American Generation 4
Gershom Fairchild (1728 – 1778)
The preceding chapter went into extensive detail about Gershom’s father, Caleb. Before presenting details about Gershom and family it is useful to discuss the migratory pattern of the Fairchild family since Thomas arrived in 1639/1640. The family initially helped found and settle Stratford, Connecticut and many generations remained there for a long period of time. However a migratory pattern commenced with some of Thomas’ children.
Two of Thomas’ children, Thomas Jr. and Emma Fairchild Preston were part of a contingent that broke with Reverend Blakeman, the village’s first pastor, in Stratford and relocated to Woodbury, Connecticut. This occurred in spring, 1673 when fifteen Stratford families left Stratford and traveled 40 miles over wilderness to found the new “plantation” named Woodbury.
The second great migration occurred when two of Zachariah and Hannah Beach Fairchild’s children migrated from Stratford to Morristown, New Jersey. These grandchildren of Thomas Fairchild included Caleb and Zachariah Jr. As noted in the previous chapter, Caleb who was born in 1693 was located in New Jersey as early as 1730. Family lore has it that he migrated first to Long Island, New York and then into Morris County, New Jersey. It is not clear if the Fairchilds that relocated to Morristown, New Jersey kept in touch with those who remained in Connecticut.
Another migratory link involves one of Gershom’s uncles (Caleb’s brother), Ebenezer Fairchild (1729-1808). Ebenezer was born in Morris County, New Jersey, but he died in Ashe County, North Carolina. In 1757 Ebenezer accompanied the famous preacher, John Gano, from New Jersey to the “Jersey settlement in North Carolina on the Yadkin River.” Ebenezer returned to New Jersey because he purchased land in Newtown, Sussex City, New Jersey in 1761; four years after his North Carolina trip. A year later his son Abiud was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Five years later, his son Cyrus was born in Sussex County, New Jersey.
In 1769, Ebenezer’s daughter, Sarah married Ebenezer Frost in Roan County, North Carolina. Two years later, in 1771, Ebenezer obtained a letter of reference from Morristown Baptist Church to a church in Rowan County, North Carolina. He helped organize Dutchman’s Creek Baptist Church in Rowan, North Carolina and was one of ten charter members (Dutchman’s was later renamed Eaton’s Baptist Church).
Twenty five years later, in 1799 Ebenezer moved from the Jersey Settlement in North Carolina to Howard’s Creek, Ashe County, North Carolina. In 1801 he purchased land located six miles from Boone, North Carolina. His will, was executed upon his death in 1806 in Ashe County, North Carolina and included mention of Lewes Fork, Howard’s Creek on the north side of the New River in Wilkes County.
As we will learn later in this chapter, two of Gershom’s cousins migrated from Morris County New Jersey to Virginia. His Uncle Hezekiah’s sons, Hezekiah Jr. and Aaron began the migration from north to south. Although Gershom remained in New Jersey throughout his lifetime, his son Hezekiah moved to Washington County, Virginia, likely following his second cousins. More will be discussed about Hezekiah in the next chapter but this is certainly the basis for the shift from Connecticut to Morristown, New Jersey, to southwestern Virginia and into the Kentucky and western North Carolina areas where the Fairchild family eventually settled.
Gershom was born to Caleb and Ann Sherwood Trowbridge Fairchild in 1728. He was the fifth of eight children fathered by Caleb, but grew up as part of an extended family because Ann had previously been married and widowed before marrying Gershom and brought her two children from that marriage (David and Anne Trowbridge).
Gershom was a blacksmith and lived in Morristown, New Jersey until later in life when he lived in Bernards Township, Somerset County, New Jersey. He married Ledia (Ledy) on November 19, 1754. Unfortunately, there is no record of Ledia’s pre-marital last name. Gershom and Ledy had ten children from 1749 through 1778. All were born in Morris County, New Jersey.
Gershom was a pew-holder at Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, Somerset County from 1769 to 1776. He died in 1778.
