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 Jasper, N.Y. Through The 19th Century

Of all Moses and Sally’s children some has been written, mostly about Samuel and Moses, Jr. Both were instrumental in the settlement of Jasper, N.Y., but it is Moses, Jr. we’re most concerned with. Samuel is mentioned the most in the book History of Steuben County, N.Y., by Prof. W.W. Clayton, 1879, because he arrives in Jasper first. I’ve included some portions of the entry on Jasper, as it pertains to the family, as well as a general description for those family members who’ve never been there (though keep in mind this is a hundred years ago):

The town of Jasper was erected from that part of Canisteo comprised in township number two, in the fifth range of the Phelps and Gorham purchase, and a part of Troupsburgh, included in the same township, January 24, 1827. The name was given in honor of Sgt. Jasper, the hero of Fort Moultrie and Savannah Spring. A half a mile was annexed to Greenwood from the west side, in 1848. It has Canisteo and Cameron on the north, Rathbone on the east, Woodhull and Troupsburgh on the south and Greenwood on the west. The surface is very hilly and broken, the highest summits being over 2000 feet above tide. The streams are small, and for the most part run through deep and narrow valleys. Colonel Bill’s Creek rises near the residence of P. Ostrander, and runs north to the Canisteo; the headwaters of Tuscarora Creek rise near the residence of J.S. Whiteman and run south into Woodhull. The soil of this town is chiefly a slaty, gravelly, and clayey loam.

 

A pastoral, wild setting, perfect for weary war veterans and adventurous pioneers. Wolves still roamed the woods, of which there was abundance, and Indians, too. Into this wilderness that was upstate New York came Samuel. Clayton goes on to describe these rough beginnings in his History:

The first settlement in that part of Jasper comprising most of the northern part of the town and known as the “Hampshire Settlement,” was made by Samuel Dennis, a surveyor from New Hampshire, in the spring of 1824, three miles northeast of the village, on the divide between the Tuscarora and Col. Bill’s Creek. Here he remained alone for nearly two years, clearing four acres of land, raising a crop of wheat, and building a house with, to use his own words, “the howling of the wolves for company.” In 1826 he brought his family and was soon followed by his brother, Moses Dennis (Jr.), several other families coming the next season.

During the summer of 1825, Enoch Ordway organized the first Sunday school in Jasper. This school met for two years in Mr. Ordway’s house, then in a vacant building and in 1828 in a log schoolhouse on the present farm of Samuel Dennis. On October 29, 1829, the First Presbyterian Church of Jasper was formed with 25 members (among them Samuel and wife, Elizabeth Frye).

Thus Samuel, instrumental in Jasper’s founding. For more on Moses, Jr. we need to go back to J.L. Ordway’s account, which picks up after the births of Moses’ two sons, Franklin and Samuel Frye. Writes Mr. Ordway:

“Moses Dennis, Jr. worked on the farm (Hancock) with his father when a young man. Being the eldest the blunt of the work fell upon him. He was married to Lois Eaton in the year 1810. He worked on the farm for a while. His wife Lois died when Frye (Samuel Frye, usually addressed only as Frye, presumably to avoid confusion with his uncle, Samuel) was five years old, and Franklin but a few days old. The mother called her family together the night before she died, and talked with them of her departure, with great composure, and prayed for them and committed her children to the care and keeping of a covenant keeping God, and dismissed them with a mother’s blessing.

“In the morning Frye went to his mother’s room, and found her lifeless form wrapped in a winding sheet. He will never forget the feeling that came over him at that time, as small as he was.

“Jane Graves was the girl who had the care of Mrs. Dennis in her last sickness and remained with the family a while after the death of the mother. After awhile Mr. Dennis honored her by making her mistress of his house. The marriage took place about the year 1818. As a result of this union there were born Fidilia and Mary Ann, while the family was still in New Hampshire, and Martha after they moved to New York, only about a year before her father’s death. Mr. Dennis at one time ran a saw and gristmill combined in N.H.

“In 1824 Mr. Dennis came to Jasper, N.Y. and located the spot which his father afterward deeded to Frye and Franklin, and chopped five acres on it and logged some... The following spring he started for New York with his family.

