Genealogical information regarding the Foster and Cramp families of New York, 1740s-1890s (1890 or later)
Who the original progenitors of the branch of the
Foster family forming the subject of the following inquisition,
were and the place of their abode, have not, up to the present
time been discovered by the writer. In "Life Sketches" of 1873,
a publication giving the biographies of the members of the New
York State Legislature for that year, in that of Senator William
Foster, the founder of the American branch, it is set forth that
"Both his parents were of Scotch extraction." While undoubtedly
this statement was made on his authority, it is the only suggestion
so far found to that effect and certainly his Grandparents
were residents of Kent Co., England, living in or near the little
village of Egerton. At present the family has not been traced
farther back than those worthies, John Foster and Judith, his wife.
Charles Foster, 76 Psalter Lane, Sheffield, England
has a family Bible in which is entered the births and deaths of
the children of this John Foster and also containing the entry of
the death of his wife Judith on August 25, 1765 at the age of
forty-one years. Judith seems to have undoubtedly been a member
of the Belcher family and John's marriage resulted in his becoming
for a time owner of Royton Manor or Chapel Farm near Lenham, Kent
Co., In the history of Kent Co., England by W. H. Ireland (1829)
volume 3, bottom of page 60, giving the history of Royton Manor, it
"Samuel Crispe- dying in 1761 devised this property
by will to his surviving wife, Elizabeth, for her life;
and the fee of the same to his nephew Samuel Belcher, who
dying unmarried and intestate, his interest in the same
descended to his only brother Peter Belcher, who by will
left it in 1772 to his brother-in-law, Mr. John Foster,
in fee. Mrs. Elizabeth Crispe, before mentioned died in
1778, and this estate then went into possession of Mr.
John Forster, who afterwards sold it to Thomas Best, Esq.
Of the above children, it is through John that the
present line descends. He was married to Elizabeth Nowers of
Pluckly, Parish of Sutton, who was born July 14, 1772 (or 3).
The Nowers family has been very thoroughly traced out by Mr.
Wilson C. Nowers of Beaver City, Utah, their originator having
come to England in the train of William I of Normandy.
"On the male side all I know of them is my
Grandfather left two sons, John, my Father, and William,
my Uncle, and my Grandfather's Estate was left to his
two sons, and the two boys divided up his Estate with
their seven sisters. xxxxx My Uncle William had two sons,
Samuel and Horace. Sam died quite rich. He had two sons,
Henry and William, both married, neither of them had children.
They received from Sam's Estate beside a large
landed Estate to each in the richest part of England, over
$180,000. in cash to each. William the youngest was just
my age. Horace Foster, Sam's brother lived in Utica
when I came here in 1830, he was smart, had a large family,
boys and girls when I visited them. He and family moved
to Ohio about 1832 since that time I have not heard from
Sir Charles Manners Sutton so long the Speaker in
the British House of Parliament was from the main branch
of my mother's family. Sir Edward Belcher, the Arctic
Navigator who went in search of the North-West Passage
and reached the connextion from Behring's Strait and
afterwards went in search of Sir John Franklin before
the Grinnel Expedition, was a close relative of my
Father. I think my Grandmother Foster was a Belcher.
He used to visit us at the Priory Farm when I was a mere
child- My nephew Henry Collins, son of my sister Georgina
was sailing master of the Erebus, Sir John Franklin's
ship when she and the Terror were lost near the North
xxxxx You can be satisfied there is good blood in
your make up even if the puritanical is not the sole progenitor."
The marriage of John Foster and Elizabeth Nowers
took place in February 9, 1793, and it appears that for a considerable
number of years their home was at or near Lenham in
Kent Co. Indeed it is not at all improbable that they occupied
Royton Manor or Chapel Farm as it is more familiarly known, for
even though John's father had sold it to Thomas Best, there seems
to have been some connection or association between the two families
inasmuch as the first son was named John Best, evidently in
honor of the latter family. Moreover one of the daughters stated
to her daughter that she was born at Royton. If this union
fifteen children were born as follows:-
|Elizabeth Judith||6. July 7, 1794.|
|Mary Ann||6. Aug. 2, 1795|
|Caroline||6. Sep. 26, 1796|
|Georgina||6. Nov. 26, 1798|
|John Best||6. Mar. 1, 1800 (last heard of 1873)|
|Thomasin||6. Oct. 29, 1801|
|Sophia||6. Feb. 7, 1802|
|Amelia||6. Sep. 5, 1804|
|Frances||6. Mar. 24, 1806|
|Decima||6. Oct. 26, 1807 d. Mar. 1876|
|Maria||6. Mar. 24, 1809|
|Charlotte||6. Dec. 2, 1810 d. 1876|
|Martha||6. June 7, 1812 d. Feb. 1895|
|William||6. Dec. 27, 1813 d. July 26, 1893|
|Charles Belcher||6. Jan. 17 or 18, 1819.|
Inasmuch as all the above children, except the last, are
registered in the Lenham Church, Kent Co., and as Charles, the youngest
of the above family was born at The Old Priory Farm, between
Hastings and St. Leonard's Sussex Co., and was baptized in All
Saints Church, Hastings, obviously the family moved to the southern
coast between 1813 and 1819.
Nothing is now known of the family during its life at
Lenham. The Parish record of the baptism of the son William at
Lenham gives his father's occupation as farmer. Nor have any
anecdotes or records come to the attention of the writer. He
recalls as a boy overhearing the above son William illustrate
how very early impressions are made and retained on the mind,
by recounting as one of his earliest recollections, the falling
of a great tree which went, as the writer remembers the story,
with a tremendous crash into the water. This occurred at
Lenham, and an old gentleman who was a regular family visitor
repeatedly questioned the youngster regarding the spectacle,
as a consequence of which the incident was impressed and the
mental picture vividly retained in his memory. This passing
incident indicates that the family was certainly at Lenham
until William was old enough to realize and remember the
same, and it also is a circumstance favoring Royton being
their home for at the rear of the house is Chapel Pond.
