Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Journey of John Albert Berryman Wills, Part the Fifth: Mining to Farming

Now we are heading back to the journey of John Albert Berryman Wills and his wife Annie Reed.
Reconstructing this part of their journey would have been almost impossible if my mother never told me that her grandparents were buried somewhere near Mt, Greylock in North Adams, Massachusetts.   Keep in mind that these grandparents disowned their son, John Jr, when he married a French Canadian Catholic, Elizabeth Bissonnette. The ties were severed between John Wills and his parents and it is not surprising that his family had little to remember about where he was from and where he died.  My mother also told me she thought her grandfather was from Wales (but we found him in Cornwall).  In 2001 and 2002 our cousin Regina (Ginger) Cranney Atchinson (1948-1910) and I researched  John and Annie and looked  in a 10-20-30 mile radius around Mt Greylock for their graves. It was Ginger who finally hit pay dirt and she sent me an excited email on  August 23, 2003...

Hi Cousin,
I was searching cemeteries in Pownal and I found her! Annie Reed is buried in 
the North Pownal Cemetery. I still haven't found John Wills but this listing is 
from a book called 1910 burials in Pownal Vermont. Notice the last name is 
spelled "Willis". WE HAVE TO GO TO POWNAL ASAP! Now I'm getting excited about 
the find. John is probably buried next to her and died after 1910.
Anne Reed, wife of John A. Willis. 1836 - 1905

Thanks Ginger - I miss you.

But back to our story...
In Part 4, John and Anne and their children were living in Essex County.  John was working in the mines and for a mining company and Annie was raising the family.  We have taken a look at John's older brother, William Henry Wills  who served in the Civil War, lived in town and died in Port Henry in January 1888.  Perhaps the death of his brother who died childless, broke John's ties to Port Henry because soon afterwards we find him and Annie living the the small Rensselaer County town of Petersburg in the foothills of the Berkshires.

The Hoosac River Valley

We cannot find him in the 1890 census because, unfortunately for all genealogists the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire.  However, we can find him buying land and making some transaction on 30 December 1890 in Pownal Vermont, Bennington County.

and again on June 11th, 1895

In 1892, their daughter, Elizabeth Wills married a Pownal man, Patrick White. Sometime later they would settle in Greenwich, NY

In 1900 we can find John  and Annie Wills and their son John Albert Wills, now 26 years old living with them in the Rensselaer County town of Petersburg.  My mother told me John and Annie farmed and John (Jr) brought the produce to market in Cohoes on a wagon. That is how John (Jr) first met Elizabeth "Libby" Bissonnette - while he selling fruits and vegetables in the neighborhood!  The 1900 census lists John Sr as a gardener and John Jr as a peddler so this story I heard from my mother could be true!
Their daughter Elizabeth "Aunt Liz" Wills is married to Patrick White and living nearby.  Their oldest son, William Henry Wills is married to Amelia with five children (Fred, Lizzie, Minnie, Annie and George) are also in  Pownal according to the 1900 census.

Then in October 1905 Annie Reed died in Mechanicville, NY Why is Mechanicville? One can only speculate. Perhaps her daughter Liz Wills and family were living in Mechanicville (before they moved to Greenwich where we can find them in the 1920 census) and  Liz was nursing her mother in her last days.  Her body was transported back to North Pownal, Vermont.

Anne Reed Wills 1836-1905

On the 8th of October 1908, John Wills purchased land:

1897 Topographical Map of North Pownal, Vermont

In the 1910 census, we find John Albert Wills, head of household living alone. Annie died five years before.  John Jr married in 1903 and was living in Schuylerville..  Elizabeth and Patrick White, William and Amelia Wills cannot be found on the 1910 census in Pownal.

 John Albert Berryman who was born in St Uny Lelant, Cornwall in 1843
who worked as a tin miner when he was a young teen
who married in Truro and left England with his bride in 1866
who worked in the Copper mines in Bolton Québec
who briefly tried coal mining in Pennsylvania
who worked in the Port Henry mines for almost 20 years
with his older brother nearby
and when that brother, a Civil War Veteran, died at the age of 48
John was 45.
At that time in his life, he stopped and reversed,
leaving the mines behind,
came to the beautiful Hoosac valley on the New York and Vermont border,
fertile lands fought for by the early Dutch settlers, Schagticoke Indians and New Hampshire farmers,
to farm and watch his family leave for other places.
And finally to die and be buried in the very bucolic North Pownal Cemetery in Vermont

Hogsback Road
Along New York - Vermont Route 346

William Robert Wills
at the grave of his grandparents
Inscription on Gravestone

Here's the complete sequence of stories about John Albert Berryman Wills and Anne Reed:

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