and Hannah had five sons; Ephraim (born February 26, 1781), Warren (born August 18, 1783), Henry (born September 28, 1785), Julius (born August 17, 1787), and Gibbons. (born October 2, 1789). All of them were born in East Haddam, Connecticut [4].

Revolutionary War

Although there is no direct evidence that Ephraim served in the revolutionary war, there are some records that indicate that he may have. In the pension application of Nathaniel Ackley, Nathaniel states:  “That in March 1778 he enlisted into the service of the United States in the company of cavalry commanded by Capt Ephraim Ackley for three years, that he served two years and six months of said enlistment, that he performed all of said duty on the sea coast between New London Connecticut and New York City…” [12]. As part of this pension application Nathaniel provided the discharge note below that he claims was written by Ephraim Ackley.

Ultimately Nathaniel’s pension application was rejected; one of the reasons given was that the handwriting in the release note purported to be from Capt. Ephraim Ackley was suspiciously similar to the handwriting in the rest of Nathaniel’s application.

Although no official record can be found of Ephraim’s participation as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, there is evidence that he participated in other ways. From other records we will see that Ephraim was a farmer, and he apparently was called upon to supply cows to the Continental Army during the war. The following letter from Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt [5] directs Ephraim to deliver four head of cattle for the use of the men of the 2nd New York regiment, which Van Cortlandt commanded.

While it cannot be proven that Ephraim earned the title of “Captain” during the Revolutionary War, he was appointed a Captain by the Connecticut State Assembly in 1785. The appointment was recorded in the Public Records of the State of Connecticut [6]: 

In the same year, the Connecticut State Assembly provided some tax relief for Ephraim, resolving “that Captain Ephraim Ackley be Abated for one Horse” [7].

We will see that tax issues would become a problem for Ephraim later in his life.

Slave Owner

Ephraim appeared in the first census of the United States in 1790. He is found living in East Haddam, Connecticut with his family. Below is an excerpt from that census [8]:

Enumerators collected the name of the head of household, number of free white males aged 16 and over, number of free white males under 16, number of free white females, number of all other free persons, and number of slaves.  So, in addition to Ephraim himself, there were two other free white men over 16 living in his household.  Although not known for sure, it is reasonable to assume that the four free white males under 16 are his sons Warren, Henry, Julius, and Gibbons. This assumption can be made because all four of them are found in other censuses as well as other records into adulthood, while their brother Ephraim is not found in any other records other than his birth record mentioned above, and so he must have died before 1790. The one free white female in the household is presumably his wife Hannah. The final column, the number of slaves in the household, does have a “1” in it, so Ephraim appears to be one of the rare slave owners in the state of Connecticut at this time.


We find further evidence that Ephraim was a farmer from this notice appearing in the Middlesex Gazette in 1795 [9]. Apparently Ephraim’s farm was being used as a location for a well known horse to be bred with local horses in the East Haddam area.

As mentioned earlier, Ephraim experienced some difficulties in paying his taxes. Evidently the practice in those days was to sell off property of individuals who could not pay their taxes to cover the bill. The following is a notice of such a sale of some of Ephraim’s possessions found in the newspaper in May of 1799 [10]:

Note that Ephraim was two years in arrears on his town and state taxes. This notice was made in May of 1799, and the auction was to be held in August, so he did have some time to try to pay the bill before his property was sold. It is not known whether he paid the bill or if the auction took place as scheduled.

Wife Hannah Petitions for Divorce

1799 went from bad to worse for Ephraim. In October of that year, his wife Hannah filed a petition for divorce with the General Assembly of Connecticut, the same body that had appointed him Captain of the militia 14 years earlier. The petition alleged cruel and abusive treatment, and asked for a divorce. A verbatim transcription of the petition (including spelling errors and abbreviations) follows [3]:

Page 1 
To the Honble General Assembly of the State of Connecticut to be Holden at New Haven in sd state on the second Thursday of Oct AD 1799 --- The Petition of Hannah Ayer Ackley late of East Haddam in the County of Middlesex but now residing in East Windsor in the County of Hartford ---Humbly sheweth --- that on the 20th Day of January AD 1780 she was lawfully joined in marriage to Ephraim Ackley of sd East Haddam – that your Petitioner from the Day of her Inter Marriage with sd Ephraim untill this time hath ever on her part continued to fullfuill all the Duties of a Wife to a Husband, enjoined by the Marriage Covenant. 
That the said Ephraim wholly disregarding his Duty toward the said Hannah hath at sundry times within six years last past in the most violent and outragious manner abused your Petitioner, not only by the most Indeacent and abusive language but by repeatedly beating and wounding your Petitioner in the most cruel and Inhumane manner. --- That the said Ephraim not regarding his Duty in any aspect but being devoid of all the feelings of humanity, and conjugal affections, hath taken your Petitioner. 
Page 2 
Petitioner when about Eight months gone with Child and in the most barbarous & savage manner draged her from bed & in the same Indecent, cruel & inhumane manner kicked & beat your Petitioner.
That the sd Ephraim hath repeatedly with in five years last past --- threatened to take the life of your Petitioner --- that at a Certain time within the before mentioned term the said Ephraim in the night season threatened your Petitioner, that unless she would go to bed to one Saml Palmes (then in the House of the sd Ephraim) the sd Ephraim would take the life of your Petitioner before morning ---
That the sd Ephraim Ackley hath repeatedly within the aforesd term threatened to take the life of your Petitioner provided she came, or offered to come to bed to him --- that by the abusive treatment and inhumane conduct of the sd Ephraim Ackley your Petitioner within the aforesd period of time hath been frequently obliged in order to preserve her life, to retire from the House of the sd Ephraim and seek an asylum at her neighbors, or in an adjacent barn --- that she repeatedly has been, and still is, in great fear from the conduct of the sd Ephraim and still considers her life to be in constant danger 
Page 3 
from him --- Whereupon your Petitioner prays Your Honors to take her unhappy life into your consideration and order and decree that your Petitioner be Divorced from the sd Ephraim Ackley and she declared single and unmarried --- and she as is Duty bound shall ever pray --- Dated at East Windsor the 23 Day of Sept AD 1799 ------------
                                                                                                             Hannah Ayer Ackley

