Mysteries We Wrestle With
have learned a tremendous amount about our Compton ancestors, beginning
in 1951 with my third great-grandmother Hannah Compton Wells in her
Bible, but we’ve run across several mysteries along the way. For two
of them we have recently found a measure of satisfaction, but others are
still challenging and often frustrating.
with all the Orange geography?
Our first geographic information about the Compton family came in the references Grandmother Wells made in her Bible. She said her grandfather who fought and died in the Revolution served in the First Militia of Orange County, New York. She told us her mother was buried in Sugar Hill, N.Y. and her father in Watkins [N.Y.], both of which are in the southwest Finger-Lakes area of New York, so the family had to have changed location.
Listing showing William Compton’s name in First Regiment, Orange Co. NY,
The statements in Hannah’s Bible
seemed plain enough, but when the Internet came along, we found
ourselves with confusing info on the names of places related to those
ancestors. Many of them apparently had roots in Orange Co., New York.
Fine. Others were connected to some place called Monterey, Stueben, New
York. But Monterey, as best we could figure, was in western New York, on
the other side of the mountains— fine, but we were also getting claims
about some things “Orange” in the western area. Some even combined
Monterey with Orange.
we have it mostly sorted out. We’re told that so many people in the
southern Finger Lakes area came from Orange County
in eastern New York that they fondly gave the name Orange to their township in their new western locale. As I understand it now,
Monterey was a small borough in
Orange Township, in
what ended up as Stueben County.
But I still protest records that say someone was born in Monterrey,
Stueben in the mid-1700s because I know the area wasn’t settled until
the end of that century.
Comptons’ Move to the Lakes for much more on that move.
about the family and roots of Charles E. Wells?
Another mystery has been trying to find
the family and roots of Grandmother Hannah’s husband, Charles E.
Wells. Read about that pursuit and recent conclusions at C.E.
Who was Salina Canfield?
My first introduction to this ancestral
lady was in the notes I copied from Guy Lockwood in 1951. Grandmother
Wells had written that her mother Hannah Post’s mother was “Mary
Canfield Gibbs, and her mother was Slina Canfield [spelling hers].”
For many decades I took that at face value—until the Internet came
There we find multiple claims that
Salina was the wife of the William Compton who came from England and
fought and died in the Revolution. One of the “Comptonology” sources
gives Mary and Salina different fathers—Thomas Canfield and Samuel
Canfield—with no connection offered between them (which would be
possible if Salina was the mother of Mary).
We have another source, repeated twice,
that agrees with Grandmother Hannah. Her niece, Harriet Compton
Robinson, youngest daughter of Hannah’s brother Peter, made the same
claim Hannah did, in virtually the same words, in letters to two
different relatives. See Voices from the
Past. Both times she states that “Hannah Post’s mother was Mary
Canfield Gibbs and Mary Canfield Gibbs’ mother was Salina Canfield.”
Perhaps the most telling comments in
both Harriet’s letters is what she said about the wife of
William of the Revolution. One first mentions him, followed by
“what was his wife’s name I cannot find out.” In the other, after
mentioning William, the author writes, “Rachel, can you possibly
recall whom he married, the maiden name of our great-grandmother?”
Then she goes on to recount the mother and grandmother of Hannah Post,
as mentioned above.
At the same time, the obituary of one
of Hannah’s nephews, Henry Clay Compton, says this:
The progenitor of the family in America
… was William Compton who came from England to the United States, and
with his wife, Salina (Canfield) Compton, settled in Orange County, N.
Y. He served in a New York regiment during the Revolutionary War and was
wounded in action. The best information is that he served in the First
Regiment, Orange County Militia, under Major Zachariah DuBoise.
I include the last two sentences as confirmation of information we have from other sources, specifically:
Here is a non-Internet
source that lists Salina as the wife of William who came from
England and fought in the War.
So what are we to believe? Since other
family sources besides Hannah Wells say the same thing she said in her
Bible, and since she is two generations closer than Henry Clay Compton,
it’s tempting to believe her version. Wouldn’t Hannah have known who
her own grandmother was, even though she never met her?
