Some Fifty years ago while struggling to find a climate that would overcome the poison of that dread disease consumption, and restore her to health, Martha Ann Dobbin of Greenwich, N.Y., wrote a letter to her cousin, Nellie Dobbin, of the same town, in which she declared her intention of starting a History of the Dobbin Family.
She was a daughter of Joseph Dobbin and of Martha Simpson Dobbin, own cousins, and hence, twice a Dobbin. She was a sister of Dr. Dobbin of Faribault, Minn., and a great granddaughter of John Dobbin, our progenitor.
Fortunately she was permitted to live long enough to prepare, and leave for future generations, a manuscript containing some valuable genealogical data. Her sources of information were partly her two uncles, William Miller Dobbin and David Miller Dobbin, and her Aunt, Mary Dobbin Nelson, at that time visiting her two brothers – all three had been born in County Antrim, Ireland; had spent their youth in Washington County, N.Y.; the two brothers migrating in early manhood and becoming pioneers in the “Middle West” while the sister remained in Salem, Washington County.
David Miller Dobbin was one of the first Elders of the Somonauk U.P. Church, Somonauk, Illinois. Other sources of information were her own immediate family and several Dobbin cousins, living in Washington County, N.Y., family Bibles and inscriptions on tombstones.
The writer saw a copy of Martha Ann’s manuscript in 1902; had some typewritten copies made and began shortly thereafter to accumulate data to cover the ramifications of the family down to the present time. He has been greatly assisted by Hattie Dobbin of East Greenwich, N.Y., to whom he is deeply indebted for an increased enthusiasm for the family as well as for a large amount of genealogical data. He wishes to make honorable mention of Martha Dobbin of State Center, Iowa; the late Jessie Dobbin Struthers of Craig, Nebraska; John Knox Elsey of Lothair, Montana; Charity (“Cherry”) Dobbin Stinson of Viola, Kan.; Mary Nelson Thompson of Stronghurst, Illinois; Mrs Edward Dobbin of Long Beach, California; Hennie Graham Nicol of Los Angeles, California, and of Genevieve Thompson of Hinckley, Illinois.
He is indebted to many others who have cooperated in giving information regarding themselves; to Frank Dobbin of Shushan, N.Y., and to Ernest Tilford of Smith’s Basin, N.Y., who have taken special interest in searching for other lines of Dobbin and calling attention to them; and lastly, to Miss Jennie Patten, of Yuma, Colorado, authoress of the Somonauk Book.
WILLIAM J. FOSTER
Nov. 12, 1935
Not until a man becomes a father does he begin to take an interest in Genealogy: he is more likely to do so if he were late in marrying, but he is far more likely to acquire the interest when he becomes a grandfather.
The author’s interest at the birth of his first grandchild became keen. He began at once to make a diagram of the baby’s ancestors to the fifth generation back – 32 of them. The same Surname was duplicated only once and that name Miller – one of them, our common ancestor Mary Miller of Connagher, the other a German, living in her native country.
In this connection, the thought occurred to him that 10 generations back there were 32 times 32 or 1024 ancestors and 20 generations back, 1024 times 1024 or 1,048,576 ancestors and assuming 3 generations in a Century in all lines of his descent and no intermarriages, the baby had that number of ancestors living in the year 1256 A.D. Hence considering the branches of the “genealogical tree” as the descendants, the roots may be considered the ancestors and the roots are more certain and much greater in number than the branches.
There has been much speculation as to the origin of the Dobbin folks and as to the name itself. A favourite theory with some of our family is that the name is a corruption of the French, D’Aubigne or D’Aubyn.
The author has not been much interested in this, as he has had plenty to do in tracing the descendants of John Dobbin of Connagher. However, he thinks it extremely probable that John Dobbin was descended from Dobbin of Carrickfergus – the Town and Castle on Belfast Lough, ten miles from the City of Belfast. The Castle was a military stronghold for centuries. Historians agree that the Castle or fortress, was built and garrisoned by soldiers from England or Normandy. The names of certain officials were engraved on stone, one of these names is Dobbin.
In an article in the Baltimore Sun of Aug. 19, 1906, is given a list of those who were Mayors of the City through the period 1576-1724, William Dobbin in 1576, Rigby Dobbin in 1724, five in all; also a longer list that were Sheriffs in the same period, including such names as James, John, Anthony, Nicholas and Thomas. This article states “All of the name of Dobbin in Ulster, descended from Peter Dobbin, Constable of Carrickfergus,” and again “The family evidently from intercourse with the Scotch, by proximity of Carrickfergus to the Scotch coast, embraced the Presbyterian form of religion at a very early period.” One more quotation – “The earliest known ancestors of the family came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror. They settled at Bristol and in 1162, came over to Waterford.”
It is unfortunate that more letters of value, manuscripts, and Journals have not been left behind, that might enable us to carry back John Dobbin’s ancestry a few generations. Conditions in the 18th Century were very disturbed and doubtless few records of births, marriages and deaths were ever made by the great mass of the people.
This sketch of the “Descendants of John Dobbin” is, of necessity, incomplete due to the indifference of some members of our large family who have failed to give the information asked for pertaining to themselves or their immediate families.
EXPLANATION OF NUMERALS
Every Descendant has been given a Numeral that may consist of several figures. Every one is recommended to study the scheme of Numerals until he understands it. The Numeral is not arbitrary but significant. Thus, the number of figures in a person’s numeral shows to what generation he belongs, counting John Dobbin as first generation. Te first figure 1 stands for John Dobbin; the second 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, for that one of his six sons from which the person is descended; while the last figure denotes which child he is in his parent’s family.
Where a family consists of more than nine children, a parenthesis is employed, thus for ten (10), for thirteen (13), which is as large a family as we appear to have. There have been three or four such families. To illustrate, (14) is the Numeral of David Dobbin, the fourth child of John (1); (119) is for David Miller Dobbin, the ninth child of William (11) the first child of John (1); (1659) is for Elizabeth Walker Gardinier, the ninth child of Eleanor Livingston Dobbin (165) the fifth child of Samuel Dobbin (16) the sixth child of John Dobbin (1).
There are now living about twenty with numerals of four figures, or descendants of the fourth generation.
The short chapter, “Autobiographical,” is a brief sketch of the Author’s life, inserted for the special attention of his own immediate family and in the hope that he may have many generations of descendants of his own.
Appendix 1. William Dobbin’s Journal as he crossed the sea, minus the first few sheets which have been lost.
Appendix 2. Martha Ann Dobbin’s History of the Dobbin Family.
Appendix 3. Other Lines of Dobbin and Coat of Arms of the Dobbin Family.
John Dobbin of Connagher, County Antrim, Ireland, was probably born about the year 1740. He married Mary Miller of Connagher. Their family consisted of six sons and one daughter.
|1||William||(11)||b. Feb. 22, 1771.|
|2||James||(12)||b. in 1773.|
|3||John||(13)||b. in 1775.|
|4||David||(14)||b. in 1778.|
|5||Miller||(15)||b. in October, 1782.|
|6||Samuel||(16)||b. Feb. 21, 1789.|
|7||Sarah||The daughter died while young. We do not know where she belongs in order of birth.|
Mary Miller Dobbin, the mother, in the interval between the marriage of the oldest son, William, in 1793, and the migration of her husband and two youngest sons to America, had undoubtedly died.
James and John probably came in 1797; their father and the three younger brothers in 1798. William, the eldest, did not migrate until 1824.
There is a tradition in the earlier generations of the Descendants of John Dobbin that he left his home in Connagher, came to America, and fought with the Colonists in their struggle for Independence, but diligent search, recently made in the Archives of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, has failed in discovering proof that he was a soldier in the Revolution. It hardly seems possible that he so served when we consider the number of babies and very young children in his home at that time.
Unfortunately, there are no records pertaining to John Dobbin (1) either in the form of letters, manuscripts or journals until we come down the generations to Martha Ann Dobbin (1137) whose Journal was written in 1887-1888 (See Appendix 2). It is not known just when he died nor just where, but he was buried in the Christie Graveyard, where two of his sons, Miller and Samuel, were buried many years later.
