Friday, March 31, 2017

52 Ancestors - Week 169: #484 Johann Ernst Dafoe (1726-1784) of New York, Vermont and Ontario

Here is my 52 Ancestors biography for week #169:

Johann Ernst "John" Dafoe (1726-1784) is #484 on my Ahnentafel List, my 5th great-grandfather, who married #485 Maritgen Keller (1732-1789) in 1749, in Germantown, New York.

I am descended through:

*  their son, #242 Abraham Dafoe (1755-1815), who married #243 Katreen --?-- (1755-1792) in about 1775.
*  their daughter, #121 
Mary Dafoe (1776-1832), who married #120 John Kemp (1768-1861)in 1795.
*  their son, #60 Abraham Kemp (1795-1881), who married #61 Sarah Sephrona Fletcher (1802-1861) in 1822.
*  their son, #30 James Abraham Kemp (1831-1902), who married #31 Mary Jane sovereen (1840-1874)  in 1861.
*  their daughter #15 Georgianna Kemp (1858-1952) who married #14 Charles Auble (1849-1916),  in 1898.
*  their daughter #7 Emily Kemp Auble (1899-1977) who married #6 Lyle Lawrence Carringer (1891-1976) in 1918.
* their daughter #3 Betty Virginia Carringer (1919-2002), who married #2 Frederick Walton Seaver (1911-1983), in 1942.
*  their son #1 Randall J. Seaver (1943-....)


1)  PERSON (with source citations as indicated in brackets):

*  Name:                          Johann Ernst Dafoe[1]

*  Alternate Name:           John Defoe    
*  Alternate Name:           Johan Ernst Defuh[2]   

*  Sex:                              Male   

*  Father:                         Abraham Defoe (1703-1753)   
*  Mother:                        Maria Catharina Reiffenberger (1705-1748)   
2)  INDIVIDUAL EVENTS (with source citations as indicated in brackets):
*  Birth:                            about 1726 Dutchess, New York, United States[1]   
*  Death:                          1784 (about age 58), Saint-Jean, Quebec, Canada[1]    
3)  SHARED EVENTS (with source citations as indicated in brackets):
*  Spouse 1:                    Maritjen "Maria" Keller (1729-1789)   
*  Marriage 1:                 1 February 1749 (about age 23), Germantown, Columbia, New York, United States[1–3]   

*  Child 1:                      George Dafoe (1749-1777)   
*  Child 2:                      Conradt Dafoe (1753-1853)   
*  Child 3:                      Abraham Dafoe (1755-1815)   
*  Child 4:                      John Dafoe (1758-1835)   
*  Child 5:                      Jacob Dafoe (1761-1784)   
*  Child 6:                      Maria Dafoe (1763-1834)   
*  Child 7:                      Michael Dafoe (1766-1859)   
*  Child 8:                      Daniel Dafoe (1769-1844)   
4)  NOTES (with source citations as indicated in brackets):    

The Free Library by Farlex has this biography of John Ernst Dafoe[1]:

"John (Johanes) Defoe (Dayfoot, Dafoe) was born of Palatine emigrants in 1726, at Germantown, New York. His native tongue was German, although his ancestry was Swiss. His father, Abraham Deffu, and grandfather, Daniel Thevou, were Swiss who had been vinedressers in the Palatine area in Germany and had immigrated to the Province of New York in 1710. John grew up in Germantown and married Mary Keller in 1749. They settled first near Petersburg, New York, part of the Patent of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck, where John became a millwright and built both a house and grist mill on Dayfoot Creek in about 1753. The house still stands on the original foundation and one can see the mill site, part of the mill dam and mill pond outline on Dayfoot Creek. 

"When illness broke out in the community, John, on a snowy winter night in 1767, moved his wife and family away, to Pownal, New York, now in Vermont. There he built another house and another gristmill on Washtub Creek, known now as Tub Creek, but this land was in the disputed New Hampshire Grants and John, supporting the right of the New York Rensselaerwyck land grant, was a British supporter. 

