Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Elusive Russell Smith - Post 3

In Post 1, I summarized the information I gathered recently about Russell Smith (born RI ca 1775), who married Esther --?--, and had at least three children, Ranslow Smith (1805->1870), Lyman Smith (1807-1889) and George Smith (1812-1876). The family history information from Old World Wisconsin, derived from obituaries for Lyman and George Smith, says that Russell Smith was born in Rhode Island, settled in Oneida County NY, and then settled in Jefferson County, New York in about 1800.

In Post 2, I summarized the sparse evidence from Jefferson County, New York for Russell Smith residing in that county, where the three purported sons first settled and started their families. The only information I found about Russell Smith in Jefferson County was a mention in a history book of an 1800 residence in or near Adams township, as recounted in Post 1.

The basic question I have is - is the Russell Smith, son of David Smith of Lee town in Oneida County NY, the same Russell Smith who settled in Jefferson County NY for some period of time?

Looking carefully at the "Gazetteer and Business Directory of Oneida County, New York for 1869, published in 1869, page 96 says in the Lee town description "... The first settlement was commenced at Delta in 1790, by two brothers, Stephen and Reuben Shelton. At that time, there was no house between them and Fort Stanwix. Other early settlers in this vicinity were David Smith, Daniel Spinning, Stephen and Nicholas Salisbury..."

In the book "Our County and Its People" about Oneida County NY in the Lee town section, there is this on page 461: "...David Smith and his sons, David and Russell, came to the Mohawk country, near Delta, described by a writer of that time as 'away up the Mohawk country beyond Fort Stanwix, inhabited only by bears, wovles and Indians.' David Smith Jr. built a saw mill there soon after ..."

On page 462, there is this tantalizing bit of information: "...The Sheldons, Smiths, Wheelocks and Salisburys emigrated from the state of Rhode Island..." The sons of Edward Salisbury named on this page are Nicholas, Edward S., Enon, Alexander, Lodowick, De Estaing and Smith Salisbury.

In the 1810 US Census for Jefferson County NY, there are 37 Smith households in the county, including David Smith in Adams township (also Asa, Chauncey, Ezekiel, Isaac, Isaac, John and Solomon Smith). There are three Salisbury households in Ellisburgh (just southwest of Adams) - Edward, De Estaing and Viol (looks like Nial or Nick to me) Salisbury. Coincidence? There were no Wheelock or Sheldon households in the southern part of Jefferson County.

The David Smith Jr. who lived in Oneida County erected a saw mill in 1791/2, and the David Smith who settled in Adams in Jefferson County also erected a saw mill. Coincidence? This David Smith died in 1844, aged 73 (so born in 1771).

My working hypothesis is that Russell Smith, the father of Ranslow Smith) and David Smith Jr. of Oneida and Jefferson Counties, are brothers born in Rhode Island, and are the sons of David Smith also born in Rhode Island in a place where there were Wheelock, Sheldon and Salisbury families.

I am still a long way from proving any relationship of Russell Smith with any of the Smith's in either Oneida or Jefferson Counties, but so far I have no conflicting evidence. My big problem is that I have very little corroborating evidence! The Jefferson County books mention that Oneida County was one of the places where large numbers of Jefferson County settlers migrated from - it was in the same area of New York and up the road only 40 or 50 miles.

I need to do more research in Oneida County - perhaps there is a will or deed by the elder David Smith that names some or all of his children. I should also look for wills or deeds of other people that might identify a Russell Smith that married their daughter. There are more rocks to turn over, I think.

Taking this study the next step, I now know that the Smith, Sheldon, Salisbury and Wheelock families probably came from Rhode Island. My hope is that I can identify a town in Rhode Island from whence they came, and thereby find town records that will identify Smith family members and relationships in that place.

I'm also thinking about Russell's wife, Esther, whose maiden name I don't know. I'm willing to bet that her maiden name is that of one of the early settlers of Delta and Western (including Lee, formed in 1811) in Oneida County - perhaps Wheelock, Sheldon, Salisbury, Elmer, Rudd, Spinning, Crittenden, etc.

If anybody has good ideas for further research, I would appreciate knowing them!

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