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 Jane Oliver Rich Photo back of Jane Oliver Rich
The subject of this striking portrait is Jane Oliver Rich, born 22 October 1788 — over two hundred years ago. Jane was the widow of Stephen Altgelt Rich, and the mother of nine — a true American matriarch. The bits of her history we can glean from available documents take us back to the period just after the American Revolution, and remind us of how disruptive the Revolution was, and to what extent military campaigns drove Colonialist migrations.

First, a little background. What you see here is one of 38 portraits in a photograph album given to Miss Hannah Rich of South Kortright, Delaware County, New York. The album and one picture (of Stephen Struthers) were given to Hannah on the occasion of her marriage in 1861 to Mr. William Blakely Peters of Bloomville, also in Delaware County. Hannah collected more pictures of relatives and friends, and they are all presented on this website.

The relationship between Jane Oliver Rich and Hannah Rich was this: Hannah’s father was James Rich, a twice-married and most prolific gentleman. (In fact, all the Riches were exceedingly prolific, creating substantial headaches for the conscientious genealogist.) Hannah’s father James had a brother, Stephen Altgelt Rich, who married Jane Oliver in Westchester NY in 1812. Jane Oliver Rich, then, was Hannah Rich’s aunt by marriage.

The Oliver family originated in Scotland, though it is not clear where Jane herself was born, nor who her parents were. One possibility is that Jane’s mother and father were William Oliver and Jane Shields; a girl, Ellison Oliver, was born to these two in Albany on 25 February 1789. We can theorize that William Oliver and Jane Shields were Jane Oliver’s parents as well. The virtue of this hypothesis is that it would make Jane the older sister to Ellison; furthermore, Jane the daughter would have been named after Jane the mother, a commonly-observed custom of that day. The difficulty presented by this hypothesis is that Jane would have to have been born a mere four months before her younger sister. It is possible, of course, that one of these birth dates is incorrect.

Attempting to locate Olivers in this country is not easy; Oliver is not a common last name in United States. We do know there were Olivers in New England well before the Revolution: a list of early marriage licenses of the Province of New York , for example, states that on 03 July, 1736, a Margaret Oliver married a George Lubeken. That marriage took place in a Dutch Reformed Church in Long Island, which is Suffolk county.

In fact, Olivers may have been among the earliest Long Island settlers. The Early History of Suffolk County, Long Island, compiled by Sherrill Halsey Stevens, Lt Colonel, US Army, retired, tells us: “Some historians of the town of Southold argue that on the 15th of August, 1640, a man named Oliver obtained a deed from Lord Sterling’s agent, James Farrett, for lands which he had purchased in this Town[ship]. Therefore if one believes the old records and Governor Winthrop, there is little doubt that Southampton was the first English town settled on Long Island” — and that an Oliver was among the first of the first.

It is on Long Island that we catch a closer-than-usual glimpse of how ordinary people were dislocated by the American Revolution. Available online is a list of Patriot Refugee Property Owners. As this fascinating site explains, large numbers of patriots, including most of the Long Island militia, evacuated their homes when New York City was occupied by British troops from 1776 to November 25, 1783. These patriots crossed from Long Island to Connecticut in 129 ships, 48 of which were commanded by Long Island refugees; many of the refugees subsequently enlisted in the 3rd and 4th NY Continental Regiments. Among those refugees was a Lt. Richard Oliver.

The Patriot Refugee Property Owners list suggests a reason for the dispersal of the Oliver Family in New York State. Let us suppose for a moment that all the Olivers began life in Suffolk County — in Long Island. The occupation of New York City could have forced the Olivers to flee. Many would have sailed north to Connecticut. Some of them might have continued on in a counter-clockwise direction back into New York state. (See the map, inset.) The first official Federal Census, in 1790, reports no Oliver households at all in Dutchess, Kings (now Brooklyn), Oneida, Ontario, Orange, Queens, Saratoga, Schoharie or Westchester counties, or in Long Island (Suffolk County) itself.