Royton Manor, or Chapel Farm is still in existence
and is part of Chilton Park Estate which in 1904 was owned by
Aretas Akers Douglas M. P., at that time, Home Secretary. The
house is a long low two-storied brick with short transverse
wings at both ends, clustered windows and long sloping roofs,
the eaves of which closely overhang the upper windows. The
main entrance is through a jutting portico near the center of
the main building. An English correspondent thus describes the
"In one large room there is some nice oak carving.
The oak mantlepiece is beautifully carved and the
ceiling has some very nice polished oak beams. I should
think the oak and carving in this room must be some
hundreds of years old. In this room there is one not
very large oak door carved as if it is folded linen and
this is supposed to be very uncommon."
The change from Lenham to the Southern Coast was
probably due to the fact that the Priory Farm was part of the
holdings of Earl Cornwallis, and it is known that the Foster
parents performed a service of considerable importance for the
Earl's family. As a consequence the farm was occupied as a
life tenancy and until Elizabeth died she had beside, an annuity
of L100. Her Granddaughter Miss Fanny Crouch who lived at Priory
Farm during her childhood and who has authority for the above,
stated that "the old Earl never came to Hastings but he always
John Foster died on March 9th, 1823 and is buried in
Fairlight Churchyward near Hastings, Sussex Co. His wife Elizabeth
lived until April 23, 1860 and is buried with her husband. Upon
the widow, therefore, fell the burden of raising the large family
of children but she was evidently not overwhelmed with her task
for in addition to her own fifteen offspring, she adopted and
found time to take care of three additional waifs.
Very little has come down regarding John Foster.
He is shown in minature on horseback in a water color picture
of the Priory Farm House, which picture is now owned by Mr.
Charles Foster, of Sheffield, England. The view, however, is
too small to indicate his lineaments, though he appears as
short and stocky, and this agrees with the following brief
statement made of him by his son William in a letter to the
latter's Granddaughter, Mrs. Wm. Fairchild of Hutchinson,
Kansas, and dated September 3, 1892:
"Although he died about seventy years ago when
I was nine years old, my memory of him is very distinct,
particularly when he once or twice dusted my jacket and
breeches with my Mother's riding whip, at her instigation,
she being a strict disiplinarian and her rod having failed
to correct the mischievous propensities of one of her own
incorrigable productions. I think although so many years
have elapsed and counted as so much time, "although time
has no beginning nor ending as Savante declare", my Mother
was wrong, if not unjust and incited the old gentleman.
"I don't think, although she knew he was a giant,
she realized the force of his blows when she told him to
flagelate me nor do I think he realized the effect of his
stripes until he saw the color of the blaines I carried on
my back and sides um- two weeks afterwards for he was a man
of tender heart and feeling, although he was about 5 feet 10-,
weighed about 240 pounds, not obese like a Dutch beer barrel,
but straight, broad shouldered, what he lacked in stomach
was made up in muscle and brains which tended to the jovial
Elizabeth's appearance has been beautifully preserved
in a portrait in crayon, now owned by the writer, which portrait
is, aside from its sentimental value, a gem of art. The picture
was made in 1850 by Philibert Schick, and shows a slight, pleasant
faced be-capped old lady, with large clear eyes, prominent
nose and the firm mouth of the "strict disciplinarian". Her son
William in the same letter quoted above has this to say of her:
"Well the Old Lady was a slender woman, never
weighed 100 lbs., but in stature her appearance was
tall, her carriage graceful as a deer and her will was
mighty and the whole household obeyed her orders, my
Father dared not test her temper."
"It is just like her, so upright and it seems she
must say- "now Fannie won't you do this and so". I
can't find a single fault, it so like her and I don't
think it possible to have a better likeness of our
Grandmother and Great Grandmother."
In another letter she wrote that she was rather short and
slim, used always to wear a black dress with white ruffles at her
wrists, a cap that tied under her chin with pleatings of net
through the head-piece, her eyes hazel "and very bright". She
"Grandma was very very good to us but would always
be obeyed and we knew it, so minded or got punished
and as her punishments were original we did not need
many of them to fall on us."
Every Sunday morning Grandma went in a wheel
chair to St. Marys in the Crescent Church and some
of us went with her and the others to St. Clements
where there was a large square pew. that belonged to the
In another letter she wrote-
"There is another old church built in the middle
of a wood a few miles from Hastings that Grandma made
a pilgrimage to every June, but what for I never could
find out (This was Hollington Church). She always made
me sit in the porch while she went to an old square tomb
but never let me go with her or read the inscription.
Verily these old dames were a mystery."
Over forty years were spent at the Priory Farm.
The girls grew up, were married or undertook to make their own
livlihood in different parts of the country. That these daughters
were popular with the young men and summer residents of the
nearby watering places seems evident. A story is told that a
warning sign was erected at a pool on the place "Dangerous-Beware",
to which an unknown wag added "A widow and twelve
daughters live there."
As to the boys, John Best, the eldest, first went to Van
Dieman's Land in 1829. He later returned to England and married
Ann Mannington. She died in a few years leaving no children, and
about 1835 he went with despatches from Lord Glenelg to inform the
officials at Tasmania that Sir John Franklin was to be sent out as
Governor. The last heard of John was two letters written in 1872
to his brother William, in which he states that he was in Wilson
Street Brighton Home near Melbourne, Port Phillip, Australia in
poor condition both physically and financially. The youngest
son Charles married at the age of twenty-one to
He finally engaged in a branch of the English Government Service
and lived at the time of his death at Sheffield. He died on
July 16th, 1896, and is buried at Attercliffe Cemetery, Sheffield.