The six sons settled in Washington County, New York, within a few miles of one another. Like nearly all immigrants from the British Isles at that time, they became farmers, although two of them engaged in other occupations at some time during their life. James was a cooper and David a tanner.
The farms and homes of the six brothers were all located in a small section of the County, the East Central part, in the towns (townships) Greenwich, Salem, Jackson and Argyle.
The Archives in the County Clerk’s Office contain records of numerous Deeds of farm property in which the name Dobbin
|They had no Children.|
|2||John||(142)||born August, 1807.|
|3||Mary||(143)||born Feb. 5, 1810.|
|His second wife was Nancy Lourie, born May 5, 1795; died Dec. 19, 1880.
Children of this union:
|4||Martha||(144)||born Nov. 2, 1826.|
|5||Jane||(145)||born Mar. 21, 1828|
John Dobbin, (142) born in 1807, in Argyle Township: died July 26, 1870: married Maria Sherman, who died Mar. 2, 1869, aged 59 years. Their home was in Greenwich, N.Y.
They had one Child.
Frances Dobbin (1421) born Apr. 17, 1841: died Dec. 6, 1930: married Robert Forsyth, graduate of Williams College, Class of 1868; was born May 23, 1841, in North Argyle, N.Y., and died Sept. 13, 1928, at their home in Lexington, Mass. He was a Teacher, having his own boys’ schools in Thomaston and Greens Farms, Conn., and later in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was for several years Principal of the Lebanon, N.H., public schools.
They had two Children.
- Herbert Forsyth (14211) born June 20, 1870: Student in Massachusetts Institute of Technology: in charge of Buildings and Grounds of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, with his offices in New York City and Jersey City: married Mary Louise Rix; their home is in Westfield, N.J.
They had two daughters.
|1||Elizabeth Fay Forsyth||(142111)||born Aug. 4, 1906.|
|2||Frances Forsyth||(142112)||died when four years old.|
- Anne Forsyth (14312) born Feb. 4, 1877, Graduate of Smith College with B.L. degree in 1901; Teacher of English in Claremont, N.H., and later in Lexington, Mass., where she has her own home, 1415 Massachusetts Ave. She takes great interest in Dramatics; at time has charge of training the local Amateur Club. She is fond of writing short stories; one of her best is “His one Big Moment” in the June, 1933, number of the American Magazine.
Mary Dobbin (143) born Feb. 5, 1810: died Oct. 1894: married William Harrison, born in 1806: died in 1839.
They had three Children.
|1||William John Harrison||(1431)||Born Jan. 30, 1833: died May 1, 1862; shot at Chancellorsville: was in the 123 N.Y.V.|
|He had married and left a boy.|
|William Henry Harrison||(14311)||Born in 1858.|
|2||Ellen Harrison||(1432)||Born in 1833: died in 1839.|
|3||Letitia Harrison||(1433)||Born in 1836: died Dec. 31, 1912: married Nicholas Wallis, brush maker; Supt. Of Brush Factory in Newark, N.J. They were both singers and fond of music. When a young man he taught singing schools in the School Districts in vicinity of Troy, N.Y.|
|They had no Children.|
THE FOSTER FAMILY
Martha Dobbin (144) born Nov. 2, 1826 in Fairhaven, Vermont: died Mar. 21, 1912, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Joseph Reid in Hebron Township, Washington County, N.Y. She married James Foster of Argyle Township, Mar.25, 1858.
They had four Children.
|1||David Andrew Foster||(1441)||Born Dec. 18, 1858.|
|2||William James Foster||(1442)||Born Sept. 17, 1860.|
|3||Hattie Foster||(1443)||Born Aug. 10, 1863.|
|4||Charles Henry Foster||(1444)||Born Jan. 30, 1865.|
David Andrew Foster (1441) born Dec. 18, 1858: married on Jan. 20, 1892, Mary Louise Shields of Hebron Township, born Aug. 10, 1862. They own the old Foster farm and house purchased in 1819 by his grandfather, Andrew Foster, located on the top of the hill about three miles north of Lake Cossayuna with fine views of the Green Mountains of Vermont to the East and the Adirondacks and Mountains around Lake George to the West and North. David was early elected Elder and Supt. of Sunday School in the Hebron Unity Presbyterian Church.
They have two Children.
- Cora Eveleen Foster (14411) born July 11, 1899; Graduate of Syracuse; A.B. degree in 1920; taught in Cambridge, N.Y., High School two years; married on Dec. 28, 1922, Nelson Pratt who acquired the ownership of the fine Pratt farm just East of Lake Cossayuna, that had belonged to his ancestors.
They have one Child.
|Carolyn Foster Pratt
|(114111)||Born Jan. 14, 1926.|
- Edward Shields Foster (14412) born Aug. 11, 1901; Graduate in Agriculture, Cornell Univ. In 1925. He has been Farm Bureau Manager (or County Agent) of Chautauqua and Suffolk Counties, New York, and now for several years General Secretary, New York State Farm Bureau Federation, with headquarters in Roberts Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
William James Foster (1442) born Sept. 17, 1860: married on Sept. 16, 1896, Caroline McEachron, of Argyle, N.Y., born Dec. 9, 1873.
They have one Child.
William James Foster, Jr. (14421) born Feb. 18, 1899: A.B. Amherst Col. In 1921: married Ruth Elizabeth Seltzer, of Pottsville, Penna.; Grad. Smith College, A.B. in 1920. He has been with a Consulting Engineering Firm in New York City since graduating; is a Cost and Rate Expert.
They have three Children.
|1||William James Foster 3rd||(144211)||Born June 20, 1923|
|2||Donald McEachron Foster||(144212)||Born Apr. 18, 1926|
|3||Janet Elizabeth Foster||(144213)||Born May 10, 1933|
Hattie Foster (1443) born Aug. 10, 1863: married on Dec. 20, 1893, Joseph Reid, of Hebron Township, a near neighbour, born Dec. 9, 1858: Farmer, specializing in Dairy and Potato Raising.
They have three Children.
- Henry Foster Reid (14431) born Jan. 9, 1895: married Margaret Pratt, of Cossayuna, on Feb. 27, 1919. He is a large potato grower and a hustling farmer in general; now owns two farms about one mile apart. He was made S.S. Supt. when quite young, also Elder in the Hebron U.P. Church; has been Supervisor of the Township of Hebron three terms.
They have four Children.
|1||Marjorie Harriet Reid
|(144311)||Born Sept. 26, 1920; Student in Salem High School.|
|2||Lois Eleanor Reid||(144312)||Born Aug. 1, 1923; Student in Salem Junior High School.|
|3||Robert Henry Reid||(144313)||Born Nov. 30, 1926.|
|4||Joyce Anne Reid||(144314)||Born Dec. 7, 1935.|
- Marion Harriet Reid (14432) born Jan. 16, 1899: Grad. Oneonta Normal School; Teacher in Troy, N.Y., Schools.
- Ralph Dobbin Reid (14433) born Jan. 13, 1903; Grad. Glens Falls Academy and Cornell Univ. In 1925; post graduate student for over one year; now scientific and successful farmer in Hebron Township; married on Aug.1, 1930, Elizabeth Harris Lansing of Broadalbin, N.Y., graduate of Syracuse University.
They have one Child.
Norma Lansing Reid (144331) born June 17, 1932.
Charles Henry Foster (1444) born Jan. 30, 1865: married on Jan. 17, 1906, Jennie Qua of Hartford, Washington Co., N.Y.; born Apr. 20, 1873. He owns the farm adjacent to his brother David’s.
They have two Children.
- Frances Irene Foster (14441) born May 30, 1908: trained Nurse: married on Sept. 3, 1934, James M. Shields, farmer in Hartford, N.Y.
- James Qua Foster (14442) born June 17, 1911: Grad. Cornell Univ. In Agriculture in 1933: Ass’t Farm Agent, Columbia County, N.Y.: office in Hudson, N.Y., resides in Claverack, New York.
