Two weeks ago I got an email that there was a comment to be approved on our blog.  When I read the comment I was thrilled and then, I have to admit, just a tiny bit suspicious (sorry, Linda!).  The writer said she had come across a copy of a deed showing William Denman buying land in upstate New York in 1795.  She wanted to know if this was my family by any chance.  You can see the comment and my response on the Contact Us page.  I was actually still on vacation and in Canada when I first read this and responded.

As soon as I got back home, I emailed my genealogical genie and we had several emails back and forth about what it was and how she came to have it.  She told me that she volunteers in a non-profit animal shelter that accepts donations which it then sells to help support the work at the shelter.  She had noticed the names on the document and thought she’d try to see if she could find out anything about them.  Her hope was that someone in the family would be interested in it.  She didn’t spell it out, but obviously found the blog and the Denman names I have written about before, so she left a note.

I was very eager to know more about what she had, and she offered to get a picture to email to me.  Her husband took several shots and they showed me that it was indeed a copy of the original William Denman deed.  It shows William and Ann Denman acquiring the 200 acres in New York where they built the homestead that was the place my Denman family first settled in this country.  I have written about this place before, here.

What I haven’t told about is the existence of this original deed.  My sister and I were lucky enough to see it in person when we visited the Denman family in Grahamsville New York two summers ago.  It belongs to our Denman cousins, and has hung on their office wall for a number of years.  The story we were told was that someone had discovered it in an envelope in a safe deposit box in California when its owner had died.  Apparently the executor thought it belonged back in New York and it was sent to the Denmans who still live in the Neversink area where the family first settled.  They framed it and hung it in their office.  I got one picture of our older cousin holding it, but we couldn’t get a copy of it made while we were there.  (I admit to being somewhat concerned that it needed to be re-framed with archival matting and protective glass, and hope that this has been done since then.)  Anyway, I didn’t get a real chance to read the document but I could see the signatures of William Denman and of Ann Denman who signed as a witness.

IMGP4527The good news is that Linda found me and offered me the copy, if I was willing to pay the postage and make a donation to her shelter.  I was glad to say yes.  She got it to a shipper and I found it waiting for me two days later when I returned home from a day out.  It is now hanging in my home office. The good news is also that this piece of family history survived the impact of hurricane Sandy in New Jersey.  The bad news is that it is stuck to the glass and has a lot of water damage.  However, it is still completely readable.  And the stamp on the back of the frame shows it was framed in Pasadena California.  I am hoping to hear from the company, which is still in business.

There is still the genealogical mystery of who made this copy, and when.  Also how did the person who donated it to the shelter come by it and where?  My genealogical genie is going to ask her a few specific questions which may help me figure out if her family is related to the Denmans and if she got the document in California or someplace else.

My four greats grandmother was Ann Boorman Denman. She was born in Staplehurst, Kent, England on 9 Aug 17721. She married my 4 great grandfather, William Denman, on 24 Jun2 or 24 Dec 1790, in Headcorn, Kent, England.

The date of their marriage is one of the questions I have about this couple. The date on the previously-cited family group sheet says 24 Jun. As I started to try to find documentation for the “facts” I had collected for the Denman-Boorman family, I contacted the parish council for Headcorn. The family group sheet said that was where and when William Denman and Ann Boorman had married and I wanted verification. What I hoped for was a copy of a register page showing their marriage. This was about 3-4 years ago, and at that time I couldn’t find anything in the usual places online (like the Ancestry or familysearch sites) that showed a source. My contact with the parish netted me the following statement: “Regarding your enquiry, Brian Ledger (our Server in Headcorn Church) has given me the following information from the Marriage Register to pass onto you. No.1099 24th December 1790. Denman, William bachelor of Hythe married Boorman, Ann spinster of Headcorn Witnesses – Benjamin Martin and William Ashdown.” Just recently I asked the question of an English Boorman cousin and he looked on a Kent Family History Society CD of records3 to tell me that he “can confirm that the information you were given by Brian Ledger is all correct apart from the date which is 24 Jun 1790 as we thought. The only other item missing from Brian is that the wedding was by licence rather than banns.” That would seem to settle that.

After they were married the young Denmans lived in Hythe, where their first three (at least) children were born. Hythe is a small coastal market town, and I have no information about what William worked at there although there is a lot of farm land and he may have farmed. As the map above shows, Headcorn (where Ann was living) and Hythe (where William had lived before their marriage) and Staplehurst (where Ann was born) are not very far apart (a maximum of about 33 miles).

In 1795 William and Ann and their three children sailed for the U.S. and arrived in New York City. The family story is that William left Ann and the children in New York and continued up the Hudson River to look at the 200 acres he had bought in Neversink sight unseen. While he was away, their daughter Elizabeth died in August. Ann and the two boys went north to join William. I have written in the past about climbing Denman Mountain and seeing the remains of the homestead that William and Ann built in that wilderness. I saw with my own eyes how difficult it must have been to hack a path and haul possessions to the top (and I was walking through new growth not the Forest Primeval).

The first several years the family lived in a lean-to with a natural rock chimney, as William and Ann cleared and planted and built a cabin. In a letter from Esther Boorman (wife of John Boorman and unknown relation to Ann) to Ann Billinghurst in December 17974 there was a description of the Denman family’s conditions.

At the time this letter was written, the third child was son Edward who was born in August 1797 so only an infant.

