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JOHN BETSINGER

The earliest confirmed lineal ancestor in this family was John Betsinger. John was probably born in the colony of New York in 1754 (or 1765). He was married twice, first to Elisabeth Ochsen (or Ochs), who died sometime prior to 1821; his second wife was Hannah Limbeck. He had at least 9 children by the first marriage. He served as a baker at Fort Plain during the Revolutionary War. He and Elizabeth moved to the town of Lenox, Madison Co., NY about 1800-1803; John died there May 29, 1848. Tuttle (1931) states that John's father was Henry.


John and his children clearly had adopted the spelling of their surname as "Betsinger" by the late 18th century. However, the baptismal "Betsinger" records of the Geisenberg church list the parents of "Petrus" (Peter) as "Johannes Bezinger" and "Frau Elizabeth." Other spellings which have been encountered that probably refer to the same family include "Besinger" and possibly "Basinger" or even Passage. Other spellings of less certain relevance to this family include "Zessinger," "Hertzinger," "Blesinner" (see below), "Beesinger" or "Pessinger" and "Gesinger" (see below). A family named "Bettinger" also lived in Madison County in the early 19th century along with the Betsingers, but there is no evidence that the two families were related.


Despite the general paucity of early independent references to the Betsingers, John's life is fairly well documented because of his application for a pension ( R 20582) based upon his services as a baker during the Revolutionary War; the following data are based upon this pension application unless otherwise noted. The earliest affidavit was filed in Madison Co., NY on Oct. 8, 1832 by John Betsinger himself and several other supporting witnesses. This application for pension support was refused. John subsequently reapplied on Nov. 21, 1846 (taking advantage of new regulations) with a supplemental statement filed on Mar. 11, 1847 by Jacob Forbes. I tentatively conclude that the individual speaking on John Betsinger's behalf was Jacob I. Forbes, son of John. If his birthyear were 1772 (or 1766) he could probably remember the Cherry Valley raid of 1778 and a subsequent residence at Fort Plain where he met John Betsinger, then about 25 years old.


Tuttle (1931) states that John Betsinger was the son of Henry, a private in the Mohawk militia in 1762. He also states that John had a brother Christjohn and a sister who married one Conrad Franz. John and this brotherinlaw are said to have jointly owned lot 17 of the land patented to Ezra Homedeau on the south side of the Mohawk river 4 miles southwest from the church near Nawaga Creek. According to this account, John sold this property in 1796 and moved to Madison County.


John's supposed brother's name also appears in the written record. One C. J. Betsinger was listed in the 1810 census of Lenox. Tuttle (1941) says that Christian Betsinger was listed as owing Peleg Card $5; Card was an innkeeper in Clockville in 1818. Finally, the 1840 census of Lenox lists Christian Betsinger with a family of 5, one member of which was engaged in manufacturing and trade; the eldest male (ie., Christian) was between 70 - 80 (ie., born .1760 - 1770) which probably means that John was the oldest of these two brothers.


In his application of Oct. 8, 1832 John states that he was 67 (or 65?) years old and that he was born in Minden, County of Montgomery in 1765, although he had no record of his birth. Another statement on June (?) 8 of that same year confirms this information. In a later application (Nov. 21, 1846), John swore he was 92 "and very feeble;" he gave his birth date as March 16, 1754. He added that he was born in Canajoharie (which is adjacent to the town of Minden). This latter date agrees with tombstone data and seems to fit more closely with other events of his life.


John stated in his pension application that he was "born at the place or village now called Canajoharie in the county now called Montgomery in the state of New York." He informed the court that since the Revolutionary war he had lived at Fry's Brush in Montgomery Co. "for a few years and then removed to Lenox, Madison Co., NY where I have resided since." A statement by Jacob Forbes in John Betsinger's pension application (R 20582) indicates that the latter was already resident in Lenox when Forbes arrived in 1803 or 1804. Mrs. L. Hammond (1872) notes the settlement of the Betsingers, along with the Moots, and Jacob and Nicholas Forbes, in or near Clockville. She adds that these men opened a road through to Canaseraga which communicated with Oneida Castle, and that many families settled along this route in the ensuing years. Tuttle (1931) reports that the Betsingers had to travel more than 100 miles, probably from Madison Co. back to the Mohawk region, to have three of their children (presumably Peter, Nicholas and Nancy) baptized.