Martha Dobbin Foster (144) although born in Fairhaven, Vt., was brought up in South Argyle, N.Y., whiter her parents had gone when she was very young. She attended District School and later took up dressmaking, going from house to house to sew for the women folk. Such experience was undoubtedly very helpful to her later when she had children that needed clothes and a good sized family to feed and take care of. She was thirty-one when she married James Foster, thirty-eight, the oldest of a family of eight children. She then became housekeeper in her father-in-law’s family, where there were still two bachelor sons and two unmarried daughters living at home. Fortunately, these four all married within three or four years and established homes of their own. Within seven years after their marriage, four Children had come to them. Both father and mother were hard working, self denying to an unusual extent. Besides the family proper, one hired girl for a period of years and one hired man, together with the aged grandfather, made up the household. Within the house and cellar, yarn was spun, cream was churned and butter made by mother, in such manner that it did not have to be used shortly after making, but occasionally, was kept in the one hundred pound firkins for a whole year, awaiting a better market. Outside there was practically no machinery during the period 1858-1870; all planting and cultivating was done by use of the hoe; hay was cut with the scythe and raked with a hand rake. Those were the days of variety farming; the crops, corn, potatoes, wheat, rye, oats; the stock, cattle, sheep, hogs; the poultry, chickens, turkeys and geese. There was great abundance of fruit, especially, apples and cherries. Nothing was sold except fattened cattle, mostly steers, pork, lambs, wool, rye straw, potatoes, butter, eggs and vinegar. Father was a firm believer in the policy of feeding everything to stock, thus enriching the land, but he would not buy hay to feed on account of the risk of introducing obnoxious weeds. He always managed to have some hay left over in the haymow and maintained his farm free from daisies for years after the fields were white with them on all adjacent farms. He never had animals of any kind giving trouble by jumping fences, due to his vigilance in keeping every fence on the farm in perfect condition. It was a busy life he led, even in the winter time as he threshed rye and wheat with the flail, chopped and split wood, cut up beef and pork and salted down a good supply for use in the summer, smoked hams in the smoke-house, etc. The market for farm produce was at the railroad, twelve miles distant. Heavy loads of potatoes or grain required about three hours with a good pair of horses; then the unloading and often, a little shopping to do and the return home used up an entire day. The post office was at North Argyle, five miles distant with rough, hilly and crooked roads between. Getting the mail was a sort of neighbourhood affair and seldom was undertaken more than once a week. The family Doctor lived in West Hebron, five miles distant and often when sent for in a hurry, he would be away attending some other patient, many miles from his home.
Mother always seemed to her Children, much more concerned than father for their proper mental and spiritual development. She made a practice of reading the Bible every day, and encouraged the Children to do the same and to commit to memory some of the choicest and most inspiring chapters, like the 23rd. Psalm and the 14th. Chapter of John.
There were few books in the house and practically all of them were religious, “Pilgrim’s Progress” and similar books. Every Sabbath afternoon she had her Children answer the questions of the Westminister Catechism, taking care to observe the same order of rotation but starting with a different child until all had had his or her turn at the number one question. She never made use of the book as she carried in her mind both questions and answers. She had a wonderful memory and with her contacts in the community before marrying, she knew the names of many of the older families living in Argyle and adjacent townships, and the relationships existing between different families.
She was as thorough and painstaking in her housekeeping as Father in his farming.
Jane Dobbin (145) born March 15, 1828: died Dec. 12, 1908: youngest child of David Dobbin (14) and Nancy Lourie: married on March 21, 1848, William Welsh Ilford, born Oct. 24, 1824: died Sept. 12, 1904. Their farm was located in the eastern part of Argyle, close to the Hebron townline in School District Number 5, or Coot Hill District, their house being the nearest farm house to the School House. “Uncle William” was a progressive farmer, undoubtedly the best read of the farmers of that region. He got many new ideas from newspapers and other publications, such as there were in those days. He had many a thrill from Caricatures as they appeared in Harpers Weekly, Toledo Blade and others during the Reconstruction Period, after the Civil Was. He introduced new kinds of crops and methods of cultivation. His family shared in his enthusiasm and were thoroughly in sympathy. The boys as they were growing up put a dam across a stream on the farm, built a mill and ground grain.
They had three Children. Surname Tilford.
- Helen Augusta (1451) born Feb. 21, 1849: died Dec. 31, 1912. She never married, although much solicited; she and her mother were always great chums.
- Charles Henry (1452) born June 24, 1862: married on Aug. 30, 1893, Ada Lester, born Apr. 23, 1861. They began their married life occupying a part of the house on the Lester Farm, which later became their own. It is located in the Township of Argyle, well to the North East in the “Hook School District”; at present (1935) their P.O. address is R.D. Smith’s Basin.
- William John (1453) born Aug.20, 1867.
Charles Henry Tilford (1452) and Ada Lester have two Children.
- Lester Nelson Tilford (14521) born Dec. 9, 1895; married Ruth Nichols born June 1, 1905. They were married June 29, 1927.
They have four Children. Surname Tilford.
|(145211)||Born May 24, 1928.|
|2||Barbara Ruth||(145212)||Born June 6, 1930.|
|3||Martha Jane||(145213)||Born Aug. 3, 1934.|
|4||Lester Nelson||(145214)||Born Dec. 13, 1935.|
- Helen Irene Tilford (14522) born Jan. 24, 1897: not married.
William John Tilford (1453) born Aug. 20, 1867, in the Township of Argyle, Washington County, N.Y.: married on Oct. 25, 1906, Ila Snyder: born Jan. 30, 1895. He was the third and youngest child of Jane Dobbin (145) and William W Tilford. He has always been known as Jon Tilford, few people being aware of his full given name. He took over his father’s farm in the East part of Argyle, but later sold it and bought a larger farm in the Township of Kingsbury, near Smiths Basin. Ila Snyder before her marriage was a Stenographer in the County Clerks office: she also taught school, and later when her family was well started took up teaching again to help with the expenses of the boys in High School and College.
They have four Sons.
|1||Ernest Hubbard||(14531)||Born July 15, 1907: A.B. Amherst in 1929: now (1935) engage in Welfare Work in Hudson Falls, N.Y.|
|2||Paul Potter||(14532)||Born Apr. 19, 1910: B.S. in Commerce in 1933 in Univ. of N.C.: now engaged in Hotel Work in N.Y. City.|
|3||Ralph Wilson||(14533)||Born Feb. 26, 1912.|
|4||Douglas Snyder||(14534)||Born Nov. 26, 1917.|
Miller Dobbin (15) fifth son of John (1) born in Oct. 1782: died Sept. 19, 1866: came to America about the year 1798, with his Father and brothers, David and Samuel, landing in Virginia. He was twice married. His first wife was Margaret Mains, born July 22, 1786, died Jan. 29, 1823. They had seven Children. His second wife was Mrs. Margaret Tinkey Beatty, who died in April, 1877: they had one Child.
|Children of first marriage.|
|1||James||(151)||Born Dec. 29, 1802: died Mar. 21, 1831.|
|2||Mary||(152)||Born Aug. 27, 1805: died Dec. 19, 1839.|
|3||Samuel||(153)||Born Sept. 29, 1807: died April 16, 1868.|
|4||Margaret||(154)||Born Oct. 9, 1810: died Dec. 19, 1889.|
|5||Jane||(155)||Born Oct 9, 1812: died May 25, 1885.|
|6||Eleanor||(156)||Born April 29, 1815: died Dec. 14, 1890.|
|7||John||(157)||Born Nov. 18, 1818: died Nov. 17, 1835.|
|Child of the second marriage.|
|8||Sarah||(158)||Born Sept. 30, 1834: died Nov. 17, 1931.|
Not one of the children of the first marriage ever married; all lived in the Homestead in that part of the Town of Greenwich known as Rock Hill. The three sisters, Margaret, Jane and Eleanor (Nellie), after their Father’s death in 1866, continued to live in the Old Homestead and were known as “The Girls.”
Sarah (158) married William Riddell, born in Ireland, a farmer. Shortly after their marriage they bought the farm next to her Father’s n Rock Hill, where they reared their family and where they died; Sarah at the good old age of ninety-six years. Their family of five Children were:
[Page 65] AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL
On my father’s side I am descended from William Foster and Susannah Shannon of Newbliss (near the city of Monaghan), County Monaghan, Ireland, who with their family of six sons and one daughter, migrated for America about the year 1800. The ship they were on was delayed repeatedly, by calms at times, and by storms and contrary winds at other times; was once wrecked, the survivors cast up on an island, picked up later and finally landed on the shores of the State of Delaware in a staryed condition; nineteen weeks after they had sailed from Ireland. But alas, the mother and son, Richard, had been buried at sea.