He had one son Charles and daughters
all still living. Charles, in turn,
has a son also named Charles, who is now carried and living in
The life of the second son William, through whom the
American branch of the family descends will be considered in
greater detail later, and before undertaking it, it may not
be amiss to briefly sketch the characteristics of the Priory
Farm as the writer has gleaned the same from Miss Krouch who
well knew it in its last days, and who has now passed away.
At the outset it may be explained that the place has disappeared
and been built over completely by the city of Hastings
so that there are no identifying land-marks remaining. From a
The farm lay between the cities of Hastings and
St. Leonards, then four miles apart, and ran down to the
coast of the English Channel. The house of two stories
and with dormen windows faced east or towards Hastings,
and was located "about 3/4 of a mile from the town."
Grouped about the house and covering an area of about three
acres were the barns and other outbuildings, as graneries,
hop houses and kilns, together with the gardens. The entire
extent of the farm is not known, though evidently of considerable
extant as a herd of twenty-one cows was kept in 1855.
Between the south end of the house and the sea ran the road to
London, also an esplanade connecting Hastings with St. Leonards.
After crossing this road a set of about sixty stone steps led
down a steep bank to the beach, which at this point was some
twenty rods wide. Directly at the back or west of the house
and separated only by a narrow yard, was a steep hill known as
"step-meadow", next to which were the hop gardens. Several
of the outbuildings were under the shelter of this hill. Flowing
north of the house was a small stream which widened into a
pool or pond. Though most of the farm was meadow, to the north
The interior arrangement of the house may be of interest.
The front door opened into a wide hall extending east and
west through the main body of the house and having a fire place
in front at the right of the door. Broad stairs lead up on
the right side to a landing, and the second floor. A door
opened north from the lower hall into a parlor at least twenty
feet square and having a fire place in the north wall. Through
a corresponding door on the south wall, access was had to a
much larger living room looking out upon the Bea. In the south
side and center was a large fire-place and mantel. This room
was used as a dining room when the family was large. Directly
back of this living room and opening into the hall was another
and smallest dining room used when there were relatively few at
home. Back of the north parlor was a store-room in which all
the family supplies were kept. A narrow rear hall opened
from the front hall and extended through to a back kitchen.
The main kitchen was north of the hall and communicated with
pantry, wash-room, back-stairs and back kitchen, and doors
opened into the back yard and cellar. The back yard was narrow
and walled in. The cellar contained meat, cheese and dairy rooms,
The second floor contained five large bed rooms,
with fire-places, the one at the head of the stairs and at the
north over the kitchen being occupied by the Grandmother, containing
a be-curtained four post bed. A wide hall from front
to rear separated the rooms north and south, and a stairway lead
from this hall to the attic containing four front and two back
rooms furnished and usually occupied.
Such is a brief outline of the Old Priory Farm, as it
was in the fifties. In 1860 the Grandmother then 87 years of
age was still apparently actively managing the farm, but trouble
arising with the steward, it was thought best that she give up
and live with her daughters. The home therefore was broken
up in April. With Miss Fannie Crouch as a companion, and after
spending a few days with Amelia at Hastings, she started to visit
Charlotte and had stopped on her way at Miss Gray's (Mary Ann).
Here she died rather suddenly, and unexpectedly on April 23rd.
Miss Crouch accompanied the body back to Hastings, and on April
26th., "just as the sun was sinking over the West Hill at Hastings
we laid her to rest." Before the farm had been given up, a railroad
had been built across it, and the Hastings Station was built
thereupon. Immediately after, it apparently was cut up into
building sites, and was soon built over. Step meadow behind
the house became a cemetery or par [...] , and apparently the original
The founder of the American branch of the Foster family
which we are considering was William, the fourteenth child and
second son of John and Elizabeth. As has been noted, he was born
at Lenham, Dec. 27, 1813, and probably at Royton Hanor. The
Lenham Church records show that he was baptized on May 15, 1814,
by the Rev. Brook Ed. Bridges. Beyond the little incident reported
above nothing is known of his early years at Lenham, and the
earliest report of him at Hastings is the above quotation of
his own regarding his chastisement for early insubordination.
The quotation was from a letter written Sept. 3,
1892 to a granddaughter in honor of the arrival of his first
great-grand-child. This same letter shows that he was a mischevious
young rascal as the following quotation will show.
After the birth of the youngest son Charles, his mother was
feeble for several years and—
"she delegated authority over me to her seventh
born, who had temperament and will like her own. She
forbid spanking probably because she realized how I would
howl, but I don't think she would have slapped me for when
I exercised my inventive faculties or desire for knowledge
in a way she called mischievous as I chanced to get at large
for a short season, such for instance, as razeeing a new pair
of Jack's dandy top boots to see what a comfortable pair of
shoes I could make out of them, taking the entrails out of
his watch to find out how it ticked, cutting out the leather
from the big kitchen bellows, to find out where the wind came
from, I was so droll, so funny, she couldn't spank me if she
dared to, but she took the scolding for not keeping me from
searching for knowledge and being ingenious, and then she
got in the way of hatefully tying me to her bed post while
she ran down to see the beaux that always swarmed down stairs
or went to frolic with the other girls. And didn't I get one
of the servant girls to bring me an old bag and some twine
and needle so that I could make a bag to carry ferrets in and
give her a kiss for it. Oh, I was such a funny fellow when
I was little. And didn't I sew all the bed clothes to the
way so that they could cuddle together and keep warm. I
was such a droll little chap in these days to live in the
sphere of such a bevy of girls and to listen and watch to
see how silly their lovers were made by them and me."
