Today I’m trying out a new topic for an ongoing series much like my, “What is the Jargon!?!” series. It is no surprise that I enjoy exploring cemeteries wherever I go. The closest cemetery near me is Bayside Cemetery, here in Potsdam and when the weather is nice, I like to walk to it. There’s a lovely path that runs along the Raquette River that goes all the way to the rural cemetery.
Now, almost every time I adventure around Bayside or another burial ground, I take tons of pictures of gravestones that interest me for one reason or another. I figured I could share some of those gravestones with you all, along with information about the person who the stone represents.
The first story and stones I wanted to share with you are the gravestones of William and Thankfull Davis, located in Section E, Lot 168.
The timing for this post was completely unplanned until I looked at a calendar on Tuesday and realized that May 25, which is today, is the death anniversary of William. He was a Patriot during the American Revolutionary War and possibly the War of 1812, though I couldn’t confirm that.
William Davis was born September 30, 1762 in the town of Rutland of Worcester County in Massachusetts. His parents were Nathaniel and Ellen (Hubbard) Davis. William was the youngest of 15 children! When he was 17, William enlisted in the 7th Worcester County Regiment.
On July 5, 1787, William married Thankfull Nye in Hardwick, Massachusetts. Thankful (Nye) Davis was born February 10 1764 and was the daughter of Joseph Nye Jr. of Sandwich and Thankful (Goodspeed) Nye of Barnstable (they were married in Hardwick on October 20, 1757). Thankful (Goodspeed) Nye was the eldest child of Ebenezer Goodspeed and Elizabeth (Bodfish) Goodspeed; AKA Thankful Davis’ grandparents. On a side note, Thankfull’s gravestone is the only place where her name is spelled with two of the letter, “L.”
Both William and Thankfull passed away in 1833 in Potsdam, NY.
So how did William and Thankfull get all the way from Hardwick, Massachusetts to Potsdam, NY. Well, it’s unclear when exactly they arrived in Northern New York. A source I used for initial information, indicates that they were in Potsdam by 1820 – they would have been in their 50’s.
The other curious thing about the couple, looking at the detailed family trees for both William and Thankful, none of them indicate that they had kids, which seems really weird. Especially when you envision two middle age people in the early 19th century moving all the way to Northern New York from Massachusetts. That’s normally a 6 hour car drive – imagine doing that on horses and wagons. Plus, during this time, it was usual to have large families because of infant mortality rates and having more kids meant having more helping hands on a farm. So that’s why I thought something must be missing in the record.
I went back to the New York State DAR blog that explained William’s service during the American Revolution and checked to see what records were used, so I could check them out for myself. Census records from 1820 and 1830 were used, so I found those online. Looking at the 1820 Census records, I kind of found the answer I was looking for. William Davis is listed and in the row associated with his name, marks were made to indicate that in his household there was one “Free While Male over 45,” and one “Free White Female over 45” and that one person worked in agriculture. A few lines under William, another Davis is listed, Joseph!
The markings in Joseph’s row indicate one male aged 16-25, one male aged 26-44, and one female aged 16-25. From this I assume, Joseph Davis is either a son or other close relation of William and Thankful. Joseph doesn’t show up on the family tree from William Davis’ family but they’re actually buried next to each other at Bayside.
Looking through online records for Bayside Cemetery and searching for the last name, “Davis” I was able to make some more connections. Mary Harwood Davis (1797-185?) was married to a Joseph N., the “N.” is probably for Nye, Thankful Davis’ maiden name. Mary Harwood Davis was the mother of Ebenezer H. Davis, who was born 1832 and passed away 1911. By the way, they’re all buried in a row next to each other at Bayside. So they all have to be related! Ebenezer is an interesting name to choose…it would have been same name as Thankful (Nye) Davis’ grandfather.
So based on the new information and comparing that to the 1820 Census information for Joseph’s household we can conclude that: Joseph is the, “male aged 26-44” and Mary would be the “female aged 16-25.” Her birth year is 1797, in 1820 she would have been 23. The other male in the household, I have no idea because their son, Ebenezer, wasn’t born until 1832, so it can’t be him. I assume it must be a relative of either Joseph or Mary. If the other male was a brother of Joseph, that would mean William and Thankful Davis had another son but why isn’t he living with them? I think it might be a relative of Mary Harwood, maybe a brother. That would make a little more sense…
I went back to the 1810 Census and William Davis shows up there too; I couldn’t find Joseph Davis listed on his own.
Looking through the Bayside Cemetery records further, I found some other Davis family connections and another Joseph Davis. I found the Joseph Davis that I have been talking, about via the census records from 1820 and 1830. In the cemetery records for Bayside, the Joseph Davis that is listed is occasionally listed as the husband of Mary Harwood. Sounds correct right? Well it’s not the same Joseph. This new Joseph that keeps getting confused with our correct, old Joseph, was born 1860 and died in 1872…..Mary Harwood Davis died in the 1850’s. The other glaring issue- this new Joseph would have been 12 when he passed away.
