Ancestral Jottings on the
Carpenters, Brownells & Harrises
of Hamilton and Fulton Counties

The following contains excerpts from letters my grandmother Miriam Brown Rowley, then in Chicago, sent me, when I was a high school senior in Mariemont, Ohio, working on a family history assignment.  My grandmother’s father was Charles Platt Brown, a mathematician, novelist and fine penman, who moved to New York City - I'm not sure when. (Alas, just when he had figured out a numerical system to beat the track, the governor closed down pari-mutuel betting in the state.  The novel about this also failed to make his fortune, so he continued in good spirit with his tobacco concession at Abraham and Straus.) My grandmother herself was an artist of considerable skill, a great reader and a ready correspondent, who stayed in touch with some of her New York friends and relations into the 1950's.  As a very daring young woman, she travelled west to Chicago in 1892, to see the World's Fair (Columbian Exposition).  In the New York State pavilion, she met Martin Stephen Rowley, a young man from Rome, New York.  Little was known about this side of the family other than Martin's father's name - DeWitt Clinton Rowley.  Thanks to the Internet I recently found him in the censuses of 1850 (printer) and 1860 (proprietor of the Rome Sentinel.)  Much to research there.

I would welcome mail from any distant relatives still in the area.  I am in New York City, but am presently working on my own ROOTS AND ROUTES family history and heritage tourism website, which will bring me back to the Adirondacks. - Lois Cunniff

From Lois Cunniff

My grandmother Miriam Brown Rowley was born in 1871 either in Northville or New York City.  Her mother Jane Carpenter (of Northville) had married Charles Platt Brown (of Wells) and moved to New York City with him.  Jane died of consumption when my grandmother was two, so Miriam was raised in Northville by her maternal grandmother, Sally Brownell Carpenter.  In 1942 she wrote me about her childhood, "they gave me lovely clothes and I had crayon, painting and elocution lessons, but was never allowed to go out, to parties, to ride down hill etc without having to come home before the nicest boys, who worked in their fathers' stores, could get out.  It was wicked to dance.  We had a roller skating rink and I was allowed to go there, only when my Aunt Lill went along and so on and on until we began to hear about the World's Fair at Chicago in '92.  And before I go on with that, Sacandaga Park was a beautiful Park and summer resort, just across the river from Northville.  There were elegant large hotels, "movies", a pavilion for dancing and a little old man who took tintypes.  I have many in my box of pictures."  This letter also describes the homestead in Northville as a "two story 12 room house with acres and acres of ground on the main street.  It is still there, and I hope some day you will go and see it and the lovely little village where I lived for twenty one years."  [I would love to know which house it is - if it is still there.]

My grandmother's father had returned to NYC after Jane's death, remarried, and eventually moved to Chicago.  In 1892, my grandmother, then 21, went out to visit him and work at the World's Columbian Exposition, where she met my grandfather Martin Stephen Rowley of Rome, New York. They married and moved to Nebraska, where Willet Northup Rowley was born. She died in her eighties in Chicago.

My grandmother's relationship to the Carpenter and Harris families is as follows:
Mother: Jane Carpenter; Father: Charles Platt Brown
Jane's parentsSarah (Sally) Brownell and William Carpenter
Sarah Brownell Carpenter's parentsSally Harris and Isaac Brownell
Sally Harris Brownell's parentsWilliam Harris and Sally Shoecraft
Sally Shoecraft Harris's parentsJohn Shoecraft and Mary Kilpatric

Sally Harris Brownell was my grandmother's grandmother's mother.

A letter from Miriam Brown Rowley to her granddaughter, (Lois Cunniff), 1954

Grandpa C. was a contractor and builder.  He and his son Edwin built the old homestead which is still in Northville, N.Y.  He (William) was a Union soldier in the Civil War;  had three brothers, Albert, Randolph and Clark. Clark’s granddaughter is still living in the house in N-ville in which she was born; her name is Theresa Fisher.

My mother, Jane, had auburn hair and blue eyes.  She died when I was two years old.  My grandmother Carpenter brought me up until I was 21 years old. My Uncle Fayette had auburn hair as did Grandpa.  Uncle Edwin had two daughters, one Lillian Pryor, who is still living in Scotia, N.Y. near Schenectady.  She has no children.  May, who is dead, had two, one Helen, is still living in Northville and has an unmarried daughter, Dotty.  The other one Margery had two sons.  They are still living in Northville.

Peter Harris’s children, Em, Belle, Eva and Fred, were living when I left Northville in ‘91.  They were a jolly lot, sang old Scotch and English ballads and were very good looking and well educated.  I know only one who is living - Em’s son, Harris Griffing, who is now Postmaster in Northville.

Peter Harris had a sister who married Reuben Willard; her son Clarence Peter Willard is living in Gloversville [33 Kingsboro Avenue].  He has a daughter, not married.  He is five years older than I.  I was crazy about him when I was girl.

The Brownells owned a tannery in the Adirondack region.  Harry and wife, Nancy Shipman, a graduate nurse still in Northville, and Grace Felter, of another family of Brownell.  She remodeled one of the old Northville homes and lives there when she isn’t abroad or in N.Y. City.

The following is copied from another family paper (apparently unsigned and undated), written by a member of the Harris family in possession of the family Bible.



