Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, once again deeply engrossed in genealogical research. Veterans’ Day isn’t until next week, but this is my day to blog, so here, in honor of all veterans, I offer the story of a veteran of the War of 1812.
Stephen Steenrod, my great-great-grandfather, was born August 19, 1789 in Delaware County, New York. By his affidavit of January 16, 1849, as a resident of Hancock, Dutchess County, New York, he described his service in the War of 1812. He enlisted for an eighteen-month term on July 16, 1812. The company was commanded by Captain Henry Leavenworth and Lieutenant Murdoch, part of the 25th Regiment under Colonel Cutting. It was organized in Delhi, New York, whence they marched to Greenbush, New York, thence to Whitehall, New York, and later to Champlain, Canada. There Stephen was exposed to snow and “other inclemencies [sic] of weather,” often without a tent. Even when he had a tent, he had to sleep on the ground.
From Champlain he was sent to Plattsburgh, New York, where he spent two or three weeks on the lake shore “exposed to storms and suffering privations before the barracks were finished.” On or about January10, 1813, before the completion of the barracks, he was “taken sick by unavoidable exposure while on duty.” Apparently his legs were frost-bitten and so badly swollen that he was conveyed to a hospital. There his legs were cut open in several places to drain and his health “became very much impaired.” Despite still being in the hospital when the encampment broke up, he stayed in the Army as a corporal on light duty and was sent to Sacketts Harbor “and all the general routes on the frontier.” He was at the Battle of Fort George (May 27, 1813), which the Americans won and thereafter used as a base of operations to invade the rest of Upper Canada. He was also at the Battle of Stoney Creek (June 6, 1813), a loss to the British, the Battle of Cornwall (November 11, 1813; also known as the Battle of Crysler’s Farm), and several skirmishes. When his term of service expired in January 1814, he was honorably discharged at French Mills by Captain Murdoch, and paid in full to that time with an additional allowance of nineteen days’ rations to travel homeward. He arrived back in Hancock on February 14, 1814. Afterward, according to the affidavit, “the sickness and disease continued in his limbs and in his left leg so that upon favoring it, the other leg became stiff and contracted at the knee, so that he became a ‘perfect’ cripple.”
Despite his condition, he married twice, first in 1815 and a second time in 1844, after his first wife’s death the previous year. He fathered eleven children.
In the 1850 census, Stephen Steenrod, age 50, farmer, owned real estate valued at $1000. In that same year, after a long delay due to the loss of his discharge papers, he was awarded a pension for disabilities suffered during his service in the war of 1812.
Happy ending? That’s unclear. In 1855, Stephen was listed as a carpenter in the New York State census. Then, in the Delaware Gazette for May 7, 1856 (and again on May 28) there appeared a notice of a sheriff’s sale of “the goods and chattels, lands and tenements of Stephen Steenrod.” These were to be sold a public auction in Hancock on Monday, June 23, 1856. The notice includes a description of the parcel of land in the town of Hancock. It contained about two hundred and fifty acres and was located on the south side of the East Branch of the Delaware river (originally part of Great Lot No. 3 in the Hardenburgh Patent). The boundaries were the East Branch of the Delaware river on the north, a small creek known as the Ellware Hollow Creek on the east, Great Lot No. 2 on the south, and Benjamin Thomas’ land on the west.
Stephen afterward moved to Freemont Center in neighboring Sullivan County, where he is found in the census of 1860. He is listed as a farmer, but the value of his real estate is only $100 and the value of his personal property is listed as $290. On October 27, 1863, still living in Fremont Center, he applied for an increase in his two-thirds pension to a full pension, declaring that he’d been totally disabled for more than eleven years. When he died on May 6, 1866, his request had not yet been granted and his widow’s claim to have his pension revert to her was not allowed. She was still living in Freemont Center in 1875.
Stephen is buried in Cooks Falls Cemetery in Cooks Falls, New York, a hamlet in Delaware County that is approximately twenty miles from Hancock and about ten miles from Freemont Center. His first wife lies beside him but her marker reads only MOTHER. Stephen’s headstone honors his service as a veteran of the War of 1812.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. In 2023 she won the Lea Wait Award for “excellence and achievement” from the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. She is currently working on creating new omnibus e-book editions of her backlist titles. Her website is www.KathyLynnEmerson.com.