Archive for July, 2011

I have ancestors on both sides of the War for Independence between Britain and what came to be known as the U.S.  Since today is a day to honor those that fought on the side that prevailed, I thought I would share a little bit about one of those who did, Major Gideon Ormsby/Ormsbee of Vermont.  A fellow researcher of the Ormsbys, Pat, graciously shared with me a copy of a talk given long ago on the Ormsbys to the Marcy Ormsby chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a chapter which is named in honor of Gideon’s wife.  The talk included several stories, both from the speaker’s youth and from history before they were born.

One of the longest, most colorful stories involved one of the favorite New England Revolutionary War story subjects – Loyalists in the midst, plotting against the rebels.  (I would quote verbatim if it weren’t apparently currently misfiled, but the copy is not in the file where it should be.)  In summary, there was a family, the Roses, living in the area of Manchester, Bennington County, Vermont, that had at least a few young men in the family.  One of those young men was entertaining a young lady when he let slip of a plot his brother and some other men had against the troops that were fighting for independence, and that the plot was currently underway.  The young lady distracted the young man briefly and alerted another woman, who got on her horse and rode through the swamps of the area to Major Ormsby’s house.  The young lady proceeded to keep the young man occupied while Major Ormsby rounded up some of the other pro-independence men in the area and set out to capture the Roses and the others involved.  The capture was successful.  The real story, in the talk, is much longer and uses much more colorful language than I have used here.

I thought it was a great story, but who was to say whether it was true?  Then I discovered that the Vermont State Archives has their earliest manuscripts indexed in an online version of the Nye Index, and further discovered that there are a good number of papers in the index relating to the Ormsbys, including one that mentioned the capture of someone named Samuel Rose, which has this amusing description in the Nye Index: “Record: Account of, for taking and guarding Samuel Rose (including charge for ‘2 pair of hand Cufs’).”  The Archives will send scans of documents from the Nye Index for free upon request (limit of two documents per request), so I requested a scan of this document.  This is part of the document I received:

Gideon Ormsby's reimbursement for capture of Samuel Rose and others

Vermont State Archives, Manuscript Vermont State Papers 1777-1946, bulk 1777-1861 (Record Series SE-118), Vol. 8, p. 151 (Record ID: 49110); record created 18 May 1780.

You can see that a pair of handcuffs was  as expensive in those days as guarding a man for 12 hours.  You can also see that the state was still paying people in pounds at that point.

And you can see that someone named Samuel Rose, and some other men, really were captured by Gideon Ormsby.  The document doesn’t specify why, but seconds spent searching the Nye Index for “Rose, Samuel” shows several documents indexed by his name that identify him as “A Tory” (this notation is first in many of the descriptions of the records) and say that his land was confiscated and purchased by Samuel Pettibone, and that someone else submitted an invoice in May 1780 for taking him to “goal” (jail) in Northampton.  The fact that Samuel Rose was a landholder indicates that he was probably more likely to be the story’s young man’s father or uncle, if any relation at all, and it still doesn’t necessarily mean that they were in the process of implementing a plot against the town’s independence fighters when captured – but it at least indicates the likely reason they were captured and guarded.

The Nye Index also shows a record that is almost surely related to Samuel Rose’s capture by my research subject, Gideon Ormsby:  “Order on treasurer and receipt, Noah Smith, Clerk of Superior Court, to defray expenses of a guard for Samuel Rose and others, prisoners confined for Treason” (Record Series: SE-118, Vol. 8, p. 152).  This last record is dated in the index as being created on 17 May 1780, one day before the invoice I have included in this entry, and indicates to me that the Court was raising money to reimburse Gideon and his men, even though Gideon’s name is not mentioned in the index entry.  If I had limited my index search to Gideon, I would not have found any references to this document.

While I haven’t followed up yet by requesting some of the other documents involving Samuel Rose, I plan to do so.

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