Usually I enjoy writing, especially about genealogy. However, I realize that I have not been keeping up with my sister in terms of the number of entries posted on this blog. I’ve had a bit of writer’s block this winter. What I’m going to attribute it to is favoring the other side of my brain, the more analytic, less “creative side.” Instead of writing, I have been working extensively on my genealogical research, both online dredging through databases and in person digging away in archives, libraries, and cemeteries. And please don’t take that statement literally!
My husband and I drove down to Staten Island last month to do some genealogical research at the local archives. We first drove around the island, checking out the old neighborhoods and historic homes, reminiscing, and noting what had changed in the past 10 years. We then spent a half day researching at the Archives at the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences now located at Sailor’s Snug Harbor and a half day at the Library and Museum at the Staten Island Historical Society in Richmondtown plowing through their extensive genealogical holdings searching for tidbits of information previously undiscovered. At both centers the research staff was extremely helpful and gracious with their time. In particular, we would like to thank Carlotta DeFillo of the Staten Island Historical Society who not only brought out box after box of historical and genealogical information, she also personally opened up the museum to give us a private viewing of the oil painting of Captain Henry Fountain (1783-1863) and the “Made on Staten Island” exhibit, which features the Barrett, Nephews & Company Staten Island Dyeing & Printing Establishment founded by Col. Nathan Barrett and the sons of his sister Eliza Barrett Heal. Thank you again Carlotta!
We did discover the Betts family name in one of those boxes that we had previously not associated with the Fountain family that may lead to a brickwall breakthrough. I’m trying to verify the information before writing about it. We also frequently noticed the term “yeoman farmer,” which was used to describe one of the occupations and social status of the emerging middle class.
Back in Colonial times, independent land owning farmers were called “yeoman farmers,” a designation that placed them in the same social class as merchants and artisans. Owning land was extremely important because it allowed these farmers the opportunity to vote and be part of the political process. Yeoman farmers usually worked their own land, and were more or less successful dependent on their family fortunes and the number of children they had who could work along side of them. Anthony Fountain (1723-1813), father of the man I am currently researching, was a yeoman farmer who became involved in the political arena in the pre- and post-Revolutionary Era, becoming Supervisor of Southfield, Staten Island in 1769, 1770, and 1784. His son Vincent Fountain (1748-1819) followed in his footsteps as a yeoman farmer. After a long life, during which he fathered at least 10 children from two marriages, Vincent died at the age of 71 a few hours after an unfortunate accident in which his horse bolted from a fright and overturned the hay wagon Vincent was driving.
The Fountain farm on Richmond Road, New Dorp, Staten Island was sold after Vincent’s death to their neighbors, the Vanderbilts. It was apparently too good an offer to pass up for a young widow with small children and no husband to work the land. This marked the end of the yeoman farmer era for the Fountains. Two of Vincent’s sons, Henry and John Vincent, ran a popular tavern called the Fountain House where a great many local politicians of the time liked to congregate.
The next day of our research trip we met with local historian Richard Simpson at Moravian Cemetery, which is also located on Richmond Road in New Dorp. I had previously tried to find Vincent Fountain’s burial spot to no avail. Mr. Simpson with his vast knowledge and access to the historical files at Moravian Cemetery quickly led us to the Wandell family plot located in close proximity to the lovely Moravian Church shown in the photo below.
I had walked through the Wandell plot in past visits to Moravian but hadn’t found Vincent’s resting place. Moravian has a kiosk where you can type in names and find the burial location but those records don’t go back to the early 1800s. The writing had been so worn away on Vincent’s stone that I was unable to identify who was buried there. As you can see in this photo of Vincent Fountain’s gravestone the writing is now almost indecipherable. His widow Elsey (nee Jennings) is buried next to him but there is no memorial stone at present above her resting place. I find that curious since the family was fairly affluent. Maybe there was a stone and it was somehow destroyed long ago.
Three of Vincent and Elsey’s children and their spouses are buried near their parents in the Wandell plot at Moravian.
Sarah Fountain (1796-1865) and her husband Daniel Wandell memorial stone.
William J. Fountain (1798-1849) and his wife Catherine Butler memorial stones.
Susan Fountain (1806-1884) and her husband Edward Lyons are also buried in the Wandell plot. Unfortunately due to the deterioration of the writing on the old stones I am not certain looking at the photos which stone is theirs so I have not included a picture for them.
The other children of Vincent and Amy (nee Fettie/Betts) and of Vincent and Elsey (nee Jinnings/Jennings) are buried in several Staten Island cemeteries. While we’ve located most of Vincent Fountain’s family headstones, we have not been able to find the resting place of his first wife Amy Fountain. The search continues.