"I never spent much time at home since I was ten
years old. I was sent off to a boarding school in Kent
(the Grammar school at Maidstone. B. G. F), had three
weeks vacation at midsummer and Christmas afterwards
finished my schooling at Hertsmonceux in Sussex when I was
14 ½. Was soon after sent to London in a rich dry goods
house, staid there but a very short time, then went into a
hardware store at Hestings until I left England 1830- just
getting my board."
That he was not over fond of study seems possible
for there is a story to the effect that he left one of the schools
and made his way home on foot. In addition, he was seemingly
able and willing to look out for himself as evidenced by the
following episode confided to his granddaughter Ellen, and from
the letter already quoted:-
"But again to go back to your Great Grandmother,
doubtless I was a mischievous chick of her own and cut
up many pranks to discomfort the twelve girls and elder
son ahead of me, the latter I did not get the better of
until he had migrated to Van Deusen's Land, spent his
patrimony and five years of his best life, then he went
home for a wife. Well, we got along pretty well, as he
provendered with the old Lady and the girls that were
left and some Grandchildren of an elder sister left for
home care and culture, while she and her husband went out
to the East Indies to scrimmage in the Burmese war. Well,
I left home before that and progged for myself until I
visited the old lady at one time, and Jack undertook to
lord the Elder brother over me. I was sixteen, I withstood
the Prodigal son, Wallopped him, got him down and as
he was be-whiskered like some of the big baboons, he had
lived among, I was extricating the whiskers in little
tufts when Mother, our Mother came on us and made such a
fuss, ordered me to let him up and so I had to give up
household in personne. Poor Jack I saw but little of
him after that. I americanized within a few months."
William was one of a party of English people who
emigrated to America. Just what caused these people to come, how
many there were, or who were the leaders is not known. Among them
however were Mr. Cossum, Mr. Mannington and Thomas Nowers, the last
named, a nephew of William's mother, and therefore a cousin to William.
Also in the company was William's older sister Decima who was engaged
to be married to Thomas Nowers. It was very natural therefore that
the youth of sixteen, fired by the prospects of life, adventure and
the chances of success in a new land, siezed the opportunity to
join the party. There are no details extant of the exact time or of
the trip across the ocean, except that it required six weeks, nor are
the reasons known that led the band up the Hudson River and thence
no doubt by the Frie Canal to Utica, N.Y. It is quite probable
however that the fact that the cousin Horace Foster was then living
in that city had something to do with making it their destination.
They evidently reached Utica in June of 1830, and their arrival
marked a most important event in William's life, the meeting with
the young lady, Mary Cramp, who was later to share as his wife,
some of the hardships and many of the successes of his later life.
Mary Cramp, the daughter of James Cramp and Sarah
Sinnock, was born at Otford, Kent Co., England May 7, 1812, and
was baptized in the ancient church at Otford April 21, 1814. She
was confirmed by the Bishop of St. Davids at St. Saviour's Church,
Borough Southwark, London in June 1826 and finished her schooling
at Miss Holland's Seminary, Bermonday London in 1828.
Of the Cramp family to which Mary belonged, according to
the obituary notice of her father appearing in the "Gospel Messenger",
it is stated that Mr. Cramp was born on a landed estate
which had been in the possession of his family for two centuries",
and "that he and his ancestors occupied the same pew in the Parish
Church of Bexhill during all this period." It thus appears that
the family had been in or near Bexhill, Sussex Co., England for
a considerable length of time. The earliest member of which the
writer has record is William Cramp who had a son Benjamin, born
at Pepsham Farm, Bexhill. Benjamin on October 30, 1781 married
Elizabeth Ades at Brede, Sussex Co. Elizabeth Ades was a daughter
of Stephen Ades and a native of Brede. Benjamin Cramp died July
14, 1838, and his wife in 1830. Of the union fourteen children
were born, eight sons and six daughters, the home being Pepsham
Farm. These were-
|James||b. October 19, 1783|
|Hannah||b. January 21, 1785|
|William||b. July 1 1786|
|Elizabeth||b. September 9, 1787|
|Benjamin||b. March 25, 1789|
|Ann||b. October 1791|
|Edward||b. July 1793|
|Steven||b. March 1794|
|Mary||b. June 1796|
|Sarah||b. August 15, 1797|
|Henry||b. July 6, 1799|
|Alfred||b. October 3, 1801|
James Cramp, the eldest son on November 12, 1806
married Sarah Sinnock, only daughter of Thomas and Sarah
Sinnock of Bexhill. Thomas Sinnock was born in 1745 and died
October 15, 1789. Sarah, his wife, was born 1744 and died May
11, 1797. Their daughter Sarah was born at Bexhill April 13,
1782. James Cramp and his wife Sarah Sinnock for a number of
years made their home at Otford in Kent Co., where eight children
were born, seven girls and one boy, namely;-
|Sarah Sinnock||b. July 30, 1807, m. Wm. Trowbridge Vienna, N.Y.|
|Elizabeth||b. Nov. 7, 1808, m. James Brown, Oswego, N.Y.|
|Ann Thomas||b. May 31, 1810, m. Joseph Halligan, Oswego, N.Y.|
|Mary||b. May 7, 1812, m. Wm. Foster, Oswego, N.Y.|
|James||b. Nov. 6, 1813. Killed Dec. 14, 1835|
|Susanah||b. Sep. 28, 1815, m. Francis Cossum, Oswego, N.Y.|
|Jane Golding||b. Nov. 14, 1817, m. Frastus P. Burt, Oswego N.Y|
|Harriet||b. Sep. 17, 1820. m. Hammond S. Gwyn, Oswego, N.Y.|
The father, however, for some reason determined to
cast his lot in America and therefore, leaving his family behind
evidently until he should find a suitable location, started from
home on March 24th, 1829, and sailed from Manchester on April 3rd.
