Cattaraugus County, New York

Cattaraugus County, New York, is where three lines on my father’s paternal side intersect in the early 1800’s:  the Dows, the Prices, and the Goodenoughs.  Below are the members of my family I’m researching there:

Families in Cattaraugus County, New York
Families in Cattaraugus County, New York

Revolutionary War Patriot Thomas Dow moved from Vermont to Cattaraugus with his wife Mary Barker late in life, to join several of their children already there.  Their daughter Elsie Barker Dow married William Henry Price in Cattaraugus County on Christmas Day in 1816.

William Price moved to Cattaraugus, along with several of his siblings, from Cortland County, New York.  They had all been born in Morris County, New Jersey, where their father had served in the Revolutionary War, and then the entire family migrated to upstate New York.  William Price was a prominent resident of Cattaraugus County, serving as Justice of the Peace, Coroner, and Associate Judge, as well as being elected the first Supervisor of the Town of Freedom.  He signed the minutes of the first town meeting.

William and Elsie’s daughter Malvina was born in 1820 in Cattaraugus County, and married Darwin Erasmus Goodenough in 1838.  Darwin’s parents David and Hannah, along with several of his siblings, had moved from Lewis County, New York to Cattaraugus County around 1835.  Darwin and Malvina left the area for Wisconsin in the late 1840’s.

On my first day in Cattaraugus, I easily located David and Hannah Goodenough’s graves in the Delevan Cemetery.  It felt really good to pay my respects.

Gravestone of David Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York
Gravestone of David Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York


Gravestone of Hannah Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York
Gravestone of Hannah Goodenough, Delevan Cemetery, Delevan, New York

It’s a shame that Hannah’s gravestone seems to have been cut off at the top so that her name is no longer present.

There were actually five Goodenough gravestones, all in a row:  David and Hannah, and three of their children.  Adoniram Judson Goodenough and Hannah Keene Goodenough were both single, and the third stone was for a married daughter, Dinah Goodenough Sage, and her infant child, who both died in childbirth.  Dinah was only 29 and left behind two very young sons.

The next day, I found Thomas and Mary Dow’s graves in the Arcade Rural Cemetery in neighboring Wyoming County.  William Price is buried there as well, but I wasn’t able to locate a gravestone.  Elsie was 52 years old when William died in 1844; she remarried and is buried in East Aurora, New York with her second husband.  I’ll have to visit her grave on another trip.

Gravestone of Thomas and Mary Dow, Arcade Rural Cemetery, Arcade, New York
Gravestone of Thomas and Mary Dow, Arcade Rural Cemetery, Arcade, New York

As you can see, Thomas and Mary Dow’s stones are illegible, and you would have no idea that a Revolutionary War soldier is buried here.  I’m going to remedy that.  Thomas Dow’s stone should be clearly marked as a Patriot and I will make sure it happens.

I also visited the Cattaraugus County Historical Museum, which had wonderful resources for genealogists, and very helpful people.  I asked if they knew where the records might be for the Town of Freedom.  They didn’t know, but referred me to the historian for the Town of Freedom, who I called the next morning.

My visit with this delightful woman, Lorna Spencer, was one of the two highlights of my trip.  Lorna is in her late 80’s, and a plethora of knowledge about the history of the area.  Among many other things, she helped me to pronounce some names which I was sure had been lost to history… can you say “Adoniram Judson”??  This was the name of a gr-gr-gr-uncle of mine, the single son of David Goodenough, one of the gravestones in the Delevan Cemetery.  I was pronouncing it ALL wrong.  The emphasis is on the long I sound in the middle syllable. I had no idea that it was the name of a Baptist minister of the time, who had gone to preach in Burma – apparently many families named their children after him.

Lorna was interested in more information on the Goodenoughs buried in the Delevan Cemetery.  I was really glad to provide it so that my family is not forgotten.  Now the folks taking care of the cemetery will have the information to pass on to others who might inquire, and Hannah will have a name!

The other highlight was my visit to the Cattaraugus County Courthouse.  I first went to the Office of the Surrogate Court, which has all of the original probates from the formation of the County, available for public inspection.  I was able to view the original probate file for my ancestor William Price – papers which my gr gr gr grandmother Elsie Price had touched and signed in 1844.  I literally had goose bumps while touching it.

I also saw, touched, and photographed the original probates (1860’s) for the two single children of David and Hannah in the cemetery, Adoniram and Hannah.  We often hear that the probate files of the unmarried siblings of our ancestors are an amazing resource.  Well, I can vouch for that.  Both files were filled with information about all their nieces and nephews, their married names, and their residences at the time.  But the piece de resistance and the highlight of those files: one contained a promissory note signed by my direct ancestor, their father, David Goodenough.  Any time you can see your ancestor’s actual signature is a real treat!!

But that was not the highlight of the day. After looking at the probates in the Surrogate Court, I was in the County Clerk’s office looking at Miscellaneous Records and Mortgages.  Across the room at the back was a clerk working at one  of the surfaces – I don’t even know what to call it – it’s where the big books are stored underneath, and you pull them up and put them on the surface to read them.

Well, it got to the end of the day, and the clerk was gone.  I was over in that area, looking for early mortgage books.  I got down on my knees in the area where the clerk had been, so I could read the titles of the books underneath there more easily, and I saw several very old books. Naturally, I took a look.

Here is the first page of one of the books:

Book of County Officers, Cattaraugus County Courthouse, New York
Book of County Officers, Cattaraugus County Courthouse, New York

If you are a genealogy researcher, you will understand how magnificent this is.  This is the original book of officers from when the county was formed in 1817, and my ancestor William Price is listed there – he’s at the bottom of the page.  He was sworn in as Assistant Justice, and Justice of the Peace, on 18 June 1817, almost 200 years ago.  AND, I believe that’s his original signature, which means he touched this piece of paper!

Looking further through the book, I found William Price over a half dozen more times, taking the oath of the County Coroner, Justice of the Peace, and Assistant Justice in subsequent years.

I really have no words to express how incredible this whole experience was!  All I can say is that I’m definitely coming back to Cattaraugus County to see Lorna, but also to continue my research on these families!

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