It all started with a gravestone. For some reason, I was doing a search on FindAGrave.com for anyone with the last name Thomas who was buried in Chazy, NY. Chazy lies on the shore of Lake Champlain, which itself sits at the nexus of Vermont, New York, and Canada. So it was, in a way, a bustling “port town” with goods and people coming and going. For reasons I haven’t yet quite discovered, Chazy was a big center for my Thomas family, and I knew that my 4x great grandfather James Thomas (1782-1863) had lived there, and that all of his children were born there, including my 3x great grandfather Charles H. Thomas (1821-1873).
I was doing a search for Thomas family members buried in Chazy when I discovered the gravestone for an Elizabeth Thomas. Remarkably detailed, it says:
In memory of Mrs. Elizabeth. Consort of Beriah Thomas who departed this life December 19th AD 1814 in the 79th year of her age. A husband – 6 children are left to lament their loss.
I was immediately struck by the date. Elizabeth was born about 1743. For her to be the “consort” of Beriah Thomas, he must have been born about the same time, which put him the right generation to be the father of James Thomas. The other thing was the name. My grandfather James’s first child was named Beriah Ransom Thomas. Ransom from his wife, Sophia Ransom. Was Beriah a family name? Did he name his eldest son for his father?
I spent many months researching the life of this Beriah Thomas, without knowing if he was related to me at all, and what I found was a fascinating man. I want to introduce him here, and I will address the issue of whether or not he is related to me in a separate blog that you can read here… because it’s not as straightforward a question as it might seem.
Beriah Thomas was born in 1742 in Simsbury, Connecticut. It’s not at all certain who his parents were, but it’s quite possible they were John Thomas and Abigail Griffin who were married 2 Oct 1736 in Simsbury. Beriah seemed to have a soul for travel and adventure. In 1758, when he was only 16 years old, he signed up to fight with Phineas Lyman’s 1st regiment/1st company in the French and Indian War. In 1759 he is on the payroll for Captain Noah Humphrey’s 1st regiment, 10th company.
After the war, Beriah went to Great Barrington, Massachusetts where he married Elizabeth Hutchinson on 19 Mar 1763, according to the existing “declaration of intent to marry”. We know that his daughter Margaret was christened in Great Barrington on 23 Oct 1763, and another daughter Garrattee was christened on 19 Jan 1766. In between, son John Thomas was also born in Great Barrington in 1764. Next came son Matthew in 1768 and son Leonard in 1770. That same year, according to the book “History of Great Barrington”, Beriah and some other citizens were granted permission to expend their tax money to create a school “amongst themselves”.
In 1775, following the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in Lexington, Beriah (then living in Nine Partners, NY in Dutchess County) was one of the men to sign the “Association from Dutchess County”. Essentially it was a pre-revolutionary document designed to “secure unanimity and harmony of action in the ranks of the lovers of liberty, and also to ascertain who could be relied on in the expected struggle” [History of Dutchess County, Phillip Henry Smith, 1877]. Beriah signed in July of 1775, stating that he was willing to fight for the Revolutionary forces.
Once war was declared, he enlisted at Nine Partners, NY in 1776. I will let Beriah tell his own story of his Revolutionary Adventures, which was dictated by him, under oath, in order to obtain a military pension in 1832 at the age of 90 years:
On this sixteenth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, personally appeared before Miles Stevenson, one of the judges of the Court of Common Law of the County of Clinton, Beriah Thomas a resident of Chazy in the County & State afore-said being ninety years last February, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath, make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefits of the act of Congress passed June 7th 1832 —
That he was born in Simsbury in the State of Connecticut and is ninety years old since last February (b Feb 1742), has no record of his age – that he lived in a place called the Nine Partners in the County of Dutchess, State of New York during the Revolutionary War – since that period has been in West Stockbridge, County of Berkshire, Massachusetts and in Grand Isle Vermont from whence he removed to Chazy aforesaid whence he now resides and has resided twenty years last March.
That he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein stated — That he entered at Nine Partners aforesaid the same year that New York was taken by the British , in Captain Brinton Payne’s [Paine’s] company of Infantry in Colonel Roswell Hopkins Regiment Militia [Dutchess county Militia, 6th Regiment] of the State of New York for the term of Five Months — that the said company was stationed at Harris Neck (?) and Merrimack a part of the time, that he served out the said five months and returned home – that he received no discharge as none was given. –
That he immediately again enlisted for the term of three months at the same place, in a company commanded by Captain Elijah Herrick Lance Regiment [Dutchess County Militia, 6th Regiment], that during the said three months he was stationed at Fort Independence [Annsville, New York], that their company was to stop boats passing up the Hudson for examination, that he duly served his time out and returned home. Has no discharge —
That he again enlisted at Nine Partners in the year 1778 as near as he can recollect for the term of Nine Months and served under Captain James Tallmadge [6th Regiment] & Lieutenant Robert Wood in Hopkins’ Regiment of New York Militia. – That he was stationed at a placed called the “Log Jail” about twenty five miles from the Hudson in the interior and whence prisoners were sent for safe keeping – that he duly served out said term of nine months, but got no discharge —
[The “Log Jail” was, as its name implies, a roughly-constructed structure to confine prisoners of war. Betsy Strauss from the Amenia, NY Historical Society clarifies: The book “Early History of Amenia” by Newton Reed, published in 1875, has a lengthy chapter on the Revolutionary War, including some of the activities of the 6th NY Regiment, and it mentions the log prison. The author states, “A rude prison, constructed of logs, was use for confining Tories and any other suspected persons. This was built about 1/2 mile east of present day Amenia, and north of where the turnpike runs (the road was called ‘the turnpike’ in his day). The remains of this prison were there a few years ago (i.e., in the early 1870’s).”]
