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Volume 6 Issue 8                                                          August 2001



This month, I will conclude my findings about what I found about the Wiser family at the Lorenzo Historic Site in Cazenovia. 


From the website,, there is a good history of the potash and pearlash trade in early American history.  It states, “Soap making and the manufacture of potash and pearlashes were closely related trades of colonial America.  Pearlash, purified potash, because of its many industrial uses, was an important item of export for the colonies.  Pearlash, in addition to soap making, was used for making glass both in the colonies and Europe.  Potash is the residue remaining after all the water has been driven off from the lye solution obtained from the leaching of wood ashes.  Pearlash is then made from the postash by baking it in a kiln until all the carbon impurities were burned off.  The fine, white powder remaining was the pearlash.


Peddlers would travel from village to village collecting potash made on the farms and homesteads.  For many homesteaders the only cash they received all year would be for the sale of their wood ashes or potash.  Then the peddlers would sell the potash to manufactures who converted it to pearlash at the factories known as “ashies”.  In early times many manufacturers of pearlash bought their own wood and made their own supply of potash.

In the middle of the 18th century, many “ashies” dotted the countryside.”


Our Benjamin Wiser was obviously involved in making potash at the turn of the century.  The following receipt is in file at the Lorenzo, “Rec’d [Received] Cazenovia, May 1, 1801, of Samuel S. Forman, nineteen dollars and 34/1000 in full for a barell [barrel] of potash which I engage shall pass for the first quality.  $19.34, it passed for full quality, signed by Benjamin Wiser.”


Benjamin Wiser’s son, Josiah, was also involved in the production of potash.  There is a receipt dated, January 16, 1809, between Isaac Gray and Josiah Wiser for the sale of his potash.


Benjamin was also involved in crop production.  The following crop production contract was on file at the Lorenzo:


On the outside cover of the document, “Jonathan Forman and Benjamin Wiser, 5 ½ days ox …is all that they have worked for Wiser”.  The actual contract reads as follows,  “B. [Benjamin] Wiser to have the Flahts [Flats?] on the following terms viz To sow all on the west side of the new fence with oats to harvest and thresh them in J.F’s [Jonathan Forman] Barn and deliver there for S.F.[Samuel Forman] the one half.  S. F. to find all the oats for sowing and Sd W. [Said Wiser] to return the one half the few oats after harvest.  J.F. to furnish Sd.W. a yoke of oxen plow, and harrow one week for putting them in the ground and one week the oxen for getting them into the barn. Sd Wiser also to plant potatoes and pumpk. on shares, each, finding and to half the feed Sd. Wiser to cut, and cure and deliver the one half the hay in S. Forman’s barn with S. Forman’s oxen and to have half the benefit of the pasture in the full and to take care of the fences at his own charge which is to be done the beginning of next?…  Signed by Jonathan Forman Benjamin Wiser witness, S. Forman”, not dated. I may have transcribed some of this incorrectly.  There are various lines crossed out and some words are difficult to read. 


Benjamin’s daughter, Alithea was married to Luther Morse.  Luther Morse purchased land in Tromp Township (near present day DeRuyter, New York).  He subsequently forfeited the contract and land.  It is recorded as follows: “Luther Morse, 4 Mar 1803, sold this day the south 50 acres of Lot No. 25, Tromp Township at $2 per acre to be paid for on the 1st March 1809 with interest at 7 per cent yearly to be paid for $125.00  Forfeited.”


There is also mention of a Marsilva or Marsilla Wiser in a couple of records.  We have wondered if she is the youngest daughter of Benjamin or was married to one of Benjamins’ sons.  Further research may discover who she actually was.  The two documents are as follows:


“May Forman please to pay the bearer Marsilva Wiser one dollar and charged the same to me, Cazenovia, January the 23rd, 1812, signed by Jonathan Ferry”.


“Eaton, July 8th, 1815, Thos Smith per Marsilla Wiser debtor paid her in goods $3.09”.


During this month, I also corresponded with Barbara Beardslee Dundas, a descendant of Lewis E. and Elizabeth (Albro) Smith.  Elizabeth was the daughter of James and Sabra S. (Morse) Albro, and Sabra was the daughter of Luther and Alithea (Wiser) Morse.   Barbara lives in Australia, but is originally from New Berlin, New York.  She has done family research for some 30 years, her father (Francis Dwight Beardslee), also did genealogy for more than 30 years.  There are notes from her research, which are of much interest to the Wiser family in our Native American research.  One such is as follows:


Ruth Hodges Smith (Ruth E. Hodges Smith, Florence M. Smith Hodges, Kinsley Smith, Elizabeth Albro, Sabra S. Morse, Alithea Wiser, Benjamin Wiser) wrote Francis Dwight Beardslee: "Great grandfather, Lewis, was a farmer and made good cheese. My grandfather, Kinsley was a good carpenter. Albert Albro always farmed. Orville was a blacksmith in his younger days; but lived with his father and mother after his wife died, and farmed for them. He took care of them until their death.

I am told Elizabeth Albro was of Indian descent. When we visited Nettie Smith Root and Myron Smith [both children of Albert Albro Smith] last summer (1973), they both said Elizabeth Albro was of Indian descent."


The following note is also of interest to family members; “Frances [Frances Elizabeth Smith Aldrich, Albert Albro Smith, Elizabeth Albro, Sabra S. Morse, Alithea Wiser, Benjamin Wiser] wrote to Francis Dwight Beardslee about her grandfather, Lewis E. Smith: I can remember that my frandfather, Lewis, was born somewhere in Otsego Co., and grandma, Elizabeth Albro, was born in Cuyler. Grandma smoked a clay pipe and grandpa never smoked or chewed. They were such nice old folks and I can remember her reading the Bible and making patchwork quilts. She was a cheese maker, and had a little cheese house back of their home where she made it. I can also remember how good it was."  Elizabeth Albro Smith died August 26, 1921 in Otisco Valley, New York.



Please let me know if you find any new information in your research.  I appreciate any thing you can add to our research efforts.  Once again, thanks for your contributions to our family newsletter.  You may contact me at or 6 Baton Rouge, Roswell, NM  88201, or (505) 623-2534.