But this same 1790 census finds one Oliver household in Herkimer County, two in Schenectady County, one in Steuben County, and one in Ulster County. A small concentration of Olivers appears in the 1790 enumeration of Watervliet Township in Albany County: a John Oliver, a second John Oliver, a John Oliver Junior, an Arie Oliver, and a Jacobus Oliver. (Parenthetically, one must wonder what happened to the William Oliver and Jane Shields mentioned above, parents of Ellison Oliver, born in 1789 in Albany.)

And there is a remarkable post-Revolutionary convergence of Olivers in Bovina Township of Delaware County, NY, where Hannah Rich—whose photograph album this is — was born and raised. Early Bovina Families & Their Descendants, transcribed by Ray LaFever lists *94* Oliver entries, with a John Oliver, son of John and Janet (Ray) Oliver, born in 1825, the earliest recorded Oliver birth in Bovina. This list also includes a number of Olivers who left Scotland in the 1830s and settled in Bovina township, and another unfortunate group who contracted “ship fever” (epidemic typhus) on the way over and promptly died when they reached the United States.

So where does this leave our matriarch? We don’t know where she was born, nor do where know how she and Stephen Altgelt Rich met. At some point they migrated to Westchester County, NY, and were married there in 1812. According to the second section of the Biographical Review: The Leading Citizens of Delaware County, NY , as well as FamilySearch, the genealogical resource of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they had nine children, all in Westchester, NY: James B Rich, born 1813; Mary, b. 1814 or 1815; Charlotte, b. 1817; Rachel, b. 1818; Robert F, born 1820; Jane, b. 1821; Hannah, b. 1822; Elizabeth, b. 1824; and Andrew, b. 1825. The biographical Review tells us Jane died 25 February 1868.

At the time of this writing, Spring 2005, detailed vital statistics of Westchester County are not available online. When they are, the story of Jane Oliver Rich and Stephen Altgelt Rich in the early United States will truly begin to unfold.

2007 Update: Stephen and Jane were located in the 1850 census residing in New York City, Ward #8. Stephen died on 29 Aug 1858 in Stamford and in 1860 Janie was listed as head of household, widowed, and age thirty-eight. Jane died on 25 Feb 1868.
Dated stamp on back of photoAbout the photographer: This picture was taken by Abraham Bogardus, one of the premier practitioners of the art in his day. For further information about this extraordinary man, see his annotated biography under the photograph of James Buchan in this album. Note, too, that the back of this picture bears a stamp, helpfully canceled with the date 1863. According to Dave Rozzana’s extensive “Tips for Dating Old Photographs, such stamps were a special levy enacted by Congress to raise revenue for the conduct of the Civil War. According to Rozzana, these stamps were applied from 1 August 1864 to 1 August 1866. This stamp bears the partially legible date of 1865 on the upper perforated edge; the 363 in the center is Bogardus' address on Broadway, at the corner of Barclay and Greenwich Streets.

Please Note: In 2005 this album came into the loving care of Hannah Rich Peters’ and William Blakely Peters’ great-granddaughter, Carolyn Flanders McPherson, and is presented here for the first time. For more detailed information on the photo album and its contents you may view the introduction here.

Patricia and Carolyn have attempted to identify all persons in the album and learn more about them through research of various records. If you can help us identify or add further information to this photo, please contact:
Email Carolyn


Additional Links

Next Photo - Marie Oliver Rich
IPhoto Album of Hannah (Rich) Peters
Photo of James Buchan
Early Bovina Families and Their Descendants
-----An outside link to Delaware County, NY - Genealogy & History Site
Province of New York (Outside Link)
The Early History of Suffolk County, Long Island (Outside Link)
Patriot Refugee Property Owners
-----An outside link to Suffolk Co., New York
1790 Dutchess Co., NY Federal Census
1790 Watervliet Twp., Albany Co., NY
-----An outside link to Albany Genealogy & History
Early Bovina Families & Their Descendants
-----An outside link to Delaware County, NY - Genealogy & History Site
Biography of Sarah Rich
PDP's Roots & Branches Blog
Updated June 01, 2014
Album photos provided by Carolyn F. McPherson 2005
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