I assume the mix-up has happened because of a few possibilities:
There are two different Joseph Davis- our adult Joseph Davis, the son of William and Thankful and the child Joseph Davis, maybe a relative in someway;
The old Joseph Davis’ gravestone in actually broken and embedded into the ground next to Mary’s stone- it was never seen during the original inventory of the cemetery;
There’s only one Joseph Davis and his birth year has been recorded incorrectly but he still died in 1872.
If the last one scenario is the correct mix-up- Joseph when he passed away would have been at least 75 years old, assuming he was born the same year as Mary Harwood, his wife.
The other Davis family members that are immediately related to Joseph, Mary, and ultimately William and Thankful include:
Thankful Davis (died 1836) Apparently this Thankful doesn’t have a stone but is buried in Section E, Lot 168).
Catherine Davis Averill (died 1882). Her father is listed as Joseph Davis. Her spouse’s initials are E.W. buried in Section E, Lot 106.
Thankful Davis Chapman (1838-1882). Her father is listed as Joseph Davis. She is buried in Section E, Lot 105.
? Elmina S. Davis Barnes (1838-1859). No parents are listed for her entry in the cemetery records. Her husband was Charles. She is buried in Section D, Lot 019. I included Elmina because her maiden name is Davis and her birth year is very close to the other “confirmed” Davis daughters. Maybe she is a cousin.
A few final points about the family to make. William Davis was a supposed veteran from the War of 1812. I researched and I couldn’t find any records officially indicating this. Joseph Davis though, served during the War of 1812 in Darius Hawkins Company of the NY militia. The record for his pension also lists that he married Mary Harwood on September 16, 1816.
Joseph’s son Ebenezer H. Davis was a veteran from the Civil War. Ebenezer was a private during the Civil War. He served in Company B of the 50th NY Volunteer Engineer Regiment. Ebenezer’s enlistment lasted from September 1, 1864 to June 1865, when the regiment was mustered out.
So that makes three generations of the same family, veterans in a number of wars fought in the early years of American history.
Researching this family showed a couple of interesting issues in that can happen when researching history of a family. The first issue was the lack of information in William and Thankful’s family trees especially in regards to their own family and whether or not they had kids. Based off of their family trees it would appear they didn’t have kids but the census records and location of gravestones at Bayside would indicate they moved to Potsdam with some children. The lack of clear information can indicate a couple of things: records along the frontier area of the United States weren’t well maintained AND it can be assumed that once William and Thankful moved to Northern New York, their communication with their family back in Massachusetts was very limited.
The other unplanned aspect of this post is that it’s right in time for Memorial Day, which is May 29th here in the United States. So maybe if you have time this weekend, head to your local cemetery and see what graves you can find of veterans of the United States Army and Navy, and pay respects to our pass veterans.
If you have questions or comments, leave them below.
Thanks for reading!
Further Research and Sources
William Davis –
– Family Genealogy, http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/DAVIS/2000-09/0969922594 AND, http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=DESC&db=:1585920&id=I69178081
–Revolutionary War Service Information, http://nnysardarjpp.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_19.html AND
-1830 Census, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYY-33J?mode=g&i=40&cc=1803958
-1820 Census, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYJ-SH1C?mode=g&cc=1803955
-1810 Census, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYY1-9F6L?i=1&cc=1803765
Thankful (Nye) Davis –
–Nye Family, https://archive.org/stream/genealogyofnyefa02nyeg/genealogyofnyefa02nyeg_djvu.txt AND https://www.geni.com/people/Thankful-Davis/6000000028181467753
-Goodspeed Family, https://books.google.com/books?id=im8ZAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA116&lpg=PA116&dq=thankful+nye+goodspeed&source=bl&ots=T-c_JERiHx&sig=_SHPEGGGhwk5GulabmDB5cLVSKw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjJkoyPn4vUAhUm1oMKHZMWCcQ4ChDoAQgnMAI#v=onepage&q=thankful%20nye%20goodspeed&f=false
Bayside Cemetery Records: http://www.interment.net/data/us/ny/stlawrence/bayside-cemetery.htm AND http://www.potsdampublicmuseum.org/ (At the bottom of the page is a link to a PDF of cemetery records).
Joseph N. Davis – http://files.usgwarchives.net/ny/stlawrence/military/1812/pensions/1812vet.txt
Ebenezer H. Davis: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~stlawgen/CENSUS/1890/Potsdam213a.HTM AND https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/other/50thEng/50thEngMain.htm
Gravestone Iconography: http://www.thecemeteryclub.com/symbols.html
2 thoughts on “Lost in Stone…William and Thankfull Davis”
I am always interested in reading about Northern New York and am very familiar with the Potsdam area. In fact I have relatives at rest in Bayside Cemetery. I had an Uncle work for years at SUNY Potsdam in the maintenance department. I look forward to reading more in your future blog postings.
Hey! It’s great to hear that you enjoy learning about Northern NY’s history. There’s a lot of really amazing history here. Bayside is a beautiful place to be laid to rest. I don’t think I have any family members buried there but I enjoy going and paying my respects to those who are. Thank you so much for the comment!