Andrew had kept a journal during the trip which he cared for carefully while he lived, keeping it in a small cupboard in his bedroom. After his death, during building operations, the cupboard was put temporarily in an outbuilding. When the contents of the cupboard were to be moved back into the house, it was found that rodents had gotten into the cupboard and destroyed grandfather’s journal. It was a greatly regretted loss to the family.
The Children of William and Susannah Foster were Andrew, born in 1780; Richard; William, born in 1784; Mary; David; James, born in 1790; and Joseph. The father, daughter and five sons worked their way North from Delaware, evidently aiming at Salem, Washington Co., N.Y. Andrew and James stayed in Washington Co.: William and David went further North, marrying sisters by the name of Gray, and eventually owning farms near together in the Township of Lisbon, St. Lawrence County, N.Y.: Joseph settled in Erie Co., N.Y., a little west of the present City of Buffalo: Mary married a man by the name of Mills, and they settled in Auburn, N.Y., raising a large family, both sons and daughters, noted for their stature.
Andrew taught school for twenty years for one hundred dollars a year and board (around). In February, 1819, he bought the farm in the northeast of Argyle Township, now (1935) owned and occupied by his grandson, David A Foster, my brother, while Andrew’s brother James bought the adjacent farm where he resided until his death in 1871. This farm is now owned and occupied by my brother, Charles H Foster.
Andrew Foster married on April 8, 1819, Mary Utley, born July 19, 1797, in Manchester, Vt. She was a New Englander whose ancestors had moved Westward from Walpole, N.H., to Landsgrove, Vermont, at the top of the Green Mountains, and thence into the Manchester valley.
They spent the rest of their lives together on the farm he had just bought, until her death on Aug. 6th, 1856. They had nine Children.
|James||born Feb.18, 1820: died Feb. 17, 1911.|
|William||born Sept. 13, 1821: died Sept. 12, 1822.|
|Sarah||born April 22, 1823: died Jan. 3, 1907.|
|Susannah||born July 1, 1825: died Jan. 31, 1902.|
|Mary||born Sept. 29, 1826: died Jan. 30, 1911.|
|David||born July 25, 1828: died Mar. 5, 1888.|
|William||born July 20, 1830: died Mar. 22, 1900.|
|Andrew||born May 17, 1832: died Jan. 16, 1916.|
|Jane Elizabeth||born May 15, 1838: died May 21, 1924.|
Four brothers and four sisters of this family grew up: married and had children with the exception that Susannah and Jane did not have children. All were farmers, seven of them having farms in the Township of Argyle and one in Hebron, all located within a radius of four miles.
The average length of their lives was seventy-nine and three-tenths years.
James, the oldest, my father, gradually assumed the management of the farm and did not marry until after his mother’s death.
I, his second son, was born Sept. 17, 1860, seven months before the outbreak of the Civil War. My older brother David and I were constant playfellows and companions for years. Our parents found David so determined not to go to school until Willie went with him that a compromise resulted, and I began my school education one term before five years old. The school house was a full mile from our house. There were only three houses on the way, a hilly road, but there was a cross gander at one house and a big yellow dog at another that always came bounding out and barked at us as he escorted us past. In those days district schools had two terms a year, winter and summer.
My first winter term was at the age of six and John Martin, a gallant soldier of the 123rd N.Y.V. was teacher. He had lost a leg in the Chancellorsville engagement: had a wooden limb which probably did not fit very well, as he came at times without it. With his crutches he could beat any of the boys in a race. He had a brilliant mind and a little later was taken into the U.S. Customs Service where he remained the rest of his life and where he was given the title, Colonel.
One day while struggling with his class of beginners in Arithmetic, he lost his patience and exclaimed “little Willie Foster knows that,” and put the question to me sitting in the back part of the room. The result was he put me in the class. Naturally, that put me on my mettle and I tried hard to maintain the reputation I had suddenly acquired. He must have told the incident to his father who lived in a little house about two hundred yards away; since, a year or two later, the old gentleman called to me to come into his house, I went in gingerly, as war had been declared by him upon the school children and maintained year after year. This new acquaintance proved valuable to me later on.
Meantime I advanced rapidly in arithmetic: when ten years old, the teacher, a young woman much superior to the average of the district school teachers of the day, offered to bet ten dollars there was not a problem in the old Adams Arithmetic that I could not do. I hoped no one would take her up, as there was one in the back of the book that I felt shaky about. It involved three men walking at different speeds, starting off together, and going around an island of certain diameter: when would the three be abreast again. This problem belongs to algebra, and none of our teachers knew algebra. Somewhat later, Mr Martin loaned me an algebra and after a time a text-book on Surveying and Navigation.
When about thirteen I quit going to school in summer time and worked hard on the farm as did David who began ploughing at thirteen. We attended school in winter: when I was sixteen we began going to the Argyle Academy, winters only. During the first two winters we drove from home, morning, and back at night, six miles of hilly road, rain or shine. The third winter, our sister, a girl cousin, and a boy cousin joined us in a party taking rooms and boarding ourselves. We took practically all our provisions with us from our homes every Monday morning.
The Principal of the Academy was George A. Headley, a graduate of Union College, an excellent teacher who later was Professor of Physics at Swarthmore College for many years, Author of Text Books, etc. He put me in the advanced class in Algebra at the start and followed up with Geometry and Trigonometry. During the third winter, he told me I ought to go to college. So I took the matter up with the folks at home and found them agreeable. I suspected Mother and Grandmother Dobbin were pleased, as they hoped I would some day be a Minister. It was arranged that I should attend the Academy the spring term. This I did, concentrating on Latin and brushing up on other subjects, so as to be ready to take College entrance examinations. The last week in June, 1879, I went to Schenectady, met the interested Professors of Union College and was allowed to register for the A.B. Degree four years later in the Scientific Course, and at the same time was assured there would be no trouble in arranging to carry Greek as an extra. This was to provide for the contingency of entering a Theological Seminary.
During the summer following, I changed my plans; instead of entering college I went to a College Preparatory School, The Island Grove School, Fort Edward, N.Y., and spent a year of intensive work on Greek and Latin. My roommate and chum was William H. Williams of North Argyle. He and I entered Williams College in September, 1880, and roomed together there four years with scarcely a word of disagreement. My preparatory work had been so sketchy and irregular that I rather expected at least one condition. Upon returning home at end of first term to spend the Holidays, I found Grandmother Dobbin on her death bed. She passed away that first night. On returning from the burial in South Argyle graveyard I was taken with a chill. The Doctor was called the next morning and pronounced the trouble measles. The outcome was the introduction into the community of an epidemic and the loss of about two weeks of the second term. Upon returning to College I was surprised to find my name among the three or four that were being discussed as the leader of our class. At the end of Sophomore year the First in Mathematics was to me and Prizes in other subjects that year and the following years came my way. My Classmates made me President of the Class Junior Year. At the end of that year, I was one of the four men elected to the honorary Phi Beta Kappa Society. Williams College for many years gave the phi Beta Honor to a much smaller percentage of the graduates than did the average college. Honorary Scholarships awarded to me and private tutoring which I did helped materially to pay expenses.
Soon after graduating in 1884, President Carter wrote me the Trustees of the College had voted to establish a Temporary Fellowship that would be sufficient to pay all my expenses for a year of postgraduate work in Mathematics under Prof. Safford, provided I would accept. It was to be understood that I was to give certain instructions to undergraduates when called upon. I accepted. Henry Lefavour, the honor man in Mathematics and Science in the Class of 1883, was my companion during the year. We did some work in making astronomical observations. But, the most of our time was spent in calculating the orbits of newly discovered planetoids; Prof. Safford working in conjunction with German Astronomers; and in getting an inkling into the mysteries of certain Higher Mathematics. Lefavour did more postgraduate work in German Universities: earned his Ph.D.: and has spent his life as an educator, first, as Professor of Physics at Williams and second as Organizer and first President of Simmons College, Boston; recently retired.
