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The Life and Times of Capt. Isaac Finch

by John D. Sinks

14 July 2009

 

We are gathered at the grave of Isaac Finch to dedicate a new bronze marker provided by the Veterans Administration and a marker provided by the Sons of the American Revolution. His tombstone is no longer legible: not a single letter or digit can be discerned, although we know from inventories of the cemetery conducted in 1938 and 1924 or earlier that at least parts of the stone could be read in the last 100 years.

 

Isaac Finch Grave Marker

Isaac Finch Grave Marker
Click to Enlarge

There are two different cemetery inventories conducted when the tombstone was at least partly legible. Both agree that he was 81, but one says he died in 1813 and the other in 1831. One of the two reversed the digits. Isaac Finch died at age 81 on 26 November 1813, placing his birth about 1732. Isaac Finch cannot be found on the 1820 or 1830 federal censuses, lending weight to the earlier date of death. Furthermore, a daughter, Phebe Anson, was born about 1761. It is not plausible that Isaac was a father at age 11.

 

Isaac Finch is not listed as an officer in many of the standard compilations of New York Revolutionary soldiers. In fact, he is not listed among those commissioned in Dutchess County at the beginning the Revolution. However, there are a number of records that show he did serve as an officer.

 

The earliest of these is a list of recruiting warrants issued to the officers of 3 companies of the 2nd New York Regiment, Continental Line. Isaac Finch is listed as an ensign in the 6th Company, commanded by Capt. Abraham Swartwout. He is noted as “…appointed Ensign in the room of George Brook Deceasd by the County Committee of Dutchess. Appt 15th May 1776.” At the bottom of the document is the notation, “Ensign Finch will decline the service.” The document appears to have been written no earlier than 15 July 1776, the date an officer earlier in the list is recorded as having declined. This, along with the rank of Ensign given in the note, implies that Finch was in service as late as 15 July, but was going to leave service in the Continental Line at a future date.

 

Isaac Finch served as a captain in early 1777. Ezra Wheeler (S-11753) testified on 3 Oct. 1832 that he enlisted at Stanford, Dutchess County, New York under Capt. Isaac Finch in February 1777 to march to Canada. The order was countermanded and the service was limited to one month in Albany. Wheeler named no field officers, which is not surprising because the company never reached the planned duty station in Canada. As the intended service was outside New York and there were strict limitations on out-of-state service by militia, the service in all likelihood was in the Levies.

 

Isaac Finch was serving in the Dutchess County Militia by May of 1777 with a rank of lieutenant. Many Tories resided in New York and they were bold with a nearby British presence. This led the assembly of New York to create the Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies in the State of New York. Among those who drew unfavorable attention to the Commission were Samuel and Joseph Mabbit of Dutchess County. The Mabbits led Revolutionary officials along by saying that there were considering taking to oath of association, but in fact were involved in such activities as trafficking arms to other Tories. Col. David Sutherland of the Charlotte Precinct ordered the arrest of eight men, including Samuel and Joseph Mabbit. Captain Rufus Herrick apprehended five of the men and brought them before the Commission on May 13th, 1777. He reported that Samuel and Joseph Mabbit were not at home. The Commission had reached the limit of its patience and ordered Capt. Rufus Herrick, Lt. Samuel Waters, and Lt. Ichabod Holmes to take an inventory of the property of these two men and “…to remove such parts thereof as they in their discretion shall think proper to some place of security, provided that they leave for the use of their Families, their wearing apparel & necessary household furniture.”[p. 285] Samuel Mabbit defied the Committee by hiding is property and refusing to reveal where it was. In this deed he had assistance. The minutes of the First Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies for May 29th, 1777 state:

Received a Letter by Leut Isaac Finch from Enos Thompson Chairman of the Committee of Charlotte Precinct informining [sic] that he had ordered to be apprehended & sent to this Place David Springstien, charged with being accessory to the Concealment of Certain Goods of Saml Mabbet & that he Contumaciously refused to discover the places where they were Concealed

Ordered that the said David Springstien be closely Confined.

Leiut Finch Produced his account for expences & services of himself & others for apprehending & bringing to this Place the above Prisoner amountg to £7..17..4

Ordered that the same be paid. [pp. 308-309]

There is no record of why Finch served as a lieutenant after he served as a captain. Perhaps it was difficult to find more senior militia officers willing to march to Canada in February and Finch was commissioned a captain for the one expedition.