But what do we do with the other
claims? It’s true that with Internet sources all it takes is one
source to make a claim and others pick up on it and follow suit, but
that doesn’t explain the Henry Clay Compton source—unless that
was the original source that started all the Internet versions.
he actually die in the War?
Grandmother Wells said her grandfather
“had his jaw shot off and died in the Revolutionary War.” We took
that at face value and assumed it true for more than fifty years. Then
we received a challenge to the idea, based on the information in the
1790 census. A descendant of William Compton’s other
son (i.e., Hannah’s uncle Runyon) expressed doubts as a result of
studying that census. He wrote:
. . .
there is a Wm Compton in the 1790 census (Orange Co.): 2 males, 16 &
over, 6 males, under 16, and 2 females. In both the 1800 and 1810 census
records, there is Wm Compton and Wm Compton, Junior. (Runyen
Compton is on the 1810 census as well.)
I had assumed that Wm. Jr. was the one who married Hannah Post,
and that Wm was his father. What is the documentation that indicates
that [the first] Wm was killed in the Rev. War? Is it possible he was
injured and subsequently lived in Orange Co.? (The number and gender of
the children of Wm. Jr. in the census records correspond very closely
with the birth dates for them given on the web sites (Rootsweb,
does present a mystery. In 1790 “our” William, who would marry
Hannah Post four years later, was just 14 and his brother Runyen was 16.
That would fit the census’s “2 males, 16 & over,” but unless
the man who fought in the War had other children we have no record of,
it leaves several males unaccounted for.
for the documentation of his death, in addition to my Hannah, who had
only one generation between him and her, I have two other statements
that he died, including another about his jaw being shot off. See Data
Analysis. Also check out Voices from the
In those four family sources, it’s interesting that Hannah is the only
one who says he died, while Harriet and Elva May just say he fought in
the War—and even more interesting that Delphine doesn’t even mention
him or the war. So we have other sources who don’t mention his dying
in the War.
the same time, it remains difficult to ignore Hannah’s word since she
remains the closest to the fact—William’s granddaughter, even though
she wasn’t born until forty years after the War. But . . . it’s hard
to deny a census as well, even though it is the census with the barest
amount of information of all those that would follow.
I said, mysteries we wrestle with.
Where was Hannah Phebe Post born?
mystery has evolved along the same lines as the one about Salina
Canfield. Family sources say one thing, and Internet sources another.
Referring to her mother Hannah Post, my ggg-grandmother Hannah Compton
Wells wrote in her Bible that her mother was born in Holland. Since it
was her grandmother, it seems like she would know. We’ve now found
other family sources that say the same thing. Internet sources, on the
other hand, give her a 1779 birth in “Orange County, NY,” or
of the family sources not only says she was born in Holland, but it
gives a relatively detailed account of it, including the fact that she
came over at age sixteen with her younger sister and stayed with an aunt
in New York named Annaje Jans Bogardus. There is no mention of whether
the parents, Peter and ??, ever came to America.
See “Voices from the
another family source has surfaced—Delphine Lockwood Wilson, who is a
descendant of Anna Post Lockwood, the oldest of William and Hannah
Phebe’s eleven children. The very first words in that record are that
“Hannah Post came over from Holland.”
above was fairly convincing—until a current family member who has lived in
Holland pointed out that Salina,
Canfield, and Gibbs are
definitely not Dutch names.
(Post could be either Dutch or English.) So where does that leave us?
at the information we have at this point, I want to lean toward the
reports of family members—except for the challenge of the names that
aren’t/ weren’t Dutch. I guess it is back to guessing games and
hypotheses and mysteries.
additional challenge and problem with all this comes when we try and
correlate the dates. If Hannah Phebe Post was born in 1779 and came to
America at age 16, that would be in 1795. However, the marriage date we
have for her and William is January 1794, with their first child born in
November of the same year—both of those dates a year before the 1795
date when she would have been 16 if born in 1779. But then, our evidence
for the 1779 date may not be rock solid, and it claims to be an American
birth date. If she was born in
Holland, then the American birthday has little value.
course we know that Internet information, as much as it sometimes
uncovers exciting things for us, carries no guarantees of accuracy. So
how do we know which of these dates are
or are not correct is, at the
moment, anyone’s guess. The only date my ggg-grandmother Hannah (our
oldest source) mentioned was the one for Sir Spencer’s battle.