John served as a baker at Fort Plain during the Revolutionary War. His pension application states that "he entered as a volunteer...in the Spring(?)...of the year 1780 in Capt. Lawrence Gross' Co., Col. Willett's Reg't. of New York state troops and was immediately transferred to the bake house at Fort Plain, that being his occupation." He was constantly "baking for the army...for more than 2(?) years and until the close of the war he never received one dollar... (for his services)." He adds that he had the power to press soldiers from their work to assist him in the baking. "This I did frequently. I had to inspect all the flour. I had to work day and night."

When asked if he had a written discharge, he replied "I did receive a discharge from the service. It was given to me by Col. Willett. It was burned up with all my effects except the clothes on my back between 45 and 50 years ago in Lenox, Madison County."

A number of witnesses provided supporting testimony to John's application. These included Jacob Forbes, as previously mentioned. Character witnesses included: Jacob Forbes, Sylvester Beecher, Sylvanus Seeber, Nicholas Bort (Minister in Lenox for 36 years), Stephen Chapman, Esq., John Corwin, Daniel Corwin and Nathan Cady (Justice of Peace).

John was never allowed a pension. The finding of the review board was that he was hired on a commercial contract to provide baking services, and, consequently, was not eligible for compensation.


CHILDREN OF JOHN AND ELIZABETH OCHS BETSINGER:

Information is from Tuttle (1941), the DAR application of G.S. Rice, or the Federal Census of Madison County, NY, unless otherwise noted.

1. Henry (1794 Feb. 15, 1845) m. Nancy Forbes (daughter of John Forbush, Jr. and his wife Hannah). They owned lot 37a in Lenox Furnace, Madison Co., 1837. US census 1830 (Lenox): 8 in family. One Henry Betsinger, probably John's son, is listed as owning 37 acres of land in the assessment roll of Lenox, 1835; the land was valued at $375 with a tax of $1.89. He held 74 acres in 1837 assessed at $1200, on which a tax of $2.42 was owed. Henry had six sons, and four daughters. His son, John, is where the Clinton, Iowa family connects. His will, dated Feb. 4, 1845 and filed in Hamilton, May 12, 1845, leaves all his real estate and personal effects to his wife; his brother, Nicholas, was executor of the estate. Nancy subsequently married one Elijah Rouse. Member's of Henry's family contested in court her alleged misuse of her deceased husband's estate to the benefit of Elijah Rouse and detriment of Henry's surviving children.

2. Elizabeth (Aug 1, 1794 1845) m. Henry March.

3. Catherine (b. 1795) m. John Cubbins.

4. John (1795 1849) m. Anne A. Tuttle (1941) states that John Betsinger, Jr. was convicted several times for larceny. He was sentenced to 30 days July 16, 1822 by the Justice of the Peace. He was accused of stealing an ax valued at $1.75 by S. Beecher, Ebenezer Robbins and Pardon Barnard. He received a 60 day term Nov. 29, 1829 for petty larceny. He was taken to state prison for the first time June 21, 1830. He was jailed once for vagrancy in 1840. He died at Auburn prison in the 1840's; the date of his death is not certain, but he is listed as a living heir of John in the settlement of the latter's estate in 1848 (see below).

5. Peter (Jan 13, 1801 Nov. 6, 1876) m. Catherine Forbes (Jul 30, 1803 - Mar 9, 1857). Peter had six sons and seven daughters.

6. Nicholas (Mar. 3, 1803 ) m. Mary or Polly ( 1851, age 45). He was a Lenox juror in 1830. Owned lot 95a in 1835. Federal census 1830 (Lenox): 5 in family. A Nicholas Betsinger owned 95 acres assessed at $730 in Lenox in 1835 with a tax of $2.66. Nicholas had three sons and eight daughters.

7. Nancy (Mar. 19, 1805 1886) m. Hugh Bain.

8. Jacob m. Mary. Lived in Clockville, NY in 1840. Antimason in 1830. Federal census 1830 (Lenox): 4 in family.

9. George (1810 1877) m. Martha Sipe. Lived in Clockville, NY in 1840. George had five sons. George's son, Nicholas, is where the Lansing, Iowa family connects.