For my year’s work and my record as a teacher in secondary schools, Williams gave me the A.M. degree in 1887.
Uncertain as to whether I would be successful n teaching, I became Assistant Principal of the Burr and Burton Seminary, Manchester, Vt., in the fall of 1885: spent one year there, enjoying my school work and the social life of the village: not only did I play the roll of father to the boys, but was their barber: was President of the Shakespeare Club in the Village: Teacher in Sunday School of the Congregational Church, etc. It was the first time in my life that I had an opportunity of getting acquainted with and having social relations with a goodly number of the other sex.
During the Easter Recess, spent at home, Argyle, N.Y., a telegram from Dr. John Meigs of Hill School, Pottstown, Penna., invited me to meet him in Williamstown, Mass., with reference to an engagement. I met him and engaged for one year, still having in mind more postgraduate work and eventually a professorship in some University. I found the Hill School an ideal institution in most respects; one where the boys learned how to study, acquired good habits of living, and learned to properly balance hard work with play. John Meigs was a model schoolmaster. It was an education in itself to be associated with him in teaching.
Instead of remaining simply one year, I stayed four. Toward the end of every year, the “Professor” offered inducements, including a good increase in salary. Finally, in June, 1890, I was released. Early in July of that year I attended the Meeting of the National Educational Association in St. Paul. It was the first time I had been as far West as Chicago. After the Convention was over, I made a visit of one week at Dr. Dobbin’s home in Faribault, Min. I had known him by reputation, but had never met him before. I remember him most pleasantly as also Mrs. Dobbin (Ms. Ames in her first marriage), their two boys Edward and John, and Joseph Ames who just previously had gotten his A.B. degree at Johns Hopkins and arrived home while I was there. Since that time he has been Professor of Physics and then President of Johns Hopkins.
In Sept., 1890, I registered at Cornell for postgraduate work in Physics and Electrical Engineering. My work was of such a character that I spent much of the vacation and holiday time in the laboratories; thus, I accomplished more than a normal year’s work. The Professors whom I majored under were Dr. Edward L. Nichols and Harris J. Ryan. They gave me the M.S. degree at Commencement, 1891.
On August 10, 1891, classified as an “Expert” I began work with the Thomson-Houston Electrical Manufacturing Co., Lynn, Mass. The hours were fifty-nine a week, 6:30 A.M. to 6 P.M. for five days with one hour out for dinner and 6:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. Saturday. The duties of the Experts were of great variety and quite novel to me, such as testing machines and electrical apparatus of all kinds after it was completed and before shipment: assembling trolley ears and testing: taking care of the motors driving the shop machinery; keeping all wiring and switches concerned in lighting the offices and the shops, in repair, etc., etc. After a few months of this general work, I was transferred to the Engineering Department, in Feb., 1892, to H.G. Reist’s Office, Engineer in charge of Direct Current Generator Design and Other Special Apparatus. I was then put on the Engineering Pay Roll at a small salary. Six or seven months later I was made Assistant Engineer of the Department. Just prior to the appointment I was given an option by Mr. E. W. Rice, Chief Engineer of the Company, of undertaking to become Engineer of the Long Distance Transmission, a proposed new department. I told Mr. Rice that I wanted to get experience in machine design and to be close to an experienced design engineer; hence I preferred to stay with Mr. Reist.
The developments on hand at that time proved of great importance as they involved two entirely new machines, – the Induction Motor and the Synchronous Converter. The most of my time the next two or three years was spent on these two classes of machines. Another class of machine that took up considerable of my time in 1893 was the low voltage direct current generator for separating gold and silver from copper, smelted from certain ores.
About this time Charles P. Steinmetz joined us who was destined with his great mathematical and scientific mind, his indefatigable energy and industry to work revolutions in design and calculation methods.
The General Electric Company, – combination of the Thomson-Houston and the Edison General Electric Company, – came into existence at this time. Late in 1893 we learned that decision had been made by the Directors of the newly formed Company to concentrate the Executives, the Engineers, the Leading Commercial Men and the Manufacturing at Schenectady. The hegira occurred largely in the first two months of 1894. I remained in Lynn to follow the completion and testing of important machines for the Portland, Ore., General Electric Co. On the morning of April 10, 1894, I reported for work at the Schenectady Works.
A new Department, the Alternating Current Engineering, was organized with H.G. Reist, Engineer, and I, Ass’t Engineer, Steinmetz working with us for a time.
Mr. Reist and I spent thirty-seven delightful years together, designing and building new and better machines repeatedly. Often orders were received for machines to replace those we had designed years previously although still in good condition. The reason for this was the latest were so much superior that no enterprising operating company could afford not to throw away his old and buy the new.
I cannot think of any other profession the pursuit of which would have given more satisfaction than Electrical Engineering during the period of my life. Contributory to this satisfaction and of great importance, if one is to enjoy life, is the character of his associates. I have been most fortunate in this respect. Within our own Company I had close relations with such engineers as E.W. Rice, Jr., Steinmetz, W.L.R. Emmet, Prof. Thomson and W.B Potter. Outside the Company I had the friendship of many Consulting Engineers, Executives and Engineers of Customers. My activities within the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (A.I.E.E.) brought me into contact with the leading engineers of competitive Companies as well as the engineering profession in general.
The character of my work required for best results my presence in the Works where the machines were being built and tested. But occasionally I would be asked to go away. It might be a conference on customer’s premises with reference to new machines or a visit to machines that were not operating satisfactorily. Thus, I had trips to many places in the United States and occasionally to foreign countries.
An event pleasing to me and to my friends was the conferring of the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by Williams College at Commencement, 1925. On that occasion, Mrs. Foster and I were the guests of the College. Five others received the Doctor’s Degree at the same time, – Dwight P. Morrow, Edward Bok, Hale Holden, a Congregational Minister of Hartford, Connecticut, and the President of Wesleyan College. While we were partaking of the Alumni Luncheon, our wives were entertained at luncheon by Mrs. Garfield, wife of the President of the College.
Another event, long to be remembered, was the Dinner given in my honor on the occasion of my retirement from active work. This occurred a few evenings before the retirement date, July 1, 1929. The Dinner, a formal affair, had been arranged some days in advance, nicely engraved invitations sent out, etc. The evening was spent largely in reminiscence. There was much after dinner speaking, and the presentation of gifts. Mr. Reist gave me a very pretty Longines gold watch, engraved in the inside “A Souvenir of 37 Years Association”: other members of our Department gave a chain to match the watch. Another gift was a large Album filled with photographs of nearly all present, many of them taken for the occasion.
About two years after retiring, I was notified by the National Secretary of the A.I.E.E. that I had been selected as the Lamme Medalist for 1931, and asking if it would be agreeable to me to receive the Medal at the Annual Meeting of the Institute in June at Asheville, N.C. It was arranged as he suggested. A short session was scheduled for the Presentation. Later in the summer The Institute issues a little pamphlet entitled “Presentation of the Lamme Medal to William James Foster,” from which I quote in full the address that was most personal, given by a comparatively young man who had been for some years in my Department in the General Electric Co., now a well known engineer, Philip L. Alger.
MR ALGER’S ADDRESS
No one has been more intimately and continuously associated with the development of large electrical machinery during its period of most rapid progress that Mr. W.J. Foster. After graduating from Williams College in 1884, he taught physics and chemistry at the Hill School in Pottstown for four years. While there, he grew interested in the local electric plant, and he not only assisted in its operation, but also tutored the operator in electricity so well that the man later became an independent consulting engineer. Through Mr. Foster’s experimental and teaching work at the Hill School, he gained a clear appreciation of the fundamental laws of physics and particularly of the principles of heat flow, in which he took especial interest.
In August, 1891, William Foster joined the Thomson-Houston Company in Lynn as an expert, with a rate of pay of ten cents an hour. Dissatisfied with this income, he inquired for means to increase it, and was told that by passing an underwriter’s examination he could be raised to fifteen cents an hour. He accomplished this objective in a short time, and thus achieved great distinction among his fellow experts, who were jealous of his magnificent income.