"John was made a pathmaster at Pownal in 1768 and deer reeve in 1769-70. 

"He spoke out against revolution and was jailed in Connecticut along with Governor William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin. John and William escaped in 1777. John joined General John Burgoyne's army and fought as a Private in the Battle of Bennington, on 16 and 17 August 1777. Tragedy struck the Defoe family when John's eldest son, George, was wounded and died the day after the battle.

"John, sons Abraham and John Jr., were captured and imprisoned. John again escaped, this time going to Quebec where he joined Roger's Rangers of the KRRNY. John was given a warrant to raise a company of men and, returning with a number of men from his former home area, he was given the rank of Captain. Many of his recruits were relatives including his sons: Conrad, Abraham, Jacob and John Jr., as well as nephews and in-laws. He was assigned to Captain Justus Sherwood's corps where he served as a recruiter and in the secret service as a spy and courier between St. John's, Quebec, and New York City. John was again captured and put in jail in Albany. Once more he escaped, and continued as a spy and courier. He worked with John Walden Meyers in 1780. John was mentioned in dispatches between Sir John Johnson and General Sir Frederick Haldimand with Johnson referring to John as a "fit and trusty person." 

"John's wife, Mary Keller Defoe, sister of Christopher Keller U E, was at that time still in her home near Pownal. She continued to aid Loyalist recruiters and spies with a "safe house" where they could rest, receive information and food. She was evicted by the Rebels and arrived in Quebec under a flag of truce in 1781 along with her younger children, her sister-in-law, Eve Defoe Katzebach, and assorted relatives including two small granddaughters, the children of her dead son, George.

"John continued to recruit and carry messages into 1783 but by then age 57, the rugged and dangerous lifestyle had taken its toll. John fell ill and died in St. John's, Quebec, and was buried there. He died before he could receive a land grant. His wife, Mary, with her adult sons: Abraham, John, Jacob, Michael and Daniel, her married daughter, Mary Dafoe Rikely, and several grandchildren came up river to Cataraqui Township #3, (Fredericksburg Township) where they all received land grants and settled. Another son, Conrad, settled with his regiment in Osnabruck Township. 

"While John Dafoe was known as Defoe, the family name was anglisized to Dafoe when the family arrived in Fredericksburg. In 1984, Jean Lake UEand Eleanor Moult UE were instrumental in organizing and holding a Dafoe reunion in Kingston, Ontario, 200 years after the Dafoe family arrived in Canada. At the reunion there were 500 descendants who had come from across Canada and the United States. The name continues to be spelled Dafoe but there were also members of George Dafoe's family who spell their name Dayfoot, as it continues to be spelled in Petersburg, New York. There are also a few Defoes, such as Willem Defoe the actor, and some of the family who settled in Michigan State." 

The biographical information was obtained from several sources, including material written by Brian Roberts for the 1987 issue of Dafoe Dynasty magazine and the RootsWeb WorldConnect database of Annie Meyer[4]"

"John Dafoe was born about 1725 - 1726. He was also known as Johan Ernst Defuh, John Devoe, John Defou, John Devoet, "Old Dayfoot".

"The United Empire Loyalist pensioners lists give his age as 55 on March 1, 1781, (Haldimand Papers B-167; MG21, Public Archives of Ottawa, Canada), and his place of origin as New York.

"Our first ancestor in Canada, who was also the first of our line born on this continent, was known in his youth as Johan Ernst Defuh. His father was Abrahm Devoe of Rhinebeck, son of the Swiss Palatine immigrant Daniel Thevou.

"In later life Johan became John Defoe.  His name was anglicized in the 1760s when Englishmen settled around him in the Hoosick Patent.  Their records show him also as John Davoe, Devoot, Dayfoot, even Dayford, but his middle name is never used. (Middle names were common among German-speaking people then, but not among the English.)

"In 1749, at about age 22, John married 20-year-old Mary Keller in Germantown, NY.  Like him, she was a Palatine and spoke German as well as or better than English.  The First Reformed Church of Germantown Marriage Register list his marriage: "Maritgen" "Johan Ernst Defuh, Abraba Defun ehilicher Sohn" and "Maria Keller, Conrad Keller ehiliche Tochter" ("lawful son" and "lawful daughter" in Hochdeutsch).  Two of John's brothers also wed Keller girls.

