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Have You Checked on Your Ancestors Lately?

Have You Checked on Your Ancestors Lately?

So, with all of the interest in ancestors these days, I thought you might like to know a little about our Postmaster who had the post office in his home on Orange Center Road in the 1850s with the eventual move to the railroad station in 1871. It seems, according to Susan Woodruff Abbott, in her “Families of Early Milford,” one Thomas Oviatt married into the Bryan Family with his wife Frances. He appears in Milford in 1664 making frequent trips back to England carrying letters to and fro. An interesting note is that Alexander Bryan called him his nephew and since Alexander Bryan was well known in England and apparently of great wealth and position there, the letters may well have been from Bryan himself. In 1689, Oviatt was made Milford town clerk but his business appears to be that of a chandler or candle and soap maker.

He was indebted to Richard Bryan, Alexander’s son who apparently either lent him money to establish his business or to bail him out of debt. He and his wife acknowledged this debt to be paid to Richard, his heirs and assigns within 15 months from the 14th of May 1684. The debt was secured with houses, lands, soap firkins (wooden buckets) ashes and oil, enough to be used for soap to pay for the ashes. Now you are probably asking, “what is she saying here?” Well, it’s simple. Soap was made with lime, wood ashes, straw and water. With the straw, lime and ashes in layers, in a large wooden tub, with a bunghole, water was poured through these layers, over and over until the liquid became lye, the foundation of most soap.

There was much “a do” about the death of Thomas’s son Samuel in 1749. Sam’s grandson John was awarded administrator of the estate and listed as a “soap boiler”. Chandler sounds so much more colonial, doesn’t it? A whole litany of “whys and wherefores” followed with a positive affirmation that John should indeed take charge of the estate. Samuel’s son Samuel, in a document to the Probate Judge affirms that “he does not choose to take the trouble of admn on the estate of his Hon. father by reason of living at such a distance (Goshen) and the estate very small”. Well, excuse me! The affidavit is written and signed by the younger Samuel’s wife Rodah further saying that “we declare that we heard that the said Sam’ll declare that he would not trouble himself about it and also depose that some one of his brethren would take it out.” Certified Mar 16th 1767. Yipes!

Candles drying on a "candle stick".
Candles drying on a “candle stick”.

Now Rodah’s husband, Samuel, the very same who denounced his father’s estate now dies in 1767 and we find on March 16th a statement, “I Rhode (change in spelling) Oviatt of Milford, widow of Sam’ll Ovit late of Milford dec. (declare) do not choose to take the trouble of administration on the estate of my late husband nor have anything to do with it: but choose my son-in-law Moses Mallory will take the same. I am yours Roda Oviatt with her X. The woman couldn’t even write her own name! Somehow a John Cowell got into the mix and both Roda and son Isaac, objected to this change in administration on March 24th.

To add to the soap opera, in 1770, Rhoda Oviatt was declared unfit to take care of herself and the first selectman of Milford prayed for authority to sell her dower interest in her dwelling house in Milford. So there! And then there’s Lois, the daughter of the grandson of our first Oviatt, Thomas. Born in 1752, her will, dated June 10, 1826 leaves all to sister Libbie (Sybil unmarried) or her heirs,??? otherwise to my legal heirs. Her estate consisted of ½ interest in personal effects, the other half belonging to estate of Sybil (Libby?) Oviatt. Distributed to John Edwards ½ an island in the Housatonic River. I wonder who got the other half? Also personal property to Elijah Camp, Martin Edwards et al. There are a total of 20 names in that list. There must have been a good deal of fighting over the spoils with that many contenders.

Remember Samuel didn’t want anything to do with his father’s estate? Well guess what, neither did HIS son. So now we have the great grandson declining to administer the estate of his father because of distance and his will names his wife and his children. The kicker to this one is he leaves the household furniture to his wife, the furniture she brought with her to the marriage! Folks, you can’t make this “stuff” up. Another Samuel pops up with a military record in the Revolutionary War in 1779 at the age of 16. In a newspaper article it was told that Sam was a carpenter in the Army, sent to West Point and then in 1789 to Valley Forge. He fought in the south and when the war was over, walked home, over 100 miles.

A firkin.
A firkin.

Lois’ brother, Thomas married Elizabeth Botsford in 1769 and filed for divorce in 1793 on the grounds of desertion since December of 1785, leaving a child of 4 years old. A variety of unusual names appear in the genealogical listing for the Oviatt family; Giles, Comfort, Japheth, Tamar, Huldah, Tamor, Clarinda, Heman, Luman, Salmon, Noyes, Dotha, Adelia, Orsen, Birdsey, Hanford, Uri but the names got more familiar as the years went on.

To say the Oviatt’s were colorful is an understatement. By 1755 Benjamin was born and he fought in the Rev. War as a Minute Man, a most distinguished honor as was the participation of his wife Mary Elizabeth Carter in the French and Indian War. Her history is written in the history of Goshen. Remember Goshen? It appears a lot of the Oviatts lived there. Ebenezer also fought in the Rev. War, as did Nathan who, for 2 months guarded the Coast of Long Island Sound.

Our Sidney may have been less colorful than his ancestors but his place in the history of Orange was well respected. One can still see the post outside his house, the one on the corner of Porter and Orange Center, where a horse could be tethered while its owner was doing business with him. It is also noted in Mary Woodruff’s book that Sidney was a shoemaker. There were quite a few of them in town. Sidney died at the age of 80 years due to paralysis.

Thus ends the tale of the Oviatt family. Please note that any spelling that appears to be incorrect is not of this author. There were no editors in the writing of wills, probate complaints or subscriber’s affirmations, such as they were, so you are on your own.

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