The Comptons’ Move to the Lakes

We’ve long known the Compton family started out in Orange County, New York, on the west side of the Hudson River fifty miles north of New York City, and that they ended up in the Finger Lakes area. Though we know that the grandfather who died in the Revolution was involved with the town of Cornwall before the War, the 1810 census shows his son living in the Monroe area of Orange County, thirteen miles southwest of Cornwall.

William the son and Hannah Phebe Post were married in Orange County on February 23, 1794, during George Washington’s second term as President. At least nine of their eleven children were born there. Those nine children and their birth years (though not all records agree) are:

Anna                1794
David               1796
Peter                1799
William             1802
Runyen             1803
Abraham          1805
Hezekiah          1808
John P              1809
Elizabeth           1812

Two more daughters would be born, one for sure and perhaps both after the family’s move to the Lakes area.

What can we figure out about when the family made the move from eastern New York to the Finger Lakes area, a bit south and east from Lake Seneca—other than between censuses of1810 and 1820?

Sources used for the following:

·    Birth dates of the Compton  and Lockwood children

·    History of Schuyler County

·    1820 census for Steuben County

·    Peter Compton’s obituary

The History of Schuyler County (which wasn’t called that until 1842) tells us the following about the early days of the area:

That part of the town Orange called Mead’s Creek was settled, or began to be settled, a few years previous to 1820. … [In reference to Sugar Hill]… The settlement began about the year 1819 or 1820. Lewis Nichols, William Webb, Thomas Horton, Abraham Allen, John Allen, Ebenezer Beach, Mr. Eveleth, Seymour Lockwood, and two families of Comptons were among the first settlers. 

So the questions are who was Seymour Lockwood and who were the “two families of Comptons”?

The 1820 census shows that William Compton with wife and seven children were in Steuben County by then. The oldest child, Anna, had married Seymour Lockwood in 1812, and they already had four of the twelve children they would have—Frances (1814), William (1815), Deborah (1817), and Frederick (1819). David Compton, William and Hannah’s second child and oldest son, was married and had one daughter, Hannah Jane, born in 1819.

So it appears the “two families of Comptons” were William, father of the clan, and David.

Peter Compton’s obituary says he “resided in Orange County, New York, where he was born, until 1819 when he moved west with his brother-in-law to Steuben County.” Since the Comptons’ second daughter wasn’t born until 1812, that brother-in-law had to be Seymour Lockwood. (This account seems to suggest that Seymour and Peter made the trip ahead of the rest of their families, perhaps as advance scouts; but see the matter of Susannah Compton below).

1820 census for Steuben County reports:    

>David Compton with wife and 1 child, a girl
>William with 7 besides himself and his wife

3 working agriculture
3 boys 10-16
2 boys 16-18
2 girls under 10

1 girl 26-45 [Since Anna was married and is counted in Seymour Lockwood’s family, it is strange but not impossible that she is listed here. Maybe she was visiting that day J.]

>Seymore Lockwood with 6

1 working agriculture
2 adults
4 children -  2 boys 2 girls
(fits with our info, above)

Ages of the complete Compton clan in 1820:

Anna  26 (Seymour was 8 years older than Anna)   
David  24
Peter   21   
William  18
Runyen   17
Abraham   15
Hezekiah   12
John   11
Elizabeth   8
Father William    44
Mother Hannah   41

Another question is who the seven children in the family were in the 1820 census. Six of them are clearly Elizabeth, William, John P, Hezekiah, Abraham, and Runyen. We can’t tell for sure whether the seventh one was Peter (third oldest) or Susannah (second youngest).  Because the 1820 census lists the family with two daughters under 10, it appears to be Susannah. Most listings of Susannah’s birth give her a birth date of 1816, which fits with the census.

If Susannah was the seventh child in the census, then it appears Peter not only didn’t make the move with the family but didn’t live with them on that end either. In that case, we can conclude that in the census the “3 boys 10-16” would be William, John, and Hezekiah. The “2 boys 16-18” would be Runyen and Abraham. Our birth date on Abraham is not a firm one, so he could have been 16 instead of 15. The “3 working agriculture” would be William and his sons Runyen and Abraham.

(An individual named separately in the census as Abraham with a wife really seems unlikely to be the Abraham in this family, unless our date for him is way off.)

Much seems to point to a move made near the end of the second decade of the new century, with perhaps Seymour and Peter in 1819 serving as advance scouts for the rest of the family. The only glitch in that scenario is if Susannah was indeed born in Tyrone in 1816, rather than in eastern New York before the family made the move.

A search of the history of the town of Tyrone ( is not much help. It clearly shows life and activity in the town in the second decade and even the first decade of the 1800s, and it provides long lists of early settlers. William Compton is noticeably absent from those lists.

However, the name Runyon Compton appears four times (once as constable in1823), as well as a Jonathan Compton once. William-father-of-our-Compton-clan is reported to have had an older brother named Runyon, so it is quite possibly, even likely, him. Might he have been the influence that drew other members of the family westward to that location? (We have no information on a Jonathan Compton.)

What we know for sure is that William, Hannah Phebe, and family were in the area by the time of the 1820 census, as well as their sons David and Peter and their daughter Anna Lockwood and her family. William and Hannah’s last child, my ancestor Hannah Marie, would be born the following year, definitely in Tyrone, according to her obituary.

Conclusions? Since Hannah was born in Tyrone in 1821, it appears that is where the parents and the younger members of their family settled when they came from the East. We have reason to believe that Peter immediately took up life of his own in the Sugar Hill area a few miles southeast of Tyrone. And if we can judge by where the Lockwoods began to be buried, it appears they may have settled in the area five miles further south that eventually became known as Donovan Hill.

See “Who Owned the Compton Farm?”

Link to map of Orange Township cemeteries.

Interesting note from Iris Jones, descendant of both Anna and John P.: “The 1st time while in the Orange Co. court house I talked to a Mrs. Smith about my searching their records. She invited me, and wanted to show me where the Compton land was years ago.  It is in the bottom of a large lake (man made).”

There is much more on this web site about the Comptons after their move to the Lakes area.

This map is of Orange Township, Schuyler County, NY in the 1870s. The map shows: 1) The circled Xs are the locations of Sugar Hill and Donovan Hill cemeteries. 2) The E.J.Brooks spot is the land sold by Peter Compton's two sons to Elijah Brooks in 1871 and in 1878 by Brooks to Patrick Donovan. 3) Tyrone Township where the Compton parents apparently settled is directly above the northwest corner this map of Orange Township.

Click on it to see it in higher resolution.