“It was considerable work to get his family settled in their new home. His time had been taken up so much through the next year that he was able to clear only about three acres, but his wheat helped him. The second year he commenced chopping some, but about the First of January 1827, he was suddenly taken sick. He had had similar attacks before, in N.H., but the doctor was unable to tell what ailed him, (and) at this time it was more severe, the doctor still ignorant of the trouble... Mr. Dennis was in full strength, and although his sufferings were untold, he held out for 17 days. The boys built a log barn with bay floor and stables, after the father’s death. His body was buried in the Spencer burying ground, and his grave is there today without anything to mark the spot, yet can be seen. Frye knows not where it is located.”

 Family timeline thus far:

1. Thomas (1638-1706)

2. John (1672-1757)

3. John, Jr. (1708-1773)

4. Moses (1751-1845)

5. Moses, Jr. (1782-1827), m. Lois Eaton (Apr.1, 1810)

6. Samuel Frye  (May 30, 1811-July 22, 1902)

    Franklin (May 23, 1816-1896)

Moses, Jr. m. 2nd wife Jane Graves, 1818

    Fidelia (April 15, 1819-Mar. 22, 1894), m. Jarvis Talbot

    Mary Ann (b. Sep. 3, 1821), m. Lorenzo Crosby

    Martha (May 4, 1826-1890), m. George Punches

“After Frye had been in N.Y. nine years, he thought to get himself back to his old home, and among his kindred in New Hampshire. He never let his family know of his intentions until the night before he was to start. They felt quite badly, but he felt it was for his interest to go, and so he went. Joseph Woodward went with him. They started off on foot; were fourteen days on the road. The first two years Frye worked for his uncle William for $12 per month, on the old Dennis homestead in Hancock. The next year he worked for a man by the name of Wood, for $12 per month, after which (he) returned to N.Y., for he began to want to see the girl he had left behind so long - Sarah Woodward.  He brought back for his three years’ work $300, cash, after clothing himself in good shape; as well as the satisfaction that he had done something toward a start in life. The following season he worked for his uncle Samuel Dennis, in Jasper. The writer was at the Esquire’s one night, when Horace Stiles came in and told Frye that Sarah Woodward was up to Whiting’s. He was not long in getting ready and going up. It appears she had been gone for a while... they were married September 27, 1838. His wife kept house for her folks while they took a trip to New Hampshire. Frye finished up his second year’s work for his uncle...So when they got ready to move, she came on horseback while he brought the goods with team. It was so near night when they arrived at their house that they had not time to arrange their goods, save only a place to sleep and a box for a table. The next day, however, they put things in order and went to keeping house in good earnest.”

Samuel Frye and Sarah would go on to have a sizeable brood of their own: nine children in all before Sarah’s death on February 24, 1880. Frye would remarry, on Sept. 12, 1882 to Mary Bowen. Lois was first, born Sep. 6, 1839. Next came Moses III, Jan. 14, 1842; George, on Jan. 1, 1844; Harland, July 1, 1846; Sarah, Oct. 8, 1849; Mary, Aug. 10, 1852; Marshal, Feb. 4, 1855; William, July 10, 1857; and finally Jesse, on Dec. 9, 1861. Ordway’s history would be published a year before Frye’s first wife would die, so we have no written account of the last years of Samuel Frye Dennis’s life. Neva Dennis would later follow the descendants of the other children, but for our purposes I’m focusing on their third child, George. For history’s sake I want to mention Moses III, who like his namesake went to war, in his case the Civil War. He was in Company H, 86th N.Y. Infantry. He died April 6, 1862, of typhoid fever in a Washington, DC hospital.  

Little information seems to be available about George Dennis, other than he was educated in Troupsburg and probably went to college in Alfred. He married Lura A. Woodbury, the daughter of Amos F. Woodbury, on September 7, 1865. He did not serve in the Civil War; at the time, the eldest male child in a family was expected to enlist, and that would have been Moses. George and Lura would have two children, Ora and Ross, and the family would come into the Twentieth Century.

 

  Samuel Frye Dennis, Son of Moses Dennis, Jr.-

Carte-de-visite  taken between 1860 and 1870.