 

Isaac Finch evidently resigned his commission, for his next service was as a private. Civil officials and former officers below the age of 60 were included in the Associated Exempts and subject to being called to active duty in times of emergency. In October 1777 such an emergency arose when Gen. Henry Clinton marched north from New York City in a feint to try to relieve pressure from Burgoyne’s army. Isaac Finch appears as a private on the pay roll of Capt. Rufus Herring’s Co., Col. Jacobus Swartwout’s Regiment of Associated Exempts, Dutchess County, New York. The original document is in the National Archives, Washington, D.C. He served from October 7th to 16th, 1777, a mere 10 days. Isaac Finch’s earlier service as an officer made him eligible for service in the associated exempts.

 

Isaac Finch did not remain a private, but accepted a later commission as a lieutenant. Bernard Carpenter testified in an affidavit on 29 Sep. 1832 that he enlisted at Nine Partners and served about 9 months in the company of Capt. Daniel Shepard, Isaac Finch lieutenant, in the highlands. The company marched to Fishkill and then the highlands. It was discharged at Albany. Carpenter’s pension was approved, although his widow’s pension application was rejected (R-1716). Carpenter further testified that the company was attached to the regiment of Col. Wisenfelt [sic.] and that so nearly as he could recall, the year was 1780. Lt. Col. Frederick Weisenfels commanded the 4th New York Regt., a Continental regiment, 1780. Sheppards’s company was not been part of the 4th New York, although it could have been attached to it. Of what regiment Sheppard’s company was a part, if any, is not explicitly stated. There is record of Sheppard being elected a captain in the 6th Dutchess County Regiment (Col. Roswell Hopkins) in 1779 and a further record of Sheppard being appointed as a Captain in Lt. Col. Weisenfels’ Levies in on 2 November 1781.

 

The final record of military service by Isaac Finch is not a record of active duty. James A. Roberts in New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, 2nd Edition, lists him as a private in the 6th Battalion, Dutchess Co. Militia. This is a list of men who had bounty land rights, meaning that the battalion furnished the required number of men for active duty, not that each man on the list himself served on active duty. Bounty Land Rights were offered under the act of 1781, indicating that this record shows Finch was on the rolls of the Battalion late in the war.

 

Isaac Finch also held a civil position in Dutchess County during the Revolution. He was an overseer of highways in Charlotte Pct., Dutchess Co., NY, April 1778-April 1779 and again April 1781-April 1782. The records of Charlotte Pct. were published in 1940 by a very busy man who took time out of his schedule to arrange for their publication: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

The legacy of Isaac Finch lives on not only in the nation he helped establish, but through his children and their descendents. Isaac Finch married Abigail Palmer, daughter of Ephraim Palmer. He left no will, so identifying the children is a challenge. The Rev. J.W. Eaton provided an account of the history of the Keesville Baptist Church in 1851. Three children of Isaac Finch are identified. William Finch was still living at the time. So also was Mrs. Robert Anson, who can be identified as Phebe Anson from the 1850 federal census. A third is identified indirectly.

 

Isaac Finch, while living in Dutchess County, New York, became a Baptist. After moving up-river to Clinton County on the Canadian border, he persuaded the Rev. Solomon Brown to move to Clinton County to preach. A two-room log cabin was built for the clergyman and out of gratitude, the Rev. Brown decided that he would baptize all of the sons and daughters of Isaac Finch, even though some were adults and married. What happened on the occasion of the baptism went down in church lore to be recorded over a half century later.

Mr. Daniel Chapman, a son-in-law, a strong athletic man over six feet high, having provided himself with a club, declared, as he went to the water’s side, he would knock Mr. Brown down the moment he touched his wife to baptize her. But his heart failed him. He was seen by those who watched him turn aside into a field, move along apparently in a thoughtful mood, fall to the ground like Saul of Tarsus, rise and go the river, where he related his experience and publicly professed the name of Christ in the way of his appointment. [p. 215]

We have here an explicit statement that Isaac Finch was the father-in-law of Daniel Chapman. Daniel Chapman eventually removed to Johnson County, Illinois. His widow, Lucretia, applied for a pension after the death of Daniel Chapman in 1842, She testified that she was married on 25 October 1788 in Dutchess County, New York. This was prior to the removal to Clinton Co. and the baptism by the Rev. Brown. The proof of lineage has been accepted by National Society, Sons of the American Revolution.