"Their son George was baptised at Germantown 9-1/2 months later.  John and Mary (Keller) Dafoe had children baptised at the Albany (NY) Reformed, Schoharie (NY) Lutheran and at Germantown (Hunterstown) N. Y. Reformed Churches.

"John and Mary were probably settled in the Hoosick Patent when son Conrad was born in 1753.  Their few neighbors were Dutchmen and Germans whose land claims derived from the Van Rensselaer family.  The area was on the frontier and was raided by Indians in the French and Indian War.

"In 1760 New Hampshire's governor laid out the town of Pownal right on top of the Hoosick Patent.  This move was part of a long border dispute that later gave rise to the state of Vermont.  Lots were assigned, and there were lawsuits over  New Hampshire vs. New York titles.  When the King ruled in favour of New York, the two sides accommodated each other.  John became a solid citizen of Pownal, was elected deer reeve and pathmaster, and built a grist mill near the town center.

"But the argument erupted again as a subissue of the Revolution.  Ethan Allen led the "Hampshiremen" who wanted independence from New York and saw independence from the King as a way to get it.  John Defoe, as a New Yorker and an outspoken opponent of rebellion, was among the Loyalists rounded up and jailed in Connecticut in 1776.  He escaped in 1777, probably in the general breakout that occurred when the prisoners heard they were to be shot the next morning.

"John fought at Bennington that August with his sons George, Conrad and Abraham.  George was killed; Abraham was captured and paroled; and John was captured and held.  Again he escaped, this time to Canada. Col. Rogers (of Rogers' Rangers fame) authorized him to raise a company, and thus he is sometimes known as Capt Defoe.  There is no record of such a company, however; instead he appears in the war record as a courier-spy on secret service, tracking through the forest between Crown Point and New York City.  His wife, Mary kept one of the "safe houses" along the couriers' route.

"On Christmas Eve, 1783, the King's Rangers were mustered out of service at St. John's, Quebec.  John, Abraham, Jacob, Michael and Daniel Dafoe were all soldiers in the Rangers, as was Andrew Rikley, the husband of Mary Dafoe.  John Dafoe Sr. (a courier) and Conrad Dafoe (in the King's royal Regiment in New York) left active service about the same time.

"These Loyalists landed in their homestead townships along the St. Lawrence River in June, 1784.

"Loyalist compensation hearings were held in Montreal in 1788.  The family signed an affidavit that reads:
"'This is to testify to the Commissioners of the American Claims that We the Heirs of John Dafoe deceased Do give up our Right and all Claim to the Losses which he Sustained in the Collonies By Reason of his Loyalty to the King and Parlement of Great Britton to John Dafoe, junrMary Defoe, wife to the deseased Montreal 17th Feb'y 1788Conrad DafoeMichael DafoeAbraham DafoeDannel Dafoe'

"The LOYALISTS LISTS from Haldimand Papers dated after September, 1783 & before May/June, 1784 by E. Keith Fitzgerald (1984) Return of Loyalists in Quebec, exclusive of those quartered & residing in the Upper Posts, p. 12: John Defoe - Pensioner; one woman; one femal between 5 - 12; Total 3 Ration per day: one

"The Return of Loyal Rangers - Company of Pensioners (more commonly called Jessup's Rangers) shows on page 82:   Jns Defoe from New York, farmer, incorporated man (recorder Eleanor Carleton Moult questions if this is John, Sr. who died in 1784 or John, Jr.)