His journeys and preliminary investigations in this country are
not known, but from his later movements, it seems probable that
he followed the great highway of travel up the Hudson from New
York and then by way of the Erie Canal to the interior of New
York State. Whether he than definitely determined upon a place
has not come to light, but at any rate he seems to have sent
for his family, who on September 26th, 1829 embarked at London
in the "Mary Lord". The diary of his daughter Mary, now in
possession of the writer, gives a most interesting account of
the voyage. Just one month was consumed on the passage, smallpox
broke out on board, they passed the ship which was conveying
to their father the news of their coming, and when they finally
arrived in New York City on October 27th, he was not there and
his whereabouts were unknown. In addition their fares had not
been entirely paid. After a wait of a week in the utmost anxiety,
he appeared. A month was spent in New York City and on December
2nd. they left in the steamer Constitution for Albany. After
spending a couple of days in the latter City they went by stage
to Schenectady, from whence a packet on the Frie Canal transported
them to Utica, which was reached on December 6th. The winter
|"June 16th, (1830)||Papa went to Oneida Lake to finally
settle for a farm. Returned the 19th.
|"June 21st.||A very wet day, rather dull from the
idea of the farm, but to one great
pleasure in the morning, Mr. Cossum,
Mannington and Findle called on us.
Had brought their families, were come
to reside in America. Papa, Mama, sisters
called on the ladies in the afternoon.
|"June 22nd.||Papa and gentlemen went to the lake,
Mrs. Cossum, two children and Miss Foster
drank tea with us.
|"June 26th,||All returned from the lake. Our friends
had purchased land a mile from us.
|"July 2nd.||All the families left Utica for the Lake."|
The above, of course, refers to the meeting
between the two parties of homeseekers and it is easy to understand
with what joy the homesick disconsolate Cramps welcomed
the other party of fallow countrymen, including as it did young
people of their own age from the same district of their native
land. It appears that though they had not known one another
before, they had heard of each other, for Bexhill, the home of
the Cramp family, like Hastings, is on the southern coast of
England. It will be noted that Mr. Cramp had already fixed on
his location, and under his leadership the others became his
neighbors. The families that left for Oneida Lake on July
Mary's brother James and William Foster both of the
same age became fast friends, and it is reasonable to suppose
that the latter and Mary soon became interested in each other.
Unfortunately there is a lapse of five years in the diary, so
that there is no detail information at hand regarding this
period. However, farming for the Cramps probably did not
prosper. Mr. Cramp's idea was to be the owner of a large
estate on which he could be a gentleman farmer, and the
rough wilderness in which they settled was not conducive to
the success of the plan. After residing for some time on
Oneida Lake, they removed to a farm on the East River Road,
six miles from Oswego, and later to the city (then village)
"After arriving on Lake Oneida, I was then 16, I
worked on a farm two and a half years to pay passage
money to New York and a pair of boots-"
"Then I went in a store for $8. per month and board
for 6 mo's. Then for 11/2 years I got $12. per month,
then five months I had sole charge of tannery store.
I straitened up the accounts which had been terribly
mixed up, kept the books. I got $20. per month for
that 5 mo's. work."
"I wanted $40.- coulde'nt get it so I quit, started
for New York and Virginia, got to Richmond, found a
partner on the way. We mustered $500. cash, hired
a store, bought goods with our cash, got a credit and
started in the middle of 13 stores long established
all in a row as rivals in business. My partner was a
greenhorn but we sold goods in spite of our opposition
but the Blue Ridge farmers and their niggers sickened
me. I sold out to my partner, left some of my capital
with him, he staid, made money."
"Agreement between William C. Burdick and William
Foster. In consideration of two hundred dollars paid or
to be paid by William C. Burdick at such times as the
said William Foster shall require the said William Foster
agrees to resign, release and give up to the said William
C. Burdick all the claim or interest he has in the business
conducted under the firm of Burdick & Foster on
Shockoe Hill Richmond. William C. Burdick agrees to
pay all notes and demands now existing against said
firm and is authorized to receive and appropriate to his
own especial benefit any and all avails of notes and demands
they may have against any other individuals.
Executed in duplicate September twelvth one thousand
eight hundred and thirty five.
Wm. C. Burdick. Witness:
"I went to Mobile, thence to N. Orleans. Staid there
until my last shilling was gone, then went to work for my
board. I did so well that when I got a chance to got up
the Red River they gave me a new suit of clothes. We went
up into the n. east part of Texas, staid there most a
year. I recuperated some, had about as much as I had when
I left Cleveland. My c hum went to New Orleans to get pay
for a claim we had secured on land, about $6000, and I have
never seen him or my share of the claim from that day to
this. The revolution was going on in Texas at that time
as well as the Florida war and all the Seminoles and filibusters
that Uncle Sam was sending through and into that
region were the outskirts of the basest humanity.
I could fill your pages with instances of squabbles,
with Indians, thieves, filibusters, gamblers, and sufferings,
starvings, watchings, fevers, chills, congestion, bilious
complaints, destitution, and death scenes I passed through
in the one year's season. It is hardly wholesome now to
recall it- I left there late in the fall of 1836. I paddled
a canoe 600 miles on my return with fever in my stomach and
love and marriage on the brain. Like you I did not count
the cost neither the risk."
"When I was at your age I received $8. per month and
common board that cost the Proprietor $1.50 per week and
it was two years before I reached a compensation of $20.
pr mo. I had to work 16 hours every day- I left it because
I could get no raise. After working for five months at
that. I saw the time afterwards when I would gladly have
worked at that price."