These words seem to appear doubly true to me as I turn the leaves of our family bible finally reaching the births, deaths, and marriages; and first among these, heading the list, I find the name of my great-great-grandfather, William Harris, and opposite the name we find 1756, the date of his birth.

In this same book we find recorded the birth of Mary Kilpatrick, 1769, who about fifteen years later was united in marriage with William Harris.

After leading a quiet home life for eighteen years in DeDumfries Shire, in the southwestern part of Scotland, he became interested in the country of America far away, and in the year 1802 he determined to visit this unknown land, and if satisfied, to settle there and send for his family.

Being much pleased with our country of America he wrote his family to ship on the next ocean bound steamer.  But owing to delay, they reached the port of Glasgow too late to take the desired vessel so in the spring of the same year, 1802, we find Mary Kilpatrick Harris with a family of nine children, under the care of her husband’s brother, Samuel Harris, preparing to board the “Lady Washington” the next ocean bound steamer to America.

On the way over, the mate having been taken sick, the reckoning was lost and for three days they laid still in mid-ocean, waiting for a vessel to hove in sight to give them their bearings.

The mate being no better, this duty fell upon the shoulders of my great-grandfather, William Harris, Jr.  Although but seventeen years of age he had an extensive knowledge of navigation, and as there was not another person aboard the steamer who was capable of performing this labor, he accepted the position of mate for the rest of the journey.

After a successful voyage New York Harbor was reached, and as a reward for his services he was offered the position of first mate by the captain.  But to this his mother objected, for being alone in a strange country with a family of small children, she felt his services were of too much value to be spared.

Ninety days having elapsed since they had begun their journey and as her husband was not there to meet them and knowing too well that she could not remain in the city of New York, a consultation followed between wife and brother, and it was finally settled to emigrate northward and settle upon the left bank of the Hudson near the present site of Albany.  But this did not prove satsfactory to both parties and again they resumed their journey and penetrated the wilds of the northwest.

As farming was her husband’s business, she determined to follow out the same occupation, and purchased a farm on the border of Fulton and Hamilton counties.

She now turned her attention to her missing husband and set his brother in search of him.  The quest was in vain.  He visited all of the important places, but in not one of them could he find his missing brother, William.  More than a year had passed away and still she had not found her husband; nevertheless, she determined to try once more.

Again, as before, Samuel Harris went in search of him.  This time he left his own state and journeyed southward into Pennsylvania, visiting the city of Philadelphia where by chance he met his brother on the sidewalk.  We need not dwell upon the joy of that meeting, for having been confined to the house for a period of six weeks with sickness, he had that day ventured out for the first time.

Together they returned to his family, and on his arrival he welcomed his boy Samuel, who was born at sea, and was at that time about a year and a half old.  His family not shipping on the boat that he supposed they would, and that boat being lost at sea, he thought his family too was lost and knew nothing to the contrary till he met his brother in Philadelphia.

In his travels he too had located a farm near the place where the battle of Brandywine was fought, but finding that his wife had purchased one he returned to Hamilton County.  In 1815 he died, and his wife followed six years later.

Of the large family of children, all remained in Hamilton County except my great-grandfather, William Harris.  He taught school in Fulton County for some time and here formed an acquaintance with the Shoecraft family, and on the twentieth of April, 1806, was united in marriage with Sally Shoecraft, and William Harris and John Shoecraft, June 6, 1806 during the time of the great eclipse, had nearly finished their journey to the Genesee Country.

They settled in the town of Boyle which included all of Monroe County east of the river and north of Rush and Mendon, and five years later the town of Penfield was set off with William McKinstry as supervisor, and among the names of the first town officers we find the name of John Shoecraft.  Four sons and two daughters were left to succeed him.  Eleven children were the result of the union of Sally Shoecraft and William Harris, four of which are now living.

The Harris family I have related.
The descendents too I have traced.
And on the Bible my record based;
But yet I still have not my duty done,
Although o’er the list I’ve run
Till I speak of that eleven.

Twas in the year of 1807
That John the first of the eleven
Saw the light and as he older grew
Westward to St. Louis he flew
And in eighteen thirty-eight the news came
That this beloved one who bore our name
Had on that day breathed his last.

Three years after eighteen hundred seven
Was born the second of the eleven.
Mary Kilpatrick Harris, Osborne.
And thus once again the leaf is torn
For October sixth, eighteen ninety-three
She from the trials of this life was free
Her ship had moored on another shore.

Again to eighteen twelve we turn our eyes.
The date of a mighty nation’s rise.
And it calls to our mind another birth;
Places another chair at the family hearth.
Betsy Harris Watson, noble and true,
Died November nineteenth, eighteen ninty-two
And another link wss now broken.

Eighteen fourteen another daughter graced their home.
Again was honor to mother shown,
For the daughter bore the mother’s name.
Sally Harris Raymond, Once the same;
September elventh, eighteen ninety-one
Her trials on this earth were done.
She had passed to a better world.

Eighteen sixteen, two years after Sally’s birth.
Another chair was placed at the family hearth.
And a better man there ne’er has breathed.
Told the tribute oe’r his casket wreathed
Than William Harris, who bore his father’s name.
And he sleepeth so sweetly.


Last Updated: Wednesday, 14-May-2008 13:19:22 PDT
Copyright © 2000:  Lois Cunniff