Cousin Trip–In the Shadow of My Ancestors

My Uncle Dick Mesle was the family historian.  Until I found family photographs, Bibles and other evidences of generations’ past, I had little knowledge of my family history.  For my parents, it was religion that bound us together as a family, not the ancestors whose blood flows through our veins.  But I have long wanted to know “who is my tribe”, where do I belong in this great world.  As a result, when I began to find windows into our family past, I was anxious to pursue them. I have done so from that day to the present, a quest that has continued more than 9 years.

I am not looking for lost treasures, nor am I interested in kingdoms or proof of nobility.  But I am fascinated by the values that unite us as family.  Surely family values, beliefs and even professional interests are likely to continue from generation to generation.  Bankers are likely to raise bankers, teachers are likely to raise teachers.

With my husband I have travelled to find where John Lewis was buried in 1691 under an asphalt patch of land in Westerly, Rhode Island.  Now my sister, my cousins and I have walked Section A of Mt. Hope Cemetery, in Norwich, NY.  Here rest generations of Lewis and Terry ancestors: my family.  While I can incorporate these photographs of their gravestones into my genealogical research, for now, the photographs themselves document the close ties that bound the family together in Norwich for more than 100 years.  Here are some of the ancestors I found:

Elnathan Terry (1758-1840): American Revolutionary Soldier.  Served under Captain Gorton, under command of Lt. Caleb Lewis.

Mary Kinyon Terry (1768-1858): Wife of Elnathan Terry.  Mary is a direct descendent of Thomas Rogers, Richard Warren, Francis Cooke and John Cooke, all of whom arrived on the Mayflower.  Elnathan and Mary moved to New York before 1810.

Freeborn Lewis (1784-1822): Married Esther Terry (1787-1865) daughter of Elnathan Terry and Mary Kinyon Terry.  She remarried on Freeborn’s death and is buried in Little Sioux, Harrison County, Iowa.  Freeborn also moved to NY with other Terrys and Lewises by 1810.

Lorenzo Lewis (1808-1855) is the son of Freeborn Lewis and Esther Terry Lewis.  Lorenzo married Mary Ocelia Smith (1815-1879). Lorenzo owned a saw mill in Norwich. He died when his son, Horatio,  was only a year old.  His sons continued and expanded the milling operations.

Daniel Horatio Lewis (1854-1917):  I was elated to finally locate the tombstone of my great-grandfather, Daniel Horatio Lewis. He is the son of Lorenzo Lewis and Mary Ocelia Smith.  He married Victoria Belcher Lewis. He and his brothers Herman and Harris Lewis were in the lumber business, were builders, and owned and operated saw mills in and around Norwich. Herman and another brother, Willard, served with the Union in the Civil War.  Willard died of disease in a prison camp in New Orleans in 1855.

Horatio was also a temperance lecturer.  Victoria was a teacher.  Horatio and Victoria moved with their family to Boston and ultimately moved to Sherrill, NY where they died.  They are buried in Norwich in the Lewis family plots.

After years of research, Mt. Hope Cemetery in Norwich was a wonderful day of discovery.  All along the way, i was aided by the ground crew of the cemetery, who were gracious and enthusiastic about our adventure; and abetted by my sister and cousins, who seemed to thrive on every discovery as much as I did.  A quest, an adventure and a bonding experience.

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In Search of My Roots–the Lewis Family

At 6:50 this morning I am off on a great adventure.  My sister and I fly to Boston.  We pick up our rental car there and have charmed three cousins to meet us in New York?  In New York we plan to spend three days with cousins, searching for our roots.  We have not been together as a group in more than 50 years.  What a treat.

From the late 1700’s until the early 1900’s, 5 generations of our family lived in and around Norwich, Chenango County, NY.  My great-grandfather, Horatio Lewis, and his brothers, Hiram and Harris, owned mills in the area.  Here is a picture of their mill in Pharsalia, NY., before it was destroyed in a fire in the late 1880’s.

Tuesday morning we will drive to Norwich.  Our agenda is to visit the Mt. Hope Cemetery to try to find the Lewis and Terry Family Plots, located in Section A. I thought it would be relatively simply until I learned that Section A is 10 acres.  Well, we can only try! Since our family members were among the first people buried there, I am hoping we have a chance.  Then on to the Guernsey Memorial Library and the Norwich Historical Society.

Wednesday we drive to Sherrill, NY, where my grandparents lived by 1912.  Granddad was superintendent of silver-plating operations for Oneida Silver, back in the day when it was a power to be reckoned with in Oneida County.  We plan to visit the family home on Willow Road, walk down to the school and the plant on the same road.  Dad (on the right), his brother Dick (the baby) and Aunt Dot (on the left) were all raised in the house in Sherrill.

We will spend one night in rooms at the Mansion House, the home of a utopian community that eventually founded the silver company.

In the midst of indulging my family history adventures I hope to catch up on years of missed time with my cousins.  Hopefully, we will see some wonderful places, share great memories and return home refreshed and armed with photographs for new posts.