Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Family Stories, Fact or Fiction Part Four

John Hawley and Abigail Sanford
Westchester County, New York

One of the challenges of writing a family history is blending a series of 200 year old facts, opinions, and speculations into a story that both informs and entertains. Posting a work in progress in a blog exposes the writer to both errors of fact and omission. In Parts Two and Three, a number of questions were raised, but not answered, regarding John Hawley's allegiance during the American Revolution. Fortunately a cousin in Michigan contacted me and generously shared her research.

As to whether John Hawley was a Loyalist or Patriot, the following deposition of his widow, Abigail Sanford, would appear to answer the question definitively. Aside from some minor spelling changes for the sake of clarity and several insertions of additional information, it is presented as it was recorded. I have avoided the temptation to punctuate what may be some of the longest run on sentences I have seen in years.

Deposition of Abigail Sanford

On the 27 September 1810, Abigail appeared before Judge Samuel Augustus Barker of Duchess County, New York where she made the following deposition:

"Personally came before me, Samuel Augustus Barker, one of the Judges of Duchess County, in and for Duchess County.  Abigail Hawley of Duchess County, who being duly sworn doth depose and say that she is the widow and relict of John Hawley deceased and mother of Henry, Samuel, Ezra, Daniel, Sally (Sarah Susan), Abigail, and John Hawley.

That she lived with her deceased husband in South Salem, County of Westchester and State of New York at the commencement of the American war, on a farm of about three hundred acres which he held in fee simple in his own right, good buildings, valuable household furniture, thirty three head of horned cattle, three good horses, between twenty and thirty sheep, fifteen or sixteen negroes and some farming utensils.

That her said husband was uniformly manifested an attachment and allegiance to his King and living in a country where the inhabitants were generally considered Rebels. He was firm and open in declaring his Allegiance which subjected him to great persecution, suffering imprisonment in Irons at Fort Montgomery a long time and after being released he was confined to his farm, meeting daily with reproaches, struck and spit upon until they ordered him under arms, put him under guard on his refusal and were carrying him to prison with a guard of eight or ten men from which he made his escape without even a hat in the month of April. In December following when on a cold day a guard came dragged her out of her house with her small children, one a suckling infant and transported to New York with but a small part of their clothing and bedding and where she met with her husband in April who had obtained his discharge from one year's service as Sergeant of the [Guides and] Pioneers, his Colonel's name she forgot but his Major, she was acquainted with by the name of Samuel Holland, after which his health being impaired in the service at Brandywine battle and at the taking of Mud Island below Philadelphia as she believes, she with him removed to Brook Haven on Long Island in April and in September 15th of the following he died of a fever.

The family at the close of the war being destitute and scattered about where charity opened places for them, she calculated to go to Nova Scotia and agreed with Stephen Hoyt, Captain of an English Ship bound with Loyalists to Nova Scotia but obtaining no assistance from her friends who were all strongly adverse to the British cause that she had no means to collect her children on board and so were left behind.

Thus as she verily believes, the family lost all and her children were brought up in different places without the smallest vestige of a father's patrimony to adjust them in beginning the world. She nor they being in circumstances to substantiate their claim in due season on His Majesties compassionate protection and patronage but through divine assistance she is favoured with health, in her old age and has no cause of complaint but that her offspring are generally honest and industrious and live well above want."

Signed by Abigail Hawley

"Be it remembered that on the 27th Day of September, one thousand, eighteen hundred and ten, came personally before me, Samuel Augustus Barker, one of the Judges of Duchess County and State of New York, Abigail Hawley, and in my presence voluntarily signed her name to the above Deposition and being solemnly sworn on the holy Evangelists of Almighty God, did Depose that said Deposition, contained the whole truth according to the best of her knowledge and Belief."

Signed by Samuel Augustus Barker

Abigail's motivation in providing this deposition is unknown. I would assume that she had sought compensation from either the US or British for her losses, however her final sentence suggests the wounds of war had healed by 1810. I have been unable to find any mention of her obtaining a pension or a land grant in the post war years. Perhaps she simply wanted to us to know her story.

Notes and Sources

1.    Original deposition held in the Archives of Canada, Ottawa

2.   Transcribed from the book, Smith Hawley and his Descendants,  Marilyn Hawley Symonds, Privately Published, Lansing, Michigan, 1961, pages 22 & 23