That he went into service again, as he believes about one year before the ?? of the war — the company of militia to which he belonged were hiessie (?) and he was hired by the clerk for the term of Nine Months — Edward Perle was the captain of this company — that they went to Saratoga whence they lay about a fortnight when they were ordered up the Mohawk River to Fort Plain — at this place Captain Solomon Woodworth had the privilege of picking from the Regiment forty men to be used as scouts — that this deponent [Beriah Thomas] was selected by him for the first man, that while in that service Captain Woodworth went in pursuit of the Tories and Indians, when each man took ten days provisions with the other accouterments on their backs, after a march of a few hours they were ambushed and fired upon by the Indians – Captain Woodworth & twenty five of his men were killed on the spot and two wounded, who with the remainder fell back to the front — this component was followed by the Indians and fired upon – one ball passed between his legs and struck a log and through [threw] the bark in his face – one ball passed through the crown of his hat the other near his head – this deponent with fourteen others got back to the fort with the loss of every thing but life & gun. –
[1780 – In the Town of Herkimer, NY a Marker was placed on Smith Road in 1938 to mark the site of the ambush in 1780 of a Battle at West Canada Creek. It reads as follows: “MAYFIELD MEN – buried with 25 of their Men where they fell. They gave the Full Measure of Devotion to the Cause of Freedom. Captain Soloman Woodworth, Sergeant John Dunham of the Frontier Rangers. Killed in Battle of West Canada Creek – Sept. 1780.” Another account: “On July 2, 1781, a party of 50 American rangers, under Capt. Woodworth, left Fort Dayton to scout along West Canada Creek. They were ambushed by a large party of Indians at present Kast’s Bridge (3 m. n.) and after a fierce fight, 35 were killed, including their commander. The site will doubtless later be marked.”]
At this time Colonel Marinus Willett commanded the Fort & Regiment to which Capt. Woodworth was attached – Major [Josiah] Throop was also ?? often then ?? as adjutant of the fort a part of the time — in consideration of the service performed by this deponent, Major Throop, in the absence of Colonel Willett, gave this deponent a permit to go home home one month before the expiration of the Nine Months, got no regular discharge, nor anything for his services. –
[Beriah Thomas is, indeed, recorded among those serving under Willett and Throop in “New York in the Revolution as Colony & State” by James Arthur Roberts.]
That he has no documenting evidence and knew of no persons whence testimony he can produce, as to his services, except the annexed evidence of Ezra Pike [who was similarly in the Duchess County Militia under Colonel Roswell Hopkins] and his son Matthew Thomas.
Beriah X Thomas
His mark, 16th July 1832
Beriah’s son Matthew further testified that Beriah was his father, and that he grew up hearing the stories of his father and older brother John’s service in the Revolutionary War.
After the Ambush at West Canada Creek in 1781, it is likely Beriah returned to Massachusetts. He is listed in the census for West Stockbridge, MA in 1790. There is a son listed as living with him who is < 15 years old (born between 1774 and 1790). In the next census in 1800 he is living at Middle Hero, VT, as he stated in his pension deposition. Also on the same census are his sons Matthew, John and Leonard Thomas. There is one male son listed living with him between the ages of 16 and 25, who would have been born between 1771 and 1784. This means the “missing son” was born between 1774 and 1784… an interesting point. Beriah and family are still in Middle Hero, VT for the 1810 census.
Per his deposition, Beriah moved to Chazy in March of 1812. His wife Elizabeth died in 1814, leaving the tombstone in Chazy Landing Cemetery that I found. He is not listed in the census for Chazy in 1820 nor in 1830… a point I will return to later when I address his potential relationship with James Thomas.
The last bit of evidence from his life we have at this point is that his pension payments from the US Government stopped in September, 1836.
His pension of $76.66 was made in two installments every six months. The payment for March, 1836 was made, but the payment was not made in September, meaning that Beriah passed away sometime between March and September. So far his grave, which should be in Chazy, has not been located. The historical society there has no record of him dying or being buried there, despite the fact that he almost certainly died and was buried there.