In 1776 his son Nathaniel was living in Barnard Township, Somerset County, New Jersey with his mother. He enlisted in the Revolutionary War at Fishkill in the New York line and served 9 months. When he applied for a pension in Erie County, New York years later he was required to prove that he served. Caleb Fairchild of Buffalo, a relative, in a sworn affidavit given on 18 Jul 1833 “said he knew him well and that these facts were true.” There was a sworn affidavit given by Theodosia Hall, Nathaniel’s sister of Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York on 12 Aug 1833 stating that these facts were true.
The will of Gershom Fairchild legally establishes Nathaniel, Caleb and Theodosia Hall as his children. The New Jersey probate records include the will of Gershom Fairchild of Barnard Township, Somerset County, New Jersey dated 20 Jul 1776 and witnessed by Theodosia, wife of Jacob Hall. Nathaniel was one of three executors and Gershom calls him “my son Nathaniel.” Gershom also names Caleb, Benjamin, Hezekiah, Aaron and Joseph as his sons.
Gershom’s brother Ebenezer Fairchild moved to Howard’s Creek, Wautagua County, North Carolina. This could be the link in terms of our ancestral migration to Kentucky and North Carolina. “Before Ebenezer moved his family from New Jersey to North Carolina, he made at least two trips there and back. He kept a diary beginning 21 Oct 1757. A History of Watauga County, North Carolina by John Preston Arthur gives an account on pages 87-96 of Ebenezer and his diary. By 1770 Ebenezer had apparently succumbed to hard drinking and loose living, and was neglectful of his church for he repented by letter and was baptized and received back into the Church. Sometime in the 1770’s the family settled in Wilkes County, N.C. Ebenezer was a private in the Revolutionary War and just missed by one day the Battle of Kings Mountain, N.C.” (Early Fairchilds in America and Their Descendants, Gilmore, p. 44).
One of Gershom’s cousins (Caleb’s nephew) named Zachariah (son of James Fairchild) was a loyalist during the Revolution and had to flee the country after the King abdicated and America became independent. “Zachariah, son of James and Abigail Fairchild was a Loyalist who went to Canada and is ancestor of a Canadian branch of Fairchilds.” (Ibid, p. 46).
Morristown, New Jersey during the Revolutionary War
Morristown was settled around 1715 by English Presbyterians from Southold, New York on Long Island and New Haven, Connecticut as the village of New Hanover. This is consistent with family lore that Gershom’s father, Caleb migrated first to Long Island and then to Morristown sometime around 1730. The town’s central location and road connections led to its selection as the seat of the new Morris County shortly after its separation from Hunterdon County on March 15, 1739. The village and county were named for Lewis Morris, the first and then sitting royal governor of the New Jersey colony.
By the middle of the 18th century, Morristown had 250 residents, two churches, a courthouse, two taverns, two schools, several stores, and numerous mills and farms nearby.
George Washington first came to Morristown in May 1773, two years before the Revolutionary War broke out, and traveled from there to New York City together with John Parke Custis (his stepson) and Lord Stirling. Caleb, was alive at this time and Gershom was 45 years old so it is possible that they met him or at least heard about his visit during this period.
General George Washington and the Continental Army marched from the victories at Trenton and Princeton to encamp near Morristown from January to May, 1777. This is the year that Caleb died. Gershom only survived his father by another year, passing in November 1778, so he likely witnessed the first Continental Army encampment, but not the second.
Based on the locations where Gershom’s children died, it is likely that the family was comprised mostly of loyalists because none of Gershom’s children lived in Morristown at their death. Before his death Gershom moved his family 20 miles south to Bernard Township, New Jersey, likely in response to the Revolutionary Army encampment at Morristown. Most of his children eventually relocated 375 miles away to upstate Erie, New York very near the Canadian border, likely to avoid persecution for their support of the British monarchy during the Revolutionary War. Exceptions included Nathaniel who enlisted in the Revolutionary Army and Hezekiah who followed his uncles to southwestern Virginia as discussed earlier.
