THE SAGA OF GEORGE SHAFER AND HIS SON, JOHN
The Shafer family of the Town of Blenheim, Schoharie County, NY, dates their ancestry to the Revolutionary War soldier, George Shafer, born 4 June 1757, died 4 March 1828. He is buried in the Riverview Cemetery, Lower Blenheim, Town of Blenheim, Schoharie co., NY. His wife, Charity, also named Gertrude, is buried in the Riverview Cemetery as well and is listed on the tombstone as "wife of Geo Shafer, d. June 13, 1837, age 77 years".
I visited (July 1993) Robert Shaffer, a descendant of this George Shafer and toured the Riverview Cemetery where George and his wife are buried and also the "Patchin Cemetery" where more Shaffers are buried. Robert Shaffer has been the Town of Blenheim Supervisor for past 40 years, retiring this year, 1993. His daughter is Gail Shaffer. She is currently the Secretary of State for NY State, a very presitigious, non-elective position. Robert told me that she is a member of the Daughters of the Revolution, basing her ancestry on this George Shafer. Robert showed me a notebook record where his mother had set the down the Shafer lineage as George, John, Peter B., Robert Edwin, Edwin Robert, and the present Robert Shaffer.
In the 1855 New York State Census I find the following: "John, age 72, born Virginia, resident of Schoharie County, 71 years, occupation, farmer." Question: If John was born in Virginia, how could he be a son of George H. who was a Schoharie County resident? Or were there two John Shafers?
I have been in correspondence with H. Martin Soward III, 5215 Dove Nest, San Antonio, TX 78250-4708, who traces his ancestry back to George, not through John, but through another son, Joseph N. He sent me his notes from the Revolutionary War National Archives Pension File Number W16723 for George Shafer. In a document, dated 28 July 1853, the Surrogate Court of Schoharie County, NY, states that Charity, George's wife, died, 13 June 1837, and the document named her surviving children: John, Henry, Frederick, Catherine, Joseph N., Margaret, David, William, and Betsey. So this definitely establishes that George had a son named John. Whether or not it is the same John as in the 1855 Census still hasn't been established.
In the same set of papers Charity states, "that she was married to George Shaffer two years before peace was declared and one year before her son, John Shaffer, was born. She gives the place of marriage as Little Britain in the County of Ulster, State of New York. She states that the Clergyman who performed the marriage gave her a certificate of marriage but it was lost." Was she referring to the official end of the Revolutionary War, the final peace treaty that was signed, September 3, 1783? This would put her marriage year as 1781. It is further stated that the marriage was, "One year before the birth of her son, John." He was born October 20, 1782. This would also date her marriage as 1781. In one place in these documents the information reads: "Charity Shaffer, widow of George Shaffer,......was married to George Shaffer by the Rev. John Maffet or Moffet at a place called Little Britain, Town of New Windsor, County of Orange, New York, as early as 1780 or 1781.
In another place in the documents it is stated that Little Britain was in Ulster County. So, we can believe that George and Nancy were married in 1780 or 1781. Because of the dates involved, George met and married Charity while he was still a soldier. He was discharged "December, 1781 or January, 1782". He was a private in the Army of the United States, Regular Army, not the NY State Militia, for a period of seven (7) years and six (6) months. This means that he enlisted about July, 1774. He was in the battles of Fort Montgomery, White Plains, Croton River, Fox Meadow, Dobbs Ferry and Yorktown, and the surrender of Lord Cornwalis, 19 October 1781.
I think it is possible that Charity joined her husband as an "army camp follower". It was not unusual in Revolutionary War times for wives, children and/or sweethearts to join their "soldier boy" and follow him from camp to camp, battle to battle. The women and children did the food preparation, kitchen duties, getting wood, tending fires, sewing and caring for the sick and wounded, etc.
After the American victory at Yorktown, 19 October 1781, George was discharged in December, 1781 or January, 1782. Charity became pregnant about January 1782 and John was born nine (9) months later, 20 October 1782. George was a farmer, so after his discharge he probably looked around Virginia at the fertile farmlands, worked as a farm laborer for a time, and maybe even considered settling there. But then, after the birth of his son, John, he probably decided to go back to Blenheim, Schoharie Co., NY, where he had family.
So, we have a John Shafer buried in the "Patchin Cemetery" along with his wife Nancy. He told the 1855 Census taker that he was born in Virginia and his wife in Columbia Co.
PS. George Shafer did have a son, John, born 20 October 1782. Whether his wife was Nancy, born in Columbia County, or whether he is the John born in Virginia as mentioned in the 1855 NY State Census, it is a fact that George had a son John. If he is not this John, then there is another John Shafer who is the direct descendant of the Revolutionary War Soldier, Geoge Shafer. Q.E.D.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE THEORY ADVANCED IN THIS ACCOUNT? IS THIS JOHN, BORN IN VIRGINIA, THE SON OF GEORGE SHAFER FROM BLENHEIM, AND HIS WIFE IS NANCY, BORN IN COLUMBIA COUNTY?????
<- Photo donated by David Delaney
Table of Contents, Schaffer
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