In 1892 Mr. Foster entered the design department, and he rapidly came into prominence in the design of special machines. Mr. Foster’s first design job was on the first induction motor for commercial use built by the company. The man who started this work had become so impressed by the magnitude of the task before him that he suddenly left the company without giving his notice.
One day in 1893 Mr. Foster received work that the Niagara Power Commission was expected the next day, and had asked that some method of changing from alternating current should be shown them. In the absence of the departmental head, Mr. Foster felt it was up to him to meet the emergency, and it suddenly occurred to him that he could construct a converting apparatus by adding slip-rings to a direct-current generator. Mr. E.W. Rice Jr., was told of this proposal, and said at once that a model should be made ready. Mr. Foster, therefore, spent the whole night in the shop reconstructing two direct-current machines, removing the commutator of one and replacing it by slip-rings, so that it could be operated as an engine driven alternator, and adding slip-rings to the other, so that it could be driven as a motor. The next morning the machines were operated, and it was found that direct current could be taken from the commutator of the motor, as Mr. Foster had predicted. The Niagara Commission was much interested in the demonstration and in this way the development of the rotary converter by the Thomson-Houston Company was launched.
From this time on, until his retirement, he took an active part in the design of every important alternating-current machine built by the General Electric Company. For many years, he was responsible for the electrical design of all synchronous machines, and in this way he was a leader in the gradual transition from revolving-armature, smooth-core machines to the modern deep-slot, revolving-field machines of tremendously increased ratings.
Many of the machines of Mr Foster’s design are of especial interest, because they marked turning points in the art. Among these may be mentioned the Lachine Rapids generators, built in 1896, of 700 kw., 4,400 volts, with internal revolving fields, which had the first dry tape and varnish insulated coils; the 12,000 volt, 750 kva., 38-cycle, water-wheel generators at Mechaniesville, built in 1897; and the external revolving field generators of 3,750 kva., 250 r.p.m., built for Niagara Falls in 1900, which had the highest efficiency then attained.
Later important machines were the Keokuk 9,000 kva., 58 r.p.m., 11,000 volt generators, which have been in continuous service for 20 years; the Cedar Rapids generators of 10,000 kva, 56 r.p.m., built in 1913, which had 136 poles, and an outside diameter of more than 37 feet; the 32,500 kva. Niagara generators of 1918, which had an efficiency of over 98 per cent at unity power factor; and the 65,000 kva. Niagara generators built in 1922.
Mr. Foster has been an outstanding leader in the development of turbine generator designs from their first beginnings until they reached a size of over 50,000 kilowatts. He designed the 5,000 kilowatt steam turbine drive generator, built for the famous Curtis turbine in the Fisk Street Station, Chicago, 1903, which was the first of the modern steam turbine driven units. Among the later turbine generators Mr. Foster designed, two of the most important are the 30,000-kw., 0.85-power factor, Calumet machines and the 50,000, 1,200-r.p.m. units for the Commonwealth Edison Company.
All of Mr. Foster’s design wok was characterized by an insistence on adequate ventilation and conservative values of the design constants, so that many of his machines have made outstanding records for long service. He was a leader in the development of subdivided conductors to avoid stray losses, the use of radial ventilating systems in turbine alternators, the development of varnished sloth insulation, and the procurement of sinusoidal-voltage wave forms.
Mr. Foster’s careful attention to details of design, and his wonderful memory, have made him a foremost authority in his field, so that operating and construction men throughout the country have sought and valued his advice. On one occasion, after records had been searched for hours to locate information on a very old machine, Mr. ‘Foster gave offhand the inside an outside diameter and length of the punching, and the number and size of the armature slots. All dimensions were exact, except the width of the slot, which was off by three mils. This is one of many instances when Mr. Foster gave offhand details of design and performance of machines that were 15 or 20 years old.
Mr. Foster became a Fellow of the Institute in 1913, he has presented many papers before it, and served as a member of the Electrical Machinery Committee for ten years, 1920-30, being Chairman during the year 1928-29. In 1929 he retired from active work.
Throughout his career of forty years in electrical design, Mr. Foster has been one of the greatest and most productive workers, and the examples of his fine character and his ideals have been almost as valuable as his high ability and wonderful industry. Power station superintendents and operators the country over have asked about him and spoken words of high praise and appreciation years after he had visited them, while all his associates have developed a real affection for him. I believe there is no one alive today who has played a more important part in the development of the electrical design of large machines than Mr. Foster has, and I, therefore, consider that he is eminently worthy of the honor which has been conferred upon him.
The teachers, most helpful to me where John Martin at the District School: George A. Hoadley at Argyle Academy: Fernald, Professor of Greek, Griffen, Professor of English, Mears, Professor of Chemistry, and Mark Hopkins (at 82 years), Professor of Philosophy, at Williams College: and Edward L. Nichols, Professor of Physics at Cornell University.
My Church connections in chronological order have been, – United Presbyterian, Hebron, N.Y.: Congregational, Manchester, Vt.: Presbyterian, Pottstown, Penna.: Congregational, Lynn, Mass.: Dutch Reformed, Schenectady, N.Y. I have been at times teacher in S.S.
Fond of exercise, I have enjoyed gardening all my life; tennis and bowling earlier in life: but my favourite sport is golf.
My clubs are Mohawk Golf, Schenectady: Taconic Golf, Williamstown, Mass.: Williams Club, New York City.
I am Fellow of the American Institute of Electric Engineers: Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Member of the Academy of Political Science. My name is to be found in Who’s Who in Engineering: Men of Science: Who’s Who in New York. [handwritten note omitted]
JOURNAL KEPT BY WILLIAM DOBBIN DURING HIS VOYAGE FROM IRELAND TO AMERICA IN JULY AND AUGUST, 1824.
(Several of the opening pages are lost.)
In such a place I believe it is not possible to maintain a due reverence for the Sabbath. The constant din, hurry and bustle carry away the attention, and, before one is aware, the sacred employment of the day is forgotten. O, Lord, who are governor of the sea and land, give us a speedy deliverance from this horrid society, and restore us to ordinances and the quiet enjoyment of the Sabbath.
The most of my family are very sick. I have been only a little squeamish myself as yet; therefore the whole weight of attendance falls upon me. Attendance not very agreeable to a delicate stomach. The constant vomiting in all parts of the ship almost provoke me to join them for good fellowship and then – But if the doctrine of association of ideas be true, it will save me the trouble of writing dirty truths. I beg her Ladyship’s pardon for using the expression, but I really could not find one more descriptive.
On Monday we had the wind fair, but it died away towards the evening, and this morning, Tuesday, it was quite calm.
Last Sabbath the Lord’s Supper was dispensed at Carnenlogh, and my seat was empty. I know my friends, if I mistake them not, would take notice of the circumstance with feelings of regret. “Woe is me that I dwell in the tents of Kedar.” But I trust in that powerful hand which hath fed me and led me all my life long that He will deliver me from this place and this society in the time and manner that is best for me. This day is Dervock fair. I will not be missed there, but I please myself with the thought that there will be a few worthy, single hearts met there who may be talking about me, and doing me the justice to say: “Poor Billy has a warm, a feeling heart.” And if these few I have in my eye shall speak well of me, I care not much what the many shall say.
This afternoon we have a fine breeze, and every hour is bringing us to our desired haven. O, that the happy hour is bringing us to our desired haven. O, that the happy hour was come when I could sit down on land and write you the joyful news ‘we are safe arrived.’
This is the fourth day since we sailed. A fine, fair wind. The ship is rolling. A great many are sick. None of us are very ill except Margaret. She is never yet able to hold up her head. I am not very sick but my head is giddy. Jane is quite well. This is a double blessing on account of the child.
How often are we deceived by appearance and how very uncandid as well as unchristian is an indiscriminate sentence. There was a Lot in Sodom, and I believe there are more sober people in this ship that I at first apprehended. What often leads to such mistakes is that they who are will disposed to religion are hid in the crowd of the noisy and profane.