"53 years ago I found myself in New Orleans in a time
when yellow fever was prevalent. I had spent my last shilling
in the effort to obtain a compensating situation I
was without food or shelter and was about to take shelter
in an old Flat Boat that was half sunk on the River when
I met a gentleman and asked him if he could tell me where
to obtain a night's shelter. He told me to come with him.
me to his house and he treated me as a gentleman-
I went with him to a Store that he was about to open
for a Commission business, there was little to do as
the store was not opened for business.- I saw his books
in the Office, I enquired if I could not assist him
in starting his correspondence and books as some compensation
for his kindness and busied myself in cleaning
rubbish from the store. I staid with him for two
months, or more when I engaged to go up the Red River
into Texas with a man who had a stock of goods to
trade with Indians for Robes, Hides and pelts- How I
suffered that year God and myself know, many nights
I slept on the banks of the bayeux' with nothing but
a blanket with fog and dew so heavy that I could wring
half a pail of water out in the morning- I lived in
that country nearly a year determined not to come back
to New York until I was in better financial condition
than when I started- I passed through chills and fever,
congestive fever and left the country with fever and
ague. I got back in the winter season having been
south nearly two years. I was engaged to your Grandmother
for 7 years."
|"Sunday 27th||(September 1835) a letter from Richmond
Departing for Mobile."
|"Friday 1st. , (Jan. 1836).||(September 1835) A letter from William, New
|"Saturday 26||(March 1836) Letter from William, Natchetoches,|
|"Friday 2nd.||(September 1836) A letter from William, Cado|
Prairie, Red River."
|"December,||1836, A letter from William, Friday 16th, had
|"27th. Tuesday,||heard from William, Oneida Lake."|
|"January 1837.||Tuesday 10th. William arrived from
the Lake Shore."
That/the year spent on the Red River was one of
terrible privations and experiences, is indicated by the above.
He never would recount them in after years. Only one incident is
recalled by the writer. He remembers his grandfather relating
the curious coincidence that the first white man he met in the
Texas Country proved to be an ex-coast guardsman who had been
stationed at a post on the old Priory Farm at Hastings. His
daughter Marian also stated that he had among his possession a
pin of some value which had been given him by some man, either
sick or injured, who he had attempted to succor, but who had
died in his arms alone in that wilderness.
Another sad catastrophe of that unfortunate
year should be recorded. As has already been explained. Mary
Cramp had an only brother James, of the same age as William,
and evidently the idol of the family. It appears that he had
followed William to Richmond as the above agreement shows he
was there when William sold his business, and the two were
together in New Orleans prior to William's Red River expedition.
While casting about for something to do, a colonizing
expedition to Texas, then in insurrection against Mexico, calling
for young men volunteers, was widely advertised in that
city. The two bosom friends decided to join it, but finally
James Cramp prevailed upon William to remain behind until he
(James) should determine whether it was worth while, and as
"I have not written to William, and I hardly
think I shall be able to as there are so many prisoners
who wish me to write for them, as they are too
agitated to do it for themselves; but tell him that
our friendship is in my present situation a consolation
to me, as I know that he will supply my place
in the family with full as many good qualities, and
I hope that he and Mary will spend a great many pleasant
years together, and that he will prove that succor
which by my death you have been deprived of".
Continuing the history of William, though the fickle Goddess
Fortune had failed to smile upon him, notwithstanding his long and
arduous endeavors, the object of his affections had evidently been
more successfully reached. Examining again the diary of Mary
Cramp, the following is found:-
Sunday 28th. William returned home late in the
evening. Wished me to prepare myself to return with
him to the Lake Shore Tuesday week.
Monday 5th. We were married by the Rev. Mr. McCarty
at eight o'clock in the evening. Visitors present, Dr.
and Mrs. Van Schaick, Mr. and Mrs. Isaacs, Miss Robertson,
Miss Broadhead, Mrs. Andrew McCarty (Isaacs Isaacs
groomsman) Mr. Casy, Mr. Perham, Mrs. Neil, Major Cochran.
Tuesday 6th. We left home for Oneida Lake at eight
o'clock, arrived about six."
Instead of profiting by past experience and settling
down, however, the fever of pioneering still burned and on Monday,
September 11th, 1837, he started for Illinois to seek his fortune,
leaving his bride at her parents' home in Oswego. She soon followed,
however, and her westward journey and their consequent
sojournings are briefly related in her diary as follows:-
It is to be observed that there is no
note of complaint or discouragement in the simple statement, and
no record of hardship or distress. The two winters spent in the
west in those early days were, however, filled with difficulties
and trials. Something of their life can be gained from the following
excerpts from the letters already quoted.
"1837. The winter of that year was spent in
Illinois and that pioneering trip had more than ordinary
eventfulness and deprivations."
"In the summer of '37 after I returned from the
South we married. The fall found us in Illinois, food
was scarce and dear. I ground corn in a coffee mill
3 months during that winter and that with molasses
with a few potatoes was our main diet for three months.
During a term of seven months your Grandmother never saw
the face of another woman. We returned to New York about
as well off as we went. We were penniless, more than
once in Illinois but never discouraged. I always felt
I could rise above any little adversity.- I give this
one page of my life experience that you may contrast it
with your present experience, and I hope it will be sufficient
to impel you to self-reliance and persistent action.
It is not the relation of my darkest experience in
This second attempt to find fortune in the west thus proved
a failure, and the story of the final straw as recounted to the
writer is as follows: It appears that William in his final location
(apparently Maysville) operated a mill of some sort driven by water
power. During his absence one day, a terrific storm washed away
both dam and mill. The young wife was standing on one side of the
stream dolefully viewing the scene of the catastrophe, when glan [...] ing
up she saw her husband on the opposite bank watching her with
an amused look. He cheered her up and announced that they would
This house is still standing, though now somewhat
enlarged. It is on the north side of Lake St. between Division
and Center Sts., and is situated between Mr. Dwyer's residence
and the Lake-Shore Cafe.