The family did persevere and thrive over time. The land was cleared and crops planted and first a cabin and then a house built. Ann and William went on to have a total of 11 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood. My g-g-g-grandfather, John Denman, was their oldest son. Ann died in January of 1842. I have no picture of her: she died before photography was commonly used for portraits. I do have this picture of the family house taken much later (although I don’t know the date it was taken).

  1. Taken from an LDS family group sheet – the information from F.A. Denman with Arline Booth Redford being the family representative. I believe that F.A.’s source was a family bible.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Vol 6 – CD 19
  4. transcript of letter in “Township of Neversink 1798-1998” compiled and written by Loretta Ackerley, Town Clerk, for the bicentennial celebration of Neversink.

My Denman family line first migrated from Ditchling, Sussex, England to New York state up the Hudson River around Kingston and Rondout Creek in about 1795. They settled in the Neversink area in Sullivan County. It was from there that some of the family moved on westward to northern Ohio.  A booklet put together by the Town Clerk of Neversink, celebrating the Bi-Centennial of the Town of Neversink (Ackerley, Loretta.  1998.  Township of Neversink 1798-1998.) described the early days of the William and Ann Denman family as follows.  They lived in a rough log lean-to on a remote hill, the building described in a letter as having no plaster but only leaves stuffed in the cracks.  The hill is now known as Denman Mountain.  Through much hard work, the Denmans survived and prospered.  A proper house was built and the Denmans raised 10 children to adulthood.  Their daughter Elizabeth who was born in England not long before the family left for the new country, died soon after they arrived.  My ancestor, John, was ther oldest living son, born in England in 1791.  Before 1819 John was in northern Ohio having purchase land and begun clearing and farming.  Here is Grandpa Lyle’s telling:

“In the trips from New York to Ohio the first year two members of the Denman family (John and his brother William) carried what they could carry on their shoulders and then the next trip or the trip after that they had an ox team. But on one trip, one of the men brought back a quantity of apple seeds. The story has varied from a quart to a peck. You can use your own judgment on how many they had. Those apple seeds were planted and that was the start of an apple industry in northern Ohio.  This is the Denman family’s own Johnny Appleseed. At one time, the apples produced in northern Ohio in those in the state, northern York state as they called it then, the northern part of New York, was the apple producing area for the United States. A few years later it began to spread and it, by the present time, as you are aware, apples are produced in central Ohio, in Virginia and many other states, and then particularly in the northwest, Oregon, Washington. The apple industry is entirely changed. But at the time I am telling you about the early orchards were around northern Ohio.”

FA Denman childhood home

FA Denman childhood home

“Father had two orchards. One of about ten or eleven acres, right near the homestead where he was born and where I was born.  And the other orchard was a short distance south of that of about five acres. And they were mostly Baldwin apples, Russet apples, a certain number of what they called Rhode Island Greenings, and a certain number of Ben Davis which are, which were in my opinion practically worthless there — they had no flavor whatever. But they had a number of other flavors. They had Rambos and they had Gravensteins which were, is spelled G-r-a-v-e-n-s-t-e-i-n but the family always called them Garvusteens. And there were other various.”

Gravenstein apple

Gravenstein apple

“That orchard has all been destroyed as of the present time. But it was very active and father would spray it and harvest it. And some years he would have a light crop and they, I think the big, the heaviest crop he ever had was along in the early 19–, let’s say somewhere in 1910 to 1915, along in there. He had a matter of around 4,000 bushels of apples. The price, of course, was not high. But it was a nice, nice crop of apples.”

“Now another, the thing, one of the things that will be of interest to you folks.  (Grandpa Lyle knew that all of his grandchildren would be listening to these interviews, so he liked to put in tidbits he thought we would like.) In going to the market you will find on the shelves of most markets the J.M. Smucker jellies, jams and various types of preserves by the J.M. Smucker corporation of Orrville.  Mr. J.M. Smucker, the founder of that, was a friend of my father’s and each year he would come to Wakeman on the train. He’d go into Cleveland from Orrville and then come to Wakeman on the train. Father would meet the train in the morning and would drive Mr. Smucker around from orchard to orchard in northern Ohio. At that time they, their chief product was Smucker’s apple butter. And that was known all over the country and that was the start of the Smucker organization that we have today that produces everything in the way of fruit preserves and jellies. And Father would drive Mr. Smucker around from orchard to orchard and he would arrange to buy the product from the various orchards. Sometimes one day would take the trip and occasionally he would have to stay overnight at the Denman home. But I thought it might be a matter of interest to you to know that my father was a business acquaintance of J.M. Smucker and J.M. Smucker had lived at our home and stayed overnight there on certain occasions.”  The website for the Smucker Company has a nice history section that talks about the beginnings of the Company, shows a timeline, and gives a very brief history of the Smucker name.

“The orchards in northern Ohio are now practically depleted. It’s industrialized and built up with people who work in the different cities there. Central Ohio still has some nice orchards I am told, and down to the central part of Ohio I am told there are many nice orchards yet. But orchards are available, apples are available now from so many different places that the crop, that the center of the — there is no particular center that I know of.  New York state still produces apples and central Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky and different states. Particularly, though, in Washington and Oregon, the northwest has immense orchards in that area. I believe that would cover the history of the orcharding and the early settlement of the Denman family in northern Ohio.”