Fifth day. Last night the wind began to blow a little brisker and some of the passengers were greatly terrified. Had I not been sick and sleepy I would have been greatly diverted. Some were vomiting and groaning, others were exhorting the sailors to pray. There, they were singing hymns, and here, they were making promises of amendment. It was with the greatest difficulty I could get my own women to believe we were not to perish instantly. I am very sick and so are all but Jane and the child. It is a great encouragement we are making good way. Notwithstanding my resolution o avoid the journal style I have insensibly fallen into it. My constant squeamishness unfits me for anything but just to take notes.
Sixth day. The wind against us partly, and by lying near to it we made but little way. The captain and mate seem to be using all the exertion in their power to forward our passage and our comfort. Indeed for my own part I cannot boas much of their partiality to us, but their conduct is such as to entitle them to the general approbation.
Seventh day. Wind a little fair.
Eighth day. The wind against us. In the evening almost quite calm.
Ninth day. A fine breeze but contrary. At night it blew a little brisk. They were lying near the wind and of course the vessel was lying to one side. A number of the passengers were much afraid. There was a large chain cable of several tons weight on the deck. It shoved all at once to the lower side of the ship with a tremendous noise; the ship at the same time having fallen more to the side than they had felt if before. O, my friend, had you been there! Never before did I feel an inclination to laugh at prayers uttered from the heard. I had just awaked with the noise of the chain. The first thing I heard was, “Down she goes.” And then followed loud supplication for mercy. They were neither long nor well connected, but I gave them credit for their sincerity, for they expected before the next sentence to be swallowed up forever.
Tenth day. We had almost no wind.
Eleventh day. A fine breeze but against us. However, by running a few points from our course we made some way.
Twelfth and thirteenth days. A strong breeze still against us. The sea very high. On this night shipped some water, a torrent of which came rushing down the hatchway, which furnished new matter for loud petitions. I am half inclined to think that a number of us have served as parish clerks – the responses are so ready on such occasions. One old man very solemnly said to his son, “She will never rise.” “Never rise!” said the son, not comprehending his meaning. “Why,” returned the father, “is she not down here?” Your friend could hold no longer. I burst out into a loud laugh, which, joined to the sound of prayers and groans, comprised a very ludicrous scene.
Fourteenth day. Still lying to the wind.
Fifteenth day, Sabbath. The wind a little fairer and we made some way.
Our Methodist minister has been sick ever since we sailed, and it was seldom he could keep worship. However, at our own end of the ship a number seem well pleased to join in it, and the last Sabbath proved the most comfortable we have had since we came away, although a great number seem strangers to what is called experimental religion. Yet I have not seen an instance of any one deriding the forms of it. There are but few Catholics on board. I believe the most part profess to be Presbyterians except the Methodists. I have as yet discovered only one man who seems not to reverence the sacred name. I hope M. Munniss will boast as little As I envied him the honor of this man’s being a Seceder.
Sixteenth day. We had the wind at night. A woman died of the fever. If I am rightly informed of the circumstances of this affair, there is not a greater villain on this side the infernal regions than Shaw. I am told that the savage father of the deceased left two daughters ill with the fever in the hospital in Belfast; and that Shaw accounted with him for their share of the passage, allowing the rest of the family to go on bard at the risk of so many lives. There are two more of the same family sick with the same disease and where it will stop the Almighty only knows. However, I endeavour to support myself with the belief that He in whose hands are the issues of life will to with us and for us whatever is best for us. I cannot help again adverting to the conduct of the unnatural parents of the deceased. At the solemn moment when the body of his daughter was laid on a board over the side of the ship ready to be shoved into the deep, he seemed as unconcerned as some others of the spectators. And I am told that he and the old woman sat down a short time after to a hearty breakfast.
Seventeenth day. The wind somewhat fair.
Eighteenth and nineteenth days. Foul and fresh with a high swell. Margaret very sick. Her frequent regret that she came to such a place sinks deeply on me and keeps me very unhappy. For my own part I had represented to my fancy all the trouble we have had, and a great deal more; so that I was prepared to meet difficulties.
Twentieth day. The wind still ahead. I have little to record save the wind and weather. Not so a land journey. Every mile presents something new and furnishes matter for reflection or amusement. But here, there is nothing to vary the scene. Sky and water is all that is to be seen unless now and then a ship at a distance. And when I tell you that I have not discovered one person of taste and refinement in the ship such as the dear friends I have left behind, you will not think it strange that this narrative should be dry and uninteresting. Our conversation here is far enough from being of the sentimental kind. In general is low and often wicked. O, for one day’s – one hour’s conversation with a few I could name! It would put new vigor into my low spirits. But this cannot be. Well, then, I will talk over again the pleasant – the interesting conversation which memory has faithfully recorded. There is a young many of the Methodists that appears to me to be remarkable for his piety. He takes pleasure in reading the scriptures and can repeat a great deal of it and apply it to good purpose. But I do not know to what extent his information reaches on other subjects, for he seems so religious as not to relish any other subject.
From the fifth day up to the twenty-fourth the wind almost constantly against us. But on that day we had a fine side wind and made a great deal of way. On the twenty-third day – being the twelfth of July – there was a join for drinking; for there are a great number of Orangemen on board. To avoid being thought singular I made Joseph subscribe. There was a good deal of liquor drunk, but nobody drunk, and the frolic ended in good humor. One of the Catholics swore after he had danced with them, had they been Catholics they would have been killing one another.
On the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth contrary winds. I begin to fear a tedious passage, but that is nothing to the dread of the fever. To be confined to such a place where such a disease is raging excites a degree of horror which I am unable to describe. On the twenty-sixth a child belonging to a woman in the fever, died. The mother is ill – not expected to live. O! My friends, if you know my feeling at this moment you would indeed pity your poor friend. My only support is the assurance that a hair of our heads cannot perish without our Heavenly Father’s notice. Under this conviction I shall not be altogether miserable whatever may befall us. The after party of the day we had fine winds. At night it began to blow pretty hard. A mutiny took place. One of the men refused to come on deck. The captain seemed afraid to go to extremities while the passengers were in bed, but the next morning he gave two of them a dreadful kicking. The passengers did not interfere much, but they were determined to support the captain if there had been occasion. I cannot say what was the cause of the mutiny, but it is conjectured that it was on account of the first mate being degraded, I believe, on account of drinking too much and neglect of duty.
On this day we sailed but little, the wind being too high to carry much cloth. It was uncommon rainy and cold.
How wonderfully gracious is that Providence that preserves us at all times; but in imminent dangers and signal deliverance when the Almighty arm is made bare in remarkable preservation it loudly calls for adoring gratitude and thankful praise. Such sentiments and such a frame of mind our late wonderful escape demands, and is calculated to inspire.
On the morning of the thirtieth as it began to dawn, I was awakened by the signal for the men to appear on deck, which was succeeded by the noise of their feet. Rising in the greatest hurry some of the boys started up and went upon deck. O, dreadful! They thought they could have thrown stone on land. The sailors were terrified. They exerted themselves to the utmost and in a few moments the ship was put about. It was acknowledged that ten minutes more would have wrecked us, as we were running directly on land. What seeming casual circumstances are made the means of our preservation. The wind was low, the man at the helm was relieved, and, in coming forward discovered our situation. It proved to be Newfoundland. Now it was my turn to be terrified and I cannot look back without shuddering with horror. As soon as it was clear we discovered a mountain of ice. It was literally a mountain. We were told, and I believe it, that it was as high as the top mast of the ship. As I am not used to calculating the size of object at such a distance on the water, I cannot guess at its bulk. But it appeared of an enormous size. And when the sun shone upon it it had a grand and majestic appearance.
Thirty-third day. This is now the third day since I wrote last. I was taken ill with a severe lax which confined me to bed. I am still confined, and obliged to write in bed. If I were the only sufferer it would be comparatively easy for me, but Margaret is ill of the same disease. Where it will end God only knows. It remains for us to improve the time as it passes and be silent under his hand who afflicts us. I have fears that I will not be able to bring these papers to a close. At any rate, if I be able I will close it with a parting address – a last sad farewell to my ever dear and respected friends. I will give orders that it may be transcribed and sent the first opportunity. This afternoon I am a great deal better. I begin to hope that the disease is at a crisis, and that I may live to say that we are safe arrived. A few days fair wind would bring us to the desired haven. We are not on the coast and looking out for land. This day we had the melancholy news of a vessel floating with her keep uppermost. She was far to windward, and nothing further could be discovered.
