Back 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”).

Little 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.”)


So 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.

For starters, when she was born, Hannah’s brothers and sisters (note that Annie was the only girl until she was 18) were the following ages: Annie, 27; David, 25; Peter, 22; William, 19; Runyen, 18; Abraham, 16, Hezekiah, 13; John P, 12; Elizabeth, 9; and Susanna, 5. We can piece together a surprising amount about their lives, considering that close to two hundred years have passed since Hannah’s birth. Not surprisingly, however, some matters remain cloudy.

We know that Anna (1794-1882), called “Annie” in Hannah’s Bible, was married, already had several children (she had twelve altogether), and she and her husband had also migrated west to the Finger Lakes area. One of the early histories of the area reports that “Seymour Lockwood and a couple of Compton families” were among the earliest settlers in Steuben County off the southwest end of Lake Seneca. Annie had twelve children, with only one dying in childhood. She is buried on what would become Donovan Hill along with her husband, two of her daughters, and the nieces and a nephew who died within days of each other in 1840. We have met in person a lady who is descended from both Annie and her brother John P.

David (1796-1856) is listed in Steuben County, NY, in the 1820 census, so it appears he was one of the Compton families mentioned as having come with Seymour Lockwood. He has at least one child buried in the cemetery on Donovan Hill, the first of the cousins who died in the late summer of 1840. Sometime after that, he moved his family to Ottawa Co., Ohio, where he is reported to have died. He and his wife, Rachel Simmons, had seven children. His youngest child, also Rachel, appears to be the recipient of one of Harriet Compton Robinson’s letters (Harriet was her aunt). Three sister descendants of David’s put together an in-depth history of his branch of the family and of the Comptons going way back, including the building of their castle homes. (See “Voices…”). We have made contact with a descendant in our times as well.

Peter (1799-1885) was an outgoing and entrepreneurial member of the family. He and his wife, Maria Buckbee, were married the year Hannah was born. They ended up having twelve children. Four of his children are buried in the Old Sugar Hill cemetery, beginning with the first one who died the day he was born and was never named. Son Samuel died in 1825, and two daughters, a 2-year-old in 1840 and a 15-year-old in 1841, followed. Peter’s lengthy obituary gives us insights into his life. He lived in the Lakes area until the 1850s when he followed his sons who had gone to California at the time of the Gold Rush. Not long after that, Hannah and her family moved to Michigan, so we can’t be sure he and she ever saw each other again. For more on Peter’s life and family, see “The Legacy of Peter Compton.”

William 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?

Runyen (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 know very little about the next brother, Abraham (1805-?), other than that he appears, at fifteen, to have been part of the family at the time of the 1820 census. We have names for his wife (Rebecca Campbell, born 1805 in Orange County) and for three children—Abby, Peter, and William—but no dates or birth places. 

Hezekiah (1808-1877) was thirteen when Hannah Marie was born. He did not marry until she was ten years old. He died in Schuyler County, so he was likely part of her life until she and Charles moved their family to Michigan. He and his wife, Margaret Bensen, are both buried in the Monterey cemetery, though she died in North Dakota many years after he died in New York. They had six children.

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 Hezekiah.

John Palmer (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 his.

Elizabeth (1812-1874) At nine when baby sister Hannah was born, Elizabeth would surely have been both big sister and little mother to her and to the child Hannah for a number of years. It is easy to picture her lugging Hannah around on her hip. In that day and time, a child her age would surely have spent much of her time helping with family chores, even if she had the opportunity to attend school. 

Elizabeth and her husband, John Slaght (or Slaget) lived and died in the Lakes area, so they too would have been part of Hannah’s life until she and Charles moved to Michigan in 1854. Elizabeth had at least two children. We know her daughter (another Hannah) died in 1858, though we don’t know precisely how old she was. The son may have died young also. Elizabeth, apparently called Liz or Lizzie, and her husband, John, died in Watkins, Schuyler County, New York.

Susanna (1816-1877), called “Susan” in Hannah’s Bible and some other records, also spent her life in the Lakes area. Five when her baby sister was born, Susan would come the closest to a sibling playmate for Hannah in her early years. Many years later William, the father of the Compton clan, was living (or visiting) in her home when he died sometime after the 1850 census. He is said to have been buried there in Watkins. Hannah Phebe had died earlier in the place called Sugar Hill. Susan and her husband, Cornelius Thompson, had three children—Catherine, Elizabeth, and Edward, but we have no other information on them.

The Siblings by the Numbers




Birth date

Death date

Age at death

Death order










































6th or 7th


John P.
















6th or 7th







     Not knowing when Abraham died sort of skews everything,
         so for purposes of this chart, I have chosen to ignore it.


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.

That 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.

In 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.