Uncle Runyen

I have known for a long time that William Compton, father of our “Compton clan” and of my ancestor Hannah Marie Compton, had a brother named Runyon. Or was it Runyen? Or Runyan? Though in his will it is spelled Runyon, on his tombstone it is Runyen. And as was common in those days, even the three grandsons who carried on his name did not leave a trail of consistent spellings. So take your pick.

It wasn’t until recently that it became clear to me how much the lives of the two brothers and their families ran side by side. Both Runyen and William were born in Orange County in eastern New York where their father William fought in the Revolutionary War. Both brothers were married there and had children born there. It seems clear that Runyen, his wife Sarah, and at least his first child, Hannah, moved from Orange County to the Finger Lakes area, specifically to the town of Tyrone, in either 1814 or 1815. With William’s family moving there at least by 1820 or possibly as early as1816 (birth of Susan; see Comptons’ Move and history of Tyrone), it seems clear that Runyen’s move contributed to William’s.

A few years ago I corresponded with at least two of Runyen’s descendants, both of them with friendly (?) challenges to things I had posted on my webpage. Duane Fowler, a descendant of Runyen’s daughter Fanny, is one of several descendants who have done extensive research on the family and visited the sites in western New York. I asked him to write a summary of what is known of Runyen’s life. Some of the above, along with what follows, is part of that.

Runyon and Sarah are listed in the 1820, ’30, ’40 & ’50 census records for Steuben County, NY. In 1850, Runyon and Sarah were living with their daughter & son-in-law, Hannah & Jesse Hallock. Occupations were not recorded in those census years, but it is presumed the family earned their living by farming. Their three known children were married there: Hannah & Jesse were married ~1829; Jesse Miller married Phoebe Wixson in 1839; and Fanny married Samuel Lewis, also in 1839. 

By an act of the NY Legislature, Tyrone Township was formed in Steuben County on 16 April 1822. The first election for township officers was held in February 1823. Runyon was chosen as collector and as a constable (along with one other). He was one of quite a large group that were designated “path masters” (not quite sure what their duties were).

The Presbyterian Church of Tyrone was organized 21 Feb. 1832; Runyon was a charter member, and Hannah & Jesse Hallock were early members. At the annual meeting in March 1838, Runyon was elected as an officer—perhaps Treasurer (the copy is almost illegible). At the next annual meeting, Runyon was elected Chairman. 

As his life was nearing an end, Runyen and Sarah moved from Tyrone to live with family in Allegany County to the west. There in the summer of 1852 Runyen drafted his will. He left son Jesse Miller Compton as executor with instructions to care for Sarah. Runyon died 3 Sept. 1852, and is buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Friendship, Allegany County, NY.

Back in Stueben County, his brother William had died a couple of years earlier (late in 1850), so it seems the two brothers lived near each other almost their whole lives. For William’s children it means their Uncle Runyen was part of their lives all through their growing up and, for most of them, well into their adult years.