By Rev. Ernest Smith
“It was interesting to watch them. There were four generations altogether. The oldest man and his wife were trying find branches to put under the wheels of the ox cart to keep it from getting mired in the mud. And then there was the man who seemed to be the strongest and wore a cop that only the soldiers of George Washington’s army would be likely to wear. He was driving the oxen and urging them on to settle into the yoke with a little more weight and strength. And then there were three young men about the ages of 20 to 30, and they were presently trying to turn on three of the wheels while standing half way to their knees in the muck. And then there were three little children jumping from log to log and being lifted and carried by their young mother as they brought up the rear of the procession.
These people were not discouraged a bit. They were now going through trials and, as far as they could see, their “road” would be muddy, but they were on the highway leading to their promised land.
The man with the army cap had just finished two years with the American Revolution and had been honorably discharged. This year was 1780 and since 1778 he had fought hard for the freedom that all America seemed to want. He had met Washington and Lafayette and was an admirer of the feats of strength of Begordious Hatch. In 1778, he had met hatch, and had been told of a beautiful country over the hills from Massachusetts, on a creek called by the Indians, “Wyomanock-The Vale of the Butternuts”.
In 1778 he had taken his three sons, John, James and Simion and had left his home in Voluntown, Connecticut, and had explored this Wyomanock area. They fell in love with the place called “Goodrich Hollow” and went back to their families in Connecticut determined that as soon as they could after the war they would move to this wonderful place and settle. For two years the boys went home to dream of the future, and the father, known as Captain John, went off to the war.
This was the first time that this area, soon to be known as Lebanon Valley, had ever heard of the Wylie family, a family that was destined to live and die here for six generations, and who have just recently (1979) been erased from the area with the passing of a beautiful schoolteacher and friend, Dorothea.
Dorothea’s husband, Harry D. Wylie, died in 1951, but at the time of the ox cart episode, Harry was an unknown quantity, for it was his grandfather, Simeon, who was the little six year old boy who was bringing up the rear of the procession, and was being helped from log to log and stone to stone as the family pushed through the mud.
The Wylie family had lived long, rugged lives before the American trek from Connecticut to Lebanon Valley. With roots in Scotland and Ireland, they were of stern Calvinistic Presbyterian faith. Captain John’s grandfather, who was also named John, had come here to America from Scotland in 1728, and had settled in Voluntown, Connecticut, where he had resumed his trade of tallow chandler. He had several sons, but one, named James, had married a Sarah McMain and he was now the old man putting the branches under the ox cart as it made its way northward. He had not yet seen the promised land, but was relying wholly upon the word of his son, Captain John. He was not disappointed, for after several days on the road, sleeping under the stars, they passed through a frontier place called Pittsfield. Here they loaded up with supplies, consisting mostly of tools, food, and gunpowder, and made their way westward, over the mountain beyond West Street and then down past Hitchcock’s Thermal Spring, past the log cabin church on Old Post Road, which they were soon to join, and north on West Street to Wyomanock Stream which they crossed eastward and came to their resting place. This was their promised land in the wilderness.
They had, on their earlier trip in 1778, found the land was part of the patron rights of Simeon Van Rensselaer. While most people could only rent their lands from him, somehow the Wylies were able to purchase 94 acres for the sum of 19 pounds, 16 shillings, so they had no problem with the Anti-Rent War of 1844.
The four generations of Wylies who arrived in 1780 immediately built a house for themselves which stood until 1892 when the Wylie home, now owned by the Koepps was built.
They hunted the land for venison and wild turkey. They cleared the forest and planted many fruit trees. They became involved in the social life for many miles around. When Sunday came, they ceased all labor, and four generations would settle into the buckboard for the ride down West Street to Old Post Road where a left turn soon brought them to the log church where the Rev. Abner Benedict was preaching. The movement started by Mother Ann Lee on Shaker Mountain didn’t affect the Wylie family as it did so many of the Christians, because of the deep religious heritage and present faith they enjoyed.
In 1787 the Wylies, with others, decided to build a church nearer home, and so the Presbyterian Church was built and its location was called Presbyterian Hill. This is the present day Federated Church of Garfield. The man mostly responsible for the founding of this church was young James, the second son of Captain John. He was known as the “Elder,” and was also a founder of Unity Lodge #9 in New Lebanon in 1788. Soon after this, he moved with his family to Coventry, New York.
In time old James died as did his son, Captain John Wylie and the place was left to the oldest son, John. The years went by and he was buried in the cemetery on Presbyterian Hill. His son, Simeon, who had been the six year old in 1780, inherited the old homestead. He married Polly Spring, daughter of Nathaniel Spring who lived on West Street, New Lebanon, having first me her in the little log church as a child. He made spinning wheels, and the finest furniture, and spun the “best flax bed cord in the country”. If you have furniture stamped “S. Wylie,” then it was made by this man. He died at the age of 89, leaving the farm to his son Henry, who married Sarah Elizabeth Whitman and built the present home in 1892.
All this was left to his son, Harry and his wife, Dorothea. They were the sixth and last generation of Wylies in the Valley. With their passing went 176 years of history. But the Wyomanock still cascades in sheer drops of 60 feet into the valley floor. The same fertile acres stretch out as when Captain John first saw them. And the old Wyomanock chuckles and gurgles a bit, remembering the past, keeping her wisdom to herself, and probably wonders who the human race will bring to her in the next 176 years.”