John's will, written June 19, 1846, and probated Sept. 6, 1848, is filed in the Madison County, NY surrogate court records in Wampsville. In it he gives his son Nicholas all his real estate "consisting of my homestead farm of sixty acres and 25 acres of Swamp lot also 12 acres lying south of David Fowlers making in all 106 acres lying and being in the town of Lenox aforesaid after the disease (sic) of my wife." In addition, he "give(s) and bequeath(s) unto my beloved wife Hannah Betsinger the use of all my real estate during her life together with all my personal property." Finally, he states, "I hereby reserve the piece of ground turned off for a burying ground adjoining Sylvanus Severs.


John was born when the region in and around the Mohawk valley was still a frontier: The French were entrenched in the interior of the continent and the Iroquois were a constant and potentially threatening presence. William Johnson had already successfully asserted his hegemony over social and political affairs in the valley while John was a young man; so effective was Johnson that his rise to prominence foretold the promise of a more settled communal life, despite the persistent AngloFrench conflicts.

Although he clearly spoke English, John must have been very comfortable using the German dialect of the Upper Mohawk people; it seems almost certain, in fact, that his family heritage was German or Dutch. In any case, John grew up in a very tightlyknit, somewhat provincial society that strongly reflected cultural values from the "old country."

The Revolutionary War started when John was about 21 or (if we accept the later birth date of 1765) 10 years old. He appears to have served in a support role as a baker, rather than as a soldier. He was based near Canajoharie at Ft. Plain and was present there at the execution of Henry Hare in 1779.

John moved to Fry's Bush shortly after War's end where he must have met Elizabeth Ochsen whom he married in 1792. If he had married prior to this date, no documentary evidence of the union has been located. The marriage took place when John was either 27 or 38 (depending on his actual birth date), a rather older age for a first marriage than was common in his society. Very little is known about Elizabeth. She quite probably was also of German blood, however, and presumably grew up in the German culture in and around the upper Mohawk. This was probably her first marriage, as is indicated by the ending "en" in "Ochsen;" her age at the time of the marriage is unknown. Circumstantial evidence indicates that she must have died sometime prior to 1821. She was very probably the mother of all of John's nine children.

The couple's first four children appear to have been born in or around the Mohawk valley, so it seems that John continued to farm or work near his native area for about 18 years after the end of the War. John and Elizabeth moved to Madison county about 1801, though they evidently returned to the Mohawk valley at least to have Peter baptized in 1802. They settled in what became the town of Lenox, near the village of Clockville. It is probable that they moved in concert with several other families, including Jacob and Nicholas Forbes; these families were related by marriage at several levels. John and/or the Forbes probably were familiar with this area of New York either directly from their experiences during the War (perhaps as members of the SullivanClinton campaigns?) or heard stories of the country from other veterans. It is also possible that they moved with one of more of the Klock family (after whom Clockville is named); Col. Jacob Klock commanded the Second Regiment of Tryon County militia, and as such may have been well known to John.

John and his fellow settlers were once again pioneers in every sense of the word. It is reported, for example, that they opened the road into Madison County from the more settled area around Oneida Castle. This road became a major route into the region for subsequent settlers. In his will John referred to his property as his "homestead farm," providing additional evidence that his was the first recorded ownership of the land. It follows, therefore, that he cleared his fields from the virgin forest cover.


John lived the remainder of his life near Clockville. Interestingly, unlike many citizens of the county, John does not appear to have fought in the War of 1812 (at least no mention of it is made in his pension application); one presumes that he was simply too old (58 years, if born in 1754) to participate. Elizabeth must have died in Madison Co., but the location of her grave is unknown. John remarried to Hanna Limbeck (b. 1785), but there is no evidence of any children having been born to the couple. John died in 1848, aged 94 (or 83, though he states in a deposition dated November 21, 1846 that he was 92 years old and very feeble, directly supporting the earlier birth date). Hannah survived John as she is mentioned in John's will and appears to have been living with Bartholomew Forbes in 1850. She died in 1855.


John's lone grave stands on the right side of "Forbes Rd" a short distance northwest of Clockville, NY; this is presumably the piece of ground on his farm which he reserved as his burial place.

It is obviously impossible to reconstruct much of a man's character from this sketchy information. However, I am inclined to accept his concluding statement in his final attempt to secure a pension (Nov. 21, 1846): "I believe that almost every man in my neighborhood would testify to my character."




THANK YOU TO DAVID RANDALL FOR THE USE OF THE PREVIOUS BIOGRAPHY. I think we all understand John and his family better after reading it.





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