Washington’s headquarters during this encampment were located at Jacob Arnold’s Tavern on the Morristown Green in the town center. Morristown was selected for its strategic location between Philadelphia and New York and near New England. It also was chosen for the resident’s skills and trades, local industries and natural resources which were used to manufacturer arms, and the potential for the community to provide enough food to support the army.
That first Headquarters was later moved from Arnold’s Tavern to a location one-half mile south to a building on South Kemble Avenue which later became All Souls Hospital. That building burned in 1918 and was demolished but a new hospital was built directly across the street.
Two and one half-years later from December 1779 to June 1780 the Continental Army returned to encampment at Jockey Hollow. Washington’s headquarters was located at the Ford Mansion, a location that was considered the ‘edge of town.’ Ford’s widow and children shared the house with Martha Washington and officers of the Continental Army.
The winter of 1780 was the worst winter of the Revolutionary War. Starvation was complicated by extreme inflation of money and lack of pay for the army. The entire Pennsylvania contingent successfully mutinied and later, 200 New Jersey soldiers unsuccessfully attempted to emulate them.
During Washington’s second stay, in March 1780, he declared St. Patrick’s Day a holiday to honor his many Irish troops. Martha Washington traveled from Virginia and remained with her husband each winter throughout the war. The Marquis de Lafayette visited General Washington in Morristown to inform him that France would be sending ships and trained soldiers to aid the Continental Army.
The Ford Mansion, Jockey Hollow, and Fort Nonsense are all preserved as part of Morristown National Historical Park managed by the National Park Service, which has the distinction among historic preservationists of being the first National Historical Park established in the United States.
During Washington’s stay, Benedict Arnold was court-martialed at Dickerson’s Tavern on Spring Street for charges related to profiteering from military supplies at Philadelphia. His admonishment was made public, but Washington quietly promised the hero, Arnold, to make it up to him.
Alexander Hamilton courted and wed Betsy Schuyler at a residence where Washington’s personal physician was billeted. Locally known as the Schuyler-Hamilton House, the Dr. Jabez Campfield House is listed on both the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places.
The Morristown Green has a statue commemorating the meeting of George Washington, the young Marquis de LaFayette, and young Alexander Hamilton depicting them discussing forthcoming aid of French tall ships and troops being sent by King Louis XVI of France to aid the Continental Army.
Morristown’s Burnham Park has a statue, dedicated in 1950, of the “Father of the American Revolution”, Thomas Paine, who wrote the bestselling booklet Common Sense, which urged a complete break from British rule. The bronze statue, by sculptor Georg J. Lober, shows Paine in 1776 (using a drum as a table during the withdrawal of the army across New Jersey) composing Crisis 1. He wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls …. “
American Generation #4
Gershom Fairchild and Wife and Children
||b: 1728, Stratford, Connecticutd: 11/28/1778, Bernard Township, NJ
|Ledia (Ledy) Fairchild
(Married in 1754)
|b: 5/4/1733, Stratford, Connecticutd: 1777, Morristown, New Jersey
||b: 1749, Morristown, New Jersey
d: 1750, Morristown, New Jersey
||b: 1/8/1752, Morristown, New Jersey
d: 1/21/1837, Clarence, Erie, New York
||b: 1754, Morristown, New Jersey
||b: 10/22/1754, Morristown, New Jersey
d: May 1838, Geneva, Ontario, New York
||b: 1760, Morristown, New Jersey
d: 1817, Washington County, Virginia
||b: 10/17/1764, Morristown, New Jersey
d: 3/16/1813, Geneva, Ontario, New York
||b: 1770, Morristown, New Jersey
d: 1837, Buffalo, Erie, New York
||b: 1772, Morristown, New Jersey
||b: 1776, Morristown, New Jersey
||b: 1778, Morristown, New Jersey
MATERNAL ANCESTRY: LEDIA FAIRCHILD
Little is known, including maiden name of Ledia Fairchild before her marriage to Gershom.