 

There is evidence of other children. In 1791 the congregation had 17 members, including Isaac Finch, Abigail Finch, John Finch, Sarah Finch. From the records of the First Baptist Church of Dover in Dutchess Co., NY we know that Isaac’s wife was named “Abigail.” Isaac, John, and Sarah are all plausible candidates as children. Betsy Finch married Samuel Jackson about 1784-5 and couple moved to Clinton County about the same time as the Finches. Daniel and Lucretia Chapman named one of their sons, Samuel Jackson Chapman. There do not appear to be other Finches in the area. The prospects would appear to be good that one could establish Isaac, John, Sarah, and Betsy as children of Isaac and Abigail Finch through a preponderance of evidence. Those of us who descend from Lucretia Chapman, Phebe Anson, and William Finch do not have this difficulty.

 

Having identified the father-in-law of Daniel Chapman and his Revolutionary service, who was the father-in-law of Isaac Finch and what was his Revolutionary service? The answer to the first question is, “Ephraim Palmer.” To date, however, I have found Revolutionary service for Ephraim.

 

 

Summary of Source Material

Services of Isaac Finch

 

Recruiting warrant in Calendar of Historical Manuscripts Relating to the War of the Revolution, in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, N.Y., Vol. 1, Albany, Weed, Parsons and Company, 1868. pp. 302-302.

Ensign, Capt. Abraham Swartwout’s Company, 2nd New York Regiment, Continental Line, appointed 15 May 1776. The wording of the warrant implies that Isaac Finch was an ensign briefly.

 

Pension affidavit of Ezra Wheeler (S-11,753) on 3 October 1832, National Archives, Washington, DC.

Captain, New York Levies, February 1777. The company was ordered to Canada, but the order was countermanded and the service limited to about one month at Albany.

 

Minutes of the Committee and First Commission for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies in the State of New York, December 11, 1776-September 23, 1778. Collections of the New York Historical Society for 1924, Vol. I, pp. 308-309.

Lieutenant, Charlotte Precinct, Dutchess Co., New York Militia, May 1777. Samuel Mabbit was a Tory who had exhausted the patience of the Revolutionary government by 1777. Capt. Rufus Herrick had been ordered to arrest him, but found him not to have been at home. Herrick and two other officers were then ordered to take an inventory of Mabbit’s estate and seize part of it, but evidently discovered some of the property missing. Lt. Isaac Finch apprehended David Springstien on the orders of Charlotte Precinct Committee Chairman Enos Thompson as an accessory to concealing the property of Samuel Mabbit.

 

Pay Roll, Capt. Rufus Herring’s Co., Col. Jacobus Swartwout’s Regiment of Associated Exempts, Dutchess Co., New York, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Private, Capt. Rufus Herring’s Co., Col. Jacobus Swartwout’s Regiment of Associated Exempts, Dutchess Co., New York, October 7-16, 1777. For a detailed explanation of Associated exempts, see Roberts (p. 10) below. Former officers below the age of 60 were included in the Associated Exempts and subject to being called out in times of invasion or incursion by the enemy. In October 1777 such an occasion arose when Gen. Henry Clinton launched his Highland expedition to try to relieve pressure from Burgoyne’s army.

 

Pension affidavit of Bernard Carpenter on 28 September 1832 (R-1716), National Archives, Washington DC.

Lieutenant, Capt. Daniel Shepard’s Company, attached to Lt. Col. Frederick Weisenfels’ Regt., 4th New York Line, 1780. The company marched to Fishkill and then the highlands. Carpenter was discharged after serving 9 months.

 

James A. Roberts, New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, 2nd Edition, Brandow Printing Co., Albany (1898), pp. 248, 10, 12-13.

Soldier, 6th Battalion, Dutchess Co. (NY) Militia, c 1781-1782. Bounty Land Rights were offered under the act of 1781 and modified under the Act of 1782, indicating that Finch served in the 6th Battalion of Dutchess Co. Militia late in the war. This is not an indication that his service in the 6th was active duty.

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt (ed.), Records of the Crum Elbow Precinct, Dutchess County New York 1738-1761, Together with Records of Charlotte Precinct 1762-1785…, Collections of the Dutchess County Historical Society, Vol. VII, 1940, pp. 94-95, 98-100.

