Monday, October 07, 2013

Two Ordinary Patriots

Samuel Mapes (1735-1820) and Smith Mapes (1756-1830)

In 1775, just a few weeks after the Battle of Lexington and Concord,  Samuel Mapes and his 19-year-old son Smith Mapes signed the Revolutionary Pledge* in Ulster County, New York. Shortly thereafter, Smith and Samuel and dozens of their neighbors joined McClaughry's Regiment (the Second or "South-end" Regiment of the Ulster County militia.) As their signing of the Pledge expressed, they were "greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the Ministry to raise a revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scene now acting in Massachusetts Bay..."

Militia Men

Ulster County, today. Photo by Doug Kerr.
Samuel Mapes was a farmer, and it is likely that Smith, his oldest son assisted in the farm work. Joining the local militia probably seemed more practical than joining the newly-formed Continental Army. Samuel had a large family to provide for.

But even militia men were called into the army as needed. "The militia was virtually State troops. They could be called upon for service in the army by the proper authorities at any time, and in such cases the colonel of a regiment was ordered to furnish a certain number of troops for a certain purpose, and the men were drafted from the whole number, and they in fact became as regular troops or the line of the army, after they were so drafted, for the time being." (History of the Town of Marlborough, Ulster County, New York, by C. M. Woolsey, page 107. Published 1908) And so various elements of the Ulster County Militia fought at Long Island, Saratoga, and other battles outside their home county.

Defending the County

The defense of the small frontier settlements in the western part of Ulster county was a huge problem. "The mountains in the west of Ulster pierced by the two branches of the Delaware, the Esopus and the Rondout, were peculiarly open to attack by such a foe as an Indian with the knowledge of a woodman and the cunning of a savage." (Olde Ulster : an historical and genealogical magazine. Vol 3, No.1, page 18, published 1907.) The Indian attacks were orchestrated by Torries and British, who sometimes disguised themselves as Indians and joined in the destruction.

In early 1777, a detachment from the Ulster County militia marched "under alarm" with Lt. Col. Newkirk to the frontier settlement of Peanpack in western Ulster County to combat an attack of this sort. Samuel Mapes was in the group of men. Another detachment, also in 1777 and also under alarm, was led by Major Phillips. Smith Mapes was in that group. (Revolutionary War Rolls of New York, viewed at

Meanwhile, the Patriots struggled with the British for control of rivers. Ulster County, a large region with the Hudson River forming its entire eastern border, saw a great deal of military action during the Revolution. Many militia men enlisted multiple times, serving when called, going to battle in their everyday work clothes, carrying whatever provisions, ammunition, and weaponry they possessed.

Kingston in Ulster County, at that time the state capital, was burned by the British during the war. And a British general justified his burning of Esopus, an Ulster County town along the Hudson's west banks, as entirely necessary because of the rebellious rascals who lived there.
On the 17th of October, 1777, General John Vaughan of the British Army, thus reported to his commanding officer upon his vandal deed of the preceding day: "I have the honor to inform you that on the Evening of the 15th instant I arrived off Esopus: finding that the Rebels had thrown up Works and had made every Disposition to annoy us, and cut off our Communication, I judged it necessary to attack them, the Wind being at that Time so much against us that we could make no Way. I accordingly landed the Troops, attacked their Batteries, drove them from their Works, spiked and destroyed their Guns. Esopus being a Nursery for almost every Villain in the Country, I judged it necessary to proceed to that Town. On our approach they were drawn up with Cannon which we took and drove them out of the Place. On our entering the Town they fired from their Houses, which induced me to reduce the Place to Ashes, which I accordingly did, not leaving a House. We found a considerable Quanity of Stores of all kinds, which shared the same Fate. (Olde Ulster: an historical and genealogical magazine, Vol. 1, No. 2, page 33, published in 1905)

These are just a few examples of the sort of fighting that took place in Ulster County. A third of all battles of the Revolution were fought in New York (New York Military Records at FamilySearch.) The regiments of the Ulster County militia did their part at home and away. I am confident that those militia men fought with a keen sense of vengeance for the outrages committed in their homeland and the losses suffered by their families and friends.

British cannon above the Hudson River.
Photo by Michael Francis Studios

After the War

Sources do not agree about the date that Samuel and his family moved to Blooming Grove (then in Ulster County, but now in Orange), but it seems clear that around the time that the Revolution ended, he moved to Howell's Depot.
He had more sons than land, and in order to provide a farm for as many of them as were content to remain in Orange County, he removed from Blooming Grove to the locality now known as Howell's Depot, then chiefly an unbroken wilderness, and purchased a mile square, or 640 acres of land, upon which he settled, and with the aid of his sons brought under cultivation.

He was a man of vigorous constitution, untiring industry, and a cheerful and jovial temperament. His land was rough and hard to cultivate, but he made the best of it, and it is related of him that when one of his old Blooming Grove neighbors once asked him what on earth he did with some of his roughest land, he replied that that which was too stony for the sheep and cattle to pasture in, he mowed to furnish hay for their winter keeping. (The Family Record: Devoted for 1897 to the SACKETT, the WEYGANT and the MAPES Families by C. H. Weygant, published by C. H. Weygant, 1897, page 46.
Samuel Mapes set aside a plot of land on his farm for a family burying ground, and he was laid to rest there in 1820, having completed a life of nearly 85 years. His wife Mary and many other Mapes descendants are buried there as well.

Smith and Rachel

New York's Revolutionary War Rolls show that Smith Mapes became a corporal, but nonetheless, he found enough time to court Rachel McKnight. They were married on February 10, 1779.

Smith and Rachel made the move to Howells with the Samuel Mapes family. By 1792, five of their children had been baptized at the Old School Baptist Church in Howell's, New York. One of the children baptized there was William Warren Mapes (William Warrington Mapes), my 3rd-great grandfather.

Sometime in the next few years, Smith and Rachel Mapes left Howells and moved about 200 miles west to the Finger Lakes area of New York where they were admitted by baptism to the First Baptist Church at Benton Center, Yates County in 1800. (Early Settlers of New York State: Their Ancestors and Descendants, Volumes I-VI, by Janet Wethy Foley. Pages 6 and 148. Originally published in 1934-1940 by Thomas J. Foley, Akron, NY.)  

Smith and Rachel spent the rest of their lives in western New York. Smith died  in 1830 at the age of 72, and Rachel died five years later. I do not know the location of their graves.
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* The Revolutionary Pledge: "Persuaded that the salvation of the rights and liberties of America depend, under God, on the firm union of its inhabitants in a vigorous prosecution of the measures necessary for its safety, and convinced of the necessity of preventing anarchy and confusion which attend a dissolution of the powers of government, We, the Freeman, Freeholders, and Inhabitants of ---, being greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the Ministry to raise a revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scene now acting in Massachusetts Bay, do in the most solemn manner resolve never to become slaves, and do associate, under all the ties of religion, honor, and love to our country, to adopt and endeavor to carry into execution whatsoever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress, or resolved upon by our Provincial Convention, for the purpose of preserving our constitution and of opposing the several arbitrary acts of the British Parliament, until a reconciliation beween Great Britain and America, on constitutional principles (which we most ardently desire) can be obtained, and that we will in all things follow the advice of our General Committee respecting the purposes aforesaid, the preservation of peace and good order and the safety of individuals and property."  (The History of Dutchess County, New York by S. A. Matthieu. Published in Poughkeepsie, NY, 1909. Page 95.)
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This article was written by Genevieve L. Netz and originally published as a blog post at . Copyright 2013 Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for attaching this article to Mapes family trees as long as this entire notice is included. Any other use requires written permission.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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