To either Constable of the Law of East Haddam in the County of Middlesex greeting 
By authority of the State of Connecticut you are hereby commanded to summon Ephraim Ackley of said East Haddam to appear before the Honorable General Assembly of the state of Connecticut to be holden at New Haven in said state on the second Thursday of October next – on the first Tuesday after next after the opening of said Assembly which will be the 15th of October next – then & there to answer unto the foregoing memorial of Hannah Ayer Ackley if he see cause & you are also to have a true & attested copy of said memorial & this is citation (at least twelve days before said first Tuesday) with the said Ephraim and at his usual place of abode ---- hereof fail not but of this memorial & citation make service & due return dated at East Haddam Sept 25th 1799. 
Two dollar State duty is paid
Thereon Coppied & Signed by
                Jabez Chapman   Justice Peace & Quorum 
Page 4 
East Haddam 30th Sept 1799 I then left a true and attested copy of this memorial and citation with the within named Ephraim Ackley 
Attest Andrew Champion  Constable

It is fair to say that the allegations in the petition can be viewed as no less than shocking and disgusting. Note that at the end of the petition the General Assembly gave instructions to the constable of East Haddam to summon Ephraim to appear before them and answer the allegations. According to the source for this material, no action was taken on this petition, so it is assumed that a divorce was not granted. Note also that the constable attested to the fact that he delivered the petition to Ephraim, and that the constable, Andrew Champion, is the same person who was to auction Ephraim’s property earlier in the year to cover his tax burden.

Neither Ephraim nor Hannah can be found in the 1800 Census. Ephraim is found as head of household living alone in East Haddam in the 1810 Census [11], and once again neither of them can be found in the 1820 Census.


Although there are no reliable primary sources documenting Ephraim’s death, there is some evidence that he died around 1822 or 1823. In the pension application of Nathaniel Ackley mentioned above, Nathaniel states “That he enlisted into the service of the United States as a volunteer in the month of March in the year 1778 or 1779 according to his recollection and as he verily believes, and belonged to a Company of Cavalry consisting at that time of about sixty men of which Ephraim Ackley of East Haddam who died in said East Haddam about twelve years since was the Captain…” [12]. This statement was dated December 2nd, 1835, so that would put Ephraim’s death around 1823 if he died about 12 years earlier according to Nathaniel’s statement. Another source, “Ackley & Winton Genealogy and Allied Lines” [13], gives a specific death date of October 12, 1822. This genealogy offers no source for this date, and all searches to date have failed to find anything to verify that particular date.

Discussion Questions

  • Are any of you descendants of Ephraim Ackley? How do you descend from him?

Link of the Day

Today's link is for the Connecticut State Library. This is where I initially found the reference for Hannah Ackley's divorce petition.

Quote of the Day

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."   



1. East Haddam (Connecticut). Registrar of Vital Statistics, Records of births, marriages, and deaths, 1687-1915, Volume 2,  (Births, marriages, deaths v. 2; Family History Library Microfilm 1398798), page 3.
2.  “The 1752 Calendar Change”, Connecticut State Library Website,
3.  Connecticut General Assembly, “Lotteries and Divorces, Second Series, 1718-1820”, Hartford, Connecticut, microfilmed 1967, p. 1-4.
4.  East Haddam (Connecticut). Registrar of Vital Statistics, Records of births, marriages, and deaths, 1687-1915, Volume 2,  (Births, marriages, deaths v. 2; Family History Library Microfilm 1398798), page 227.
5.  Jacob Judd, “Correspondence of the Van Cortlandt Family of Cortlandt Manor”, (Tarrytown, NY, Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1977), p. 143.
6.  Forrest Morgan, Leonard Woods Labaree, and Charles Jeremy Hoadly, “The Public Records of the State of Connecticut, May 1785-Jan 1789, Volume 6”, (Connecticut, Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainerd Company, 1945), p. 25.
7.  Forrest Morgan, Leonard Woods Labaree, and Charles Jeremy Hoadly, “The Public Records of the State of Connecticut, May 1785-Jan 1789, Volume 6”, (Connecticut, Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainerd Company, 1945), p. 13.
8.  1790 U.S. Census, East Haddam, Middlesex County, CT; page 447; NARA Microfilm M637.
9.  “The Beautiful Full Blooded Horse Hyder Alley”, Middlesex Gazette, March 7, 1795.
10.  “Notice is Hereby Given”, Connecticut Gazette, May 29, 1799.
11.  1810 U.S. Census, East Haddam, Middlesex County, CT; page 300; NARA Microfilm M252.
12.  Revolutionary War Records for Nathaniel Ackley, NARA Series M805, Roll 3, Image 339, File R20.
13.  Carol Ackley Winton, “Ackley and Winton Genealogy and Allied Lines”, (Salt Lake City, Utah, Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971).