Overseer of Highway, Charlotte Pct., Dutchess Co., NY, April 1778-April 1779 & April 1781-April 1782. Isaac Finch was one of a number of men appointed for the year to oversee highways in April 1778 and again in April 1781.

 

Identity of Isaac Finch

 

Clifford M. Buck: Dutchess County, NY Tax Lists 1718-1787. Kinship Press, 1990, p. 78.

The Dutchess County tax lists show only one adult Isaac Finch in the county during the time period of the service. Others who figure in the records of Isaac Finch’s service also appear in Dutchess County tax lists (copies not provided here), usually in Charlotte Precinct (formerly Nine Partners/Crum Elbow). These include:

• The Tory, Samuel Mabbit

• Committee chairman Enos Thompson

• Capt. Rufus Herrick

• Col. Jacobus Swartwout.

 

Linda Koehler: Dutchess County, NY Churches and their Records: An Historical Overview. Kinship Press, Rhinebeck, NY, 1994, pp. 203-205 (maps).

Koehler presents maps showing patent, precinct, and township boundaries that are useful in interpreting tax lists and other records. Crum Elbow and later Charlotte were precincts that were roughly coextensive with the Great Nine Partners Patent. Washington Township was formed within old Charlotte Precinct after the Revolution. Isaac Finch lived in Washington Twp. and formerly Charlotte Pct.

 

Fred Q. Bowman: Landholders in Northeastern New York, 1739-1802. Genealogical Publishing Company,Baltimore, Md., 1983, p. 68.

When Isaac Finch acquired his land in Clinton Co. he was listed as residing in Washington Twp., Dutchess Co., NY.

 

Personal Data about Isaac Finch

 

History of Clinton & Franklin Counties, New York. Reprint of edition published by J.W. Lewis, Philadelphia (1880), Rev. J.W. Eaton’s account of the history of the Keesville Baptist Church (1851) quoted vertabim, pp. 214-215..

Linkage between generations 7 and 8--Daniel Chapman is identified as a son-in-law of Isaac Finch. Note that William Finch is identified as a source of information for the 1851 lecture and is also identified as a son of Isaac Finch.

Birth and death date of Isaac Finch--Mrs. Robert Anson, aged 90 in 1851, is identified as a daughter of Isaac Finch. This is important in resolving inconsistent tombstone inventories about Isaac Finch’s dates of birth and death.

Identity of Isaac Finch--This document establishes that Isaac Finch of Dutchess County is the same man who removed to Clinton County after the Revolution.

 

Isaac Finch Tombstone, Blockhouse Cem., Peru Twp. Clinton Co., NY (N44°34.662’ W37°27.129’)

• Photograph of the Isaac Finch tombstone and DAR marker, July 2006

• McLellan Inventory of the Blockhouse Cemetery, 1938

• Graves of the Revolutionary Soldiers Buried in New York, Vol. V. Compiled by the New York State Committee Historic Research and Preservation of Records, Mrs. Charles White Nash, Regent, 1924, p. 33.

Isaac Finch’s dates of birth and death have been a matter of controversy. His tombstone has flaked to the point that not a single letter is readable in 2006. A DAR marker bearing the name and the dates 1732-1813 is present, but the grave is not registered with DAR headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1938 much of the tombstone was legible according the McLellan Inventory (copy obtained from the Clinton Co. (NY) Historian). Isaac Finch died on the 26th of November at the age of 81, but the year was not legible even then. However, the inventory noted that the 1813 date of death was consistent with earlier records and that the metal DAR marker with the dates 1732-1813 was present. A still earlier 1924 DAR manuscript gives Isaac’s date of death as 1831 and reports his date of birth as 1750, apparently using the 81 years of age to calculate it. These dates have been widely accepted by secondary sources, including postings on the Internet.

It seems evident that in some inventory made when the tombstone was still readable the digits “3” and “1” were erroneously transposed. Unfortunately, Isaac Finch left no probate records. Although there are deeds in the name of Isaac Finch after 1813, these could be deeds of his son, Isaac Finch, Jr. (who was born after 1775 and not old enough to serve in the militia in 1777).

Two pieces of independent evidence support the earlier date. First, the soldier Isaac Finch does not appear on either the 1820 or 1830 federal census. Secondly, Mrs. Robert Anson is identified as a daughter of Isaac Finch in History of Clinton & Franklin Counties, New York above, was aged 90 in 1851. The tombstone of a daughter buried at the Blockhouse Cemetery (the page is included in the attached documents) establishes her name to have been Phebe. She would have been born about 1761, making a birth year of 1750 for her father implausible.