Evidently the two pioneering expeditions ware
sufficient. William was now approaching his 25th. birthday, and
just what work he engaged in is not known. Presumably he returned
to bookkeeping for the tannery, and possibly as clerk in the
store operated in conjunction therewith. He wrote in a ltter to
his grandson James under date of May 15, 1888-
"I never commanded $500. of my own until after
I was 28 years of age and few worked harder or lived
with closer economy."
"I started without a dollar less than 15 years
of age. I never counted over $250 of my own until I was
28 years of age. Twice I had that sum and twice during
the time I was 21 to 28. I had not a dollar and both
times on a land of strangers, N. Orleans and Illinois.
After that period of life I always had means to help
myself and friends."
The two years of 1840-1 were evidently not ones of
abundance, but from that time fortune began to smile upon him.
When he was 28 he was unquestionably engaged at the tannery
and was evidently mastering its details for he writes under
date of Mar. 4, 1891.
"I got $60, per month xxxx for two years from an
appreciative employer. Then I was 30 years of age. I
bought out the owner's interest and paid him a debt of
$80,000 and interest at 7% in 7 years out of the business".
The establishment that he bought, The Eagle Tannery,
had been built years before on the eastern bank of Black
Creek, where it flows into Oneida Lake, the site probably having
been selected because of the water power and the great forests of
st disaster, however, that ever befell the
tannery was by flood. Black Creek, a relatively insignificant
stream was however, a useful one, and a series of dams stayed
its course to operate a number of mills and factories. During
a heavy rain storm, the first of these dams gave way, and each
succeeding dam likewise failed under the constantly increasing
accumulation of water. The last, the tannery dam, unfortunately
withstood the pressure, as a result of which the overwhelming
torrents was diverted to and through the tannery buildings,
carrying away the vats in which thousands of hides were soaking.
These were deposited in the lake, and though many were recovered,
the loss was a staggering one. As late as 1916 one of these ancient
hides was dug up by a dredge, and found to be in such condition
that a pair of shoes was soled with the same.
But, notwithstanding the losses, prosperity smiled.
From the modest home on Lake Strret in Cleveland, the family moved
to the more capacious house, still standing, on the west side of
Black Creek, and facing the dock. After several years here in
1845 (?), the homestead on the hill, a quarter of a mile east of
the village and adjoining the county line, was purchased. A
house in Oswego was also bought and for many years the family
alternated between the two.
With the increased prosperity came wider fields of
endeavor. In partnership with Mr. Forrest Farmer a general merchandise
store under the firm name of Foster and Farmer was opened
and successfully operated for many years at the southeast corner
of Lake and Division Streets, Cleveland, N.Y. The same men organized
and operated the Union Glass Factory and William Foster
also had a material interest in another, the Caswell & Getman
glass factory, both in the same village. Thus fortune poured
her bounties freely for many years and as he once stated to a
grandson, during that period everything he undertook succeeded.
But Cleveland was isolated and practically all her
commerce was by boat through Oneida Lake, and thence to the Frie
Canal which formed the outlet to the world. It is no wonder
therefore that when the project of building a railroad through
that country from New York City to Oswego, was broached, he
immediately took an active interest, subscribed heavily towards
its finances, and in 1867 became a director and active agent for
the same. The road originally knwon as "The Midland" and now as
In connection with the building of this railroad,
one of the incidents of family history that is worthy of record
and one which might have had serious consequences, though
it fortunately had a ludicrous conclusion, is as follows:
As agent, William, Senior, handled considerable sums
of money, a material portion of which was for the payment of
labor in construction work, and therefore necessarily in each.
As a consequence he had at home one night a large sum which made
him somewhat uneasy and wakeful. On that particular night his
son William, a young man, had been out late and not wishing to
disturb the household, slipped in very quietly and was making
his way as noiselessly as possible to the stairway. His parents'
bed-room was at the foot of the stairs, and his father hearing the
stealthy movements immediately concluded a burglar was attempting
to get the money in the house. He, therefore, quietly entered
the hallway and siezed the intruder. As it happened the son
was aware of the funds on hand and the thought that immediately
flashed into his mind was that his opponent had broken in for
the purpose of pilfering the same. He therefore promptly undertook
to floor his adversary. Without a word from either, father
and son in the darkness had a royal wrestling match, but the old
gentleman proved the more powerful and adroit, and duly pinnoned
the son to the floor with the remark "I've got you." The latter
immediately recognizing his voice admitted "you have", which in
turn apprized the victor, who was the vanquished.
From all accounts William was in his youth and middle
age a powerful man, though not a large one. On one occasion
he threw an offensive stranger out of his office with sufficient
force to break his leg, and when he heard of the result of his
efforts paid all the sufferer's expenses, gained the latter's
apologies and his lasting friendship. He also was as fearless
as strong, and it is said never hesitated to enter and stop the
affrays and brawls that often occurred after pay day, when his
rougher workmen became/ belligerent under the influence of numerous and potent
On the other hand, this story would not be complete
without a reference to the religous side of his character. As
has been noted, his mother was evidently of a thoroughly religous
nature, and no doubt trained her children in the Church
of England, of which she was a member. His wife also was deeply
religous, and all together it is not strange that the Episcopal
Church of this country appealed to him. Originally there
was none in the village of Cleveland, but services were occasionally
conducted there, and when in 1867 a parish organization was
effected, William was in charge of the meeting. He was elected
its first senior Warden and continued in that office for many years.
In time St. James Church was erected on a lot given by him. He
was a constant attendant at Church services to the time of his
death, and as a lay-reader conducted the services at St. James
Church whenever there was no clergyman present.
