52 Documents in 52 Weeks #8: Obituary Detail for John Stufflebean

Today’s post is a bit of a stretch being called a document, since, at least to me, some type of official record is implied. An obituary, which is the subject of today’s post is more like a social announcement. However, obituaries are laden with genealogical data, all of which needs to be separately verified.

John Stufflebean’s obituary appeared in the Kaskaskia (Illinois) Republican newspaper on page 2 of the 16 March 1844 issue. His obituary is quite lengthy and I can tell you right off that he wasn’t 110 years old – he was born in 1756, not 1733. However, the second paragraph is the one that interests me the most because I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone’s research including the fact that John married not twice, but THREE times, and had two children with her before he enlisted in the war effort.

Departed this life, in the vicinity of this place, on the 16th of January, 1844, JOHN STUFFLEBEAN, a Revolutionary soldier, at the advanced age of 110 years, 11 months and one day. This ancient man was born, on the banks of the Hudson river, twelve miles from Albany, in the state of N. York, Feb 15, 1733.

There, he married his first wife, whom he left with two children, when he listed, as a private, in the Revolutionary Army, in which he served, almost to the close of the war, when he was taken captive by the Indians, who disposed of him, to the British, for a barrel of rum.

Having remained a prisoner at Detroit, a few months; while employed, one day chopping wood, he and five of his fellow prisoners effected their escape.

On account of the difficulty, experienced in procuring subsistence, these fugitives separated into two parties, and took separate routes to the Ohio River.

The subject of this notice and his two companions,guided by the sun, in fair weather and lying bye, when it was cloudy, aiming for some point, high up, on the river, made the best of their way through the desolate and gloomy forest, then inhabited, only by the hostile Indians; but now is the territory constituting the States of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

Three long months were spent in concealment and wandering about, in the performance of this lonesome and hazardous journey, beset as it was on all sides, by insidious foes, then the sole tenants of those savage wilds; in perils and dangers, daily; and at times nearly reduced to starvation.

At one time for four successive days they were without nourishment, save that afforded by a half-dozen pheasant eggs.
Some times falling in among the Indians and representing themselves,as sent from the British Army, in pursuit of deserters, they obtained food from them and their sufferings were mitigated by the kindness, thus elicited, as well as themselves protected from the effects of the savage enemy then so strong against the Colonists.

These forlorn wanders struck the waters of the Muskingum, near its source, and following the stream down to where, it was found to be of depth, sufficient to float a bark canoe, they constructed one, and made their way in it to the Ohio.

After their arrival at this river, they were rejoiced at the sight of a float boat, floating down the stream.

Although their applications to be permitted to come on board, often repeated, for several days, were, as often, refused, from the fear of their being enemies, finally, the owner, Jown Lyon, being satisfied of their friendly disposition, yielded to their solicitations.

With this gentleman Mr. Stufflebean continued, after their arrival at Limestone – now Maysville, working for him. Here he married his second wife, who, after a few years, died, leaving three children.
After his bereavement, he settled in Bourbon county in Kentucky and there married his third wife, who has survived him and is now living,at the advanced age of 82 years, and was able to attend the remains of her deceased husband to the grave.

In the state of his adoption, to which he had fled, as to a place of refuge; he passed the residue of his long life, except the last two years, which were spent, with his son Jacob Stufflebean, in this county, where he died.

He was, during the Indian troubles, in Kentucky, engaged with occasional intermissions, three years in the ranging service and, while so employed, as at all other times, when his country called, he always heard her voice, where dangers were greatest and thickest, there he was in their midst, prepared to face them.

He was one of the first settlers in Bourbon county and assisted in sawing with a whipsaw, the planks, used in constructing the first permanent framed building, there erected.

This county he left, not long after his third marriage, and settled, high up, on the Kentucky river.

Among the incidents of his eventful life, maybe mentioned his presence of Crawford’s defeat, where he was one of Crawford’s party.

With him, hunting was a favorite pursuit, and the sight of the bears and buffaloes, in those days, so numerous, where he lived, was the delight of his eyes, and, not infrequently was he gratified with the discovery of the former, among his own domestic cattle, as they came home, out of the woods.

He was blessed with a fine flow of animal spirits and, was generally cheerful.

His eye sight was unimpaired, almost to the last, and he never had occasion for the use of spectacles.

He never took a dose of medicine and, with the exception of the four days illness, immediately preceding his death, he was never sick. At least, not seriously so.

In his last and only sickness, he could not be prevailed upon, to call in a physician.

So long as he was able to procure a livelihood by the labor of his own hands, or possessed the means of support, he utterly refused to apply for a pension, declaring, he “did not fight, when in his country’s service, for money, but for Liberty. At last, however, finding himself unable to work and in poverty, he was forced to make application for a pension, and was placed upon the Pension Roll of the United States.

This patriarch died as he had ever lived, opposed to the enemies of his country.

I assume that the informant for much of this information was John’s son, Jacob, who lived (unmarried) in Kaskaskia for a number of years. Jacob died in a cholera epidemic there in 1849.

While some of this flowery obituary has some obvious made up “facts,” like John’s age at death, there seems to be no reason why someone would make up a wife and two children that never existed. The obituary implies that John married in or near the town where he was born “on the banks of the Hudson River, twelve miles from Albany.” The city of Albany also sits on the banks of the Hudson, so I would take that to mean he was born about 12 miles north of the city or about 12 miles south of the city.

John was baptized in Kinderhook, Columbia County, New York, which sits on the eastern banks of the Hudson River, about 20 miles from Albany, and he was likely born there. John may well have married his first wife there, too, but I have found no record of a marriage for him or baptismal records for either of their children.

His pension application says he enlisted around 1775 or 1776 – when he was about 20 – when he was living near the Neversink River about 8-10 miles from the New Jersey-Pennsylvania line. That area was part of Orange County. If he was really 20 when he was living there, it seems more likely that he married there than in Columbia County, unless he returned to that area to take a bride. I wonder if there was a probate of his estate – with his wife thinking he had died somewhere in the war?

I take this as a new challenge – I would love to find evidence of John Stufflebean’s first family and find out what happened to them! I will update you as to my findings.

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