 

1850 Federal Census, Peru Twp., Clinton Co., NY, p. 158.

Date of birth and death of Isaac Finch--Phebe Anson, the wife of Robert Anson according to a tombstone in the Blockhouse Cemetery, was aged 89 in 1850. Her approximate birth date of 1761 indicates that that 1732 rather than 1750 was the approximate year that her father was born.

 

Personal Data about Abigail Palmer

 

Benjamin W. Dwight: The History of the Descendants of Elder John Strong, of Northampton Mass., Originally Published in Albany, N.Y. (1871). p. 136.

Name of the wife of Isaac Finch. The early publication date and the extent of the detail, such as a description of Abigail’s father, give this source credibility. Apart from spelling differences, Dwight identifies all of children that named in Ephraim’s will, giving this source further credibility. Church records establish that the wife of Isaac Finch was indeed named “Abigail.”

 

Abstracts of Wills on File in the Surrogate’s Office, City of New York, Vol. IX, January 7, 1777-February 7, 1783. Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1900, New York Historical Society, New York, 1901, p. 244

Ephraim Palmer’s will establishes that he had a daughter named Abigail. Although no married name is given, the wording and amount is consistent with a bequest to a married daughter who had already been given money or property: “I leave to my daughter Abigail 5 besides what I have given her.” This lends credibility to Benjamin Dwight’s account of the family by showing the he was correct in listing the children, apart from spelling differences.

 

Records of the First Baptist Church of Dover, Dutchess County, N.Y (copied by Martha Taber, 1915), p. 82.

Given name of the wife of Isaac Finch. Note: This record is also consistent with the account in History of Dutchess and Franklin Counties, New York that Isaac Finch had been a member of this church prior to his removal to Clinton County, giving credence to that account.

 

1800 Federal Census, Peru Twp., Clinton Co., NY, p. 158.

Evidence of date of birth--The presence of two young women in the household aged 10 to 16 and 16-26 provides an indication that Abigail bore at least one child after 1780.

 

History of Clinton & Franklin Counties, New York. Reprint of edition published by J.W. Lewis, Philadelphia (1880), Rev. J.W. Eaton’s account of the history of the Keesville Baptist Church (1851) quoted vertabim, pp. 214-215 (See Gen. 8, Isaac Finch, above).

This document is not only valuable for determining Isaac’s date of birth, it is also valuable in estimating the year of birth for Abigail. Three children are identified: Mrs. Robert Anson (Phebe), born about 1761, Lucretia (born 1769 according to her pension affidavit), and Robert, born about 1775. Together with the 1800 Federal Census of Clinton Co., NY, it appears that Abigail bore children from about 1761 into the 1780s. 1740 would be a very rough estimate for her birth date.

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt (ed.), Records of the Crum Elbow Precinct, Dutchess County New York 1738-1761, Together with Records of Charlotte Precinct 1762-1785…, Collections of the Dutchess County Historical Society, Vol. VII, 1940, p. 8.

Place of birth--Ephraim Palmer, Jr. was in Dutchess Co. by 11 Dec. 1740, when he and his father registered earmarks for their cattle. This tax list was apparently taken before the earmarks were registered. Abigail could have been born after this date.

 

Horace Wilbur Palmer, Palmer Families in America, Vol. I. Neshanic, NJ, 1966 (orig. published sometime after author’s death in 1943), p. 27.

Ephraim Palmer, Jr. sold land in Greenwich is 1740. Abigail could have been born either before or after the move to NY, given the CT origins of the Finch family. Abigail’s birthplace is probably CT or NY.

 

1810 Federal Census, Peru Twp., Clinton Co., NY, p. 31.

Evidence of date of death--Although not named, it appears that Abigail was still living in 1810.

 

 

 

James Hays giving the welcoming remarks at the grave marking of Isaac Finch on Saturday, August 15, 2009 at the Blockhouse Cemetery in Peru, New York

James Hays giving the welcoming remarks at the grave marking of Isaac Finch on Saturday, August 15, 2009 at the Blockhouse Cemetery in Peru, New York

Grave Registration Document: Grave_Registration_Isaac_Finch.pdf

 

Return to Grave Marking Page

 

 

 

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