He also always took a deep interest in politics. At
first a Whig, he cast his first vote in 1840 for William Henry
Harrison, for President. Subsequently he sympathized strongly
with the anti-slavery movement and became an ardent Abolitionist.
Upon the formation of the Republican party he identified
himself with that organization. When the village of Cleveland
was incorporated April 5, 1857, he was elected its first president.
In 1873, he was elected to the Senate of New York State
from the counties of Madison and Oswego, having a majority of
4,130 over his Democratic opponent. During his service he was
Chairman of two Committees- Erection and Division of Towns and
Counties, and Poor Laws. He was also a member of the Committee
on Railroads and was instrumental in the passage of the laws
permitting the erection of the Elevated Roads in New York City.
He was also one of the Committee that investigated the nototious
At this period, however, misfortunes began to lay
a heavy hand upon him. The Midland Railroad proved a colossal
failure and under the stress of the panic of 1873 swept away
the greater part of the fruit of his industry. The Union Class
Works which had been operated by an agent, either through gross
mismanagement or lack of management went to the wall, and the
tanning business which at one time had been so profitable and
which was now in charge of his son William, was running behind.
In the meantime his children had married and left
home and the fall of 1884 saw the couple now grown old in years
alone in their home at Cleveland. Insisting that they should not
spend the long cold northern winter alone on the bleak shores
of Oneida Lake, they finally consented to live with their daughter
Ellen in Camden, N.Y. On April 15, 1883 at Ellen's home, Mary,
the beloved help-meet of William Foster died. She was buried
in Riverside Cemetery, Oswego near to her parents. At this
time, Marian, the second daughter was living in Washington, D.C.,
and the father began the custom of spending his winters with
her and his summers with his son William at Cleveland, and
daughter Ellen in Camden, and later in Syracuse. On August 29,
1887, the son William died, leaving three sons, and to the other
worries of his declining years, was added the burden of guardianship
and care of these three grandsons, which included the
straightening out of the son's estate, which had for years been
closely interwoven with his own. In one of his latest letters
to his Grandson James, he writes under date of Oct. 3, 1892:
"Up to Saturday night, 19 Sept., I expected to
leave for Washington D.C., but an imp that controls my
stomach against my will brings me so completely under
its powers that I have to battle with the vengencies
of Esculapius and it takes me many days to gain an
equilibrium, but you will think this but a letter of
excuses. Ah Jimmy think how the throes of vagarious
life have perplexed and tormented and worn me during
the four score years past. Yet I have had years upon
years of enjoyment, and I will not complain though
all life has been but a toil but I had a will, vigor,
and a strong constitution to sustain. All are now time
worn and rusty and the result is a creaky, screechy hinge
swinging the door of this state of life at the portal
of the Eternal. Our Christianity teaches us to "strive"
to enter it straightly as we can work our weakly humanity
in purity and good will, trust in its Author's recompense
for atonement of all shortcomings, put Faith in him to
plead Forgiveness, but evermore strive, strive and watch
That winter was spent in Washington, D.C. with his
daughter Marian and in the spring of 1893 he again returned to
New York state. While he still made occasional trips to Cleveland,
his home was with his daughter Ellen at 106 Helen St.,
Syracuse. In the latter part of July, he became unwell. The
physician called, did not consider his condition serious, and
while he remained in his room, he was not confined to his bed.
On July 26, 1893, he was still up and about his room, but became
suddenly worse, and died at 3 P. M. He was buried in his
family lot in the Riverside Cemetery, near Oswego.
As to his personal appearance, William Foster was rather
short, probably not over 5 ft. 6 or 8 in. He was of far complexion,
blue eyes, and his hair was white from early manhood, it having
turned so, the writer has been informed, during his Red River
experiences. The earliest picture is a daguerreotype, probably
about 1844 or 5, which shows him at that time / with a rather thin face
|Ellen,||b. May 16, 1838, near Ottawa, Ill.
d. May 21, 1897, Syracuse, N.Y.
buried Riverside Cemetery, Oswego, N.Y.
married 1. Frank H. Argersinger- 1 daughter,
Mrs. G. G. Lewis, living in
2. Irvine Duncan- no children.
|Marian,||b. April 24, 1840, Cleveland, N.Y.
d. April 15, 1917, Washington, D.C.
married Carl Veitenheimer.
1 daughter, Marian Carlotta living in
1 son, Foster, living in Washington, D.C.
|William Henry,||b. Sept. 21, 1842, Cleveland, N.Y.
d. August 29, 1887, Cleveland, N.Y.
buried Village Cemetery, Cleveland, N.Y.
|Anna,||b. Sept. 23, 1844, Cleveland, N.Y.
living Hutchinson, Kansas,
Married Charles E. Campbell,
daughter, Ellen- Mrs. Wm. Fairchild,
son- Malcolm, Idaho.
son- Charles Edward, Ohio.
|Emily||b. March 10, 1846, Cleveland, N.Y.
d. February 17, 1871, Cleveland, N.Y.
buried Riverside Cemetery, Oswego, N.Y.
|James Cramp,||b. Jan. 29, 1849, Cleveland, N.Y.
d. Dec. 15, 1858, Oswego, N.Y.
Buried Riverside Cemetery, Oswego, N.Y.
|Mary||b. Sept. 30, 1850, Cleveland, N.Y.
d. Oct. 17, 1850, Cleveland, N.Y.
buried in Village Cemetery, Cleveland, N.Y.
|Ada||b. August 23, 1852, Cleveland, N.Y.
d. Larned, Kansas
buried Larned Kansas
married William Charles
daughter- Anna, Mrs. Mark Krouch, Larned, Kans.
son, Warren Larned Kans.
|Edward Collins,||b. Sept. 19, 1854, Cleveland, N.Y.
d. July 22, 1855
buried in Village Cemetery, Cleveland, N.Y.