About the Author
The Rev. Ernest D. Smith lives in New Lebanon, New York, moving there in 1970. He started writing his “Valley Tales” as early as 1979. The tales were printed in the town newspaper “The Echo” for many years as well as being published in a series of books, which unfortunately are now unavailable, but for a few copies sold around town. Rev. Smith is no longer able to write these wonderful stories, based on the history of the families and the area he loves so much. He is ill and was unable to personally answer a letter I wrote to him in 2001. However, his loving wife of 60 years, Astrid, wrote for him, and said that I could use his stories for a website I called “Hometown Tales”, which features the stories he wrote about New Lebanon. Rev. Smith put so much time into the research and interviewing process, to say nothing of the creativity with which these stories are told, I feel that they need to be shared with a much wider audience than they ever had before. Those of us with an interest in the Lebanon Valley feel very honored that he has preserved so much of the history of the area.
1. John Wylie b. 1688 Ireland; d.South Carolina; m. Agnes Parke
Children of John Wylie and Agnes Parke:
2. Elizabeth b. 1714
3. John III b. 1716; d. December 26, 1781; m. Sarah Campbell
4. Jean b. 1718
5. Peter b. 1720
5. James b. 1722 Ireland
3. John III b. 1716; d. December 26, 1781; m. Sarah Campbell
Children of John III and Sarah Campbell:
6. Moses b. October 9, 1751; d. Madison County, NY.
5. James b. 1722 Antrim,Ireland; d. May 20, 1806; m. Sarah McMain on August 14, 1746 in New London, CT
Children of James and Sarah:
7. Capt. John b. January 16, 1751; d. June 12, 1795 at 45y in Stephentown.
8. Simeon m. Mary Buck in 1786 in New Canaan, CT. They had 8 children.
9. Peter b. 1720
6. Moses b. October 9, 1751; d. Madison County, NY; m. Mary Campbell on May 8, 1777. Moses was elected the first Commissioner of Schools in Madison County on March 12, 1813. He was in Madison County as early as 1807 or before (History of Chenengo and Madison Counties, NY).
Children of Moses and Mary:
10. Peter b. June 29, 1778; m.
b. June 2, 1780 in Lebanon, Madison County, NY; d. September 16, 1854 in Lebanon, Madison County, NY, buried in Gates Burying Ground. They were married on November 30, 1800.
7. Capt. John b. January 16, 1751; d. June 12, 1795 in Stephentown; m. Deborah Allyn. Captain John served in the American Revolution. He settled in Stephentown about 1780 and served as the town's first supervisor. (according to George Holcomb's diary, on Feb. 11, 1808, Deborah Allyn Wylie married Mr. Reubin Morton)
Children of Capt. John and Deborah:
11. John A. 1779-1826
12. Simeon b. November 21, 1774 Voluntown, New London, CT; d. May 3, 1863, buried in Garfield; m. Polly Spring in 1801.
13. James - founder of Presbyterian Church on Presbyterian Hill.
10. Peter b. 1778; m. Lucretia Holcomb. They married in 1800.
Children of Peter and Lucretia:
14. Ellen Minerva b. August 16, 1813 in Lebanon, Madison, NY. She married Sydney Alegnon Grosvenor, b. October 24, 1809 in Lebanon, Madison, NY. The married July 9, 1839. They had 5 children.
11. John A. (John,Jr.) b. 1779; d. August 26, 1826 (re: George Holcomb's diary: "John Wylie died at 8am. I went to Hancock to Hadsill's and bought 1 1/4 yards of mourning crepe at 75 cents per. Funeral was the following day. A prayer at deceased house by Mr. Hendrick's and the procession moved to the meeting house and at 3 o'clock Hendricks again preached. A large number of connections attended and a very large concourse of people attended.) John married
Elizabeth (Betsey) Platt
daughter of Henry Platt.
15. Henry Platt b. November 21, 1810; d. October 22, 1850; (George Holcomb wrote: "Henry P. Wylie died. George Pease Holcomb (son of George) took Simeon Wylie's wife to Lebanon stores to buy mourning clothes for the family of H.P. Wylie for the Funeral. John Franklin Holcomb (George's son) fetched Laura Worden to sew and prepare for the funeral) buried October 24, 1850 (Holcomb wrote: H.P. Wylie's funeral at his home. Elder Nathan Sweet preached.) ; m. Freelove Pierce on November 22, 1842. George Holcomb wrote: "H.P.Wylie married Freelove Pierce by Elder (Matthew) Jones at the house of James Glass;he also wrote: November 18, 1855 - Funeral of Widow Freelove Wyliie was tended at the Springs (presumably Lebanon Springs) Baptist Church by Elder Conover and she was buried in this town beside her husband, H.P.Wylie)
Children of Henry Platt Wylie and Freelove Pierce:
21. First son b. December 11, 1848 (George Holcomb wrote: H.P. Wylie's first son was born)
22. Milton b. March 13, 1854 (George Holcomb wrote: "Freelove Wylie has a son named Milton" (Hm!! Interesting, since Henry Platt Wylie d. in 1850. Did she marry again? George Holcomb referred to her as "Freelove Wylie when reporting Milton's birth)
17. Simeon A. b. 1812; d. 1901 at age 89y;m. Abby B. in Stephentown
Children of Simeon A. and Abby:
23. Henry A. b. 1848 in Stephentown
24. Henry A. 1843-1923, buried in Garfield Cemetery; m. Sarah Elizabeth Whitman 1856-1943, buried in Garfield Cemetery
Children of Henry A. and Sarah Elizabeth:
25. Harry Dorr 1892-1951, buried in Garfield Cemetery
25. Harry Dorr 1892-1951, buried in Garfield Cemetery; m. Dorothea A. Hansen 1887-1971, buried in Garfield Cemetery.