I should have mentioned long ago that the Chin-cough was in the ship. Mary and Peggy took it., We though Peggy would have died, but she is now pretty well. Another circumstance I forgot to mention in its order. The day that the child died of the fever the Captain fitted up the long boat for the rest of the family. They have remained there ever since and are getting better.
On the evening we spoke a vessel from Quebec to Belfast, and our Captain desired them to report us in Belfast; so that I expect you will hear by the newspapers that we on the coast long before you get a letter from me.
Thirty-forth day. This has proved to me a day of terror. My original disease is somewhat abated, but I feel strong symptoms of one much more dreadful – a stoppage of urine, O, Dr. Cannock, what would I give to be under your hand whenever I am ill. Fancy sets you picture before me. I think you could relieve me. I am sure you would if you could. But what is all this? This I could bear up against but our doctor says – hear it, and guess my feelings – he says that William has the fever. To you whose hearts I know, and you who know mine, I need not say more. In this double trouble, however, I have cause for joy and thankfulness. Margaret spent more time on the deck this day than any day since we left Ireland. A pleasant day this – but little wind. How sudden the change from cold to heat. The weather after the first week was as cold as winter, especially the last ten days. We had fair wind to the thirty-sixth day. On that day it was dead. We have been in the river the two or three days. Thirty-ninth day. I have been so agitated with grief I was not in spirits to write these days past. We are beating up the river for the most part against the wind. We now see the shore on each side. William is very ill. I think it is not the fever, but I am afraid he will not lie. One of the family in the boat was buried on the thirtieth. It is said she was dead a day or two, but they concealed it in hopes of getting to land. I have got almost quite well, but Margaret continues weak and sickly.
Forty-fourth day. We have been beating up the river almost constantly since we left the gulf. On the forty-third we got a pilot on board. The Captain was looking for one with great anxiety. On the forty-fourth day our jib-boom broke. We got it repaired in a few hours. On the forty-fifth day we go up the river with a fair wind and landed at Quebec; being Wednesday the 4th August. On Thursday evening the 5th we got into the steamboat. The women and William were taken in a boat. The rest of us had to go by land about half a mile. They would not let us on board till the hour of sailing. By that time it was quite dark. I was stopped as I was going in by a passenger who owed me some money. By the time I settled with him the rest were all on board and when I went in I could not find them. I at length found James McAllister on the same fruitless search. We spent a long while of the night before we found the women, and James and David were still to seek. I will not attempt to give you a just idea of the situation. The throng and confusion baffles all description. It is enough to observe that the half of us could not get room to lie down on the deck. I sat the whole night between William and the wind shivering with the cold. The rain began to fall and continued heavy the following night. We got a piece of tarred cloth which with some of our own bed-clothes gave us some shelter and kept off the greater part of the rain. Our beds were all wet. We were cold and fatigued, and could get no warm victuals. All this was nothing to the distress on William’s account, who was so weak as to require support to walk a little. We landed on Saturday evening, and here was a new distress. William had the appearance of fever and no one would lodge us. I offered half a guinea for two nights, and would not be received. A kind Providence put it in a man’s heart to give us a room at a moderate rate. We suffered more distress in body and mind from Quebec to Montreal than in our passage from Ireland. Our kind and humane Captain agreed for all his passengers that were going up the river, at two shillings a piece less than the usual rate, to wit, 8 shillings. The Providence landed on the same day with us, after a passage of nine weeks. A number of them were with us besides a great many more which, together with their baggage stowed the vessel both above and below in such a manner as scarcely to leave room to set a foot on the deck. O! My friends, did you but know what I suffered. I cannot describe my distress.
We stopped in Montreal till Tuesday the 10th. Our lodging cost us a dollar. At 10 o’clock on that day we took the steamboat for Lapere, a distance of nine miles, which cost us ten schillings. From thence we proceeded to St. John’s, a distance of eighteen miles, where we arrived at about nine o’clock in the evening of the same day. We had two carts at a dollar each. This part of our journey was pleasant. The day was fine. We were indeed a good deal fatigued. I was glad to have an opportunity of remarking that all parts of the world can produce persons of humanity. There was a gentleman in the steamboat who took notice of William and brought him a glass of wine. Another brought him umbrella and gave it to me to hold over him to shade him from the sun. These were comforts which no one offered on the passage from Quebec when there was much more need. We stopped in St. John’s till Thursday the 1th. Our lodging cost us ten pence a night. Early on that morning we got on the steamboat for Whitehall. Our freight cost us seventeen dollars and a half. We had a pleasant passage and landed before sunset on Saturday the 14th. But here we could get no lodging, and were obliged to go into the country to get a wagon to go to my brother James; about thirty-four or thirty-five miles, which cost us five dollars. I started off at nine o’clock, some hours before the wagon. It was ager night before I reached the village. I had then three miles further to go to James. I had difficulty in finding his house, and the people were mostly in bed. He went back with me to the village to meet the wagon. We stayed part of the night watching for them, but they did not come. We went home and I was very uneasy. I was afraid some accident had befallen them, for the man had said he would be in the village by evening. They came in the morning, when it appeared one of the horses had rusted (balked) and they were obliged to stay at an inn.
To Captain Mason, Commander of the Brig Glory of Aberdeen from #Belfast to Quebec.
Sir: – It is with pleasure we take this opportunity before we bid you farewell to express the deep sense we have of your care and of your kindness to us during our passage in your ship Your constant attendance on your duty as a commander, and even your denying yourself in many instances that rest which your rank entitled you to, was evident to us all. But the time in which you navigated your vessel with almost constant head winds speaks more for you than we are able to do. But, sir, it is as a man of feeling and humanity that we can appreciate your character. Your unremitting attention to everything that could promote our health and comfort, claims our warmest thanks, and demands our respect and esteem. Be pleased then, sir, to accept of this address as a tribute we owe to your friendship, and as a testimony that we are not insensible to your merits.
MARTHA ANN DOBBIN’S HISTORY OF THE DOBBIN FAMILY, PROBABLY WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1889
Note: For the sake of clarity the numbers used throughout this book have been inserted in the Appendix. – WM. J. Foster.
The Dobbin family is of French Huguenot descent and the present name is a corruption of the true name – D’Aubyn. It is supposed the family was driven from France during the Huguenot persecution and took refuge in Scotland. Later they crossed the Irish Sea to the north of Ireland and settled in County Antrim.
Early in the eighteenth century John Dobbin (1) was born in Connagher, County Antrim. He married Mary Miller of the same place. William (11), James (12), John (13), David (14), Miller (15) and Samuel (16), six sons – and one daughter, Sarah, were born to them; all of whom lived to a ripe old age except the daughter who died young. During the Revolutionary War John Dobbin came to America and fought with the Colonists until the close of the war, when he returned to Ireland. Not long after, his wife died. In 1798m, his sons James and John having emigrated to America, he returned – bringing with him his three younger sons, David, Miller and Samuel. They landed in Virginia and pursued their journey northward on foot. (The three sons lived to a good old age and always spoke in terms of praise of the kindness and hospitality of the people who entertained them n their weary journey.)
The father was old and feeble; and Samuel, being but a boy of nine years. They were not able to travel as speedily as the older ones desired. David and Miller hastened on and their father and Samuel followed as strength would permit. It was a tedious, painful journey. The father was weak and frail in mind and body, and often Samuel’s childish wisdom and perseverance were sorely taxed in his efforts to prevail on his father to follow the direct road. After many wary days and weeks their destination was reached and they arrived in Washington County, N.Y., where they lived and died.
John Dobbin did not long survive the journey. He soon died, and his remains lie in the Christie burying ground in Greenwich. His age is not known and his resting place is not marked, but his name still lives in his survivors and honoured descendants. John Dobbin and his immediate descendants were all members of the Associate Presbyterian Church and nearly all their descendants are in that or the U.P Church. Blood will tell. And some traits of the French Huguenots still adhere to the family.
William Dobbin (11) was born Feb.22, 1771. At the age of [text ends]