Revolutionary War Veterans Who Settled their own Patents in Cortland County, NY

Cortland County is a good place to start an examination of veteran settlers, as it has six veterans who settled their own patents, the most of any county in the entire tract. Examining the factors, we may guess that the county’s central location, with relatively easy access to the more-populated southern trade routes might have contributed to a greater settlement rate, but realistically, nearly all patents were sold sight-unseen, the actual land having been abstracted into Township and Lot numbers with value to their holders only in aggregate.

I have written separately about John Albright, and so here are sketches of the remaining five settlers.

John Michael Frank [pension S.23644], alternately known as Michael Frank or Franks, was a native of Brunswick, Germany who first settled in the Palatine area of Montgomery County in New York’s Mohawk Valley, serving in New York’s Fourth Regiment from October 1777 for five years and eight months. He is not to be confused with John Frank of German Flats (b. 1756), who served in the militias of that area. John Michael Frank’s wife, the former Catharine Ochs, attested to his service, their marriage prior to moving to Virgil (Oct 3, 1787), and his death on April 9, 1830. In 1794, he came to Virgil to examine his patent of Lot 43. According to Smith’s History of Cortland County, he returned the next year with his family, traveling first to Cooperstown, then down the Susquehanna to Chemung Point and up the Chemung and Tioughnioga Rivers. He could not pay the surveyor’s fee either and lost the 50 acres to the state. John M. Frank is buried in the Church Street Cemetery close to, but not quite on, Lot 43.

The next two men share a surname, but are unrelated, and have caused a modicum of confusion because neither man is buried in Cortland County. John Gee [S.43589] was born January 13, 1763 in Peekskill, Westchester County, NY. According to his pension file, Gee enlisted in 1779, served on the Sullivan Expedition, including taking part in the Battle of Newtown; was in the Siege of Yorktown; and was discharged in June 1783. His patent was Lot 21 in the Township of Virgil, now the Town of Cortlandville. In 1785, John married the former Mary Hutchings and was enumerated on the 1790 US Census in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. When the bounty lands became available in 1795, Gee made his way north along the rivers as John Frank had done before him. Many people in John and Mary’s extended family moved to the Cortland-Tompkins area; the family cemetery still sits just west of the original homesite in Cortlandville.. He lived on the property for 46 years before moving a bit south to his grandson’s home in North Barton, Tioga County, where he is buried.

The absence of John Gee’s grave in the expected place and the presence of a second settler Gee family in the area gave rise to some conflation of John Gee with Thomas Gee. Thomas served in New York’s Second Regiment, and was granted Cincinnatus Lot 38. He is listed as a quartermaster sergeant on the November-December 1780 muster rolls for Col. John Lamb’s artillery company. In 1975, Henrietta Gee McFarlane published a genealogical monograph seeking to establish the origins of the two Gee families. The main source of the confusion seems to be that Thomas Gee died in 1796, leaving his patent to his son Edward, who did settle in Cincinnatus. The distance between the two Gee homesteads was appreciable in the 1790s, but by the time the Daughters of the American Revolution published their listing of Revolutionary Soldiers of Cortland County in the early 20th-Century, the two men’s biographical details had become completely conflated. Thomas Gee served in a detachment commanded by Capt. Wool under General Clinton on the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign and kept an orderly book dated August 26 through October 27, 1779, which, along with other Gee family papers, have been donated to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Jeremiah Osborn is listed in the Book of Delivery as picking up the patent for Solon Lot 45 himself, and indeed, the property is transferred from his name into that of Thomas B. Osborn on June 5, 1828. No corroborating evidence has shown that Jeremiah settled, and while Thomas Osborn did live in Cortland County, he did immediately sell his father’s property. Jeremiah’s archival records date from his entry into New York’s Second Regiment in 1778 and continue through 1783, documenting his time as a matross and gunner, ending as a sergeant. According to the DAR Ancestor database, additional documentation would be necessary to prove a line to Osborn, so he seems to have disappeared from the record. I cannot necessarily discount him as a settler, as he did keep and pass on his property.

Robert Smith, Jr. [S.46525] and Grace Braithwaite were married in Manchester England during May 1774, By the winter of 1775, he was in New York, serving in the Continental Army under George Washington. He
served three times, first for a month, then three months and finally for the duration of the war. Smith achieved the rank of sergeant in New York’s First Regiment and received, according to his pension file, a discharge signed by General Washington dated 8th June, 1783. Smith applied for that pension in 1828. At that time he lived in Virgil, though he had drawn Lot 2 in Cincinnatus, the part of which later became Freetown in Cortland County. After the war, Smith lived for 11 years in the Schenectady area, being noted as the first town clerk. He is reported to have taken possession of his lot in the Fall of 1794, and moved onto in the Spring of 1795. On this lot he lived about 10 years before selling and moving just west into Virgil. He and his wife had eight children. He died on January 8, 1830; Grace followed in November 1831, and both are both buried in nearby Marathon.

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