in 1951 we learned that our ancestor Hannah Compton Wells was the
youngest of eleven children. She gave us the names of her brothers and
sisters and their spouses but no dates and no children’s names. For a
long time we didn’t realize that one of the siblings was left out in
copying the information and that the married name of one of the sisters
was misspelled (see “Hannah’s Bible”).
did we dream that someday we would learn reams more about Hannah's whole
family and much about Spencer’s family, though the generations between
Spencer and Hannah’s grandfather so far remain hidden in the mists of
even the Internet. (See “Mysteries.”)
THE FAMILY ONE BY ONE
what was Hannah’s family like when she was growing up? As the youngest
of eleven children, was she surrounded by a passel of older brothers and
sisters? Not as many as one might imagine.
was nineteen when Hannah was born. We don’t have a date for his
marriage, but his first child, Cornelia, was born in 1829. Beyond the
deaths of Eliza and Lyman in 1840, we find the family in Steuben County
in 1850 with six children, from twenty-one year old, married Cornelia to
year-old Baby Lafayette.
In the 1860 census everything had changed. No
one from that family is in Stueben County. Cornelia and her carpenter
husband Henry are in Vienna, Scott County, Indiana, with 4-year-old
Sarah Newberry, presumably their child, and two of Cornelia’s
siblings—Charlotte, 14, and Lafayette, 11. Charlotte still bears the
name Compton, but Lafayette is listed with the name Newberry. I’ve
seen reports that brothers George and Andrew died in Indiana in their
early 20s, so it seems they too went to Indiana with Cornelia and Henry.
Did both parents die in Stueben County between
the two censuses? Or did Betsy die shortly after 1850, leaving Charlotte
and especially Lafayette quite young? We have unconfirmed reports that
William died in Michigan—either near Hannah and Charles in Ottawa
County or in the Detroit area near Runyen. With his wife gone and his
youngest children in the care of their married sister, did William join
one of his own siblings?
(1803-1882), father of fourteen children, was around for at least
Hannah’s early childhood. He and Eliza Ketchum were married in 1826
when Hannah was five. Sometime between then and 1833 they moved to
Dearborn, Michigan (he first bought his first property in Michigan in
’33). It is likely Hannah did not see much if any of him or his family
after they moved away. Runyen died in Dearborn. One of his descendants
was the first one with whom we made contact through the Internet, and
she has done extensive research on all branches of the family.
We are in frequent contact with one of his descendants who continues to do
extensive research on the family. Only his father, grandfather, and
Hezekiah’s daughter Adelia come between him and Hannah’s brother
(1809-1871), apparently called John P., was twelve when Hannah was born
and was around not only while she was growing up but his whole life. His
children were born in the Lakes area, but he and his wife, Eliza
Woodruff, died in Chester, Ottawa County, Michigan, the same as Hannah
and her husband. We can’t tell whether John migrated there along with
Hannah and Charles or at a different time. John and his wife, had ten
children, all but the first couple born in Chemung County, next door to
Steuben County where so much of the Compton history happened.
John died seventeen years before Hannah did. He and several of his family
are said to be buried in unmarked graves in the Lisbon Cemetery of Kent
County, Michigan. We have recently connected with another descendant of
The Siblings by the Numbers
Not knowing when Abraham died sort of skews everything,
BOUQUET OF HANNAHS
As already mentioned, when Hannah Marie was born, her sister Annie was 27 and had four children under seven with another on the way. The four were instant nieces and nephews to welcome the new baby, their Aunt Hannah. Annie had already named children for her husband's parents and one son for her father, so when her next baby was born a girl, she named her Hannah after her mother—a very common practice in those days.
made two baby Hannahs, five months apart, with the one (Hannah Marie
Compton) the aunt of the other (Hannah Jane Lockwood). In addition,
their brother David, in 1819, had already named his first child
Hannah Jane (Compton), so the family had three baby Hannahs born within
two years. Whether the three were able to be playmates and “grow up”
together depends on geography—how close together their families lived
around the southwestern end of Lake Seneca. Our best information at this
point (2012) is that Hannah Marie Compton was growing up in Tyrone and
Hannah Lockwood ten or so miles away, somewhere in the area around
Donovan Hill. (See “Compton Farm”) We
have no information on where David and family lived before they moved to
Ohio in the 1830s.
Two more granddaughters would be given the name Hannah in the next few years. Both would die as teenagers, one of them just a week before Grandmother Hannah Phebe herself died in the spring of 1841.
the years that followed while Hannah Marie was growing up, Annie had
seven more children—three girls and four boys, including a boy who
would grow up to become Hannah’s son-in-law when he married her second
daughter. Annie’s last child was born a year after Hannah was married.
It’s intriguing to imagine what the relationship might have been
between those two sisters during those years. Could they relate as
sisters? Or was Annie more like another mother to Hannah?
It had to have been an enormous decision for Hannah and her husband (by then with four daughters) to decide to make the major move to Michigan in 1854. It helps a lot to know, as we now do, that they were moving to be with family on Charles’ side, but it still had to be bittersweet for Hannah to part from her family roots. Hannah’s parents were gone by that time, and some of her brothers had moved away from the area, but her three sisters (Annie, Lizzie, and Susan) and at least her brother Hezekiah remained in the Lakes area and ended up dying there. As far as any information we have, they never saw each other again.
Hannah was the last of the Compton siblings to die (1888), though she lived to only 67. Sister Annie, on the other hand, who was the oldest and 27 years old when Hannah was born, lived to age 88 and died only six years before Hannah.
Given how many descendants we’ve found who recorded history of the Compton clan, it is clear that family history was important to the Comptons long before anyone ever dreamed of the Internet, computers, or electronic genealogy databases.