The Big Ditch

Do you have facts in your family tree that over time your mind has misconstrued? That’s my case with Ozias Wells. For some reason, I assumed that when a source said that Ozias “worked for an uncle digging a canal” it was referring to the Erie Canal. Since Ozias was born about 1795, he would have been old enough to work on the Erie Canal which traversed Madison County, NY. (See Map)

However, going back thru the sources I’ve collected for Ozias and carefully reading the information, I discovered that Ozias went to Princeton, New Jersey to undertake digging a canal. After realizing that the canal was in New Jersey and not New York, I did some ‘digging’ and discovered that the charter for the Delaware and Raritan Canal was approved by the New Jersey legislature in 1830.

The idea for the Delaware and Raritan canal had been around for quite a few years prior to the creation of the charter. At the time, the canal allowed for travel from Bordentown, NJ to New Brunswick, NJ in 2 days versus a trip via the Atlantic Ocean taking 2 weeks. Since this was a major route between Philadelphia and New York City, the canal (and railroad built at same time) greatly improved the ability to travel between these two cities.

As I was researching the Delaware and Raritan Canal – or the Big Ditch – I found that there was an epidemic of Asiatic cholera that swept thru the workers in 1832. This epidemic killed hundreds of workers in 1832-1833 and may have been the cause of Ozias’ death in August 1832.

While I haven’t figured out the identity of the ‘uncle’ that Ozias worked for, I discovered that Ozias’ fourth cousin, Canvass White was the chief engineer for the Big Ditch. Canvass White had previously worked on the Eire Canal where he recruited Irish workers.

When Ozias died in 1832, he left a wife and young family. Since Ozias was listed on the 1830 census in New York and New York is given for the birth location of his children, it is possible that the family stayed in New York while Ozias worked in New Jersey.

Ozias’ Children [Ozias Wells on FamilySearch – KHPF-QW9]

  • Benjamin Franklin Wells – born 1819 – thus 13 at the time of his father’s death
  • Thurston Kennedy Wells – born 1821 – thus 11 at the time of his father’s death
  • William Wallace Wells – born 1823 – thus 9 at the time of his father’s death
  • Hannah Anne Wells – born 1825 – thus 7 at the time of her father’s death
  • Mary Jane Wells – born 1827 – thus 5 at the time of her father’s death
  • Lucinda M. Wells – born 1829 – thus 3 at the time of her father’s death
  • Nancy Phidila Wells – born 1831 – thus 1 at the time of her father’s death
The Big Ditch – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dougtone/6348904197/

Sources:

  1. Delaware and Rariton Canal (Wikipedia)
  2. Q&A; Guardian of the Memory of Those Who Dug a Canal by Karen Demasters; published by The New York Times, 9 Aug 1998.
  3. A Brief History of the Delaware and r=Raritan Canal on the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission site
  4. Honoring the Irish Who Built the D&R Canal. Department of Environmental Protection. State of New Jersey
  5. The Canal Dug by Irishmen. The Historical Marker Database.
  6. The Birth of the Canal. D&R Canal State Park
  7. Along the Delaware & Raritan Canal: A History and Resources Database. by Capt. Bill McKelvey, 2011.

Mineral Rights

Have you worked with deeds for mineral rights? Although I’ve heard of deeds for mineral rights, particularly oil and gas, I don’t remember actually working with one. Since most of my tree is farmers, they were buying and selling land for agricultural use.

As I’m starting to research my third great-grandfather, Ozias Wells, I’ve encountered a deed where Ozias Wells and John Kennedy purchase the rights to gypsum or plaister on a parcel of land.

Vol AE
Image 169 – page 281

This indenture made the ninth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and twenty five between Robert Montgomery of Sullivan in in the count of
Madison and sate of New York of the first part and John Kennedy and Ozias Wells of
Sullivan aforesaid of the second part Witnesseth that the party of the first part for and in
consideration of the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars current money of the United States
of America to him in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged and confesed
Hath sold bargained aliened and leases and by these pressure doth sell bargain alien and have
unto the parties of the second part their heirs executors administrators and assigns one equal undivided
sixth part of all the gypsum or plaister that can be discovered as found on the whole or any part
of all that certain piece or parcel of land consisting of thirty acres and being the north part of the second
fifty acre lot in this subdivision of lot number forty in said town of Sullivan which said fifty acre
lots are set off from and and parallel to the west line of said lot number forty which said pice
or parcel of land was conveyed to John Lewis who a certain deed bearing date the twenty second day of
February one thousand eight hundred and fourteen executed by Ira M Olds and Phebe Olds his wife
and also one equal undivided sixth part of all the Gypsum or plaister that can be found or
discovered on the whole or any part of all that certain piece or parcel of land containing about
seventy five and being a part of the East half of lot number thirty five on the two mile strip in
the late Oneida reservation which said last mentioned piece of land was conveyed to robert
Stuart by deed executed by James Pickert bearing date the twenty seventh day of June one
thousand eight hundred and eight and the said part of the first part for himself his heirs executors
administrators and assigns doth hereby covenant promise and agree to and with the said
parties of the second part their heirs executors administrators and assigns that the said
at all times and forever hereafter have free ingress access and regress into upon and to any part of
the said pieces or parcels of land for the purpose of searching for diging or carrying away the said Gypsum
or plaister from the said premises And the said party of the first part hereby covenants promises
and agree to & with the said parties of the second part that himself heirs executors & adminis
trators shall & will forever hereafter warrant and defend the said party of the second part their
heirs and representatives of and from all and all maner of claim that any person or persons shall
hereafter lawfully make & insist upon in any or all the before mentioned sixth pary of said plaister
beds herein before conveyed to the said party of the second part Freelove M the wife of the
said Robert hereby confirms the above conveyance as her deed by signing her name hereunto
Signed sealed & delivered the day and year first above written Robert Montgomery (SS)
Freelove M Montgomery (SS) In presence of N. B. the words equal undivided & interlined
twice before ex – Geo Eager State of New York Madison County on the 9th day of July 1825 before
me personally appeared Robert Montgomery & Freelove M his wife tome known to be the persons who execut
ted the annexed indenture and they severally and duly acknowledged the voluntary execution of the annexed
indenture for the uses and purposes therein mentioned and the said Freelove on a private examina
tion seperate and apart from her husband said she executed the said deed without any fear
threat or compulsion of her husband Geo Eager Commr bc Recorded on the 27th day of march
1832 at 2 o’clock P.M.
A. S.Sloan Clk

The above deed is the only one I’ve found (so far) for Ozias Wells in Madison County, New York.

Since John Kennedy could be Ozias’ father-in-law or a brother-in-law, I need to also do KENNEDY research in Madison County.