Is Sir Spencer Compton really in our line?
biggest mystery and missing link is the one to Sir Spencer Compton. It
is intriguing that that link is still missing, given how many Compton
descendants are interested in genealogy and how many sources we have
that mention a Spencer connection (I myself know of at least five). This
is what we know at this point (January 2012).
Spencer Compton, second Earl of Northampton, had six sons.
first, James, inherited the title and clearly was not a “younger
branch” of the family, as Hannah Wells put it. Her niece Harriet
explained it this way: “The reason for the Comptons leaving England
was … that in those days the oldest son was the heir to all estates,
leaving the remainder of the family …. poor …. hence they left Eng.
& came to America.”
to Spencer’s family. Two sons died without children, and one son had
only a daughter. Counting James, we have quickly eliminated four sons L.
fifth son, Sir William, in his will left everything to his nephews,
strongly indicating he had no children of his own.
leaves only Sir Charles (the second-born). He had two sons, and his son
Hatton had three sons, but we have little information on them—except
that none, as far as we know, was named William.
of the handwritten family sources says that William Compton who came to
America was “one of the three sons of the house of Warrick in
England….” It is hard to write this off since the family estate,
Compton Wynyates, is in “Warwickshire,” a location mentioned by
Hannah Wells in her account. So still, a mystery to wrestle with.
While Hannah Wells speaks of her grandfather as being “grandson of a
younger branch” of Spencer’s family, there must have been several
more generations between her (born 1821) and Spencer (died 1643), or
even her father (reportedly born 1776) and Spencer. If it were to turn
out that one of Hatton’s sons emigrated to America, that would put
four generations between Spencer and Hannah Wells. If
Hatton’s grandson, it would be five.
so we continue searching, analyzing, and looking forward to word from
other descendants of what they are finding.
for whether there ever really was a connection between the American
Comptons and Sir Spencer Compton, it is worthy of note that our branch
of Comptons are not the only ones who make this claim. Just about every
source that talks about William Compton who fought in the Revolution
also talks about Spencer. All but one branch of our
family with whom I’ve so far become acquainted carries the story.
In one sense, that's what makes it all
the more a mystery that we don't have full and correct information.
However, we're talking about several generations and more than 150 years
between Spencer and the Compton children and even more generations to
later descendants who passed it on, so perhaps it's not surprising most
of them had only "broad strokes" about the generations in
Referred to in this write-up: Four in-family
sources, plus two “Comptonology” sources. For more on the first
four, see Voices from the
Hannah Compton Wells
–granddaughter of William who fought in the Revolution. Hannah’s
information was written in her Bible, likely many years before she died
in 1888. (Shared by Esther Gross, descendant of Hannah.)
–daughter of Peter Compton, great-granddaughter of William who fought in the Revolution. We have two letters,
one at least written by Harriet to another family member telling about
the family history. (Shared by Shelley Compton Hutchens, descendant of Runyen Compton.)
–daughter of Anna Lockwood’s son William, so second
great-granddaughter of William who fought in the Revolution. Dated 1911.
(Shared by Ellie Drake, descendant of Anna.)
Elva Mae Dunham
and likely her two sisters –great-granddaughters of David Compton, so
third great-granddaughters of William who fought in the Revolution.
Their mother and aunt are believed to be their sources, so that would
put them one generation closer, done perhaps the 1920s.
(Shared by Robert Schwab descendant of David.)
Comptonologies – I have two files called “Comptonology.”
One is credited to a William H. Compton, “keeper of the Comptonology
and the other to “Mrs. Ethel Compton Thomas.” William reports
that he gathered [his information] from records in the Bible of Edith
Runyon, by then deceased. The two do not have