Patricia Craig Johnson --- Searching for My Ancestors --- Sharing My Life Stories

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

William Belknap, Martha Carscadden, and the Society of the Cincinnati

            William Belknap was born 24 February 1751 in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  He went to Newburgh, Orange Co., New York when he was age 16.  His mother, Hannah Flagg Belknap had died when he was a lad of about 11 or 12.  His father, William Belknap, Sr. died when he was age 16.  William, the younger, had an uncle in Newburgh named Isaac, and he apparently came to live with Isaac.  I have no doubt that William Belknap was an adventurous young man.  The period of time that he lived was an adventurous time, and it sounds like he took full advantage of that time in history.  He came near death shortly after joining his uncle in Newburgh, New York.  After sailing with uncle Isaac on a sloop, he contracted Abloody flux@ and nearly died from it.  He survived that sickness.  The American Revolution was the perfect event for William Belknap to follow his adventurous spirit.

On 20 January 1785,  34-year-old William Belknap married 23-year-old Martha Carscadden at Newburgh, New York.  They had eight children, and the 7th one was my 4th great-grandmother, Nancy Belknap McNeil.  Martha Carscadden was born 27 June 1762 at Newburgh, New York.  She was the daughter of Robert Carscadden and Diana Gifford.  Her father was also an American Revolution Patriot.  I would imagine that Martha was totally enthralled with her older suitor. William was ten years older and had been to war and survived some harrowing experiences, and was quite the Aman of the World.@  Martha died 7 March 1821 in Newburgh, New York.  I have yet to find her burial place, but it is probably in the Old Town Cemetery where her husband is buried.  Like most of my ancestresses, Martha=s identity was through her husband and her father.  But I am grateful that I know about her and I am proud of her.

William Belknap was a charter member of the Society of Cincinnati.  This society was open only to officers in the American Revolution.  William Belknap's original membership form was still in existence in 1858, and owned by a grandson, Edmund Sanxay Belknap.  The document is quoted as follows: AReceived in Manor Courtland, the 8th day of October 1783 of Lieut. William Belknap, the sum of twenty-six dollars and 2/3, in a note numbered 623, signed John Pierce, Commissioner.  The said Belknap being a member of the Honorable Society of Cincinnati and the above being a deposit of one month=s pay in consequence of his being a member.  Signed P. Courtland, Treasurer.@

William Belknap=s service in the American Revolution began in 1775 and ended when he was honorably discharged on 1 January 1781.  He was in the attack of Quebec on 31 December 1775.  He saw battle at Stillwater, Saratoga, Whitemarsh and Monmouth.  He was captured near New York and sent on board a prison ship in New York Harbor.  He escaped the prison ship by jumping overboard at night.  The mortality rate on the British prison ships was almost 100%, so he probably figured a long, cold, and hard swim to shore was worth the risk.  I am thankful that he made that decision C he would have probably perished had he not escaped.

Finding the information about William Belknap opened up all sorts of doors for me.  Especially, his ancestry to the founders of our country that came to New England.  His progenitor and great great-grandfather, was Abraham Belknap who came in 1630.

William Belknap died 18 July 1831 in Newburgh, New York.  He is buried in Old Town Cemetery there.  When I visited his grave in 1997, I was sad.  The old cemetery (dating from 1717) is in a ghetto and the surroundings are not very pleasant.  We had the good fortune to have Reverend Carlos Lantos as our guide to the grave of William Belknap.  Reverend Lantis serves the Church that is in the same block as the cemetery.  It took just a little imagination to see General George Washington riding down Liberty Street that borders the cemetery.  This was the route he  rode  to tell the troops that they could go home.  The American Revolution was over, after eight long years!  I am positive that William Belknap was in the throng of cheering people that lined the street.  A much different scene than we saw in 1997.  William Belknap rests with several other Belknaps in Section 5, including his uncle Isaac Belknap. 

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