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"A Pedigree Partly Indian, Partly Batavian"


    Old Families of Westchester


The Tompkins Family
by Maureen McKernan
Peekskill, N.Y., Evening Star, Monday, August 2, 1951


Thom the Saxon was still on his feet when the sun set on the bloody battlefield of Hastings and William the Conqueror stood triumphant back in 1066.

History shows that Thom continued to be such a good fighting man that his heirs were allowed a crest with insignia showing that he was a Crusader and that he eventually died in battle.

This Thom and Saxon, of Herefordshire in Old England, is named by genealogists as the ancestor of Nathaniel Tompkins, 1633-1684, and John Tompkins who founded the Westchester Tompkins family when they came from Fairfield, Conn., in 1644, to the Ten Farms Purchase in what is now the Bronx but was the West Chester. This land was purchased from William Pell and lay west of today's Orchard Beach.

Tompkins Strain Strong

One needs, perhaps, to modify the old saying that to hit a Tompkins one need only toss a brick into any schoolyard, but it is true that no ancient Westchester family strain is stronger today than that of the Tompkins. Not only are there Tompkins families in every town and city of the county, but Tompkins girls through the generations have married into every old family in Westchester. When one looks at the Saxon blonde hair of school girls Betty and Gloria Tompkins, daughters of Horton Tompkins of Mamaroneck, or the thinning locks of Deputy Sheriff Edward G. Tompkins of Montgomery County, Ohio, who used to be a reporter on the old White Plains Reporter, to name a few blonde descendants of Nathaniel and John Tompkins of 1644; one sees proof of a long line of heredity.

So prolific and prominent in their own local communities have been the Tompkins that several volumes of their genealogy have been compiled. It is a pity that the fame of Daniel D. Tompkins of Scarsdale--Governor of New York during the trying days of the War of 1812 and Vice President of the United States under President James Monroe--has obscured the memories of other Tompkins as of later generations. The Tompkinses who have been Supervisors, Village, Town and County officials and member of the State Legislature run literally into the hundreds. Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio is descended from a New England Tompkins girl of the 1600s.

A Tompkins worthy of an American hero story in fiction, as the famous Daniel's father, Jonothan, 1736-1823, whose young parents died when he was four, leaving him little inheritance if any. In accord with the times he was "bound out" then adopted by a cousin, Jonothan Griffin. The orphan became the first Town Supervisor of Scarsdale, 1783-92, married aristocratic Caleb Hyatt's girl Sarah, served on the committee that drew up the New York State Constitution, and served three years, 177501778, as adjutant in the 2d Regiment of the New York Militia. He was the county's first judge of the Court of Common Pleas, was a member of the first State Board of Regents, 1784-1807, and a trustee of the White Plains Presbyterian Church. His famous son Daniel was one of eleven children and his daughters married into the families of Purdy, Secor, Oakley, Barker, Morse and Ward.

John Was Indians' Friend

John Tompkins, moving into old Phillipsburgh, Town of Greensburgh, in 1731, from Eastchester had a farm at Hart's Corners, Hartsdale, which stayed in the family to 1913. He was a famous friend of the Indians.

The late Supreme Court Judge Arthur S. Tompkins of Nyack, 1868-1938, was descended from Nathaniel Tompkins, 1742-1822, who moved to Otsego County and founded the family in central New York. Judge Tompkins was brought back to Nyack as a baby and his fame as a jurist was rivaled only by his fame as an amateur driver of trotting horses, a star of the Goshen track.

Mr. and Mrs. George J. Purdy of Granite Springs have done a most comprehensive report of their ancestors, the Northern Westchester Tompkinses many of whose fine and fertile farms now lay buried deep beneath the waters of Croton Reservoir. John Tompkins, Yorktown blacksmith, and his wife Sarah Barker, on whose farm was built the Croton Dam, rest among five generations of Tompkinses buried in the Baptist Cemetery in Yorktown.

Taconic Parkway, as it sweeps across fertile uplands in Yorktown, cuts across the 300-acre farm traditions, Elia A. Tompkins, grandson of the Indians' friend, John of Harts Corners. At eighty-six Ella sowed all his wheat land by hand, led lustily in the singing when 30 of his relatives have an all-day feast at his home, still standing tow miles south of Somers, to celebrate his eighty-eighth birthday in 1889. He was a Town Supervisor and Justice of the Peace. He ran the Tarrytown recruiting office during the Civil War.

Settle Along River

From before 1750 Thompkins boys moved to farms along the Saw Mill River from Yonkers to Elmsford, married Odells who ere the big family of that region.

Before the Revolution a fourth generation John Tompkins moved from Eastchester to Rye and many of the line still live in that part of Mamaroneck that lies within the town of Rye. Horton Tompkins of Mamaroneck has his first name from a great-great-grandmother of the Rye Hortons. His grandfather Thomas is the forebear of the Graingers of Barry Avenue, the Waters of Keeler Avenue and of the wife of Harry Primrose of Keeler Avenue, a great man in volunteer fire circles along the Sound communities.

There is no room to tell of the Tompkinses who would have bee tycoons had the Westchester railroads realized the dreams of the mid 1880s nor of dozens of others who were outstanding in countless ways, Stout sons, these sons of Thom the Saxon of 1066.


Hunt Seacord Oakley Tompkins Purdy Haviland Odell
Hatfield Gedney Acker Horton Van Wart Van Tassel Storm
Lent Sutton Hoyt Hays Hyatt Coles Griffen

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