"The 1904 Bureau of Archives report, page 417: 22 Jan 1788 - Claim of John Dafoe, Jr. states his father (John Ernst) joined General Burgoyne and came to Canada; that he left a widow Mary Dafoe in Canada, sons Conrad, Michael, Abraham and Daniel, all on the Bay of Kenty. John Sr. had 200 acres in Hoosick for many years, wild land in the Patroon Patent; had cleared very little. also he had 30 acres in Pownall, with house and mill. (He had this as long as John Jr. remembered.) It was all cleared, with a good house & barn, a grist mill and orchard, etc. John Jr. cannot value the land, the mill was worth 300 pounds, the house 100 pounds Halifax Currency. His mother was turned out of the house which was then in possession of Capt. Sealy of rebel militia before John Jr. left the country. He had 3 horses, 3 cows, hogs, wagon wheels; these were sold at vendue. Everything else was plundered. Witness Alexander Nicholson knew John Sr.; said he was a loyal man. He knew his place in Pownall.

"Assignment of Claims: 'This is to sertify to the Commissioners of the American Claims that We the Heirs of John Dafoe Deseased Do give up our Right and all Claim to the Losses which he sustained in the Collenies By Reason of his Loyalty to the King and Parlement of great Britton to John Dafoe Junr. Montreal 17th Feby 1788.' (signed) "Mary Defoe - Wife to Deseased. Conrad Dafoe. Michael Dafoe. Abraham Dafoe. Dannel Dafoe.

"From "American Loyalist Claims", ref A013/12/154-158:  "John Dafoe, Pownal, Albany Co., N. Y. Was a soldier in King's Ranger's. Memorial now of Third Twp, Cateroqui (sic) 16 Sep. 1787.  Claim: House, 230 acres, grist mill, etc.

"Evidences: Deposition 22 Jan 1788 Adelphistown by William Kelter that he knew the claimant, now deceased, who owned property claimed. Certificate 17 Feb 1788 Montreal by claimant's heirs surrendering their rights, signed by John Dafoe, Jr., Mary Dafoe, his wife, Conrod Dafoe, Michael Dafoe, Abraham Dafoe and Dannel Dafoe.

"John Dafoe likely died between Feb - Sep 1784. In 1797, his friend Samuel Anderson J. P. swore as to the year and place. (See UCLP Vol 151, page 6d, RG1, L3, PAC) Anderson listed John's wife as a "widow" on 15 Sept. 1781, as quoted by Dr. H. C. Burleigh, UEL Genealogist, Bath, Ontario, 1972

"As Conrad Dafoe later told it, John was a robust man but his rough life as a spy ruined his health.  He died at St. Johns in 1784 of an unspecified illness.  Strange as it may seem, it was probably malaria, which was then common in the inland river valleys of New York.

"No portrait of John exists, but we may picture him as a tall sturdy man with a determined jaw --"the Defoe chin" that many of us have inherited -- and a ruddy complexion from being outdoors. Though he could not write his name, he was a successful man of affairs and confident in his own opinion.  He had the courage to speak out for what was right and fight for it even when this totally disrupted his life.  His descendants, whatever their national allegiance, can be proud."

1. A. Joan Lucas, "Captain John Ernst Dafoe UE,." 2015 United Empire Loyalists' Association, The Free Library ( : accessed 30 Mar. 2017 .

2. "U.S. Dutch Reformed Church Records from Selected States, 1639-1989," digital images, (, New York > Germantown > Germantown N.Y., Book 81, page 483, Johan Ernst Defuh and Maritgen Keller entry.

3. Lewis G. Proper, Proper Family History, Including Prooper, Propert, Propfer, Propper and Proppert (Rochester, N.Y. : the author, 1996), page 2, Marytjen  Keller and John Ernst Defoe marriage information.

4.  Annie Meyer,"John Ernst DEFOE, Capt., UE," online database, RootsWeb WorldConnect Project ( : accessed 30 March 2017).


NOTE:  Amy Johnson Crow suggested a weekly blog theme of "52 Ancestors" in her blog post Challenge:  52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on the No Story Too Small blog.  I have extended this theme in 2017 to 208 Ancestors in 208 Weeks.

Copyright (c) 2017, Randall J. Seaver

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1 comment:

KLG71 said...

Nice article John Ernst Dafoe is my 6th Great Grandfather and son Conrad Abraham Dafoe is my 5th Great Grandfather.